Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night 1 (January 4) Full card, preview 【WK16】

2022 kicks off in style January 4



Night one of Wrestle Kingdom 16 will see New Japan Pro-Wrestling kick off its 50th anniversary year with a fitting card that features the return of Katsuyori Shibata and four championship matches. 

Watch Wrestle Kingdom 16 LIVE IN ENGLISH on NJPW World!

Or watch on the device of your choosing on FITE!


Main event: IWGP World Heavyweight Championship- Shingo Takagi vs Kazuchika Okada

Singles record: 2-1 Takagi  Championship record: 1-0 Takagi

January 4’s main event will see IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Shingo Takagi defend his title against the challenger and G1 Climax 31 winner, Kazuchika Okada.

While his designation reads ‘challenger’, Kazuchika Okada has consistently stated that he is walking into this bout feeling like a champion. The ‘G1 Championship’, symbolised not by the briefcase that he made a G1 tradition in 2012 but rather the V4 IWGP Heavyweight Championship belt that he made into an icon of pro-wrestling supremacy, is a greater achievement even than the IWGP World Heavyweight prize that Takagi holds. In the wake of Wrestle Kingdom, Okada has stated, we will find out who the strongest champion truly is. 

The Rainmaker’s reasoning comes from having put himself through a near flawless G1 Climax 31 campaign, one that saw him to a 9-1 record during block action, with his sole blemish loss to Tama Tonga rectified weeks later at Power Struggle. Okada says that he put himself through a tournament of the best heavyweights in the world, including Shingo Takagi, and emerged on top. All true, but he did not beat the Dragon to do so. Indeed, Okada didn’t beat Shingo Takagi in two encounters this year, the LIJ member having rectified a G1 Climax 30 defeat with an impressive New japan Cup first round victory, and then delivering Last of the Dragon in Osaka at Dominion to claim the gold that sits around his waist. 

Having lost to the Money Clip in 2020 though, one thing that Takagi has not experienced is the Rainmaker. That can be said of the move, and arguably of the man; after Okada lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on January 4 2020, he would undergo a period of reinvention and experimentation before finally coming full circle, defeating eternal rival Hiroshi Tanahashi to start his G1 31 campaign, and stating proudly that the Rainmaker had returned. This is a different Okada to the one that Takagi has faced before. Is it one that has the better of the champion?

7th Match: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship- El Desperado vs Hiromu Takahashi

Singles record: 2-2-1 Championship record: 1-0 Takahashi

After Hiromu Takahashi and El Desperado went the 30 minute distance in their Best of the Super Jr. 28 league match, they both vowed to make the finals so that they could face off without the clock in the way. Hiromu would hold up his end of the bargain, battling YOH to a 38 minute victory to become a three time holder of the BOSJ trophy. Desperado would just fall short at the final hurdle, but this will only redouble his resolve to defeat his career rival in the semi main event tonight. 

With every singles match Takahashi and Desperado have had since their first singles meeting in the 2018 Best of the Super Jr. tournament, another layer to a deeply complex relationship that swings wildly from love to hate to the fiercest of competition, gets added. Tonight, they will be driven not just to one up the other, but to further a junior heavyweight division that they both hold so dear. On January 5 2020, Takahashi walked out of the Tokyo Dome with the gold, declaring that one day, the title would be headlining in this building. Should the show be stolen on night one of Wrestle Kingdom 16, there will be a huge step made to just that very goal. 

6th Match: IWGP Tag Team Championships: Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) vs CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI)

Direct Tag record: 2-1 Dangerous Tekkers

IWGP Tag Team gold is on the line in the sixth match of the night as Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI challenge Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr. In Hiroshima on December 12, CHAOS defeated the champions against the run of the match, Goto having had his knee severely damaged over the course of the bout before a quick flash pin saw he and YOSHI-HASHI to victory. The frustrated Taichi would make the CHAOS side swear to win the World Tag League so that the match could be run back; as CHAOS have kept their end of the bargain, could Tekkers get a raw deal? 

In seven out of nine World Tag Leagues the winners of the trophies have maintained their momentum to sweep to championship victory in the Tokyo Dome. It is a statistic that Sabre and Taichi know all too well having fallen to 2020 WTL winners Guerrillas of Destiny at Wrestle Kingdom 15. Will the side buck historical trends to stay on top in the Tokyo Dome January 4? 

5th Match: NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii vs EVIL

Singles record: 4-1 Ishii 

Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI’s place in the IWGP Tag Team Championship bout can be attributed in no small part to the efforts of Tomohiro Ishii. As CHAOS struggled in the face of constant interference in their World Tag league final with HOUSE OF TORTURE, Ishii would hit the ring to clear the deck of Dick Togo and the steel chair that EVIL had brought to the ring. In the process he would reignite an issue with the King of Darkness that the Stone Pitbull will be only too happy to settle with the NEVER gold at stake. 

Earlier in the summer EVIL would seek to go back to his roots in order to rest and aim for the top in NJPW. Facing a poor front half of 2021, EVIL aimed to take down a man that he had never beaten in five years of singles matches, and would take any means necessary to achieve success. In the end, it would be three men that took down Ishii in Nagoya at Summer Struggle, as Yujiro Takahashi and Dick Togo got involved. Will Ishii be able to overcome the odds to retain his gold at the Dome?

4th Match: Katsuyori Shibata vs X (Catch Wrestling Rules)

 No strikes are permitted in this match

1,199 days have passed since Katsuyori Shibata last wrestled an official match in a New Japan ring. The victim of a subdural hematoma, it was widely believed that The Wrestler’s career was over, as Shibata rehabilitated and recovered, changing focus as he prepared the next generation of talent in the LA Dojo. Yet with a five minute grappling exhibition in the Nippon Budokan at the G1 finals, something, in Shibata’s own words ‘went from zero to one’, and a major step forward to an in ring return almost five years in the making had been made. 

Then, Shibata promised that the next time he stepped in the ring, it would be in his ring gear, and in an official match. That match is January 4. The opponent is still to be determined, as are the rules that the contest will be fought under. But what is guaranteed is that The Wrestler will wrestle, and that this will be a moment in time every wrestling fan in the world needs to be a part of. 

3rd Match: Los Ingobernables De Japon (SANADA, BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito) vs United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Will Ospreay & Great-O-Khan)

On night two of Wrestle Kingdom 16, the United Empire will advance into the Tokyo Dome looking to right a lot of perceived wrongs. Their Wrestle Kingdom 15 was intended to be a show of force for the faction, Will Ospreay, Jeff Cobb and Great-O-Khan each in highlighted singles matches. Yet the group lost each one of their bouts, and spent the year re-asserting themselves, in fearsome form. 

Now the group looks to conquer in the Tokyo Dome, with Cobb and O-Khan in particular looking to set the pace tonight before their singles bouts with Tetsuya Naito and SANADA respectively. As Ospreay wrestles his first match in Japan since May 5 and prepares to face the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion on night two, the Dominator and the Imperial Unit want to make a definitive statement in a six man environment that they are arguably at their most dangerous in.

2nd Match: Rocky Romero, Ryusuke taguchi & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs BULLET CLUB (KENTA, Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo)

NJPW Hontai will face off with BULLET CLUB in six man action in the second match of the night. On January 5, Hiroshi Tanahashi faces KENTA with the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship at stake in a no disqualification match. Meanwhile, after a seemingly unilateral challenge from Ryusuke Taguchi on December 15, he and Mega Coaches partner Rocky Romero will be looking to claim IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team gold on night two, a challenge that BULLET CLUB’s Cutest Tag Team are taking exception to. It’ll all add up to a wild six man tag at the start of the night. 

1st Match: YOH vs SHO

Singles record: 19-11-22 YOH

After staring down the barrel of a 0-4 deficit in Best of the Super Jr. 28, YOH would turn everything around by December 15. Ending the league 7-4, he made his way to the final where he battled Hiromu Takahashi to the longest and arguably most hard fought final in history. 

That hard fought final was crashed, and almost ruined by SHO. HOUSE OF TORTURE’s Murder Machine was stopped by YOH on the last night of league action, crashing out of the tournament as his former partner made the finals. SHO attempted to stop the final he was no longer a part of, wiping out both contenders with piledrivers on the floor before being seen off by members of CHAOS and Los Ingobernables De Japon. Post match, a furious Hiromu Takahashi would declare that it was YOH’s responsibility to ‘shut SHO up for good’, and that’s exactly what he will seek to do in the first official match of Wrestle Kingdom 16. 

Kick-Off: KOPW 2022 New Japan Ranbo

Kicking off the broadcast at the special start time of 4PM local will be the Tokyo Dome tradition of the KOPW Ranbo. With the KOPW title resetting as the calendar turns from 2021 to 2022, an as yet unspecified number of contenders will enter into a timed battle royal with elimination coming from over the top rope, pinfalls, submissions or DQs. The last four members remaining will be part of a four way battle for the new trophy January 5!