NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One | Preview

It is the most wonderful time of the year as New Japan Pro Wrestling presents NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One. It is time once again for Wrestle Kingdom!

The biggest show of the New Japan Pro Wrestling year, Wrestle Kingdom, is back on its traditional January 4th and 5th dates as NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One is up ahead.. But this year, we are in for something different. We don’t just have two nights of Wrestle Kingdom. We have a third night as well! And it is going to be New Japan vs. Pro Wrestling Noah on January 8th. So that could be nearly twelve hours of New Japan action over three nights. Who needs sleep in 2022, right?

The first night of Wrestle Kingdom 16 is a truly stacked card that has been built well over 2021. The main card will have nine matches, four titles on the line, and an emotional return as well. After the tough year that was 2021, it will be great to see New Japan get 2022 off to a great start. Here is the preview of Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One:

[Photo: NJPW1972]

KOPW 2022 New Japan Ranbo

The always enjoyable battle royal will open Wrestle Kingdom Night One. We usually get some surprising returns and New Japan legends making appearances during this fun match. The match has some real stakes. The final four will compete for the new KOPW trophy on January 5th. Will the magical reign of Toru Yano finally end in 2022?

In a special single’s match, Yoh (shown on the left) faces former friend Sho (shown on the right) [Photo: NJPW1972]

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One
Yoh  vs. Sho

As Roppongi 3K, Sho & Yoh became five-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. However, the great tag team came to a shocking end when Sho turned on Yoh after a disappointing run in the Super Junior Tag League this past August. Sho even joined the Bullet Club faction a month later.

Yoh made the finals of the Best of Super Juniors where Sho attempted to ruin the epic final. Can Yoh finally take care of his former partner at Wrestle Kingdom? The stakes are certainly high in this very personal match.

Rysuke Taguchi, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Rocky Romero (shown on the left) battle KENTA, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori (shown on the right) [Photo: NJPW1972]

Rocky Romero, Ryusuke Taguchi & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA, Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo 

It is some chaotic six-man tag team action to set up Wrestle Kingdom Night Two. Hiroshi Tanahashi will be preparing for a brutal, no disqualification IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship match against KENTA. Who will gain the advantage before their huge match on January 5th?

The other four competitors in this six-man tag team match will be the challengers in the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team title match on January 5th. Who will gain the advantage here? With the Bullet Club involved, you can expect some underhanded tactics in this match.

Sanada, Bushi & Tetsuya Naito, (shown on the left) battle Jeff Cobb, Will Ospreay & Great-O-Khan (shown on the right) [Photo: NJPW1972]

Los Ingobernables De Japon (SANADA, BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito) vs. United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Will Ospreay & Great-O-Khan)

At Wrestle Kingdom 15, the United Empire was supposed to establish themselves as a dominant force in New Japan Pro Wrestling. It didn’t work out in 2021 as they lost all their major matches in the Tokyo Dome. But in 2022, they have a shot at revenge.

Jeff Cobb and Great-O-Khan will be seeing their January 5th opponents Tetsuya Naito and SANADA in this six-man tag team match. Will Ospreay will also be wrestling his first match in Japan since May 5th, 2021. Can he remind us why he is one of the best in the world before his huge IWGP World Heavyweight Championship match on Night Two? It will be another fun match in the Tokyo Dome.

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One
Katsuyori Shibata (shown on the left) faces a mystery opponent in a special catch wrestling matchup. [Photo: NJPW1972]

Katsuyori Shibata vs. X
(Catch Wrestling Rules)

It seemed likely Katsuyori Shibata would never wrestle again. At Sakura Genesis in 2017, Shibata lost his IWGP Heavyweight Championship match to Kazuchika Okada. After the match, he suffered a subdural hematoma, a potentially life threatening medical emergency. He survived but it forced the great Katsuyori Shibata to retire from professional wrestling.

That was why it was shocking to see him appear again at the G1 Finals this past October and have a five minute grappling exhibition. He will have a “Catch Wrestling Rules” match on Night One of Wrestle Kingdom. No strikes will be allowed but it will be great to see him in the New Japan ring once more.

The other unanswered question is who will Katsuyori Shibata be facing on Night One? We don’t have the answer to that mystery just yet. This big surprise will just add to the huge excitement of seeing Shibata in a pro wrestling ring yet again. 

For the NEVER Openweight Championship, the champion Tomohiro Ishii (shown on the left) defends the title against EVIL (shown on the right) [Photo: NJPW1972]

NJPW presents Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One
NEVER Openweight Championship:
Tomohiro Ishii (c)
vs. EVIL

EVIL had a problem. He has never defeated Tomohiro Ishii in four previous singles matches. At Summer Struggle 2021, he finally defeated the “Stone Pitbull” in singles action. Sure it took some cheating from other members of Bullet Club but that is a very common tactic for the vicious group.

At Wrestle Kingdom 16, Ishii will put his NEVER Openweight Championship on the line against EVIL. Can Ishii defeat his rival once again? He better watch out for more Bullet Club members if he is going to remain in the Tokyo Dome on January 4th. It should be a hard hitting match for sure.

For IWGP Tag Team Championship, the champions Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr (shown on the right) battle Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi (shown on the left) [Photo: NJPW1972]

NJPW presents Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One
IWGP Tag Team Championship:
Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) (c) vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI

The Dangerous Tekkers had controlled the tag team division for the majority of 2021. That made it so shocking when they lost to Goto and YOSHI-HASHI in the World Tag League this past December. The CHAOS team would go on to win the entire World Tag League tournament and earn a shot against the IWGP Tag Team Champions at Wrestle Kingdom.

We know the Dangerous Tekkers are not above cheating to keep their tag team gold. But YOSHI-HASHI is coming off arguably the best year of his entire career. Can he pull off the biggest win of his career on the biggest possible stage? It will be fun to see him try on January 4th.

For the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship, El Desperado (shown on the right) defends the title against Hiromu Takahashi (shown on the left) [Photo: NJPW1972]

NJPW presents Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:
El Desperado (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi

It seemed like the start of a wonderful 2021 campaign at Wrestle Kingdom 15 for Hiromu Takahashi. He defeated Taiji Ishimori to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship for the fourth time on Night Two. But the difficult year that was 2021 hit Takahashi just one month later.

Takahashi had to vacate the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in February 2021 after suffering a pectoral muscle injury. It would take a long time but he won the Best of the Super Juniors in December to earn another shot at the title at Wrestle Kingdom 16. He is going against a dangerous El Desperado on January 4th for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.

During their last meeting during the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, El Desperado and Hiromu Takahashi fought to a thirty minute time limit draw. Can the two biggest names in the Junior Heavyweight division steal the show once again? El Desperado ruled the division for most of 2021 but can he overcome his long time rival in 2022? It could be the match of the night in the semi-main event.

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One
For the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, Shingo Takagi (shown on the left) defends his championship against Kazuchika Okada (shown on the right) [Photo: NJPW1972]

NJPW presents Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship:
Shingo Takagi (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada

The main event of the first night should be a great one. It is time for Shingo Takagi to defend his IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against one of the greats, Kazuchika Okada. It will be a rematch of their epic IWGP World Heavyweight Championship match at NJPW Dominion 2021. Takagi won that night. Can “The Rainmaker” return the favor at Wrestle Kingdom 16?

Shingo has held the title with honor since winning it this past June. He has defended the title on three separate occasions since that fateful day. But facing Okada in the Tokyo Dome is an entirely different level.

Okada has had quite a path since losing the World title at Wrestle Kingdom 14. He hasn’t held the world title since January 2020. But something seemed to click at the G1 Climax tournament this past fall as he dominated the loaded field and won the G1 Climax final over Kota Ibushi. That earned him a rematch against Takagi for the title.

One of the questions that we have coming into the main event is Okada has been carrying around the old IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Will we see a return of that historic belt if Okada wins? And with Ospreay waiting in the wings for the winner of January 5th? It could just be another special night at Wrestle Kingdom.


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