NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16: Night One Review

Night One Never Drags


NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16: Night One, lasted four hours or so. And it never dragged for a minute. It may have been good plotting, taking the night up and down. Or perhaps I’m just more invested this year. After all, my subscription started at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom last year and the promotion has beguiled me since then. NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 promises to be their Wrestlemania. Don’t worry, it’s better than that.

The NJPW Wrestle Kingdom Ranbo

19 men enter and it all counts, over the top, pins, taps, the lot. The last Four men get a match tomorrow night. The main pull here are some of the surprise entrants, so I’ll name ’em all. Aaron Henare and Chase Owens opened it up, Henare showed some good-looking, stiff offense before young lions Fajita, Oiwa and Nakashima entered, the latter taking it straight to Henare. Then Master Watto aimed some kicks at Henare and got his leg worked over by Owens for his pains. Tenzan made an appearance next, but it’s Henare who was making the biggest mark with kicks and a leglock on Watto.

Ah. It’s Suzuki. He didn’t half take his time. But once he was there, and after Chase Owens had made heads shake by holding Suzuki’s gaze and making the ‘shooter’ sign, the tough guy just started eliminating young lions, as if offended by them having the temerity to appear. Kojima next, and yes he got the chance to double-quick chop, but he was followed by Taka Michinoku, who NJPW crowds haven’t seen for a while. He aimed a lovely kick at Tenzan but tasted a Koji cutter. And he quickly fell to a Meteora from CIMA. He hadn’t been seen in NJPW for about a decade? Followed by Honma who put him down after CIMA eliminated Master Watto.

CIMA at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom
Credit; process system wiki fandom

Douki in, Nagata in, straight to Suzuki, Kanemaru in with his bottle, pinning a rather anonymous Tenzan. After Makabe’s entrance and Kojima’s pin from a pile on, Bad Luck Fale, so successful in this match last year, got loads out of there. And then probably the biggest surprise of all, Tatsumi Fujinami, who was in the first NJPW event 50 years ago. And who got rid of Fale and put Makabe in a figure four.

But then final entrant Toru Yano ended Fujinami’s clock turning exploits, getting him and many others out of there and then suffering the wrath of other three survivors Owens, Suzuki, and CIMA. That was well done. Real surprises but not just for a ‘wow’ factor with no reason, these entrants all meant something, produced fine, simple work, and set the night up beautifully.


Former partners turned against each other. Face v Heel. Animosity v erm…animosity. Promised to be something special. YOH opened with a tope con heilo, SHO slammed him on the walkway and there was a feeling of nastiness throughout, eye rakes, a YOH brutal dragon screw, boots to the chest, and the ref brought into it early.

SHO before NJPW Wrestle Kingdom
Credit; NJPW

SHO showed quality with a powerbomb onto a cross arm piledriver for a count of 2.9 and a well-tangled YOH leglock had SHO tapping, but nefarious Dick Togo had the ref distracted. In the end, SHO had a wrench, ssshing the crowd who are now allowed to shout but of course, it went awry and Togo tasted it, leading to the YOH roll through and pin. It was a good starter for NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 and it meant something. Nicely done.

Tanahashi/Taguchi/Rocky Romero v KENTA/El Phantasmo/Ishimori

There’s bound to be some fun stuff here with ElP involved and that’s a fine line to walk. He generally does it beautifully. Here, we had some nudge-nudge, wink-wink stuff including KENTA steepling his fingers to attend to Taguchi’s rear end, but slipping and jabbing his twig, berries, or both and then ElP and Ishimori attacking the same nether area whilst he was in the tree of woe.

The back rake spot? More comedy, but I don’t mind. Phantasmo jumped from rope to rope before he raked, Ishimori danced before his. Of course, there were some fine wrestling moves too, including a sweet KENTA DDT but with the ref gone, he wanted to concentrate on a kendo stick.

The ref was only temporarily absent of course, so when Tanahashi grabbed the stick back and set about his opponent, he wasn’t even bothered when the ref saw it and DQ’d it. And that’s surprising. Tana is always so composed. KENTA got under his skin. Their NJPW Wrestle Kingdom no DQ match should be interesting.

United Empire v Bushi/Sanada/Naito

Cobb, O-Khan, and Ospreay? That’s pretty much a dream team. But looking across the ring? Same thing.

Jeff Cobb at NJPW Wrestle kingdom 16
Credit; Pro Wrestling Fandom

Things were going well for Naito with Cobb until he was caught, driven into the turnbuckle, and clotheslined. O-Khan then put him down too but screamed in humiliation when put into the paradise lock, so when free grabbed Sanada’s ear, rolled him up, and sat on his rear end. Bushi is often overlooked but his work tonight, from his native American headdress style mask to the oh-so-fluid DDT later in the match, impressed.

Of course, Ospreay unpacked his blade after a pop-up powerbomb and that’s how the pin arrived. Simple, fun, and a sorbet to introduce us to the next match.

Shibata v Ren Narita

So many have been waiting for this match. So many never expected it. So many were delighted to see it. No pressure then.

Credit; puroresu system wiki fandom

But by picking his star student Ren Narita as an opponent, Shibata was able to go hard in this catch wrestling match and he certainly did. Of course, they jockeyed for position and after an early Shibata figure four and a rather nasty trip, Narita came back with a sharpshooter and rear-naked in the ropes. Neither was holding back here. Shibata countered a Cobra twist with a tighter one of his own and when Narita decided to try to match kicks raining in down him, he simply couldn’t keep up. And the end came quickly and incredibly strong; a strike, a sleeper to set up the PK and Shibata was back.

He got through it, which many were worried about. More than that. He looked great. And he took it to Shibata almost as a lesson. Funny, that. Was NJPW Wrestle Kingdom a special appearance? Will we see more? So many will want to, me included. But what is it going to look like? What kind of matches are coming up for him? Delicious possibilities.

Ishii v EVIL

This is for the Never Openweight strap and surely Ibushi won’t lose this, he’s just won it! But then he does bear the look of a transitional champ, can you see him growing with the belt? We love what he does but we know what he does. And EVIL wins matches, just in ways we don’t want him to.

What a match this was. Not a catch as catch can. A wrestling entertainment match, not a long one but a very good one. From the moment they both attacked each other with chairs, from the moment EVIL got so much help and threw Ishii in the guardrail, via EVIL pulling the ref into the action after tasting a suplex, then backing him into a Dick Togo chair shot and Ishii fighting through the pain to hit a clothesline, this was shenanigan heavy and very entertaining.

The champ getting EVIL up in a vertical suplex from the second rope looked fabulous, so did Togo choking him and SHO getting involved with YOH but for different reasons. SHO had a go, YOH entered the show and kept Togo away whilst Ishii prepped for the vertical drop brainbuster. Low blow. Belt shot. The pin followed soon after.

New champ and NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16. EVIL can do more with that belt, but it won’t be as much about wrestling. I’ll enjoy that though, just as I enjoyed his smirk into the camera as the 1-2-3 was counted.

Dangerous Tekkers v Goto & YOSHI-HASHI

Come on Zak Sabre Juuuuniooor, secure these belts. I often see Zak as the real reason why the team keeps the belts, but they do seem brittle sometimes. Y-H on the other hand is on a good run, and there wouldn’t be much surprise if he and Goto picked up the belts here. And the wrestling? It was all here, at double speed. Zak’s body scissors with leg crank, Goto’s running bulldog, Zak’s octopus, and crucifix, all these were so good to see. And mainly Zak’s.

Zak Sabre Jr
Credit; Pro Wrestling Fandom

YOSHI-HASHI and Taichi were so evenly matched that their work together was fascinating, a Y-H suplex followed by a lariat brought a long two count. And then Y-H wound it up with two superkicks and a backbreaker, Zak had to break that pin up.

The frenetic, tough work had its effect, and whilst Zak recovered by the ropes, they concentrated on Taichi, a destroyer and twisting neck breaker bringing the pin. What a match. Hard-hitting. Innovative. Pacey. And new champs. One of the NJPW Wrestle Kingdom fights of the night.

Hiromi Takahashi v El Desperado

So many people felt the ticking timebomb Takahashi would win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight belt, should champ El Desperado even turn up? So glad he did, this was exceptional. They set it up with a chop shop so big they had to build an extension, but quickly the extraordinary moves began, a Takahashi sunset bomb on the outside, a pop-up powerbomb, and belly-to-belly to-the-buckles.

This seemed all Takahashi, didn’t it? Well no, as the match developed well, Desperado synched up a stretch muffler and lifted Takahashi, only to fall prey to a destroyer. He came back though with a package piledriver and they shared so many near falls late on, the one who could make the concerted effort would prevail. That was the champ. Two of his flapjack style finishers and El Desperado retains. Didn’t see that coming. But what a match. Is it a clich√© to say that wrestling was the winner here? Yes, yes it is.

Shingo v Okada

I love Shingo’s work. I remember a Guerilla Pro Wrestling Battle of Los Angeles in which he entranced me. But it has to be said that he hasn’t made a big splash as Heavyweight champ. Okada seems the champ in waiting. Ospreay has made more noise than the champ has. This had an Okada win written all over it. A close run thing, respectful feel to start, it starts slowly, both men wily, until Okada hit a DDT on the outside and Shingo powered out and hit a suplex. This just jumped up a notch. And what a huge high cross body by Okada over the guardrail. He got a lot of air on it. And then the same height on a massive dropkick.

Credit: purureso system wiki fandom

Shingo fought the money clip though and hit a DDT to underline that. And put the exclamation point on it with a wheelbarrow German. What did Okada do? Back to the money clip, Shingo is struggling. But then he hit a tight lariat. This is such a tough beat. And Okada wasn’t happy when Shingo flexed at him. And then it spilled to the walkway, Shingo death valley driver to Okada, back in the ring Shingo took over, sliding lariat for a two count even though he told us he isn’t ready yet.

But Okada was ready with two short clotheslines and was almost out of it when the champ hit the made in Japan. And then close again after a Shingo bomber. This was so physical. (And my match of 2022. Everyone else might as well pack up and go home – Editorial Neil)

Suddenly the Rainmaker was in. But Okada couldn’t follow it up. Nor could be after an extraordinary DDT off the top. Could Okada hit the Rainmaker? He could and did. For the pin. Ospreay came out to spoil the party, but this 30-minute, slowly wound-up match was tight, hard, and very, very good. But not so good that we thought ‘follow that’. Perfectly done.

The Night?

That NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16: Night One was perfectly done too. Never dragging. Never boring. Never needless. Every Match meant something and I can’t wait for tomorrow. The best wrestling on the planet.

Written by Steve Swift

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