Being in the states, it would be easy to forget that in wrestling there is more than just WWE, there is an entire ecosystem of indie wrestling promotions and other companies. The market isn’t over saturated, it’s untouched, which makes it all the better that last year felt like a true breakthrough to casual fans. Casual fans have now been exposed to a larger scope of wrestling whether it’s online or merch at the local Hot Topic. One company that had a remarkable year in 2017 was New Japan Pro Wrestling which hosts a slough of characters and wrestlers that are must see. It’s only fitting that a company like NJPW would have an annual event to showcase their finest talent in some of the best matches that would be talked about for quite some time.
Wrestle Kingdom is that event.
Wrestle Kingdom 12 is coming up on January 4th and the card is set for an unforgettable night of entertainment, here is 5 reasons why this show may be THE show of the year.
5. New Japan Rumble
A tradition to opening the show is the annual New Japan Rumble. Similar to the WWE’s Royal Rumble, the only way to win is pinfall, submission, or throwing your opponent over the top rope. Over recent years, a handful of past stars made a return to enter the battle royal such as Jyushin Thunder Liger, The Great Kabuki, and King Haku.
4. Title Match Overload
As well as being a stacked card, 8 out of the scheduled 10 matches are title matches. Given the prestige behind many of the championships, it feels like every title has a chance of changing hands in the Tokyo Dome which gives the fans something more to look forward to.
3. Tanahashi Vs Switchblade
Of all of the matches on the card, this one seems to be the biggest wildcard. Tanahashi with the IWGP Intercontinental Title is money but standing in the way of his reign is the debut of Switchblade, Jay White. For those of you who may not be familiar with Jay White, he is a wrestler out of New Zealand most notable for his matches in Ring Of Honor. It will be very interesting to see how these two will clash for the first time.
2. Alpha Vs Omega
Quite frankly, the biggest draw going for Wrestle Kingdom this year for casual fans is Alpha Vs Omega, Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho. If you told me 6 months ago that Jericho would leave WWE and pop up in NJPW I would have mocked you until you cried(i’m sorry). The fact that this match is happening shows that New Japan is definitely trying to expand their market way farther than ever before and January 4th may be the day they bust that door wide open.
1. Okada Vs Naito
The World Championship should always go on last and with the case of this years main event, it’s deservedly so. The story of both men is something one could imagine in a wrestling fan’s fanfiction.
Tetsuya Naito, being frustrated with his position in New Japan looked for a new start in Mexico with Los Ingobernables. Eventually, he made his way back to New Japan sporting a new brash attitude while still representing Los Ingobernables. With his new outlook and attitude, he soared to the top, winning the 2017 G1 Climax winner, giving him an opportunity against champion Kazuchika Okada. Okada, being the longest reigning World Champion in the companies history, won the title in June of 2016 at Dominion from Naito. There’s a lot to prove in this match and you couldn’t write it more perfectly.
There’s no doubt that Wrestle Kingdom 12 will be one for the record books. The event will air live from the Tokyo Dome on NJPW’s official streaming service. Please check for official start times depending on your location(it’s very confusing).