NJPW New Year Dash Report: The fallout from Wrestle Kingdom 15

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2021/01/06/njpw-new-year-dash-report-the-fallout-from-wrestle-kingdom-15/

Welcome to this POST Wrestling report on New Japan Pro Wrestling’s New Year Dash 2021. The event took place in Tokyo Dome City Hall on 6th January 2021. This is the first New Japan show at Tokyo Dome City Hall since 2012. New Year Dash has a reputation for memorable events, it was where both AJ Styles and Kenny Omega were usurped as leaders of the Bullet Club. Last year’s show featured Jushin “Thunder” Liger’s retirement ceremony.

  1. Gabriel Kidd vs Yuji Nagata – An exciting underdog match with a good showing from Kidd
  2. Tiger Mask IV & Yuya Uemura vs Minoru Suzuki & Douki – Great exchanges between Uemura and Suzuki – RECOMMENDED
  3. Will Ospreay, Great Okhan & Jeff Cobb vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Yota Tsuji – A decent match with serious repercussions after the match
  4. Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori – A decent tag match that sets up a future title match.
  5. Jay White, EVIL, Bad Luck Fale, Owens & Yujiro Takahashi vs Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI – Another decent tag match with a good closing stretch but nothing memorable.
  6. Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI vs Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Sho, Rocky Romero & Master Wato – Yet another decent tag match, with sequences designed to build up future title matches.

Gabriel Kidd vs Yuji Nagata

Gabriel Kidd looked good in the early goings with his basic chain wrestling and holds before Nagata’s experience edge made itself known. Kidd showed confidence and aggression, forcing Nagata to rely more on striking. Kidd mounted a comeback with a dropkick, hitting a suplex, and even applying a single leg crab. Nagata quickly regained control and, while Kidd did kick out of an Exploder suplex, Kidd tapped out of the Nagata Lock 2.

Yuji Nagata submitted Gabriel Kidd (7:59)

This was a good veteran vs rookie match. The match built well, letting Kidd show his skills and earn a good run of offense in the closing stretch before the difference in experience levels became obvious. The finishing stretch was simple and let Kidd look strong by kicking out of the Exploder while still leaving plenty of room for future bouts between these 2. A great choice for the opener and maybe my 2nd favorite match on the card.

Tiger Mask IV & Yuya Uemura vs Minoru Suzuki & Douki

Yuya Uemura has a long-running history of trying to bring it to Minoru Suzuki. Tiger Mask IV has only recently returned to action after a long absence due to diverticulitis. Uemura looked strong against Douki and he quickly seized every opportunity to attack Suzuki on the apron. Suzuki soon punished him for that, brutalizing Uemura on the outside and cutting off a comeback with a brutal headbutt.

Both Douki and Suzuki worked over Uemura before the tag was made to Tiger Mask. He showed some understandable ring rust at times, including an awkward Tiger Driver on Suzuki. Uemura tagged in and took it to Suzuki with a lot of fire. Suzuki countered a Boston Crab into one of his own, but Tiger Mask made the save. Uemura came close with some roll-ups but Suzuki would win the match with a Gotch Style Piledriver.

Minoru Suzuki pinned Yuya Uemura (10:45)

This was a good match although Tiger Mask understandably showed some ring rust. Ultimately, this was all about Uemura bringing it to Suzuki. Their exchanges were my personal highlight for the entire show, with the young underdog being fearless in constantly challenging the veteran. Uemura’s fire and technical skills are quickly making him one of my favorite Young Lions in the last decade. If he does not become a star, then something will have gone really wrong. Suzuki was a perfect bully in this match, and I hope that 2021 includes a singles match between these 2.

Will Ospreay, Great Okhan & Jeff Cobb vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Yota Tsuji

The Empire still has no unifying theme with their look and gear. They jumped their opponents before the bell and the match started with Great Okhan against Hiroyoshi Tenzan. They would fight over Mongolian chops before Okhan seized an opportunity with a Fujiwara armbar. The Empire isolated Tenzan until Tenzan hit a spinning wheel kick on Will Ospreay and tagged in Satoshi Kojima. The hot tag included Kojima’s machine gun chops and a big DDT.

Ospreay would fight back with well-placed elbows and a suplex before tagging in Jeff Cobb, who showed off his strength against Kojima. Yota Tsuji looked good when he tagged in, looking credible before getting caught with an Oklahoma Stampede. The Empire isolated Tsuji and won the match with a Gorilla press-Oscutter combination.

After the match, the Empire beat down Tsuji. Tenzan made the save but was taken out by Okhan using the TTD, Tenzan’s own move. Kojima made the save but was hit by Ospreay’s Hidden Blade. Ospreay would cut a promo declaring the group the “United Empire”. Tenzan was then stretchered out after the beatdown.

Jeff Cobb pinned Yota Tsuji (9:44)

This was a decent match designed to build up the Empire after they went 0-3 at Wrestle Kingdom. There was nothing bad and the finish was good. Tsuji showed good fire and the United Empire as a unit is growing on me although they need to work on having a clearer group identity/style.

The post-match beatdown looked like it was designed to write off Tenzan and put over the Empire. The promo by Ospreay felt like he was trying too hard to be a bad guy, noticeably lowering his voice at times to seem more threatening. It will be interesting to see where the United Empire goes from here.

Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori

This match got the house show treatment from the Bullet Club team, with the Guerillas of Destiny wearing their T-shirts during the match. It started with an ill-tempered brawl and an angry Taichi choking everyone he could get his hands on. The Suzuki-gun team isolated Tama Tonga early on. The Bullet Club gained control and it became El Desperado’s turn to get beaten down. An eye poke and a slap let him tag in Zack Sabre Jr, who tried to overcome Tanga Loa’s power with a guillotine choke.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Phantasmo tagged in and the match broke down as everyone hit their big moves. A whisky bottle shot by Kanemaru missed its target. Taiji Ishimori interfered to give Phantasmo the chance to hit Kanemaru with a superkick to win the match. It was heavily implied that Phantasmo had a loaded boot, as referenced in his match against Hiromu Takahashi on night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom. After the match, Phantasmo & Ishimori challenged Kanemaru & Desperado for the Jr Tag Team titles.

El Phantasmo pinned Yoshinobu Kanemaru (11:35)

This was another decent match but there was nothing memorable. It had a simple structure, while the hot tags and the closing stretch were fine. This was about building the Jr Tag Team title match and having these 8 men on the card.

Jay White, EVIL, Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi vs Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI

The Bullet Club came out to Jay White’s theme music. Toru Yano wore his T-Shirt for this one. Chase Owens tried to throw away Yano’s KOPW trophy. YOSHI-HASHI and Goto showed good chemistry as a team and all of CHAOS joined in to beat down Dick Togo. EVIL tripped Kazuchika Okada but that quickly led to nothing, and EVIL had to rely on Dick Togo to turn the tide (again).

Jay White would tag in repeatedly during a workover period on Okada, bemoaning refereeing inconsistencies and mocking Okada. There were no signs of any tensions between White and EVIL. Okada managed to escape EVIL’s clutches long enough to tag in Tomohiro Ishii.

The finishing stretch was between Ishii and White, with the latter mixing up his counters with some hard elbows. Gedo tried to interfere but that did not help White, who looked beaten down at times after his 48-minute long match the previous night. At one point everyone got in on the action. Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI, and Goto teamed up on White but EVIL made the save. That came to nothing when Ishii reversed a Sling Blade into a Brainbuster for the win. After the match, there was nothing significant involving White or the Bullet Club.

Tomohiro Ishii pinned Jay White (13:47)

This was a decent match but really, everyone was expecting something with Jay White. That could have been a follow-up promo, an attack by the Bullet Club or an angle. Instead, nothing happened after White lost to Ishii. I did appreciate the closing stretch but, other than being impressed by the combination of Goto & YOSHI-HASHI, my main thoughts were that we got no payoff to the teased tension between EVIL and White. Going back to before the G1 Climax there had been the feeling that something will happen between these 2, but we are still waiting, and it looks like there will not be any significant changes in the Bullet Club other than the fate of Jay White.

Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI vs Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Sho, Rocky Romero & Master Wato

In a show of respect, Tetsuya Naito came out 3rd for his team, letting Shingo Takagi & SANADA come out after him. Things started with Sho and Hiromu Takahashi trading big forearms. Hiromu was in trouble while fighting Rocky Romero but Naito made the save with a well-timed trip. Takagi worked over Romero and used it as an opportunity to hit a cheap shot on Hiroshi Tanahashi.

LIJ would work to isolate Romero from his teammates. An attempt to tag out after a double Hurracanrana was cut off by SANADA. Romero then managed to tag in Kota Ibushi, leading to Ibushi vs SANADA. After some action, SANADA applied the Paradise Lock to Ibushi. Tanahashi & Takagi both tagged in and Takagi answered a Tanahashi Twist & Shout with one of his own. After a short but satisfying segment between these 2 BUSHI and Master Wato tagged in.

Wato used his range of kicks and a springboard spinning European uppercut. Naito helped save BUSHI and then the match broke down. Wato had a strong run but SANADA and Takagi made the save. Pretty soon after BUSHI pinned Wato with the MX.

After the match Takagi challenged Tanahashi to a match for the NEVER Openweight title, Hiromu challenged to a match for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight title and we got more build for SANADA vs Ibushi. After this BUSHI had the honors of giving the show-closing speech.

BUSHI pinned Master Wato (17:23)

This was another decent match but yet again, ultimately nothing memorable. It did a good job of building up the programs for the NEVER Openweight title, IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title, and the IWGP Double Championship. I did like some of the exchanges and I loved the structure where BUSHI won because his teammates constantly had his back.

Show Summary

This was very quick and breezy, clocking in at just over 2 hours long. There were some great showings from the young lions and a lot of build-up for future title matches. That said, there were no matches of high quality and no major moments, aside from Hiroyoshi Tenzan being stretchered out. After Jay White’s post Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night 2 promo it was disappointing that there was no fallout after White lost to Ishii. We had been expecting something between EVIL and White for months now and now it looks like it will never happen. The show was fun but honestly, it was nothing more than a glorified house show designed to set up new title matches. It felt like a missed opportunity to shake things up.