Tonight we see the third IWGP World Heavyweight Champion crowned. The belt was left vacant following a hard hitting clash between Shingo Takagi & Will Ospreay left Ospreay injured after victory. Shingo will get another chance to win the belt tonight, and it means a rematch with Kazuchika Okada as well. Last time they met, Shingo was able to counter and drop The Rainmaker to push forward in the New Japan Cup, but tonight is bigger.
Whoever leaves with their hand raised is a champion, and they’ll have deserved that title. The last time the top title of NJPW was left vacant was over a decade ago when Shinsuke Nakamura injured Hiroshi Tanahashi and defeated Togi Makabe for the vacant title. This could be similar to the story of Shingo tonight, provided he can face a laser focused Okada and win.
Neither Man Want To Make An Early Mistake
They’d be slow to start, knowing that this match is going deep. Okada has a lingering back injury which Shingo knows all about. Shingo would take Okada to the mat with a rear waist lock, as they battled for control. Okada took a wrist lock, and shifted Shingo into a one count before going to a side headlock.
Shingo would shove Okada off and take him down with a shoulder tackle, before being caught with an armdrag. Both men took to throwing strikes in the middle of the ring, before Okada ran Shingo down with a big boot. Okada got a one count off a neckbreaker, before bending Shingo back into a chinlock.
Shingo slipped free, and took Okada over the top rope with a lariat, before driving the lower back into the apron. A snap suplex on the floor would do the back no favours, and Shingo rolled Okada back into the ring and vaulted over the top rope for a knee strike. Shingo hit one of his perfect vertical suplexes in the middle of the ring before applying the body scissors.
Shingo only let the hold go to hit a senton on Okada, a mistake as Okada fired up and nearly got the Tombstone Piledriver. Instead, Shingo was able to slam him down with a powerslam before stomping on the lower back. Shingo applied a bear hug, and Okada fought back with some elbow strikes before countering a back drop and hit the running back elbow.
A Brutal Back And Forth War
Okada followed up with a low European Uppercut and a DDT in the middle of the ring. Shingo was put up on the top rope, and sent crashing to the floor after the dropkick. On the outside, Okada set up the draping DDT off the barricade, and despite the hurt back was looking like the Rainmaker of old.
Shingo slipped into the ring and was hit with Heavy Rain before Okada applied The Money Clip, but Shingo got his foot on the bottom rope. He’d keep Shingo down as he went up top for the elbow drop, only for Shingo to get up and hit a lariat after Okada landed on his feet. Noshigami would be set up, and Okada briefly countered before he set up the backslide and took the facebuster from Shingo.
A wheelbarrow German Suplex into the corner would crush Okada, and some headbutts to the back would weaken him down. Shingo lifted Okada up into the Torture Rack, before dropping him into into a gutbuster. A lariat into the corner kept the pain coming for Okada, before Shingo rained down headbutts, before he exploded back out with the shotgun dropkick.
Money Clip would be applied, but Shingo was again too close to the ropes. Shingo put his foot on the brakes before being hit with the dropkick and went for a sliding lariat, where Okada rolled through, hit a snap Tombstone and applied the Money Clip. He’d get close to the ropes only to take a backbreaker and be pulled back to the middle, but he’d fight back and make the ropes before passing out.
Shingo Takagi Takes His Place On Top Of The NJPW Roster
Shingo rolled outside and Okada looked for a tombstone on the floor. Instead, Shingo turned this one around and landed Made In Japan, dumping Okada onto the floor head first. Red Shoes Uno started the twenty count, and Shingo made it in first with Okada barely crawling in before losing. Shingo would put Okada on his shoulders and climb to the middle rope, and nailed Stay Dream.
Okada barely got a shoulder up at two due to a sloppy cover from Shingo. Last of The Dragon was set up, but Okada slipped out. He’d manage to tombstone but as he set up Rainmaker, Shingo came in fast with a lariat of his own, getting a two count. Okada was ready to throw more forearms with Shingo, and got the upperhand before Shingo fired up.
Shingo countered the spinning Rainmaker into a Death Valley Driver, before setting up a pumping bomber. Okada dodged and got the backslide into a single arm rainmaker. It delivered, but Shingo would survive and hit a rainmaker of his own. Pumping Bomber in the middle of the ring for a super close fall.
Last of the Dragon was set up but Okada slipped out and tried for a tombstone only to take a Dragon Suplex. A sliding forearm shot had Okada seeing stars, and Last of the Dragon landed in the middle of the ring. For the first time ever, Shingo Takagi is the top champion in NJPW.
This was as good as any title defense from Okada’s historic reign, and it wasn’t just because of Okada. Shingo Takagi had his best performance yet in NJPW here, picking away at the back of Okada, countering the Rainmaker to avoid defeat, and being able to drop Okada with The Last of The Dragon to claim the vacant championship. This was an epic that will go down in history as perhaps the moment the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship gained its worth. Match Rating: 4.75/5 (**** 3/4)
After the match, Shingo would call out the first IWGP World Heavyweight Champion of Kota Ibushi. He wants them to have the match only they can have over the belt, and Ibushi accepts. Will Ibushi bring a quick end to the reign of Shingo? Let us know what you think in the comment section down below.
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