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NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Day 1 Results

Title changes, Shibata's return and more

New Japan Pro-Wrestling opened their 50th Anniversary year on January 4 with day one of Wrestle Kingdom 16 from the Tokyo Dome. The show featured plenty of title changes and Katsuyori Shibata's return match. Check out the results below:

New Japan Ranbo – Pre-Show 

New Japan Pro-Wrestling's first match of the company's 50th Anniversary year was the New Japan Ranbo to determine the participants in tomorrow's Four-Way for the KOPW 2022 Trophy. 

19 men entered the match, including Chase Owens, Aaron Henare, Kosei Fujita, Yuto Nakashima, Ryohei Oiwa, Master Wato, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Minoru Suzuki, Satoshi Kojima, TAKA Michinoku, Tomoaki Honma, DOUKI, Yuji Nagata, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Bad Luck Fale, Togi Makabe and Toru Yano.

The Ranbo also featured two surprise entrants in NJPW legend Tatsumi Fujinami and GLEAT/AJPW's CIMA, who wrestled in his first New Japan match since 2009. 

CIMA will even wrestle again tomorrow as a double pin on Tatsumi Fujinami and Togi Makabe while The Dragon of the Flame had the Figure Four Leglock applied meant the Ranbo ended with CIMA, Minoru Suzuki, Chase Owens and KOPW 2020 & 2021 Champion Toru Yano as the final four.   

While the four men will face off for the KOPW 2022 Trophy tomorrow, Suzuki didn't want to wait and he choked out Toru Yano before he went after CIMA and Chase Owens, who just managed to escape The King of Pro Wrestling's clutches. 

YOH def. SHO 

The rubber match between former Roppongi 3K teammates SHO and YOH opened the main Wrestle Kingdom 16 show, with both men tied at one win apiece from their two previous encounters in late 2021. 

It didn't take long for interference to come into play on the main card as SHO tapped out to YOH's Calf Crusher but Dick Togo arrived on the scene to distract the official. 

SHO quickly capitalised on the distraction and applied Snakebite, only for YOH to survive. Dick Togo then tossed SHO a wrench and the Bullet Club member tried to deck YOH with the weapon but the babyface ducked and caught his former friend with the Five Star Clutch pin for the victory.

An angry SHO tried to attack his former tag team partner after the match but YOH stood tall, catching SHO with a Superkick after the House of Torture member charged at him once again with the wrench.

KENTA, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori def. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Rocky Romero by DQ

The third match of January 4 very much served as a preview for January 5 as IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion KENTA teamed with his Bullet Club faction-mates El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori against their Wrestle Kingdom 16 opponents Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi and Rocky Romero. 

Following interference in the second match, a referee bump took place in the third and KENTA took advantage, battering Tanahashi with a kendo stick. The Ace managed to fight free after Bullet Club's Cutest Tag Team briefly held him back and following some help from the Mega Coaches, Tanahashi battered KENTA with the kendo stick.

The referee had recovered by this point, though, and Tanahashi was disqualified, handing Bullet Club the win. Several young lions then failed to hold back The Ace after the match and Tanahashi only stopped once Rocky Romero and Ryusuke Taguchi entered the ring. 

Will Ospreay, Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan def. BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito & SANADA 

Another day two preview match took place in the third bout on the January 4 Wrestle Kingdom 16 main card, in what was also Will Ospreay's first match in Japan since May. 

The Commonwealth Kingpin wasn't heavily involved in the contest, though, and he spent much of the match on the apron, only entering the action at the most opportune moments. 

This included during the finish and Ospreay picked up the win for the United Empire, decking BUSHI with the Hidden Blade for the 1-2-3.

Jeff Cobb will face Tetsuya Naito, SANADA will take on Great-O-Khan and Will Ospreay will fight the winner of Shingo Takagi vs. Kazuchika Okada on January 5. 

Katsuyori Shibata def. Ren Narita 

Five years after suffering a subdural hematoma that forced him to retire, Katsuyori Shibata returned to the ring at Wrestle Kingdom 16, taking on his student Ren Narita who was revealed to be the mystery opponent. 

While the match was originally announced as taking place under Catch Wrestling Rules, Shibata revealed before the bell rang that he would actually compete under standard professional wrestling rules. This doesn't appear to have been a NJPW decision in storyline, though, as English-language Commentator Chris Charlton noted Shibata had gone into business for himself.

Shibata and Narita had a match featuring plenty of grappling and strikes and Shibata managed to hit some of his signature offence, including his Dropkick in the corner. 

The match was a fairly even contest until the end when Shibata took control against his student and put Narita away following a Slap, a Rear-Naked Choke and his Penalty Kick finisher. 

EVIL def. Tomohiro Ishii – NEVER Openweight Championship

On a show that had already featured a DQ finish and a referee bump, many fans' fears came true in the NEVER Openweight Title match between EVIL and Tomohiro Ishii as they were presented with another House Of Torture match dominated by interference.

Both men fought back and forth during the opening minutes but House Of Torture's Dick Togo, Yujiro Takahashi and SHO all interfered following a referee bump. YOH came down to the ring to even the odds and he managed to fight off SHO and Takahashi but he couldn't remove Togo from ringside.

This ultimately proved to be Ishii's downfall as further interference from Togo allowed EVIL to deck The Stone Pitbull with a belt shot to the head before he followed up with Everything Is EVIL for the victory. 

With the win today, EVIL becomes a double champion in NJPW once again, having won the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Title with SHO and Yujiro Takahashi earlier this year. 

Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI def. Dangerous Tekkers - IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship

In another title change at Wrestle Kingdom, Dangerous Tekkers' 163-day reign came to an end at the hands of World Tag League 2021 winners Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI. 

Both teams fought back and forth during the contest and Taichi thought he had the match won for his team after he went for Black Mephisto. YOSHI-HASHI countered into a Canadian Destroyer, though, and Goto decked Taichi with a GTR before the Chaos team hit their new tag team finisher, Naraku, for the victory. 

Chaos then offered Dangerous Tekkers a handshake after the match, only for Taichi to refuse and hug YOSHI-HASHI instead while Zack Sabre Jr. patted Hirooki Goto on the chest in a show of respect. 

El Desperado def. Hiromu Takahashi - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

El Desperado and Hiromu Takahashi wrote the latest chapter in their long-running rivalry on January 4, facing each other at Wrestle Kingdom for the first time. Both men looked destined to face each other for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship following their epic clash during Best Of The Super Juniors 27 in 2020 and the match finally took place on January 4, 2022, inside the Tokyo Dome. 

Both men enjoyed time on top during the contest but Takahashi failed to hit much of his signature offence, only connecting with a Dynamite Plunger and Victory Royal for near falls. A Time Bomb or Time Bomb 2 never came and El Desperado was able to pick up an emphatic win following three Pinche Locos. 

Despe's reign continues.  

Kazuchika Okada def. Shingo Takagi - IWGP World Heavyweight Championship

10 years to the day since his NJPW return match, Kazuchika Okada left the Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2022, as IWGP World Heavyweight Champion following his main event win over Shingo Takagi. 

Takagi defeated Okada for the vacant world title at Dominion in June and Shingo hoped to retain the gold at Wrestle Kingdom after connecting with Made In Japan, Last Of The Dragon and a Pumping Bomber. Okada managed to get his shoulder up, though, and the G1 Climax 31 winner later blocked a second Pumping Bomber from Shingo with a Dropkick before he followed up with a Sit-Out Tombstone Piledriver and a second Rainmaker for the win. 

Following the match, Okada lay the old IWGP Heavyweight Title belt in the ring and bowed to it before referee Red Shoes Uno placed the IWGP World Heavyweight Title around his waist, seemingly sending the V4 title into retirement for good. 

Okada won't have long to celebrate his title win, though, as he will defend the gold against Will Ospreay in the main event of the January 5 Wrestle Kingdom 16 show. 

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Aidan Gibbons

Written by Aidan Gibbons

Journalist/Editor-in-Chief of Cultaholic.com Twitter: @theaidangibbons