NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night 1 Match Ratings, Notes From Sean Ross Sapp

NEW JAPAN RAMBO
4.5/10

I'm a sucker for battle royals, and this one isn't a throw away for those involved because they have a featured match tomorrow. I just don't like the King of Pro Wrestling thing. Minoru Suzuki being out early wasn't something that I expected. Toru Yano ends up getting a win by being in the final four without even getting in the ring. Bushi, Bad Luck Fale, and Chase Owens win, too. The juice was not worth the squeeze here, and I'm not excited for this four way match tomorrow, yikes.

Deonna Purrazzo Wants To Face WWE’s Four Horsewomen With Her Own Interpromotional Supergroup


Hiromu Takahashi defeated El Phantasmo 
6/10

Not a strong start to this one as some spots get blown in a sunset flip bomb. Phantasmo trolling is top notch. Hiromu's modified press slam is a work of art. Phantasmo is such a great developing heel and it's translating into his in-ring work very well. Hiromu Takahashi wins with the Bulldog/Bret pin after a pretty solid match. Hiromu was the right person to win, but Phantasmo has stepped up a bunch. They immediately bring ice for Takahashi's fingers. It was tough to recover after that series of blown spots for me, but they did really good. 

IWGP Tag Team Titles
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tanga & Tanga Loa) defeated Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr & Taichi (c) to win the titles
6.75/10

I'll never be used to clean shaven, short hair Tama Tonga. Tanga Loa put his working boots on tonight and is going to town. I love GOD's gear. There was a neckbreaker that absolutely should not have hit at all, but Tama stayed in the air long enough to make it work, a total pro move. I wish GOD's back body drop bomb move was one solid motion, but I love it. Taichi is late to break up the pin there. GOD are going all out. Zack Sabre is as good as ever, but GOD are flying all over the place. Taichi just wasn't there for this match and three other people picked up the slack for him. GOD are now 7x champs.

US Title Top Contender
KENTA defeated Satoshi Kojima 
5.75/10

Moxley appears via video and says he's the boogeyman and he's not going away, and nobody is getting off easy.  I'm admittedly not too pumped about this match. Kojima doesn't work like he's 50, and I'm just as excited to see what kind of match he pulls of on this stage at this point of his career as anything. It was an okay match, and Kojima had a great performance. KENTA won this one with an absolutely filthy Go 2 Sleep. This was better towards the end than I'd expected.

Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated GREAT O KHAN
5/10

The fact that Tanahashi's glorious hair even shared the same televised platform as Taichi's is tragic. Almost as tragic as Khan's pants and the general idea of whatever it is he's doing, but I'll bet NJPW fans think the same of Bray Wyatt. Great O Khan is more like Mid O Khan, and that's fine at this stage, but he's not great. Mongolian Chops in 2021 are a decision. Almost as much of a decision as the Iron Claw. I'm not new to his work, I just can't believe they haven't adjusted it to take the lame stuff out. He almost killed Tanahashi with a backdrop inside out suplex, but it ended up working. Tanahashi hit a beautiful Dragon suplex and High Fly Flow. I have found religion as a result of Tanahashi beating GREAT O KHAN. Jesus is real. Great O Khan was not ready for this spot or a win over Tanahashi.

Kazuchika Okada defeated Will Ospreay (w/ Bea Priestly)
9.75/10

Okada hits an insane elbow and a tope con giro out of the gate. Red Shoes refuses to count a pin after an attack outside the ring. Lol, what? They say it's a judgment call. It's a shitty judgment call. Ospreay takes an incredible backdrop. Okada busts out Heavy Rain for the first time in a while. I do not like the sit around and wait to be hit spot. The stakes aren't quite as high in this match, so it's not nearly as bad. There's a catching powerbomb spot that is off the charts. Okada and Ospreay have one of the better table spots in the last year. Outside in suplex through the table. I'm not a big fan of the Money Clip as it's used, but there's a lot of potential. It just isn't aggressive enough.

This match is as good as we all thought it would be. Okada taking a Spanish Fly is a sight to see. I adored seeing Okada switch it up and do a discus Rainmaker a week after Brodie Lee passed away. Ospreay does a doozy of a Rainmaker, but Okada hits one to get the win.

This match was almost perfect to me, and without any real stakes. This felt like 15 minutes. The 35 minutes flew by.

IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships
Kota Ibushi defeated Tetsuya Naito (c) to win the titles
9/10

I love a good frankensteiner off the ropes, as it was intended. Ibushi looks like a goddamn video game character. There are some nasty suplexes in this. Ibushi catches Naito with a frankensteiner off the apron to ringside. Unreal. So is the Naito Poisonrana and Destino.

NJPW production is helping all this. It's simple and effective, and doesn't get in its own way.

Ibushi almost didn't kick out. They had a couple of fantastic near falls with the Destino and the Last Ride into the knee. Ibushi gets the job done with a couple of gigantic knees out of the V-Trigger. Ibushi has done it! Double champion!! It was going to be really hard to follow the prior match, and they did it. Amazing.

Rating Guide
10- Perfect, 9- MOTY Territory, 8- Excellent, 7- Great, 6- Good, 5- Average to above average, 4- Slightly below average, 3 or below: Poor

Each match starts at a 5 and slides up and down based on entertainment, execution, time, environment, reaction and stakes. The ratings are in no way an indication of a "star rating," which is a completely different system. A standard, non-offensive "TV match" lands at a 5. The gap between 5.75-6 is generally the largest, with anything reaching 6 being recommended viewing.
These are opinions, and incredibly inconsistent ones that may change upon a second viewing, or sitting on the match for a period of time. Don't take them too seriously, and have (and share) your own!

 

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