It’s the final New Japan show of 2020, and we’re closing out the year with a card that features the final KOPW defence of the year, and the final build for the Tokyo Dome.
Master Wato, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask pinned Yuya Uemura, Yota Tsuji & Gabriel Kidd in 9:14 (***)
Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi & SANADA pinned Dick Togo, Taiji Ishimori & EVIL in 8:32 (***)
Toru Yano beat Bad Luck Fale in 6:11 to retain the KOPW 2020 Title (**)
Jay White & KENTA pinned Toa Henare & Satoshi Kojima in 13:08 (***)
Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan & Will Ospreay pinned Tomoaki Honma, Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi in 14:08 (***½)
SHO & Kota Ibushi pinned BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito in 17:00 (***)
The full cards for WrestleKingdom were announced in the hours before this show – and we’re looking at a pair of six-match cards, with night one’s dark match seeing the return of the New Japan Rambo!… to decide the final four for a match on night two to crown the provisional KOPW 2021 holder. Night two’s “pre-show” will feature a match from STARDOM, but it’s not yet clear if that’ll make the NJPW World stream…
For the final time this year, we’re at Korakuen Hall, with just Japanese commentary after we get past the 2020-in-review highlight video.
Yota Tsuji, Yuya Uemura & Gabriel Kidd vs. Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato
Apparently Taguchi and Wato are calling themselves “One or Eight”, because there’s an 18 year age gap between them. I’m not touching that one with a barge pole…
Kidd wanted to start against Master Wato, and we open with some back-and-forth there as Kidd’s tripped out of a hammerlock, with Wato then looking to tie up the legs on the mat. A side headlock from Kidd keeps Wato on a knee, but Kidd’s pushed off… and returns with a shoulder tackle before he was kicked to the mat.
More kicks from Wato follow as he went to tag in Tiger Mask, but the Young Lions quickly took over s Tsuji came in to elbow away on him. A knee to the gut from Tiger Mask earns him a shoulder tackle, but Taguchi turns things back around as he grounded Tsuji with a chinlock. Uemura runs in to stomp apart a cross armbar attempt, then got thrown outside as Wato returned to wring Tsuji’s arm. More elbows and kicks get Wato a two-count, as Tiger Mask returned… and ran into a powerslam. A Tiger Driver stops any hopes of a comeback as both men tagged out to Kidd and Taguchi, with Gabe clearing that apron before a shotgun dropkick knocked Taguchi down.
Kidd eyeballs Tenzan at ringside as he called for a brainbuster, but Taguchi counters out before he got chopped. That brainbuster lands at the second attempt for a near-fall, but he can’t follow up with the double underhook suplex as Taguchi came right back in with a hip attack. A tag brings Wato back in to kick away at Kidd, but that earns him a big dropkick as Uemura tagged in to try and claim victory. He makes a beeline for his mentor Tiger Mask, knocking him off the apron before cracking into Wato with a dropkick in the corner. The Kannuki suplex looks to follow, but instead Wato’s caught in a Boston crab as he needed to drag himself to the ropes for a break.
Some more kicks from Wato kock Uemura down, but he responds with an elbow strike before Recientemente almost got Wato the win. The ring fills, then clears for the home stretch, which saw Wato head up top and land RPP to crush Uemura for the win. A solid enough opener, with some good exchanges from the Young Lions, even if the result was painfully familiar. ***
Bullet Club (EVIL, Dick Togo & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Hiromu Takahashi)
Only one confirmed match here, as Hiromu needs to beat ELP on January 4 to make it to Ishimori on January 5. Or as he was here today, “Phantasmo-Mask”…
We’ve a jump start from LIJ, with SANADA still seething from being attacked by Dick Togo at the WrestleKingdom press conference earlier in the day. He charges EVIL into the guard rails while Hiromu and Ishimori went at it in the ring, with a tijeras from Hiromu taking down Ishimori. A corner clothesline followed, ahead of a low dropkick for a two-count, before an early Dynamite Plunger was countered with an eye rake.
Hiromu’s then thrown into a conveniently-exposed corner as EVIL and Togo hit the ring, then went back to the guard rails as SANADA was thrown into the railings. EVIL’s hunting for a chair, but instead we see Ishimori dropping a knee on Hiromu as Dick Togo then tagged in to throw down Hiromu by the hair. A fist drop gets Dick a two-count, while a headbutt and a whip into the exposed corner keeps Hiromu down. EVIL tags in and gets chopped… so he just throws Hiromu back into the corner before Hiromu countered EVIL’s “use the ref for a thrust kick” gimmick by catching the kick and turning it into a Dragon screw.
In comes SANADA, who instantly tosses EVIL outside so he could rearrange the guard rails some more. The referee stops SANADA from laying into EVIL on the floor, so they head back inside… but EVIL takes them back outside so he could return the favour. Back inside, SANADA’s dropkick takes down EVIL and Togo as we heard someone getting thrown into the guard rails – by process of elimination it was Hiromu, since Shingo’s on the apron and quickly tags in.
Shingo suplexes Togo for a two-count, then got kicked in the ropes by Ishimori as Dick tried to get a win with a roll-up. A crossface followed, but that’s escaped… so Togo goes for the garotte wire instead, which Shingo back bumped his way out of. A sliding lariat bumps the ref on the way to a near-fall as my feed dropped out. Wonderful.
It’s back as Shingo cracks into Togo with a clothesline in the corner ahead of a Pumping Bomber, and that’s that! A perfectly fine trios match that didn’t outstay its welcome, and had some intensity behind it as well. ***
Post-match, EVIL’s in with his chair to jab Shingo and Hiromu. SANADA’s in with one two, as they joust with chairs briefly, before SANADA tossed EVIL outside so they could brawl to the back.
Bodyslam or Last Corner Pad Match for KOPW 2020: Bad Luck Fale vs. Toru Yano (c)
The rules here are simple… bodyslam your opponent or remove the last corner pad to win. I don’t know, but this match, and these rules, may be very divisive… and not just because one of these men will be crowned 2020’s King of Pro Wrestling here.
Fale gut punches Yano during the ring announcements, then stomped on Yano’s trophy. Luckily, the lower third censored that… and even more luckily, they have a shiny new trophy and ringside for the winner. Yano’s got a backpack on, i assume with extra weight to make slamming him harder. Except Fale removes the backpack and pulls out the sandbag that was within. I laughed.
Chase Owens tries to get involved at ringside, but he’s taken care of by Yano, who then sprayed Fale in the eyes with his disinfectant spray before he removed a turnbuckle pad. Fale’s back to club Yano into the railings. They head back inside as Yano tries to fight back, but he’s charged down as Yano rolled onto the corner pad for safety.
Fale looks to slam Yano, but then opted to just whack Yano with a corner pad… the referee tries to stop Fale, so that bought Yano time to undo another pad, which he then bopped Fale with. A slam’s a bad idea as Fale escaped, but Yano escapes the counter as he then removed the third pad… and then had to cling onto the ropes to avoid another slam. Yano’s decked with an elbow as Fale dashed into the corner to try and remove the last corner pad. It’s become a game of chicken, with Chase Owens playing guard in the corner as he tied up that last pad again. Fale goes for another slam, but Yano grabs the referee… then went after his sandbag.
Throwing the sandbag took down the referee, who of course didn’t notice that Fale had slammed Yano. Apparently there’s cement in that bag, as the referee couldn’t move. Chase runs in and gets the bag thrown on him, before Yano hit a low blow and then… slammed Fale?! That’s enough to get the win, and the shiny new trophy to celebrate the end of a rotten year. This was comedic, and didn’t beat the joke into the ground, so that’s gotta be a win on that front, right? **
Satoshi Kojima & Toa Henare vs. Bullet Club (KENTA & Jay White)
Literally HOURS after his match with KENTA was confirmed for the Tokyo Dome, Juice Robinson picked up an eye injury that ruled him out of WrestleKingdom. What horrid timing… or is this a cover for something?
The Bullet Club’s Briefcase Boys try to explain away Juice’s absence as him being “scared” because he got hit with KENTA’s briefcase. Kojima starts as KENTA’s just lazing in the corner, forlorn at his lost match, before he tried to run laps of the ring. It’s a whole bunch of stalling that would have you wondering if this was just a backdrop for something. When they did lock up, KENTA backs into the ropes before he kicked Kojima on the break. We get shoulder tackles, which Kojima won out on, before he looked to put the boots to KENTA. In tags Henare, who did more of the same before he chopped down KENTA for a two-count. An eye rake from KENTA gets him free from Henare for a brief moment, but White trips Henare and pulls him into the guard rails.
Back inside, White continued to stomp away on Henare, before KENTA came in and choked Henare in the ropes. Henare begins to hulk up as KENTA threw him into the corner, eventually returning with elbows and headbutts before his eyes were raked again, as a shoulder tackle finally knocked down KENTA.
A tag bring Kojima back in, but he’s elbowed away in the corner by KENTA… only to switch around for the Machine Gun chops. KENTA’s back with the elbows though, then rolled down Kojima so he could head up top for… the Kane clothesline off the top. It gets him a near-fall, before a series of kicks were countered into a Dragon screw. Kojima throws in a DDT for a near-fall, but KENTA’s right back in as he teases a Go 2 Sleep… Kojima elbows out, only to get backfisted as he manages to counter back with a brainbuster. Henare’s buzzing for a tag, which he gets as he began a brief Benny Hill chase with Jay White, but he manages to avoid falling too far behind as he resisted a whip into the corner before he landed a clothesline.
A running Samoan drop dumps White for a two-count, with Henare hauling up White for a delayed suplex/cutter move that landed weird as White kicked out at two regardless. White clings onto the ropes to buy him some time, then snuck back in with a DDT before Henare used the point of his elbow to fight back. There’s a clothesline on White for a two-count, as the ring began to fill… then clear… with White then hitting back with a Blade Buster for a near-fall.
Henare responds with a rugby tackle for a two-count, before White shut the door on things with a sleeper suplex and a Blade Runner for the win. A solid effort from Henare, who ends the year with a loss. ***
Post-match, the Briefcase Boys celebrate… before Kojima took the mic and called KENTA back to the ring… I assume he challenged for the briefcase, because he hit a Koji cutter and posed with the briefcase, before KENTA scarpered to avoid a Cozy lariat.
The Empire (Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomoaki Honma
Referee Red Shoes Unno shrugs his shoulders as we have another jump start. You and me both…
Ospreay whips Okada with his ring jacket, but Okada shrugs it off… and boots Ospreay to the mat. Tags bring in Tanahashi and O-Khan to trade elbows before palm strikes from Tanahashi had O-Khan down to a knee. A low dropkick knocks O-Khan down as he gets triple-teamed, with an elbow drop from Honma getting a two-count. Chops from Honma have O-Khan stunned, before a slam and a Kokeshi actually landed. Tanahashi comes in to hit some uppercuts, before he swatted away a Mongolian chop, prompting O-Khan to double-leg him. They roll in the mount, throwing right hands from above until O-Khan went after Tanahashi’s left leg, torquing the knee until Tanahashi got into the ropes.
Cobb tagged in and retained the focus on the knee, before stomping Tanahashi into the corner. Standing backbreakers lead to Cobb gently dropping Tanahashi, with Ospreay coming in to throw some more elbows and a kneebreaker for good measure. O-Khan’s back in to stay on the leg, before he forced Tanahashi to kiss the boot.
Tanahashi fights up and frees himself with a Dragon screw as Okada tagged in… Ospreay’s in too as they went at each other with elbows. A DDT from Okada gets a two-count, but he’s taken into the corner as Ospreay charges in with a running uppercut before the springboard forearm took Okada down for a two-count. Storm Breaker looks to follow, but Okada countered with a Money Clip… but not for long as he frees himself and lands a hook kick instead. Cobb returns to take Okada into the corner, but misses a leaping elbow before he ran into a flapjack. Honma tags in to try and push on, elbowing Cobb before landing a lariat… and a Kokeshi. The hell is this, Christmas?! Oh, it is…
Another diving Kokeshi keeps Cobb down for a two-count, but Honma goes to the well to often and misses a leaping Kokeshi. That prompts the ring to fill for a Parade of Moves, with Tanahashi taking down O-Khan with a Slingblade, before Honma returned for another Kokeshi on Cobb. He heads up top for the swandive Kokeshi, but that just crashes and burns as the Empire look to make him pay.
A Spin Cycle from Cobb drops Honma for a near-fall, but he can’t quite follow up with a Tour of the Islands at first, option to dish out the Shingo combination first, decking Honma with a lariat… before pulling Honma in for a Tour of the Islands for the win. This was solid stuff, with Cobb being pushed as a real threat – which should make for a tasty NEVER title match with him and Shingo on the 5th… ***½
Post-match we get the obligatory scuffle, with Ospreay looking to catch Okada with an OsCutter… but Okada’s counter into a Money Clip is stopped as the rest of the Empire held him back, with a Hidden Blade-like forearm putting Okada down… only for O-Khan’s post-match declaration of domination to be interrupted as Tanahashi ran in with a chair to lay them all out. Who stands tall and has their music played at the end? Why, it’s the WrestleKingdom theme…
Kota Ibushi & SHO vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI)
Our final match of the year here is building to the January 4 main event, with Naito defending his double gold against Kota Ibushi. SHO and BUSHI are just here for window dressing, as they’re likely to be in the January 4 Rambo…
Ibushi and Naito start us off, trading holds in the opening moments as they reached a stalemate… then tagged in BUSHI and SHO. BUSHI’s instantly on the back foot, but gets some help from Naito as a ‘rana took Ibushi outside as we saw the “good guys” getting whipped into the guard rails. Back inside, a neckbreaker gets a tow-count for BUSHI, before Naito tagged in and looked to build on all of that.
A grounded cravat from Naito wears down Ibushi for a while, with the hold ending in the ropes before BUSHI tagged back in as Ibushi was cornered. BUSHI’s chinlock keeps Kota down, before Naito returned to go for a double clothesline, only for an overhead kick from Ibushi to leave them both laying. SHO tags in to pick up the slack, charging down Naito before clobbering BUSHI in the corner with a clothesline. Some kicks knock him down for a two-count, but BUSHI hits back with a DDT after SHO had worked over the arm. Naito’s back, looking for a tornado DDT, but SHO hits back with a suplex instead as Ibushi tagged back into the match.
A standing moonsault from Ibushi gets him a two-count on Naito, before the pair traded right hands and elbows. Naito’s back elbow stops Ibushi, before BUSHI ran in with a see-saw sunset flip that took Ibushi into the path of a low dropkick. We get a top rope ‘rana out of Naito next, but Ibushi returns with a lariat as we hear (and see) SHO getting thrown into the barricades in the background. Ibushi looks for a powerbomb, and lands it for a near-fall, before a Kamigoye’s countered into Gloria by Naito. Tags bring us back to BUSHI and SHO, trading right hands before SHO ducked a reverse enziguiri, then pulled BUSHI into a cross armbar. BUSHI manages to scramble to the ropes to force a break, before he countered back from a leaping knee with a dropkick before hanging up SHO in the ropes for another missile dropkick.
The see-saw DDT follows as SHO’s dumped onto the apron, leading to a near-fall which Ibushi broke up… only to get thrown outside by Naito. BUSHI looks to seal the deal with a MX, but SHO rolls away as Ibushi ran in to hit a leaping knee, starting a Parade of Moves. Naito gets rid of Ibushi with a Destino, before a Destino on SHO’s countered with a cross-armed piledriver.
BUSHI capitalises on all that with a Codebreaker to end the Parade of Moves. SHO and BUSHI get back to their feet to trade elbows, with SHO pulling ahead before he got caught with an enziguiri. A lariat drops BUSHI moments later, before a Power Breaker almost went awry, with BUSHI kicking out at two after the landing. From there, SHO measures up BUSHI for a Shock Arrow, and that’s enough to win the match as SHO ends his year with a win. A decent enough tag, but this won’t be lighting your world on fire. ***
Afterwards, we had the obligatory staredown between Naito and Ibushi, which was interrupted by Jay White, who crowed that he’d beat whomever walked into January 5 as the dual champion. He demanded to leave to his music, but instead they just closed this out with the WrestleKingdom theme once more.
…and that’s all from New Japan in what’s been a bizarre 2020. Other than a clip show from NJPW Strong, there’s no new programming out of New Japan before we get to the Tokyo Dome on January 4 as we get the Double Dome for the second year in a row.
2020’s been a weird, trying, and painful year for a lot of us. Stay safe out there, have as happy a holiday season as you can, and unless you’re reading my NXT UK or NJPW Strong reports, I’ll see you back here for WrestleKingdom in twelve days! On the whole, New Japan’s final show of the year was consistent, but with no real highs or lows as they completed their road to the Tokyo Dome… right as the Japanese government announced restrictions that’d see the shows capped to crowds of 5,000 for both days. Some may be disappointed that Juice Robinson’s injury wasn’t a cover for Jon Moxley appearing, while the whole feeling of the build for this WrestleKingdom underscored what we all knew: It’ll be a very different WrestleKingdom than what we’ve seen before.