New Japan Pro Wrestling began the biggest two nights of the year on Monday. Wrestle Kingdom 15 kicked off in grand fashion, with a thrilling first night of wrestling action. Two titles changed hands, grudges were settled, and The Rainmaker lariat returned. It was a much needed cap to a tough and trying year for New Japan wrestlers and fans alike.
The show kicked off with the return of the New Japan Rumble. The 22-man battle royal only saw 21 men compete, as a unique stipulation led to quite possibly the easiest win in the history of the Tokyo Dome. Toru Yano, the 22nd man in the match, won the match before ever getting in the ring. The match was unlike most Battle Royals, in that the last four men were declared the winners. Yano entered the match, as the fifth from last man was eliminated, thus including Yano in the winner’s circle. Yano, Bad Luck Fale, BUSHI & Chase Owens will all advance to the second night of Wrestle Kingdom, where they will compete for the provisional KOPW 2021 trophy.
Hiromu Takahashi snuck out a win over El Phantasmo, in a match that pitted the Best of Super Jr. 27 winner against the Super J Cup 2020 winner. Phantasmo, cocky about getting NJPW to open their wallets for the licenses to his theme song, let pride get the better of him, as Takahashi rolled him up in the middle of ELP’s salute to Bullet Club leaders of the past. Takahashi will go on to face IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishmori on night 2.
Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa finally broke their Tokyo Dome curse on Monday. The second generation team defeated Suzuki-gun’s Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi to become the record-breaking seven-time IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, finally surpassing Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan. They also absconded with Takashi Iizuka’s Iron Fingers of Doom, that Iizuka gifted to upon is retirement.
After the match, Jon Moxley appeared in the NJPW Strong arena to let the world know that he still has the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship, that he’s the boogeyman, and that he’s coming. KENTA then settled all dispute over who Moxley would defend against. He defeated Satoshi Kojima, who was replacing an injured Juice Robinson.
After a sanitizing intermission, grudge matches took center stage. Hiroshi Tanahashi battled the dominant new rookie Great-O-Khan, in a match that saw Khan take The Ace to his physical limits. Tanahashi hadn’t won a match since this past fall’s G1 Climax and seemed newly energized by the win. Also getting energized in a win over The Empire, Kazuchika Okada finally revived The Rainmaker lariat to the delight of Tokyo Dome fans. He pinned the Empire Don Will Ospreay after 35-minutes of intense, violent action.
In the main event, the Golden Star Kota Ibushi defeated IWGP Double Champion Tetsuya Naito in a 30-minute instant classic. So stunned by the win, was Ibushi, that he attempted to pin Naito after the final bell, disbelieving until the referee finally explained that he already won. Naito then presented both IWGP Belts to Ibushi in an emotional display of sportsmanship.
The sportsmanship was short-lived, as Jay White interrupted the celebration and reminded Ibushi that he’ll have to defend those title belts on Tuesday.
Here are the full results from NJPW Wrestle Kingdom Night 1. The show is available on NJPWWorld.com & FITE TV.
- Pre-Show: 22-Man New Japan Rumble (Final four participants advance to four-way match for KOPW 2021) (34:40)
Finalists: Toru Yano, Bad Luck Fale, BUSHI & Chase Owens
- Best of Super Junior 27 Winner vs. Super J-Cup 2020 Winner Match: Hiromu Takahashi def. El Phantasmo by pinfall via Rollup. (17:46)
- IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) def. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) (c) by pinfall. (19:18)
Tanga Loa pinned Zack Sabre Jr. via Ape Shit.
- IWGP United States Heavyweight Right To Challenge Match: KENTA (c) def. Satoshi Kojima by pinfall via GTS. (14:12)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Great-O-Khan by pinfall via High Fly Flow. (17:13)
- Kazuchika Okada def. Will Ospreay pinfall via Rainmaker. (35:41)
- IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental Heavyweight Double Championships Match: Kota Ibushi def. Tetsuya Naito (c) by pinfall via Kamigoye. (31:18)