Two hopefully climatic shows in Osaka-Jo Hall conclude the short, yet arduous, NJPW Castle Attack tour. I will preview all the interesting matches of the back-to-back nights, after swiftly running down the match cards. The second night is packed full with four title matches, the first headlined by two special singles matches (one of which is a lot more exciting than the other – I’ll let you hazard a guess at which one is which).
Night One (February 27th):
TenCozy & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jeff Cobb, Will Ospreay & Great-O-Khan
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Tanga Loa
Hirooki Goto vs. Tama Tonga
Provisional KOPW 2021 Trophy:
Toru Yano (c) vs. Chase Owens
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jay White
Kazuchika Okada vs. EVIL
Night Two (February 28th):
TenCozy vs. Will Ospreay & Jeff Cobb
Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada vs. Chase Owens, Jay White & EVIL
IWGP Tag Team Championships:
Guerrillas Of Destiny (c) vs. YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto
NEVER Openweight Championship:
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Great O-Khan
Vacant IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:
El Phantasmo vs. BUSHI vs. El Desperado
IWGP Intercontinental Championship:
Kota Ibushi (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito
Skipping the United Empire vs TenCozy opening tags, I’m going straight into the bulk of night one, and the IWGP Tag Team Championship match of night two, which are all battles between Bullet Club and CHAOS.
Provisional KOPW 2021 Trophy: Toru Yano (c) vs. Chase Owens
First, the utterly pointless Toru Yano vs Chase Owens KOPW match-up, which will be a Yano Style Texas Strap Match, after it defeated Chase Owens’ suggestion of a standard Texas Strap Match in the fan poll. Yano’s variation twists the traditional Strap Match rules, so that the competitors must remove each corner pad while strapped to their opponent, instead of just touching the turnbuckles. This will be your conventional Yano comedy affair, with your enjoyment depending on how long your tether for this sort of match is.
Jay White vs. Tomohiro Ishii
More importantly, Jay White will partake in his first singles match since Wrestle Kingdom 15 – fighting the Stone Pitbull Tomohiro Ishii. This is the match I am most excited for out of the two nights, and will surely be a fiery encounter. Ishii and White have been embroiled in a rivalry ever since Ishii pinned the Switchblade at New Year’s Dash. Jay went on hiatus for the following month, but returned to blindside Ishii on the Road To New Beginning tour.
In the meantime, Ishii, Hirooki Goto, and YOSHI-HASHI successfully defended their 6-man tag team titles against Jay and G.O.D, but the feud is far from over. A fire has been lit under Ishii, who is purely hell-bent on getting retribution from Bullet Club’s leader; he will look to do so when the two lock horns in singles competition in the semi-main of night one. If their G1 Climax 30 encounter is anything to go by, this one should be amazing!
Kazuchika Okada vs. EVIL
Night one’s main event is EVIL and Okada’s seventh singles meeting, a special singles match which definitely stretches the meaning of the word “special”. I have to be honest, I’m not looking forward to this one at all. The shenanigans of New Beginning in Hiroshima soured my already waning interest, as Okada and EVIL engaged in a very “sports entertainment” DQ shambles.
The quality of this match depends on how much energy Okada can muster, because it’s been noticeably lacking during this feud so far. The Rainmaker looks almost aimless at the moment, a trait which emerges when he is cycled out of the IWGP Heavyweight title picture. Don’t expect too much from this match, and you may be pleasantly surprised (though it’s only a maybe).
IWGP Tag Team Championships: G.O.D (c) vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
The aforementioned G.OD will defend their tag titles against Goto and YOSHI-HASHI in the first of night two’s four title matches. To preview this match we will witness a duo of singles matches on night one (Hirooki Goto vs Tama Tonga and YOSHI-HASHI vs Tanga Loa), which are both relatively interesting. The title match itself is more exciting to me, as both teams are looking good heading into it. Ignoring the calamity which was G.O.D vs Dangerous Tekkers, the Tongans are an improved team, and lining up against the CHAOS partners – a very good match is promised.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Great-O-Khan
Since their Wrestle Kingdom 15 meeting, Tanahashi has claimed the NEVER Openweight Championship and O-Khan has arrested the Mongolian Chops from Hiroyoshi Tenzan (prohibiting the legend from ever using the move again). Now, they will meet for a second time with the NEVER Openweight title up for grabs. Their mediocre Wrestle Kingdom match didn’t exactly set the world alight, but it certainty offered plentiful reason to be intrigued in the future of the Great-O-Khan. I would argue it’s too early for O-Khan to win singles gold in New Japan, but don’t be surprised if he does, as he clearly has the favour of company higher-ups.
Vacant IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: El Phantasmo vs. BUSHI vs. El Desperado
The originally slated Hiromu Takahashi vs El Phantasmo title defence was cancelled when the champion suffered a devastatingly serious injury to his pectoral muscle (expected to be out for 6 months). Its replacement – a three-way match for the now vacant IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
On the February 25th Road To show, Hiromu and BUSHI were scheduled to challenge El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships, but they were hastily replaced by Suzuki-Gun’s El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru, who leaped at the opportunity to challenge for the belts upon news of the Time Bomb’s injury. The challengers were successful at the end of the night, with Despy picking up the deciding pin-fall over Ishimori.
The show is also noteworthy in that it was opened by Hiromu vacating his championship, stating that he wanted his tag partner BUSHI to replace him in the Castle Attack title showdown. BUSHI duly accepted, as he, El Phantasmo and El Desperado squared off to close the show – setting the scene for a thrilling three-way in Osaka Jo-Hall.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Kota Ibushi (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito
There has been a lot of talk about the perceived senselessness of the booking for Naito’s Intercontinental Championship challenge against Ibushi, but I think it’s a mostly sensical storyline. Naito passed the point of hating the title when achieving his “double gold” destino last year. He wants to stop the titles merging, as he now has an attachment to the Intercontinental belt. The Ungovernable One also desires to become synonymous with the belt – much like Shinsuke Nakamura currently is. Where it stops making sense is in the match’s laboured build on the Road To shows and in the backstage comments, but overall it is relatively coherent.
Looking beyond the convoluted storyline, Naito vs Ibushi always (and I mean always) delivers. They have had multiple killer matches in recent years, with Osaka Jo-Hall already playing host to one of them (Dominion 6.9, 2019). Their most recent battle headlined night one of this year’s Wrestle Kingdom – and was a clear highlight of the weekend.
I’m confident this encounter, between two of the world’s best, will be no different. Expect fireworks to conclude the Castle Attack tour!
Night One: Saturday 27th February @ 7am GMT/2am EST/Friday 26th February 11pm PST
Night Two: Sunday 28th February @ 5am GMT/midnight EST/ Saturday 27th February 9pm PST
How to Watch: Available live on NJPW World for only 999¥ per month (roughly £7.50/$9.30)
Notes: English and Japanese commentary will be available live!