NJPW's biggest event of the year, Wrestle Kingdom, begins tonight in the Tokyo Dome.
In the main event, IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito will defend both titles against Kota Ibushi, the G1 Climax 30 winner. Ibushi lost the right to challenge for the titles when Jay White beat him for the G1 briefcase at Power Struggle in November 2020.
Naito later held a press conference where he threatened to boycott the event unless he was given a chance to defend against Ibushi and the match was later sanctioned.
The winner will go on to defend both titles against Jay White in tomorrow's main event of night two.
In the semi-main, Kazuchika Okada will face Will Ospreay. This match was set up when Ospreay beat Okada on the final night of A Block action in the G1 in October 2020. Ospreay turned against his stablemate Okada, siding with Bea Priestley, Great-O-Khan and later Jeff Cobb to form the new Empire faction.
Speaking of O-Khan, he gets his toughest test since returning from excursion when he face Hiroshi Tanahashi tonight.
KENTA will defend his right to challenge certificate for the IWGP United States Championship against Satoshi Kojima, while Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr. will defend the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team titles against 2020 World Tag League winners Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa.
In the first match on the main card, Best of the Super Jrs. 27 winner Hiromu Takahashi will face 2020 Super J-Cup winner El Phantasmo. The winner of that bout will go on to face Taiji Ishimori tomorrow for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title.
The pre-show match is the New Japan Ranbo, a 22-man elimination match with timed entrances. Eliminations can take place via pinfall, submission or being thrown over the top rope. The final four competitors will go on to face off in a four-way on tomorrow's show for the provisional KOPW 2021 title.
Our live coverage begins with the pre-show at 2 a.m. Eastern time.
New Japan Ranbo: Chase Owens, BUSHI, Bad Luck Fale & Toru Yano were the final four and advance to tomorrow's KOPW 2021 match (34:40)
This was an enjoyable battle royal. It did go a little long for my taste.
The production team did well with getting shots of entrances and eliminations up until the very end when guys started getting thrown out left and right.
This was advertised as a 22-man match on NJPW's site, yet there were only 21 entrants.
Nagata and Suzuki battler to the apron. Henare clotheslined them off for the first eliminations. Nagata and Suzuki continued fighting on their way to the back.
Ishii threw Henare out over the top rope. Makabe eliminated Goto and YH with a double clothesline over the top rope. Honma and Tenzan teamed up to eliminate Makabe.
DOUKI was disqualified for using his steel pipe as a weapon on Romero.
BUSHI low-bridged Yujiro out of the ring. Ishii and Owens fought on the apron. Fale knocked Ishii off the apron for an elimination. Fale then threw out Tenzan, Romero, SHO and Tiger Mask in short order.
The Young Lions teamed up to try to take out Fale. Instead, Fale threw out Kidd, Uemura and Tsuji.
Yano was the final entry and never made it into the ring, as only three competitors remained.
I would ask those who were critical of this, what is the ratio of good to bad battle royals you have seen in your life? There aren't a lot of good ones.
Order of entry --
- Chase Owens
- Tomohiro Ishii
- Minoru Suzuki
- Yuji Nagata
- Toa Henare
- Hirooki Goto
- Yujiro Takahashi
- Togi Makabe
- Tomoaki Honma
- Hiroyoshi Tenzan
- Rocky Romero
- Tiger Mask
- Bad Luck Fale
- Gabriel Kidd
- Yuya Uemura
- Yota Tsuji
- Toru Yano
Order of elimination --
- Yuji Nagata
- Minoru Suzuki
- Toa Henare
- Hirooki Goto
- Togi Makabe
- Yujiro Takahashi
- Tomohiro Ishii
- Tomoaki Honma
- Hiroyoshi Tenzan
- Rocky Romero
- Tiger Mask
- Gabriel Kidd
- Yuya Uemura
- Yota Tsuji
Don Kinashi opened the main show as the special guest ring announcer. He introduced Riki Choshu, who walked to the ring with his grandson in his arms.
The show began with a Don King impersonator, Riki Choshu and a baby in a tuxedo, as is tradition.
They declared the show had started.
Next, we had a video package highlighting tonight's matches and the safety precautions being taken.
Hiromu Takahashi defeated El Phantasmo to remain number one contender for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship (17:46)
Every move you can imagine was on display in this good back-and-forth battle. We also had the customary Bullet Club ref bump here in the opener.
ELP rolled outside at the opening bell. He grabbed Hiromu's BOSJ trophy and threw it. He then grabbed his own Super J-Cup jacket and demanded that Jushin Liger put it on him. While he was taunting, Hiromu landed a shotgun dropkick off the apron, sending ELP crashing through a gate and off the raised platform around ringside.
Hiromu hit a seated senton off the top rope to the floor. He went for a sunset bomb, but ELP escaped and hit his own sunset bomb. ELP followed up with a beautiful Asai moonsault off the ropes to the ramp.
ELP teased a terminator dive. Hiromu landed a shotgun dropkick in the ring. ELP answered by stomping away at various limbs. ELP walked the top rope. Hiromu responded by biting his hand and hitting a cradle driver off the top rope for a near fall.
ELP did a finger break spot. He teased a Styles Clash. Instead, Hiromu blocked and hit a Dynamite Plunger for a two count. They traded thrust kicks. Hiromu hit a victory royal for a two count, but still sold the damage from the finger break spot and ELP stomping on his hand.
ELP used a victory roll for a near fall. Hiromu hit a thrust kick. ELP teased an airplane spin neckbreaker. Hiromu blocked that, but fell victim to a bastard driver for a two count.
They fought on the top rope. ELP bumped the referee, then hit two low blows to Hiromu. ELP hit a super rana off the top, then hit a frog splash for a two count.
ELP tried CRII. Hiromu blocked and sat down for a two count. ELP then hit a Styles Clash for another near fall. He then hit a v-trigger and teased a One-Winged Angel. Hiromu escaped and hit a DVD into the buckle.
ELP countered out of Time Bomb and used a bridge with his feet on the ropes for a close near fall.
ELP went for CRII. Hiromu blocked and hit a hurricanrana, then trapped ELP's legs for the pinfall.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match: Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa (w/Jado) defeated Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. (w/DOUKI) to win the titles (19:18)
This was very long, but very good. Dangerous Tekkers sort of played babyfaceto make the match work rather than doing a deal where two heel teams tried to out-cheat each other.
The teams and their respective seconds began brawling before the opening bell. Taichi and Sabre established the early upper hand, trading quick tags and using various chokeholds on Tama.
Jado provided a distraction from the outside and allowed Tama to tag out. Jado used a kendo stick on DOUKI on the floor. Tanga went to work on Taichi and GOD cut him off in their corner. Taichi as babyface in peril is something to see.
Taichi hit a jumping high kick in the corner and tagged Sabre. Sabre has a heck of a babyface hot tag. He used a European clutch on Tama for a near fall. Sabre used an octopus on Tama. Tanga saved with an attack from behind. Sabre was then cut off and worked over.
Sabre tried to use a guillotine on Tanga. Instead, Tanga broke the hold with a powerbomb. GOD hit Sabre with Guerrilla Warfare, but did not attempt a cover. Jado called for the super powerbomb. Tama set it up with a Stinger splash in the corner. Sabre used a guillotine on Tanga on the top rope. Taichi used a stretch plum on Tama.
Sabre and Taichi hit a stacked-up superplex on Tanga for a near fall. Taichi then got a hot tag. All four guys jumped in as the match broke down. Tama hit a Gun Stun on Sabre. Taichi blocked a Gun Stun and hit a backdrop suplex on Tanga for a two count. Taichi took his trousers off.
Tama jumped in with Taichi's iron glove. He used it on Taichi. GOD then hit Apeshit and pinned Taichi to win the titles.
GOD did a big celebration on top the dugout in the stadium.
A Jon Moxley video promo aired.
Moxley said everyone who's fought for the right to challenge him probably thought they'd get off easy, but they're wrong. Mox said he's the boogeyman of NJPW and whoever wins the contract tonight, he's coming for them.
IWGP United States Championship right to challenge certificate match: KENTA defeated Satoshi Kojima (w/Hiroyoshi Tenzan) to retain the briefcase (14:12)
This was kept simple, with just a few big moves and lots of selling between the big spots. The match worked because of Kojima's selling.
KENTA tried some of his customary stalling at the outset. He got distracted by Tenzan at ringside and Kojima was able to use the distraction to get some early offense.
KENTA used Kojima as a weapon on the outside, shoving him into Tenzan. KENTA then hit a DDT on the floor. Back in, KENTA hit a top rope clothesline for two.
Kojima came back with some Mongolian chops and machine gun chops. KENTA went for his draping DDT. Kojima blocked and they fought on the apron. KENTA teased a vertical suplex on the apron. Kojima blocked and hit a DDT on the apron.
Kojima hit a Koji Cutter for a near fall. Kojima teased a lariat. KENTA blocked and hit a powerslam. KENTA went outside and grabbed his briefcase. He bumped the ref and tried a briefcase shot. Kojima hit a lariat on the case and knocked it away. KENTA blocked one lariat. Kojima hit a left arm lariat for a near fall.
KENTA ducked another lariat attempt and hit a busaiku knee. They traded strikes. KENTA hit another busaiku knee for another near fall.
KENTA then followed with the Go 2 Sleep for the pin.
There was a commercial for NJPW Strong Spirits, a mobile game coming in 2021. A promo also aired teasing the NJPW U.S. and U.K. television deal. The English announcers made reference to the color purple being significant to theTV deal.
Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Great-O-Khan (17:13)
This picked up when Tanahashi made his comeback. Tana is one of the best sellers of all time. But when he's selling O-Khan's goofy offense, it takes you out of the match. O-Khan has some building blocks that can be useful, but he needs to make his strikes look better.
They started with some mat work. They established that O-Khan can hold his own on the mat. O-Khan tried to throw Tana over the top rope. Tana tried to skin the cat back in and O-Khan chopped his hands.
O-Khan posted Tanahashi and hit a slam on the ramp. They did a countout tease, but Tana made it back in. O-Khan hit some of his wacky Mongolian chops. He used a kneebar, but Tana reached the ropes.
O-Khan tried a kick. Tana blocked and teased a dragon screw. O-Khan slid out and went for another kick. Tana then hit a dragon screw. Tana hit a series of flying forearms, but sold damage to his knees from landing on them on the forearms.
Tana hit a slam and a somersault senton for a near fall. O-Khan blocked a slingblade and drove Tana into the mat with a unique throw. O-Khan hit some more Mongolian chops. O-Khan used a kneebar. Tana forced a break.
O-Khan hit an overhead throw, teasing dumping Tana to the floor. Tana skinned the cat this time, then hit twist and shout and a slingblade for a near fall.
Tanahashi went up top, teasing a High Fly Flow. O-Khan cut him off and used the claw grip to pull Tana to the center of the ring. O-Khan used a cobra twist with the claw grip to the face still applied. O-Khan hit an inside-out back suplex for a near fall.
O-Khan hit an inverted suplex for a two count, then grabbed a chair. O-Khan called for a Dominator on the chair. Tana slid out and hit another twist and shout. Tana teased using the chair, but tossed it outside. Tana then hit a dragon suplex for a near fall.
Tana went up top and hit a High Fly Flow to the back. He flipped O-Khan over, then hit a second High Fly Flow. Tanahashi covered for the pin.
Kazuchika Okada defeated Will Ospreay (w/Bea Priestley) (35:41)
This was excellent, as you might expect from two of the best to ever do it. A very brutal match with a lot of hard strikes. I need to watch this again, but the time flew by on first viewing.
After locking up, Okada did his customary clean break on the ropes. Ospreay didn't take kindly to being little brothered like that and fired off a strike. They traded a series of strikes. Okada hit a running back elbow and a DDT.
Okada hit a rope-assisted tope con giro. Priestley started jawing at Okada as he climbed back inside. Ospreay used the distraction to hit a dropkick, sending Okada crashing to the floor.
Ospreay and Priestley tore up some of the padding on the ring platform, exposing the wood. Ospreay teased a piledriver on the wood. Okada teased a DDT. Ospreay had to settle for a neckbreaker on a padded section of the platform.
Red Shoes refused to count the pin as Ospreay threw Okada back in after the tactics on the outside. Ospreay hit a back suplex for a near fall. Ospreay used a chinlock and remained in control.
Okada hit a backdrop at the ten minute call to turn the tide. Okada hit some bump-and-feed strikes, then a flapjack for a two count. Okada teased his air raid crash neckbreaker. Ospreay blocked. Okada hit a big boot, then hit the air raid crash for a two count.
Ospreay came back with a pip pip cheerio. Ospreay hit a strike on the belt line, then hit a German into a bridge for a near fall. Ospreay went for a Storm Breaker. Okada hit a backdrop out, then hit heavy rain.
The two traded strikes. Ospreay sat on the top rope. Okada hit a dropkick and Ospreay fell to the floor. Okada sent Ospreay into the barricade. Ospreay blocked a running boot. Okada avoided an Oscutter off the barricade and hit a Woo dropkick on the floor.
Back inside, Okada hit a picture-perfect shotgun dropkick off the top rope. Ospreay fought off a tombstone attempt and hit a cheeky nando's kick. Ospreay hit a reverse bloody sunday DDT for a near fall.
Ospreay hit a hook kick. Okada hit a dropkick. A crazy sequence followed. Ospreay countered a dropkick attempt with a running powerbomb for a near fall at the 20 minute call. The fight spilled back to the exposed platform on the outside.
Ospreay teased a suplex on the timekeeper's table. Okada teased a tombstone on the exposed platform. Ospreay suplexed Okada over the barricade and through two timekeeper's tables. Both guys were down on the floor on the other side of the barricade.
Ospreay dragged Okada back to the ring. Ospreay hit a springboard forearm strike off the top rope to the back of the head for a near fall. Ospreay hit a running powerbomb for another two count. Ospreay teased a Storm Breaker off the apron to the exposed floor, but Okada blocked.
Ospreay teased an Oscutter off the post to the apron. Okada blocked and hit a tombstone on the apron at the 25 minute call.
Okada jumped back in the ring. Ospreay beat the count in at 18, but ran right into a short Rainmaker. Ospreay ducked another Rainmaker, but Okada hit a dropkick. Okada used a Money Clip. Ospreay slid out, but right into a spinning tombstone.
Okada went back to the Money Clip. Priestley jumped on the apron. Okada threw Ospreay in Priestley and she took a bump off the apron. Okada maintained the Money Clip. After a long struggle, Ospreay reached the bottom rope to force a break.
The story now was that Ospreay was out of gas, while Okada still had plenty in the tank.
Okada hit a series of heavy forearm strikes. Okada hit some short kicks at the 30 minute call. Ospreay tried to fire up with strikes. Okada no-sold the strikes and hit a slam. Okada went to the top rope. Ospreay cut him off and they traded strikes. Ospreay hit a running boot.
Ospreay hit a top rope Spanish Fly for a near fall. Okada blocked an Oscutter. Ospreay escaped a Money Clip, then connected with an Oscutter. Okada kicked out at two.
Ospreay hit a series of strikes from the mount. He followed with short kicks to the face. Red Shoes tried to intervene, so Ospreay threw him down. Ospreay hit a sick strike to the brain stem. Ospreay teased a Hidden Blade, but Okada caught him with a dropkick.
Ospreay ducked a spinning Rainmaker and went up top. Okada caught Ospreay coming off the top with another dropkick. Ospreay escaped a Money Clip and hit a tombstone and a Rainmaker for a near fall at the 35 minute call.
Okada blocked a Storm Breaker and hit a sit-out tombstone. He followed immediately with a Rainmaker for the pin.
IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental Championship double title match: Kota Ibushi defeated Tetsuya Naito to win the titles (31:18)
This was very good. They were in a tough spot having to follow the last match. They had a much safer match than any from their 2019 series.
They started with some mat work, bringing the crowd down a bit after the last match.
The pace picked up and they fought to the floor. They did a series of counters and teases on the apron and the floor, befofre Naito hit a belly-to-back suplex on the ramp. Ibushi made it back in at 15.
Naito used a headscissors on the mat, then hit a series of elbows in the corner. Ibushi fought out of a DDT and hit a jumping mid kick and a standing moonsault for a near fall at the 10 minute call.
Naito hit a wicked back elbow. He tried a follow-up combinacion cabron in the corner. Ibsuhi cut him off with a lariat on the apron. Naito fell to the floor. Ibsuhi went outside after him. Naito hit a neckbreaker on the floor. Naito hit another neckbreaker off the apron to the floor, which looked sick.
Back inside, Naito used a crucifix. Ibushi forced a rope break. Ibushi blocked a flying forearm and hit a German. Naito no-sold the German, but immediately fell victim to a double stomp from Ibushi. There was a double down at the 15 minute call.
Ibushi hit a powerslam, but missed a moonsault. Naito applied Pluma Blanca. Ibushi forced a rope break. Naito hit a series of forearms and elbows to the neck, setting up for a later Destino. Naito hit Gloria for a near fall.
Naito tried to set up a top rope frankensteiner. Ibushi slid out and hit a backflip kick, sending Naito crashing to the mat and rolling to the apron. Ibushi teased a package driver on the apron. Naito blocked and hit a backdrop on the apron. Ibushi answered with a hurricanrana off the apron to the floor. They teased a countout, but Naito made it back in at 19.
They fought on the ropes. Naito hit a reverse frankensteiner off the top rope. Naito teased a Destino. Ibushi blocked the attempt with two high kicks. Ibushi teased a Kamigoye. Naito avoided it and hit a Destino, but Ibushi kicked out. Naito went for a second Destino. Ibushi blocked and hit a bastard driver. They did another double down at the 25 minute call.
They traded a series of strikes. Naito used a rolling capo kick. Ibushi answered with a lariat, then hit a last ride. Ibushi maintained wrist control after hitting the Last Ride. Ibushi hit a Kamigoye, but Naito kicked out at two.
Ibushi missed a phoenix splash. Naito hit a second Destino, but Ibushi again kicked out. Ibushi slid out of a Destino attempt and hit a mid kick, then hit a second Kamigoye. Naito kicked out at two.
At the 30 mnute call, Ibushi pulled his right knee pad down. Naito hit an enzuigiri and valentia. Naito went for another Destino. Ibushi slid out and hit a jumping knee strike.
Ibushi then hit a third Kamigoye, covered and pinned Naito to win double IWGP gold.
Ibushi sold his victory as though he was in a trance. It was really quite an artistic performance.
Things got weird for a second when Ibushi tried to pin Naito after he came out of his trance.
Red Shoes went to present Ibushi with the title belts. Naito took the belts from Red Shoes. After a tense moment, Naito handed the belts to Ibushi and raised the new champ's arm.
Jay White entered with Gedo. White said that Ibushi's reign will last for one night. He said he's taking everything from Ibushi tomorrow. He said Ibushi won't become God tomorrow, White will expose him as a fraud. White said every time Ibushi is about to reach the pinnacle, Jay will be there to pull him down.
White said Ibushi will help him fulfill his destino tomorrow when Jay becomes God. Jay said Ibushi will breathe with the Switchblade tomorrow.
Ibushi then took the mic as White and Gedo retreated to the aisle.
Ibushi thanked Naito. He said his reign will not end after one day. He thanked the crowd for being there in such trying times. Ibushi promised to keep the titles tomorrow and to become God tomorrow night.
The show ended with fireworks and Ibushi posing on the entrance stage with both titles.