[Please note: this review contains full spoilers for the first night of Wrestle Kingdom 16. Please click here to read the non-spoiler review of that show.]
So nice, they’re doing it twice: New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) brings the second night of it’s annual January 4, and now January 5, spectacular, Wrestle Kingdom 16. Following an incredible main event which saw Kazuchika Okada claim the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship for the first time by defeating Shingo Takagi, Okada will now have to face the main who claims to be the rightful champion: his former friend and partner turned bitter rival, Will Ospreay. Ospreay claims that as he never lost the title — he was stripped of it due to injury — he holds the right to call himself the undisputed top dog of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Either way, this main event match will settle it once and for all. In the penultimate contest, following a rare disqualification loss for Hiroshi Tanahashi in last night’s tag team action, Tanahashi will face the IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion, KENTA, in a match with where there will be no disqualifications. Two special singles matches will also take place as members of Los Ingobernables face members of United Empire, when Tetsuya Naito battles Jeff Cobb, and SANADA does battle with Great-O-Khan in their first ever singles meeting.
Also, for the first time ever on the main card at Wrestle Kingdom, four of World Wonder Ring Stardom’s top women will battle in a tag team contest, as Mayu Iwatani & Starlight Kid face Tam Nakano & Saya Kamitani. Two sets of tag team titles and the Provisional King of Pro Wrestling 2022 Trophy will also be defended. In one match, the Bullet Club’s sub-faction, House of Torture (EVIL, YOH & Yujro Takahashi) will defend their NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team gold against the CHAOS trio of SHO and the new IWGP Tag Team Champions, Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI. Meanwhile, the duo of Flying Tiger (Robbie Eagles & Tiger Mask IV) Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo, collectively known as Bullet Club’s Cutest Tag Team, will defend their IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships in a rare three-way match against the teams of and The Mega Coaches (Rocky Romero & Ryusuke Taguchi); Taguchi has vowed that he and Romero will win in order ot becomes the 69th Junior Tag Team Champions, but it will be a tall task ahead. The KOPW Trophy will be decided when the four remaining wrestlers of Night One’s New Japan Ranbo do battle, as Minuro Suzuki, Toru Yano, Chase Owens and the surprise entrant of CIMA face off in a four way match. Two preliminary tag team matches round out the card on Night Two of Wrestle Kingdom 16.
+ Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Will Ospreay (IWGP World Heavyweight Championship): if the crowd was able to make noise during this match, there is no doubt that they would have been losing their minds, particularly in the final stretch, as with all Okada matches. Going on last, and especially following the KENTA/Tanahashi match, I’d say that crown may have been a bit worn out but both Ospreay and Okada are more than good enough to get the crowd back into it. I did think Ospreay used a lot more high flying stuff in this match, opposed to the power moved he had ben trying out lately, but that only added to the match and his story and growth as a wrestler. This was really good
+ KENTA (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (No Disqualifications Match for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship): this was a tale of two no disqualification matches: on one hand, it was objectively not a ‘crazy’ match the way US hardcore/street fight/deathmatch wrestling is; but on the other hand, this was so out of character for NJPW that it made even the most tame of weapon use seem insane. And then the very ending sequence of the match was so ridiculous crazy no matter where the match took place that I thought at least one man was dead. I’m not above admitting I screamed at one point, and that’s hwo you know you’re watching something special
+ Tetsuya Naito vs Jeff Cobb: I have a lot of personal issues about this match, and I truly believe that after the year he has had, Cobb deserved a bigger and more important match than Naito with nothing on the line. You could argue that this was a de facto number one contendership contest, but I don’t think that was ever stated. The match was technically quite good, with Cobb showing his power, and Naito playing up his comments from a recent online article regarding Cobb’s choice of offense. This was a good match, but it should have been something bigger
+ Mayu Iwatani and Starlight Kid vs Tam Nakano and Saya Kamitani (Special Stardom Exhibition Match): I freely admit I am not overly familiar with the Stardom wrestling promotion, nor the performers that wrestler there, but Kamitani was very impressive, as was Starlight Kid. All four women were clearly going all out, and it made for an exciting match, only hampered by own unfamiliarity with their movesets
+ Flying Tiger (Robbie Eagles and Tiger Mask) (c) vs Bullet Club’s Cutest Tag Team (Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo) vs The Mega Coaches (Ryusuke Taguchi and Rocky Romero) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships): I am a big fan of all three of these teams (as teams, not necessarily some of them as individuals) and this was a good showcase for their characters. Long running stories were played out and paid off, and the match had a few fun twists and turns that were rare in a good way (unlike the Tanahashi DQ last night, also involving Ishimori/Phantasmo). This was fun
+ TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) & Master Wato vs Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & TAKA Michinoku): how crazy that Desperado goes from winning the semi-main last night to the second match on this show. I’m still salty that Tenzan is still using the Mongolian Chops, despite the name changes. Kojima was fun, and Despy and Kanemaru were great as always, but from the opening of the match it was — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — Wato who was the most impressive. I’d actually call this a positive, as far as prelim matches go
– SANADA vs Great-O-Khan: you know how I complain that WWE PPVs have those matches that feel like they should just take place on a random Raw show? Those matches that just don’t feel like a big match, no matter how you spin it? I’m a really big fan of O-Khan, but yeah, that was this
– House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & SHO) (c) (w/ Dick Togo) vs CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & YOH) (w/ Tomohiro Ishii) (NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championships): I’m a big fan of most of these guys, but this was a nothing happening match for the least important NJPW titles (and least important by a pretty wide margin). EVIL, SHO, YOH and Goto looked good, but I got the feeling even they knew this match meant nothing to the show
– Chase Owens vs CIMA vs Minoru Suzuki vs Toru Yano (Provisional KOPW 2022 Trophy): purely due to the way wrestling works in NJPW, multi-man singles matches are often not very good. This was arguably better than that average, but it was still not a good match, and I would always prefer to just see Suzuki in a single affair. CIMA/Suzuki could have been more fun than this, as would either Yano/Suzuki in a ‘Suzuki gets frustrated’ match, or Chase playing the comedy guy
– Suzuki-gun (Taichi, DOUKI & Zack Sabre Jr.) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi and BUSHI): I’m not sure when this match was added, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it. I’m flabbergasted that Shingo lost, but the fact that somehow led to Zack Sabre Jr and Hiromu Takahashi interacting made it all worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed BUSHI’s “Year of the Tiger” tribute mask and its adorable ears. This was a nothing happening match, outside of Hiromu/Sabre – I want a lot more of that
– Togi Makabe, Yuji Nagata & Tomoaki Honma vs BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale, Gedo & Jado): Nagata is still fantastic, and Makabe can go when he wants to be, but otherwise let’s be honest – there wasn’t much on offer here.
> a mid-show segment hyped up the upcoming NJPW/NOAH show this coming weekend, and I liked it for what it was. I have to say that New Japan certainly did not look great coming out of it
> several times through the show, Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton brought up “Filthy” Tom Lawlor on commentary, and honestly I’m still wrapping my head around that. I love me some Filthy Tom, but it’s incredible to me that the meme UFC weigh-in guy is getting shoutouts at Wrestle Kingdom
Should you watch this event: Two nights of a show — Wrestle Kingdom, Ultima Lucha, Wrestlemania, or anything else — is always a gamble. Overall, this was the better night, but I would suggest that the better individual matches happened on Night One. Seek out KENTA/Tanahashi, and if you have the time also the main event and the Stardom exhibition.