NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 featured Kazuchika Okada, winner of the NJPW G1 Climax, against Shingo Takagi, the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, as Okada looks to reclaim his crown as the top wrestler in NJPW.
As happens on most Wrestle Kingdom shows, the opening match on the Preshow is the New Japan Ranbo. The final four wrestlers will compete tomorrow night in the King of Pro Wrestling Provisional Championship match tomorrow night. Toru Yano goes into the Ranbo as champion. The match featured eliminations by pinfall, submission, or throwing people over the top rope.
The New Japan Ranbo
Chase Owens and Aaron Henare opened the match. The 3rd entrant was a young lion, Kosei Fujita, a recent addition to the NJPW Dojo. Owens hit him with a backbreaker and he rolled to the floor. Henare tried to throw Owens over the top rope, but he fought it off. The next young lion was Yuto Nakashima, who went right after Henare with forearms. Ryohei Oiwa entered next, suplexing Chase Owens.
The next entrant was Master Wato, who ran down as Henare was beating on a young lion. Wato and Owens battled until Hiroyoshi Tenzan entered. Minoru Suzuki entered next, and he entered, leaving the English commentators relieved they were nowhere near ringside. Suzuki immediately tapped out two young lions, then choked out the third as Satoshi Kojima made his entrance.
TAKA Michinoku made his entrance next. CIMA entered the Ranbo, and it was his first appearance in NJPW since 2009, as he was a part of Dragon Gate, OWE, AEW, and GLEAT since then. CIMA immediately eliminates TAKA, as Suzuki beats on Kojima in the corner. Tomoaki Honma was next, and he came down.
CIMA and Wato had avery fun exchange. I would love to see CIMA in the BOSJ. DOUKI was next. Yuji Nagata was next, and he went after Minoru Suzuki, and their heated rivalry heated up again. Yoshinou Kanemaru entered next, and Suzuki-gun has two men in there now. Kanemaru and DOUKI eliminated Tenzan.
Togi Makabe was next, with his silenced music, except we could sort of hear the stat. I wish NJPW could license his music, but alas. Nonetheless, I always appreciate his tribute to Bruiser Brody. Yuji Nagata hit a suplex on Kojima, and DOUKI and Kanemaru helped hold him down. Bad Luck Fale entered. Fale threw out several people. Tatsumi Fujinami was next! WHAT. He’s 68, so this is crazy. Fujinami hit a dragon screw on Fale, then Makabe clotheslined him over the top rope.
Toru Yano came in as the last entrant. Fijunami hit more dragon screws. Yano immediately eliminated Henare, and helped pin Fujinami and Makabe while they were stuck in the figure four and we were left with the final four – Minoru Suzuki, CIMA, Toru Yano, and Chase Owens. Suzuki choked out Yano as the match ended and everyone stomped on Yano until Suzuki chased Chase away. Seems like there will be some sort of an alliance between the others against Yano.
Result: Minoru Suzuki, CIMA, Toru Yano, & Chase Owens
Perfectly fine Ranbo, but these are never good matches in terms of quality. However, they are always fun.
The main card opened with a special match that saw the former RPG3k facing off against each other in a grudge match, but before that, it featured a video from Antonio Inoki wishing the best for NJPW’s 50th Anniversary, which is in 2022.
YOH (CHAOS) vs. SHO (Bullet Club) w/ Dick Togo
YOH immediately hit a tope con giro and went for a Direct Drive on the ramp, but SHO threw a young lion at him to break it up. SHO slammed YOH on the entrance ramp and then threw a young lion on him again. SHO mocked YOH by faking a dive and then stepping outside and stomping on him before sending YOH into the guardrail.
SHO went for a kick, but YOH caught him and hit a dragon screw. YOH hit several hard forearms and stomps while holding the arms, and Chris Charlton reminded us that it was something another Dragon does, referencing Bryan Danielson. YOH hit a dropkick and then a dead lift German suplex on SHO. SHO hit a spear on YOH to get the advantage back. SHO hit the same arm trapped stomps on YOH.
SHO tried to hit a Shock Arrow, but YOH rolled through into a Calf Killer. Dick Togo got on the apron, and SHO tapped out, but Dick Togo had the ref distracted, so the ref missed it and SHO was able to avoid losing. SHO hit a lariat and then locked in a gogplata, but YOH made it to the ropes. Dick Togo got on the apron again, and SHO pulled out a wrench. YOH avoided an attack with the knife and rolled back with the O’Connor roll as SHO accidentally hit Togo.
This was a big disappointing, and way shorter than it needed to be. Dick Togo’s interference is getting very old on these shows, but at least YOH was able to overcome it. YOH hit a superkick on SHO after the match when SHO tried to hit him with the wrench again.
Hiroshi Tanahashi & The Mega Coaches (Ryusuke Taguchi & Rocky Romero) vs. Bullet Club (KENTA, Taiji Ishimori, & El Phantasmo)
Hiroshi Tanahashi & The Mega Coaches (Ryusuke Taguchi & Rocky Romero) vs. Bullet Club (KENTA, Taiji Ishimori, & El Phantasmo)
El Phantasmo started the match with Rocky Romero, with some good work where they countered everything they did to each other, with Rocky continuously being one step ahead of ELP. Rocky hit a hurricanrana and tagged out to Taguchi who hit a few hip attacks. Taguchi and Romero hit forever clotheslines/hip attacks. KENTA accidentally low blowed Taguchi when Tana stopped him from attack the rear of Taguchi. I can’t believe I wrote that.
Taguchi’s shuffle after taking a back rake was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a match in a long time. Tanahashi hit a dragon screw on Ishimori in the ropes and one on KENTA, but KENTA countered into a roll up for a 2-count. The referee got bumped and KENTA hit Tanahashi with a kendo stick, but Tanahashi took it when The Mega Coaches saved him, and Tanahsahi started smashing KENTA with the kendo stick. The referee recovered and disqualified Tanahashi.
Result: Bullet Club
This was fine, but the finish sucked. However, it did serve a purpose – the match between KENTA and Tanahashi on tomorrow’s show is a No DQ match, meaning that if Tanahashi does this tomorrow, he won’t be DQ’d. I didn’t enjoy the finish, but since NJPW does it so rarely, I’m not really upset about it. Match was fine until that point, but never really got started.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, & BUSHI) vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan, & Jeff Cobb)
Naito entered the ring with a Persona 5 inspired entrance video and gear, which made me geek out. Go play Persona 5 Royal, guys. You won’t regret it. The United Empire attacked LIJ right away, as Ospreay decided to stay on the outside and let Cobb and Khan do most of the work. Cobb and Naito had a good exchange early, with Cobb getting most of it.
SANADA and O-Khan ended up in ring, and SANADA put the Paradise Lock on SANADA and dropkicking him to the rear to release him. O-Khan hit a pump kick on SANADA and used an O’Connor role on SANADA, but transitioned into a head and arm choke. SANADA elbowed out of it and hit a shotgun dropkick.
SANADA tagged out to BUSHI, who hit a DDT for a 2-count. O-Khan tagged out to Ospreay who went for Storm Breaker on BUSHI, but Naito broke it up. Naito went for Destino on Cobb, but Cobb stopped him in midair and hit a deadlift head and arm suplex without Naito’s feet touching the mat. That was incredible.
Everyone hit big moves, ending with Ospreay hitting a popup powerbomb on BUSHI before killing BUSHI with a Hidden Blade for the 3-count.
Result: United Empire
This was a fun tag match. Everyone got to highlight themselves and setup big matches tomorrow. Ospreay got the win, which was the right call, since he’ll be facing the winner of Shingo and Okada tomorrow. Good booking, solid preview match, and Jeff Cobb looked like the most dangerous man alive heading into his match with Naito.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Ren Narita
Ren Narita was the opponent for Shibata, and he gets to face his mentor. 1752 days was the last time Shibata was in the ring in an official match, where he suffered an injury that almost ended his life. It’s incredible that he can even walk, let alone wrestle, and here he is. That alone makes this match significant, but adding Ren Narita, his protégé to the match, makes it poetic.
Shibata changed the rules before the match started, and said it would be a regular match, which surprises me. I wonder if Shibata did that on his own? Either way, the match started with grappling, and submission attempts. The excellent exchange continued for awhile before Narita hit a chop. It seems the rules are regular wrestling rules.
Shibata locked a figure four on Narita. Narita managed to drag himself to the ropes. Shibata hit his corner kick and forearms before hitting his huge corner dropkick, which got the crowd applauding loudly. Shibata went for an armbar, but Narita countered into the Narita Special. Narita rolled into a kneebar, but Shibata made it to the ropes.
Narita hit the ropes, but Shibata hit a knee that sent Narita to the mat. Shibata hit a sole butt and then a kick that sent Narita to the floor. Narita went for a belly-to-belly, but Shibata blocked it. Narita hit some arm captured headbutts to Shibata’s neck before going for the octopus stretch, but Shibata countered into his own abdominal stretch.
Shibata hit some kicks to the chest of Narita before kicking him back into the corner. Shibata hit a pump kick but Narita kicked out at one. Narita blocked a kick and hit some elbows to the knee before hitting several kicks/ Both men hit kicks, but Shibata hit one right to the knee to drop him. Shibata hit a slap then a rear naked choke before hitting a PK for the pinfall.
Result: Katsuyori Shibata
This was an excellent match from both men, and a perfect return match for Shibata. He took no actual strikes to the head, and worked this like a normal match. This was noticeably safer for Shibata than his matches before his injuries, and he absolutely looked fantastic. This was truly awesome.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishi (c) (CHAOS) vs. EVIL (Bullet Club) w/ Dick Togo
Before I recap anything – I love Tomohiro Ishii. That is all. EVIL attacked Ishii before he could get into the ring. EVIL threw Ishii into the guardrail, knocking over the ring announcer, which he does every time. That poor guy. You’d think he would stand up and walk away before it happened in every single EVIL match.
Ishii hit a back suplex on EVIL after EVIL missed a clothesline. EVIL shoved the referee and Togo hit Ishii with a chair, letting EVIL hit a fisherman’s buster. EVIL hit a clothesline to drop EVIL though. Ishii hit a super brainbuster on EVIL, but he kicked out. EVIL pulled the referee in the way of a lariat, and Togo went for a choke on Ishii with his wire. Yujiro Takahashi came down and helped the beating of Ishii.
Ishii shoved Takahashi in Togo and started beating on EVIL anyway. SHO ran down and hit a German suplex on Ishii, but YOH ran down and took him and EVIL out. SHO’s support cleared the ring and left Ishii with EVIL. The crowd clapped loudly when YOH superkicked EVIL, implying that they were happy to see EVIL finally get some comeuppance.
EVIL hit a German suplex on Ishii, but Ishii no sold it and stood up. Ishii blocked a low blow and hit an enziguri. Togo distracted the referee again, and hit Ishii with the NEVER title to deafening silence. EVIL hit Everything is Evil and pinned Ishii. Well, that finish sucked.
This was no good because of the finish. Togo getting continuous heat through interference while the crowds can’t boo is utter death as a viewer. Sparingly, it could be fine, but they keep doing it. It’s quite frustrating. Once fans can boo, I could tolerate it, but I somehow doubt it will get over.
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Dangerous Tekkers (c) (Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.) w/ Miho Abe (Suzuki-gun) vs. CHAOS (Hiroki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI)
Goto and YOSHI-HASHI double teamed Zack Sabre Jr. right away, but Taichi and Sabre were able to cut them off and get the advantage through some cheating. Taichi used the camera cables to choke Goto, and Miho Abe apologized for it, which was funny. ZSJ came in and immediately started working over YOSHI-HASHI.
Sabre worked Goto and YOSHI-HASHI over with submissions for several minutes with Taichi keeping the other tag partner away. Taichi removed his pants. Damnit. Goto hit a cradle on ZSJ for a 2-count. Sabre countered a GTR into a European clutch, but Goto kicked out and hit a Ushigoroshi.
Taichi and YOSHI-HASHI exchanged strikes back and forth. Taichi hit a superkick on YOSHI-HASHI. Taichi went for an air raid crash, but YOSHI-HASHI slipped out and hit a superkick. YOSHI-HASHI hit a snap dragon. Goto and YOSHI-HASHI hit a combo ushigoroshi and superkick on Taichi for a 2-count.
YOSHI-HASHI and Goto hit a GYW on ZSJ and picked Taichi up. Taichi went for the Gedo clutch on YOSHI-HASHI, but he kicked out. Sabre countered another ushigoroshi ZSJ, but Sabre locked on a guillotine. Goto fought out and hit a GTR, but Taichi came in and hit several strikes before YOSHI-HASHI hit a Canadian Destroyer on Taichi. YOSHI-HASHI and Goto hit a combo neckbreaker and powerbomb on Taichi and pinned him. YOSHI-HASHI won his first IWGP Tag Team Championship! His second title in NJPW!
Fun tag match here to recover from the debacle of EVIL and Ishii. Thank goodness. YOSHI-HASHI has really found his place on the roster now, after years of just being there, and I love him as the underdog midcard babyface. After the match, Taichi shook the hands of of both men, showing sportsmanship, which is rare for members of Suzuki-gun. This was really great.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: El Desperado (c) (Suzuki-gun) vs. Hiromu Takahashi (LIJ)
Both men started with forearms right away, exchanging in the middle of the ring, and you can tell this is the first match that the crowd was really into other than Shibata. Both men exchanged hard chops as the crowd clapped along to the blows. Desperado hit some elbows, and then hit the ropes and they started exchanging elbows and forearms.
Takahashi hit a corner clothesline, and then went for a triangle choke, but Desperado countered and they started hit suplexes on each other before Desperado hit a hurricanrana to the floor and hit a tope con giro. Takahashi hit a sunset flip powerbomb to the floor on Desperado, who thudded on the mat on the floor.
Both men made it back into the ring and started exchanging forearms again. Takahashi got the best of it, but when he went for a Time Bomb, Desperado countered and hit a powerbomb off the ropes. Desperado hit a splash off the top ropes for a 2-count. Desperado went for an Angel’s Wings, but Takahashi countered and then hit a popup powerbomb.
Takahashi hit a belly-to-belly into the corner on Desperado. Takahashi hit the Dynamite Plunger on Desperado, but he kicked out at 2. Takahashi hit a DVD into the corner and called for the Time Bomb. Desperado countered into a crucifix pin, but Takahashi kicked out. Both men exchanged finisher attempts, until Desperado finally countered into the stretch muffler.
Takahashi floated out of it into a Canadian Destroyer and then hit a lariat on Desperado. Takahashi hit Victory Royal for a 2-count. Desperado countered another attack with a pinfall attempt, but Takahashi kicked out and hit a superkick. Desperado countered a double overhook piledriver into a Strong Zero on Takahashi, but he kicked out at 2.
Takahashi hit a hurricanrana and then a superkick, but got a huge left hand from Desperado. Takahashi got hit with an Angel’s Wings, but countered a second into a pinfall attempt, which almost got Desperado. The crowd bought that one based on the clapping. I bought it too. Desperado hit another left hand to drop Takahashi before hitting two more Pinche Loco’s for the pinfall.
Result: El Desperado
This marked the first successful defense of the IWGP Junior Championship at Wrestle Kingdom since 2013 when Prince Devitt last did it. El Desperado was put over huge in this match, and I expect Hiromu Takahashi will be looking to recover that tile later in 2022. This was an excellent match.
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Shingo Takagi (c) (LIJ) vs. Kazuchika Okada (CHAOS)
Kazuchika Okada wore a towel around his neck and a robe, honouring the way Antonio Inoki walked to the ring. Chris Charlton informed us that Okada never won a challenge for the title at Wrestle Kingdom, which sounds crazy, but he was defending the title more often than not, so it is definitely possible.
Okada and Takagi exchanged some basic wrestling to start the match, with neither being able to get the advantage. Okada hit a dropkick to the knee and then an elbow to the back of Takagi. Takagi sent Okada to the floor with a lariat. Takagi did a fireman’s carry to throw Okada into the apron before going for Made in Japan on the floor.
Okada countered and hit a DDT on the floor, but Takagi just held onto Okada and stood up hitting a deadlift suplex on the floor! That was incredible. Takagi hit a shoulder tackle and a back suplex for a 2-count. Takagi hit two elbow drops and a senton. Takagi and Okada hit several elbows before Takagi hit a chop on Okada.
Takagi went for a Pumping Bomber, but Okada ducked under and hit a flying elbow. Okada hit a flapjack on Takagi. Okada hit a DDT for a 2-count. Takagi fought out of an air raid crash, but Okada hit a dropkick while Takagi was sitting on a turnbuckle that sent Takagi to the floor. Okada sent Takagi over the guardrail and hit his dive that sent Takagi crashing to the floor. This got an audible gasp from the audience, which means they forgot themselves for a second. A good sign that they’re into the match.
Okada hit a huge missile dropkick back in the ring for a 2-count. Okada locked on the money clip, but Takagi made the ropes. Takagi hit a DDT on Okada after faking Okada out with a lariat. Okada went for the money clip again, but Takagi hit a lucha style arm drag and then stopped an air raid crash and hit a wheelbarrow German suplex.
Takagi went for a sliding D, but Okada countered into the money clip. Takagi fought out, but Okada hit the tombstone and then locked on the money clip again, which is the combo that made Takagi pass out a few years ago. Okada has never hit the Rainmaker on Takagi, so he seemed to be avoiding it here and trying to weaken Takagi with something that worked before, but Takagi made it to the ropes.
Okada slammed Takagi and hit a flying elbow. Okada called for the Rainmaker, but Takagi hit a Pumping Bomber instead, and then collapsed to the mat. Takagi called for a Rainmaker, but Okada fired up and started wailing on Takagi. Okada and Takagi exchanged strikes and Pumping Bomber attempts and then both collapsed after Takagi finally dropped Okada with one. This match is outstanding so far.
Okada rolled to the floor, and Takagi rolled out to follow him. Okada drove Takagi into the apron and then a ringpost, which was unusual offence for Okada. Okada and Takagi went up the ramp and Okada went for a tombstone on the ramp, but Takagi fought out and Okada dropped him with a European uppercut.
Okada went for the tombstone again, but Takagi fought out and hit a Death Valley Driver on the entrance ramp! Okada barely made it back to the ring in time before the count out. Takagi hit a lariat in the corner and a superplex off the top rope that popped the crowd, as they forgot themselves again.
Takagi hit a sliding D, but Okada kicked out. Takagi got the fans to clap thunderously before going for Made in Japan. Okada blocked it and then hit his dropkick. Okada went for the Rainmaker, but Takagi ducked again. Okada hit a shortarm lariat, then a second, but Takagi countered a Rainmaker into Made in Japan. Takagi hit a second one, but Okada kicked out. The crowd popped again. Takagi killed Okada with a Pumping Bomber, nailing him in the face, but Okada kicked out.
Takagi went for the Last of the Dragon, but Okada slipped out and hit a full Rainmaker, but Okada collapsed and couldn’t cover him. Both men got up and started exchanging forearms and the crowd clapped thunderously for them. Takagi kept hitting Okada, but Okada started to no sell it like Ishii would and he hit 3 hard European uppercuts that rocked Takagi.
Okada’s left cheek started swelling because of the Pumping Bomber earlier, looking like Okada’s eye was swelling a bit too. Takagi hit a hard forearm and went for Last of the Dragon, but Okada slipped out into a money clip again. Takagi escaped and hit a hard forearm to the neck. Takagi went for Last of the Dragon off the middle rope, but Okada fought out and went for a superplex.
Takagi looked out to the floor as he blocked it, but Okada managed to hit a DDT off the top rope, which was insane. Okada went for the rainmaker, but Takagi elbowed out. Okada hit a German suplex and then went for a Rainmaker, but Takagi ducked, hit a headbutt, and then a lariat of his own.
Okada fought out of Last of the Dragon again, but Takagi hit a dragon suplex. Okada stood up and hit a dropkick, picked Takagi up, and finally hit the Rainmaker and pinned Takagi!
Result: Kazuchika Okada
My goodness, what a match from Okada and Takagi here. If the crowd was allowed to cheer, I’d be comfortable giving this match 6 stars easily. The crowd forgot themselves several times during this match, and popped huge for several moments and moves, which was fun, but if this had no restrictions on cheering, this would have been even better. Regardless, what a match. Easily one of the best in recent memory.
Okada then grabbed the v4 IWGP title and held that up before taking the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Okada then wore the new title, to applause from the audience. The modern day Inoki, as he was hinted at being with his intro, has reclaimed his crown. As Okada was celebrating, Will Ospreay came out, claiming to be the real champion again.
Ospreay called Okada the new interim champion, which disgusted Okada. Ospreay claimed that he was going to beat Okada tomorrow and then he could go retire and become an actor because NJPW would be safe in his hands. Okada then said, “I’m sorry fake champ, I’ll see you tomorrow.” That was a perfect way to send Ospreay to the back. Okada then cut a promo in Japanese to close the show.
Okada said that Takagi was the real champion, and this win was real, no matter what Ospreay said. Okada also wanted to honour the old IWGP Heavyweight Championship and asked for applause for it, and the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Okada got visibly emotional talking about it and how even though they were still in the pandemic, he promised that wrestlers would still be there for them because they were there supporting them. Okada then asked for the Tokyo Dome to be packed full next year. I hope we see that! Fantastic babyface promo to close the show.
Show Rating: ***
The last two matches and the Shibata match worthy of watching this show, but this was nowhere near the usual quality of NJPW Wrestle Kingdom cards. That said, if the crowd was allowed to cheer, it would have been far better. All things considered, I think it was a good show, with Okada and Takagi stealing the show. Okada is such a great babyface, and Takagi is such an exceptional wrestler that it really went a long way to redeem this show from being only average. In my mind, there are no two better wrestlers in the world than Shingo Takagi and Kazuchika Okada. Maybe Kenny Omega and Bryan Danielson right there with them, but Okada is truly the best wrestler I have ever seen wrestle.
Night two will be main evented by Okada vs. Ospreay, and in the co-main event, we will see Tanahashi and KENTA in a NO DQ match. Night two is looking like a strong card, so I hope it can top night one overall, but it’s going to be very hard to be better than what Okada and Takagi did there.