On January 4, 2015 NJPW presented Wrestle Kingdom 9. Even though it was just a mere four days into the year it was by a mile the show of the year. Now the tradition will continue. On January 4th of 2016 New Japan Pro Wrestling will present Wrestle Kingdom 10 in the Tokyo Dome. The 25th Annual January 4th Tokyo Dome show. The main event for the third time in four years will see Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi wrestle one another for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. That is one of the eight title matches on this show including a dream match between Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles. Let’s now take a look at what brought the matches for the biggest non WWE wrestling show of the year.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship 4 Way Match: reDRagon(c) vs Ropangi Vice vs Young Bucks vs Ricochet/Matt Sydal
Some how this is a four way match despite the fact that Ricochet and Sydal won the Super Jrs tag tournament making them rightful number 1 contenders. The Bucks’ claim is they never received a rematch after losing the titles, and RPG Vice’s is that they beat the champs during the tournament. The match itself is going to be a total spotfest. Wouldn’t expect a lot of selling in this one. Really how good this ends up being is predicated on the time allotted.
Prediction: reDRagon retains. Makes no sense for Ricochet and Sydal to win in a four way. Young Bucks don’t need it. Rumor has it Rocky Romero is NXT bound. reDRagon have been super protected in the booking and now a new Los Ingobernables team looms with BUSHI and Yohei Komatsu.
NEVER Openweight Trios Championship Decision Match: Toru Yano/Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale/Yujiro Takahashi/Tama Tonga)
Yeah this is what NJPW needs. More belts. The Briscoes make their New Japan debuts in this one where they are Yano’s mystery partners carrying on the now yearly tradition of Yano selecting mystery partners to help in whatever feud he finds himself a part of. So the Producer of Chaos, the man with the noblest on brains and the highest dvd sells in Japan went to ROH to find partners to take on the Bullet Club B Team of Fale, Tonga, and Yujiro. Best hope there is that Mao-chan comes out to the ring with them. Tama vs Jay and Mark has potential but past that let’s hope they keep this one short. Save us Mao-chan.
Prediction: Yano/Briscoes. ROH has a tour coming up in Japan so putting over the Briscoes in their debut makes the most sense.
ROH World Championship: Jay Lethal(c) vs Michael Elgin
#Big Mike is roughly 1 trillion times more over in New Japan than he is in ROH. Jay Lethal is making his NJPW debut here, and one assumes will be looking to make an impression. Elgin won the 2015 Survival of the Fittest making him the number 1 contender here, and he called for this match to take place in Japan. I cannot say enough about how much better Elgin fits in here than in any other promotion I have ever seen him in. People were bummed out when he was announced for G1, but he was so good and got so over. The wrestlers were comparing him to Buzz Sawyer, and others, including myself, compared him to Scott Norton who has amazing success in New Japan in the 1990s. He has is strong barrel chested white guy. Japanese fans love that. The crowd will be strong behind Elgin in this one which will help the match quality. Even fans who aren’t big on Elgin elsewhere got into him in NJPW. Wonder if that NJPW dynamic in match quality will revert though in such a ROH type match.
Prediction: Michael Elgin. Much like the logic behind my Briscoes pick there are ROH shows coming up in Japan that need main events and Elgin, even though his contract situation seems up in the air, is by far the most over ROH guy in NJPW. Unless you count AJ Styles which you really shouldn’t.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: The Cleaner Kenny Omega(c) vs KUSHIDA
While I can sorta kinda see the logic behind this match I still think it was a terrible idea to take the title off of KUSHIDA when and how they did. Kenny Omega first won the Jr title at Wrestle Kingdom 9. Then he went through the challenges of Ryusuke Taguchi, Mascara Dorada, and Alex Shelley. In the meantime KUSHIDA was the man built up to become the ace that the division has been lacking basically since Prince Devitt turned heel. He won the Best of the Super Jrs in an amazing MOTYC final against Kyle O’Reilly which got him the shot against Omega at Dominion in Osaka Jo Hall where KUSHIDA would win the title. However, after only one success defense KUSHIDA would lose the title back to Omega thanks to Bullet Club hijinks. The idea being to give KUSHIDA a big win a the Dome. Problem is KUSHIDA’s first reigns was similarly short, and we’ve seen how to build an ace in NJPW. Well first they need to pick the right guy, and then after that they just need to win a whole lot. Devitt was champion for a year the first time he won and was Jr Tag Champ at the same time. loltanahashiwins is a meme. That’s how you do it. So hopefully this reign for KUSHIDA works out that way.
Prediction: KUSHIDA for the reasons laid out above.
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Bullet Club (Karl Anderson/Doc Gallows) vs G.B.H. (Togi Makabe/Tomoaki Honma)
Honma wins his first championship at the Dome. That’s the story to this one. After a 2015 where Honma started getting closer and closer to winning big matches. He was picking up more falls than normal. He finally won a match in the G1 Climax. Then comes the World Tag League where he and Makabe defeeated Los Ingobernables in the final for the biggest win of Honma’s career. Now comes the time for the biggest underdog in wrestling to win some gold. Anyone could be champions. This match is all about one guy. Honma. As for match quality maybe the crowd heat for Honma can elevate it. Most of the guys here can go. But I still expect a meh match.
Tetsuya Naito vs Hirooki Goto
The only non title match on this show. When Naito returned from Japan telling everyone, “tranquilo” it was Goto’s friend and tag partner Katsuyori Shibata that took the most offense. And by offense I mean he tried to murder the newly minted member of Los Ingobernables. Obviously because of this Goto got, and Ibushi who had been teaming with Naito and started to form a trio with Shibata and Goto before he got hurt, dragged into this mess. At King of Pro Wrestling Naito brought out Takaaki Watanabe as his second for his match with Hiroshi Tanahashi. Didn’t take long for a ref bump and run in. Goto and Shibata came out for the save and Goto was laid out by the man we now know as the King of Darkness EVIL. Naito refused to work the Power Struggle tour citing an ear lobe injury. Then in a match between Goto and EVIL Naito sauntered his way to the ring until he walked right up to Goto and kicked him in the balls. Bringing us to this match. These two don’t work singles match against each other often. In fact this is their first non G1 match against each other in five years. So don’t know what to expect from a quality in ring standpoint. Especially given Naito’s gimmick. He can be awesome or he can be Larry Zbyszko in the dying days of AWA. It is a mystery. Until then tranquilo.
Prediction: Tetsuya Naito. Naito makes most sense as Okada’s challenger in Osaka in February. He is the freshest act right now. Osaka hates his guts. And he keeps going on and on about how belts mean nothing to him. It is all set up.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii(c) vs Katsuyori Shibata
A lot of people had assumed Shibata would be busy with Naito on this show. Alas not so. During the World Tag League these two started building heat with each other until Shibata pinned Ishii on the last show of the tour, and draped the belt backwards onto Ishii’s prone body. These two have had MOTY level matches in the past where they just beat the unholy hell out of each other. 5 stars in the Wrestling Observer for their match during the 23rd G1 Climax. So while the booking here is basic, and one man was feuding with someone entirely different you can expect a hell of a show out of these two.
Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii. Shibata has only held one title and that was for like 3 weeks. He is never a good bet to win one of these things. Plus what is going to do with the NEVER Title anyway?
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura(c) vs AJ Styles
The definition of a dream match, and that is how they are building it. These two have never had a one on one match with one another. Both men in interviews are talking up how special this encounter can be. There is no storyline beyond that. No going to jail. No stealing someone’s wife. No indentured servitude. Nothing like that at all. Two of the best wrestlers in the world knowing how good the other is and wanting to test themselves against that man. Only thing that can bring this down is that AJ is hurt. His back is all kinds of messed up. So knowing that it tempers some of the more wild expectations one might have for this match, but I have no doubt AJ will give everything he has and Shinsuke is always game in the big spot. This has the potential to be special. It says a lot actually that there is not much to say about a match of this caliber. It is what it is. And NJPW didn’t ruin that fact. That is how you book.
Prediction: AJ Styles. Shinsuke has nothing left to do with that belt. Plus an AJ win can lead to rematches easier than a Shinsuke win.
IWGP Heayweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada(c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
Now this match there is a lot to say about. The greatest in ring rivalry since the hey day of AJPW. One classic ***** after another. Including last year’s epic main event at Wrestle Kingdom 9. The story between these two has now become that every year Hiroshi Tanahashi brings pain to Kazuchika Okada at the Tokyo Dome. Okada has beaten Tanahashi. Several times in fact, but he cannot be ace until he succeeds at Wrestle Kingdom. At Wrestle Kingdom 6 Okada returned to Japan. After a disaster of a match with Yoshi-Hashi he would come out after the main event to challenge Tanahashi who had just broken the single title reign defense record. Okada was booed out of the building and told he was not ready for such a thing. It would not be until the Rainmaker Shock a month later that the rise of the Rainmaker would really begin. Then at Wrestle Kingdom 7 Okada came in as Number 1 Contender having become the youngest man to ever win the G1 Climax. In a shock to many Tanahashi put him down for the 1-2-3. One year later Okada would enter as reigning champ having beaten Tanahashi in April. He would face Tetsuya Naito at Wrestle Kingdom 8. Yet somehow he lost to Tanahashi again when Tanahashi’s match with Shinsuke Nakamura was voted by fans to main event over Okada’s title defense against Naito. Then we get to the story told last year. For the second time in three years the main event of Tanahashi defending the title against G1 Climax Champion Kazuchika Okada. Okada smashed through Shinsuke Nakamura to win that tournament. He beat Karl Anderson and Tetsuya Naito to retain his contract. Then the Dome. The prematch video sets up the end of the Tanahashi era so well. The match itself was a classic. Okada thought he had him. He hit the Rainmaker. And Tanahashi did what no one had ever done. He kicked out. Tanahashi would land High Fly Flow after High Fly Flow until Okada stayed down. After the match Okada sobbed as Gedo helped him to the back, and Tanahashi taunted Okada with the line he had first said to him at the Tokyo Dome so many years ago when all of this between them started. As long as Tanahashi was around the IWGP Title would always be too far away for Okada. Now after a year where Okada finally vanquished AJ Styles, retired the legendary Genichiro Tenryu, and for once comes in not as challenger against Tanahashi but as champion can he overcome the Ace of the Universe? That is the story of this main event. Match quality these two never disappoint. Their last three matches are among the best match I have ever seen. Their biggest hurdle is expectations may be too high. Anything other than that this whole thing is just so beautiful and I cannot wait for the epic climax on January the fourth.
Prediction: Rainmaker Kazuchika Okada. It is his time.