While the undercard on this show was great, it’s time to get to the big matches. Kota Ibushi defends one half of the IWGP Double Gold, El Phantasmo, BUSHI & El Desperado all battle for the vacant IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, and Hiroshi Tanahashi looks to stop Great O-Khan once again! Let’s waste no time, and get right into all this action!
NEVER Openweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Great-O-Khan
At Wrestle Kingdom, Great-O-Khan was unable to make a name for himself at the expense of Hiroshi Tanahashi. However, after Tanahashi was able to become the NEVER Openweight Champion by beating Shingo Takagi? O-Khan struck again and demanded a title shot. Being a fighting champion, Tanahashi accepted and will look to win once again.
O-Khan immediately wanted Eliminator, but Tanahashi fought off all the early signature moves and sent O-Khan out to the ringside area. Tanahashi would be thrown into the barricade and apron, all while O-Khan goaded Yota Tsuji to join the Empire by punching Tanahashi.
O-Khan took Tanahashi into the ring and tossed him with a Gutwrench Suplex. Tanhashi would have his left leg attacked, which has had a lingering injury since the G1 Climax. The rope would be found, but O-Khan remained in control as he stretched him in the corner. Tanahashi fought free but was hit with a big shot to the throat by O-Khan, only to come back with the flying forearm.
O-Khan was hit with the body slam and somersault senton for a two count, before Tanahashi nailed two quick Dragon Screw leg whips. Tanahashi wanted Texas Cloverleaf next. O-Khan slipped out, but had his knee stomped, retreating to the apron but hurting his knee after hitting a jawbreaker over the top rope. Tanahashi caught O-Khan in the ropes with some quick Dragon Screws.
Now with the giant grounded, Tanahashi fully applied that Texas Cloverleaf. O-Khan was able to climb to the ropes, and blocked a Twist & Shout attempt, but used the bad knee to break free. He’d get Tanahashi up for the Gordbuster, before taking a second to beat his knee into working again. Tanahashi was tied up in the tree of woe and hit with a sliding dropkick, another move that hurt the injured leg of O-Khan.
O-Khan hit a reverse powerslam, but only got a two count. He’d look for Eliminator next, but Tanahashi fought free and dropped O-Khan with a hard chop to the face. O-Khan pulled the referee into the path of a charging Tanahashi, before dropping Tanahashi with a right hand to the jaw.
Tsuji would be asked to provide the steel chair to O-Khan, but instead he slid it to Tanahashi. Tanahashi took a seat, and hit a drop toehold into the chair as O-Khan rushed in. Twist & Shout would hit, but O-Khan countered the slingblade with a bicycle kick. O-Khan got Tanahashi up for Eliminator, but Tanahashi took him down with a slingblade!
Aces High hit, Tanahashi went back up but missed High Fly Flow. O-Khan hit the shotgun dropkick, and a running throat chop. Tanahashi hit two slingblades, but O-Khan refused to stay down and hit a huge lariat. O-Khan applied a unique backbreaker hold, before swinging Tanahashi out. Eliminator was all that was left, but Tanahashi countered into a crucifix pin for the win!
This was the best singles match yet for Great O-Khan in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and miles ahead of his Wrestle Kingdom clash with Tanahashi. The start was slower, but the back half was incredible. Tanahashi is amazing at putting together dramatic finishing stretches, and this was no exception. Add in the mini story of Yota Tsuji deciding who to back as he approaches graduation, and you have a fine match. Match Rating: 4/5 (****)
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship- El Desperado vs. BUSHI vs El Phantasmo
Tonight was supposed to have Hiromu Takahashi defending the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, but injury took him out for up to six months. Instead his partner BUSHI, rival El Desperado, and original challenger El Phantasmo (ELP) meet in a rare Triple Threat match to decide who should be the new champion. BUSHI is the only former champion in this match, having a brief reign in 2016
BUSHI went ELP out of the ring, leaving Desperado to beat him down. ELP came in and took a big hip toss, before BUSHI was tripped into a dropkick on ELP. Desperado hit a suplex on BUSHI onto ELP, showing uncanny skill in this match type. BUSHI hit a bulldog on ELP and got Desperado with a dropkick, getting a near fall. ELP threw some hard strikes, before crotching Desperado on the top rope and avoiding a DDT from BUSHI.
Desperado was hit with a leg drop while stuck on the top rope, getting a near fall before ELP got fancy with a rope walk, going post to post before Desperado kicked the rope. BUSHI hit the apron DDT on Desperado before taking ELP off the top rope with a hurricanrana. ELP sent both BUSHI & Desperado to the outside, before diving off the top rope. Desperado would be taken up the ramp, and ELP wanted a suplex.
This was countered, but ELP ripped the mask open and hit a Jerry Lynn style Cradle Piledriver. ELP finished unmasking Desperado, before punting it into the air and going to work on BUSHI in the ring. BUSHI would hit a pele kick, and the missile dropkick, before the BUSHIRONI. ELP slipped outside, and BUSHI hit a vaulting hurricanrana to the outside.
ELP countered the Lungblower, and ripped off BUSHI’s shirt and choked him with it. BUSHI was tied up in the tree of woe, and ELP flipped around into a groin press on BUSHI. This was followed up by a springboard crossbody, before ELP flowed into a lionsault for a two count. Desperado was still being looked at on the outside, making this effectively a singles match.
ELP set up the UFO neckbreaker, getting a two count. He’d go up top with the Thunder Kiss ‘66, but BUSHI kicked out at two. Desperado was back up with a new mask, and a spear for ELP. He’d absolutely maul ELP with strikes, fury taking over. ELP was sent to the outside, and Desperado hit the rolling suicide dive, taking down both ELP & BUSHI. Back in the ring, Desperado hit a suplex and set up a superplex, only for BUSHI to take them both with a powerbomb to Desperado. BUSHI hit the lungblower on Desperado, an enziguri on a rope trapped ELP before hitting a swinging neckbreaker on Desperado!
Desperado took a lungblower, ELP threw BUSHI out of the ring but couldn’t get the pinfall. ELP hit Styles Clash, but BUSHI rolled him with a crucifix pin. BUSHI took a V-Trigger, and Desperado was set up for One Winged Angel! ELP was channeling Bullet Club’s past, but Desperado just nailed a spinebuster into Numero Dos.
This was countered into a roll up, but Desperado stayed in control until ELP used that loaded boot for some strikes. He’d hit CR2, but BUSHI stopped the referees count! BUSHI nailed ELP with the lungblower, but would need MX to win. However, he dove into that Sudden Death Superkick, rolling to the floor. Desperado dodged the kick, hit the right hand and Pinche Loco twice to win!
A lightning fast and action packed match from the start. These were three men looked at as mid-level members of the roster, but proved themselves absolute stars. ELP played the heel role to perfection, but this was El Desperado’s match. He came back from being unmasked and stole the show with a fiery return. Match Rating: 4.25/5 (**** 1/4)
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito
Sometimes you need to be the one to destroy what you created, and this is what Naito hopes to do with the IWGP Double Gold. He won the Double Gold Dash at Wrestle Kingdom 14, and since then the Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships have been one belt. This might change tonight, as Naito looks to take just the Intercontinental Championship from rival Kota Ibushi, who leads their matches 6-3.
Naito & Ibushi would start off slow like usual. They know how dangerous each other are, and know they are both constantly evolving. Ibushi got a headscissor on Naito in the middle of the ring, forcing Naito to have to work back to his feet. Naito broke free and took a breather outside of the ring, before getting back into some technical wrestling with Ibushi in the middle of the ring.
Ibushi got a wrist lock, before Naito twisted down into a leg lock but had his head snatched. Naito finally picked up the aggression with some strikes in the corner, and Ibushi was ready to pick up the pace, before he was hit with a pop up dropkick to the knee from Naito. Ibushi would have to take a second to help that knee out, but Naito had a clear target on it. Naito is as cerebral as they come when he stays tranquilo.
He’d just hammer away at that knee, and apply the Figure Four Leg Lock in the middle of the ring. Ibushi would try to power out, and pull Naito to the ropes. Naito got some extra damage by making the referee break the hold for him. Ibushi would have his knee slammed into the mat time and time again, and would try to throw strikes only to be kicked in the knee.
Ibushi would use his right leg to take flight for a dropkick, nailing Naito in the face. Naito would take another kick, Ibushi already bouncing back and hitting a standing moonsault. Ibushi went for a German Suplex, but had the leg kicked again. Naito would hit a back elbow and slap him across the face, before drop kicking him in the back of the neck.
Ibushi was sent to the corner for another low dropkick, before Naito hit a neckbreaker in the middle of the ring. Naito having taken out the leg, now focused on the neck as well with a submission. Ibushi broke out and avoided Gloria and a kneebreaker, then caught the flying forearm into the German Suplex. Naito came right back with a DDT, but this might have flicked the switch on Ibushi.
His expression changed, and he’d shake off the strikes of Naito and come back twice as hard. Even a kick to the knee wouldn’t drop Ibushi, but Naito tripped him up and went for an ankle lock. The leg was grapevined, but Ibushi pulled to the ropes all the same. Naito would just ruthlessly hit back elbows to a cornered Ibushi, a strategy that brought Naito great success in the G1 Climax 2020.
Ibushi was hit with Diamond Dust out of the corner and Gloria in the middle of the ring, but only got a near fall. Naito took Ibushi up to the top rope, and wanted the top rope German Suplex, but Ibushi slipped out and hit the mid kick. Ibushi set up the German Suplex from the apron into the ring, but Naito remained alive by kicking out at two.
Ibushi nailed the Boma-Ye and the Golden Star Powerbomb for another near fall. Naito nailed the Valentia bomb in response after countering the Kamigoye but was too beat up for a cover. He’d attempt to set up Destino with those clubbing back elbows, but Ibushi fought free. We’d pass the 25 minute mark as Ibushi hit a lariat that’d make Kenta Kobashi blush.
Naito hit a step up enziguri and a running Destino, but Ibushi kicked out. Another Destino attempt was countered, and Naito kicked in the head. A V-Trigger from Ibushi dropped Naito, and a Kamigoye to the back of the head nailed Naito. The front Kamigoye was countered into a roll up, but Ibushi countered into a snap Kamigoye which only got a near fall.
Knee exposed, one more Kamigoye landed and this was done. This puts Ibushi vs. Naito at 7-3, and perhaps signals the end of the IWGP Intercontinental Championship as we know it.
These two are downright magic in the ring together, as has been proven time and time again. They started this one different with technical wrestling, but quickly descended into their usual chaos. Not much new ground treaded, but another instant classic all the same. Match Rating: 4.5/5 (**** 1/2)
On Thursday at the 49th anniversary, Ibushi has a specials singles match with the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, El Desperado. He doesn’t just want a special singles match, but for Ibushi to put the Double Gold on the line. Ibushi accepted. Could he beat Kota Ibushi and become a quadruple champion? Let us know what you think in the comment section down below.
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