New Japan Pro Wrestling
Wrestle Kingdom 15 – Night 2
January 5, 2020
Tokyo Dome
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: NJPW World & FITE

Previews: Night 1, Night 2 & Statistics/Research 

Meet our Reviewers

Jeri Evans: Jeri is back for night 2, even less awake, with even more coffee, and her plushies questioning whether or not this feels like a Wrestle Kingdom show. As per usual she can be found @TheJerriest_Jer on Twitter and she is ready for night two that is going to have to work its butt off to exceed expectations. 

Paul Volsch: After his expectations were mostly fulfilled last night Paul is looking forward to Night 2 and there is no way New Japan will let him down.

Provisional KOPW2021 Trophy
Toru Yano def. BUSHI, Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens

Jeri Evans: As I looked upon this match up I thought about all the scenarios and mix-ups we could’ve had. I think about what this match could’ve been. Instead, alas, we had this thrown upon us and there is nothing more that can be done. Watching this match was the equivalent of me vacuuming the apartment, or folding and hanging laundry. What I’m saying in a very uncreative way this was a chore. An absolute chore that did it’s best to undo all the work my entire pot of coffee had just done in trying to keep me up. It’s a four-way of talent I’m not interested in having a match that didn’t even make a moderate effort in being entertaining.

If I could find any positive poking through this sea of just blah and bland it was that it kept kind of going at least. That’s a reach for a positive, but it’s a four-way for a throwaway honor. Yano won with low blows and a roll-up. There was plodding, there was miscommunication, there was Chase and Bad Luck working together and then ends up having minor dissension that costs them. Bushi doesn’t come close to his low ceiling, and Yano doesn’t even get enough shenanigans to make any of this worthwhile. This is a match where I had the lowest of expectations and the competitors exceeded in a very boring and lazy fashion to limbo right under them. Impressive in a very detrimental way. We start off with a dud.

Paul: The KOPW stays where it belongs as a meaningless comedy prop for Toru Yano to have wacky matches. This was an inoffensive opener. It was nothing special but the match also could have been a lot worse given who was in the match. All of these men are slotted into the role they will likely remain in for the rest of their careers so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the opener again next year.

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

Jeri Evans:  The Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship is a title I rarely put much thought into as it’s a division I find myself with very little interest in usually. While no fault of the competitors, although I want to blame Wato because it’s fun, that put this match into a hole instantly going in. With that spoken, I thought this was a solid title bout that I ultimately found myself enjoying. Wato is very hit or miss, and oomphf when he misses, but I thought he worked adequately this match and seemed motivated to put on a good performance. Taguchi can be reliable even if at times certain antics of his misses with me, and I think he and Wato made a decent pair for going against Suzuki-gun.

Ultimately while it feels like a holding pattern I’m all for Suzuki-gun retaining. Desperado and Kanemaru are just a very good pairing, and with a lack of depth and variety in the division, they are still probably the best option for holding the titles. Solid work from all four men trying to take a low card match and elevate it as best it can against expectations. I’m not saying it hit high marks or anything, but unlike the previous match, it was able to keep me interested and not think I was wasting my time. Not great, not very good, but solid and okay, and it had the advantage of being on after the previous match which means I was looking desperately for anything positive, so I’ll take it.

Paul: A fun little bout. It definitely exceeded my expectations and was a nice way to get the crowd going after the opener. Desperado and Kanemaru are a great team and hopefully will carry these belts for a while longer. They mesh up perfectly with almost anyone in the division and their bouts are always entertaining. Taguchi and Wato did well as well but I am a bit more dubious about the future for these two. Taguchi has lost a step and is on the way down to the bottom of the division and Wato just hasn’t developed in a way that would justify pushing him above where he is now.

NEVER Openweight Championship
Shingo Takagi © def. Jeff Cobb

Jeri Evans: Now we’re talking. I can only speak for myself, but I’d been looking forward to this. Cobb in 2020 just felt like a better fit in NJPW than he did previously, and the moment Shingo/Cobb was set up I was all in. Match felt different in energy and interest right off the back which I was so glad of. Early in the match, Cobb hit a beautiful over the head belly to belly to Shingo on the outside and it was at that moment I knew I was probably going to really enjoy this match. When Shingo would, later on, be a head full of steam and flip over the top onto Cobb probably was elevated to definitely. What I want out of my NEVER Openweight title matches. Physical, hard, competitive.

This ruled throughout. Did not tire of them throwing each other, trading strikes, getting chippy. At one point commentators said that Cobb’s smiling Hawaiian days are over, and they are fucking right. Cobb’s tone, attitude, and personality as a part of the Empire just pays dividends and comes off well. At one point they do a slap/forearm exchange that turns into a Cobb German suplex responded with a lariat by Shingo and I loved the exchange so much. Cobb felt like he belonged in there with Shingo, and that’s put over by the fact he hit the Tour of the Island and it was only a combo of his knee giving out/the ropes that saved Shingo from losing the title. 

I loved I couldn’t figure out if we’d have a new champion or Shingo continuing his reign. I also appreciate the fact I’m at the point with both I’d be perfectly good with either decision. At different points, I felt myself leaning one way or another on the result. I’m talking about this match more than I anticipated and that’s because it ruled. A moment for Cobb to deliver big-time, and another notch in Shingo’s belt. Shingo wins, but Cobb loses nothing in defeat. This was great, what this show really needed. Calm my tits, this is what I fucking needed. The best part of waking up, is watching a Shingo NEVER Openweight title defense. I just fucking loved it. It was fucking fantastic. It was a treat to watch, and I want a second helping. I love Shingo so much but Cobb more than put in the fucking effort and stood up and out. Fuck it, no fear, I’m going all in. *****

Paul: This match absolutely ruled. I should have set a counter for the number of suplexes in this match but I would have lost count anyway. This match was two mountains of meat crashing into each other at full force. It was easily my favorite Cobb singles match and yet another feather in Shingo’s well-decorated cap.

Cobb’s strengths were accentuated here and his weaknesses were hidden. He just threw around Shingo like a ragdoll but Shingo likewise used his entire arsenal on Cobb. The match never slowed down for a second and was go go go from start to finish. It was a bout that left you breathless and the perfect choice to go just before intermission. 

As Jeri mentioned Cobb loses nothing by taking the fall here and Shingo gets to continue his outstanding Never title reign. While its a shame that New Japan will likely never push him as a top guy he does a great job as the ace of the Never division putting out banger after banger. Cobb meanwhile is still attached to the hot new act in The Empire and will likely be pushed stronger than he has been in the past.


Jeri Evans: “Good luck after the previous match” I thought to myself before this happened. I hold the belief this is/was an appropriate dome show match. I can’t ignore the fact that I absolutely despised their G1 battle and it was one of my least favorite matches of 2020. So with those contradicting thought processes in my head I tried to keep an open mind going into this affair. The good news about this match was Sanada showed fire and energy, two things he’s always criticized for not showcasing. The downside to this match…you know the referee bump with Dick Togo bullshit is coming it’s just a matter of when. It’s hard to get fully invested in the match when mentally you just are expecting it to happen and lessen/worsen the match no matter the quality. Dick Togo at least give us a laugh-worthy table bump for his efforts, blessed.

Match had all the tropes EVIL matches these days get that I don’t like. Ref assisted offense, chair offense, ref bumps, interference, low blow attempts, and with all that said and thrown out, I didn’t hate this. I didn’t hate this at all. I can throw out all the handicaps and negatives and personal distastes in the world and it doesn’t change the fact both men worked hard and overall I enjoyed it. If I’m going to do any knocking it’s going to be length. I just don’t think this needed the amount of time it was given, but at the same time not once did I feel like I was wasting my time, just waiting for this to end so I can move on with the rest of the show. I definitely enjoyed this more than their G1 match by a frightfully large margin and this felt at place at the DOME, so good job to both men overall. I went in with zero interest and left nodding my head in appeasement. Alright!

Paul: This match exceeded my expectations but they weren’t very high to begin with. It still wasn’t a match that I was really into but I wasn’t completely bored. EVIL and SANDA just aren’t guys that I am interested in and given those circumstances they did about as well as they could have. There wasn’t a ton of heat between them, which is weird given that they were partners for years but at this stage expecting fire from SANADA is just silly.

The interference wasn’t completely overdone like it was early in EVIL’s heel run and that table bump Togo took looked funny so it got a chuckle out of me. It also didn’t go too long, which is always a danger with these two so that was nice. I didn’t feel like this was a top of the card WK type match more like an undercard Invasion Attack type of match but I also wasn’t completely bored or angry afterward. I guess that’s something at least.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Hiromu Takahashi def. Taiji Ishimori ©

Jeri Evans: Semi-Main Time! This match wasted no time in getting going, and I want to highlight it was only a matter of minutes when we get a nasty looking apron bomb on Ishimori by Takahashi. It was after getting over cringy from it I knew I was potentially in for a ride. It’s the semi-main event at the Dome so even with a depleted crowd whatever they have in their tanks, they are getting it all the hell out. My favorite thing in this match was the countering of each other throughout all of it. Some of the counters were just harsh looking and brutal. Listening to them be in anguish at times, especially in the final third of the match, is those touches that adds to the story and drama of the events unfolding. 

This match was excellent, both men were physical as hell and brilliant in their back and forth. I went into this match with 100 percent confidence that Hiromu was winning and it’s a testament to the layout, skill, and athleticism of both they were able to plant seeds of doubt in my mind at times. There was one moment when Ishimori just kept forearm striking Hiromu the fuck down, and Hiromu kept going almost begging for more, and pretty much had his request fulfilled. At times I thought the finish was coming only for the match to continue and I had zero complaints as I was willing to have just as much of this match they were willing to give. The only spot I really didn’t like was Hiromu’s long run that Ishimori countered. Just felt a bit ridiculous, but really if that’s what I’m looking for in a knock then I should just shut the hell up and say this match was fantastic. As an aside, I still want to snuggle in Hiromu’s ring gear. ****3/4

Paul: Taiji Ishimori won this title in August and had not defended his belt until this match. He fails right away to keep his title but it was a great match nonetheless. Both men went all out and this felt like a big-time match. The Company put a lot of trust in these two to deliver in the semi-main of the Tokyo Dome and they certainly repaid that trust. The match was both fast and brutal and exemplary of Hiromu’s style. This is his division now and it’ll remain that way for quite a while. Whether he keeps the belt for a long time is a different question but he will remain the most important guy in the division until he decides to move up to heavyweight.

Ishimori as well worked hard in the match and was more than equal to Hiromu. He often mails it in but in a spot like this, he always delivers at a really high level. He was tying up Hiromu into knots with his submissions and even though I was certain Hiromu would win I did bite at times that Ishimori might retain. Great junior heavyweight bout and now the era of Hiromu continues to blossom.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship & IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Kota Ibushi © def. Jay White

Jeri Evans: Bless my soul, I’m enjoying this show more than I expected going in. All I need is this to deliver. I have come to learn with Jay White I enjoy his matches the most when it ends in his absolute failure. Whether it be against Okada at MSG, Ibushi in the G1 Finals, or Ishii denying him a G1 Final, matches where his bullshit backfires/doesn’t work is where I find my highest enjoyment out of Jay White. Not sure what that says, but it is the absolute truth. I am highly confident Ibushi is retaining here, but I’m also on edge. This may not have been the booking I enjoyed, or the main event I would’ve come with, but this is what we were given. As this main event started both men just looked and felt ready to go all in and give us the show ender we wanted/needed/craved.

…I feel I’m failing as a writer at the moment. They delivered, not without flaws, not perfectly, but they delivered. Jay White for a huge chunk of this match confident, rested, not afraid to be the devil. Ibushi, tired, in pain, desperately wishing to be God. Jay White had answers for every problem Ibushi had to offer. Every bit of brief offense that came alive from Ibushi was put to sudden death. Jay White knew, he understood, he couldn’t let Ibushi get any momentum, any step, any energy in him. For is God awaken, God would strike him down without remorse.

The pin attempt call back. Backslide, feet on the rope, it fails and you know right then Ibushi was awaken and he was angry. This isn’t a match that’s high energy with two competitors bumping around like mad men, although there was some cringe bumps make no doubt. Methodical, slow but not boring, pacing. Callbacks, trash talks, desperation, all the shit I look for to enhance and increase my viewing pleasure, my viewing experience. With that said there was negatives, did it need to go near fifty minutes? No, there were moments that felt they could’ve been shortened, could’ve been condensed. I can’t ignore that. I can’t ignore that at times I did feel the time hitting me, it didn’t pass smoothly. This isn’t a five-star affair, even though I feel I have a five-star heart right now. Ibushi has become God, Jay White the Devil must starve for a bit longer, but one day he will feast, or maybe he’ll become an angel? I don’t know, but don’t sleep on him any longer. I’m talking to myself above all with that statement. Jay White is a player, a main event performer, an important element and that’s not going away or changing. Breath with the Switchblade or find yourself deprived of oxygen.

Night 2 was excellent, surpassed perhaps my foolish expectation, and the main event cements its superiority to Night 1. ****½ 

My heart would love to give it higher as it gave me a lot of what I want, but objectively I know it doesn’t deserve it, but what it got should garner zero complaints. This match ruled, this match was excellent, Ibushi is God and once again Jay White’s bullshit failing has succeeded in making me very happy. 

SANADA comes out to challenge. Ehhhhh, alright I guess. We’ll see how that goes. What an incredible two nights of wrestling. NJPW went against many odds and delivered. I hope this bodes well for 2021!!!

Paul: All hail your new god! Ibushi ascends into the heavens and I am your Highpriest of Ibushism. Don’t worry the tithe will be affordable and progressive based on your income. This was a well deserved Tokyo Dome main event and even exceeded the main event of the first night, which was also excellent. I was engaged during the entirety of the match and all of its elements made sense and were placed great on the timeline.

White has become great at control sections and he was determined to break Ibushi. But you can not break God and Ibushi just kept coming back no matter what White threw at him. Ibushi’s offense meanwhile looked vicious like always. Even the Gedo interference made sense with its placement in the match and didn’t distract too much from what was an excellent match.

Ibushi took some nuts bumps as well and between this and his match with Naito he will be very sore for the next couple weeks. With this he is now established as the dominant champion at the top of the promotion and every challenger will have to go above and beyond to beat him. White meanwhile will now go off into what will likely become his face turn with the tensions between him and EVIL. He is ready for that as well and will be a huge star as a babyface.

SANADA comes out to challenge and hopefully Ibushi will be able to carry him to a good match. I’ll give him a snowball’s chance in hell to win though. But irrespective of that this match was a great way to finish Wrestle Kingdom. Overall this has to be counted as a success for New Japan given the circumstances, which have put a cap on talent New Japan can bring in and the amount of the tickets they could sell. Both nights still felt like big shows and the top matches all delivered.