It’s the first big show of the year as New Japan hits the Tokyo Dome for the first night of WrestleKingdom 15 – with Kota Ibushi looking to dethrone Tetsuya Naito in the main event.
Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale, BUSHI & Toru Yano qualified from the New Japan Ranbo in 34:32 (**)
Hiromu Takahashi pinned El Phantasmo in 17:46 (***¾)
Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga pinned Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. in 19:18 to win the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships (***½)
KENTA pinned Satoshi Kojima in 14:10 to retain the Right to Challenge for the IWGP United States Championship (***¾)
Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Great-O-Khan in 17:13 (***½)
Kazuchika Okada pinned Will Ospreay in 35:41 (****½)
Kota Ibushi pinned Tetsuya Naito in 31:18 to win the IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental Championships (****½)
It’s been a hairy few days, to say the least, with speculation over a State of Emergency order in Tokyo putting this show in doubt. Or at least, whether the show could proceed with fans… anyway, here we are, and we’ve got live English commentary with Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Rocky Romero live together for the first time in over ten months!
New Japan Ranbo
Unlike normal Ranbos, rumbles or battle royals, this 21-man affair will stop when we get to the final four – with the finalists moving onto a four-way match tomorrow to crown the first provisional KOPW 2021 champion.
Chase Owens and Tomohiro Ishii are the first two in, and Ishii’s jumping this one as he lays into Owens with forearms. Chase recovers with elbows of his own before he backslid Ishii into a package piledriver attempt… that’s escaped, as was Ishii’s brainbuster attempt, before a sliding lariat from Ishii came to nought. We get our first countdown as the minute-intervals brought us to number three: Minoru Suzuki.
I think this may be a rib on Chase Owens. Suzuki gets his full entrance, which took a minute before he even appeared from the dugout. Ishii stays in the ring, and those two go at it briefly… until Chase interjects and gets knocked down. Elbows from Ishii and Suzuki, along with the annoyance on the side that gets laughed off. The crowd clapped along in time to the elbows until Yuji Nagata hit the ring, mask and all.
Suzuki and Nagata go after each other with elbows, as Chase finally managed to isolate Ishii in the corner. Next up is Toa Henare, who went straight for Ishii as he (like the rest of us) still missed that match he had cancelled last year. Ishii ducks a rear spin kick but can’t avoid an elbow as the ticker goes again… and now we’ve got Hirooki Goto in the dark match. Suzuki tries to choke Nagata in the corner, and gets knocked off the top rope by Ishii… he and Nagata get knocked over the top before Henare knocked them off the apron for our first eliminations. There’s a pair of scalps for Toa!
Henare goes back to Ishii with elbows as Suzuki and Nagata brawled to the back. Yujiro Takahashi is out next, going after Goto with a leg sweep and a low dropkick before he ate a spear from Henare… who’s eliminated not long after. YOSHI-HASHI is out next, taking his time getting to the ring… because he gets stomped on almost instantly. Goto’s back to help him as we tick away again, with Togi Makabe coming out next.
Makabe goes straight for Chase, then Yujiro with back-and-forth clotheslines in the corners… before he clotheslined Goto and YOSHI-HASHI out of the match. Ishii picks up the pieces, but gets elbowed into the corner as Yujiro raked Makabe’s eyes… and tried for an elimination. Tomoaki Honma’s out next to make a save, sadly without the mask/hat he had in the not-too-distant past.
A Kokeshi breaks up Yujiro’s attempt to throw out Makabe, but Ishii runs in with lariats as a three-way chop fight is broken up by the ticker… and the arrival of Hiroyoshi Tenzan. He goes after Makabe with Mongolian chops before he and Honma tossed out Makabe. There’s his bump for the year. Chase Owens has to stop himself from being eliminated by Ishii, who then needed to cling onto the ropes as Honma tried his luck… and we get the counter again as Rocky Romero joined the fray. No wonder English commentary was a man down!
Rocky goes after Chase, taking him down with a tijeras before Honma looked to eliminate him. We’re quickly back to the ticker as DOUKI’s up next, bringing his pipe to the ring and risking disqualification. Rocky stops him with a throat thrust, then with another tijeras as we get some briefly-Forever clotheslines in the corner only for DOUKI to whack him with the pipe for a DQ.
As the referee tries to break up and eject DOUKI, SHO heads to the ring to make the save, spearing DOUKI out of the ring. SHO went for a Shock Arrow on Chase, but then went to throw him out… but Yujiro’s still around to make the save. BUSHI hits the ring next, as Henare nearly pinned Owens for an elimination. That ring’s getting mighty-full, but BUSHI low bridges Yujiro to the outside for an elimination, before BUSHI dove out for a tope on Yujiro too.
Tiger Mask is next as BUSHI was collecting himself on the outside. Tiger Mask launches into Rocky with a crossbody off the top, then collected a two-count, before the ticker goes again to bring out Bad Luck Fale. He goes for Ishii, throwing him into the corner… before Ishii low bridges Owens into the apron, only to get knocked off himself as Fale eliminated Big Tom. Okay, we riot now.
Up next: Gabriel Kidd! Tomoaki Honma’s eliminated during his entrance as BUSHI was fighting to stop Kidd from entering the ring. Tenzan’s out too off-camera, while Rocky, SHO and Tiger Mask looked to eliminate Fale, but Chase stops him as the counter goes again, this time to introduce… Yuya Uemura. He stops BUSHI at ringside as the Young Lions gang up on BUSHI so they could join the fray.
SHO’s eliminated by Fale, while Rocky also got taken out off-camera. Tiger Mask is thrown out too by Fale, as the Young Lions finally hit the ring. Yota Tsuji is next in to help work over Fale, but Chase makes the save as he looked to hit a Grenade Launcher on Uemura. BUSHI pulls Owens to the outside, while the Young Lions looked to dispose of Fale… Toru Yano’s the last man in, as Fale Grenades all of the Young Lions and disposes of them too. BUSHI’s calling traffic to make sure the kids weren’t alright, and that’s the end of the match! Yano never made it to the ring, but qualifies anyway as the elimination of the Young Lions meant that Fale, Chase, BUSHI and Yano were the last four men standing. Your usual rumble, but without any outsiders which may upset some folk. “It was what it was” – a match that started bright but turned into a damp squib as the entrants seemed to be mostly ranked by roster placing… **
Time for a break before the main show, and time to have “woah woah woah” bed itself into your subconscious once more. The main show opened with Riki Choshu being introduced to the ring by Don Kinashi, who was acting as the “promoter” for these shows. Choshu gave the crowd a new year’s greeting, before the opening video and what have you.
“It’s January 4, you know what that means…” – Rocky Romero.
El Phantasmo vs. Hiromu Takahashi
The winner of last month’s Super J-Cup and the Best of the Super Junior tournaments colliding here – with the winner facing Taiji Ishimori tomorrow for the junior heavyweight title…
ELP rolls outside at the bell so he could throw Hiromu’s BOSJ trophy into the crowd… then went to look for Jushin Thunder Liger so he could “make him put the Super J-Cup jacket on”. Hiromu stops all that nonsense with a shotgun dropkick off the apron, sending ELP through the ringside gate, before he crushed him with a back senton off the top.
Back inside, Hiromu runs Phantasmo into the buckles with a death valley driver, before an early Time Bomb was escaped, with ELP rolling outside again. He backflips off the apron to avoid a sunset bomb, then stepped up off of Hiromu to head back inside and land a sunset bomb of his own. Oof.
ELP wanted to take the count-out win, but stopped to do a bit of rope walking for a moonsault off the top rope into Hiromu in the aisle. ELP looked to have tweaked his ankle on the landing, but he stays on top of Hiromu back inside as the pair looked to trade strikes… it sends Hiromu outside as ELP fakes out a dive, allowing Hiromu to sneak back inside for a shotgun dropkick.
A Falcon arrow lands from Hiromu for a near-fall, but ELP just stomps on Hiromu’s foot to stop any kind of momentum. Chops from ELP take Hiromu into the corner, before Phantasmo began to stomp on the hand of Hiromu, ahead of a back rake in the ropes. That led to Hiromu going into a Tree of Woe ahead of the Gas Pedal, before ELP draped him across the top rope ahead of a flying back senton for a near-fall.
ELP goes for a rope walk next, but his finger manipulation in the corner ends with Hiromu biting his way free ahead of a wheelbarrow driver off the top that planted ELP for a near-fall. Biting from ELP led to him teasing a Styles Clash, but Hiromu escapes for a Dynamite Plunger that gets a two-count, before a palm strike from Hiromu landed… but it aggravated his injured hand too.
ELP tees up for a superkick… it misses as Hiromu lands his ahead of a Victory Royal for a near-fall. Time Bomb 2 gets countered into a roll-up by ELP, who then countered another in a whirlibird neckbreaker… but Hiromu rolls out and gets caught with a Jig ‘n’ Tonic for a near-fall. Hiromu’s back with a thrust kick, then lifted ELP up top for an avalanche something or other… but ELP drops out and hit a leaping enziguiri.
Back up top, ELP goes for a superplex, but it’s fought out of as ELP “accidentally” fell into the referee. That gives him the opening to punch Hiromu in the dick, before a top rope ‘rana took Hiromu down… ahead of a big splash that almost gets the win at the 15-minute mark. From there, ELP looks for CR2, but Hiromu countered out and almost won… only to get caught with a Styles Clash for a near-fall.
Hiromu looks to be very much on the back foot, and eats a V-Trigger in the ropes, before a One-Winged Angel was countered out of, with Hiromu responding with a corner death valley driver. That’s followed up with a Time Bomb… but ELP rolls out for a near-fall, before a CR2 was countered into a ‘rana, with Hiromu snatching the win. This was good, but never really hit an upper gear – ELP looked brighter on top, but he’ll be back to fight (and annoy) another day. As for Hiromu, he’s going into his title match tomorrow not quite 100% – which’ll surely play into things. ***¾
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa) vs. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) (c)
The Guerrillas won World Tag League last year to get this shot… while Sabre and Taichi brought out DOUKI to try and neutralise Jado at ringside.
We’ve a jump start as Tama Tonga took exception to Taichi having the Iron Fingers on him… Taichi responds by choking away on everyone, trying his best to hide it from the referee. There’s boot chokes in the corner on Tama Tonga with Sabre helping out, before he tagged in and went for a cross armbar… but Tama clings onto the ropes to force a break.
Uppercuts keep Tama in the corner before Taichi returned to choke… Tama Tonga hits back with a Tongan Twist while Jado whaled away on DOUKI with the Kendo stick on the outside. Tanga Loa tags in to lay into Taichi with elbows and stomps, following up with an elbow drop for a two-count. An Irish whip takes Taichi into the corner as the Guerrillas ganged up on him. Tama’s boot chokes stop Taichi in the corner, before sentons atomico from the Guerrillas left him laying for a two-count. A stalling back suplex from Tanga Loa leads to a two-count, as a chinlock keeps Taichi grounded…
Taichi kicks away to try and break Tama Tonga’s choke, then returned with his own choke. A gamengiri catches Tama in the corner, before Sabre tagged in and dumped Tanga with a DDT. He pulls down Tama’s leapfrog before a Euro clutch almost sealed the pinfall win… before an Octopus stretch ended in the ropes.
Tanga Loa returns with clotheslines to the back of Taichi and Sabre, before he held ZSJ for a dropkick from Tama as the Guerrillas looked to force their way back in. Tanga goes back to the choking, while Tama ran in for a hanging neckbreaker that almost got the win. Sabre returns with a mounted rear naked choke, but Tama broke it up quickly before back body dropping Sabre in for a powerbomb by Tanga Loa for a near-fall.
Taichi returns but eats a Guerrilla Warfare as the challengers were on a roll, leading to Jado calling for a Super Powerbomb… but Sabre countered with a guillotine choke on the top rope. A Stretch Plum from Taichi stops Tama from making the save as Sabre screamed at him to help in other ways… which led to a Tower of Doom superplex from Sabre for a near-fall.
Taichi tags in to hit corner-to-corner Axe Bombers, eventually dropping the Guerrillas, before a Buzzsaw kick dropped Tanga for a two-count. Tama runs in to stop a Last Ride as we get a Parade of Counters, leading to Tama blocking a Zack Driver before he had his neck twisted by Sabre. Tanga charges down Sabre next, before a gamengiri from Taichi left all four men down. Tanga and Taichi trade clotheslines, but a missed charge leaves Tanga open to get battered with kicks. Tama makes the save with a Gun Stun that bounces Sabre on his head… Taichi blocks a second amid another Parade of Moves, leading to a Dangerous backdrop driver from Taichi for a near-fall.
Off come the trousers as Taichi set up for something, but Jado runs in and shoves down the referee. Tama Tonga’s got the Iron Fingers, which he jabs Taichi with, before Apeshit from Tanga Loa sees the Guerrillas break the record and become seven-time IWGP tag team champions. This took a while to get going, but while it wasn’t the long, heated match many expected based on the Korakuen build, it was a solid scrap that should lead to some pretty good rematches. ***½
Before the next match we’ve got a video from Jon Moxley! He vows to give the contract holder their title shot… and this was filmed in the studio they’ve used for NJPW Strong, so that tells me something may already have been filmed…
Right to Challenge for the IWGP United States Championship: Satoshi Kojima vs. KENTA (h)
KENTA hides in the ropes at the bell as the English commentary team confirmed it was a briefcase shot from KENTA that put Juice Robinson on the shelf.
KENTA keeps backing off of Kojima, so much so he leaps outside to yell at Hiroyoshi Tenzan for being there. KENTA heads back in, but just gets stomped on by Kojima ahead of a side headlock, as KENTA was kept on his knees in the middle of the ring. A hair pull from KENTA helps get him free, but he just charges down KENTA.
Going back outside, KENTA goes after Tenzan again… which drew in Kojima, who got pushed into his sometimes-tag partner ahead of a DDT on the floor. Back inside, a neckbreaker drops Kojima for a two-count, before a snapmare and a kick to the back left Kojima laying. Figure Four headscissors follow on the mat, as did a kick as Kojima looked to have fought free.
Kojima finally retaliates with a series of Mongolian chops, before some Machine Gun chops in the corner looked to put Kojima ahead… but he’s caught on the top rope by KENTA, as he tried to cut off Kojima with a superplex, eventually bringing him down after a slight scare. KENTA heads up for a flying clothesline that gets him a near-fall, before KENTA tried to drape Kojima off the middle rope for a Green Killer DDT.
Instead, KENTA heads onto the apron with Kojima, who responds with a DDT onto the edge of the apron. Back inside, Kojima looks for a Koji Cutter, but ends up taking a DDT as KENTA then set up for – and lands – the hesitation dropkick into the corner. KENTA heads up top from there to crush Kojima with a double stomp but it doesn’t get the three count… so KENTA sets up for a Go 2 Sleep instead. Kojima fights out and hits a Koji Cutter instead, but a Cozy lariat’s countered with a scoop slam. KENTA grabs his briefcase, and shoves away the referee with it… but Kojima lariats away the briefcase before a Cozy lariat dropped KENTA for a two-count. Another Cozy lariat’s countered with a Busaiku knee, but Kojima’s back with a rolling elbow to knock KENTA down again.
Kojima tees up for another Cozy lariat, but a barrage of palm strikes from KENTA and a Busaiku knee gets him a near-fall, before the Go 2 Sleep sealed the win. This was really good, all told, with Kojima going out swinging in what may well be his final high-profile outing at the Dome. The road’s now clear for Moxley vs. KENTA – and even in an empty-arena setting, that ought to be a classic. ***¾
Tetsuya Naito’s getting wined and dined by the Japanese media again… it’s a trailer for a new game called Strong Spirits. Also during the interval it was announced that New Japan would be coming to TV in the United States and the UK “soon” – with an outlet yet to be named…
Great-O-Khan vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
O-Khan’s in his “big match gear” as he goes to ground early on to try and catch out Tanahashi.
O-Khan stays on the mat as he and Tanahashi found an escape. Wash, rinse, repeat, but this time O-Khan can’t get a knee bar in as Tanahashi instead goes for a side headlock. He clings on as O-Khan tries to push away, eventually forcing a break in the ropes before he charged down Tanahashi. A scoop slam followed, dropping Tanahashi in the middle of the ring, before he looked to throw Tanahashi outside… but Tanahashi tries to skin the cat, which O-Khan Mongolian chopped away. On the outside, O-Khan takes Tanahashi into the aisle, slamming him on the ramp there before returning to the ring, waiting patiently for Tanahashi to beat the count.
Tanahashi can’t avoid a Mongolian chop to the ear, nor a knee bar as O-Khan forced him to the ropes for a break. Tanahashi fought back with leaping forearms, but looked to tweak his knee on the landing, recovering to follow up with a slam and a flip senton off the middle rope for a near-fall. A Slingblade’s caught and turned into a facebuster by O-Khan, before the pair traded elbows as they looked to pull ahead.
A pump kick from O-Khan drops Tanahashi, as did some more Mongolian chops, before he busted out Hiromu’s Victory Royal for a near-fall. From there, O-Khan goes back to Tanahashi’s leg, forcing a rope break… but an overhead belly-to-belly from O-Khan’s sort-of-blocked as Tanahashi skinned the back back in, which led to a comeback attempt, as he ducked a Mongolian chop and returned with a Twist and Shout.
Tanahashi followed that up with a Slingblade for a two-count, before heading up top for a High Fly Flow… which O-Khan blocks with a head claw, dragging Tanahashi down to the mat. A Cobra Twist with a head claw’s next, before a release back suplex flipped Tanahashi onto his head for a two-count.
O-Khan hits an inverted suplex next, then grabbed a chair as he teased an Eliminator onto it. Tanahashi counters out of it and hits another Twist and Shout, before grabbing the chair… to toss it aside. A Dragon suplex instead followed for a two-count, following up with a High Fly Flow to the back… then one to the front… and that’s enough! The Ace isn’t dead yet, but he needed to dig real deep get past Great-O-Khan here – don’t worry about those high-profile losses for the “Dominator”, his time will come. ***½
Will Ospreay vs. Kazuchika Okada
Ospreay’s entrance had him flipping out as he watched Okada winning on a bunch of old TVs. I mean, just change the channel?
The bell sounds for this one, but neither man rushed out… instead, Okada tied up with Ospreay into the ropes, before the pair exchanged elbows. Ospreay took him into the corner, but Okada gets back in with a leaping back elbow, then a DDT to take Ospreay outside. Okada followed him as the pair exchanged strikes, but Ospreay’s charged into the guard rails before he was thrown inside.
A big boot from Okada took Will back outside as Okada lands a tope con giro. They head back inside, as Bea distracted Okada on the apron… Ospreay takes advantage, booting him between the ropes before a dropkick knocked Okada to the floor as Ospreay then tore up the mats at ringside. Ospreay teases a piledriver on the raised platform… but instead shoves Okada into the railings ahead of a neckbreaker. Elbows follow as Okada was draped on the edge of the ring, before a flying knee drop knocked Okada back down to the floor… but the referee refuses to count the pin when they got back inside.
A flapjack from Ospreay gets him a two-count, before he took Okada into the corner for chops as he continued to slow the pace of the match. There’s a Bret Hart-style backbreaker from Ospreay for a two-count, with a chinlock then grounding Okada… but Okada gets free and boots Ospreay in the corner ahead of an astronomical back body drop.
Okada keeps going with a flapjack, before the neckbreaker slam landed for a near-fall. The Money Clip followed, but Ospreay backs into the corner to break it, before a springboard forearm took Okada off his feet. Ospreay keeps going with a punch to the gut, before a German suplex bridges for a near-fall.
Okada back body drops out of a Storm Breaker attempt, then hits a Heavy Rain death valley driver to buy him some time. The grunts of both men echo around the Tokyo Dome as they trade elbows and chops, before Okada caught Ospreay with a dropkick to knock him off the top. Back outside, Ospreay’s whipped into the guard rails, but he caught Okada’s big boot and returned with a pair of his own before getting caught with a shotgun dropkick. Another one awaits back inside, with Okada then looking for a tombstone piledriver… Ospreay tries to block it, then trapped Okada in the corner for a Cheeky Nando’s. A reverse Bloody Sunday DDT is next for a two-count, before Okada came back with a dropkick.
A rolling elbow from Ospreay misses, unlike a superkick as Okada then went for a dropkick, only for it to get turned into a powerbomb for a near-fall. They head back outside, with Ospreay teasing a piledriver on that exposed floor… but Okada escaped and went for a tombstone, before Ospreay instead landed on the timekeeper’s table before he damn near Falcon Arrow’d Okada through it. That looked nasty, especially because the table didn’t fully break.
The referee heads back inside to start the count-out, but Ospreay marches Okada back into the ring. A diving forearm off the top to the back of the head gets Ospreay a two-count, before he ragdolled Okada into a snap powerbomb for another two-count. From there, Ospreay heads onto the apron with Okada and teases a Storm Breaker to the floor, stopping to dish out some Kawada-style kicks before Okada blocked an OsCutter, then tombstoned Ospreay onto the edge of the ring.
Ospreay beats the count but walks straight into a short clothesline… Okada held onto the wrist, and lands another dropkick after Ospreay fought out. The Money Clip is next, before he picked up Ospreay and spiked him with a spinning tombstone. Another Money Clip followed as Bea Priestley was shouting advice like she was watching someone on the Crystal Maze. Three people might get that…
It’s back to the Money Clip as referee Red Shoes Unno checked for a submission, but Will gets a foot to the rope. Okada beckoned for Ospreay to get back to his feet, but there’s barely anything left in the tank as Ospreay fell towards Okada with an elbow strike. Okada just clubs back at him, before a slam left Ospreay down for an expected elbow off the top. Ospreay gets up to block Okada up top, eventually knocking Okada with a big boot ahead of a one-man Spanish Fly that gets a near-fall. An OsCutter’s blocked and turned into a Money Clip, but it’s escaped as Ospreay returned with a discus elbow. The OsCutter’s next for a near-fall, as Ospreay then rained down blows from above… then stomps, before he shoved away the referee.
A rolling elbow to the back of the head drops Okada, but a dropkick stops a Hidden Blade in its tracks, Okada teases a Rainmaker, but it’s ducked as he dropkicked away another OsCutter… we get a spinning Rainmaker as Ospreay again gets caught in a Money Clip, which he flipped out of for a rolling elbow before tombstoning Okada. From there, Ospreay does the Rainmaker pose, and hits a Rainmaker for a near-fall as the Tokyo Dome were audibly aghast.
Okada escapes a Storm Breaker and hits a Michinoku-ish driver, before he bust out a Rainmaker… and that got the crowd going just in time for the finish! The year-long story of Okada holding back from the Rainmaker paid off in what was a war – and much like the O-Khan match before, this loss does Ospreay no harm as we finally got a glimpse of the Okada of old here. Easily the best thing on this card so far by a country mile… ****½
IWGP Intercontinental x IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito (c)
If you’re nervous about either of these guys, perhaps it’d be an idea to turn off the feed now (rather than just Tweet that you have).
Of course, the winner of this one has to face Jay White tomorrow, and we have a tentative start, with Ibushi working over Naito’s leg early on. The mat-based stuff continues as Naito clung onto a side headlock… but Ibushi gets free, pushing Naito into the ropes as a ‘rana took the double champion to the outside. Naito runs back inside as Ibushi was teeing up for a Golden Triangle moonsault… before a draping reverse neckbreaker was escaped as Ibushi backflipped free, only to get dumped with a neckbreaker on the ramp. Ibushi beats the count-out but gets stomped on as Naito then grounded him with some more headscissors.
A cravat followed as Naito kept going for the neck, but Ibushi pushes out and hits a dropkick to buy himself some time. Ibushi pushes on with a leaping mid kick off the ropes, before a standing moonsault took us past the ten minute mark. Naito backs Ibushi into the corner for some elbows, taking him down for a low dropkick before Combinacion Cabron was stopped with a lariat from Ibushi that dumped Naito on the apron.
Ibushi looks for a piledriver on the floor, but Naito countered out with a neckbreaker. Another one followed, with Ibushi being draped off of the apron, before they went back to the headscissors back inside. Ibushi makes it to the rope to force a break, before he blocked an attempt at Gloria, only to get folded up in a German suplex. Naito tries for a low dropkick, but Ibushi leaps over him and lands a double stomp to buy some more time.
A scoop slam from Ibushi drops Naito… but the follow-up moonsault misses as Naito positioned himself to trap Ibushi in a Pluma Blanca after the miss. Ibushi gets to the ropes, but couldn’t avoid some short-range elbows from Naito, who followed up with Gloria for a near-fall as they continued to gradually build up the pace here.
Naito takes Ibushi up top, but Ibushi punches his way free and knocked Naito down with a backflip kick. They head onto the apron from there as Ibushi took a back body drop onto the edge of the ring, before he ‘rana’d Naito off the edge of the ring, sending the champ flying into the railings. Naito barely beats the count-out, but now it’s Ibushi putting the boots to him, keeping Naito on the apron as he teases an elevated German suplex.
Naito fought out, uppercutting Ibushi before returning to the ring as he set up for an avalanche reverse ‘rana, spiking Ibushi for a near-fall. Naito tries to build up for a Destino, but Ibushi just kicks him away, before a Kamigoye was blocked… with Naito’s short Destino landing for a near-fall. Another Destino’s attempted, but Ibushi blocks it and turned it into the Bastard driver – the package tombstone – but he was unable to make a cover afterwards.
On their knees, Naito tries to fire back with elbows, which Ibushi returned in kind as the strikes (and claps) echoed around the Dome, until a lariat from Ibushi took Naito down. Ibushi manages to find a way through with a Kamigoye for a very near-fall, but he misses a splash off the top as Naito almost nicked it with a Destino!
Naito tried to push on, but got caught with another head kick, with Ibushi then teeing up for a second Kamigoye… but Naito barely got a shoulder up in time! Ibushi responds by pulling down the knee pad, only to get caught with an enziguiri as Naito found a way back in with Valentia. One more Destino looked to follow, but Ibushi blocks it and hits a bicycle Kamigoye… then another regular Kamigoye… and we have a new double champion! If you had your heart in your mouth awaiting for something “really stupid,” you’d needn’t have worried. Save for one or two high-risk moments, this was almost as safe as houses… as Kota Ibushi finally gets his big Tokyo Dome win… but now has to come back 24 hours later to face the man who beat him for the G1 winner’s briefcase a few short months ago. ****½
Post-match, Ibushi celebrated with the titles… of course Jay White interrupts to spoil the party as he vowed to “pull Ibushi back down”. Tomorrow, Jay will fulfil his destiny and “become God”, but today he’ll let Ibushi have his moment as the night ended with Ibushi celebrating with the belts. Fireworks, but no ticker-tape, eh…?
Of course, we’re back tomorrow for the second half of WrestleKingdom, with the NEVER Openweight, IWGP Junior and the IWGP double gold on the line, in addition to the EVIL vs. SANADA match.
The elephant in the room was of course the issue of the reduced crowd in a cavernous Tokyo Dome – and whether that would affect the atmosphere on this show. Of course it did, but we found by the Okada/Ospreay match that if the action’s good enough… if the crowd can get invested enough, then they’ll find a way to let you know. Was this a “classic” WrestleKingdom? No, but nothing on the main show was worse than “very good” – and as long as we’re dealing with double Dome cards, this is what we’ll need to expect. Everything on the main show is worth your time, especially if you’re into product – but if you’d already written off these shows because of the current world situation, then I doubt what was on show here will change your mind.