It is the most wonderful time of the year. The biggest show of the NJPW year, Wrestle Kingdom 15, is back at its traditional January 4th date. This will be the second straight year with two exciting nights of Wrestle Kingdom on January 4th and 5th. That is eight hours of New Japan action over two nights. Who needs sleep….am I right?
The first night of Wrestle Kingdom 15 is a stacked card that has been build well over the Pandemic filled 2020. The main card will have six matches, three titles on the line, and some special singles matches as well. After the unique year that was 2020, it will be great to see New Japan get off 2021 to a strong start. Here is the preview of Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night One:
Winner Faces IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion on Night Two
Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Phantasmo
What an opening match to Wrestle Kingdom.
Hiromu Takahashi had an emotional 2020. He made it all the way to the New Japan Cup semifinals only to lose it an emotional match to Kazuchika Okada. He spent the rest of the summer dealing with Evil’s betrayal of Los Ingobernables De Japon. The tough summer ended with Takahashi losing the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion to Taiji Ishimori. How would he recover?
Hiromu entered the Best of Super Juniors tournament in the fall of 2020. He was able to make the finals and defeat El Desperado in a great match. Hiromu had won the opportunity to face Ishimori in a title rematch, but he refused. He wanted to face the winner of the next night’s Super J Cup tournament first.
El Phantasmo had missed most of 2020 because of the Pandemic. In his first New Japan appearance in nearly ten months, he defeated Lio Rush, Blake Christian, and ACH to win his second Super J Cup. What will El Phantasmo and Hiromu Takahashi give us in the opening match of Wrestle Kingdom 15? The chance to face the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship is at stake.
IWGP Tag Team Championship:
Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) (c) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
The Dangerous Tekkers had some great success in 2020. They won the tag titles at Dominion in July of 2020. They even successfully defended it twice the rest of the year. The hot streak ended when they lost to FinJuice and Guerrillas of Destiny to lose the World Tag League.
Guerrillas of Destiny would go on to win their first-ever World Tag League in their return to Japan after a ten-month absence. The six-time tag team champions are going into another match in the Tokyo Dome. It is incredible to think that Guerrillas haven’t ever won in the Tokyo Dome. Can they break that unlucky streak against the talented members of Suzuki-gun?
For the IWGP United States Right to Challenge Contract
Satoshi Kojima vs. KENTA
KENTA wants Jon Moxley. This summer, after winning the New Japan Cup USA, he has been demanding his IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship title match ever since on social media. The Pandemic and his AEW responsibilities have prevented Moxley from defending the title in nearly a year. In the meantime, KENTA has defended his contract on numerous occasions.
Since he won’t get Jon Moxley in the Tokyo Dome, he was supposed to defend his contract against Juice Robinson on January 4th. But an injury to Robinson will prevent that match from occurring well. In a huge surprise, the newest opponent for KENTA will be the 50-year-old Satoshi Kojima. Could the veteran shock KENTA in the Tokyo Dome? It would be an unexpected upset, to say the least.
NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Great-O-Khan
On the final night of this year’s G1 Climax, the mysterious Great-O-Khan debuted to help Will Ospreay defeat Kazuchika Okada. It was the beginning of a new faction, the Empire. What would Great-O-Khan do for an encore?
He seemed to put his eyes on the “Ace” Hiroshi Tanahashi. On the Road to Tokyo Dome shows, he seemed to begin a pattern of attacking the knee of Tanahashi with vicious chair shots. This all led to a special single match on the first night of Wrestle Kingdom. Can Tanahashi overcome his injuries to defeated the younger Great-O-Khan at the famous Tokyo Dome? Or will this be the beginning of the end for “The Ace”?
Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay
This could be the show-stealer of 2021, and it will occur on January 4th.
Kazuchika Okada fought Will Ospreay on the final night of the G1 Climax tournament. Will Ospreay betrayed his former Chaos stablemate to pick up the cheap victory that night. Ospreay quickly formed a new group called The Empire. It is now time for some revenge for Okada in the Tokyo Dome.
Will Ospreay missed a huge part of 2020 because of the Pandemic. He was on the brink of some great things in the Heavyweight division before the Pandemic. Can he defeat the Rainmaker on the biggest stage possible? If he does, it could be the start of the Empire’s dominance of New Japan Pro Wrestling.
NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15
IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi
The main event of the first night should be a great one. The great rivalry between Tetsuya Natio and Kota Ibushi occurs for the ninth time. The last time they met in singles action was at Dominion 2019, which had a famous and scary neck bump by Kota Ibushi.
Tetsuya Natio had quite a 2020. He finally achieved his dream of winning the big one in the Tokyo Dome, defeating Okada to win the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 14. He would defend it a few times before losing in shocking fashion to former stablemate Evil at Dominion. Naito won the title back in the big stadium show in Jingu later that summer. Can Naito have a repeat successful performance in Tokyo Dome in 2021?
Kota Ibushi had a much different road in 2020. He lost the World Tag Team Championship at Dominion. Ibushi seemed to turn around his year with an incredible win in the always grueling G1 Climax tournament. But another shocking twist was yet to come. Kota Ibushi became the first-ever G1 rights holder to lose his title shot to Jay White, a Power Struggle.
Naito did the honorable thing and gave Ibushi a shot at the Double Championships at the biggest stage of them all anyway. Can Ibushi finally overcome one of his biggest rivals? And just as important, will either have anything left for Jay White on night two?