NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night 1 Predictions
Wrestle Kingdom 15 Pre-Show
New Japan Rambo
22-Man New Japan Rambo to determine who will challenge for the Provisional KOPW 2021 Trophy on night 2
I don’t think anyone actually knows who will be in the 22 Man Rambo this year, which is New Japan bringing back their royal rumble. Only this time the final four in the match will move on to a four corner match for the Provisional KOPW 2021 Trophy. The safe guess is that it’ll be mostly guys in Japan who don’t have matches. Based on that I’ll guess 20 of the competitors:
Tiger Mask, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Gabriel Kidd, Yota Tsuji, Yuya Uemura, Toru Yano, Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, Toa Henare, Tomoaki Honma, BUSHI, SHO, Yujiro Takahashi, Togi Makabe, DOUKI, Minoru Suzuki, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, Yuji Nagata
That leaves two surprises. I’m pretty sure David Finlay is back in the United States. YOH isn’t coming back from injury this soon. Maybe someone from NJPW Strong is coming out for it. Wouldn’t mind seeing it be Fred Rosser since he’s been one of my favourites on NJPW Strong. Even if there’s surprises, I’m going with some roster regulars for the final four.
Final Four: Tomohiro Ishii, Minoru Suzuki, Hirooki Goto, Yujiro Takahashi
Best of the Super Juniors versus Super J-Cup Winner
Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Phantasmo
I love El Phantasmo. Bryan Alvarez of the Wrestling Observer described him as a wrestling troll. He does little things that actually annoy and anger people to the point where they get themselves worked up and say they don’t enjoy the match because of his heel tactics. I absolutely love it. He’s so good at being loathed. That takes ability in a time where everyone is obsessed with being liked. That said there’s no way Hiromu Takahashi only works one night.
Winner: Hiromu Takahashi
IWGP Tag Team Championship
Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Dangerous Tekkers
Some might be confused by this and think it’s a heel versus heel tag title match but the Dangerous Tekkers have the backing of the New Japan fans now. They’ve always liked Taichi and they just don’t hide it anymore. As for Zack Sabre Jr., it’s clear to me that he can never be in the same alignment as Will Ospreay. They always have to be on opposite sides. I could see Suzuki-Gun feuding with The Empire as well in 2021. GOD winning the tag titles might feel like same old same old due to how long they’ve been around but I think them winning the tag titles here opens up the Tekkers to move into different programs.
Winners: Guerrillas of Destiny
IWGP United States Championship challenge rights certificate
Satoshi Kojima vs. KENTA
The dream for this of course is for Jon Moxley to show up and tell KENTA he gets his match after this on night two, in which he works night two and then flies back to Jacksonville for AEW Dynamite right? Probably doesn’t happen. And if it doesn’t happen? I go ahead and have Satoshi Kojima make the surprise of the show with a win over KENTA. Just absolutely shock the Tokyo Dome at Wrestle Kingdom 15. KENTA can get the briefcase back in time for when Moxley returns but him just defending it here and once again calling Moxley out isn’t so interesting. Bread Club baby.
Winner: Satoshi Kojima if Moxley doesn’t show up, which he likely won’t. Likely. Probably.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Great-O-Khan
Count me as one of the folks who wasn’t feeling Great-O-Kharn when he first showed up to back Will Ospreay in The Empire. He looked goofy, the Jaws teeth were silly, and he was a bit plodding. I didn’t care for his tag matches with Ospreay either. But ever since he hooked up with Jeff Cobb and started bringing more speed and snap to his arsenal I’ve been buying high on O-Khan. This is absolutely the same position Jay White was in a few years back complete with a match against Hiroshi Tanahashi. I have seen most predicting a clean sweep from The Empire and I’ll go with people saying that. That said, I could also see Tanahashi winning at Wrestle Kingdom 15 and building steam for a comeback in 2021 when everyone is at a point of not believing in him.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay
I do not feel Will Ospreay in his new heel role at all. He’s such a terrible actor. You would think he would be brilliant at being a heel but you can still sense he wants to be liked. That said, I think it’s just a discomfort in the role. Others seem to really love him doing it. Either way, he has to win this match. If Okada beats him here then his main event hopes in 2021 are dashed very quickly. I’m of the impression that Will is going to likely win the New Japan Cup to get a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight champion so losing to Okada here could be salvaged in the time between but as I said earlier, I expect The Empire to make a clean sweep. All that aside, these two have never worked a babyface versus heel match and it should be one of the best matches for night one of Wrestle Kingdom 15. Ospreay wins, and Okada plays the long ball game to get back to the main event for Wrestle Kingdom 16.
Winner: Will Ospreay
Wrestle Kingdom 15 Main Event
IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championship
Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito
It was Dominion in 2019 where Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi had a great wrestling match which was overshadowed by one spot in which Naito suplexed Ibushi on the apron and seemed to be too far to the side, causing Kota’s head to smack against the apron as he fell. In doing so, the wrestling world lost their collective shit. Take after take about how wreckless they were and how they were going to influence the business back into the head dropping days of All Japan. The problem of course is:
1. It didn’t influence anyone.
2. They weren’t the first guys doing dangerous apron spots, which still happen to this day without any of the same safety advocacy despite many of the spots being more dangerous.
3. Kota still did a full rotation on the move because he’s a professional who is one of the best bumpers, and Naito is one of the safest wrestlers in the business. It was a slip and they happen.
4. The spot, even how it is, isn’t anywhere near as dangerous to what happens multiple times in wrestling promotions with ladder spots. And yet this got a reaction of wreckless abandon and not the countless times people jump off 10 foot ladders onto guys, with jagged ladders and tables nearby to fall against.
5. Kota Ibushi and Tetsuya Naito were 100% fine after. Ibushi and Naito worked five days later. Ibushi missed zero time. Naito missed zero time. They didn’t kill each other. They didn’t even injure each other.
There is a real issue with safety marks in pro wrestling today not recognizing when guys are doing moves safely. Naito and Ibushi are incredibly safe despite doing high risk moves from time to time. You think they are falling on their heads because they are good at their jobs. And while you try to flash hot takes on their dangerous style, you ignore all of the ladder matches which are 10 times more dangerous than what they do, which are basically miracles when men and women leave those matches unscathed.
Anyway. This match. Back in 2018, Tetsuya Naito lost to Kazuchika Okada in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom. This put him on a path of redemption, which Gedo booked him slipping back into the Intercontinental Title picture only to lose the title to Jay White, as well as losing his final G1 match to the Switchblade. Due to the double title main event for Wrestle Kingdom 14, Tetsuya Naito got to challenge Jay White for the Intercontinental Title with the winner facing the IWGP Heavyweight champion. Naito beat Jay White in an incredible match that’s now underrated due to people not noticing the story of Naito knowing how to counter every trick Jay had against him and winning. The next night, Naito completed his redemption by defeating Okada in the main event and becoming double champion.
Kota Ibushi is now on his own redemption arc. Unlike Naito, he isn’t trying to win the IWGP Heavyweight championship back. He has never won it. Every time he gets close he falls short. He won G1 in 2019 against Jay White, only to lose his shot against Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom due to losing his cool. He then fought Jay White the next night only to be beaten. Ibushi followed it by working in the IWGP Tag Team division with Hiroshi Tanahashi, only to lose those titles to the Dangerous Tekkers. Taichi also beat him in the 2020 New Japan Cup to further the shame. Ibushi would lose again to Jay White in the G1, only to eventually win the G1 to go back to back. It wouldn’t last long as he lost his briefcase and number one contender shot to the Switchblade one month later in one of the most blatant displays of cheating I’ve ever seen in a match. Ibushi found himself on the outside, only this time it would be Tetsuya Naito who would grant him a way back in. Naito demanded this match for night one as Jay White has night two as the holder of the briefcase.
Tetsuya Naito ruled 2020. It was a bad year to rule, but nonetheless he won the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental championships twice and with exception to that moment EVIL shocked him, he’s been the king of wrestling. It’s now his time to hand the redemption arc to Kota Ibushi, who needs to avenge his past three losses to Jay White by beating him on night two of Wrestle Kingdom 15 and become double champion. Oh, and God. He wants to be God too. Don’t stop that man from becoming God.
Winner: GOD (Kota Ibushi)
I’ll write up my predictions for night two tomorrow.