It’s January 4th, you know what that means. Wrestle Kingdom is back again, to bring the absolute best of New Japan Pro Wrestling to Tokyo Dome. It will again be a two night show, with both being packed with matches. Let’s get right into the first night of action, because why wait any longer than we already have!
KOPW 2021: New Japan Ranbo
Starting the year for NJPW, we have a Battle Royal with a unique set of rules. 22 men in total will enter this match, elimination can be done through pinfall, submission, or being thrown over the top rope. All very standard, but the final four men move to another match on January 5th, to name the King Of Pro Wrestling 2021!
Highlights in this Battle Royale were plentiful. Toa Henare managed to eliminate both Yuji Nagata & Minoru Suzuki, who kept brawling into the back, keen to fight forever. Tomohiro Ishii got Henare out next, showing they’re still set for a big clash, with Henare admitting he should have focused on Ishii.
Togi Makabe got both of YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto out, before being saved from elimination by his old rival in Ishii. Tenzan got into the mix for his first match in ‘The Year of The Bull’, quickly working with Honma to eliminate Makabe. Rocky Romero came to the ring instead of commentary, making his return to Japan after spending a bulk of 2020 stuck in America. SHO came to his aid after DOUKI attacked him with a steel pipe.
Tiger Mask IV returned from an illness forced hiatus at the end of 2020, and was back in fast with a crossbody on Romero. Bad Luck Fale was followed by Yota Tsuji, Yuya Uemura & Gabriel Kidd, with the young lions working on Fale and almost getting him eliminated. Final entrant was 2020 KOPW Champion, Toru Yano. Yano didn’t reach the ring before the Final Four was set. Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, BUSHI & Toru Yano advance! Very fun way to start the night, and tomorrow should be a delight as well.
Match Rating: 2.5/5 (** ½)
Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Phantasmo – Special Singles Match
NJPW held two major Junior Heavyweight tournaments in late 2020. Hiromu Takahashi would win the grueling Best of Super Juniors, while El Phantasmo won the 2020 Super J-Cup. Both men have a claim to challenge IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori, but only one will get there. Both tournament winners will kick off the main card of Wrestle Kingdom with a potential show stealer in their first ever match together!
After starting off by disrespecting the BoSJ Trophy, the Super J-Cup and Jushin Liger, ELP had Takahashi dive onto him on the outside. Takahashi tried to finish early with the Time Bomb, but ELP slipped away. He dodged a Sunset Bomb, and delivered one of his own to the outside, then nailed a big rope walk moonsault to the outside. ELP might be a prick, but he’s downright incredible. He’d mock both Kenny Omega & Shinsuke Nakamura, before taking a shotgun dropkick and falcon arrow.
ELP regained control with some hard strikes, and again showed his skills with a rope walk, before being bitten by Takahashi. A top rope victory roll nearly ended the match, but ELP wasn’t giving up. He’d literally bite back, before going for Styles Clash, that being countered into Dynamite Plunger. Time Bomb 2 was countered twice, with these two throwing everything they have at each other.
Takahashi took them up top, ELP was shoved off into the referee. A low blow, top rope hurricanrana and frog splash got two. CR2 was countered and ELP nailed Styles Clash instead. One Winged Angel was set up, Takahashi countered, hit the corner DVD, fired up and had Time Bomb countered. CR2 was set up again, Takahashi countered and managed the pinfall.
The first incredible singles match of the NJPW year, and Takahashi faces Ishimori tomorrow for the championship. Match Rating: 4.25/5 (**** ¼)
Dangerous Tekkers vs. Guerillas Of Destiny – IWGP Tag Team Championship Match
Dangerous Tekkers wanted to sweep World Tag League 2020. This was not the case, as they lost multiple matches, and instead Guerrillas of Destiny won their first World Tag League ever. Now, they look to win their seventh IWGP Tag Team Championship, and prove they’re the best team in NJPW history.
Tama Tonga was just having the life choked out of him as the bell rang, and found himself isolated early. He had to fight off the submission skills of ZSJ and strikes of Taichi, who also kept going for chokes on him. Once Loa managed to tag in, he did his best to regain control of the match, and now Taichi was the one isolated and being choked. Taichi is dangerous, but can’t bust out a submission you’ve never seen out of nowhere, making him safer to isolate.
It wouldn’t last forever, as a big head kick allowed him to tag in ZSJ who came in with some fire, hitting tornado DDT’s & running uppercuts. G.O.D used their superior tag team chemistry to launch off all the tag team moves they know. ZSJ countered the Super Powerbomb into a choke, and Taichi helped him turn it into a superplex but Loa survived. G.O.D managed another comeback, before all four men were left laying.
Loa & Taichi threw heavy blows, with Taichi winning out. Zack Mephisto was set up, but Tama got some Gun Stuns to save his partner. Taichi managed to hit the backdrop driver for a near fall, but was cut off by Jado. Tama nailed Taichi with his own iron fingered glove while the referee was down, Loa hit Ape-Shit, and we have seven time champions.
If NJPW put this much care into every tag team championship match, the division wouldn’t be an afterthought. Match Rating: 4/5 (****)
A pre taped promo from Jon Moxley aired before this match, where he said that he’s coming back. Whoever leaves the Tokyo Dome with the contract won’t have to chase Moxley, they just need to watch out for him. This was shot in a NJPW of America ring, showing that he might be ready to step into the ring once the challenger is in America. Not just the Death Rider now, he’s The Pale Rider.
KENTA vs. Satoshi Kojima – IWGP United States Heavyweight Right To Challenge Match
This match was meant to be Juice Robinson vs. KENTA, but a fractured left orbital bone took Juice out of the event. Instead, Satoshi Kojima has stepped up, to show “this aging 50 year old can still go like hell”. This could be Kojima’s last singles match in Tokyo Dome, and you know he won’t go down without a huge fight.
Kojima was controlling the ring early, while KENTA played the role of a coward. When KENTA hit the ring, he had a plan to take Kojima outside and send him into Tenzan, beat him down with kicks and submissions. KENTA just needs to wrestle his type of match, and he can beat anyone. That didn’t mean Kojima didn’t fight like hell, hitting his signature beats but also taking a superplex after trying for the top rope elbow drop.
KENTA wanted Green Killer, but couldn’t get it. Instead, he wanted to suplex Kojima on the apron, and took a DDT there instead, another Kojima classic. Both men were wrestling the Kings Road style here, and the tension was building up. Kojima tried for the Koji Cutter, before swinging with a lariat and taking a DDT. A stalling basement dropkick and double foot stomp got a near fall, shocking KENTA. Kojima refused the Go to Sleep, and got the Cutter. The elbow pad was thrown away, but the lariat was countered by a powerslam.
KENTA grabbed the briefcase, it was swatted away with a lariat, and Kojima nailed KENTA with the left arm for a two count. The right arm is the killer, but the running single knee prevented it. Kojima fought another Go To Sleep, and beat KENTA down. One more attempted lariat saw Kojima beat down with pams and another knee. Go To Sleep landed, and KENTA remains on course to Moxley.
Satoshi Kojima proved he wasn’t a slouch, KENTA proved he’s ready to be IWGP US Champion. Moxley is next. Match Rating: 3.5/5 (*** ½)
This show is too big for one night, and for one post! Catch Part 2 right here, split for ease of reading. What was your favorite part of the first half of Night One of Wrestle Kingdom 15? Let us know what you think in the comment section down below.
SUBSCRIBE NOW: Get TheOvertimer’s Hottest Stories, Breaking News and Special Features in your email, CLICK HERE!