IWGP Tag Team Championships, a special grudge bout and night two implications on January 4
After the events of this past weekend in both the Nippon Budokan and the US, three new matches have been added to night one of Wrestle Kingdom 15 in the Tokyo Dome on January 4 2021.
Already announced for night one in the Tokyo Dome, Tetsuya Naito battles Kota Ibushi for the double IWGP Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championships. After Kota Ibushi lost his G1 Right to Challenge briefcase to Jay White at Power Struggle, it seemed as if Ibushi’s route to the Tokyo Dome had gone. Yet Naito’s personal pride would not let El Ingobernable get away with wrestling just one main event in the Tokyo Dome, and he instead issued his own challenge to the Golden Star for January 4.
With an intense and incredibly dangerous rivalry existing between the two, Kota Ibushi has described his relationship with the double champ as ‘like playing with fire’; spectacular but incredibly dangerous. Ibushi and Naito will be an intense war no doubt on the first night of Wrestle Kingdom, and the winner still has to survive night two against jay White before they can walk out with all the gold.
Also already announced is Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay. When Ospreay was slated to face Kazuchika Okada in the last night of A Block action during G1 CLimax 30, the two men walked into Ryogoku as best friends with a brotherly bond, but walked out as mortal enemies. Ospreay enlisted the help of Great-O-Khan and Bea Priestley, and with the addition of Jeff Cobb during World Tag League, created THE EMPIRE. Stating that he was ‘tired of being in (Okada)’s shadow,’ Ospreay vowed to make himself more famous than the Rainmaker ever was, and that he’d do it by defeating him in the Tokyo Dome. A task easier said than done.
Newly added to the January 4 card is Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Great-O-Khan. Barely two months since his shocking appearance at Will Ospreay’s side in THE EMPIRE, Great-O-Khan has nevertheless been nothing short of fearsome. Though his first singles match against Kazuchika Okada at Power Struggle ended in a referee stoppage, he rallied in World Tag League, forming an imposing team with Jeff Cobb.
The duo stayed in World Tag League conversation until they were near the very end, but it was how they started the campaign that made the most impact. O-Khan and Cobb destroyed HenarACE, and O-Khan in particular brutalised Tanahashi’s knee. That damage was only made worse December 11 in the Budokan, where assisted with a steel chair, O-Khan once again delivered blow after blow to Tanahashi’s knee, before declaring that he should prostate himself at the feet of THE EMPIRE.
Tanahashi has had to endure a severe crisis of confidence in 2020, as it has seemed his body has been unable to keep up with the Ace’s still stratospheric reputation, aura and competitive desire. Yet now The Ace must fight with all he has for the generation of NJPW he has helped create, and now lies under threat of conquest.
Also official for night one at Wrestle Kingdom, the Guerrillas of Destiny will face Dangerous Tekkers for the IWGP Tag Team Championships. G.o.D are familiar with the Tokyo Dome spot, but are unfamiliar with walking in on January 4 as the challengers rather than the champions. This year, Dangerous Tekkers have proven to be more than worthy of the IWGP Tag Team Championships, with a commanding performance through title matches and the World Tag League, but they still haven’t beaten the Guerrillas, a fact that forced them out of Friday’s Nippon Budokan on tie breakers.
With the not insignificant aid of KENTA, who levelled Juice Robinson with his IWGP US Heavyweight Right to Challenge briefcase, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa picked up the World Tag League trophies, a first for them in some five years of tag competition in NJPW. Finally the brothers have overcome one of their tag team ‘curses,’ but now another awaits. Can G.o.D earn their first win inside the Tokyo Dome on January 4 and pick up a record setting seventh IWGP reign? Or will Dangerous Tekkers cement their own tag team legacy on January 4?
Hiromu Takahashi will take on El Phantasmo in a special singles match on January 4. On December 11, Hiromu bested El Desperado in a deeply personal and emotional matchup, top lift his second Best of the Super Jr. trophy. After such an incredible display and hard fought win, Hiromu would be forgiven for immediately targeting IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori, but post match, he issued a different challenge instead.
Declaring that he couldn’t be satisfied without knowing that he was truly the top contender to the junior heavyweight title, Hiromu issued a challenge to the winner of the Super J-Cup, a man who turned out to be El Phantasmo. Despite being pushed to the very limit in each successive match of the one night tournament, ELP came out on top of the field of eight Saturday night, even though it took more than a few shady tactics to do so. Phantasmo reacted to his tournament win with typical disrespect, smashing the Super J-Cup trophy for the second year in a row before walking out with the golden jacket.
ELP has no respect for the legacy of the tournament he has now won back to back, but covets the grand stage of the Tokyo Dome, and covets the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship that his own partner Taiji Ishimori holds. Who will be the ultimate junior heavyweight tournament wrestler, and who will face Ishimori for the gold on night two?