Ready for WrestleKingdom 13? If not, Kevin Carroll has you covered in his Beginner’s Guide to the biggest New Japan event of the year!
In the world of professional wrestling, the fun never stops. That’s the beauty of the sport; there’s no offseason, and there’s always plenty of quality content coming down the pike so that our plates are never empty.
That said, if you’re a WWE fan, the late December into early January stretch could be a bit slow. TLC seems like an eternity ago, and the Royal Rumble is still about a month away. You may be searching for some quality pro graps to fill that hole in your schedule in the meantime, yes?
Well ladies and gentlemen, I’ve got some good news for you.
Because you see, WWE isn’t all that’s out there in the pro wrestling universe, and if you’re willing to stave off sleep for a while, you may just catch the best pure wrestling on the planet come January 4th.
New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), oft-considered the #2 promotion in the world behind WWE, will run its annual Tokyo Dome show, WrestleKingdom 13, on Friday morning, 2:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (I know, the first time I watched it, I was alarmed at that start-time too).
What makes NJPW so special is that it strips away some of the hokeyness and pageantry that the WWE offers up, and instead highlights wrestling as pure sports, placing a focus squarely on the in-ring action. I was introduced to NJPW two years ago, and even though I haven’t become a die-hard or anything, I consider myself a follower and a lover of the Japanese approach to pro wrestling.
WrestleKingdom is NJPW’s version of WrestleMania, so it draws in a lot of first-time viewers and casual watchers the way ‘Mania does in early April each year. Naturally, first-timers may be thrown off by the different wrestlers and the much-different style, so that’s where I come in.
I’m no expert, I’m more of a layman, but I’ve decided to present you a match-by-match preview of WrestleKingdom through the eyes of a fan who knows juuuuust enough to offer such a preview. Hopefully, this opens some eyes and helps a few folks out as they prepare to pull an all-nighter and camp out for finest that Japanese wrestling has to offer.
Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay – NEVER Openweight Title
This match is going to take your breath away, and show you just how cool wrestling could be outside of the WWE.
Kota Ibushi is the reigning NEVER champion, which is roughly the 4th-most important heavyweight title in Japan. It’s a belt that could be won by anyone, regardless of weight class (New Japan has a junior heavyweight/heavyweight system).
Ibushi is a stud. He’s capable of working a stiff, strong style while also taking to the skies and flying with the best of them. If you’re a WWE fan, you would remember Ibushi from the Cruiserweight Classic back in 2016. If you have the time, go back and watch his matches. That’s only a small taste of what Kota offers in the ring.
Across the squared circle from him is Will Ospreay, a junior heavyweight. Ospreay may be the best “high flyer” in the industry today, at only 25 years old. Ospreay stepped up and challenged Ibushi after he had just won the NEVER title back in December, and now the two are primed to kick off WrestleKingdom with a big ol’ bang.
Suzuki-Gun vs. Roppongi 3K vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles
Okay, so there’s a lot to unpack here for a match that, in terms of importance and excitement, is probably the lowest-caliber contest on the card.
A little backstory here: Each of these three teams represent three of the big factions in New Japan. Suzuki-Gun is being represented by El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Sho and Yoh of Roppongi3K are from CHAOS, and BUSHI and Shingo Takagi are from the Los Ingobernables de Japon (Most everyone in New Japan is in a faction, more on that later).
The lads from Suzuki-Gun are the reigning champs, and their two challengers are challenging primarily because they’re really only the only junior heavyweight tag teams in New Japan. The tag team booking hasn’t been especially great in recent years from what I’ve noticed, so while the other matches all have some semblance of build-up, this one’s a little lacking. Not to say it won’t be entertaining, because I have a strong suspicion every match on the card will be, but it definitely gets better from here.
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – RPW (Revolution Pro Wrestling) Heavyweight Title
This one’s interesting because it’s taking place for a title that doesn’t belong to New Japan, instead with the British promotion Rev Pro. As such, I don’t know too much about the booking and the backstory, but I do know these two dudes, and they’re both supremely different.
Ishii is perhaps the best embodiment of the term “strong-style” that you’ll find on this year’s WrestleKingdom card. Big Tom is nicknamed the “Stone Pitbull,” and not for nothing, either. The man will rock you with an open hand so hard, your teeth will rattle around in your mouth. He hits hard, and doesn’t care if you could take it or not, making his matches brutally entertaining to watch. He’s the champ in this matchup.
Across the ring, you have the submission magician in Sabre Jr. Like Kota Ibushi, Sabre was in that Cruiserweight Classic field a few years back, and he wowed the WWE crowd with his array of holds and submissions. He could win with roughly 12 different submission holds, so you never know just how his matches are going to go, which is a good thing.
Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon vs. The Young Bucks — IWGP Tag Team Titles
So to start, the Guerrillas (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) are the champs here, having knocked off the Young Bucks this past year. EVIL and SANADA from L.I.J won this November’s World Tag League tournament, earning themselves a spot in this match. The Young Bucks are here because you can’t leave the Young Bucks off the card, they make too much money for that.
The main story here is between the Guerrilas and the Bucks, who all used to be in the Bullet Club stable together. Now, the Bucks have joined the Elite after a hostile takeover by the Guerrillas and some other Bullet Club members. There’s plenty of bad blood there.
The World Tag League champs feel almost like an afterthought here, but EVIL and SANADA won the tag belts at last year’s WrestleKingdom, and could definitely do it again.
Cody vs. Juice Robinson – IWGP U.S. Championship
Hey, you recognize these guys! That’s Cody Rhodes and NXT’s CJ Parker!
Not anymore, as Cody’s been forced to drop his last name, and Mr. Parker let the Juice loose and turned into his current character, Juice Robinson. These two will do battle over Cody’s United States title, a heavyweight belt that’s been pretty much an afterthought recently.
This will be the most “WWE” style match on the card, probably not too long and not nearly as innovative as some of the other contests you’ll see.
Kushida vs. Taiji Ishimori – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Junior action! I’m not really sure how Ishimori got himself booked into this year’s Junior Heavyweight championship match, but I’m not complaining.
Kushida’s been champ for a few months, after Hiromu Takahashi had to vacate the strap after a brutal-looking neck injury this summer. I have a feeling that this match was supposed to be Takahashi-Ishimori, but Kushida is spectacular in the ring, so I have no issues. Get well soon Hiromu!
This match is always a threat to steal the whole darn show, because the juniors wrestle such a fast-paced, high-octane style that it’s impossible not to be entertained. Expect to have a lot of fun watching this one!
Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White
This one’s the only match without a title at stake, so you really have to be invested in the feud going on between Okada and White to enjoy this one. (I’m personally not feeling it, sue me!)
Okada, “The Rainmaker,” had his record-setting reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion shattered in June, and ever since then he’s been a little lost. Meanwhile, the CHAOS stable that he’s in charge of began to splinter, all due to one man: Jay White.
White came in and turned on Okada, aligning himself with the Bullet Club, alongside Okada’s longtime manager Gedo. (Gedo is also the head booker of New Japan, behind the scenes. Fun little factoid for you.)
Okada was beaten by White in the 2018 G1 Climax, a big round-robin tournament held at the tail end of summer, in an upset. Since then, White’s had Okada’s number in tag matches, so this will likely be the blow-off to their six-month long feud.
Chris Jericho vs. Tetsuya Naito – IWGP Intercontinental Title
Wait. Back up a second. Chris Jericho? He’s a WWE guy, how did he get here?
Ahhhh, he WAS a WWE guy. Now, he’s a deranged IC titleholder in New Japan, defending the belt against the leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon, Tetsuya Naito.
You already know all about Jericho. I really love Naito, he wears really dapper-looking suits to the ring and practices “tranquilo,” which basically means he’s super calm, the perfect foil to Jericho’s madman character.
These two have been feuding for just about a year going back to last January, where Jericho, fresh off a loss to Kenny Omega at WrestleKingdom 12, jumped Naito at the following night’s New Year’s Dash event.
Jericho beat Naito for the IC belt in June, and tried to decline a rematch, but it’ll be Naito-Jericho at the Tokyo Dome, and it should be a blast.
Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – IWGP Heavyweight Title
The evening’s (morning’s?) main event, Kenny Omega defending the most prestigious championship in all of wrestling against the winner of the G1 Climax, Hiroshi Tanahashi. Tanahashi won the right to face Omega by winning the Climax, and defending his title shot against guys like Kazuchika Okada.
Tanahashi is referred to as the “Ace” of New Japan, and a lot of people like to compare him to Joh Cena, which is pretty high praise if you ask me. He’s been heavyweight champ plenty of times, but he’s still evidently got some left in the tank as he preps to challenge for his 8th IWGP heavyweight title.
On the other hand, Kenny Omega is enjoying his first reign as champ after dethroning Okada back in June in a match hailed as one of the greatest of all time. But the fact is you could say that about most of Omega’s matches, it’s why he’s nicknamed the “Best Bout Machine.”
He’s defended the belt against Cody and Tomohoro Ishii, among others, since winning the belt. He’s one of the hottest commodities in the sport, and if WrestleKingdom is your first exposure to him…get your popcorn ready. The man is a modern marvel.
That’s the card! If you’re out there gulping down coffee and rubbing your eyes frantically in an attempt to stay awake like I’ll be, then I wish you good luck! Enjoy the show, and consider sticking around on NJPW World, New Japan’s subscription streaming service, a little while longer for the January 5th New Year’s Dash event, where a lot of new storylines for 2019 will be kicked off!
King: Plotting The Return Of Randy Orton To WWE
Chris King is back with his look at the best scenario to bring Randy Orton back to WWE, and the perfect opponent for his first big match back.
Chris King is back with his look at the best scenario to bring Randy Orton back to WWE, and the perfect opponent for his first big match back.
I wanted to bring everyone’s attention to a superstar that’s being overshadowed right now, ‘The Viper’ Randy Orton. After RKBRO lost the Raw Tag Team Championships to The Uso’s, Orton vanished from the company. There was speculation about his serious back injury and, it wasn’t until The Viper’s wife herself posted a candid picture of Orton after successful surgery.
While the focus in WWE right now is either on The Bloodline, Bray Wyatt and Uncle Howdy, or the returning Cody Rhodes, I felt this was a good time to start plotting The Viper’s return to WWE.
Randy Orton’s Return to WWE
On the Raw-After-Mania ‘The American Nightmare’ opens the show after a tough battle over Roman Reigns to win the WWE Championship. Rhodes with tears in his eyes is giving an emotional promo about his family’s legacy, and how much this title means to him. The WWE Universe is chanting “You Deserve It,” and out comes Finn Balor flanked by The Judgement Day.
‘The Prince’ starts by congratulating the new champion for dethroning ‘The Tribal Chief’ but, now he wants his title shot. Rhodes being the resilient hero accepts Balor’s challenge for the main event. The American Nightmare and The Prince are putting on a clinic of a match, delivering multiple finishers but unable to put the other away. Judgement Day starts to interfere when Orton’s music blares throughout the arena. Orton takes out the heels and helps his former protege. Rhodes capitalizes and hits Crossroads for the 1.2.3.
The former Legacy members are celebrating and embracing with a hug as Rhodes goes to raise his newly-won title. In the blink of an eye, The Viper strikes and takes out Rhodes with an RKO Outta Nowhere! The champion is knocked out as Orton hoists the title above his head while trash-talking his now rival. Orton violently throws Rhodes out of the ring and delivers a nasty-looking draping DDT onto the floor.
The Build–And Culmination–of Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes
Orton stares giving 2009 vibes as Rhodes’ head raises, so The Viper runs and delivers a punt kick. WWE officials come out and break things up and the champion is stretchered out of the arena. The show closes with Orton grinning over the destruction he has caused to his former protege. Over the next few months, Orton and Rhodes enter into an extremely personal rivalry over the coveted prize. We finally make it to SummerSlam where both men agree to raise the stakes and do war inside HELL IN A CELL!!!!
This is how I would book The Viper’s return to WWE. If you feel like this should be written differently, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
AJ’s Phenomenal Opinion: Bray Wyatt
So everyone loves Bray’s return right? Right? Well the McDonald’s Sprite spicy opinions of AJ…may feel differently.
Well, just because my work schedule changed, doesn’t mean I’m not going to drop some opinions of mine, of which, I haven’t done too bad with. I got Three out of Five for my returns right a few months back and this is going to be about the last entry on that previous list. I knew for a fact that Bray Wyatt would return to the WWE in some way shape or form and time for some… controversy.
As my favorite ratings winner of 83 Weeks once said, Controversy Creates Cash and boy HOWDY… Do I have something to get off my chest here so sit back, order some Chairshot Merch and lets get on with Adam’s… Rants for a bit.
Bray coming in and making a return to the WWE was an inevitability. Death, Taxes and I guess WWE Returns are always guaranteed anymore and maybe we could get some new creativity with a supernatural gimmick. Bray has always had that supernatural to him ever since he had the Wyatt Family in Erik Rowan, the late Luke Harper and in the end, Braun Strowman. The Wyatt’s had a control like no other and were beloved for a moment in the WWE.
Bray did a lot to make sure things were in motion but for some reason any massive feud he had, he failed. Following a bunch of injuries to the rest of his family and even releases later on, he seemed to at least get some traction going for him. WWE Champion, somehow got Randy Orton with him, Universal Championships and got those big match wins that eluded him in the Wyatt Family beginnings. Let me also say this as well, I actually liked the Firefly Funhouse Match with Cena as a “This is Your Life” match of sorts. I was tickled and entertained… Then much like Bray in character, something changed.
Dark and Terrible Lurk with Fiends
We had a lot to figure out during the Pandemic. Like A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT. Through it all though, WWE figured it out but the person that helped these types of ideas, soured them drastically. Lets go back to the WWE Championship run in 2017. Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble that year and he wouldn’t betray Bray, right? Well he does and Mania for the two is set, Orton against Wyatt for the WWE Championship and it was… terrible. Random images of maggots and decay (Not the IMPACT Stable) popping up into the ring as the match goes on and Randy still wins. Through head game attempts, Bray comes up short in the big match moment. That’s odd but maybe it will be a bigger pictu– and Jinder Mahal wins the Championship. Okay.
Wyatt returns as this Mister Rogers character and has a darkness inside of him with The Fiend. Now we had this amazing theory or maybe that’s what happened but the story was, anyone The Fiend fought, they revert back to their best selves. The Miz returned to be the A Lister, the guy who grabs a microphone that you love to hate. Finn Balor doesn’t have the Demon Gimmick anymore because after his loss, he’s the Prince again. The cocky guy that walks around because he is the best, he gives no care in the world. Seth Rollins, who he took the WWE Universal Championship from, went from a dorky sweetheart back to the asshole taking every opportunity that he could get because he’s that much of a weasel and when he lost… He lost to Goldberg. The one guy that has been the same since 1997. Drums, Pyro Bath, Spear, Jackhammer, “Who’s Next?” and during that time, he sucked at points. One of those Rollins matches was in a Hell In A Cell match, the red cage with the red lighting. Match ending with a Stoppage from the referee… INSIDE OF A HELL IN A CELL (I think Sean Waltman said it best… Why did the match stop? It’s supposed to be Hell?) and it’s one of the rare times that I agreed with wrestling’s favorite Uncle… That was Negative Stars for a match.
After Goldberg, he didn’t have a commanding presence. He recruited Alexa Bliss who was already over whether she was a Heel or Face and made everything so unbelievably… boring. Alexa had to carry that idiotic demon gimmick and doll, not having anything really supernatural. Just some wrestling and Brock Lesnar cleaning up everything faster than a Chop Shop in main events and segments. He tried to return and make his grand return, beating the Universal Champion Braun Strowman at Summerslam just to falter a literal week later to Roman Reigns, who proceeded to never look back from that win. Bray gets fired after and no more supernatural ideas. Undertaker isn’t around really and retires, Kane is a mayor. Paul Bearer is no longer with us and everything is just… normal.
Wyatt’s Six (Reasons I Tune Out)
In 2022, Vince retires seemingly from everything and Triple H is at the helm, could he bring balance to everything? He makes a bunch of returns that people love seeing. Johnny Gargano, Dakota Kai, Tegan Nox, Bronson Reed, Dexter Lumus just to name a few and of course, the big one that everyone wanted. Bray Wyatt.
Bray makes this heartfelt return and everything seems great. We get him as him, he makes this weird build to a Wyatt 6, assuming we think it’s the Firefly Funhouse and he’s just talking, building. Alright well who is going to be these six figures because they are more than just puppets this time around. A masked man named Uncle Howdy that people think is Vincent Marseglia or maybe a bearded Bo Dallas who is Bray’s real life brother and he……… pops in and out to confuse people. Okay… (1)
Alexa might return to the 6 because of all the segments and gets darker and a heel. Alright that is perfectly fine but, WHY IS VINCENT DALLAS HERE AGAIN TO JUST INTERFERE WITH RANDOM THINGS? Okay… fine. (2) Alexa has a Women’s Championship match against Bianca Belair, that will make sense of thi– it’s a clean finish… Why is it clean? No Howdy, No Wyatt just a random VHS tape like I’m watching The Ring about her being dark after the match. Okay…… (3)
Oh Wyatt finally gets a feud for his return. I almost forgot about that! Who will be this first victim? LA Knight.
Maybe this will be good. They are both great on the microphone, maybe Bray has new moves that he can do and I know all too well how good LA Knight is, I have been an Eli Drake/Shaun Ricker fan for years. This could be a great match that they have, they announced it for the Royal Rumble so it’s going to be big and it’s a… Pitch Black Match presented by Mountain Dew.
The Royal Rumble is upon us, the Men’s Rumble starts the show and we all have adrenaline in our soul for it and now is this weird Pitch Black Match and it’s not a cinematic match. It’s in the ring, No Count Outs and No Disqualifications. LA Knight comes out in his iconic Yellow Attire and Wyatt is talking… with a mask on. The lights turn off and the ropes are glowing a neon greenish-yellow… with an announce table spot that… has Nickelodeon Slime inside of it when they break it? Okay fine… I knew the match was going to be dumb and gimmicky from the Mountain Dew Sponsorship. Bray wins, yay. LA Knight comes back with a Kendo Stick and… we get invulnerable Bray again… they don’t hurt. Lets go to this crash pad and Bo Marseglia shows up from somewhere and just elbow drops him from maybe fifteen to twenty feet with pyro and the Firefly Funhouse Puppets appear at the top, to watch a fire… And there is number six…
Actual Thoughts on Current Bray Wyatt, Post Rumble
I absolutely hate it.
This was awful. You build whatever insignificant thought process of the Wyatt 6 has going for it when Uncle Howdy does the best Cap’n Shane O elbow drop for a hellfire effect. At least the pyro was better than the AEW Explosion Match I guess…
Regardless, how does LA Knight come out of all of this moving forward? He lost an idiotic gimmick match and looks presumed dead. This just makes me think that whoever in whatever interview said Bray Wyatt is a creative mastermind needs to put whatever they have down before we hear about their T.O.D. posted somewhere. This Pitch Black Match is somehow worse than that Rollins Hell in a Cell Match and that takes talent. At least a good amount of alcohol lulled that from my brain but this made me remember that and enjoy the thought of that match happening with its finish. The best way I can picture how this was pitched was Burnt Dogshit, wrapped in a Kerosine Blanket with… sorry had to look at what I wrote, not putting that on websites but… people saw a Creative Quesadilla and when we got the actual product, it gave Salmonella poisoning and E Coli at the same time.
I really don’t want to see another Bray Wyatt match… again. Whoever gave him creative, take it away immediately. As much steam as Bray Wyatt gets in promos or possible matches in the past, the only steaming he gets at the end, is steaming piles of shit. You can say, he’s getting paid millions where I’m a little troll on the internet with typing power and I really don’t care but to me, Triple H… you finally got your first failing grade with something in your leadership role in WWE.
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