January 5th, 2021
Tokyo Dome - Tokyo, Japan
1) Toru Yano vs. BUSHI vs. Bad Luck Fale vs. Chase Owens - KOPW 2021 Match
Well this is a thing. It happens and critique aside it’s harmless. Fale & Owens argue over who’s gonna get the fall on BUSHI and Yano capitalize to retain.. or regain his trophy??? However that works.
Match rating - **
2) El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (c) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato - IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match
DESPYYYYYYY. He is reunited with Kanemaru here after he was out with injury and missed BOSJ. They looked good here. Taguchi & Wato as a team is whatever, but they held up their end here and this was a fun little match. Desperado & Kanemaru retain.
Match rating - **3/4
3) Shingo Takagi (c) vs. Jeff Cobb - NEVER Openweight Championship Match
This was insane. I was left disappointed by the G1 Climax meeting between these two. It was good however I knew there was more in them and holy hell they laid it all out here and then some. Cobb seemed a lot more motivated, everything he did felt more motivated than anything he’s done in NJPW besides the second half of his G1 run which was also great. This is his best NJPW match undoubtedly and possibly the best match in his career. Just two big boys beating the everloving hell out of each other. We even got some verbal exchanges from Cobb which we don’t get normally as he yelled “COME ON SHINGO” as they were trading blows. Cobb gets his nose busted open near the end which just adds to the drama. Shingo puts him away with Last of the Dragon after one hell of a battle. Wow. Good luck to everyone following this!
Match rating - ****3/4
4) EVIL (w/ Dick Togo) vs. SANADA
I dreaded this match, but they really pulled off a great contest all things considered. There wasn’t any lagging and although it went longer than I hoped or expected, the time flew by and they made the most of the time they had. The Dick Togo stuff didn’t overstay it’s welcome and the table bump was fun. Several awesome near falls and such, in the end, SANADA gets a big win over his former stablemate.
Match rating - ***1/2
5) Taiji Ishimori (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi - IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title Match
These two just can’t have a bad match. The stakes here are much higher than their BOSJ match so you know they had to turn it up. Not only is the title on the line, but it’s also the first time the Junior title has semi-main evented WK. Hiromu is coming off a disappointed match against El Phantasmo but let’s forget about that because this match fucking ruled. They made this feel special and really tore into each other. Ishimori targeted the arm and shoulder in route to his various submission locks that he likes to use. By the end of it, they are tearing into each other with stiff elbow shots and strikes that really look like they are flattening Hiromu at one point. Takahashi, however, overcomes and for the second year in a row becomes the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion at Wrestle Kingdom.
Match rating - ****1/4
6) Kota Ibushi (c) vs. Jay White - IWGP Heavyweight/IC Title Match
Alright it’s time. Night two main event. The go home show. The big one. THE main event. The story is perfect. Ibushi fell short last year. White fell short last year. Ibushi recooped and won the G1. White coaxed Ibushi into a match with the title shot briefcase on the line and won. Taking away the spark of Ibushi’s history making G1 victory. Naito still wanted Ibushi on Night One. Ibushi beats Naito and becomes double champion despite the odds. Now, he meets the man who tried to take it all away from him. The biggest heel in the company, Jay White. So with all that said, this has the makings of a classic. A five star contest, but for me, it fell short. The story was there, the action was there at points, but 48 minutes? It felt like there was no need for this to go almost an hour and I think they only did it to set a record which was previously held by Okada/Omega and MAYBE that’ll be used in an Omega/Ibushi feud down the line and if so hell yes, but the fact remains it dragged and felt unnecessary for me. I liked a lot of what they did here however pushing Jay White into an Okada style epic? That isn’t how I feel like Jay White can perform best. It’s not even Ibushi’s forte but he can manage. So yeah, I watched this around 6am this morning. Literally woke up and thought I wonder if WK is still on, as I normally watch these shows the day after. Turned it on and caught the final 20-25 minutes. And that? That was great. When I heard the call that the match had been going 35-40 minutes I was like wOW. This is either an all time classic, or a match that coulda been shaved down to 30. It was the latter as I found myself bored in the early going in my full rewatch. The idea was good, but drawn out. That’s not to say this is a BAD match though. Because it isn’t. I squealed in my bed at the near falls watching the final 20 live. These two can go and they did and I was on the edge of my seat. I just feel like they could’ve accomplished the same thing in different fashion and far less time. I was so ecstatic when Ibushi won, it was the perfect feel good moment to end this set of shows. I just can’t help but feel this fell short in comparison to all the amazing WK main events in recent years.
Match rating - ****
Post match, SANADA comes down and it looks like that’s the next program for the belt. I wish I could say I was excited for that.
After the event, some headlines began to circulate about Jay White’s post show comments. White cut an AMAZING promo hinting toward a face turn and says “maybe I’d be better off somewhere else” which followed with headlines of New Year Dash being his last NJPW event... is White leaving the company? Is he just taking a break? What the hell does this mean?!? I don’t know, but he KILLED this post match promo and has me insanely excited for what’s next. The idea of him as a baby face coming off this promo.. MAN. I guess only time will tell.