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Wrestle Kingdom 15 is a featured article.

Wrestle Kingdom 15 in Tokyo Dome was a two-day professional wrestling event promoted by New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW). The two shows took place on January 4 and 5, 2021, at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan. This is was the thirty January 4 Tokyo Dome Show and the fifteenth promoted under the Wrestle Kingdom name, which is NJPW's biggest annual event and has been called "the largest wrestling show in the world outside of the United States" and the "Japanese equivalent to the Super Bowl".[6][7] The event marked the second time that Wrestle Kingdom was held on two nights, instead of taking place solely on January 4.[1]

The first night of the show was headlined by Tetsuya Naito defending the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships against the winner of the 2020 G1 Climax, Kota Ibushi, while the second night was headlined by Kota Ibushi defending the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships against the holder of the Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships challenge rights certificate Jay White. Another high-profile matches scheduled for the show featured Kazuchika Okada facing Will Ospreay in the first night and EVIL facing SANADA in the second night of the event.

The first night of the event featured another title match with Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.) defending the IWGP Tag Team Championship against the winners of the 2020 World Tag League Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa). The second night featured three other title matches with Shingo Takagi defending the NEVER Openweight Championship against Jeff Cobb, Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defending the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship against One or Eight (Master Wato and Ryusuke Taguchi) and Taiji Ishimori defending the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship against the winner of the 2020 Best of the Super Juniors Hiromu Takahashi.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event had some restrictions in the attendance, after the Japanese Government lifted the State of Emergency. 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 FITE TV and NJPW World streaming services. As part of Bushiroad's acquisition wrestlers from the Japan based Joshi promotion Stardom also appeared at the event.

Production[]

Background[]

Since 1992, NJPW began annually producing shows on January 4 in the Tokyo Dome, becoming NJPW's premier annual event and the biggest event in Japanese wrestling, similar to what WrestleMania is for WWE and American professional wrestling.[8] Since 2007, when the event was renamed "Wrestle Kingdom in Tokyo Dome", the Dome shows have been broadcast on pay-per-view (PPV).[9][10][11] Wrestle Kingdom 15 was officially announced on October 19, 2020, during the finals of the 2020 G1 Climax.[12][13] The events took part in two night for the second time in its history on January 4 and 5 at the Tokyo Dome.[12]

On November 29, it was announced that Japanese comedian Don Kinashi, would be in charge of the theme song for the event.[14] On December 4, NJPW announced that general sale tickets would be put on sale on December 5, costing from ¥6,500 to ¥30,500.[15] On December 11, Kinashi was also appointed as a special promoter for the first night of Wrestle Kingdom.[16][17] On December 20 at Stardom's Osaka Dream Cinderella, it was announced that Stardom wrestlers would be competing at the event.[18] In the previous year at Wrestle Kingdom 14, Stardom held a a dark match on January 4, 2020, with Arisa Hoshiki and Mayu Iwatani facing Giulia and Hana Kimura.[18]

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic[]

Promotional logo for the event

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.[19] 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. [20] On March 23, NJPW also canceled the 2020 Sakura Genesis event, which was originally scheduled to take place on March 31.[21] 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.[22][23] 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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26] On August 11, NJPW announced that all G1 Climax show would have a limited number of wrestlers participating on the tour, with B block wrestlers not competing on A block shows throughout the tour, due to prevention measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[27] On October 6, it was announced that the 2020 Best of the Super Juniors would be resumed alongside the 2020 World Tag League, due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, with the tounaments taking place between November 15 until December 11. With both tournaments consisting of ten nights, taking place on alternate days opposed to each other with the exceptions being the first round on November 15, final round on December 6 and the finals on December 11.[28]

On October 27, NJPW President Takami Obari revealed in an interview on Tokyo Sports, that he expected a limit of 20,000 fans in attendence set for both nights of the events, despite the arena's normal capacity of 50,000 fans.[29][30] Leading to the event, on November 8, during a press conference, NJPW Chairman Naoki Sugabayashi revealed that since July 11, NJPW had promoted 54 live events, with an combined attendance of 72,706 paid fans, due to their guidelines, there were no positive cases, arising as a result of its live events.[31] On December 23, Japanese Minister of Economy Yasutoshi Nishimura, announced that due to high infection rates of the COVID-19 in Tokyo, all the events until January 11, would be forced to have a maximum capacity of 5,000 people. However, Nishimura also noted that persons who already bought tickets for events wouldn't be forced to return them, but instead, the attendance of those events would be capped to the tickets already sold, forcing NJPW to stop with the ticket sales.[32]

Storylines[]

Wrestle Kingdom 15 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 built tension and culminated in a wrestling match or series of matches.[33]

Kota Ibushi, the winner of the 2020 G1 Climax, who faced Tetsuya Naito on first night and Jay White on the second night for the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships.

The first night of the Wrestle Kingdom 15 was main evented by Tetsuya Naito defending the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships against Kota Ibushi, while the second night of the event will be main evented by between the winner of Tetsuya Naito against Kota Ibushi defending the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships against Jay White. The storyline behind the match dates back to the previous Wrestle Kingdom on January 4, 2020, when Kota Ibushi, Jay White and Tetsuya Naito alongside Kazuchika Okada were involved in the "Double Gold Dash" to crown the first dual IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Champion in NJPW's history, during which Naito defeated White to win IWGP Intercontinental Championship, while Ibushi was defeated by Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. The following day, on the second night of Wrestle Kingdom 14, Naito successfully defended the IWGP Intercontinental Championship and won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, after defeating Kazuchika Okada, to become the first double champion in NJPW history.[34][35][36]

Jay White, the holder of the 2020 Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate, who faced Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships on the second night of the event

On October 18, Kota Ibushi defeated SANADA in the finals to win the 2020 G1 Climax for the second time, becoming the third wrestler after Masahiro Chono and Hiroyoshi Tenzan to win back-to-back finals, earning a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 15 on January 4, 2021.[37][38] After the match, in a post-match interview, Ibushi was challenged by Jay White for his contract, after he was defeated by White during the G1 Climax.[37][39] Afterwards, Ibushi proclaimed his ambition to face Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom.[37][38] Following the win, Ibushi gained possession of the Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate, which granted him a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom, a contract that he would have to defend for the rest of the year.[40] On November 7, at Power Struggle, Ibushi lost his contract to Jay White, in his first title defense, becoming the first wrestler to lose the Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate.[41] Later that night, after Naito successfully defended the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships against EVIL, White confronted and challenged Naito to face him on January 5 at the second night of Wrestle Kingdom, before being chased by Ibushi, who also made his intentions knwon of challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships.[41] The following day, at a press conference, Naito proposed that he defended both championships on January 4, and January 5, 2021 with the first night being against an opponent of his choosing, which led him to nominate Ibushi, due to winning the 2020 G1 Climax and defeating him during the tournament in their head-to-head match. This also led Naito to crticized the concept of the challenge rights certificate and to consider his request under the threat he would boycott the main event of Wrestle Kingdom if he his request wasn't accepted.[42] Meanwhile, at a press conference, White reafirmed his challenge to Naito for January 5, while also demanding his own briefcase.[43] On November 9, NJPW oficially announced the main event for both nights of Wrestle Kingdom.[44][45] Prior to the title matches, on August 31, during a press conference, Naito hinted that NJPW wanted to unify both IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships, due to refusing to defend both titles separately.[46]

Will Ospreay, who faced Kazuchika Okada on the first night of the event

On October 3, 2015, in a Revolution Pro Wrestling event, Will Ospreay faced New Japan Pro-Wrestling's Kazuchika Okada in a losing effort.[44][45] Okada, impressed with Ospreay, went on to recommend him to NJPW officials, eventually led to Ospreay being signed by NJPW. Ospreay would be announced as the newest member of Okada's stable CHAOS.[44][45] Over the following years, Ospreay went on to establish himself in the junior heavyweight division, before making his full transition to heavyweight division in 2020.[44][45] On October 16, 2020, Opsreay and Okada faced each other in their final block match in the 2020 G1 Climax.[47][48] Ospreay won the match with help from his girlfriend Bea Priestley and the returning Great O-Khan.[47][48] Afterwards, Ospreay turned on Okada, announcing his departure from CHAOS, blaming Okada for "holding him back" and the creation of his own stable alongside Priestley and Great O-Khan, before annoucing the formation of his own stable The Empire.[47][48] Following the tournament, Okada began seeking revenge against Opsreay for his actions, leading him to face the Great O-Khan in his test in a match at Power Struggle on November 7 in a winning effort.[41][49] Afterwards, Ospreay claimed he had used Okada in order to achieve success, before challenged him to a match at Wrestle Kingdom, which he accepted.[41][49] The match was officially announced on November 9.[44][45]

Shingo Takagi, the NEVER Openweight Champion, who defended his title against Jeff Cobb

On December 6, The Empire (Jeff Cobb and Great O-Khan) faced Los Ingobernables de Japón (Shingo Takagi and SANADA) in their last round robin match of the 2020 World Tag League in a winning effort, after Cobb pinned Takagi.[50] After the match, Cobb posed over Takagi with his NEVER Openweight Championship belt.[50] On December 11, Cobb grab Takagi's NEVER Openweight Championship belt. Takagi attempted to get the title back, only for Cobb to lay him out with the Tour of the Islands.[51] Afterwards, in a backstage interview, Cobb challenged Takagi to a title match, which Takagi accepted for Wrestle Kingdom.[52] The title match was officially announced on December 14.[53]

The Empire angle resulted in Wrestle Kingdom also featuring other prominent matches featuring the stable.[51] On November 15, The Empire (Jeff Cobb and Great O-Khan) faced Hiroshi Tanahashi and Toa Henare in a winning effort. After the match, O-Khan attacked Tanahashi's leg.[54] Also on December 11, O-Khan and his The Empire stablemates Jeff Cobb and Will Ospreay faced Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Toa Henare in a winning effort. Afterwards, O-Khan kept attacking Tanahashi's leg, before hitting his leg with a chair.[51] After the match, in a post-match interview, Tanahashi challenged O-Khan to a match.[55] During this year, Tanahashi struggled with his confidence and various injury, leading his results to being unable to keep up with his reputation.[56] The match was officially announced on December 14.[56] On December 23, following a six-man tag team match between The Empire and Okada, Tanahashi and Tomoaki Honma, Tanahashi attacked The Empire with a chair, mostly on Great O-Khan.[57]

Hiromu Takahashi, the winner of the 2020 Best of the Super Juniors, who faced the winner of the 2020 Super J-Cup El Phantasmo on the first night and Taiji Ishimori on the second night for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

Since July, Hiromu Takahashi began feuding with Taiji Ishimori, after Ishimori challenged Takahashi to a match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.[58] On August 29, at Summer Struggle in Jingu, Takahashi lost the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship to Ishimori.[59] From November 15 until December 6, Ishimori and Takahashi took part in the 2020 Best of the Super Juniors.[60] During the tournament, Takahashi picked up a win over Ishimori, leading Ishimori to miss out the finals of the tournament, due to losing to Takahashi during their head-to-head match.[61][50] On December 11, Takahashi defeated El Desperado in the finals to win the 2020 Best of the Super Juniors.[51] Traditionally, the winners of the tournament have earned a shot at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship and following the win, instead of challenging Ishimori, Takahashi challenged the winner of the 2020 Super J-Cup to a match, before facing Ishimori for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.[51][62] Two days later, Ishimori's Bullet Club stablemate El Phantasmo defeated ACH in the finals to win the 2020 Super J-Cup.[63] Afterwards, Phantasmo accepted Takahashi's challenge to a match.[63] The match was announced on December 14.[56] On December 14, it was announced that the winner of the match between Phantasmo and Takahashi would face Ishimori in the second night of the event for IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.[53]

Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.), the IWGP Tag Team Champions, who defended their titles against the Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa)

On December 11, the Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) defeated FinJuice (David Finlay and Juice Robinson) to win the 2020 World Tag League, following the outside interference of their Bullet Club stablemate KENTA, who attacked Robinson with his IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate briefcase. Traditionally, the winners of the tournament have earned a shot at the IWGP Tag Team Championship at the January 4 Tokyo Dome Show and following the win, in a post-match interview, the Guerrillas of Destiny challenged the reigning champions, Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.), to a title match.[51][39] The title match was officially announced on December 14.[56] On December 21 at Road to Tokyo Dome tour, following a tag team match between KENTA and Robinson, KENTA attempted to attack Robinson with his IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate briefcase, only for Robinson to attack him instead.[64] Afterwards, Robinson left with KENTA's IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate briefcase, only to challenge him to a match for his contract.[64] The following day, KENTA attacked Robinson with his briefcase, before accepting his challenge.[65] On December 23, it was announced that Robinson would miss the event due to fracturing a orbital bone.[66] Later that day, KENTA and his Bullet Club stablemate faced Satoshi Kojima and Toa Henare in a winning effort. Afterwards, Kojima challenged KENTA to a match for his IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate, before KENTA tried to attack him with his briefcase, only for Kojima to lay him out with the Koji Cutter.[57][67] The match was officially announced on December 24.[68]

EVIL, who faced his former Los Ingobernables de Japon stablemate SANADA in the sencond night of the event

At the December 11 event, EVIL teamed with his Bullet Club stablemate Yujiro Takahashi to face Los Ingobernables de Japón (Shingo Takagi and SANADA) in a losing effort.[51][52] After the match, SANADA kept attacking EVIL, before brawled to the backstage, with EVIL challenging SANADA to a match.[51][52] Ever since SANADA joined Los Ingobernables de Japon in April 2016, he and EVIL became synonymous in NJPW's heavyweight tag team division, winning the IWGP Tag Team Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 12 and Wrestle Kingdom 13, before EVIL turned on Los Ingobernables de Japon in July 2020.[69] The match was officially announced on December 14.[53] On December 23, during a press conference, SANADA reminded that he had defeated EVIL on Ocotber 17 during their round robin match in the 2020 G1 Climax. This led at the end of the press conference, EVIL's manager Dick Togo attacking SANADA.[70][71]

Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado) who faced One or Eight (Master Wato and Ryusuke Taguchi) in the sencond night of the event

On December 21 at Road to Tokyo Dome tour, Master Wato and Ryusuke Taguchi teamed with Hiroyoshi Tenzan against Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) in a winning effort, after Wato pinned Kanemaru.[64] Afterwards, Wato and Taguchi challenged Desperado and Kanemaru to a title match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.[64] The match was officially announced on December 23.[72] As part of their challenged Wato and Taguchi formed a team dubbing themselves as "One or Eight".[72]

The rest of the matches for Wrestle Kingdom 15 were announced on December 23, including the seventh title match of the event being a four-way match contested to decide the newly created provisional KOPW 2021 champion.[72] Three days later, NJPW announced the Stardom matches for the event, with Queen's Quest (Saya Kamitani, AZM, and Utami Hayashishita) facing Donna Del Mondo (Maika, Natsupoi, and Himeka) and STARS (Mayu Iwatani and Tam Nakano) facing Donna Del Mondo (Syuri and Giulia) on the second night.[73][74]

Event[]

Night 1[]

Other on-screen personnel
Role: Name:
English Commentators Kevin Kelly
Chris Charlton
Rocky Romero
Japanese Commentators Shinpei Nogami
Milano Collection A.T.
Katsuhiko Kanazawa
Kazuyoshi Sakai
Togi Makabe
Ring announcers Makoto Abe
Kimihiko Ozaki
Referees Kenta Sato
Marty Asami
Red Shoes Unno

Pre-show[]

Toru Yano, the winner of the KOPW 2020, who advanced to the four-way match to decide the inaugural KOPW 2021 on the second night of the event

The pre-show opened with the New Japan Rambo to determine the participants to the KOPW 2021, which saw Bullet Club's Chase Owens enter at number one, followed by CHAOS's and one-third of the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions Tomohiro Ishii entering at second, with Suzuki-gun's Minoru Suzuki entering at third, followed by Yuji Nagata, Toa Henare, CHAOS and one-third of the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions Hirooki Goto. During Goto's entrance, Nagata and Suzuki were brawling at the ropes, leading Henare to eliminate them. Bullet Club's Yujiro Takahashi was the next wrestler to enter the match. Afterwards, Henare was eliminated after being throwned over the top rope. Henare entrance was followed by CHAOS and one-third of the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions Yoshi-Hashi and Togi Makabe's entering to the match. Afterwards, Makabe eliminated Goto and Yoshi-Hashi after throwing them over the top rope, following the King Kong Lariat. Tomoaki Honma and Hiroyoshi Tenzan became the tenth and eleventh wrestlers to enter the match. The two teamed up on Makabe, eliminating him from the match. Makabe's elimination was followed by CHAOS' Rocky Romero and Suzuki-gun's DOUKI, and CHAOS Sho becoming the twelveth, thirteenth and fourteenth wrestlers to enter the match. DOUKI would be eliminated by disqualification, after he threw himself out of the ring, follwing a spear by Sho. Los Ingobernables de Japón's BUSHI became the fifteenth wrestler to enter the match, before eliminating Yujiro Takahashi from the match. After Tiger Mask and Bad Luck Fale's addition to the match, Owens tried to eliminate Ishii, before being pulled to the ring ropes by Ishii. Afterwards, Ishii, who was brawling with Owens on the ropes was eliminated by Fale, following a lariat, before also eliminating Tomoaki Honma from the match, during Gabriel Kidd's entrance. This was followed by Tenzan, Romero, Sho and Tiger Mask's also being eliminated by Fale. Toru Yano, who had recently feuded with Fale for the KOPW 2020, became the last wrestler to enter the match, who then Fale stared him down. Meanwhile, Owens eliminated Kidd from the match. This was followed by Fale eliminating young lions Yota Tsuji and Yuya Uemura to end the match, despite Yano never entering the ring.[75]

Undercard []

The pay-per-view opened with "Special Promoter" Don Kinash and Riki Choshu, before being highlighting the matches and the safety precautions being taken for the event.[75]

The first match of the show featured the winner of the 2020 Best of the Super Juniors Hiromu Takahashi facing the winner of the 2020 Super J-Cup El Phantasmo to determine, who was going to face Taiji Ishimori for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship on the second night. The match ended with Takahashi reverting Phantasmo's CRII to a hurricanrana for the win, becoming the next challenger to Ishimori on the second night.[75] Afterwards, before Takahashi started his post match press conference, Ishimori cofronted him, revealing that he prefered to face Phantasmo on the second night.[76]

Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa), who defeated Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.) to become the new IWGP Tag Team Champions at the event.

The second match featured Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.) (accompanied by DOUKI) defending the IWGP Tag Team Championship against the winners of the 2020 World Tag League Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) (accompanied by Jado). In the end, Jado entered the ring, leading Taichi to shove the referee before DOUKI pulled Jado out of the ring. Afterwards, Taichi was caught distracted by Tonga, who hit him with the Iron Finger from Hell, before Loa pinned him with the Apeshit to become the new IWGP Tag Team Champions.[75]

Following the match, Jon Moxley returned to NJPW in a pre-taped vignette, warning the winner of the match for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate, before their match. The third match for the show, featured KENTA defending the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate against Satoshi Kojima, who was replacing Juice Robinson due to an injury. The match ended with KENTA retaining his contract after pinning Kojima with the Go 2 Sleep.[75]

Hiroshi Tanahashi, who defeated Great-O-Khan at the event.

Afterwards, NJPW advertised a commercial for their upcoming mobile videogame NJPW Strong Spirits, featuring Tetsuya Naito and NJPW's with Bushiroad's President Takaaki Kidani. NJPW also teased two television deal in the United Kingdom and the United States.[75]

The fifth match featured Great-O-Khan facing Hiroshi Tanahashi in a singles match. The match ended with Tanahashi perfoming consecutive High Fly Flow's on O-Khan to win the match. In the semi main event, Kazuchika Okada faced his previous CHAOS stablemate Will Ospreay (accompanied by Bea Priestley). In the end, Okada blocked the Storm Breaker, followed by a modified Tombstone piledriver, followed by the Rainmaker.[75]

Main Event[]

Kota Ibushi, who defeated Tetsuya Naito to become the new IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion at the main event.

The main event featured Tetsuya Naito defending the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships against the winner of the 2020 G1 Climax, Kota Ibushi. In the end, Naito performed the Valentia, before going for the Destino. Ibushi managed counter the Destino with an high knee, followed by the Kamigoye to become the new IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Champion. Following the match, Ibushi was handed the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships by Naito, before being confronted by Jay White (accompanied by Gedo). After White left, Ibushi thanked Naito for the match, before closing out the show.[75]

Night 2[]

Other on-screen personnel
Role: Name:
English Commentators Kevin Kelly
Chris Charlton
Rocky Romero
Japanese Commentators Shinpei Nogami
Milano Collection A.T.
Katsuhiko Kanazawa
Kazuyoshi Sakai
Togi Makabe
Masahiro Chono
Jushin Thunder Liger
Ring announcers Makoto Abe
Kimihiko Ozaki
Referees Kenta Sato
Marty Asami
Red Shoes Unno

Dark matches[]

Prior to the televised part of the event, the Wrestle Kingdom 15 featured two non-televised exhibition matches from Joshi promotion World Wonder Ring Stardom. In the first match, Queen's Quest (Saya Kamitani, AZM, and Utami Hayashishita) faced Donna Del Mondo (Maika, Natsupoi, and Himeka). The match ended with Kamitani perfoming the Phoenix Splash on Natsupoi for the victory.[77]

In the second match, Donna Del Mondo's Giulia and Syuri faced STARS (Mayu Iwatani and Tam Nakano). In the end, Giulia performed the Glorious Driver on Nakano, to win the match for her team.

Undercard []

BUSHI, who took part in the four-way match to decide the provional KOPW 2021 Champion.

The first match of the show featured a four-way between the winners of the New Japan Rambo in the first night, Bad Luck Fale, BUSHI, Chase Owens and the KOPW 2020 Champion Toru Yano. Before the match, Fale and Owens prevented Yano from entering the ring. Afterwards, Fale almost won the match, after almost pinning Owens with the Fingerpoke of Doom. In the end of the match, Fale and Owens performed the Grenade Launcher on BUSHI. Afterwards, Owens covered BUSHI for the pinfall, but Fale kicked him to break up the pin. Fale and Owens argued over who should get to pin BUSHI, before deciding to chokeslam the referee. Yano capitalized on the opportunity to hit a double low blow on Fale and Owens, before covering BUSHI to become the provisional KOPW 2021 Champion.[77]

The following match, featured Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defending the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship against One or Eight (Master Wato and Ryusuke Taguchi) (accompanied by Hiroyoshi Tenzan). In the end, Desperado performed the Pinche Loco on Taguchi for Suzuki-gun to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships.[77]

In the third match, Shingo Takagi defended the the NEVER Openweight Championship against Jeff Cobb. The match ended with Takagi performing the Pumping Bomber, followed by the Last of the Dragon to make his first successfull title defense. Afterwards, NJPW advertised a commercial for their upcoming mobile videogame NJPW Strong Spirits, featuring Tetsuya Naito and NJPW's with Bushiroad's President Takaaki Kidani.[77]

Hiromu Takahashi, who defeated Taiji Ishimori to become the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion at the event.

In the fourth match, EVIL (accompanied by Dick Togo) faced his former Los Ingobernables de Japón stablemate SANADA. During the match, EVIL taunted SANADA by perfoming their old finishing move the Magic Killer on him with Togo, while the referee was down due to EVIL throwing SANADA to the referee. In the end, EVIL shoved the referee, while trying to hit SANADA with an low blow, which SANADA countered it. Afterwards, SANADA used EVIL's own finishing move the Everything Is Evil against him, followed by the pop-up TKO and the Rounding Body Press for the victory.[77]

The fifth match for the show featured Taiji Ishimori defending the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship against the winner of the 2020 Best of the Super Juniors Hiromu Takahashi. The match ended with Takahashi performing the Time Bomb II on Ishimori to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion for the fourth time.[77] Afterwards, in a post match press conference, Takahashi nominated Sho as his next challenger for his title.[78]

Main Event[]

Kota Ibushi, acccepting SANADA's challenge to a title match for the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships, following the main event.

The main event featured Kota Ibushi defending the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships against the against holder of the Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships challenge rights certificate Jay White (accompanied by Gedo). In the end, White attempted the Blade Runner, but Ibushi countering it to a lariat, Afterwards, Ibushi performed the Kamigoye into White's back, before following by another Kamigoye to retain the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships. At 48 minutes and 5 seconds, their match became the longest match in the January 4 Tokyo Dome Show history. After the match, SANADA challenged Ibushi to a title match, which Ibushi accepted, closing out the show.[75]

Reception[]

The first night drew 12,689 fans to the Tokyo Dome,[4] while the second night drew 7,801[5] to the Tokyo Dome, while in average was down from the previous year's announced attendance, it was noted that attedance numbers were affected by the restrictions imposed by the Japanese Government.[79]

The stadium of Wrestle Kingdom 15 event during the main event of the show.

Kevin Pantoja in his review for the first night for the 411 Mania claimed that the first night "was surprisingly easy to watch given that Wrestle Kingdom is usually [...] long. There was nothing bad on the show, with [...] Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi's being the only thing to crack." The "night was filled with quality wrestling from top to bottom." For the second night, Pantoja claimed that the NEVER Openweight, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championships and the main event "delivered in huge ways and were all different [...], with the first being a "hard hitting [...] classic, the junior heavyweights being amazing, and an epic main event."[80][81]

Jason Powell in his review for the first night for the ProWrestling.net said that on the first night that it was "a terrific main event with some awesome near falls. Excellent drama. [...] Overall, the last two matches absolutely made the show. The undercard wasn’t bad, but it didn’t feel truly special."[82] In the second night, Powell claimed that "the highs were higher and the lows were lower on night two compared to night one. The opening match was comedy, the second match was fine for what it was, and EVIL and SANADA was underwhelming, [...] the first four matches were forgettable [...] the other three matches were special and made night two a very memorable show.[83]

Alex Podgorski in his review for the first night for the TJR Wrestling that "this was [...] a two-match show, with the final two matches being the best. Podgorski "was disappointed in some areas and delightfully surprised in others. The tag title match was way better" than he "thought it would be" and "the main event was everything" he expected [...] everything else was disappointing. Hiromu and ELP didn’t have the barn burner" he was expecting. "KENTA did what he could with Kojima but it wasn’t great [...] the booking of the Great-O-Khan and Hiroshi Tanahashi match made [...] no sense beyond telling the story that Tanahashi can still wrestle" and Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay was nowhere near the level of greatness expected of them".[84]

Aftermath[]

Following the event, Kota Ibushi announced his intentions of wanting to unify the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships, due to challengers for the titles not wanting to face him for a specific championship.[85] Meanwhile, Jay White, who was frustrated about his loss, stated that "maybe [his] time should be spent some place else", adding that he was leaving the promotion on January 6.[85] Two days later, it was reported by Pro Wrestling Inisder, that there doubts within the promotion, whether White would extend his contract, which was rumored to expire at the end of the month, with WWE being interest in signing him.[86] The following day, Dave Meltzer reported on the Wrestling Observer Radio, that "this was probably a storyline", but he also noted that White refered that he had signed a "seven-year contract in 2018".[87] On January 14, White's profile was removed from NJPW's website. However, despite the rumors, on February 1, White made his return to the promotion attacking Tomohiro Ishii.[88]

After the event, on January 6 at New Years Dash, The Empire entered a rivalry with Tencozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima), following an attack on them, which caused Tenzan to be stretchered out of the arena. Shortly after, Opsreay officially named the United Empire.[89] Meanwhile, the Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) continued their rivalry with the Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.) over the IWGP Tag Team Championship, while their Bullet Club stablemates El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori began feuding with Dangerous Tekkers' Suzuki-gun stablemates El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru over the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.[89]

Also at New Years Dash, Shingo Takagi began feuding with Hiroshi Tanahashi over the NEVER Openweight Championship, after Tanahashi challenged him to a title match, while Hiromu Takahashi continued feuding with Sho over the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship and Kota Ibushi with SANADA over the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships.[89]

Results[]

Night 1[]

# Matches Stipulations Times
1 Bad Luck Fale, BUSHI, Chase Owens and Toru Yano won by last eliminating Yuya Uemura 21-man New Japan Rambo to determine the participants to the KOPW 2021 34:40
2 Hiromu Takahashi (BOSJ) defeated El Phantasmo (J-Cup) Singles match to determine the #1 contender for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship 17:46
3 Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) (with Jado) defeated Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.) (c) (with DOUKI) Tag team match for the IWGP Tag Team Championship 19:18
4 KENTA (c) defeated Satoshi Kojima Singles match for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate 14:12
5 Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Great-O-Khan Singles match 17:13
6 Kazuchika Okada defeated Will Ospreay (with Bea Priestley) Singles match 35:41
7 Kota Ibushi defeated Tetsuya Naito (c) Singles match for the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships 31:18
  • (c) – refers to the champion(s) heading into the match
  • Videoicon.png – refers to the video of that match

Night 2[]

# Matches Stipulations Times
1D Queen's Quest (Saya Kamitani, AZM, and Utami Hayashishita) defeated Donna Del Mondo (Maika, Natsupoi, and Himeka) Six-woman tag team match
Stardom exhibition match
9:48
2D Donna Del Mondo (Syuri and Giulia) defeated STARS (Mayu Iwatani and Tam Nakano) Tag team match
Stardom exhibition match
12:49
3 Toru Yano defeated Bad Luck Fale, BUSHI and Chase Owens Four-way match for the provisional KOPW 2021 7:43
4 Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c) defeated One or Eight (Master Wato and Ryusuke Taguchi) (with Hiroyoshi Tenzan) Tag team match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship 13:20
5 Shingo Takagi (c) defeated Jeff Cobb Singles match for the NEVER Openweight Championship 21:11
6 SANADA defeated EVIL (with Dick Togo) Singles match 23:40
7 Hiromu Takahashi defeated Taiji Ishimori (c) Singles match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship 25:31
8 Kota Ibushi (c) defeated Jay White (with Gedo) Singles match for the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships 48:05
  • (c) – refers to the champion(s) heading into the match
  • Videoicon.png – refers to the video of that match
  • D – indicates the match was a dark match

New Japan Rambo match entrances and eliminations[]

     – Winner
Draw Entrant Order Eliminated by Eliminations
1 Chase Owens - Winner 1
2 Tomohiro Ishii 9 Bad Luck Fale 1
3 Minoru Suzuki 1 Toa Henare 0
4 Yuji Nagata 2 0
5 Toa Henare 3 Tomohiro Ishii 2
6 Hirooki Goto 4 Togi Makabe 0
7 Yujiro Takahashi 8 BUSHI 0
8 Yoshi-Hashi 5 Togi Makabe 0
9 Togi Makabe 6 Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Tomoaki Honma 2
10 Tomoaki Honma 10 Bad Luck Fale 1
11 Hiroyoshi Tenzan 11 1
12 Rocky Romero 12 0
13 DOUKI 7 Disqualification[note 1] 0
14 Sho 13 Bad Luck Fale 0
15 BUSHI - Winner 1
16 Tiger Mask 14 Bad Luck Fale 0
17 Bad Luck Fale - Winner 8
18 Gabriel Kidd 15 Chase Owens 0
19 Yuya Uemura 16 Bad Luck Fale 0
20 Yota Tsuji 17 0
21 Toru Yano - Winner 0

Notes[]

  1. DOUKI was eliminated by disqualification, after he threw himself out of the ring.

References[]

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