WORDS BY LINUS JOSHUA SANTOS
As the wrestling world continues to rise after what had happened during 2020, New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 15 glimmered hope that things may be better during this year. The two-night event showed that it has what it takes to start the new year off and we have to admit that it was one hell of an opener they just did. A lot of shocking moments happened but we at Kayfabe Cafe decided to list 5 moments that truly shocked everyone!
Bullet Club in Shambles?
Bullet Club did not do so well during this Wrestle Kingdom. Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens lost to Toru Yano for the King of Pro-Wrestling Trophy, EVIL was beaten by SANADA,Taiji Ishimori lost his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title to rival Hiromu Takahashi, and Jay White losing against Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Titles. The only winners of the group are KENTA, who retained his right to challenge contract for the IWGP US Heavyweight Title against Satoshi Kojima, and Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) winning the IWGP Tag Team Championship against Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi). Now this raises questions for the group. Where do they go from here? Is it safe to assume that they may be in shambles right now after their performances in the Tokyo Dome? After the Main Event of the 2nd night, Jay White said in his post-match interview that after New Year’s Dash, he’s done with the company, and it was pretty evident in the group’s match against CHAOS during the said event that he had given up; with Tomohiro Ishii pinning Jay White for the win. With this in mind, we cannot be sure where the leader of the group is headed. Will he stay in New Japan? Will he go to another company? We all just have to wait and see.
The Dragon Retains
The NEVER Openweight Title was created with the intention of elevating new talents in the roster but as time goes by, that changed. The NEVER division right now is more on the strong-style side Japanese wrestlers are well-known for, and what better way to show this is by having a sluggish and brutal match with Shingo Takagi and Jeff Cobb at the Tokyo Dome. During their match, it was an all out brawl between two beefy guys. Honestly, I had my bets that Kuya Jeff would win this but alas I was wrong. As the match went by, it became evident how Takagi would retain the title by using his wits and strength against the former Olympian. These two were proving in their match that the NEVER division was something people should really invest their attention to and hell, I’d pay attention to how every lariat, elbow, and chops are solid as heck(I can’t curse sorry). It was Match of the Night worthy and you can’t tell me otherwise that it ain’t. Shingo Takagi retained his title after 21 minutes of enduring beatdowns by Cobb. During New Year’s Dash, Takagi eyes Hiroshi Tanahashi as his next opponent for the championship. You can expect that The Dragon will not back down from anyone, even from the Ace.
Mr. Belt meets Super Jr. 27 Trophy
2020 was something we all should forget, but for Hiromu Takahashi, it was something to remember and the sacrifices paid off. After not being able to win the tournament for the vacant IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles with fellow L.I.J member Bushi, he focused on the Best of the Super Juniors tournament where he faced El Desperado in the finals and won. That match is a Match of the Year candidate where both competitors gave their all, with Despy losing his mask after Hiromu ripping it off, and Hiromu being an absolute beast. After the match, he challenges whoever wins the Super J-Cup tournament stateside, and gets to face Taiji Ishimori for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title. El Phantasmo won the tournament but lost to Hiromu at the Day 1 of Wrestle Kingdom. Takahashi and Ishimori have been battling things out during 2020, with Ishimori winning the title against Hiromu during Summer Struggle in Jingu. It was evident that both of these guys will battle it out and so they did. Move after move, their match was something you’d love. These two have elevated the Jr division so high that you’ll be wanting more. Takahashi won the match, regaining Mr. Belt once more and proving that he’s the best among the rest. SHO has eyed Takahashi during their match at New Year’s Dash and we can be sure that these two will battle it out for the title soon.
Patience Finally Paying Off
KENTA won the New Japan Cup USA 2020 tournament against David Finlay in August 2020. The tournament prize is a right to challenge contract for the IWGP US Heavyweight Title against the current title holder, Jon Moxley. However, due to the pandemic, KENTA can’t face Moxley as soon he won the tournament. As we all know, while Moxley is the IWGP US Champ, he’s also the All Elite Wrestling World Champion, until Kenny Omega defeated Mox for the World Title in December last year. He can’t just appear all of a sudden at a New Japan show without telling The Elite and/or Tony Khan. Him doing so would not just be a violation of his contract(probably) but also would blow every wrestling fan’s brain off. So this complicates things for KENTA. As he waited for Moxley to appear, he kept on defending the contract against wrestler after wrestler. He also kept on tweeting and taunting Mox to appear. Originally, he was supposed to face Juice Robinson for the contract at Wrestle Kingdom but an injury kept Juice sidelined. Satoshi Kojima stepped in as a replacement and faced the contract holder. Before the match started, Mox finally showed up in a video, saying that whoever wins that match will get to face him for the title. A fired-up KENTA showed that his patience paid off. He defeated Kojima and promised Moxley that he’s ready to face him for the title. Patience is a virtue and we all must have it. We’ll finally see KENTA vs Mox, but we just gotta wait for it to happen.
After trials, tribulations, and other hindrances: Kota Ibushi finally wins both the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Titles. He promised us that he will become God and indeed he did. After losing the right to challenge contract for the double titles to Jay White, he wasn’t sure how he'd still achieve godhood, but an opportunity arose. The day after he lost the contract, then champion Tetsuya Naito announced that he’d want to face Kota Ibushi at Night 1, saying that Ibushi earned that opportunity to face him, despite losing the contract. The roles are now reversed from 2019, with Naito being champion, White with the contract, and Ibushi empty handed. Night 1’s Main Event was something different from your usual Ibushi-Naito matchup. The athleticism of both men were on point and something to be amazed off due to them being nearing their 40’s. Neck bump after neck bump, both men continued on until Ibushi gained the upper hand. Ibushi then used V-Trigger then the Kamigoye on Naito, ultimately winning the match and becoming the new champion. Naito then handed the two titles to Ibushi, as the crowd clapped hard for Ibushi. Night 2 was also different for an Ibushi-White match. Carrying a 3-1 record against the champion, Jay White thought he’d had the upper hand but it wasn’t the case. Even with Gedo on his side, it wasn’t enough to secure the victory from the man who became God. Ibushi proved doubters that he wasn’t going to lose his titles that easily. You can see in Jay’s eyes that he was desperate to win those titles but his hunger wasn’t enough to capture them. What’s next for the champ? We can only wait as God now holds the world in his hand.