Wrestle Kingdom 15: Night 1 Results and Reactions

Wrestle Kingdom 15: Night 1 Results and Reactions

We have made it, the biggest NJPW Wrestling event of the year! The Tokyo Dome is host to the greatest wrestling show on Earth, with two nights of hard-hitting action available live around the world. Two titles matches hang in the balance tonight, with two matches being fought for the right to challenge. It’s all capped off with G1 Climax 30 winner Kota Ibushi challenging Double Champion Tetsuya Naito in the main event. NJPW Wrestle Kingdom is here!

The preshow kicked off with a 22-man RAMBO match. Similar to WWE’s Royal Rumble match, participants can also be eliminated in the ring via pinfall or submission. The final four participants will face off in a 4-way match on night two to crown the KOPW 2021 trophy. The KOPW is hyped as a specialty match “champion”, defending their trophy in stipulation matches throughout the year. KOPW 2020 winner Toru Yano was able to hold the trophy into 2021. Now it’s up to him to try and win the 2021 Trophy to start the new year. 21 men would enter the RAMBO, but only four would walk away with the chance at the KOPW 2021 trophy. The match started with Chase Owens and Tomohiro Ishii. Some notable faces in the Rambo included Minoru Sazuki, Tiger Mask, Bushi, Rocky Romero, and Bad Luck Fale. As the match was coming to and end, Chase and Bad Luck Fale, who are both members of Bullet Club, began to team up to help each other survive. Bushi stayed outside the ring, avoiding getting too confrontational. The final entrant was Toru Yano, who slowly made his way down the ramp. Before he even got to the ringside though, Chase and Fale eliminated the last of the Young Lions. Bushi slid back into the ring, allowing the ref to count the remaining men. With Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale, and Bushi in the ring, and Toru Yano being the last man, the bell was sounded. Those four would move on to the 4-way match tomorrow to crown the KOPW 2021 winner.

It was a fun preshow match that allowed a lot of wrestlers to get their names and faces on the biggest event of the year. While the King of Pro Wrestling trophy may not be the most prestigious of things to win, it still is enough to shake up things on the card, with its ability to be defended in stipulation matches. And, while I wish those stipulation matches were a bit more exotic than “A body slam match” or “No Finishers match”, I hope that the potential will be used to its fullest effect this upcoming year. With Yano having been able to steal the KOPW 2020, it was fitting for him to get a spot in his usual comedic way, not even having to get in the ring.

Winners: Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale, Bushi, and Toru Yano

The Main show then started, opening up with the two-time BoSJ winner Hiromu Takahashi facing back-to-back Super J Cup winner El Phantasmo. The winner of the match would go on to face the IWGP Jr Heavyweight champion on night 2 of Wrestle Kingdom. El Phantasmo came out, kicking and generally disrespecting the Super J Cup winner jacket down the ramp. Meanwhile, Hiromu entered with every introverts dream hoodie, wielding his BoSJ trophy down to the ring. The match started and Phantasmo left the ring, walking over to the timekeepers table and tossing Hiromu’s trophy to the ground. Naturally, Hiromu took exception to this and hit a running dropkick onto Phantasmo off the apron. Hiromu’s suicide offense would serve him well in the opening, keeping Phantasmo off balance for the start. It was Phantsmo’s althetic abilities that saw him through, as he backflipped out of Hiromu’s sunset powerbomb, to hit one of his own. Phantasmo would hit a picture perfect moonsault from the top rope onto a standing Hiromu on the outside, to cake the advantage. Returning to the ring, Phantasmo cued up Kenny Omega’s old Terminator cadence, perhaps a signal to the Bullet Club around the world. Now in control of the match, Phantasmo went to work stomping on Hiromu’s feet and hands. Small joint manipulation wasn’t out of the Question for Phantasmo, as he wrenched and stretched Hiromu’s fingers repeatedly. In desperate pain, Hiromu would bite Phantasmo’s finger to escape getting his own fingers twisted and pulled again. It wouldn’t last long, as Phantasmo tried to hit his finisher CRII, which Hiromu was able to block. Hiromu would come at Phantasmo with a burst of energy, nailing the Dynamite Plunger. When Hiromu went to the top rope, he pushed Phantasmo away, who bumped into the ref. This allowed Phantasmo to hit a low blow on Hiromu. With the distinct advantage once again on his side, Phantasmo hit ex Bullet Club leader AJ Styles finisher, the Syles Clash on Hiromu, which was only good for a two count. With a third call out, Phantasmo attempted the One Winged Angel, but was reversed. Hiromu was then kicked in the head for his troubles, as Phantasmo set up for the CRII once again. On instinct, Hiromu was able to roll out of it and into a roll up pin to get the unlikely win.

While Hiromu went into the match as a heavy favorite, El Phantasmo gave him more than he bargained for. In a match that saw Phantasmo showboating Bullet Club throwbacks, it leaves to question if he was trying to push a message or point. Hiromu left the match clutching his hand, with a title match against the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion, and Bullet Club member Taiji Ishimori. It was a match that showed off El Phantasmo’s great athletic ability, and Hiromu’s tenacity, that worked well to open the show.

Winner: Hiromu Takahashi

The second match would see World Tag League winners G.O.D. (Tanga Loa and Tama Tonga) take on the IWGP Tag Champions Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi) for the titles. G.O.D. had finally won the World Tag League for the first time, and looked to get their first win in the Tokyo Dome. In the match opening, it was Tekkers that seemed to have the early advantage. G.O.D.’s brawling style would see them through, though getting back into the match. Taichi was singled out by G.O.D. who successfully kept him from getting the tag with their quick striking offense. Taichi capitalized on an opening, fighting back with his kicks to escape and finally get the tag to ZSJ. Despite Zack’s best efforts, with Taichi unable to help much, Zack would find himself being set up for the Super powerbomb that G.O.D. had used effectively in the World Tag League Tournament. With some quick submissions, both Zack and Taichi were able to block the attempt, with the Tekkers taking down Tanga Loa with a Tower of Doom. All the men would go for their big singles move, each one was blocked and countered, eventually leaving all the wrestlers on their backs. While the Tekkers were the first to recover, it would be G.O.D. getting the better of the exchange, as Tama slid into the ring to take out Zack with a Gun Stun. Jado would rush the ring while the ref was down, but Doki would counter Jado’s interference. In the chaos, Tama used the Iron Gauntlet that Taichi brings to the ring, hitting Taichi with it in a knockout blow. G.O.D. would get the pin and get their first win in the Tokyo Dome.

All in all it was a good match on a show that was booked to be good or better. G.O.D. accomplished goals they had never hit in NJPW by finally winning the World Tag League and then winning at Wrestle Kingdom. The win made them now 8-time IWGP Tag Champions, the most reigns by a team in the title’s history.

Winners: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa)

A brief prerecorded video was then played, with the IWGP US champion Jon Moxley saying some words to the NJPW audience. We claimed himself to be the “Boogie man” of New Japan, no one ever knowing when he would show up. One thing he did promise was that he would challenge whoever had the US Challenger briefcase.

For the third match, KENTA would defend his US Challenger briefcase that he won in the American New Japan Cup Tournament, against Satoshi Kojima. The match was originally set against challenger Juice Robinson, but an orbital bone fracture has sidelined Juice for the time being. Kojima is on the downside of his career at age fifty, but the one-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion stepped up to the challenge to take on KENTA. When KENTA entered, he was wearing a Bullet Club shirt that oddly had Florida printed on the front, where AEW hosts its shows in Jacksonville. Kojima started strong, with KENTA trying to avoid him at first by ducking under the ropes. When the fight went to the outside, KENTA was in his zone, dodging Kojima and running him into longtime tag team partner Tenzan. Despite the best efforts of Kojima, KENTA was able to stop almost every rally from the 50-year-old veteran. When Kojima went for his Koji Cutter, KENTA blocked it off and sent Kojima reeling back into the corner with vicious shotgun dropkicks. The Koji Cutter did manage to find its mark, but it was not enough to put KENTA away. Kojima would try start to go for his Lariat, but Kenta was able to put him down with a powerslam. KENTA then peppered Kojima with vicious hard slaps and a Psycho knee. From there, KENTA was able to put away the match with the GTS.

KENTA’s hard hitting style is always a joy to watch when he really gets going. While his move set isn’t fancy, it’s executed to perfection. Kojima was able to prove that even the “NJPW Dads” still had plenty in the tank to rip out a fantastic performance when called upon.

Winner: KENTA

After a brief intermission, the next match started off with a grudge match between EMPIRE representative the Great O-Khan vs Hiroshi Tanahashi. Khan had attacked Tanahashi duting the World Tag League, aiming for his knee when they faced off. While O-Khan made his debut earlier 2020, Tanahashi has been wrestling over 20 years now. He has been on the decline, something he has tried to desperately deny and prove otherwise. At the start of the match, O-Khan tried to get Tanahashi into a grounded grappling match, aiming for Tana’s leg. While Tana had an early minor advantage, O-Khan would use an eye rake to take over. A scoop slam on the ramp slowed Tana down, as well as a knee bar once back inside the ring. Tana was able to rally with a dragon screw and his second rope senton. It was O-Khan’s great strength that allowed him to man handle Tana, slamming him chest first into the mat. The two would exchange forearms, allowing O-Khan to get back to work on Tana’s knee. When O-Khan tried to belly to belly Tana out of the ring, Tana caught the top rope, and flipped himself back in to rally with a twist and shout. O-Khan would manage to take the match back with a couple suplexes. He then went and grabbed a chair, looking to hit his Eliminator onto the chair. Tana would escape and, after a hesitation, threw the chair out and hit a couple of High Fly Flows to take the make.

Watching Tanahashi get pumped up with a crowd and overcome the odds will never get old. He was able to deny father time for another Wrestle Kingdom and pull out a win. O-Khan, despite the loss, still looked strong and dominating. I couldn’t help but root and cheer as Tanahashi began his rallies, and that in itself is enough to tell me it was a great match.

Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi

In the Semi Final match, we had another grudge match with Will Ospreay and Kazuchika Okada. At the end of the G1, Will turned his back on his stable Chaos and Okada, betraying them to start his own stable, Empire. Bea Priestly came down to the ring with Will, while Okada came alone to face off against what he once considered his younger brother. The two immediately went to forearms, beating each other with hard shots. Okada would take the early advantage with a quicker pace in the match, peppering Will with a striking offence. It was Bea distracting Okada that allowed Will to take advantage. Will was able to take Okada apart outside the ring, having laid Okada out after ripping up the protective floor padding. Okada would only find reprieve after hitting Will with a huge backdrop. The two fought to the outside, where Okada was able to lay Will out with a beautiful dropkick. When Okada went to climb the turnbuckle, Will was able to trap Okada for Cheeky Nandos, and get Okada to the outside once again. Balancing precariously over the barricade, Will was able to plant Okada through a table with a suplex. Okada was dragged back into the ring, but wasn’t quite done yet. After nailing Will with a tombstone piledriver on the apron, the match was all in Okada’s favor. While Okada was able to get the Money Clip in, Will escaped, with little left in the tank. Okada stood over will at one point, demanding that will “Stand up and take what’s coming to him”. A desperate avalanche Spanish fly allowed Will to keep his hopes alive, as he managed to find his target with the Oz Cutter. Will even used a tombstone piledriver and rainmaker on Okada, to no avail. It was Okada, hitting Will with the rainmaker that finished the match.

In all honesty, I didn’t expect both members of Empire falling short tonight. Will vs Okada is usually a spectacle, but despite the personal animosity this match brought, I feel it fell short of their other bouts. While there is no doubt in my mind that it was a great match, especially the second half, it did feel a bit less climactic. Maybe it’s Okada’s new want to use his submission, the Money Clip. It’s not as exciting as the Rainmaker.

Winner: Kazuchika Okada

The main event pitted the g1 Climax 30 winner against the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental champion, Tetsuya Naito. While Ibushi had lost his right to challenge briefcase to Jay White, Naito allowed him to challenge on night one anyway for the titles. The two men locked up on the mat, swapping minor submissions back and forth. It would be Naito who gained the first advantage. Naito’s target would be the neck, as it usually is, to set up his Destino Finisher. Ibushi sent Naito to the outside, but after an exchange, Naito threw Ibushi back on the ramp for a german suplex, with Ibushi landing on his head. Naito would slam Ibushi into the turnbuckles and take him to the mat with a neckbreaker. A dropkick allowed Ibushi to start getting back into it. Naito would not be denied, as his quick burst speed allowed him to take back over. Once again Ibushi would force the fight to the floor, and again, Naito would make him pay. Two neckbreakers on the outside and a leg applied full nelson left Ibushi worse for wear. Ibushi wasn’t out, as a german suplex and a double stomp laid Naito out. But Naito would catch Ibushi in a Koji Clutch, forcing Ibushi to the ropes once more. While Ibushi was down, he was anything but out, sending Naito falling to the apron. To take advantage, Ibushi sent Naito sprawling to the floor with a hurricanrana off the apron. Naito would barely make it back into the ring, just barely fighting off a deadlift german suplex. Fighting back, Naito would hit a super poison rana, but was not able to get the three count. Ibushi fired off a couple of head kicks, but ate Destino when he missed his Kamigoye. The two began exchanging forearms, their battle cries echoing off the Dome’s walls. It would take Ibushi not just one… but THREE Kamigoyes to take the win in a great finish.

Ibushi had finally done it. He won his first IWGP Heavyweight title, and became the third person to be the Double Champion. Naito would personally present the titles to Ibushi before exiting, in a show of respect. But the night was not over, as Jay White came out to let Ibushi know he would only hold the titles for a night.

It was easily the best match of the night, as both men put everything on the line. Ibushi finally won himself the Heavyweight title, in a feel-good moment. It was a match with some great wrestling and high spots, it’s pacing on point.

Night one of Wrestle Kingdom was everything one would it to be. Now, we go into night two with challengers to titles, as Hiromu will challenge for the Jr Heavyweight title, and Ibushi will defend his newly acquired Double titles. With little rest, Night two of Wrestle Kingdom 15 looks to be heating up to be a great night of wrestling.

Featured Image Credit: Matthew Boyce/Game Changer Sports Network

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