After a phenomenal two days of action at the Tokyo Dome, New Japan Wrestling has just finished their Wrestle Kingdom 15 event.
With 13 matches over two days, there was something for everyone. It was the perfect showcase for all of the New Japan wrestlers. Unsurprisingly, there did not seem to be any weak links during this year’s show despite the lack of crowd reaction due to the pandemic.
With such a high quality of talent throughout, here is a look at the top six matches from Wrestle Kingdom 15.
6. Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Phantasmo – Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night One
Starting off the main card of January 4, Hiromu Takahashi and El Phantasmo threw everything and the kitchen sink into their match. With a shot at the Jr. Heavyweight title on the line, it was a case of going big or going home. As expected, it was a showcase of the Jr. division with two men epitomise what it means to be a high-flier.
From the minute the bell rang, the match was fast-paced and full of action. Even as the ring announcer called the 10-minute mark, it felt like the action was enough for 20. Both men utilised the ring and their surroundings to emphasise their risky style. El Phantasmo even used Hiromu as a step to hit a beautiful moonsault. Hiromu also went high risk and combined it with more unpredictability and vicious chops.
Yet, despite using a style which mirrored each other throughout, that was where the similarities ended. At the end of the day, El Phantasmo is a heel and used that to his advantage. Even knocking the referee and hitting Hiromu with a low blow was not enough to keep the Ticking Time Bomb down. It was this heart that kept Hiromu fighting.
Surprisingly, this heart did not lead to a Time Bomb to give Hiromu the win. Although Hiromu got the win, it was with a magnificent Hurricanrana securing his spot once again on both nights of Wrestle Kingdom. It was a great match to start Wrestle Kingdom and set the tone for a great rest of the show.
5. Shingo Takagi vs. Jeff Cobb – Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night Two
When this match was announced, everyone had high expectations. The NEVER title has historically been an afterthought or extremely low on the Tokyo Dome card. However, this was not the case this year. Both Shingo Takagi and Jeff Cobb are phenomenal athletes and have some link to the NEVER Openweight title. It was this that produced one of the best matches over the two days.
As expected, the match was pure class from the minute the bell rang and was full of layers. One minute, the men were hitting lariats left, right and centre. Yet, in the blink of an eye, they were hitting moonsaults and Tope Con Giro outside of the ring. It was this dynamic which helped the match flow and passed by in the blink of an eye.
Throughout the match, Cobb focused on targeting Shingo’s back which is key to The Dragon’s offence. However, despite some brutality, Takagi found a way to fight back. Using his heart and determination, it took some effort to finally hit the Last of the Dragon to retain the title. In just over 20 minutes, the two athletes put on a beautiful exhibition of speed, strength and agility.
The lack of interference from The Empire combined with the offence made this a NEVER match to remember. Jeff Cobb showed that he is still the talented beast whether as a heel or babyface. Shingo showed why he is the perfect person to represent the NEVER division and take it to heights that it has not seen in a long time.
4. Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay – Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night One
Despite having met in singles action before, this match between Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay was going to be completely different. After Ospreay betrayed his CHAOS family, things between the men became personal and more than just a fight between brothers. Sometimes, this means more than any title.
The match started quickly and with aggression, which we have not seen out of either man for a while. You could see animosity between the two as they traded exchanges both inside and outside of the ring. Also, with Bea Priestley ringside, there was added danger for Okada. It also included the risks Ospreay took with his Jr. Heavyweight roots making an appearance.
However, this did not set the pace of the match. Fans witnessed both men stepping out of their comfort zones for the sake of this battle. One minute, we saw Ospreay hitting spine-tingling chops. The next, Okada was diving through the ropes with a beautifully executed Tope Con Giro. There was even a scary spot where Ospreay hit Okada through a strong Japanese table.
What was so good about this match was the light and shade. Despite going over 35-minutes, it felt as if the match finished in a blink of an eye. In the end, after what seemed like forever without it, Okada hit Ospreay with a beautiful Rainmaker for the win.
It will be interesting to see what happens between the two going forward. However, by combining story-telling and beautiful wrestling, the duo was able to surpass all expectations. It reminded fans why they are two of the best in the world. Despite no title implications, this had the feeling of a big match which could have easily main-evented the Tokyo Dome.