Wrestle Kingdom. It’s the biggest event of the New Japan calendar year that starts proper in the beginning of the year. This major event will feature two nights of action in the Tokyo Dome. We start this preview with Night One of Wrestle Kingdom 15.
NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night One Card
- New Japan Rumble
- El Phantasmo (Super J Cup Winner) vs. Hiromu Takahashi (Best of the Super Juniors Winner)
- IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) (c) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga)
- IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship Briefcase: KENTA (c) vs. Satoshi Kojima
- Special Singles Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. The Great O-Khan
- Special Singles Match: Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay
- IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championship Double Title Match: Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Kota Ibushi (G1 Climax 30 Winner)
The New Japan Rumble
The New Japan Rumble for many years was a staple of New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom show. It was a yearly tradition, but for the last two years, it has been absent. Wrestle Kingdom 15, however, will feature the match’s return. The rules are simple: a wrestler is eliminated from the match by pinfall, submission, DQ, or being thrown over the top. There are usually twenty participants in this rumble with the winner of the match receiving bragging rights alone. This year, the winner will receive a match for the Provisional KOPW 2021 Trophy, previously won by Toru Yano, on Night Two. This match usually features legends of the wrestling business and many men who weren’t booked for this show on night two, such as Hirooki Goto, Minoru Suzuki & Tomohiro Ishii. It’s a match that is truly unpredictable as anyone could win this and a possibility of a push could happen also.
El Phantasmo (Super J Cup Winner) vs. Hiromu Takahashi (Best of the Super Juniors Winner)
On December 12th, Hiromu Takahashi would have an unforgettable bout against El Desperado in the finals of the Best of the Super Juniors. After winning the tournament, Takahashi challenged the winner of the Super J Cup in America on the next night. The winner of that tournament would be El Phantasmo. ELP would defeat Lio Rush, Blake Christian, and ACH in the finals to win the tournament. It’s important to note that this match is a #1 contenders match for Night Two; the winner will face Taiji Ishimori for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. These two don’t have a history, however. We could see the former IWGP Tag Champions face each other on Night Two or we could see a Wrestle Kingdom 13 Rematch with Takahashi battling Ishimori.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) (c) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga)
On December 12th, Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga would defeat Juice Robinson & David Finlay to win the World Tag League, NJPW’s annual heavyweight tag team tournament. Winning this tournament would lead to this title match at Wrestle Kingdom. GOD will face the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, Dangerous Tekkers. Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi have held the titles for about 6 months now. Could this night be the night where their reign ends or will Dangerous Tekkers continue to prove how great of a tag team they are going into 2021?
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship Briefcase: KENTA (c) vs. Satoshi Kojima
With the IWGP US Heavyweight Champion Jon Moxley being currently inactive due to the pandemic, the next challenger for this belt is KENTA. In August, KENTA won a tournament known as the New Japan Cup USA. Following his win, KENTA would establish challengers for the briefcase, similar to the G1 Climax Briefcase. KENTA was scheduled for a program with Juice Robinson at Wrestle Kingdom 15. Due to an injury sustained by Robinson, Satoshi Kojima would establish himself as the next challenger for the briefcase. This seems like a match where KENTA would pick up an easy victory against a legend in the business. However, Kojima last year had intentions of winning one more championship in his career. This could be the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship before Moxley eventually returns.
Special Singles Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. The Great O-Khan
At the end of the G1 Climax, The Great O-Khan, formerly known as Tomoyuki Oka as a Young Lion, would make his NJPW return as the muscle of the company’s newest faction, The Empire. The Great O-Khan would immediately enter feud with Kazuchika Okada; the newcomer would lose the feud. The Empire would go into the World Tag League with mixed results. However, they scored a win over the team of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Toa Henare. This would lead to the singles match at hand. The Great O-Khan is one of the examples of a possible main event star going against the “Ace” of the company, similar to Jay White in 2018. This match is important in that it could spark a promising 2021 for The Empire.
Special Singles Match: Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay
In the G1 Climax tournament, Will Ospreay and Kazuchika Okada met in the final night of A Block action. In this bout between CHAOS members, Ospreay would turn heel against Okada with the help of The Great O-Khan. Ospreay formed The Empire, leaving CHAOS. For many months, both men would be at each other’s throats leading to Wrestle Kingdom 15. Okada’s recent Wrestle Kingdom matches have been unlucky. He lost at Wrestle Kingdom 13 and dropped the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 14. Since the latter loss, Okada hasn’t been the same. He didn’t even have motivation to recapture the belt, instead creating the King of Pro Wrestling trophy. The streak of bad luck seems to continue to follow Okada. With this in mind, could he be the one to end The Empire’s tyranny by defeating his former stablemate in the c0-main event of Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night One?
IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championship Double Title Match: Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Kota Ibushi (G1 Climax 30 Winner)
Tetsuya Naito made history at Wrestle Kingdom 14 by defeating Jay White and Kazuchika Okada to win the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships. While the reign was focused on the eventual feud with EVIL, it guaranteed a title match against the winner of the G1 Climax briefcase. In this tournament, Kota Ibushi would go into the finals against SANADA and would win this tournament. This briefcase run wouldn’t last long, however. At the next big show, Power Struggle, Ibushi would lose the briefcase to Jay White.
With the theme of defending the titles both nights, Naito will now have two obstacles with the G1 Climax winner and the current briefcase holder. Ibushi & Naito have a long and brutal history, going back to their 2019 series for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. In that feud, Naito would end up on top. This isn’t to say that neither Ibushi or White are threats to the belt. This is especially true given the win/loss records between White and Naito; their main event encounter will take place on Night Two. What will happen at Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night One? Regardless, the event will truly be different and special in its own way.
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