Wrestle Kingdom has kicked off and now it’s looking for its climactic finish. Kota Ibushi came away with his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship win on night one. Now, he must face down Jay White to keep the both championships. The Never Openweight title is on the line, as well as all the Jr Heavyweight titles. Wrestle Kingdom comes to a close tonight, and without a doubt, it’ll be with a bang.
Starting off the show was the four finalists from the RAMBO on night one for the KOPW 2021 Trophy. Chase Owens seemed pretty upset with the amount of work he had to do to make it to the match, working from number one in the RAMBO to outlast to number four. Bad Luck Fale joined his Bullet Club brethren, the largest man in the match. Bushi and Yano entered, and seemed to be happy to stay out of the ring as the bell rang, neither wanting to get teamed up on. Chase would then lay down for Fale for the pin, sending both Bushi and Yano charging the ring to break up the pin. Bushi looked great, at times looking like a one-man wrecking crew. It would be the teaming up of Fale and Chase that would turn the match around. They hit their tag team move, the Grenade Launcher on Bushi, which was more than enough to take him out. But Fale would break up the pin, which did not go over well with Chase. They argued, eventually both getting in the refs face in anger, allowing Toru Yano to hit both with low blows. With both men down, Yano covered Bushi to take the win!
A quick match that saw Yano win in his Yano way. Fun and enjoyable to start off the show. Not much to say about the match, in a show that would be highlighted by epic in ring performances. For Yano to come out as the KOPW 2021 worked well. I just hope to see the KOPW used to the great potential that it has.
Winner: Toru Yano
Following the KOPW match, the second match would have the slapdash team of Ryusuke Taguchi and Master Wato take on the Jr Heavyweight Champions of Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado. Wato started hot, having no issues with launching himself out of the ring onto Desperado. Taguchi had no problems getting down to his shenanigans. When Wato and Kanemaru hit the ring, Kanemaru would pull the ref into Wato’s path several times, to avoid Wato gaining any momentum. Both would tag out and Taguchi took the upperhand on Despy with his hip attacks. Desperado was able to rely on Kanemaru to come in with the save and attack Taguchi’s knee. Taguchi managed to lock in an ankle lock, as the challengers looked to be ready to take the match. But the inexperienced and busied Master Wato would not be able to make the save, as Desperado hit a haymaker and his finisher to defend the titles.
It was a match that told a great story that having a newer member in Master Wato, who only just debuted last year, was not ready to defeat the established and seasoned team. Wato is looking better and better with each match. The veterans keep the titles, and Wato shows he still has room to grow. All in all, it has set up for some great storytelling for the future.
Winner: El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru
The next match would see Never Openweight Champion Shingo Takagi defending against Empire muscle Jeff Cobb. The match started with a strong tie, leading into a heavy forearm exchange. Shingo would get the first advantage with a hiptoss, knocking Cobb down. Cobb’s athletic abilities saw him score a dropkick, sending Shingo to the floor. On the outside, Cobb tore Shingo apart, hitting a belly to belly onto the floor. Back in the ring, Cobb would use his strength and size to keep Shingo down. With an assist from the ropes, Shingo was able to Saito Suplex Cobb. It was a dive over the top rope for Shingo to take over the match. While Shingo’s explosive offense seemed to do the trick, until one opening allowed Cobb to Power Shingo to the mat. It was pure guts that allowed Shingo to hit a superplex and a wheelbarrel suplex. Cobb and Shingo would exchange suplexes, then slaps. The moves in the exchange kept getting bigger as both men tried to put the other away. Shingo would just escape the Tour of the Island, taking out the knee. Cobb would then fall victim to Shingo’s Made in Japan. Despite that, Jeff would hit Tour of the Islands, but landed heavy on his knee, making him unable to get the pin. Cobb would try to come back with a moonsault powerslam, but it wasn’t enough. Shingo was able to fight back and hit Last of the Dragon to defend the title.
This match can be summed up with the notes I took during the match. “Watch this match” surrounded by eight stars. This match was everything that Japanese Strong Style entails, with exciting power moves added in. This match immediately went into my catalog for match of the year. A great showing from two great wrestlers. If you were looking for a great match, this was the one.
Winner: Shingo Takagi
The next match saw Ex stable mates, and former tag team champions SANADA and EVIL facing off. EVIL had turned his back on LIJ, and finally SANADA had snapped and attacked EVIL to set up this match. Evil, of course, came out with his sidekick Dick Togo, who always seems to weasel his way into interfering in the matches. SANADA would take the early advantage with a Paradise Lock, parading around the ring as EVIL was left in the center, all tied up. Despite the early start, EVIL took over on the outside, ramming SANADA hard into the barricade. The slam was so hard, it plowed over the timekeeper’s table and the timekeeper himself. Within the chaos, Dick removed a turnbuckle pad and Evil was able to slam a chair around SANADA’s neck. Just as the chaos began to settle, EVIL rammed SANADA into the barricade again, knocking through the timekeeper a second time. SANADA came back with a low dropkick, then launching himself over the top ropes twice to take out EVIL and Togo. A trip from Togo when SANADA had a head full of steam saw EVIL take over. Togo, meanwhile, set up a table at ringside. EVIL and SANADA exchanged their signature moves, neither able to keep the upperhand. A blocked kick allowed EVIL to throw SANADA’s leg into the ref. Togo used the time to hit SANADA with a chair, allowing EVIL and TOGO to begin teaming up on SANADA. SANADA managed to fight the two off, as EVIL accidently knocked Togo off the apron and through the table. A stopped low blow allowed SANADA to hit two moonsaults and take the match.
Another fantastic match between two men that know each other so well. It was a grudge match that saw SANADA beat EVIL in his own style. The wrestling was on point, and with the added variable of Dick Togo, there wasn’t any certainty of who would win. SANADA looked strong, and was able to come out with a big victory.
The semi final for the night was for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight title, with Champion Taiji Ishimori defending against BoSJ winner Hiromu Takahashi. Hiromu showed little signs of fatigue from his battle with El Phantasmo from the night before. Both men had a hard time getting the early advantage, with neither starting off with any basic grappling, going straight for heavy, hard hitting moves. Hiromu would be the first to strike with a pop up powerbomb onto the apron, setting the pace and intensity of the whole match. Taiji would be able to take advantage of Hiromu’s hyper aggressive style to reverse a running dropkick into a modified powerbomb on the entrance ramp. From there, Taiji had the advantage, throwing Hiromu’s shoulder into an exposed turnbuckle. Hiromu would come back with a Wheelbarrel bomb onto the floor, showing that both men were going for the highest impact moves they could muster. Not quite done yet, Taiji would comeback with his sliding german suplex, following up by attacking the shoulder and arm of Hiromu, which would set up his BONE Lok finisher. Neither man wanted to walk away without the title, Hiromu hit a running Death Valley Driver and Taiji responded with a Canadian Destroyer. When they went to blows, Taiji was able to hit Hiromu with a counter elbow, dazing the challenger. Hiromu would show his heart and spirit, trying to get a strike on Taiji about two dozen times, running into that counter elbow each time. Hiromu was then sent right into the ringpost and was locked into the BONE Lock. Hiromu was able to escape to the ropes, to keep his hopes alive. A Timebomb from Hiromu wasn’t enough to put the Champion away, forcing Hiromu to go for Timebomb II. While Taiji fought hard to avoid the move, he eventually fell to it, losing the match and the title.
Another great match, that showed a different style of pro wrestling. High impact wrestling with neither man willing to call it quits. The pacing and placement of the whole card in night 2 of Wrestle Kingdom helped with the fantastic way the matches were perceived. Make no mistake, this match could main event any wrestling show around the world and be worth the money. This also makes Hiromu’s 4th time as Jr Champion, 5/6 out of Wrestle Kingdom matches, and 3/4 in title wins at Wrestle Kingdom.
Winner: Hiromu Takahashi
The main event would pit the newly crowned IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental champion, Kota Ibushi, against current Bullet Club Leader Jay White. Naturally, Jay came to the ring not only with loads of confidence, but with Gedo by his side. Ibushi had come off a hard grueling match with the former Champion Naito just the night before. Jay was able to take the early advantage in the match, with a rally from Ibushi falling flat as Gedo tripped Ibushi. On the outside, Ibushi was able to fight of Jay and Gedo together. Once back in the ring, Jay went to work, aiming most his attacks to Ibushi’s ribs. Every attempt of a rally from Ibushi was meet with eye gouges and rakes. The smothering attack didn’t allow for many strikes from Ibushi, and the ones he did get in were nothing Jay wasn’t able to quickly shake off. The attack from Jay was deliberate, targeting Ibushi anyway he could to deliver damage, moving to the leg to take away all of Ibushi’s weapons. A blocked Kiwi Crusher allowed Ibushi to begin a rally, winning a strike exchange. Despite hitting a kiwi crusher, Ibushi continued his assault with a backdrop and running knee. Jay would try to steal the victory with a backslide pin, his feet on the ropes for extra leverage, the same way Jay had beaten Ibushi in their previous meeting. Luckily, the ref caught it this time, opening Jay up to receive a few head kicks from Ibushi. Jay was able to chop Ibushi’s knee, before starting to lightly and mockingly kick at Ibushi’s head. This summoned what can only be described as “Murder Ibushi”. Ibushi entered a state, staring down Jay, while unflinching to Jay’s strikes. Ibushi went on the attack with hard, stiff strikes, ignoring the ref to continue the barrage. After taking a few more hard strikes than he bargained for, Jay even offered himself up for a pin, saying he was done. Ibushi wouldn’t have it, attacking again, and even threw the ref off him. That opening allowed Jay to strike a low blow, and bring the fight to the outside again. After decimating Ibushi on the outside, Jay continued to pour on the offense with a complete shot and deadlift german suplex. Ibushi would return the favor with a second rope german suplex, setting himself up for the kamigoye. Jay would dodge and hit a sleeper suplex, then went to Gedo to ask what he could do to put Ibushi away. Not done, Ibushi fought through Jay’s attacks to finally hit Kamigoye, and followed up with a phoenix splash. Before the ref could count the three, Gedo pulled the ref out of the ring. Gedo then rushed the ring to hit Ibushi with brass knuckles, but ate a Kamigoye instead. Getting the ref back in the ring, Ibushi then ran right into Jay’s Bladerunner. Ibushi kicked out, and now both men were barely able to stand as the match passed the 40-minute mark. Jay would apply his submission, the TTO, as he desperately begged Ibushi to give up. But the new Champion would fight to the ropes and then avoid another Bladerunner to hit a Kamigoye to the back of Jay’s head. Another Kamigoye to Jay’s face would finally be enough to win the match and retain the titles.
At 48:05 the main event took the record for being the longest main event in Wrestle Kingdom history. Yet, the match didn’t drag on, as the action was on point the entire match. It will be a match that will be in Match of the Year talks all year, and probably a heavy favorite to win Tokyo Sport’s best of the year as well. With this win, Kota Ibushi has finally climbed the mountain and taken the top spot in New Japan.
Winner: Kota Ibushi
Another Wrestle Kingdom in the books, and another show that easily has the year started in the right direction. Once again, the show lived up to the hype of being one of the best nights of wrestling, with four matches in strong contendership to take match of the year honors. New Champions, and the report of Jay White’s plan to leave New Japan leaves the company in limbo as it moves forward, to find new contenders. New Japan now looks ahead at 2021, with a new captain at the helm, and plenty more to offer in great wrestling matches.
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