NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night 2
January 5th, 2020
Tokyo Dome
Watch: NJPWWorld.com

Meet our previewers:

August Baker (@augustbaker12): August remembers a time, not so long ago, when breaking up Wrestle Kingdom and WrestleMania into two nights seemed like a good idea. He looks back at such naivety fondly, for truly it was a simpler time. He apologizes in advance for any moroseness you may read here.

J. Michael: I’m watching figure skating from 2018, and I still really wish the weeb girl that did the Sailor Moon routine (at other events, not the Olympics unfortunately) had won. Medvedeva was so great in the off-years. She moved to the Seniors between Olympics, blew through the Worlds multiple times, and then was overtaken at the very end of the cycle by a 15 year old upstart, finishing an extremely close second place. She was simply born in the wrong year to win Olympic gold. What a weird sport. Just a thought with all the talk of elevations and 57 Clubs and whatnot; sometimes the timing just doesn’t work out perfectly. Anyway: VOICES OF WRESTLING NJPW YEAR IN REVIEW E-BOOK.

John Carroll: I just put my PS4 away because my PS5 is supposedly coming tomorrow (unless the FedEx guy steals it) which was a ritual of mixed feelings for sure. Thank you for your service over these last six years or so, PS4. I’m sorry I didn’t play all your AAA games (or even most of them) but I did play Lumines like five thousand hours total. Follow me on Twitter @toshanshuinla or my podcast @wrestleomakase, and check out the Wrestling Omakase Patreon for LIVE POST-SHOW COVERAGE OF BOTH WRESTLE KINGDOM NIGHTS!

Queen’s Quest (Utami Hayashishita, Saya Kamitani & AZM) vs. Donna Del Mondo (Maika, Himeka & Natsupoi)

August: I don’t know who any of these people are. Sorry. My toddler says “Queen’s Quest” will win. Prediction: Queen’s Quest

J. Michael: I wish I could say different from August, but I really can’t. I feel like despite the wide ranging changes in scope and accessibility, we are still imprisoned by what we choose to access. And, of course, the biggest work of all: time. Things fragment and amalgamate again. People cut their cords and now are frantically trying to glue them back together as every coterie of networks try to pry another 6.99 per month out of you. Spend that 6.99 on the VOICES OF WRESTLING NJPW YEAR IN REVIEW E-BOOK. Anyway, I’ve watched some of Utami’s stuff and she is as good as people say she is. Prediction: Queen’s Quest

John: Unlike my colleagues I know who these wrestlers are, and I expect them to have a nice little showing here (not that you’ll be able to watch these matches on New Japan World anyway, unfortunately, thanks to Japanese TV network politics). Here’s a quick primer on everyone on each team, in case you’d like to go back and check this one out whenever it goes up on STARDOM World or (if they’re smart) Youtube or something:

  • Utami: Current World of STARDOM Champion and until very recently (12/26) was also 1/2 of the tag champions, basically getting the mega-push right now. Between her legit judo background (which she works into her moveset well), her size (she’s only about 5’5 but somehow just looks even bigger) and her name value as the daughter of a notable reality TV star, it’s tough to argue with that decision honestly.
  • Saya: Nicknamed “Tall Saya” by fans because being just shy of 5’7 makes you look like the jolly green giant next to some of the other STARDOM wrestlers (although lately they’ve been adding a lot of taller wrestlers too, like most of DDM and a new rookie who’s nearly 5’10, Lady C). Saya is a former idol and thus dances a lot. She was very, very green for a while but to say she’s improved would be a huge understatement. Was the other half of the tag champions with Utami and is her regular partner.
  • AZM: A 7-year veteran who also happens to be 18 years old, AZM is much smaller than her partners but is also just scary good at this whole pro wrestling thing. I mean like, if I was going to make a list of the best pro wrestlers on this entire event (both nights), she’d probably make the top 5. She’s that good. She combines great high flying with a Tetsuya Naito-esque penchant for taking the nastiest, gnarliest bumps possible.
  • Maika: A product of TAKA’s Just Tap Out school who signed with STARDOM full time in 2020, Maika also has a legitimate judo background which makes her a natural rival to Utami. She also has bigger arms than some of the wrestlers on the New Japan roster, I think.
  • Himeka: Nicknamed “Jumbo” as she’s also quite large for a Japanese women’s wrestler (5’7 but also just built like an absolute unit), Himeka’s whole thing is being big. But being big is cute, as she’ll tell you repeatedly. She’s a product of the smaller Actwres girl’Z promotion who jumped to STARDOM in 2020.
  • Natsupoi: Unlike her fellow DDM members, The Artist Formerly Known As Natsumi Maki is definitely on the small side at 4’11. She made her second big jump of her career, from TJPW to STARDOM, in the fall of 2020 (after originally jumping from Actwres to TJPW at the very start of 2019). Probably the wrestler who is losing this fall, unless it’s AZM.

So there you go, now you’re ready to…..not watch this match, cause again, it’s not airing on NJPW World. Screw you TV Asahi! Prediction: Queen’s Quest

Mayu Iwatani & Tam Nakano vs. Giulia & Syuri

August: I’m pretty sure I’ve seen at least one Mayu Iwatani match, so I’ll pick her team. Prediction: Mayu Iwatani & Tam Nakano

J. Michael: The point I was trying to make before: Stardom will eventually be bundled with NJPW somewhat like TJPW is with DDT (without the initial connection. Almost in reverse, I guess), and then suddenly all sorts of rabble, guttersnipes, and cumbergrounds like me will start touting Stardom matches, as if there wasn’t already great stuff there, or that getting on World was some magical catalyst for the company to reach great new heights.

Again, having not even watched as much as I should have from the very basic stuff I knew I should watch, Mayu had a great 2020, and I see some proclaiming her as a Most Outstanding candidate. Guilia is a star. I’m sure this will be a great tag in a truly dark match. Prediction: Giulia & Syuri

John: I won’t give the whole rundown of the participants again here since that ended up being very long, except to say this is a battle between STARDOM’s two biggest stars (no pun intended). Mayu Iwatani held the World of STARDOM title for most of 2020 and Giulia held the Wonder of STARDOM title for most of the year as well, and unlike Mayu is still the current champion. The difference between the top two titles (also referred to simply as the “red belt” and “white belt” based on the colors of the titles, a deliberate throwback to the All Japan Women’s days) in STARDOM is as small as it is in any company, and Giulia rode her white belt title reign all the way to a Tokyo Sports Joshi Grand Prize (MVP) award for 2020. That just so happens to be the same award that Mayu won in 2019, so this is a battle of the last two Joshi MVPs as well. Anyway, I think they go with the current champ here. Prediction: Giulia & Syuri

Four-way match for the Provisional KOPW2021 Trophy
Participants: Last 4 from the NJPW Rambo on 1/4

August: I think this night will be a big night for LIJ. 2020 was really all about LIJ coming together as a faction, and it’s a shame we didn’t get to see entire chapters of that story. Nevertheless, at the end of this night, I think LIJ stands tall, and BUSHI holds up that stupid little trophy. Prediction: BUSHI

J. Michael: Here’s why KOPW is good. Stipulations can fall into any number of categories. Formal stipulations are a kind that, of course, amend the forms of wrestling. I’d place your super gimmickry Hell in a Cell stuff in that category. I was very worried that KOPW would end up being a formal stipulation concept. And it still could! I think Taichi actually would try a Fire Pro Match. He might do a Sumo Match outside KOPW altogether.

But KOPW has ended up being, so far, a conditional stipulation concept. Conditions for victory are established, ones that play with the functionality of a match. 5-count ring-outs. All the turnbuckle nonsense. Finisher’s Only and/or Finishers Prohibited. The procedure sets forth conditions for victory, fans vote on them, and winning stipulation is the official stipulation for the match, and the match occurs. This has happened… well, it’s happened more than half the time. It’s fun and harmless. 

As is the case with this preview… we’re making guesses based on guesses. Prediction: Shorty G

John: Okay, I get J. Michael’s defense of the KOPW here. I definitely agree that I would rather watch goofy 2 count pinfall matches and shit like that than beyond played out gimmick matches, which is what I thought we were getting when this stupid trophy was originally announced. I would rather watch a monkey drink its own piss than watch another ladder match ever in my life. But yeah, I have no clue who’s winning this thing, who cares. Prediction: Mo from Men on a Mission (Whoop! There it is! The KOPW trophy!)

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru © vs. One or Eight (Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato)

August: I’m not sure anyone was hurt more by the lack of crowds than Master Wato. Kawato’s biggest strength as a young lion was his crowd connection, and bringing him back in this environment, with this gimmick, feels like a massive rib. But this is a harmless way for him to win his first title, and hopefully means we get more El Desperado single’s action. Despy is one to watch in 2021. Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi and Master Wato

J. Michael: Despy IS one to watch in 2021! The problem here is, what do you do with him until the Best of the Super Juniors? Is he even winning Best of the Super Juniors this year? I know people look at the year he was born, a very good year to be born, and are uneasy by the resultant number. But the guy wears a mask and apparently ages like Boyfriend #1 Ibushi. If they are doing the thing with him, and I fervidly believe that that mask spot would not be allowed unless they are, it may culminate in 2022 as they have him climb a few rungs closer in 2021.

So much depends on the conditions. If ELP and Ryu Lee can enter Japan (or, enter Japan and stay there), that helps and hurts. ELP is going to be pushed hard, you’d assume, and that clogs up Despy’s path to the top. There’s no room for him until ELP and Hiromu’s business climaxes. On the other hand, Lee gives Despy a long-standing rival to play around with, a rivalry with actual novelty, as they only had the one match in 2018 and a lot of really interesting palaver, chatter, and suggestions afterwards. Of course, that would require NJPW to do non-title feuds outside of league play.

So why not have Suzuki-gun win here? The team of El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru stabilized the division by winning matches like these. After five years that saw the titles trade hands roughly 15 times, they were a breath of fresh air. I’d welcome them walking out and having One or Eight chas them a while. None of these men will have anything to do until May, anyway. As August said, Wato works better working underneath anyway.

BTW, I’m not trying to needle John, here. I’m not. They’ve been needled enough lately. But this needs to be said: as much as Naito is the tranquilo guy… I mean, literally the promotion is reaching new zeniths because of him being the tranquilo guy… I don’t think anyone could even attempt to give less of a fuck than Yoshinobu Kanemaru naturally doesn’t give a fuck. Did you see him at the Wrestle Kingdom Press Conference? The look on his face when Despy was talking… phenomenal. When it was his time to talk:

Kanemaru: I have nothing to say about losing to these guys at Korakuen. I don’t give a damn about that. More than that, Mr. Fortune Teller. Hey, Taguchi… What you did to me last night…I think one of them went missing somewhere. I’ll make you pay for that.

<Confused silence on dais>

Taguchi: I’m in Korakuen tonight. I’ll have a look for you. Prediction: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

John: It’s always tough to predict a winner in matches over these titles when they barely matter, but I really hope they don’t go with Wato & Taguchi here. Master Wato is funny just to, like, look at, but to say this would be too early for him to win a title is like saying most people’s 2020 didn’t quite go according to plan. Again, this is a “heart not my head” pick, because I really kinda think Wato & Taguchi are winning but I’d rather not put that kind of evil into the world. Prediction: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

NEVER Openweight Championship
Shingo Takagi © vs. Jeff Cobb

August: This is the one match where I think LIJ has a chance at losing. It should be a banger regardless. Looking deeper into 2021, Shingo would sure make a great title challenger should a certain Aerial Assassin win the IWGP title. Shingo feels bigger than the NEVER division, but Cobb fits the division like a glove. Cobb as NEVER champion will make a strong cornerstone for the EMPIRE as they add members and move up the card. I doubt this is the only time we get this match in 2021. Prediction: Jeff Cobb

J. Michael: I wish I could say the figure skating nonsense was an intentional bit of foreshadowing for this match and this title, but I literally just write my bios based on what is on my TV. But Shingo is a bit like Medvedeva, even though it should always be his time, his timing is just off. He could have held onto the NEVER title through the summer, but Suzuki thundered in and usurped the gold. Now, despite still being an embodiment of everything that title is, could be, and can be, Jeff Cobb is swirling is, a maelstrom that I believe should complete the Empire sweep. Cobb has really put things together; his matches had more determination and impact through the G1 Climax, and now Cobb’s added the edge of this new unit’s persona. Prediction: Jeff Cobb

John: This should be a lot of fun in a “two big guys go all a clubberin’” type of way. Like my colleagues, I definitely think Jeff Cobb walks out of the Dome with the NEVER belt (how many of you even remember that he’s held this title once already?) to complete a clean sweep for the Empire. Of course, you could be reading this after Night 1 has happened and O-Khan and Ospreay both won, in which case you’re probably chuckling to yourself about how dumb we all are. To which I say- touché. Prediction: Jeff Cobb


August: I always liked EVIL. He always ranked higher than SANADA in the LIJ pantheon for me. I liked his dumb chair spots and his dumb costumes and dumb props. But this year was too much. Too much interference, too many main events. Everything may be EVIL, but when professional wrestling is already struggling to hold my attention through the shitshow that was the year 2020, Dick Togo choking people 30 minutes into a main event was just too much. I badly wanted EVIL’s run on top to be great, but it was not great, or even good. It sucked. 2020 sucked, and EVIL sucked, and most of pro wrestling sucked and we all pretended it was OK and after every show it was, “well that was good for a no-crowd match” or “this was the best show of the COVID era” but we were all lying because everything fucking sucked. Prediction: SANADA

J. Michael: I feel for EVIL. The guy is being told to work this style, his matches are carefully planned to have a specific, disillusioning structure, and his elevation has been conflated with and overwhelmed other general grievances in a way that he know represents both the ennui and the animus people feel towards post-shutdown New Japan.

I did not like the EVIL stuff, but I understood it. I think it was successful in many ways, save the one most speaking the language of this preview care about: match quality. It also doesn’t help that EVIL was never a consistently incredible worker; there was never a sense that once this guy got the ball it was full steam ahead and time for Ahistorical Historian Dave Meltzer to start considering double digits star ratings, like formalized wrestling criticism needed to become more like 1999 Pitchfork. I’m sure many people gave up on this guy. And, once again, Gedo picked the exact moment of peak lulled-ness to obliterate our senses.

SANADA has shown fire in the lead-up to this match, to the deliriously restraint delight of the Tokyo crowds. Whether he is able to sustain that fiery barbarous energy for more than 30-45 seconds… well, consider that… no, don’t even bother. He can’t. He won’t. SANADA is wrestling for cheetahs. If you massage his scruff, he will purr. If you make a noise out of his peripheral vision, his ears will perk up and spasm. And, when an impala strays too far from its herd, he will display a functional anatomy beyond belief, replete with elastic spine and otherworldly hip and shoulder looseness. But, after that brief torrent of frenzy, SANADA is done. If you put a basket and blanket at the feet of Milano, he would curl up and take a nap right there. 

SANADA finds himself in the same position as Ibushi: how many more times can this guy get beaten before he’s in Goto-Land, riding the Shouten Kai Coaster and playing with the kid in the YOSHI-HASHI costume and watching the samurai battle reenactments. But it does seem like EVIL should pick up the win here? Between Jay and EVIL, one of them has to win, for their story. But this is the last time they can beat SANADA without giving something big in return.

August makes me nervous. This one could be really awkward in a 1/4th full Tokyo Dome with vocal restrictions. Prediction: EVIL

John: I made all the points I can make on EVIL in the New Japan Yearbook profile I wrote for him- go read that if you want my EVIL takes. All I will say here is that there’s a certain type of Western fan who thinks the Japanese wrestling world revolves around them, and as usual they’re wrong. Plenty of Japanese fans like EVIL. They show up to support him waving his towel around (which is the method they’ve taken up en masse to show who they like since they can’t actually cheer). Weekly Pro Wrestling named him their 2020 NJPW MVP. His merchandise regularly tops best-seller lists (in the Japanese store AND the Global store, so there’s plenty of Western fans who like him too!). It’s almost like there might be things that matter to wrestling fans other than workrate, or sitting in front of a TV with some kind of scoresheet keeping track of the number of times someone interferes in a match! Wow!

Anyway, I’m really pumped for this one and I hope the two of them have a good enough match to prove some people wrong (not that most of the haters would ever admit it even if they do). That angle at the Budokan was super hot and whatever a three-quarters empty Dome crowd being into a match means, they’ll be into this one. The winner here really depends on who wins the night before- if Naito wins, SANADA is taking this for sure to set up his IWGP title challenge that he’s still owed from beating him during the G1. If Ibushi wins, EVIL wins this to drive home the dichotomy with Jay White since White is losing here either way (and maybe set up an Ibushi-EVIL title match for New Beginning, although there’s other ways they can go there too). Since I have Ibushi winning on 1/4, I’ve also got EVIL winning here. But on the off chance Naito pulls off the upset, it’ll be SANADA. Prediction: EVIL

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Taiji Ishimori © vs. Hiromu Takahashi or El Phantasmo

August: Keeping with my theme of LIJ winning, Hiromu will be walking out with the title in what might be his last reign as Jr champion. I actually think the ELP match up is a more interesting story, but that’s not the story we’re telling yet. Ishimori has felt like a non-entity as champion, which isn’t entirely his fault this time, but still. He always feels like the least important person in any of his matches. It’s time to inject some life into this division in 2021, just in time for the industry to get shut down again. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi

J. Michael: Taiji Ishimori had a great 2020. Not a good one, a great one.

If I was smarter, I would have used my #10 slot in the Top NJPW Matches of the Year entry of the VOICES OF WRESTLING NJPW YEAR IN REVIEW E-BOOK for a vanity pick, and my vanity pick would have been Taiji ishimori v. El Desperado from BOSJ Night 7. It was a glorious display of two heels outsmarting each other, the referee, and themselves. It contained my favorite ending of 2020. Ishimori was about to go for his finisher with a bumped ref. Being an intelligent, sagacious heel, Ishimori uncovered the thing most wrestlers lack: memory. Ishimori reasoned that if you go for a cover in that situation, it backfires. He then went to get the ref up, but further reasoned that waking up the ref backfires. So we went for a belt-sho. It backfired. Marty Asami grabbed the belt and turned Ishimori around, so Despy assailed Ishimori’s erogenous zone and got the pinfall.

That is just one majestic moment in Ishimoris year. Until Despy v. Hiromu at Budokan, I might have listed Ishimori as my #1 New Japan Junior for 2020.

This is a big coronation for Hiromu and really gives me pause about the main event. Either way, there is no way they have this as the semi-main event without Hiromu winning. Hell, with all the talk in Naito’s NJPW1972 interview about only one person getting to leave by going up the ramp (the IWGP Heavyweight Title Winner), I wonder if Hiromu might do so here. They could certainly outsmart us, and themselves, by having ELP irritate everyone by stompin’ grundles all the way to a Wrestle Kingdom semi-main event conquest, but I think they have to go with the simplest choice here. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi

John: You have a better chance of being named the next Queen of England than El Phantasmo has of being in this match. This is Hiromu’s crowning moment in the junior division, set up when Ishimori beat him back at Jingu by taking advantage of a shoulder injury to essentially steal the title. Now Hiromu gets it back, and he does so in about the grandest possible fashion anyone can ever win a junior heavyweight title- in the semi-main event of the Tokyo Dome. That is not an accident! Hiromu Takahashi is already a top star in this company, and someday he’ll be IWGP Heavyweight Champion. I think he’ll have one more full year and probably one more big moment with the junior belt at the Tokyo Dome to come, but this might end up being the biggest win of his junior heavyweight career. 

Meanwhile, for those of you who like ELP (for some reason) don’t worry, he’ll be fine- he’ll probably cheat his way to the junior belt just before BOSJ, so Hiromu can chase him. And Ishimori had about as great of a zero defense title reign as one can possibly have, as my colleague J. Michael went over. Hopefully he goes out with another outstanding match here; given the record these two have (one of the best BOSJ finals ever in 2018 and then an incredible sub-14 minute match at Summer Struggle in 2020), I don’t think there’s much to worry about there. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi 

IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental Double Championship
Tetsuya Naito or Kota Ibushi © vs. Jay White

August: 2020 was supposed to be LIJ’s year. Naito ends Wrestle Kingdom as the double champion, defeating his nemesis clean on the biggest stage. Hiromu’s return setting up a massive match at the Anniversary show. SANADA elevated to main event level, and the EVIL betrayal on its way. 2020 was going to be a victory lap with my favorite wrestler at the top of my favorite company as they increased their international footprint with massive shows in the United States and England. 

And instead… *gestures at everything.* It’s impossible for me to separate wrestling from the world around. Watching empty arena wrestling or clap crowds or the god-forsaken Thunderdome was not an escape or a return to normalcy, it was a constant reminder that the world around us was on fire. Maybe some people found solace in pro wrestling in 2020, but I did not. And it’s hard for me to look at early 2021, with Japan considering another State of Emergency (Ed: This probably looked much more likely when August wrote this, but today the Japanese central government reacted extremely coolly to the request from Tokyo and neighboring prefectures, so it does not appear a SOE is imminent after all, for better or worse.) and the United States handing out pocket change instead of vaccines, with any sense of hope that it will be better any time soon.

All of which is to say, Jay fucking White better not win this match. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

J. Michael: The one thing I will say: I cannot remove the vision of Hiromu v. Ibushi at the Anniversary show, which is now taking place at Budokan. Without question, Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kota Ibushi is a dream match. They’ve only ever officially been in a ring together four times.

In the Night 1 Preview I chose Ibushi and demanded that, if Ibushi lost, his lifetime contract be publicly dissolved. And I mean literally tossed into a cistern of sulfuric acid as part of the NJPW Together Project (which, it seems, might be getting a very unfortunate second season). It would be strange to renege and choose Naito here, but the notion of Naito and Hiromu headlining Budokan is really strong. I suppose Naito could defeat the winner of this match at New Beginning or the Castle Fuckfest thing. If they did it in Osaka, that would end up being roughly a two month reign with one defense for Ibushi. Certainly more than we expected a few years ago when Ibushi was, according to investigative journalist Z. Sabre Jr, “swimming with dolphins” and “making sweet love to that blob doll.”

I would like to explicitly lay out why I believe this double dome title picture story is great, really great, despite some flawed execution and choices. I believe that in a regular year they wouldn’t even have needed to change much..

Kota Ibushi won the G1 Climax 30, making him a back-to-back G1 Climax winner and providing him a wave of momentum, since he broke all the booking patterns to do it. A surprise victory is often the most satisfying one, and winning a G1 Climax block when outside the Block Final main event certainly fulfills that requirement. Then he lost the briefcase to an irredeemable idiot like Jay White. 

This is where we lost so much. They went straight into the Best of the Super Juniors/World Tag League tour, and the whole process was put on ice. When they returned to broadcast, it was for the year-end Korakuen shows. Even if Jay White had not been away in New York for a Thanksgiving-week meet and greet (which is insane, by the way), that only adds one show (the Final). It wouldn’t have made up for the step they missed. The most important step.

In Kota Ibushi’s interview for NJPW1972, he explicitly states what was obvious on tape from Power Struggle: his dejection transformed into righteous, sober fury when he saw how Jay White defeated him. When Jay came to interfere on EVIL’s behalf later that night, and then returned to taunt Naito, both times Ibushi stormed out to chase him off. I imagine Ibushi would have been a specter haunting Jay for quite a while if things were normal. Slowly changing Jay’s supercilious smirk into a frustrated scowl, and finally into a defiantly arrogant grin. We missed that part, that crucial part, and thus this build felt flimsy and haphazard. We needed more repetitions on this. More time to marinate. Naito, blithe observer, using Jay’s hubristic boasting against him and choosing to face Ibushi on Night 1 felt abrupt instead of a natural progression. Some will choose to avoid this show because of this uneasiness.

Ibushi is fighting for the entire foundation of his character, this notion that he will bring his vision of professional wrestling to the wider public. That his earnestness will prevail. Jay White is the antithesis of earnestness. It sucks that we missed out on the building blocks of this story, but ultimately we ended up missing a mere couple of months from a years-long build.

It would be hilarious, even to me, if Jay White walks up the ramp, the ramp Naito has vowed to walk twice (to make up for not being able to do so last year) with that big fucking grin and both belts. You can’t discount it! Any time you feel like Naito or Ibushi have to win here and give people something happy, remember that last year ended with KENTA causing a near riot.

Whatever. I’m watching the VTR for the Night 1 main event and I’m feeling galvanized. It’s likely the Dome environment is going to be a massive disappointment. Whatever. Whomever wins this match, and the person that dethrones them, and the person that dethrones that person, and possibly two or three more down the line… none of them will be titleholders under normal conditions. Whatever. Kota Ibushi has spent 2020 playing around with everyone else’s style, simply because he can do them all, effortlessly. Whatever bollocks metaphysical idealism you prescribe to, and I’ll always choose Plato over that miserable bastard Kant, Kota Ibushi fits. He is the perfect form of this concept. We shouldn’t even be able to perceive him and yet we can. Some consider him so good that he bores them. Whatever. I’m going to enjoy seeing the most perfect form of pro wrestler ascend. 

But, of course, I can perfectly envision Jay White’s face when he’s proven right. Again. Prediction: Kota Ibushi

John: I don’t know how I’m supposed to follow that.

Okay, let’s see. I said yesterday that Ibushi would beat Naito. I think he probably does, so this match is obviously Ibushi vs. White. The only thing giving me pause is Hiromu Takahashi winning back the junior title in the semi-main event; that would sure be a hell of a set-up for Hiromu waltzing out here at the end and challenging Naito after he just finished retaining his titles on back-to-back days to the Anniversary Show main event they didn’t get to have last year, right? I’m not saying Naito winning will happen, but if it does, Hiromu-Ishimori as semi-main on 1/5 was the tip-off in hindsight.

I refuse to even entertain the notion that Jay White is walking out of this match with the double titles either way. I just think that would be a truly insane decision on their part. Yes, fine, they did the kick in everyone’s balls last year with KENTA (after just giving people the Naito win they had been waiting literally years to see, so they probably figured they had some ball-kicking leeway after that!). But to go so far as to have the heel win, do the ultimate BAD END (as the Japanese announcers love to say) with Jay White cackling his way up the ramp with both titles? I just don’t see it. They did the Bad End at Dominion. Wrestle Kingdom is not getting a Bad End too.

So that leaves two questions here: if it’s Kota like I think is more likely, how good is the match and does anything happen to set up a next challenger? My answers: probably really good as most of their matches have been, and probably not. This might be hard to remember after the craziness of last year, but most years they don’t set up a next challenger the same night at Wrestle Kingdom (Okada setting up the Rainmaker Shock in 2012 being another obvious exception, but these are exceptions that prove the rule). We usually have to wait for Dash to find out. I think that will be the case this year. Kota Ibushi wins the main event, celebrates with his two belts, and we all go home happy. Or Tetsuya Naito wins the main event, celebrates with his two belts, gets challenged by Hiromu Takahashi, and we all go home happy (except for J. Michael who I guess burns something in effigy, sorry pal, been there). Prediction: Kota Ibushi