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NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16- Night 1
January 4, 2022

by Doc Allen

Wrestle Kingdom 16

Live from the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan. COVID restrictions (and maybe New Japan's cold product) mean there are only about 12,000 in attendance tonight. Our English commentators are Kevin Kelly and Chris Charleton.


YOH starts with a quick soaring senton to outside. YOH hauls SHO by the hair up the ramp, SHO blocks a driver and throws a ring crew guy at him. SHO hits a scoop slam onto the ramp, and then amusingly slams the ring guy onto YOH. SHO tries to win via countout and then whips a helpless YOH into the rails. YOH desperately hits a dragon screw to buy some time. YOH unloads repeated forearms and stomps the face. German suplex by YOH gets 2. SHO rakes the eyes and uses the ref as a shield in order to hit a sneaky spear. SHO traps the arms and stomps the face like YOH did earlier. Powerbomb by SHO and then a piledriver for 2. YOH blocks the Shock Arrow and locks on the Stargazer. Dick Togo arrives to distract the ref while SHO taps. YOH goes after Togo, which allows SHO to hit another German suplex. SHO applies his Snake Bite submission, YOH nearly passes out, but he gets a miraculous rope break. Togo distracts the ref again while SHO grabs a wrench. SHO misses, YOH thrusts him into Togo and rolls him up to win at 12:39. Good opener between two former friends, this felt personal, and the interference doesn't hurt because YOH came out on top, ***½.
Winner: YOH

YOH has to fight off some evil Young Lions and cuts off SHO's wrench attack with a superkick.

Hiroshi Tanahashi and Mega Coaches (Rocky Romero and Ryusuke Taguchi) vs. Bullet Club (El Phantasmo, IWGP U.S. Champion KENTA, and Taiji Ishimori)

Phantasmo and Romero start with an athletic showcase. Phantasmo tries to stomp the fingers and Rocky makes him pay with a head scissors takedown. Romero hits Sliced Bread off Taguchi's chest. Ishimori uses his speed advantage to hit an atomic drop on Taguchi, who quickly answers with a hip attack. Mega Coaches splash Bullet Club in the buckles and do-si-do into double hip checks. KENTA headbutts Taguchi in the groin, giving Bullet Club control. Tanahashi gets the hot tag and hits a sling blade on rival, KENTA. Tanahashi dishes out dragon screws, KENTA shoves him at the ref for a roll-up for 2. DDT by KENTA, no ref, so he unloads kendo shots. Tanahashi avoids getting triple teams, and Mega Coaches help with dives. Tanahashi repays the kendo shots on KENTA, but the ref catches him for the DQ at 8:41. Routine exhibition match to preview the U.S. title match, **¼.
Winners via DQ: Bullet Club

Tanahashi doesn't care about the DQ and keeps laying kendo shots on KENTA. They'll meet tomorrow in a No DQ match. KENTA is a better rule breaker than Tanahashi.

The United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb, and Will Ospreay) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA, and Tetsuya Naito)

Here, we have another multi-man tag match to preview matches for Night 2, and give Ospreay something to do. Opsreay is insisting that he's still the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, having never lost the belt in the ring. Cobb and Naito go at it before the bell. Naito hits an atomic drop, but Cobb counters with a POUNCE! Cobb drives Naito into the barricade. Naito grabs O-Khan's braid but gets put down with Mongolian chops. Ospreay casually helps his group pick Naito apart. LiJ help Naito triple team Cobb for a dropkick to the knee. SANADA gets the hot tag and plants O-Khan with an atomic drop and humiliates him with the Paradise Lock. SANADA misses a dive and dares O-Khan to try one himself. O-Khan refuses and has better luck with bruising offense. BUSHI gets a hot tag and hits O-Khan with a DDT for 2. O-Khan hits a Judo throw and tags in Ospreay for a springboard elbow onto BUSHI. Naito stops Stormbreaker, and Cobb ambushes with an exploder as the match breaks down. SANADA and O-Khan tease finishers until O-Khan hits the Sheik Killer. Ospreay still can't get Stormbreaker, so he powerbombs BUSHI for 2. Hidden Blade by Ospreay finishes BUSHI at 9:29. Decent time filler that accomplished what it needed to, **½.
Winners: The United Empire

Ren Narita vs. Katsuyori Shibata

Shibata is making an unlikely comeback after suffering a career ending injury years ago. His protege, Narita, is the surprise opponent in a match with vague pure rules. Shibata throws the stipulations out, everything goes. They start with an aggressive, mat based contest. Narita gets a break and slaps the face. Shibata goes for a fierce headlock and applies a Figure Four. Narita gets the ropes and stomps Shibata into the corner. Narita shoves away the ref and chokes with his boot. Shibata comes back with a back heel trip. The ref might be losing control as Shibata goes wild with corner attacks. Running dropkick by Shibata earns some nice applause. Narita counters into a Sharpshooter. Shibata gets the ropes and hits a desperate knee lift. They trade Coba Twists, and Shibata hits a German suplex. Shibata controls the wrist and blasts kicks to the chest. The crowd applauds while they light each other up with stiff kicks. Shibata wins the exchange and gains the pinfall at 11:52. Good teacher vs. student match, carried by the emotion of Shibata returning to the Tokyo Dome, ***.
Winner: Katsuyori Shibata

New Japan is returning to AXS TV and will air after Impact Wrestling!

NEVER Openweight Championship:
Tomohiro Ishii © vs. EVIL (with Dick Togo)

EVIL attacks Ishii in the ropes and sends him into the ring post. EVIL wraps a chair around Ishii's neck, but Ishii cuts him off with a chair duel, only to get knocked into the rails again. EVIL successfully wraps Ishii's neck in a chair for a homerun chair shot. EVIL continues targeting the back with a hard Irish whip into an exposed turnbuckle. Ishii is hurt but answers with a hard shoulder block. Back suplex by Ishii seems to injure EVIL's head. EVIL shoves the ref so Togo can hit a blind chairshot. Fisherman Buster by EVIL gives them a breather. Ishii absorbs another hard whip and pops out for a lariat. Ishii's bad back makes it hard for him to hit a superplex! Togo cheap shots Ishii, EVIL grabs the ref to prevent a suplex, and inadvertently knocks the official down. Togo is free to attack Ishii with a wire. Yujiro Takahashi helps with a clothesline, but Ishii throws him into Togo. Ishii seems to have regained control, but SHO is next for a suplex. YOH runs in and serves up some superkicks and a plancha to clear out Bullet Club. Ishii seemingly has EVIL beaten with a lariat but it's only 2. Yujiro sneaks in again for a low blow. EVIL smashes the NEVER title across Ishii's skull and finishes with Everything is Evil at 12:21. They had a good story going with Ishii's back injury, but devolved into overbooked nonsense, **.
Winner and NEW NEVER Openweight Champion: EVIL

IWGP Tag Team Championship:
Dangerous Tekkers © (Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi) vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI)

ZSJ and YOSHI start, but it doesn't take long for Goto to help double team with war drum shots to the back. Taichi helps, and they head to ringside for stereo brawls. Back to the ring, ZSJ applies a slick head scissors on YOSHI. YOSHI escapes and survives some chops to hit a running boot. Tag to Goto, who clears Taichi from the apron and hits a running spin kick and bulldog onto ZSJ for 2. ZSJ answers with an Octopus, but Goto escapes for a clothesline. Match breaks down and all four hit the canvas for applause. They get back up, ZSJ puts Goto into elaborate head scissors submission while Taichi has YOSHI in a dragon sleeper. Dangerous Tekkers get a tandem slam on Goto for 2. Goto and ZSJ trade pinning predicaments until Goto hits Ushigoroshi. Tags are made, Taichi and YOSHI engage in a stiff kickfest. YOSHI chops the neck, Taichi answers with a backdrop driver! They trade superkicks and take a breather. Goto helps fluster Taichi for a tandem superkick/DVD. CHAOS hits Lights Out but ZSJ breaks the pin! Goto hits a wild gutbuster on ZSJ. Taichi nearly steals the pinfall on YOSHI, ZSJ puts Goto in a Dragon Sleeper, YOSHI helps break it for Lights Out again. Taichi take CHAOS down with kicks, but YOSHI answers with a Destroyer. CHAOS hit their new tandem power slam to win the titles at 15:29. Good, brisk match that kept a great pace and was very well executed, ***½.
Winners and NEW IWGP Tag Team Champions: CHAOS

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:
El Desperado © vs. Hiromu Takahashi

They start with a slugfest, to which the fans clap along. This is actually our first proper Fighting Spirit sequence of the night, they switch to trading slaps and chops. They trade knockdown blows and then Hiromu reverses a powerbomb into a triangle hold, but Desperado escapes with a backdrop suplex. Hiromu kicks out at 1, hits a German for 1. Desperado hits a rana to outside and then a tope. Hiromu hits a sunset bomb to the floor! They take a well earned breather and nearly get counted out. They stagger into a slugfest. Desperado nails a spinebuster and sitout slam for 2. Frog splash by Desperado gets 2. Hiromu desperately hits a sitout powerbomb to buy some time. Desperado hits an equally desperate belly to belly suplex into the buckles. Hiromu finds enough second wind for a shotgun dropkick and Dynamite Plunger for 2. DVD into the buckles by Hiromu, but Desperado counters with a crucifix. They tease finishers until Desperado applies a Stretch Muffler. Hiromu cleverly counters into a piledriver. Hiromu hits a Victory Royal slam for 2. Desperado sneaks in a roll-up but Hiromu blasts a thrust kick. Desperado hits a Gory Special for a good nearfall. Hiromu answers with a tight rollup for 2. Hiromu seems to be losing his temper and resorts to using a closed fist, but Desperado answers with a pair of double underhook slams to win at 16:20! Huge win for Desperado, they kept a blistering pace and left it all out there, ****¼.
Winner and still IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion: El Desperado

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship:
Shingo Takagi © vs. Kazuchika Okada

This hasn't been the most stellar Wrestle Kingdom, but this is a main event worthy of the Tokyo Dome in any year. They seem to be pacing themselves for a long match with the early grappling sequence. Okada teases a slap and pats the chest before grabbing a headlock. Drop toe hold by Okada sets up an elbow drop to the spine. Deliberate neckbreaker by Okada gets 1. Shingo fights back with jabs and a clothesline to outside. Shingo tries Made in Japan on the floor, instead Okada hits a DDT, but Shingo answers back with a vertical suplex. Shingo takes over with attacks to the chest and spine. Okaka absorbs much punishment but hits a back elbow to buy time for a comeback. Flapjack by Okada, and then a DDT for 2. Okada dropkicks Shingo off the top rope to outside. Okada hits a running crossbody over the rails! Back to the ring, Okada hits a pretty missile dropkick for 2. Shingo escapes the Money Clip and blasts a DDT. Wheelbarrow German suplex by Shingo, but Okada reverses a low elbow into the Money Clip. Tombstone Piledriver by Okada, right back into the Money Clip. Shingo won't quit, so Okada summons the Rainmaker, but Shingo cuts him off with a mean lariat. Shingo mocks the Rainmaker pose, to a great gasp from the fans, and Okada loses his temper. They trade devastating blows and take a breather. They stumble to ringside and up the ramp, where Okada tries but fails to hit a Tombstone, and Shingo reverses into a DVD! Shingo is willing to win by countout but Okada barely beats the count. Shingo greets him with a devastating superplex. Okada is in full survival mode and maneuvers into a pair of short arm Rainmakers. Shingo surprises with Made in Japan for only 2. A second Made in Japan also gets 2. Pumping bomber by Shingo gets another good nearfall, the crowd is applauding every false finish. Okada reverses Last of the Dragon into another short Rainmaker. They catch their breaths and slug their way back up. Isn't it amazing that these guys know how to get their rest without using rest holds? They fight up to the top rope and Okada nails an avalanche DDT! Shingo blocks the Rainmaker, but Okada settles for a high elevation German suplex. Shingo throws a nasty head butt and lariat. Shingo hits a Dragon suplex, but Okada pops up for a dropkick. Okada hits a sitout slam and RAINMAKER to win at 35:41! Tremendous match that maintained intense crowd heat over 35 minutes and didn't let go until the end, ****½.
Winner and NEW IWGP World Heavyweight Champion: Kazuchika Okada

Before accepting the new World title, Okada bows before the old IWGP title belt. Will Ospreay grabs a mic and introduces Okada as the new interim champion. He notes that he didn't break a sweat in his match tonight, while Okada looks beaten down. Ospreay threatens to beat Okada so badly that he'll leave New Japan in his safe arms.

Final Thoughts: I hadn't seen much from New Japan since last summer, so I was in the mood for this big show. The undercard was mostly decent with a bit of middling filler, but the main events were great enough to make for a satisfying package. New Japan might be struggling right now, but Night 1 was a success.

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