Card finalised for night one in the Tokyo Dome January 4
The full card is now final for night one of Wrestle Kingdom, taking place in the Tokyo Dome on January 4 2021. Championship matches, bitter grudges and a very unique pre-show match make for a thrilling first night of fights for NJPW in the new year!
Main event: Double IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championships: Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi
Singles record: 5-3 Ibushi (Intercontinental title matches: 1-1)
The main event on night one will see Kota Ibushi challenge double IWGP Champion Tetsuya Naito in the ninth singles outing of their careers, and the first since Dominion 2019.
That Osaka Jo Hall bout was arguably the most terrifying of all their encounters to date, as both men have pushed one another to their very physical limits in each successive encounter in a dangerous game of one-upmanship. At the same age, and with a similar level of experience, there was always a mutual awareness, if not respect between the two athletes, and when Kota Ibushi arrived in NJPW and began competing in the heavyweight ranks, it was only natural that a rivalry should be born.
First meeting in the 2013 G1 Climax, and then again in 2015 when Ibushi was on the way to winning the New Japan Cup in his first attempt, it appeared that Kota Ibushi had a decided edge over Stardust genius Tetsuya Naito. That edge compounded Naito’s sense of being lost at sea before finding his home in Los Ingobernables. The overwhelming popularity and charisma appeared to engulf even the Golden Star at one phase in their careers, with Naito seeing G1 success and IWGP Heavyweight Championship glory while Ibushi found his place, his voice and his resolve as a full time New Japan wrestler.
That spot found though, Ibushi would defeat Naito en route to the 2018 G1 Climax final, and at Madison Square Garden the next year, took El Ingobernable’s Intercontinental Championship. Yet Naito, driven to put it all on the line in his quest to become the first double IWGP Champion would win the title back in Osaka Jo Hall, a win that, speedbumps aside, set him on the path to ultimate glory in the Tokyo Dome on January 4 2020.
Naito walked in with nothing at Wrestle Kingdom 14 and left with everything. Now Naito holds all the marbles, and intent on finding the fame and prestige that professional wrestlers crave, saw himself soaring toward the sun, naming Kota Ibushi as his challenger here tonight despite Iushi losing his G1 earned right to challenge to Jay White. Switchblade called his shot to wrestle the winner of this match on January 5; the question is whether the victor of this match will be in a fit state to compete. Driven to one up one another, Naito is obsessed with superstardom, and Ibushi obsessed with deification. Will one man soar only to be brought crashing down to earth January 5?
5th Match: Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay
Singles record: 4-1 Okada
One year ago, Okada vs Ospreay inside the Tokyo Dome would be hotly anticipated as the ultimate in sporting competition between two men with the utmost of mutual respect, and a sibling like relationship that transcends the struggles of conflict. Now it is a bitter and deeply personal grudge match formed from betrayal and greed.
On October 3 2015, Kazuchika Okada battled a 22 year old Will Ospreay at a Revolution Pro event in London. The junior heavyweight Ospreay was showing a lot of promise, but was a relative unknown when he impressed Okada with his fighting spirit and in ring ability so much that the Rainmaker hand picked him to join CHAOS in the junior heavyweight ranks.
Ospreay found success and stardom as a junior heavyweight, but rather than feeling indebted to ‘big brother’ Okada, instead felt suppressed. As Okada led the heavyweight ranks in NJPW and was the top star worldwide, Ospreay, to hear him tell it, was butting his head against a glass ceiling, one where poster presence and lucrative licensing deals were going to Okada, a man who try as he might, he couldn’t beat in their successive tournament and exhibition meetings.
When Okada found himself on the losing end of Wrestle Kingdom 14’s Double Gold Dash, beginning his longest absence from the IWGP heavyweight Championship picture in his entire post excursion career, Ospreay ascended to the heavyweight ranks himself. Okada enjoyed the chance to reset, says the Rainmaker; Okada had a growing sense of envy, taunts the Assassin. When G1 Climax 30 rolled around and Ospreay returned from a long absence prompted by the global COVID pandemic, a plan was hatched.
With the aid of Bea Priestley and Great-O-Khan, Ospreay defeated Okada in Ryogoku Sumo Hall, and set himself apart from CHAOS, forming THE EMPIRE. Having used Okada to elevate his stardom, Ospreay now seeks to defeat the Rainmaker and become the leader of a new generation in NJPW. With Okada’s reputation inside the Tokyo Dome a factor, that is a task easier said than done.
4th Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Great-O-Khan
When Will Ospreay formed THE EMPIRE over the broken body of Kazuchika Okada, he did so with the aid of the imposing and apparently indomitable Great-O-Khan. The fearsome fighter has been a terrifying force all the way through to the end of 2020, with a trail of battered opponents beneath his feet as he bellowed about the power of NJPW’s newest faction.
In recent weeks, Hiroshi Tanahashi has been at the feet of O-Khan more than a few times. When O-Khan and Jeff Cobb joined forces for World Tag league they instantly decimated Tanahashi, and matches since have seen a painfully familiar routine; an Ace defeated, and his knee relentlessly tortured by chair shots.
For Tanahashi, a man many fans have come to know as ‘Mr. Tokyo Dome’, a crossroads. The veteran of ten January 4 main events and the leader of a generation that saw NJPW hit a new golden age of prosperity, the Ace is now seeing years of physical sacrifice catch up to him. Can Tanahashi summon his special Wrestle Kingdom will to see off O-Khan? Or will the Dominator attack for the new generation whether Tanahashi is willing to bow out or not?
3rd Match: IWGP US Heavyweight Right to Challenge: Satoshi Kojima vs KENTA
After issuing a challenge in Korakuen Hall, December 23 saw Juice Robinson vs KENTA made official for January 4 2021, with the IWGP US Right to Challenge briefcase at stake. Unfortunately, hours after the announcement, it was learned that Robinson had sustained a fractured left orbital bone and would not be able to compete.
Stepping up in his place will be Satoshi Kojima. Saying to KENTA at Korakuen Hall that ‘this aging 50 year old can still go like hell’, Kojima struck with a Koji Cutter to KENTA on December 23, throwing his hat into the US briefcase ring. Could Satoshi Kojima shock KENTA in the Tokyo Dome January 4?
2nd Match: IWGP Tag Team Championships: Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) vs Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
Tag record: 3-0 G.o.D
Guerrillas of Destiny are very familiar with tag team championship competition in the Tokyo Dome, but hey aren’t familiar with their position as challengers. The six time IWGP Tag Team Champions had consistently been denied the World Tag League trophies until, with a little help from KENTA, they defeated FinJuice in the Nippon Budokan to finally break a long standing curse on December 11.
One more curse remains; that the franchise team of New Japan Pro-Wrestling has never won inside the Tokyo Dome. In their way tonight will be a team G.o.D have defeated three times in the past already in Taichi and ZSJ. That should be more than enough reason to be confident, but Dangerous Tekkers’ vice like grip on the tag gold in 2020 has been proven to be much more than a case of the champions taking advantage of a pandemic weakened field. Dominating Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi over the summer, they ended World Tag League this year at the top of the table on points to boot; the problem being that the only blemishes on their record were against FinJuice, and, yes, G.o.D.
Will the Tokyo Dome see the champions’ fortunes reversed against G.o.D? Or will the Guerrillas defeat the single curse that still plagues them to take their spot as the most dominant team in NJPW history?
1st Match: Hiromu Takahashi vs El Phantasmo
Kicking off the main card on January 4, Hiromu Takahashi goes head to head with El Phantasmo for the very first time. After an epic battle with El Desperado on December 11 in the Nippon Budokan, Hiromu stood as best of the Super Jr. winner for the second time. More than qualified to challenge for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship right away, Hiromu nonetheless made a different challenge. Feeling that there would be an asterisk over his tournament victory with Super J-Cup taking place the next night, he declared that he would face the winner of that tournament; a winner that turned out to be ELP.
With victories over Lio Rush, Blake Christian and ACH, ELP took the Super J-Cup jacket for the second year in a row, and for the second year, smashed the tournament trophy and made a mockery of its rich history. Phantasmo wants nothing more than to put a stop to Hiromu’s surging popularity, and to put himself opposite tag partner Taiji Ishimori on night two of Wrestle Kingdom. With the junior heavyweight championship in the semi-main event position on January 5, Hiromu Takahashi wants to solidify himself as the face of junior heavyweight wrestling in its new golden age. Who emerges to challenge Ishimori on January 5?
Opening Match: KOPW 2021: New Japan Ranbo
One hour before the main card starts on January 4, the first match of 2021 in NJPW will be the return of a Tokyo Dome tradition of sorts; the New Japan Ranbo!
With familiar rules given a new twist, the New Japan Ranbo will see 22 entrants coming to the ring at timed intervals, with elimination occuring as a result of pinfall, submission or being thrown over the top rope. It’s a chaotic affair (the Japanese word ‘ranbo’ means to ‘run riot’) and one that has seen its fair share of surprises in the past.
Here the match will continue until four participants remain. Those four will advance to a special four way match to kick off night two on January 5 with the winner being the first holder of the KOPW 2021 trophy!