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Kevin’s NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night Two Review

January 5, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Wrestle Kingdom 15
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Kevin’s NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night Two Review  

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night Two
January 5th, 2021 | Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 7,801

Damn, the attendance is quite lower than night one. I quite enjoyed that show and am hoping this show bests it.

KOPW: Bad Luck Fale vs. BUSHI vs. Chase Owens vs. Toru Yano
The final four from last night’s RAMBO. BUSHI is a random entrant but I like him so it’s all good. The Bullet Club boys mocked the Fingerpoke of Doom to start. If only that happened on 1/4 instead of 1/5. Lots of the usual shenanigans here. The Bullet Club duo worked together, Yano was scared but got in cheap shots, and BUSHI kind of just existed. The finish saw Yano hitting Owens and Fale with low blows and scoring the cheap pin on BUSHI after 7:34. That allowed him to now hold the trophy from each year. Give Yano everything. He’s one of the company’s MVPs. [**½]

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru [c] vs. Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi
Master Wato has been okay so far, Taguchi is a vet, Kanemaru sucks, and Desperado is awesome. Whoever gave Wato and Taguchi a mash-up theme did a bad job. I don’t know if it was Tokyo Dome nerves but Wato looked rough here. You could tell that he was giving it his all but a few things didn’t click all that well and it caused some issues. Both challengers played their roles well, but the story here was the champions. They looked tremendous and worked like a well-oiled machine. Desperado is on a hot streak right now and he’s going to drag Kanemaru along with him. I liked some of Taguchi’s run as even though he’s lost a step, he still gets a reaction and is fun. Desperado got the big win with Pinche Loco at the 13:20 mark. A good tag match that would’ve been better if Wato was on his game and if the division mattered. [***]

NEVER Openweight Championship: Shingo Takagi [c] vs. Jeff Cobb
BIG MEATY MEN BUMPING MEAT! Also, everyone is so tan on these shows. Cobb is someone who hasn’t clicked much for me in NJPW. He’s always good but not great. That said, his new attitude with The Empire has helped it work better and this is his big opportunity. They opened by trading blows but quickly progressed to bigger moves. Shingo seemed to realize that he was in trouble and opted for rare offense like a tope con hilo. Cobb is known to toss people around, regardless of size, with relative ease but Shingo was doing it back to him here. These guys went at it. I loved moments like Cobb catching the sliding lariat, Shingo busting out a superplex, and Cobb doing a goddamn moonsault slam. When Shingo turned him inside out on a Pumping Bomber, you could sense that it was nearly over. Last of the Dragon followed to wrap this one up in 21:11. Outstanding stuff. Shingo is one of the few guys carrying NJPW and making me care still. That was Cobb’s official coming out party and the stellar match he needed to have. I loved this. [****½]

Their G1 match last year was booty. Regardless, there’s story here and they are big names. If only this was for the IC Title and it wasn’t being wasted in the double dash nonsense. It worked to give Naito a big moment last year but should be split again. Honestly, it’s hard to get into these two because EVIL spent the year having overbooked matches and SANADA peaked like three years ago. Commentary seemed to position this as something of a number one contender’s match, which is only mildly interesting. Thankfully, the match itself surpassed their G1 30 effort, though was a step or two behind what they did in the G1 26. You got the sense that SANADA wanted to win with his style, which helped him in the G1. EVIL combated that by being vicious and using the underhanded tactics he’s become known for. That backfired on him when he was sent into an exposed turnbuckle. Dick Togo got involved after a ref bump but SANADA managed to send him packing and trap EVIL in Skull End. As he usually does like a moron, SANADA let go of the hold when he had it won and went for his moonsaults, with the second one failing. Like, how dumb is SANADA? That should’ve been the finish but it dragged on a bit longer and SANADA still won with a moonsault in 23:40. Another good match but certainly not one that really got me invested. These two guys have reached new career highs in 2020 but have hi walls in terms of great matches. [***]

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Taiji Ishimori [c] vs. Hiromu Takahashi
I’ll never forget their BOSJ Finals a few years ago that wowed me (****¾). Subsequent bouts have also been great. Hiromu in the semi-main event slot like he deserves. Like most of their matches, this got off to a pretty wild start with tons of action and a crazy pace. It’s just how these two operate and it is stellar to watch each time out. Look, I’m not going to sit here and recap a bunch of stuff. They did way too much shit for that. Instead, I’ll focus on why I liked this so much. They had counters for everything and it never felt like they were doing it for the sake of cool moves. Their history made it so they knew each other well and everything made sense. It wasn’t just the exchanges though. They also managed to sprinkle in some surprisingly brutal stuff, playing into their rivalry. You got the sense that it was both about being better and also about how much they disliked each other. Hiromu basically begging for more forearm shots was the kind of thing you only usually see in NEVER Title matches. Honest question but is there a better big match wrestler than Hiromu Takahashi? He once again delivers in the Tokyo Dome and feels like the top star of the division, while Ishimori is no slouch. Hiromu regained the title after 25:31 with Time Bomb 2. Spectacular. There are only about 8 guys I care about in this company and Hiromu is at the top of the list. [****½]

If you’re wondering who I actually care about in NJPW, it’s Hiromu, Shingo, Tanahashi, White, Ibushi, SHO, Ishii, and Desperado.

IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championships: Kota Ibushi [c] vs. Jay White
Kota beat him in the G1 Finals in 2019 (****) but White won three in a row at WK 14 (**¼), the G1 (****), and Power Struggle (****). I loved the way this started. White said he wouldn’t step outside and forced Gedo to get off the apron and let this be clean. Then, as soon as the referee had his back turned, Gedo tripped Ibushi. Jay White is a spectacular heel and it’s why he’s so good. Take Kenny Omega as a top NJPW guy. His whole deal was just having great matches. He was a better Dolph Ziggler. Jay doesn’t give a shit, he just wants to win at all costs and doesn’t care who likes it. You could see things pick up when Jay hit a vicious back suplex on the apron. An Ibushi match doesn’t start until he hurts his neck. I loved that White used the same game plan from his previous win. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. He picked Kota apart and hit him with everything but right now, Ibushi is on another level. He could not be broken. They wonderfully played into the Power Struggle match as Jay putting his feet on the ropes was caught by the referee this time around. Once that happened, it seemed like Kota kicked into another gear and Jay was reeling. He knew he was in trouble. I did like that he applied the TTO as it played into both of their histories with Tanahashi. It hit a point where Jay literally laid down, seemingly giving up. It seemed odd at first but when you consider his post-show comments, you get it. He was literally at a loss. He did everything in his power but realized Ibushi was too much for him. Ibushi just slapped the shit out of him instead and of course, White answered with a low blow. Gedo saved White after a Phoenix Splash but ate a Kamigoye himself. Ibushi apparently became the first man to kick out of the Blade Runner. Ibushi survived another submission and eventually won after a whopping 48:05 with Kamigoye to the back of the head and one to the face. I usually don’t dig marathons but like WALTER/Bate in 2019, that was outstanding. They told a masterful story and didn’t really waste any time for the sake of it. Jay did everything possible and couldn’t beat Ibushi. Breathtaking and the best WK main event I’ve ever seen. That’s right Okada, Omega, etc. [****¾]

Post-match, SANADA showed up to come face to face with Ibushi in a match I don’t have interest in.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
My goodness. If SANADA/EVIL was better, this could’ve been an all-timer. The KOPW and Jr. Tag Titles were about what I expected. However, the other three matches delivered in huge ways and were all different. A hard hitting NEVER Title classic, the junior heavyweights being amazing, and an epic main event.

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Wrestle Kingdom 15, Kevin Pantoja