While the undercard on this event was rather underwhelming aside from Tenzan & O-Khan, the top two matches promise to deliver in a huge way. Will Ospreay & Satoshi Kojima meet in a rare No Disqualification match in the semi-main event. In the main event, Hiroshi Tanahashi tries to claim one of two singles championships he’s yet to win in NJPW, the NEVER Openweight Championship, held by Shingo Takagi.
No Disqualification Match: Will Ospreay vs. Satoshi Kojima
Also stemming from The Empire’s attack on New Year’s Dash, Satoshi Kojima looks to shut up Will Ospreay. Kojima showed he still has a lot in the tank with a match against KENTA at Wrestle Kingdom, before being abused by Ospreay at New Years Dash. Now, his pride is getting the better of him, and he wants to get violent with Ospreay in a No Disqualification match.
This one got off to a fast start, Kojima having the dive scouted, striking first before brawling on the outside. Ospreay used weapons first, using a trash can lid for a blow to the head. A powerbomb onto the attempt saw Ospreay back dropped onto it instead, then thrown into the ring post. Ospreay came back with a forearm off the apron, before grabbing a ladder, and setting it up across the ring and barricade.
A corner was exposed, and Kojima was sent into it. Ospreay grabbed some chairs, a weapon Kojima is prepared to use but was almost curb stomped onto the chair. Instead, Ospreay was hip tossed through the chair! The chair was then placed on the chest of Ospreay, as Kojima hit a diving elbow drop onto it. A springboard kick from Ospreay got him back in control, and he’d go looking for more weapons, and finding a table.
-The table was set up at ringside for later, and Ospreay hit a springboard forearm for a near fall, then taking a Koji-Cutter. Ospreay found a guitar, a hold over from the era when NJPW worked with Jeff Jarrett. He swung for the fences, but missed and took a DDT, before being smashed over the head with the guitar. Kojima didn’t go for the pin, was powerbombed through a table in the corner and took an OsCutter. He’d survive, before mounting a comeback and sending Ospreay through a ladder.
Kojima could have taken a count out win, but wanted to beat Ospreay in the ring. A brainbuster onto some steel chairs got a two count, Ospreay showing his grit. An OcCutter was countered by a lariat to the back of his head, before he hit a Hidden Blade to a chair to stun Kojima. A proper Hidden Blade & Stormbreaker ended this crazy fight out.
Satoshi Kojima is having a late stage career revival in 2021, with this being his second strong singles match in a month. Ospreay once again showed he’s as adaptable as they come, just at home in a hardcore brawl as a semi-main event classic in the Tokyo Dome. On a weak card like tonight, this one always had a chance to steal the show. Match Rating: 4/5 (****)
NEVER Openweight Championship Match: Shingo Takagi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
At Wrestle Kingdom 15, Shingo Takagi cemented his legacy as one of the greatest NEVER Openweight Champions of all time, beating Jeff Cobb in an instant classic. However, when Hiroshi Tanahahsi made a challenge, Shingo gladly answered. After all, he beat Tanahahsi in the World Tag League, and asked “What makes you the master of the century”? Tanahashi has not faced a heavy hitter like Shingo since Nakamura left NJPW and Shibata retired, but could find his Strong Style side tonight.
Tanahashi wanted to keep it slow and technical. That’s where he can match Shingo, and maybe even beat him. Shingo would use his power to block a hip toss and throw Tanahashi head first to the mat, before being rolled up quickly. The strikes would finally start flying with a lariat in the corner, and Tanahashi was ready to go, with a slap and low dropkick.
Tanahashi slowed things down by attacking the leg of Shingo with submissions on the ground, before wanting the dragon screw leg whip. The damage was piling up, but Tanahashi was sent over the top rope with a lariat. An outside brawl punished Tanahashi, with him being sent onto the apron face first and DDT’d on the floor. Back in the ring, Shingo nailed the suplex, but only got a two count. A diving elbow drop followed up, but Tanahashi was ready to keep going.
-He’d catch the left knee and set up the Dragon Screw, softening up the leg for the Cloverleaf. Shingo would set up Death Valley Driver on the apron, but be sent to the floor, and Tanahashi came off the top rope with Aces High. Coming back into the ring, Shingo took another Dragon Screw, who was in trouble at the 15 minute mark.
It was time to pick the pace up, as Shingo went for Made In Japan, but instead hit Tanahashi with the Twist & Shout twice. He got fired up, talked some trash to Tanahashi, trying to goad him into a strike exchange. Shingo launched a kick, Tanahashi grabbed the leg and teased the Dragon Screw, instead drop kicking the other knee! Tanahashi would get his just desserts however, with Shingo going after the knee of Tanahashi with a sliding lariat.
He’d tie him up in the ropes, bending the knee there before taking him out with a lariat. A powerbomb dropped Tanahashi, and after he kicked out Shingo moved into a Single Leg Boston Crab. Shingo isn’t a submission wrestler, but this is such a fundamental move. He’d move into a Calf Crusher, before Tanahashi made the ropes. Tanahashi would get another Dragon Screw leg whip on Shingo, before setting him up on the middle rope and pulling him down with another.
-Shingo was in some serious pain, and the Cloverleaf would be applied in the middle of the ring. During the G1, Shingo passed out instead of tapped out, and this was almost the case here as well. Red Shoes considered calling it, but Shingo showed life. Tanahashi let the hold go, but hit the High Fly Flow to the back, only to miss the second one.
A wheelbarrow German Suplex into the corner nailed Tanahashi, and Shingo nailed a Dragon Suplex next. Pumping Bomber would be next, but with less speed than usual. He’d counter a sling blade into Made In Japan, but Tanahashi kicked out. Last Of The Dragon was all that was left, but Tanahashi got Twist & Shout. A crossarm German Suplex got the two, but High Fly Flow was caught into Last Of The Dragon.
He’d apply the Dragon Sleeper to set up a GTR on the ropes, and the Pumping Bomber. Tanahashi got a Dragon Suplex, Shingo rolled back to his feet for a pumping bomber and took a slingblade in return. Fighting spirit was flowing, and a Last Of The Dragon was countered into the Slingblade. One more Dragon Suplex, and High Fly Flow. Tanahashi is NEVER Openweight Champion.
We only get to see Big Match Tanahashi a few times each year, but this was one of those matches. It was the longest match in NEVER Openweight history, and Tanahashi gave a classic performance like this was over the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Shingo had some great reigns, but if we can consistently get this Tanahashi again? He will elevate this title to new heights. Match Rating: 4.75/5 (**** ¾)
After the match, O-Khan attacked Tanahashi, following up their Wrestle Kingdom match. Do you want to see the rematch of Tanahashi & Shingo? Will O-Khan jump the line? Let us know what you think in the comment section down below.
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