It’s that time again, we’re less than 24 hours away from New Japan Pro Wrestling’s biggest show of the year and the excitement continues to build as New Japan’s top stars clash inside the Tokyo Dome on January 4th. Previewing the 11 matches, which 8 of the contests are for championships, I’ll be giving a short rundown of the build-up before giving my own prediction.
New Japan Rumble: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Manabu Nakanishi vs. Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Tiger Mask IV vs. Yuji Nagata vs. surprise entrants
Kicking off the show, or the pre-show, is the annual New Japan Rumble, a battle royal that consists of mostly New Japan stars and a few surprises too!
Prediction: Yuji Nagata
Tiger Mask W vs. Tiger The Dark
Most likely a fun opener here, Tiger Mask W (Kota Ibushi) squares off with Tiger The Dark (ACH) which will presumably open WrestleKingdom 11’s main card. I’m a big fan of both superstars however I believe they’ll continue the story with Tiger Mask W, who’s wrestling as a character based on an anime series of the same name.
Prediction: Tiger Mask W
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: The Young Bucks (c) vs Roppongi Vice
In a championship match where both Nick and Matt Jackson have promised the match is going to be crazy, this will certainly get the Tokyo crowd going if it hasn’t got going already. The challengers Roppongi Vice picked up the number one contendership following their Super Jr tag team tournament victory at Power Struggle on November 5th. It’s interesting to note that Roppongi Vice showed strong signs of dissension in the ranks prior and throughout their tag tournament campaign until they defeated ACH & Ishimori in the final. Despite their feelgood tournament victory, I believe the Young Bucks will retain.
Prediction: Young Bucks
Gauntlet match for the NEVER Openweight 6-man Tag Team Championships: David Finlay, Ricochet and Satoshi Kojima (c) vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page and Yujiro Takahashi) vs. CHAOS (Jado, Will Ospreay and Yoshi-Hashi) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Bushi, Evil and Sanada)
Initially, Kojima was part of a 6-man tag match in a losing effort against EVIL, BUSHI and SANADA. BUSHI then called out the current tag champs, Finlay, Ricochet and Kojima and challenged them at the Tokyo Dome. NJPW announced the two teams would square off, with the additions of a Bullet Club trio as well as a CHAOS trio. All three factions have a team competing. I predict that 2017 is the year of Los Ingobernables and this is a great way to start.
Prediction: Los Ingobernables (BUSHI, EVIL & SANADA)
Cody vs Juice Robinson
Say what you want about this match, it’s probably not going to be too pretty although I don’t think it’ll be any worse than average. Cody, who has just recently announced his move to Bullet Club, looks to kickstart his New Japan career on the biggest stage. Juice, who’s arguably one of the most improved wrestlers of 2016, will most likely eat the pin here to make Cody look strong, as you’d expect.
ROH TV Championship: Kyle O’Reilly (c) vs Adam Cole
The ROH TV Championship changed hands at Ring of Honor’s last PPV of 2016, Final Battle in a brutal main event. As ever, the ROH TV Championship will be up for grabs at WrestleKingdom but I predict that O’Reilly retains the championship here.
Prediction: Kyle O’Reilly
IWGP Tag Team Championship: CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) vs Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) (c) vs G.B.H (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma)
Honma and Makabe, won the right to number one contenders for the IWGP Tag Team Championship after their World Tag League final victory over Guerillas of Destiny in a hugely entertaining match. This match was then turned into a three-way dance after Yano and Ishii attacked both teams, stealing the belts. Having greatly improved towards the latter stages of 2016, I think that New Japan will show faith in Guerillas of Destiny and have them retain on the big stage.
Prediction: Guerillas of Destiny
NEVER Openweight Championship: Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs Hirooki Goto
The two former high school classmates, turned tag team, turned enemies will square off again for the NEVER Openweight Championship. Goto defeated pinned Shibata during a tag team match and made the challenge for the championship after the match. Interestingly enough, during an interview, Katsuyori Shibata did mention the possibility of retiring the championship. Prediction wise, we all know that Goto never really wins the big match, made testament by losing to Omega at the 2016 G1 final. My common sense head knows that Goto is likely to lose here but my heart says that Goto will finally have his big win. Going with the heart just so I’ll have something to cheer for.
Prediction: Hirooki Goto
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA (c) vs Hiromu Takahashi
During Power Struggle on November 5th, the muchly anticipated TimeBomb vignettes concluded. The reveal was a returning Hiromu Takahashi (formerly known as Kamaitachi on the Lucha Libre scene) after a learning excursion overseas. Takahashi made his intentions known immediately, attacking KUSHIDA on many occasions, notably joining Los Ingobernables which may have dramatically upped his chances, if they weren’t high enough already! I predict Hiromu Takahashi picks up the win and the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship.
Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuya Naito (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
The Leader of Los Ingobernables vs The Ace of Japan. After defeating Jay Lethal at Power Struggle, Hiroshi Tanahashi made his way to the ring and challenged Tetsuya Naito for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleKingdom 11, breaking his lengthy streak of WrestleKingdom main events. Tetsuya Naito is yet to win a singles match in the Tokyo Dome, having lost all 5 of his previous attempts. This is a big ask against a Hiroshi Tanahashi who’s in good form lately, though I think it’s Naito’s time and we’re slowly edging away from Tanahashi’s time.
Prediction: Tetsuya Naito
WrestleKingdom 11 Main Event: IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kenny Omega
The Leader of CHAOS vs The Leader of Bullet Club. Holding the title since June 19th, Kazuchika Okada challenges Kenny Omega, the winner of the 2016 G1 to the Heavyweight Championship at WrestleKingdom 11. Omega successfully defended the briefcase against Goto and Yoshi-Hashi. The main event was then confirmed during a press release in October. Interestingly, this is the pair’s first meeting in singles competition as well as Omega’s first shot at the Heavyweight Championship. If I’m not mistaken, this is also the first time a gaijin is main eventing WrestleKingdom.
Following becoming the first gaijin to win the G1 as well as recently signing a multi-year contract, I hope that’s signs that they’ve pulled the trigger on Omega, who’s easily showed why he’s a top guy in New Japan following a fantastic, record breaking year.
Prediction: Kenny Omega