Wrestling Review: NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome (2021)

Despite delays and alterations to the match card, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) is finally moving ahead with Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome. Usually reserved for January 4th’s Wrestle Kingdom event, tonight NJPW takes over the Tokyo Dome where four championships will be decided, including Shingo Takagi defending the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Originally scheduled to defend against Kota Ibushi, an illness to Ibushi will instead see Shingo Takagi face The Ace of New Japan, Hiroshi Tanahashi for the top prize in the company. The IWGP Tag Team Championships will also be on the line, as the new champions of Tetsuya Naito & SANADA, of Los Ingobernables de Japon, grant a rematch to the former champions, the duo Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr., known as Dangerous Tekkers. Kazuchika Okada and Jeff Cobb will also be in action, as they face off in what has quickly become a de facto number one contender’s match, and the Junior Heavyweight singles and Tag Team Championships will be on the line in separate matches, as El Desperado defends against Robbie Eagles, and The Bullet Club’s El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori face the veteran team of Rocky Romero & Ryusuke Taguchi.

+ Shingo Takagi (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (IWGP World Heavyweight Championship): Shingo is the best wrestler in the world right now and I will hear no submissions on this… but Tanahashi is one of the best of all time. This match had me fully tricked into thinking it was all over at several points, and there were numerous out-loud ‘ooft’, ‘wow’, and ‘oh no’s from me throughout. I loved this, and while I wasn’t entirely sold on the aftermath, the match itself capped off a really well put together show
+ Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA) vs Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.) (IWGP Tag Team Championships): this match started with some comedy before slowly settling into the same sort of standard stuff you’d expect, and I was ready to call it as a swing and a miss. Eventually it really picked up, and I’m very happy to say it was worth that slump of sorts in the middle. The final stretch in particular might be some of the most intense back and forth, edge of your seat, skin of your teeth stuff you’ll see
+ Kazuchika Okada vs Jeff Cobb: this was a fantastic match that I really didn’t care for the ending of. Usually that means Okada used the horrendous Money clip, but you’ll have to watch this to see if that was the case. All the way up to this finish, this was a hard hitting, back and forth match that both men showed precision and power. I’ll still call it a positive, but that ending really did put a damper on the match before it
+ El Desperado (c) vs Robbie Eagles (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship): this was the biggest match of Eagles’ career, and he absolutely delivered the goods. Everybody knows Despy is fantastic, and one of my personal favourites to boot, but I was so intensely behind my personal hometown hero in Robbie Eagles. The psychology and storytelling was off the charts in this match, as each man had body parts targeted which effected their attempts at moves later on, just as an example, and it was so easy to get really invested in whoever you wanted to win. I loved this match
+ BULLET CLUB (Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo) (c) vs Mega Coaches (Rocky Romero & Ryusuke Taguchi) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships): this felt like it went for an hour, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ishimori and Phantasmo are so smooth at the crazy stuff they do, and both the Coaches are well respected veterans for a reason. This match was built mostly around Phantasmo’s “Sudden Death” superkick, and that did add something more to what was already a very good wrestling match

Toru Yano defends the KOPW 2021 Trophy (22-Man New Japan Ranbo): when competitors such as Suzuki and Nagata were in this was fine, but there was so much going on this was just a mess to try and follow

> it was a strange sight to see the Tokyo Dome not packed to the rafters, but even if it were the crowd can’t make the noise I like to hear. It’s a sad time to live in, but safety comes first

Should you watch this event: If you skip the garbage mess of a match on the pre-show, then this was one of the best all around, easiest to watch shows in a very long time. Neither 2020 nor 2021 has been kind on New Japan Pro Wrestling, but hopefully this is a return to near perfect form.

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