Wrestle Grand Slam is a professional wrestling event promoted by New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). The event was suposed to take place in three nights in Tokyo at the Tokyo Dome and in Yokohama in the Yokohama Stadium. The event featured NJPW's second event of the year promoted in the Tokyo Dome following Wrestle Kingdom 15 and NJPW's return to the Metlife Dome after seven years.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event had some restrictions in the attendance, after the Japanese Government declared the State of Emergency. The events were originally scheduled to take place on May 15 and May 22, but were postponed to July 25 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event in Yokohama was cancelled and instead it was rescheduled into two nights on September 4 and 5 at the Metlife Dome in Saitama, Japan.
At the end of February, NJPW began canceling events, before starting to hold shows with no audience and only essential staff present in June. The following month, NJPW began holding shows with an limited audience starting with the finals of the 2020 New Japan Cup on July 11. The event aired live on NJPW's streaming service NJPW World in English and Japanese commentaries and on FITE TV with English and French commentaries, for the first time in the promotion's history.
The event was announced on March 11, 2021, featuring the Yokohama Stadium one of the venues used in the 2020 Summer Olympics and at the Tokyo Dome, the second event of the year promoted in the arena following the Wrestle Kingdom 15 in Tokyo Dome. On March 24, NJPW announced the pre-sale tickets for the event, only available for members of the "Team NJPW" fan club. On April 2, NJPW announced that some sections of the Yokohama Stadium were sold out. NJPW released the general sale tickets on April 6, costing from ¥8,500 to ¥21,000. On April 13, NJPW also announced that some sections of the Tokyo Dome were also sold out. On May 6, it was announced that the event would be broadcasted at the FITE TV streaming service, while also providing French commentary for the first time in NJPW's history.
Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, other wrestling promotions began to cancel or postpone their shows in an attempt to prevent further spreading of the COVID-19 virus. At the end of February, following recommendations by the Japanese Ministry of Health regarding the coronavirus outbreak, NJPW canceled the events between March 1 and March 15 including the promotion's Anniversary Event and the first and the second round of New Japan Cup. On March 23, NJPW also canceled the 2020 Sakura Genesis event, which was originally scheduled to take place on March 31. On April 8, NJPW canceled more events from April 11 through May 4, leading to the cancelation of both nights of 2020 Wrestling Dontaku and would also cancel the whole Best of the Super Juniors tournament as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on May 6. Various wrestlers such as David Finlay, El Phantasmo, KENTA, the Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa), Jay White, Juice Robinson, Will Ospreay, Rocky Romero, and Robbie Eagles were unable to work on NJPW events due to travel restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, NJPW wrestlers and staff created the NJPW Together project in order to do bring content to NJPW World with interviews and old archived matches. On May 6, NJPW announced that their Wrestle Dynasty event would be postponed to 2021, due to the effects of the 2019-20 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. On June 8, during an online press conference, NJPW Chairman Naoki Sugabayashi announced that the promotion would start to held shows on June 15, starting with the Together Project Special and the return of the 2020 New Japan Cup between June 16 and July 11, with all shows being held behind closed doors. It was also that the finals of the New Japan Cup and the Dominion in Osaka-jo Hall would be the first shows to allow fans into the arena, but only a third of the venue's normal capacity, after the Japanese Government lifted some restrictions on many regions in Japan.
On April 26, 2021, NJPW cancelled two shows May 8 and 10 at the Road to Wrestle Grand Slam tour as result of the State of Emergency in Tokyo. On May 4, on the second night of Wrestling Dontaku, it was announced that two wrestlers complain of a fever at the beginning of the show, leading them to undergo examinations and a PCR test. As a precaution, the card has been changed. The following day, NJPW announced that those two wrestlers had tested positive for COVID-19. On May 7, the Japanese government announced an extension to the state of emergency currently in place in Tokyo and other prefectures, leading NJPW to announce the postponement of the Wrestle Grand Slam. Two days later, NJPW seven more positive cases upon further testing. On June 16, NJPW announced that Wrestle Grand Slam would take place in July 25, NJPW also cancelled the event in Yokohama due to scheduling conflicts leading NJPW to issue ticket refunds.
On June 16, at Kizuna Road, NJPW announced that Tokyo event would be rescheduled to July 25 with the Yokohama event being cancelled being replaced with two other nights taking place instead on September 4 and 5 at the Metlife Dome in Saitama, marking NJPW's return to the arena since August 2014. During that day, the Japanese government lifted the State of Emergency on most perfectures in Japan ahead of the 2021 Summer Olympics, with the Japanese government allowing events with 50% capacity for sporting events. However, this measure was revised on July 8, following the increase of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo, forcing NJPW to stop the ticket sales for the Tokyo event.
All nights of Wrestle Grand Slam featured professional wrestling matches that involved different wrestlers from pre-existing scripted feuds and storylines. Wrestlers portray villains, heroes, or less distinguishable characters in the scripted events that build tension and culminate in a wrestling match or series of matches.
Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome
The Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome was main evented by Shingo Takagi defending the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against Hiroshi Tanahashi. On June 7, at Dominion 6.6 in Osaka-jo Hall, Takagi defeated Kazuchika Okada to win the vacant IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Following the match, Takagi challenged Kota Ibushi to be his first challenger for the title, which was promptly accepted by him. On June 14, Takagi demanded the "biggest possible stage" for his title match against Ibushi. Two days later, NJPW announced that their title match would main event the Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo. On July 11, it was announced that Ibushi would be forced to miss an event during the Summer Struggle tour, after suffering from side effects from the COVID-19 vaccination. This effects also led to Ibushi missing most of the tour. After making his in-ring return on July 19, it was announced on July 21, that Ibushi was diagnosed with an aspiration pneumonia, which forced him to miss the final events of Summer Struggle, while also remaining unclear whether he would be able to compete in the match against Takagi. On July 24, Hiroshi Tanahashi stated he was ready to take the main event spot, if Ibushi couldn't take part in the match. The following day, NJPW confirmed that Ibushi would be unable to compete at Wrestle Grand Slam, therefore, Tanahashi was announced as Ibushi's replacement for the match. Takagi and Tanahashi had previously faced each other on January 30 at The New Beginning in Nagoya, where Tanahashi defeated Takagi to win the NEVER Openweight Championship. This match marked Tanahashi's eleventh Tokyo Dome main event, while Takagi had never main evented the arena before.
Also at Dominion, Los Ingobernables de Japón (BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito and SANADA) faced Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.) in a winning effort with SANADA pinning Sabre. Following the match, Naito and SANADA challenged Taichi and Sabre to a title match for the IWGP Tag Team Championship. However, their challenged would be dismissed by Taichi, following his reservation about Naito and SANADA's respect for the titles and the champions. On June 15 and 16, during the Kizuna Road, Naito and SANADA persuaded Taichi and Sabre to sign their autographs on the cover of a magazine, only to reveal a championship match contract written on the back. Despite not being legal, NJPW still granted them the opportunity for the titles. Over the Kizuna Road tour, Naito and SANADA demanded Dangerous Tekkers birthday gifts for Naito. On July 11 at Summer Struggle in Sapporo, Naito and SANADA defeated Dangerous Tekkers to win the IWGP Tag Team Championship. Following the match, Dangerous Tekkers challenged Naito and SANADA to a rematch at Wrestle Grand Slam. However, Naito began ducking their challenge, until Taichi asked SANADA for a rematch owing to their common past having been raised in the All Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo system, which led to SANADA granting their challenge. Over the following weeks, Naito and SANADA faced Dangerous Tekkers in a singles matches, trading victories with both temas participants, with the exception of Sabre and SANADA, who faced each other in double pinfall draw.
During the Summer Struggle tour, Jeff Cobb and Kazuchika Okada faced each other in consecutive tag team matches, where Cobb teamed with his United Empire stablemate Great-O-Khan and Okada with his CHAOS stablemate Sho. Cobb would pick the win for his team during those matches, while also claiming that Okada was still a "young boy" (rookie). Cobb's comments rightly infuriated Okada, leading him to ask NJPW to book him in a match against Cobb. Leading to their match, on July 24, Okada picked up his first victory over Cobb in a tag team match, where he teamed with his CHAOS stablemate Toru Yano and Cobb with Great-O-Khan.
Also at Summer Struggle in Sapporo on July 10, after El Desperado successfully defended the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship against Taiji Ishimori, Robbie Eagles, appeared in a pre-taped vignette, challenging Desperado to a title match, which Desperado accepted. Before their title match on July 24, Eagles pinned Desperado in a six-man tag team match, which marked his in-ring return to the promotion in seven months, before being attacked by Desperado.
At Summer Struggle in Sapporo on July 11, Mega Coaches (Rocky Romero and Ryusuke Taguchi) faced Bullet Club (El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori) in a six-man tag team match, in which Romero picked up the win for his team, after pinning Phantasmo. Afterwards, Romero and Taguchi challenged Phantasmo and Ishimori to a title match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. On July 17 at Summer Struggle, Taguchi faced Ishimori in a winning effort. Later that night, Rocky Romero faced Phantasmo in a time-limit draw.
The event also included a title match for the provisional KOPW 2021 trophy in New Japan Rambo. Leading to the match, proviosional champion Toru Yano proposed a stipulation for match being either with blindfolds or handcuffs. On July 20, NJPW announced that the New Japan Rambo would be held with handcuffs following the result of a fan vote.
Wrestle Grand Slam in MetLife Dome
The Wrestle Grand Slam in MetLife Dome will be main evented by Shingo Takagi defending the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against EVIL. On July 25 at Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome, after Shingo Takagi defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to retain the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, EVIL appeared in a pre-tapped video, where he challenged Takagi to a title match, before laying him out with the Everything Is Evil. The title match was announced on July 26.
At Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome, Hiromu Takahashi made his return from injury, announcing that he was medically cleared to return to in-ring competition, before challenging the winner of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match between El Desperado and Robbie Eagles. Later that night, Eagles defeated Desperado to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, setting up his match against Takahashi. The title match was announced on July 26. Eagles and Takahashi had previously faced each other in a tag team match, on December 19, 2019, at Takahashi's return match from a neck injury, which Eagles' team won after he pinned Takahashi.
Since June, Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.) began feuding with Los Ingobernables de Japón (Tetsuya Naito and SANADA) over the the IWGP Tag Team Championship, which included Dangerous Tekkers losing the titles to them, before SANADA granting them a rematch at Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome. At the event, Dangerous Tekkers defeated Naito and SANADA to regain the IWGP Tag Team Championship. After the match, in a post-match interview, Naito and SANADA quickly appealed to them for a rematch, the same way that Dangerous Tekkers had done after the titles, with Naito reminding Sabre that he hadn't submitted him as promised, which Sabre accepted. Afterwards, Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi also challenged them to a title match, leading Sabre to accept under the condition that Goto and Yoshi-Hashi would defend the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship against them. The title match was announced on July 26.
Also at Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome, Kazuchika Okada faced Jeff Cobb in a winning effort. Afterwards, in a post-match interview, Cobb reminded that he would settle the score with Okada. This led to on July 27 at Summer Struggle, Cobb attacking Okada following his match, laying him out with the Tour of the Islands, before challenging him to a rematch. The following day, NJPW officially announced the match.
At the event, on July 25, Chase Owens last eliminated Toru Yano in the New Japan Rambo with handcuffs, following the help from his Bullet Club stablemates to win the provisional KOPW 2021 trophy. Following his loss, Yano, who was frustrated with his loss, challenged Owens to a rematch for the trophy. Ever since the trophy's creation in July 2020, Yano had become synonymous with the KOPW Championship, being its first provisional holder and the first official wrestler to win the trophy, after retaining during the year of 2020.
The Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome was originally set to be main evented by Will Ospreay defending the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against Kazuchika Okada. On April 4 at Sakura Genisis, Ospreay defeated Kota Ibushi. Following the match, Ospreay nominated Kazuchika Okada to be his first challenger, as revenge for his loss against him at Wrestle Kingdom 15 in Tokyo Dome. However, before Okada could answer Shingo Takagi challenged Ospreay to a title match, claiming that he had defeated Okada in the first round of the 2021 New Japan Cup, while also seeking revenge for losing to Ospreay in the finals of the tournament. This led to Ospreay accepting Takagi as his first challenger, with Okada being next in line. The following day, it was announced that the winner of Ospreay and Takagi's match at Wrestling Dontaku would be facing Okada at Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome. On May 4, on the second night of Wrestling Dontaku, Ospreay defeated Takagi to make his first successful title defense, setting up his match against Okada at Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome. However, due to an extension to the of Japan's State of Emergency, Ospreay's title match with Okada was cancelled. On May 20, it was announced that Opsreay would be vacacting the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship due to a neck injury suffered in his match against Takagi.
|1||Chase Owens won by last eliminating Toru Yano (c)||New Japan Rambo for the provisional KOPW 2021||35:36|
|2||Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo) (c) defeated Mega Coaches (Ryusuke Taguchi and Rocky Romero)||Tag team match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship||20:56|
|3||Robbie Eagles defeated El Desperado (c)||Singles match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship||19:56|
|4||Kazuchika Okada defeated Jeff Cobb||Singles match||19:23|
|5||Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.) (with Miho Abe) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japón (Tetsuya Naito and SANADA) (c) by submission||Tag team match for the IWGP Tag Team Championship||37:58|
|6||Shingo Takagi (c) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi||Singles match for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship||37:26|
|1||Chase Owens (c) vs. Toru Yano||Singles match for the provisional KOPW 2021|
|2||Kazuchika Okada vs. Jeff Cobb||Singles match|
|1||Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.) (c) (with Miho Abe) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (Tetsuya Naito and SANADA) vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi)||Three-way tag team match for the IWGP Tag Team Championship|
|2||Robbie Eagles (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi||Singles match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship|
|3||Shingo Takagi (c) vs. EVIL||Singles match for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship|