Full card finalised for night one in MetLife Dome
A monster September with every event live and in English on NJPW World kicks off with Wrestle Grnd Slam in MetLife Dome. With the full card now final, five matches will see two titles defended and two grudges fought out in the cerulean blue, together with a special tag match and a showcase from STARDOM.
Main event: IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi
Singles record: 3-2 Tanahashi
The IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship will headline night one in MetLife Dome, with the first match contested on Japanese soil for the red belt since February 9 2019, and the first ever US title match between two Japanese wrestlers.
Hiroshi Tanahashi seized the US title at Resurgence in LA on August 14 with a tenacious victory over Lance Archer. Quick to nominate his first challenger, Tanahashi called out a man seeking to make his own resurgence in Kota Ibushi. Ibushi has been sidelined with aspiration pneumonia for two months, and the Ace stated that having his comeback match against Tanahashi was just the kind of ‘drastic treatment’ the Golden Star needed.
For Ibushi, Tanahashi has long represented the kind of resolve that drives him as a competitor. Elevating the Ace to wrestling deity status, Ibushi was driven to invent the Kamigoye finisher in his drive to score his first victory over him, but Tanahashi still questioned where Ibushi’s ultimate inspirations lay when the Ace vanquished Ibushi in the G1 Climax 28 final.
Signing a lifetime deal with new Japan Pro-Wrestling spurred Ibushi to a league win over Tanahashi the next year, en route to his first overall G1 victory, the Ace crawling over to his opponent in defeat to utter the words ‘you’ve already surpassed me’. Yet Ibushi took that to mean an advantage to him in terms of in ring ability but not all around spirit and drive.
When Ibushi and Tanahashi teamed together through 2020, it was the Golden Star that carried the team, and carried Tanahashi through a deep crisis of confidence. Yet 2021 sparked a crisis of Ibushi’s own. The weight of double IWGP championships, and the pressure created by merging them under the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship banner led to the briefest of reigns, ended by Will Ospreay at Sakura Genesis, and just as he made his challenge to Shingo Takagi for July 25, illness struck.
In turbulent times, the Ace showed his reliability, and burning fighting spirit. Taking on the vacant Tokyo Dome main event spot, Tanahashi sent a message to Ibsuhi with a Kamigoye struck to Shingo Takagi during a bout that saw him just barely fall short to the Dragon. Gaining in momentum albeit in defeat, the Ace was triumphant against an old rival in Lance Archer, and now puts his title on the line in a match full of question marks. What will the physical and mental state of Ibushi be? Will Tanahashi elevate Ibushi’s game? And will he get more than he bargained for? We fins out September 4.
4th Match: Jeff Cobb vs Kazuchika Okada
Singles record 2-0 Okada
Kazuchika Okada will take on Jeff Cobb in the semi main event, as bad blood continues to boil between the Rainmaker and the Imperial Unit.
After dominant performances in tag team matches saw Cobb disparage Okada as a mere ‘young boy’, it was veteran awareness at Wrestle Grand Slam in the Tokyo Dome that saw him to victory. Cobb dominated Okada for the bulk of a matchup, but a flash clutch would grant the CHAOS member victory. Cobb was furious, not just at the loss itself, but that in both defeats to Okada, he never fell victim to the Rainmaker itself.
Cobb was quick to surprise Okada in Korakuen with a post match assault, and a Rainmaker-style Tour of the Islands that sent a powerful message to the former five time IWGP champion. Since then, the Summer Struggle tour has been aptly named for Okada, as a string of tag matches has consistently shown the power of Cobb and the United Empire. Now on the verge of the tournament of tournaments in G1 Climax 31, a victory in this singles bout for either man could dictate the pace for the entire tournament. Who grabs the W?
3rd Match: KOPW2021 I Quit Match: Chase Owens vs Toru Yano
Singles record: 1-0 Yano
What could be the most violent and hotly contested KOPW match in its year plus history will see Chase Owens defend the trophy against Toru Yano in an I Quit match. At Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome on July 25, Owens sezied control of the KOPW 2021 trophy in a New Japan Ranbo with handcuffs, and was quick to change the tone of dicussion around the prize. Quickly introducing a microphone to his post match beatings of Yano, Owens baited the former trophy holder into proposing the I Quit stipulation, and ensuring that it would ride the CHAOS member’s popularity to win. Since then, Owens has constantly vowed to make Yano ‘drop the comedy’, declaring that he wants to fight the old hardcore fighter that terrorized the roster as part of Great Bash Heel more than a decade ago. Will that mean Owens biting off more than he can chew? After a vicious cane attack on Jado in Korakuen last week, will Yano go to his violent roots, or stay true to his current self?
2nd Match: SHO vs YOH
Singles record 18-10-23 YOH
SHO faces YOH for the 52nd time in the second match of the evening, but for the first time in almost six years, and in a vastly different context.
Both having joined the Noge Dojo at the same time, and having debuted within days of one another, SHO and YOH would battle one another repeatedly in the early stages of their career, all with a firm friendship away from the ring, and a consistent desire to build one another up, furthering their careers. They would head on excursion together, wrestle in mexico and America together, and return together as Roppongi 3K.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag team Championship reigns and a Super Jr. Tag tournament threepeat would follow, the two becoming one of the most successful junior heavyweight tag teams in history. Both talked about wanting to take teir own singles paths eventually, but that any split would be amicable, an inseperable bond remaining unbroken until retirement.
2021’s Super Jr. Tag League saw those supposedly unbroken bonds torn asunder. Frustrated by a malaise in YOH and a string of losses, SHO attacked his partner and stated with cold dispassion ‘you’re of no use to me’. For his part, YOH came to realise the root of his own mental block in the ring of late was SHO’s contempt for his former friend, and that the only way to move forward was for the two to fight.
Roppongi 3K now finished, SHO and YOH will now face one another not in a bid to build the two of them up, but to break one another apart.
1st Match: Flying Tiger (Tiger Mask & Robbie Eagles) vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
Tag team action kicks off the night, as we get a preview of the next night’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship battle. Robbie Eagles will face the challenge of Hiromu Takahashi in a match Hiromu intends to ‘show the world what NJPW’s junior heavyweights are about’, while Eagles is determined not to let his freshly earned championship go easily.
Kickoff: STARDOM Showcase (start time, match TBA)
The celebrations will start with a special STARDOM showcase bout, streaming live and in English on NJPW World for the very first time. New eyes will be drawn to the premiere female athletes of STARDOM, in what’s sure to be a tremendous kickoff to the night’s action!