The NEVER Openweight Championship is a title with a rocky history. It was first created for the newest talent in New Japan Pro Wrestling and to blur the weight divisions. However, over the past few years, the belt has been like a hot potato passing from heavyweight wrestler to heavyweight wrestler without any consistency. Hiroshi Tanahashi wins the NEVER Openweight Championship.
That all seemed to change when Shingo Takagi first won the belt. He was adamant to be a fighting champion and take all challengers regardless of the place on the card and weight. The Dragon was giving the title a new lease of life and increasing its prestige with every defense.
After not being able to defend the title at Wrestle Kingdom, Shingo took matters into his own hands and challenged the one and only Hiroshi Tanahashi. This was important for the NEVER division. The majority of people fighting for this title have been mid-card players. For a former IWGP Heavyweight champion to accept the challenge showed the journey the NEVER title had been on.
It was also the first singles meeting between Shingo Takagi and Hiroshi Tanahashi, two of the best athletes in New Japan. There were high expectations for this match and, luckily, fans were not disappointed.
Hiroshi Tanahashi wins NEVER Openweight Championship.
The match started quickly, with both men eager to gain the upper hand from the get-go. It was the perfect strategy as Tanahashi and Shingo have different styles in the ring. The Ace prefers a more traditional Japanese style combined with a high-risk offense. Whereas Shingo relied on his strength, power, and athleticism to domineer his opponent.
What was most surprising was the speed at which the match moved. Within the first two minutes, both men had already endured a lot of damage, especially to their legs. Fans could see Tanahashi and Shingo limping across the ring and even struggling to execute some of their patented offense. It was another example of just how much both men wanted to win this match.
.@Takagi__Shingo "Pumping Bomber"
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) January 30, 2021
One thing that made this match even more exciting was how perfectly the wrestling styles blended. The action also emphasized the importance of the defense. Both men threw everything into the match and took risks that were more suited to IWGP matches. Despite his knee injuries, Tanahashi flew off the top of the turnbuckle onto the mat. Shingo used all of his power to hit spine-tingling lariats and chops, which echoed across the silent arena.
Even in the ending moments, with both men damaged, Tanahashi and Shingo kept up the pace. To many, it felt like the further along they got, they each had a renewed sense of adrenaline and energy. It meant that moves that should have been effective, such as the lariat and Twist and Shout, only led to a one-count.
As Tanahashi was declared the winner, fans saw mutual respect between the two competitors. Shingo announced that he wanted one more match against the Ace, and fans would happily see these two workhorses battle in the squared circle again.
However, as always, someone was there to ruin Tanahashi’s victory. As the crowd was ready for one last air guitar encore, the Ace was jumped by the Great O-Khan. O-Khan then declared himself as the next challenger.