Monday, January 4, 2021

NJPW: Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night One Review - January 4th, 2021

NJPW: Wrestle Kingdom 15 
Night One
January 4th, 2021
Tokyo, Japan - Tokyo Dome 

It’s that time of year y’all!!! And yes I know I haven’t done my 2020 year end stuff yet but it will be up in the next few days I promise! 

For now though, it’s WRESTLE KINGDOM TIME. First big wrestling show of 2021 and it’s two nights of loaded cards so let’s dive into it. 

Kevin Kelly immediately dedicates this broadcast to Brodie Lee :’( 

1) El Phantasmo (Bullet Club) vs. Hiromu Takahashi (LIJ) - Winner Faces Taiji Ishimori for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title On Night Two 

I’m half and half on Elp and as a SPOILER, Hiromu was my NJPW Wrestler of the Year for 2020 so let’s see how this goes. It’s BOSJ winner vs Super J Cup winner. Elp throws around the jacket he was awarded for winning the J Cup during his entrance and oof. I can’t think of a better kick off to the opener than Takahashi flying drop kicking Phantasmo through the railing as he tried to taunt Jushin Liger with the jacket he won in the J Cup saying “where’s Liger?” This triggers a hot start that sees Phantasmo hit Hiromu’s apron flapjack powerbomb on Hiromu himself and WOW. First gasp of the night there. So yeah hot start, but man it just never seemed to flow or click after that. They hit a lot of big stuff, but it felt like just that.. a bunch of big stuff. Only the moves/nearfalls in the last minute or two felt big or believable. Elp did call backs to former Bullet Club leaders nailing Hiromu with a Styles Clash and also going for a one winged angel. Hiromu kicked out of the clash and reversed the one winged angel and ends up with the victory moments later. There was some good moves/exchanges here, but as a whole it was super disjointed. Still a pretty fun time though. 

Match rating - **3/4

2) Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) (w/ DOUKI) (Suzuki-gun) (c) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (Bullet Club) - IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match 

AYYYYEEE DOUKI IS HERE!! GOD won the World Tag League which led them to this title opportunity. It’s heel v heel so it’s interesting to watch this play out. Both teams bring their A game and this turn out to a pretty good little tag match. They do a cool spot where the Tekkers do something outside of their normal repertoire and Zack yells “It’s the fucking Tokyo dome!” As he motivates Taichi to help him through the move, a powerbomb / suplex off the top rope that saw Zack sacrifice himself for the sake of the gold. It all proved to not be enough though as in the end, GoD wins their 7th tag team title using the iron glove as a weapon to get the cheap victory. 

Match rating - ***1/4


3) KENTA (c) vs. Satoshi Kojima - IWGP US Title Opportunity Briefcase Match 

Kojima is a last minute replacement for Juice Robinson. When Juice when out with injury, the veteran issued the challenge to KENTA and here we are. This really felt like a NOAH style match. KENTA played coward as always recently. He shoves Kojima into Tenzan at ringside at one point early. Kojima fights back and hits a damn DDT on KENTA on the ring apron for a short lived advantage. They got really stiff for a little while here and it was awesome. KENTA puts Kojima away with the Go to Sleep after a solid match. Jon Moxley is FINALLY next. KENTA has defended his briefcase over and over and now he finally seemingly is going to get his championship match. 

Match rating - ***

4) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Great O Khan 

Alright this one caught me off guard. I wasn’t the least bit interested in this aside from it being a Tanahashi match, but GOK really had a great first big singles performance here. That is, if we forget the disappointing Okada match. None the less, yeah, this was real fun and both men looked great. The story of Tana fighting from underneath worked well and his comeback ruled. Tana wins with a high fly flow on the back then a normal version. 

Match rating - ***1/2

5) Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay (w/ Bea Priestly)

Well god damn. I truly did not expect this to rule so hard. This was prime Okada and subsequently it was also prime Ospreay.. but mostly Okada because when he’s on, he’s better than anyone on this planet. Every little thing he does feels big and he sold the disgust of the betrayal super well in this match. This felt like some WWF shit for a minute as we got a fucking table bump with Ospreay hitting a falcon arrow on Okada through the announce table. There were a lot more spots like that than you might expect here, but it undoubtedly added to the excitement and made for a few gasp worthy moments. This went 35 minutes or so, but it really didn’t feel like it. There were times were I thought the end would be near and it wouldn’t be and I’d wonder are they stretching this too far? Then they’d do something that proved it was worth it to continue. Ospreay busting out a tombstone, rainmaker and rainmaker pose of his own was an epic moment late in the match. Okada finally destroying Ospreay after being slapped in the face was the ultimate pinnacle to this rivalry. Okada is still the fucking man and he gets the W. This was very stiff and told an awesome story. Just top notch stuff. I loved it. 

Match rating - ****3/4

6) Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Kota Ibushi - IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championship Match 

As an Ibushi fan for a little over 10 years, this match is the culmination of a decade of hard work. Ibushi has never been able to win the big one. He had his biggest chance of all stolen from him by Kenny Omega in 2015 before they reunited in 2017 which led to Ibushi accompanying his best friend as he achieved his dream of winning the IWGP Heavyweight Title. A bitter sweet moment for the Golden Star. Ever since that moment Ibushi has worked his way back into having this chance. He won the G1 in 2019 only to fall short against Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 14. He fought back all over again in 2020 with the mission of “becoming god” and clawed his way back to another G1 Climax victory which led us here. Ibushi & Naito have had a number of matches, mainly known as bombfests due to the insane amount of neck bumps they throw at one another. This had spurts of that was laid out more traditionally and not just as a spotfest. For that reason, it was a little less.. I don’t know, thrilling as prior bouts between the two despite the story being stronger than ever. So, yeah, that’s a good analysis on how this went. They wrestled a great spotfest that was pretty well spaced, but it didn’t exceed into epic level or even the level of Okada/Ospreay. Still- seeing Ibushi finally get this moment was amazing and something that is so well deserved I can’t help but be glowing with excitement. The finish was super strong and felt like Ibushi scrambling and fighting so hard as he felt this big victory at the grasp of his fingertips. 

Match rating - ****1/4 

Overall, this was a very good first night of Wrestle Kingdom. Okada/Ospreay is match of the night & a match of the year contender and Ibushi besting Naito is a moment that fans will cherish forever. I'm excited at the prospect of what Ibushi/White may bring tonight though. Night Two is hours away as of this writing and I am anticipating something special with Ibushi, the beloved babyface coming off the biggest win of his career and White, the despicable, sly, cocky heel looking to ruin his fun time like he knows he can due to the fact that he beat him to even get this shot in the first place.

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