NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15 – Night 2, January 5th, 2021

Howdy!

One down, one to go. Time for more Wrestle Kingdom from the Dome! Time for Night 2!

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

Day 1? That’s right here: https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2021/01/04/njpw-wrestle-kingdom-15-night-1-january-4th-2021/

I once again want to welcome Michael Fitzgerald to the proceedings, as you will once again get two opinions for the price of one recap tonight. We’re the best value in the entire Blog of Doom! Give us all the Doomies!

Opening video. WHOA OOH OH OH OH……yeah, it’s in your ear now. That shit is in my Spotify workout playlist forever. Now all I gotta do is start working out.

Toru Yano vs Bad Luck Fale vs Chase Owens vs BUSHI – King of Pro Wrestling 2021 match

As we saw last night, GEDO threw a bunch of darts at a board and we got this match. Any result outside of Yano winning will be deemed unacceptable. Yano and BUSHI attempt the smart play and stay out of the ring to start to force the Bullet Club to fight amongst themselves, so we get a too sweet of doom and a 2 count for Fale before BUSHI saves it, and we’re off. Bullet Club works together for most of the match and Yano does Yano stuff. Chase and Fale beat the hell out of Toru with a wishbone and the Tongan Massage Parlor. BUSHI dives back in to save Yano from a Chase pin, and manages to get both Bullet Club guys down and to the floor, then hits a nice tope onto Chase. He hits Owens with a neckbreaker and covers for two.

Yano saves that and tries to slam Fale. This does not work. BUSHI takes Fale out at the knee and goes for the MX on Chase, Owens escapes and hits the Grenade Launcher with Fale. He covers BUSHI, but Fale wants the title and shoves Owens off, then covers, so Chase shoves HIM off. Me thinks the heels are having some communication issues here. Fale’s argument: “If you win, you win. If I win, WE win!” Well, that should settle that, then. Also, Fale outweighs you by well over a hundred pounds, Chase. Let the Wookie win, dude. The ref wants SOMEONE to go ahead and pin BUSHI so they turn on him, which allows Yano to sneak in with a double low blow and pin the apparently dead BUSHI to become the first King of Pro Wrestling champion of 2021! Yes! All is right with the world! (Toru Yano over Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale, BUSHI, pinfall, 7:43)

RICK’S THOUGHTS: **1/2. This was fine. No one embarrassed themselves here and the match was short and inoffensive. If these are the 4 guys that you’re going to put out there for this title, Yano was the only one who really made any sense.

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: This match felt like when you would throw a few guys onto a card when you’re playing TEW just because you want a reason to justify their existence. None of the guys are top workers but Owen’s is a good hand and Yano is a fun character, so the match was never dull. There was some good story stuff too with the BC guys falling out with one another, allowing Yano to steal it in his usual hilarious manner. If you have a wacky mid-card Title then you might as well put it on the most over wacky mid-card guy you have. **

Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado/Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato (w/ Hiroyoshi Tenzan) – IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team title match

I’m torn here, because I’d be fine with Desperado losing these belts and moving on to get after the big belt of the Junior division, because he most certainly proved he belonged there in the BOSJ Final, but if that isn’t going to happen I’d rather see him keep the straps so he’s got more to do. I don’t hate Wato, I really don’t, but this gimmick is death. He needs to grow it into something different, much like Jay did with the Switchblade persona.

Wato immediately hits a shotgun dropkick on Despy to start, and it’s hard to blame him. Desperado has been eviscerating the poor bastard at every opportunity. Wato sweeps Despy to the floor and hits a gorgeous tornado press over the top rope. Lands on his feet and everything. Taguchi tags in and it’s hip attacks galore for Despy, then Taguchi runs the ropes….so Desperado watches as Ryusuke blows himself up until Kanemaru yanks Taguchi to the floor and tosses him to the railing. Desperado responds in kind by tossing Wato into Tenzan.

Back in and Kanemaru goes to work on Taguchi, slamming his leg on a chair with the ref’s back turned, and Taguchi is YOUR ass of stone in peril. The cut the ring in half on Taguchi and work the knee. Taguchi gets a hip attack and it’s lukewarm cup of tap water tag to Wato. Springboard uppercut gets two on Kanemaru. They do a cute but stupid sequence where Kanemaru keeps shoving the ref at Wato to avoid some Wato offense, 4 times in all, and then it’s a tag to Despy. He does a sequence with Taguchi and Ryusuke fires off the ass-related offense to take control.

Three Amigos by Taguchi for two. He goes for a VERTEBREAKER, which is terrifying to think about, and they exchange counters before Taguchi hits an overhead suplex. Taguchi goes for the Bumaye, but Kanemaru is back with a dropkick to the knee as it’s breaking loose in the Dome! Despy gets the Stretch Muffler on Taguchi, Wato saves it. Taguchi manages an ankelock and Wato hits a 619, Kanemaru saves the pin. Wato goes up, but Kanemaru yanks him to the floor from there. Desperado rolls up Taguchi for two, Taguchi comes back with a hip attack for two. Kanemaru distracts the ref and Desperado hits the straight right hand to Taguchi, then Pinche Loco to keep the tag belts. Yes! And damnit! (Suzuki-Gun over Master Wato/Ryusuke Taguchi, pinfall, 13:21)

RICK’S THOUGHTS: **3/4. Meh. I’m fine with it, but Wato got pretty jobbed in these feuds, to be perfectly fair. Kanemaru beat him clean as a sheet in the stadium and now he loses his title shot (albeit that he didn’t take the fall, to be fair) against Desperado, who’s been slagging him all over the place. I dunno, not everyone can be pushed and I do get it, but he’s really had not much going for him since his return outside of a bit of a mini-run in the BOSJ. I do hope that the BOSJ was the beginning and not the end for Desperado as a junior main eventer, but for now, keeping the tag titles is fine, I guess. Match was okay, nothing better than that.

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: Taguchi is pretty much the Yano of the Junior division, so his matches usually have comedy value at the very least, and I thought Desperado’s bemused look when Taguchi was running the ropes was a genuinely funny moment that would have probably had the crowd tittering away in a normal environment. Every time I see Wato my thought is that he’s promising but also missing something too. I think he’ll either need a gimmick change or to grow more into the one he currently has before we see the best of him, but he’s mechanically sound and works as an undercard guy just fine. Kanemaru has sadly regressed from the days he used to tear up The Dome as a NOAH guy in the mid-00’s, but he was fine here. It was four undercard guys having an undercard match, and there’s ultimately nothing wrong with that. **1/2

Shingo Takagi (C) vs Jeff Cobb – NEVER Openweight title match

HOSS FIGHT, BABY. This is the match of Jim Ross’ dreams; it’s only missing both guys having a football past. Kevin Kelly drops the BOLA Final as a place these two have faced off before while Shingo makes his entrance. There’s a real vibe in the air for this being the first ‘big’ match tonight.

They waste zero time trading forearms, and they just LAY them in as we’re not going light tonight. Shoulders are exchanged and it’s Shingo with a hiptoss and a shoulder for one as Cobb just THROWS him off. Cobb with a dropkick and he tosses Shingo to the floor. Cobb follows him out and sends him to the railing a few times, then just TOSSES HIM A MILE IN THE AIR in a belly-to-belly on the floor. Well, not quite, but he just THREW him like no one else has done to Shingo in probably ever. That was the first indication that we were in for something special here, I think.

Cobb with a bearhug, Shingo escapes so Cobb suplexes him and covers for two. Shingo tries the back elbow, straight right, clothesline sequence but Cobb no-sells it and does the same thing, Shingo bounces him off the ropes into a Saito suplex, which they sold like he needed the extra momentum to somehow get him over. To the apron where Shingo goes for a DVD, Jeff escapes and puts him on top before going for a Splash Mountain to the floor (!), Takagi somehow manages to shift his weight enough to get back in the ring to escape certain death that way. Shingo knocks Jeff off the apron, and it’s AIR SHINGO with a somersault tope over the ropes! Back in, DDT and elbow off the top by Shingo gets two.

Takagi charges, but gets caught by Cobb with a spinning side suplex, then Jeff nails Takagi in the corner with a big elbow into the rolling gutwrenches. Shingo escapes the last with a ‘rana, so Jeff just brings him down with a Razor’s Edge Bomb for two. Good Lord. Giant clothesline by Jeff, Shingo counters with a Death Valley Driver. Corner clothesline by Takagi and he puts Cobb on the top, superplex hits for Shingo! Wheelbarrow suplex by Shingo! Sliding clothesline by Shingo is blocked, Exploder by Cobb! Shingo hits an Exploder of his own! They slap the SHIT out of each other in the manliest slugfest this side of Minoru Suzuki, and Cobb hits a German, Shingo pops up and clobbers Jeff with a clothesline…..and falls out of the ring exhausted, both guys down.

I LOVE THIS MATCH.

Shingo stumbles and falls, but manages to dive back into the ring at 19…..right into Jeff’s arms for a Ganso Bomb (relatively protected) for two! Cobb can’t believe it! Tour of the Islands is blocked by Takagi, who goes after the knee of Jeff, hitting a dragon-screw legwhip and then Made in Japan for two. Shingo with nasty clotheslines (you can hear the forearms smashing Cobb), but Jeff avoids one and hits a German suplex! Tour of the Islands hits! Cobb hurt his knee when he landed! He finally rolls over to Shingo and covers, but Shingo gets his foot on the ropes!

To the top Cobb goes for the delayed vertical, then a top rope Tour of the Islands, which Shingo slips away from before powerbombing Cobb off the top. Sure, why not? Pumping Bomber time, but Cobb nails him with strikes and a hard clothesline, then sends Shingo off the ropes, moonsault powerslam! YES. FROM JEFF COBB. ONTO SHINGO TAKAGI. Tour of the Islands again, but Shingo stops that with a Pumping Bomber! Cobb doesn’t go down! They clothesline each other, no one goes down! Shingo with headbutts, Cobb stays on his feet, Shingo takes him over with a Uranage! Pumping Bomber turns Cobb inside-out! Last of the Dragon! 1, 2, 3!! JESUS. (Shingo Takagi over Jeff Cobb, pinfall, 21:11)

RICK’S THOUGHTS: ****1/2 This wasn’t a wrestling match, this was a deleted Kaiju/Jaeger fight scene from Pacific Rim. This was everything you wanted it to be as the two guys threw each other around the ring like cruiserweights and fired stiff shots with crazy moves sprinkled throughout. He had a fine enough G-1, but THIS was the match that Jeff Cobb truly needed to really come into his own in New Japan, and by God did he deliver. The pacing of the match was perfect as each guy got enough shine, both with their selling and no-selling across the board. There’s really not much I would change here, as it was as good for this match type as we’re going to see. Well done by all involved.

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: Some of the camerawork in this one was fantastic, especially when Cobb was teasing the Splash Mountain off the apron. What I loved was that they used probably two whole camera angles for that entire sequence and didn’t keep cutting every few seconds to a multitude of them. Less really is more sometimes. Cobb works much better as a bullying heel as opposed to a smiling babyface, and the two gelled pretty well here I thought. It was the hard-hitting high-impact match you would have wanted it to be and there were some very nicely done near falls at certain points. I’m a sucker for the old All Japan delayed no-sell, so I liked it when they used it here. I thought the selling of the knee following the Tour of the Islands, thus giving Shingo a way to kick out without killing the move itself, was super clever and a fine piece of in-match storytelling. An excellent match that delivered on the pre-match anticipation. ****

Intermission. Who would WANT to follow that? The ring itself probably needs a break.

SANADA vs EVIL (w/Dick Togo) – Special singles match

Cautious to start us off. Commentary all but made it clear that whoever wins this is going to be the first contender for the double gold. They exchange some finisher attempts, nothing serious yet. EVIL tries for the ref distraction kick, but SANADA knows what’s going on and puts him in the Paradise Lock. Out to the floor now and EVIL avoids SANADA coming off the apron and runs him into the barricade…..knocking over the announce table and sending the ring announcer flying. Alright, fine. The whole thing where EVIL keeps knocking out the ring announcer is still funny to me. Chair around the neck of SANADA and EVIL goes yard while the ref has his back turned.

Table time, as EVIL preps one from under the ring. Back in and EVIL steps on the head of SANADA, then sends him to an exposed turnbuckle thanks to Togo. Back to the floor as the announcer has managed to get the table back up, so EVIL runs SANADA into it again to send the announcer flying once more. The ref checks on him so Togo nails SANADA with a chairshot back in the ring, EVIL covers for several two-counts. SANADA finally comes back with a dropkick to the knee of EVIL. Dropkick sends EVIL to the floor, and SANADA follows that up with a plancha onto EVIL, then one onto Togo.

SANADA runs the ropes, but Togo trips him and puts the table in place. EVIL puts SANADA on the apron, then goes for a Uranage through the table, SANADA counters that and they end up back in the ring, where SANADA counters the ref-assisted Magic Killer into a neckbreaker. Gorgeous Tiger Suplex from SANADA gets two, and it’s Skull End time. EVIL manages to escape that and run him into the exposed buckles. Backbreaker by EVIL and he puts SANADA on top, superplex by EVIL! Scorpion Deathlock by EVIL!

SANADA makes the ropes, EVIL with Darkness Falls for two. EVIL tries for Everything is Evil, but SANADA runs him into the exposed corner and hits a high angle belly-to-back, then a TKO for two. EVIL gets away from Skull End by going to the eyes, then bumps the ref so Togo can come in and pound away on SANADA. Togo and EVIL double-team SANADA and hit a Magic Killer. Togo goes up, but gets crotched and falls to the floor while SANADA hooks in Skull End as the ref revives. SANADA goes up, moonsault hits! Again, but this time EVIL gets the knee up!

Back up and EVIL takes SANADA and the ref to the ropes, allowing Togo to choke SANADA out from the apron while EVIL distracts the ref. SANADA escapes and EVIL charges, SANADA sidesteps and EVIL almost takes out Togo on the apron, and then a SANADA dropkick send Togo through the table. Hilarious bump, by the way. Bridging pin by SANADA gets two. EVIL suplexes SANADA on his head, which, ouch, and lariats him for two. Everything is Evil is blocked, they counter back and forth, SANADA hits Everything is Evil! Pop-up cutter by SANADA! Moonsault by SANADA! 1, 2, 3!! (SANADA over EVIL, pinfall, 23:40)

RICK’S THOUGHTS: **3/4. Man, I felt the length on this one. It was well-executed and I’m probably low, but I gotta be straight – this match  bored me to tears. And the thing is, I know I’m in the minority on it because SANADA is over, you can practically feel the crowd wanting to cheer hard for him, so it’s not like he isn’t where he needs to be; but at the same time, the match was so paint-by-numbers, he and EVIL could have done it in their sleep. There wasn’t anything offensive here and it was a perfectly decent match, both guys worked just fine, but after watching something like Cobb and Shingo really going whole hog and just trying to pop a crowd that can’t pop, seeing this more pedestrian type of match brought me down.

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: This was the usual EVIL modern Memphis style storytelling bout, with plenty of heel antics on his part, and I personally get a kick out of that when it’s done well, which I think that was the case here. It was hardly a classic or anything like that, but there was some great selling by SANADA and there was some genuine intensity between the two former partners, which helped the match overall. EVIL usually always manages to garner a reaction from the crowd because he’s so effective in this heel role, and Togo works well with him. It would have been nice to see some LIJ guys come out to help SANADA, but I suppose he didn’t do too badly on his own, especially when he managed to tableise Togo. It was slow in parts, but the finishing stretch was very well done and it boosted the match as a whole. I was a bit surprised by the finish as I thought EVIL would contrive a way to win somehow, but it was nice to see the villain foiled on the biggest event of the year. ***1/4

Taiji Ishimori (C) vs Hiromu Takahashi – IWGP Junior Heavyweight title match

Ishimori won the title at Summer Struggle, but Hiromu kept getting all the attention. I maintain that from a storyline perspective, it was especially egregious on a certain level because Taiji really took most of that match and beat Hiromu clean, so he should be the biggest star. Takahashi won their BOSJ tournament match to even it up for the year and here we are after Hiromu disposed of El Phantasmo on Night 1.

Ishimori sends a charging Hiromu to the floor, but Takahashi cuts him off on the apron and his a superkick. Sunset Bomb attempt is countered by Ishimori, but he leaps and Hiromu powerbombs him onto the apron. First minute of the match, people. But with these two, it works. Hiromu slams Taiji on the ramp and walks down the aisle, then gets a running start. He goes for a shotgun dropkick, but Ishimori steps to the side a bit and grabs the leg, so we have our first attempt by Hiromu to snap his neck like a twig again as he crashes hard to the rampway. Ishimori hits a moonsault and then tosses Hiromu back in.

Ishimori beats on him for a bit, including throwing Hiromu to the exposed corner shoulder-first, which was the injury Taiji exploited to win the title. Elbows and Ishimori goes to work on the hand, snapping the arm back hand-first. Ishimori hits an enzuigiri before Hiromu hits a ‘rana to buy some time and get some space. Wheelbarrow by Hiromu off the apron and to the floor, dropping Taiji onto the mats. Takahashi to the apron, shotgun dropkick off the apron hits! Perfectly done  Falcon Arrow (He did the deal!) gets two for Hiromu.

Ishimori comes back with an enzuigiri and a sliding German, then a 450 to the arm of Takahashi, who screams in agony, and now it’s crossface time. Hiromu makes the ropes, but he’s hurting. Hiromu tries a pop-up powerbomb that Ishimori turns into a pop-up ‘rana, but Ishimori tries to follow that with a charge and Takahashi gets an overhead throw into the buckles. Wheelbarrow Flatliner from Hiromu. Death Valley Driver into the buckles by Hiromu, and he hangs on and hits a running one to the center of the ring!

Ishimori escapes the Time Bomb and tries a handspring, but Hiromu is waiting and hits a German suplex. Ishimori responds with a Canadian Destroyer. They slug it out from their knees, then to their feet and they keep going. Ishimori just pounds away at Hiromu, as the latter simply keeps coming regardless in an awesome sequence. Taiji just keeps LAYING them in, to the point where he drops Hiromu and the ref checks, but Takahashi pops back up and here we go again. That entire sequence was just absolutely great pro wrestling, with Hiromu demonstrating the heart of a babyface and Ishimori being the heel that is willing to keep knocking you down until you stay down. Nothing flashy, just really good storytelling.

Taiji sends Hiromu’s shoulder to the post and hits a big shoulderbreaker as Hiromu wails in agony. Bone Lock from Taiji now as he’s got it in. Hiromu stretches for the ropes as Ishimori pulls at the injured hand of Hiromu to try to keep him from making it, but to no avail as Takahashi stretches his leg out to nab the bottom strand. Double knees from Ishimori get two. Takahashi counters the Bloody Cross, then blocks another crossface attempt with a Flatliner for two.

Hiromu is fired up now! Takahashi absolutely clobbers him with a lairat, then a DVD to the exposed corner, Time Bomb hits! 1, 2, Ishimori kicks out! Time Bomb #2 is countered by Ishimori, but Hiromu rolls through it and goes for the move again, Ishimori turns that back into the Bone Lock! Complete with the arm over the shoulder! Hiromu rolls over so Taiji goes for the Bloody Cross, Hiromu counters that and Time Bomb #2 hits this time to give us a NEW IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion! (Hiromu Takahashi over Taiji Ishimori, pinfall, 25:31)

RICK’S THOUGHTS: ****1/2. Every bit the equal to the NEVER match even though they were completely different in style and execution, Hiromu Takahashi is just on another level right now. His facial expressions and screams accentuate his physical writhing and selling in a way that very few other wrestlers can even dream of. He commands your attention in the ring, drawing your eye and (and this is the important part) having substance to back it up once he does. There have been plenty of cool looking wrestlers who can do moves that can’t draw you in like Takahashi can, and that is all about the almost literal force of his persona. Ishimori as the cold Terminator to Hiromu’s excitement provides an absolutely beautiful contrast to illuminate both men, so don’t think this was a one-man show. Taiji did a yeoman’s job in a match where he could have been an afterthought. This was some wonderful professional wrestling.

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: Probably the highest up the Dome card a singles Junior Heavyweight match has been in a long time. As usual, Takahashi brought his top level charisma to proceedings and Ishimori was great as a vicious non-nonsense villain targeting the injured body part. I felt they had a great match at Jingu but probably had a higher gear they could kick into, which I think they mostly reached here. As a match it combined consistent selling with some really hot moves, which led to an excellent entertaining outing. I’m glad they not only gave the Junior’s a chance to show what they could do in this position but that the lads themselves really showed up and left it all in the ring. Hopefully we see more of it going forwards, as these two are good enough to justify it and Takahashi himself is a bonafide mega-star. Definitely a match from these two Nights that you need to seek out! ****3/4

Main event time! Will Ibushi lose it all the night after he finally became God?

Kota Ibushi (C) vs Jay White (w/ GEDO) – IWGP Heavyweight/IWGP IC double gold title match

Jay jaws at Ibushi the whole way as Kota makes his way to the ring. This man is just the greatest. I want to remind every that, like CRZ used to say, I am BIASED and think Jay White rules the earth and will offer zero apologies for it.

White stalls to start, but gets back in and goes chest to chest with Ibushi, even telling GEDO to get down off the apron. They lock up and go to the ropes, Jay offers the break….and GEDO grabs Ibushi’s leg, allowing White to pounce on Kota and stomp away. A few headlock takeovers from Jay as he tries to wear Ibushi down and build off Kota being exhausted from the previous night. Ibushi shoots Jay off and goes for a high kick, so Jay bails out to force Kota to give chase. He catches Ibushi coming back in, but Kota drops him so Jay rolls back out and Ibushi chases again.

Ibushi tosses Jay back in and comes through the ropes, but White pops up and DDTs him, then tosses him and suplexes him from the floor to the ring apron. More punishment as Jay repeatedly rams Ibushi by the ribs into the side of the ring. Everything that Jay is doing focuses on either the back or the ribs, which makes total sense against an exhausted opponent. Back in and Jay fires shoulder after shoulder into the ribs of Kota in the corner, then hits a gutbuster for two, then more knees to the back. Ibushi tries a comeback, but Jay fakes him out and Ibushi crashes to the mat after missing a dropkick.

White back at it now, snapping the neck of Kota on the bottom rope, then a DDT to cut off an Ibushi suplex. White keeps punishing Ibushi, going to the eyes to drive him to the corner and firing shoulders again. Jay gets into it with the ref and they both agree not to touch each other, and Jay turns around into a huge kick from Kota! Ibushi drops him with another kick and hits a standing moonsault for two. Ibushi sends Jay to the floor but takes way too long to get after him and Jay tosses Ibushi to the rail to regain control.

Jay back in and he charges, but Ibushi hits the powerslam. Kota goes up, but Jay cuts off the moonsault and fires forearms to the back, then dragon-screws Kota through the ropes as he’s found another body part to work with. Running uppercut by Jay, Bladebuster gets two. Ibushi blocks the Uranage and ‘ranas Jay to put White back to the floor. He tries for the Golden Triangle, but White cuts him off again and sends him crashing from the buckles to the floor. Back in and it’s a suplex into the buckles for two from Jay.

Kiwi Krusher is blocked, and Ibushi fights for and eventually gets a half-nelson suplex. They stand and slug it out, and Kota gets the combo kicks and they exchange pinfall attempts on rollups before Ibushi hits the Bastard Driver. Ibushi misses a back elbow and Jay hits a snap Saito suplex. Big Uranage gets two for White. Blade Runner is countered into a suplex from Ibushi, Bomaye from Ibushi! 1, 2, no! Ibushi charges into a Jay backslide, Jay puts his feet on the top rope exactly like he did to win the briefcase, 1, 2, ref catches Jay’s feet on the ropes! Ibushi drops him with a kick and goes for a Kamigoye, but White cowers so Ibushi just kicks him in the head.

Ibushi goes up for the Phoenix splash, but GEDO distracts and Jay cuts him off. He sets Ibushi for a top rope sleeper suplex, but even Ibushi isn’t crazy enough to take THAT move and elbows out of it, so White drags him off the top and chopblocks the knee, then hits two Dragon-screws on the mat before slapping on the TTO (Tanahashi Tap Out). Ibushi crawls for the ropes and makes it. Jay grabs the wrists and fires kicks to the face of Ibushi…..and now Dark Ibushi rises, the look of nothingness painting Kota’s face in a nether void while he slowly gets to his feet and shrugs off White’s shots.

Ibushi methodically and calmly destroys Jay with shots, stomping him into goo in the corner. Ibushi tells Jay to come on, so White does and he fires, only for Ibushi to show him how do to it as he DROPS White with a forearm. Second attempt by Jay, same result. Third shot sends Jay crashing to the floor. White back in and Ibushi tells him to take his best shot….so Jay falls to the mat and tells Kota to pin him. Kota is NOT a moron, however and doesn’t fall for it, instead standing over Jay and raining down shot after shot. The ref tries to stop the fists and Ibushi shoves him to the side, allowing Jay to hit a low blow!

They roll to the floor and White just sends Ibushi back and forth from railing to the ring apron, back to ribs, screaming ‘fuck you!’ as he destroys the midsection of Kota, then to the ringpost, then up the ramp. “You want me to hit you?” White yells at Ibushi before raining down forearms to leave Ibushi a pile of hamburger on the ramp. Pretty, pretty hamburger, but still hamburger, and now it’s White standing tall in the ring as mocks Ibushi. Deadlift German suplex drops Kota on his HEAD, then another one. Good Christ. To the apron where Jay goes for the German suplex that Naito hit on Ibushi at Dominion in 2019, the one where Kota ended up hitting his head on the apron and falling to the floor. Ibushi escapes that and we end up back in the ring after a head kick.

Jay tries to escape so now Ibushi wants the deadlift German back into the ring, Jay fights him, Ibushi will not be denied and hits it! Sitout Last Ride from Ibushi! 1, 2, NO! Kamigoye is countered, sleeper suplex by Jay! Another one! Regalplex by Jay gets two. Blade Runner is countered into a backslide, White rolls through, Kamigoye by Ibushi! 1, 2, NO!! Phoenix splash by Ibushi! 1, 2, GEDO pulls the ref out! GEDO with the knucks and he runs in, but Ibushi nails him with a Kamigoye to take care of him. He goes out to get the ref and comes back in….right into the Blade Runner! 1, 2, NOOOOOO!!! IBUSHI BECOMES THE FIRST TO KICK OUT OF THE BLADE RUNNER!!

White puts the TTO back on and screams at Ibushi to tap. Ibushi reaches for the ropes, Jay pulls him back to the center! Ibushi is going out! The ref tells him he has to do something and Ibushi struggles, struggles, finally makes the ropes! Ibushi with a jumping knee, White comes back with a Regalplex for two! Bloody Sunday from Jay! He goes for the Blade Runner again, Ibushi escapes and drops Jay with a knee! Jay tries to fire back, but Ibushi shakes it off and destroys White with knees! Blade Runner attempt is countered with a huge lariat! Ibushi sets White up, Kamigoye to the back of the head of White! Kneepad comes down, Kamigoye to the front of Jay White! 1, 2………3!!!! (Kota Ibushi over Jay White, pinfall, 48:05)

RICK’S THOUGHTS: *****. I don’t break the scale, so that’s as high as I’ll go. This match built and built and built from a cottage to a house to Wayne Fucking Manor. I cannot praise the narrative of this match enough – Ibushi sold and sold and sold in the early going to set up the flow of the match in the second half, where they spaced out the coming of Dark Ibushi and the subsequent comebacks from Kota to make him look like, well, an unbeatable God, as Jay threw the kitchen sink at him and couldn’t win. As for White, this was the performance of his career and perhaps his life, although considering how young he is and how many years he has left, I hope that’s not true. He was the glue that held the match together, taunting Ibushi like a slimeball the entire time and still finding a way to allow the crowd to identify with him as a competitor with an amazingly valiant effort that never betrayed his persona. Will Jay cheat to win? Sure. Will he take the easiest possible route? Absolutely. But the underlying key that was exposed here about his character is this – Jay White unequivocally, completely, assuredly believes that he is, in fact, deserving of the top spot and the championship. And that cannot be minimized, because it’s the difference between him and other one note heels who know how to DRAW heat, but have nothing underneath to truly sustain it. Jay White does. This match was absolutely magnificent on every level and I would change nothing. It is absolutely a contender for MOTY and was the best match on both days. A classic.

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: This was the usual heel act tour de force from White, as he’s a genuine contender for best heel in the entire business right now. MJF and Roman Reigns are probably the only other heels close to being on his level currently. He just commits to being so thoroughly unlikeable, which combined with his solid wrestling skills makes him a fantastic character. Ibushi sold like mad for long periods here and was excellent at it. It was a bit of a slow burner, but it built gradually into an excellent match. I loved the call back to the match where White won the case too, with Uno catching him having his feet on the ropes when making a pin. I also think it’s great how White just turtles up to avoid taking a finisher, it’s such great cowardly villainous behaviour whilst also being really cunning at the same time. The way it became a desperate scrap at points in the closing stretch was great as well, with it giving the match the feel of an actual fight as both men tried to somehow find a way to scrape their way to victory. White teasing that he was surrendering was absolutely fantastic as well; as it showed he had absolutely no shame and just made him even more of a heel. It’s so refreshing to see guys like White and MJF who exist only to make you hate them. They actively avoid doing anything that you might find respectable or praiseworthy. It’s rare to see that level of dedication to being a bad guy these days. Gedo getting “his” with the Kamigoye was pretty darn great too. Following it with the first big kick out of the Blade Runner was outstanding as well. A Match of the Year Candidate for sure. *****

Post-match, Jay reaches for the belts on the mat and wants to keep fighting Ibushi as he’s forced from the ring. SANADA hits the ring next in a suit and lays down the challenge to Ibushi for the first title shot, which Kota accepts. SANADA leaves and Ibushi celebrates with his belts to end the show.

And before we leave, Jay cut the most amazing promo of his entire career in the post-show press conference, so I’m including it below. Watch as he veers from heartbroken to bitter to angry to resigned as he claims that he’s done; it’s one of the best post-match promos I’ve ever seen:

https://twitter.com/njpwworld/status/1346496991228874752

RICK’S FINAL THOUGHTS: What a killer show. Two ****1/2 matches and a ***** match out of 6 make this a can’t miss. Jay and Kota did something special out there tonight, and the Cobb/Takagi & Hiromu/Ishimori matches were both off the charts great. NJPW finished up this year’s Wrestle Kingdom with an absolute bang, and we’ve got what looks to be a very fun year ahead.

MIKE’S FINAL THOUGHTS: Another ridiculously easy thumbs up show, with three matches on a six match card breaking the **** barrier by my watch. How can you even argue with a return like that? You could add El Gigante Vs Sid in a Stretcher match and you’d still have one of the best shows of the year. Thanks very much to Rick for allowing me along for the ride. His work is to a high standard and it’s always nice to work alongside him for something like this.

Thanks are due very much to Mike, whose work as usual is simply excellent.
Tomorrow, New Year Dash! Then I sleep for a week.
As always, thanks for reading this thing we wrote,
Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter
[email protected]