NEVER and IWGP Jr. heavyweight Championships, plus a personal score settled in the Tokyo Dome
Three new matches have been added to night two of Wrestle Kingdom 15, with NEVER Openweight and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships to be decided, and former partners EVIL and SANADA set to collide.
Already announced for January 5, Switchblade Jay White will challenge the winner of January 4’s main event for the Double IWGP Championships. When White made history at Power Struggle by becoming the very first person to defeat the Tokyo Dome main event rights holder, the briefcase representing the right to challenge moving for the first time in its eight year history, he put himself in pole position for the Tokyo Dome weekend. Declaring that he would rather challenge the double IWGP Champion on night two of the Tokyo Dome, White made a declarative statement that he wanted his face and his victory to be the lasting image people leave with on January 5.
Yet the Switchblade also made a political master stroke. With ego and future legacy foremost in his mind, Tetsuya Naito issued his own challenge to Kota Ibushi for the main event of night one, meaning Jay White will now be able to pick the bones of a potentially very vulnerable and weakened champion on night two. With every advantage possible behind him, will White lift the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships for the second time of his career individually and for the very first time together? Or will it be the true competitive spirit of the champion, willing to put it all on the line for two successive nights, who wins out when all is said and done?
Newly set for January 5, former tag team partners will collide when EVIL faces SANADA. For two years in 2018 and 2019, EVIL and SANADA would walk into the Tokyo Dome as IWGP Tag Team Championship challengers, and walk out both times with the tag belts. As fearsome and impressive as they may have been as singles competitors, as a tag team they seemed unstoppable, with an almost telepathic bond between them as they effortlessly created double team opportunities.
Yet at the New Japan Cup Final this July, EVIL turned his back on SANADA and Los Ingobernables De Japon as a whole, siding with BULLET CLUB. SANADA, never the talkative type, kept his feelings to himself on the betrayal of his firmest ally for months. Even when, with the aid of Hiromu Takahashi, he defeated the King of Darkness to take his place in the G1 Climax 30 this October, SANADA was still composed and stoic.
Yet on December 11 in tag team action at Nippon Budokan, SANADA finally snapped. Dick Togo choking SANADA out on the rampway was enough for Cold Skull to get decidedly fired up, as he tore at EVIL and flung him into the ringside steel before laying down closed fist blows and fighting all the way backstage. Months of pent up emotion will make SANADA someone even for EVIL to fear on January 5.
Shingo Takagi will face Jeff Cobb for the first defence of his second reign as NEVER Openweight Champion. With an MVP level performance through 2020, and but for a brief reign by Minoru Suzuki, Shingo Takagi has dominated the NEVER Openweight title scene. Yet even though the Dragon sits at the top for another year when it comes to win:loss records in 2020, one of his few defeats has come at the hands of Jeff Cobb.
Cobb’s win during the G1 Climax was one thing, but his transformation when joining THE EMPIRE was quite another. Cobb pinned Shingo again in Fukuoka to end Shingo and SANADA’s World Tag League hopes, and immediately staked a claim to the NEVER title, saying that all THE EMPIRE needs to get fully established in NJPW was some gold. Can Cobb start his own second reign as NEVER champ, and grant NJPW’s newest faction its first title?
With El Phantasmo and Hiromu Takahashi going head to head on night one of Wrestle Kingdom, Taiji Ishimori puts his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship on the line against the winner on night two. Wrestling fresh, the champion’s advantage is certainly at play in this match, but whomever his opponent may be will likely not be denied.
Hiromu Takahashi started his 2020 by going back to back in the Tokyo Dome, ending the career of Jyushin Thunder Liger not 24 hours after he captured IWGP Jr. gold. If he can prove himself to be the ultimate tournament wrestler of his division on January 4 by defeating El Phantasmo, then the grand stage the Tokyo Dome provides could give the Time Bomb all the explosive power he needs to capture the title for a fourth time.
Then again, El Phantasmo was set for an impressive second year in NJPW in 2020 when the global pandemic struck. Standing by and watching as his tag team partner Ishimori secured singles gold pushed him to his second consecutive Super J-Cup victory over the weekend, and not even his close friendship with the Bone Soldier are likely to stop jealousy pangs and a greed for gold taking over.