Welcome to Night Two of Wrestle Kingdom 15 coverage! Last night saw two Match of The Year contenders in Will Ospreay vs. Kazuchika Okada & Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi, history was made with Guerrillas of Destiny becoming seven time IWGP Tag Team Champions, and tonight’s card was fully determined. Let’s waste no time, and get right into all the action that came on January 5th in Tokyo Dome! This is only Part One of coverage, for the main event matches, check Part Two, found here.
BUSHI vs. Bad Luck Fale vs. Chase Owens vs. Toru Yano – KOPW 2021 Four Way
Something different to get this show started. Last night, action began on the preshow with the New Japan Rando, a 22 man Battle Royale. The last four men standing moved onto tonight, to determine who will be the first man to hold the title of King of Pro Wrestling 2021. Yano is 2020’s champion, while BUSHI was in the initial hunt for this title, and Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens have wanted it since World Tag League. Expect a light hearted start to the show with this one.
After a hard fought battle of walking to the ring yesterday, Yano avoided the ring that was controlled by Bullet Club. BUSHI stayed away as well, and tried to goad Fale & Owens to fight it out. Fale gave Owens a dangerous fingerpoke, and BUSHI had to hop in and save this match. Now, all four men were actually in the match and chaos began. Yano started to pull off corner pads, got whacked by one, Owens poked BUSHI in the eyes, and Yano got his legs used like a wishbone.
This one was trending towards either member of Bullet Club winning, Fale & Owens seemingly fine with either result. BUSHI fought them off with a bulldog & dropkick, then tripped Fale over the top and dove onto him. Owens was almost dropped by a swinging neckbreaker, but Yano saved the match. Yano tried to bodyslam Fale, and Fale was too heavy and almost pinned him. Owens and BUSHI gave this match some life, Owens countering MX and trying for the Package Piledriver.
Instead, he hit Grenade Launcher with Fale, and they fought over who got the pin. Yano lowblowed them both, and pinned BUSHI to win!
Death, taxes, and Yano winning with a low blow. Here’s to more fun gimmick matches from the Sublime Master Thief in 2021! Match Rating: 2.75/5 (** ¾)
One & Eight (Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi) vs. Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Master Wato has already made it to the main card of the Tokyo Dome, and has his first chance to claim gold in the company as well. He teams with veteran Ryusuke Taguchi to challenge for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships. Calling themselves One & Eight due to the 18 year age gap, they have some potential. He’s got a lot of history with Kanemaru since coming back to NJPW, and even beat Desperado in the Best of Super Juniors. However, Kanemaru & Desperado are the dominant force in this division.
Wato struck as the bell rang, showing immediate fire on Desperado, who verbally tore him apart during press conferences. Desperado was sent over the top, had his leg swept, and Wato soared over the ropes to crash onto him. He’s impressing on his biggest stage ever. Taguchi meanwhile just used what works, that being hip attacks and comedy, until Kanemaru tripped him up and started an outside brawl. They brought a chair into the ring and used it to attack the knee of Taguchi, showing their heel mastery.
Wato got the tag in after Taguchi broke the isolation, looking for his big crucifix bomb but being blocked. Kanemaru kept using the referee as a shield, before getting Wato with a kick to the head. Taguchi came in and pulled Desperados face into his butt, before channeling Nakamura, only to be cut off and have the knee attacked again. Desperado got that Numero Dos Stretch Muffler, but Wato made the save, and Taguchi got the ankle lock applied.
No matter how much fire One & Eight showed in the final stretch, a punch to the face & Pinche Loco was all Desperado needed to close this one out and retain the championships.
An okay showcase for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, which was needed after a hiatus due to injury. Match Rating: 3/5 (***)
Jeff Cobb vs. Shingo Takagi – NEVER Openweight Championship Match
Jeff Cobb took a while to find his footing in NJPW, but this year great runs in both the G1 Climax & World Tag League set him up nicely for 2021. Now, he has a chance to start the year by winning the NEVER Openweight Championship for the second time in his career. All he needs to do is slay The Dragon, Shingo Takagi, who was arguably the best wrestler in NJPW in 2020. We’re in for a war.
The NEVER Openweight Championship for those unaware has a style around it, and that is drag out brawls full of fighting spirit. These are the tough guys of NJPW, and started by just nailing each other between the eyes with forearms, just testing to see where each other are at to start. Cobb went down first with a hip toss and shoulder tackle, but kicked out at one, and came back with a dropkick. This one quickly spilled to the outside, where Cobb threw Shingo away with a big suplex onto the mats, taking complete control of the match.
Shingo tried to get revenge with a suplex of his own, then tried strikes, neither working. He would use the ropes for some extra momentum to finally hit a back suplex, but couldn’t maintain the advantage. Cobb took him to the apron and wanted to powerbomb him to the floor, Shingo slipped away and nailed a rough dive over the top rope to take Cobb down. Now in control, Shingo would apply the pressure he’s known for, before being caught by Spin-Cycle from Cobb. Every time Shingo gets an edge, Cobb snuffs it out.
-Cobb would hit Shingo with a series of Gutwrench Suplexes and tried for a powerbomb, being countered with a hurricanrana. Shingo couldn’t follow up and was hit with a Black Tiger Bomb. Cobb wanted a Tour of The Islands, but instead took a Death Valley Driver. Shingo pulled off the energy of the fans, got a lariat in the corner and nailed the superplex.
The sliding lariat saw him get caught with a suplex, and Cobb started to throw Shingo around like he was a small child. A slap fight started in the middle of the ring, and this just fired Shingo up again. He would nail a lariat, fall to the mat and get suplexed by Cobb, just to pop back to his feet and run Cobb down with a lariat, stumbling outside and nearly losing via count out.
As soon as he got back in the ring, Cobb used the Gonzo Bomb of Brody King. Tour of The Islands was avoided, and Shingo attacked the knee with a sliding lariat before hitting Made In Japan. Cobb stayed in the fight, nailed Tour Of The Islands, but came down hard on the knee and waited too long on the pinfall. He’d set up a top rope Tour of The Islands, Shingo slipping away and getting a big powerbomb.
Pumping Bomber was countered, but so was a Tour of The Islands. A moonsault powerslam dropped Shingo, who came back up with a lariat, busting Cobb open but not knocking him down. They traded lariats and headbutts, and Shingo got a big slam to force both men to take a breath. Pumping Bomber finally landed, and Last of The Dragon was all that was left.
Add this one to the legacy that the NEVER Openweight Championship has built at Wrestle Kingdom, as it was up there with even Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii. Cobb & Shingo are in for big things in 2021. Long live The Dragon. Match Rating: 4.75/5 (**** ¾)
Once again, we are splitting the coverage of this show into two posts for ease of reading. Find part two right here! What was your favorite moment of the first half of Night Two of Wrestle Kingdom 15? Let us know what you think in the comment section down below.
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