We’re back for the second night of WrestleKingdom, as Kota Ibushi defends his newly-won titles against Jay White in the main event.
Toru Yano pinned BUSHI, Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens in 7:34 to win the provisional KOPW 2021 title (**¼)
El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru pinned Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato in 13:20 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (***)
Shingo Takagi pinned Jeff Cobb in 21:11 to retain the NEVER Openweight Championship (****¾)
SANADA pinned EVIL in 23:41 (***¾)
Hiromu Takahashi pinned Taiji Ishimori in 25:32 to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship (****½)
Kota Ibushi pinned Jay White in 48:05 to retain the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships (****¾)
We’re back at the Tokyo Dome here, with no pre-show today, since the two STARDOM offer matches weren’t available for the NJPW World stream. Like yesterday, we’ve got dualling English and Japanese commentary, with Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Rocky Romero on the call live from the building.
KOPW 2021: BUSHI vs. Chase Owens vs. Bad Luck Fale vs. Toru Yano
These were your final four from yesterday’s Ranbo – and there’s no additional stipulation, because in New Japan-land, a four-way is a special-enough stipulation. Those were the days, eh?
Yano and BUSHI looked to start the match on the floor, so they could force Fale and Owens into action. Except we’ve got the Too-Sweet of Doom, with Fale almost beating Chase inside 30 seconds… but BUSHI comes in to break up the pin as Fale went after Yano.
Staying in the ring, BUSHI hits a missile dropkick to Fale and Owens, but Yano sneaks in with a roll-up for a two-count, before he removed a turnbuckle pad. You know the score here. Chase grabs the pad before he whacked Yano with it, with BUSHI then throwing in a tijeras to take Chase outside… only for Fale to drag BUSHI out to prevent a dive.
Yano’s rolled inside, and he immediately cowers from Fale as the Bullet Club pair wishbone Yano’s legs. The double-teaming continues on Yano, with a clothesline from Fale almost getting Owens the pin as BUSHI again breaks it up before he got thrown into the exposed corner. He recovers for a bulldog/dropkick on the Bullet Club tandem, before BUSHI low bridges Fale outside for an eventual plancha. There’s a tope suicida for Owens too, then a swinging neckbreaker that Yano broke up the pin on. Fale’s back too, but he’s bopped on the head by Yano before an attempted slam almost cost him the match. Chase tries to beat BUSHI with a backslide, before BUSHI got free for a back cracker… the MX is blocked, as Chase then came in with a bell clapper.
BUSHI counters a package piledriver into a pin, but only gets a two-count as a Grenade Launcher got Owens a two-count, with Fale breaking up the pin. The disharmony spreads between the pair, before they look to attack the referee… but Toru Yano low blows the pair of them before taking the pin on the still-downed BUSHI. That Grenade launcher must have been deadly! It was what it was, as the Yano Express rolls on! **¼
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c)
Wato and Taguchi had a mash-up theme, which didn’t exactly fit…
We’ve a jump start as Wato charges at Desperado at the bell, going in with knees to the ribs before he booted Kanemaru off the apron. Desperado boots Wato in the mouth before he got lifted onto the apron… then swept to the floor as Wato went wild with a tornillo. Back inside, Taguchi tags in to drop an elbow on Desperado’s arm, before hip attacks and misdirection led to… Taguchi running the ropes.
Eventually Kanemaru pulls Taguchi outside and throws him into the railings, while Wato had a similar fate at the hands of Desperado, who tossed Wato into Tenzan for the hell of it. Taguchi remains on the defensive when they get back inside, as Kanemaru drove Taguchi’s knee into a chair behind the ref’s back, using Wato’s inexperience against him.
After getting a near-fall on Taguchi, Kanemaru looked to push on… but misses a hip attack. A second one lands, as Taguchi then tagged in Wato, who runs wild and dropped Kanemaru with a neckbreaker. There’s a springboard European uppercut next for a near-fall, before Kanemaru blocked Recientemente… then booted Wato in the face. Using the referee as a human shield eventually paid dividends as Kanemaru lands an enziguiri to Wato, then brought Desperado back in. Wato’s able to tag Taguchi back in, but a hip attack is instantly countered… so Taguchi just uses headscissors to pull Despy into his arse. Another hip attack followed, as Taguchi then busts out the Three Amigos, getting another two-count from it all.
Desperado looked for Guitarra de Angel, but instead Taguchi countered out to tease a Vertebreaker… then instead just dumped Despy with a reverse powerslam. A low dropkick from Kanemaru stops a Bummer-Ye, as Desperado homed in on that knee, leading to the Numero Dos, rolling Taguchi into the middle of the ring before Wato broke up the hold.
Taguchi retaliated with Oh My Garankle to Desperado, pulling him away from the ropes before Wato had a go at a 619. A Dodon’s next, but Kanemaru broke up the pin as Wato just stood there. Wato tries to go up top, but Kanemaru pulls him down as Taguchi looked to finish the job himself… but a Dodon’s countered with a roll-up for a near-fall as Wato dove in.
Recientemente from Wato drops Desperado ahead of a Bummer-Ye from Taguchi for a near-fall. Kanemaru tries to come in with his whiskey, but Desperado’s just thrown into him… Despy returned with a punch and a Pinche Loco… and that’s all folks. This was fine when Taguchi was in, but this was a bit of a rough night for Wato on his Dome debut. Right, who’s getting thrown together next for a junior tag title feud? ***
NEVER Openweight Championship: Jeff Cobb vs. Shingo Takagi (c)
This one could be a sleeper hit! Cobb was in no mood for fun and games as he marched to the ring, but he didn’t shoot out of the blocks when the bell rang.
Instead, we’ve a staredown before a tie-up came to nought… so they began to go back and forth with elbows instead. Shingo’s shot into the ropes, but shoulder tackles prove ineffective as Cobb ends up charging into the corner before getting hiptossed. A shoulder tackle from Shingo finally knocked Cobb down for barely a one-count, before Cobb showed off with a leapfrog and a dropkick.
Cobb throws Shingo to the outside, between the bottom and middle rope, as he then began to focus on the lower back of Shingo with forearms and headbutts. Irish whips takes Shingo into the railings, before Shingo’s attempt to rebound saw him run into an overhead belly-to-belly on the floor! Back inside, Cobb puts the boots to Shingo, before a bear hug was broken up. Shingo instinctively went for a suplex, but his back gave out and he ends up getting suplexed as Cobb took control again. A Shingo combination barely fazes Cobb, who eventually gets tossed with a rebound back suplex as Shingo took his opponent onto the apron.
Shingo joined him there, but a death valley driver attempt came to nought as Cobb clobbered him in the back before lifting Shingo to the top rope for… a Razor’s Edge to the floor?! The camera angle they had for that was beautiful as Shingo wriggles free and knocks Cobb down to the floor for a tope con giro, returning to the ring as a DDT spiked Cobb ahead of a back elbow off the top for a near-fall.
An attempted noshigami’s blocked as Shingo then ran into a Spin Cycle from Cobb. The pressure continues with some rolling gutwrench suplexes, before Shingo ‘rana’d his way free, before Cobb countered a noshigami into a sit-out Razor’s Edge for a near-fall. Shingo clings to the ropes to avoid a Tour of the Islands, before he returned with a snap death valley driver to buy him some time.
Shingo keeps going with a superplex, then with a wheelbarrow suplex as things descended into a strike battle. A snap German suplex from Cobb didn’t keep Shingo down for long as he rebounds off the ropes with a clothesline to take down Cobb… and then send himself to the outside. Barely beating the count, Shingo runs back in… but takes an instant Ganso bomb for a near-fall. A Tour of the Islands is blocked as Shingo came back with a chop block, then a Dragon screw, before Made in Japan planted Cobb for a near-fall. We’re back to clotheslines as the pair tried to lariat each other down, but that search for a lariat took Shingo into a rebound German suplex, before a Tour of the Islands landed… but Cobb tweaked his knee on the impact, and had to slide across to make the pin, giving Shingo enough time to get a foot on the ropes. Such bad luck!
A second pin gets Cobb a two-count as he had to readjust. With a questionable knee, Cobb hauls Shingo up from the apron to the top rope, teasing an avalanche Tour of the Islands, but Shingo slips out and hits a powerbomb out of the corner. Another sliding lariat attempt from Shingo’s stopped with a lariat from Cobb, but a Tour of the Islands ends up being turned into… a moonsault fallaway slam?!
Cobb’s been watching his Speedball tapes, but Shingo bloodies Cobb with more lariats before an Exploder of sorts took Cobb back down. This is getting wild, at least in terms of the throws, before Cobb’s Tour of the Islands was rudely cut short when Shingo blasted him with a lariat. A Last of the Dragons followed, and that’s a massive win for Shingo as the Empire went 0-3 at the Dome, despite this being Cobb’s best outing in a New Japan ring to date. This is exactly what I was looking for from this match – two big lads knocking lumps out of each other, and straying a little from the “heavyweight” playbook as well. In front of a full, loud crowd, I’d have been swayed to go the full five here. Get this one watched! ****¾
EVIL vs. SANADA
Our only non-title match of the night, and it starts with EVIL’s squeaky door… as commentary were trying to paint this as a defacto number one contender’s match.
We’ve a tentative start, with EVIL rolling outside early on, before both men teased their finishers. They catch each other’s boots, which led to SANADA tripping EVIL for a Paradise lock, with a low dropkick breaking it up. EVIL rolls outside as SANADA fakes out a dive… which led to EVIL catching SANADA and charging him into the timekeeper’s table. As they looked to tidy up the mess, EVIL goes under the ring for some chairs so he could go for a home run. Out comes a table, but EVIL and SANADA return to the ring, with EVIL throwing SANADA into a conveniently-exposed corner. We’re back outside with EVIL obliterating the timekeeper again, as Ozaki-san this time gets buried underneath the table.
My feed dropped out and returns with SANADA dropkicking EVIL to the outside before he landed a plancha… there’s one for Dick Togo too before EVIL was rolled back in for a near-fall. An eye rake stops SANADA from landing a TKO, before Dick Togo got involved, tripping SANADA in the ropes. Togo’s repositioned the table so EVIL could go for Everything is EVIL off the apron, but that’s countered as SANADA teases a TKO off the apron. That too is blocked as SANADA vaults back inside before EVIL tried to use the ref to help with a Magic Killer. SANADA escapes, but misjudges the distance at first as he went for a Magic Screw off the ropes, before a Tiger suplex almost got him the win.
A Skull End looks to follow, with SANADA swinging EVIL around before EVIL backflipped free to tease his own finish. Instead, he charges SANADA into the exposed corner, then followed in with a backbreaker as the pace was slowed down again. He lifts SANADA up top for a superplex, following with a Darkness Scorpion as SANADA eventually made it to the ropes.
EVIL adds Darkness Falls to that for a near-fall, before Everything is EVIL was elbowed out of. EVIL charges into the exposed corner, then ate a back suplex as that table remained ominously-present at ringside. A TKO gets SANADA a two-count, before he was forced to abort a moonsault attempt… EVIL catches a kick from SANADA and swings the leg into the referee, and here comes the shenanigans.
In comes Dick Togo with a chair shot, before he and EVIL charged at SANADA with clotheslines as a Magic Killer followed. Togo then heads up top for a back senton… but SANADA pushes EVIL into the ropes, crotching Togo, who came down to earth with a bump hard. Twice. An inside cradle almost snatches SANADA the win from there, before a moonsault took him in for Skull End. Of course, SANADA lets go so he could go up for a moonsault, landing on EVIL’s back, before a second one landed firmly on the knees. SANADA recovers to backflip into a Skull End, but EVIL grabs the referee and backs into the ropes as Dick Togo chokes out SANADA with the garrote wire… but SANADA powered free, then dropkicked EVIL into Togo, who launched himslef through that table for an elbow drop.
EVIL’s on his own as the Tokyo Dome crowd *LAUGHED*… and almost saw EVIL lose to a Japanese leg clutch. EVIL bounced SANADA on his head with a half and half suplex for a two-count. SANADA has to block a low blow as EVIL looked to push on, but it’s SANADA who lands Everything is EVIL before a pop up cutter and a moonsault gets SANADA the win. This was much better than many would have expected, but if you’re not a fan of the EVIL shenanigans with Dick Togo, you’d have been lost by the end of the match. ***¾
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi vs. Taiji Ishimori (c)
Hiromu earned the title shot with his win in the opener last night…
We open with a customary lock-up that ends in the ropes, before Hiromu got low bridged ot the outside. He’s quickly back in… and back outside as Ishimori looked to work the arm early on. A dive attempt is caught as both men end up on the apron, but while Hiromu’s sunset bomb was blocked, he was able to drop Ishimori onto the edge of the ring with a pop-up powerbomb.
There’s a slam onto the ramp after that, as Hiromu then prepared for a run-up… and delivered a shotgun dropkick of sorts, but it looked like Ishimori countered it in mid air with a side suplex. Back inside, Hiromu’s thrown shoulder-first into an exposed corner, before Ishimori tied up the arms for a levering armbar.
Ishimori tries to lawn-dart Hiromu into the exposed corner, but it’s escaped… as was a baseball slide German attempt as Hiromu returned with headscissors. Some hanging headscissors in the ropes choke out Ishimori before he’s dropped on the floor with a wheelbarrow facebuster off the apron, followed up with a shotgun dropkick to send Ishimori into the railings. A Falcon arrow does the deal, getting Hiromu a near-fall. A running death valley driver into the corner’s escaped as Ishimori quickly set up for a baseball slide German suplex, before Ishimori hit a springboard 450 to the arm, then quickly rolled Hiromu into a Yes Lock. A rope break saves Hiromu, who tries to counter out of a Cipher UTAKI before the pair traded ‘ranas. Ishimori’s quickly stopped when he’s thrown into the corner with an overhead belly-to-belly.
Hiromu goes for a Dynamie Plunger, but has to counter a counter into a Complete Shot, before he finally drive Ishimori into the corner with a death valley driver. Hiromu holds on and chains together a second running death valley driver, before a Time Bomb was escaped… a superkick lands, as did Ishimori’s big boot before he handsprings into a German suplex from the challenger.
A running Destroyer from Ishimori leaves Hiromu dazed, as the pair resort to trading elbows from their knees. More back-and-forth elbows follow until Hiromu decked Ishimori, but they go back to strikes, with Hiromu this time going down in almost a knee-slide. They keep going as both men seemingly looked for a knockout, as Ishimori was repeatedly leaving Hiromu laying with some harsh elbows.
Ishimori changes his game plan a little, throwing Hiromu shoulder-first into the ring post before an old school shoulder breaker targeted the bad shoulder again. A Mistica followed, with the Yes Lock being reapplied… it’s switched into a wristlock as Hiromu got closer to the rope, eventually forcing the break.
Ishimori looks for Cipher UTAKI again, eventually landing it for a near-fall, before a Bloody Cross was countered out of. A leaping knee keeps Ishimori ahead, but a second Mistica is countered neatly into a Victory Royal for a near-fall, before a death valley driver planted Ishimori into the exposed corner. That’s followed up as Hiromu lands a Time Bomb for a near-fall… then went for a Time Bomb 2, but Ishimori flips free.
Hiromu counters the counter by rolling Ishimori back up for a Time Bomb, but Ishimori countered into a Mistica, then trapped Hiromu in the Bone Lock. Hiromu escapes that and eventually lands the Victory Royal again, before Time Bomb 2 finally landed – and earned the IWPG Junior Heavyweight title once again! This was a step ahead of their match in Jingu for me, as Hiromu’s fourth title reign (his third that started at the Tokyo Dome) began in earnest. ****½
IWGP Intercontinental x IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi (c)
Ibushi finally claimed the double-gold in last night’s main event – and is instantly thrust into action here. He entered from atop the entrance way for the long walk to the ring, and my word, it feels odd seeing Ibushi with a singles title.
Of course, White rolls outside at the bell to mockingly applaud the Tokyo Dome crowd, before he finally engaged with Ibushi in the ring. We get a lock-up, but Ibushi barely budges as he powered White into the ropes, but there’s a distraction as White took down Ibushi for some stomps. A headlock takedown keeps Ibushi down, and when he powered up… White pulled the hair to take him back down. He takes White outside, but instantly gets caught by Gedo… who’s elbowed away as White tried to play keep away. Ibushi’s caught with a DDT in the ropes as White waited for him, then we’re back outside again as Ibushi’s dropped high on his neck with a back suplex on the apron.
White stays on top of Ibushi, charging him ribs-first into the side of the ring, before he stomped on Ibushi back inside. Some choking ensures that Ibushi’s breathing is restricted, following up with shoulder charges in the corner and an over-the-knee gutbuster for a two-count. White baits Ibushi in for a dropkick, which misses, as a stomp to the midsection ensured the Kiwi kept wearing down the new double champ. A DDT spikes Kota on his head, before Ibushi’s taken back into the corner for some shoulder charges. Arguing with referee Red Shoes Unno distracts White for long enough to turn around into a kick to the chest from Ibushi, before another took White down for a standing moonsault.
Ibushi pushed White to the outside as Jay seemingly was looking to work the legs, but White gets back on top as he charges Ibushi between the ring and the railing. Back inside, a scoop slam drops White, but a springboard’s stopped as White pushed Ibushi into the ropes, trapping him in the corner for a Dragon screw. A running uppercut keeps Ibushi in the corner ahead of a Blade Buster for a two-count, before Ibushi recovered with a ‘rana to take White outside.
Ibushi followed that up with a Golden Triangle moonsault… but White rolls inside and then hangs up Ibushi on the ropes as he tried to springboard back inside. White seemed to be a step ahead again, especially as he made Kota crash and burn back into the ring. A donation to the swear jar’s next as White suplexes Ibushi into the corner for another near-fall, before a Kiwi Krusher was fought out of. A half-and-half suplex from Ibushi drops White, as Ibushi tries to fight back with elbows… but White struck back too as the pair traded strikes before roll-ups back-and-forth allowed Ibushi to pick up White for the Bastard Driver. He can’t follow up on that package tombstone though, and when he did get a running start in for a knee strike, White side-stepped him and hit a side suplex instead.
White builds with a uranage for a near-fall, then a Kiwi Krusher, before a Blade Runner was countered with a roll-out into a side suplex from Ibushi. A Bomaye knee followed for a near-fall as Ibushi turned the match on its head, as a Last Ride was teased. White slips out and looks to repeat the backslide – how he won the briefcase off of Ibushi in the first place – but the referee notices the feet on the ropes and stops the count.
Ibushi responds with a head kick as White was mouthing off again, before White turtles up to block a Kamigoye. When he stopped, Ibushi just buzzsaw kicks him, then went up top for a Phoenix Splash… only to be stopped by Gedo on the apron. That bought White time as he met Ibushi in the corner, looking to KO him by throwing his head into the ring post… before setting up for an avalanche sleeper suplex.
It’s finally escaped with elbows, but Gedo tries to trap Ibushi on the ropes once more before a chop block from White took Kota down. We’ve Dragon screws on the mat next, as White began to toy with Ibushi once more. That just woke up Zombie Ibushi, who walked through endless forearms before he unloaded with a barrage of strikes to send White into the corner.
Another elbow decks White as we crossed the half hour mark, as Ibushi then proceeded to send White sailing to the outside with another elbow. Ibushi waits in prey for White, offering up more free shots as White laid down instead, wanting Ibushi to just end it with a pin. Ibushi rains down blows from above, then shoved down the referee as he was “in the zone”… which creates an opening for White to hit a low blow. White takes Ibushi outside as the champion’s charged again between the ring and the apron, before they head up the aisle way for some more strikes, as White went back to the ring to wait for Ibushi to return. Kota crawls back inside, but can’t avoid a Complete Shot or a German suplex, with the latter folding him in two. A second deadlift German suplex has an equally bad landing, as White then looked to complete the hattrick with one on the apron.
Ibushi gets free and tries to set up White for an elevated German suplex from the apron into the ring… and lands it! The Last Ride followed for a near-fall, only for White to spike Ibushi on the head with another sleeper suplex. Ow. White tries for a second one, and lands it, before a bridging Regal-plex drew a near-fall.
White looks or a Blade Runner, but Ibushi switches out and lands a Kamigoye for a near-fall as we sail past 40-minutes… from there, Ibushi heads up again for a Phoenix splash, and finally lands it… only for Gedo to pull the referee out of the ring! Did we really need that this deep into the match? Gedo comes in with the brass knuckles, but he’s disarmed with a Kamigoye as Ibushi went to check on the referee. By the time he gets back in though, White nails Ibushi with a Blade Runner for a near fall as Ibushi barely got a shoulder up in time. For the “first ever kickout”, as commentary tried to play it as, they sure picked a bad camera angle to show…
A second Blade Runner looked to follow, but Ibushi pushes away… only to get rolled into a knee bar – the Ibushi Tap Out. Ibushi’s dragged away from the ropes as White looked to force a stoppage, but Ibushi manages to pull his way to the ropes, and force the break. White tries to suplex Ibushi next, countering a bicycle knee into a Regal-plex for another two-count as we approached the record time for a Tokyo Dome main event held by Okada/Omega at WrestleKingdom 11
After taking a Bloody Sunday DDT, Ibushi decks White with a knee… then again, before he countered a counter to a Kamigoye with a lariat. From there, Ibushi pulls up White for a Kamigoye to the back of the head, before a second one to the face gets the win. Kota Ibushi wins in what may be a divisive match (given the length), as he had to play marathon man to ensure he left the Tokyo Dome with the double gold. ****¾
Post-match, SANADA came out – bedecked in a suit – and asked if he could challenge Ibushi to the double gold. Ibushi accepts, saying that he’s more powerful now than when he won the G1 over SANADA last year, as we close the show with a handshake and a celebration.
We’re not done… New Year Dash is tomorrow, from Tokyo Dome City Hall, and that’ll be following the mystery card format that usually sets up something for the remainder of the year, before the Road to the New Beginning kicks off on January 17.
Going in, I had fairly low expectations for this card – particularly since they’d left all of the “top stars” off the bill. I need not have worried. KOPW aside, this was a fantastic card, with pretty much every title match delivering in spades. Cobb vs. Shingo went above my expectations, while Hiromu’s win just takes us back to last year – and wherever they were planning on heading with the junior title.