With the long World Tag League behind us, we finally have a defined Wrestle Kingdom 13 card. Despite the lazy build-up of some matches, on paper, Wrestle Kingdom 13 looks absolutely fantastic and an obvious must-see for fans.
Let’s take a look at what New Japan Pro Wrestling has in store for us on January 4.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT 6-MAN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP #1 CONTENDER’S GAUNTLET MATCH
The New Japan Rumble has disappeared and the traditional Gauntlet match has taken its place in the pre-show, which I think it’s a great idea. The teams have not been announced but I expect the two Korakuen ‘Road to’ shows will sort that out.
These are the gentlemen available for the match:
Bad Luck Fale, Beretta, Chuckie T, Chase Owens, David Finlay, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Hangman Page, Hirooki Goto, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jushin Thunder Liger, Lance Archer, Manabu Nakanishi, Marty Scurll, Michael Elgin, Minoru Suzuki, Rysuke Taguchi, Satoshi Kojima, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku, Takashi Iizuka, Tiger Mask IV, Tomoaki Honma, Toa Henare, Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Yuji Nagata and Yujiro Takahashi. I wouldn’t rule out participation from people like Robbie Eagles, Gedo, Jado, Cheeseburger or even a returning YOSHI-HASHI (I have no clue on how long he’ll be out).
NEVER Openweight Championship
KOTA IBUSHI (c) VS. WILL OSPREAY
A personal dream match for me and I guess for many fans too. This will start the show with a bang and has a chance to be the highlight of Wrestle Kingdom 13. I expect a Match of the Year contender from these two.
IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
YOSHINOBU KANEMARU & EL DESPERADO (c) VS. BUSHI & SHINGO TAKAGI VS. ROPPONGI 3K
We already saw this at Power Struggle and it was a fun, fast-paced match that ended up being the best bout in the underwhelming Super Junior Tag Tournament. I’m sure these three teams will step up their game in the Tokyo Dome, but they will have to work extra hard in order to follow the Ibushi/Ospreay match.
I would’ve preferred a straight two vs. two tag match, but at least we’ll get the chance to see Shingo destroy everyone here. With 277+ days as champions, Kanemaru and Despy already have one of the longest reigns in the title’s history, however, I don’t expect them to walk out of the Dome with the belts.
UNDISPUTED BRITISH HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
TOMOHIRO ISHII (c) VS. ZACK SABRE JR.
These two had an awesome match back in April at RevPro’s NOLA show but I think they will exceed that on January 4. This will be Ishii’s first singles match in a Tokyo Dome show since Wrestle Kingdom 11 so I would like to imagine that an unstoppable rage has been building inside him and it will be finally unleashed against Sabre in the most vicious way possible.
Zack Sabre Jr. had a tremendous 2018 and is being groomed to be a top player in New Japan. Zack might be my favorite wrestler on the planet right now, so as you can imagine, my eyes will be glued to the screen watching this one.
Also, this match should do wonders for RevPro UK’s exposure, which considering the situation with the UK indie scene, will be very important for them.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
GUERRILLAS OF DESTINY (c) VS. EVIL & SANADA VS. THE YOUNG BUCKS
The bad news is we have another three-way on the card, the good news is The Young Bucks are always great. GOD can be pretty boring but when they have to, they always deliver top-notch tag team action and the addition of the hugely popular EVIL & SANADA will do wonders for the match because the crowd will surely be invested in watching the Ingobernables kick butt. Not particularly excited for this one, but I’m 100% sure it will be fantastic.
IWGP UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP
CODY (c) VS. JUICE ROBINSON
I’m a huge Juice Robinson fan and I hope he uses his incredible mic skills to sell this match because right now, I really don’t care about it. These two had a good but awkward match at Fighting Spirit Unleashed that could easily be improved at the Dome, but If I had to guess which match the fans will use as a bathroom break, it’s this one. It’s up to Juice’s babyface fire to stop that.
IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
KUSHIDA (c) VS. TAIJI ISHIMORI
KUSHIDA always delivers in big single matches and I doubt that statement will stop being true when he faces the awesome Taiji Ishimori, who’s been dominating the feud in the build-up matches. They already showed incredible chemistry during their 2016 Super J Cup match, and both competitors have grown immensely since then so I honestly think this has the potential to steal the show. This is going to rock.
KAZUCHIKA OKADA VS. JAY WHITE
This is it. This should be Jay White’s breakthrough performance… the one that will establish him as a star and destroy every doubter’s arguments against him.
After a build-up fueled by brawls, insults, stabs in the back and White’s arrogant promos, the crowd should be invested in this one and we know Okada will be incredible, so it’s up to White to fulfill his potential and deliver an unforgettable match. Will White accumulate two Tokyo Dome loses in a row? Or will he stop the rain? I can’t wait to find out.
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP
CHRIS JERICHO (c) VS. TETSUYA NAITO
I’m not super excited for this, but their match at Dominion was violently fun and I’m really curious on how will they present this second part. I expect blood and some crazy brawls around the ring. Also, it’ll be interesting to hear the crowd’s reaction to this match: Y2J proved to be very popular in Japan, but Naito is their all-mighty Ingobernable idol… will Naito have the full crowd’s support for this one?
Also, how fun would it be if Naito loses again? I mean, I love him and want him to destroy Jericho, but the meltdown of Naito’s fans and questions of where he goes next would be quite extraordinaire.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
KENNY OMEGA (c) VS. HIROSHI TANAHASHI
Omega’s championship reign is under fire and many fans are running out of patience with him so this title defense is extremely important to smooth the hate and prove once again that he’s a worthy champion. On the other side, I’m loving the heck of the “Tanahashi clinging to the main event with his nails” story and to be honest, I would be very happy if he wins the title here.
Despite the poor build-up, I have no doubt this match will blow the roof off the Dome. We’re talking about two of the best professional wrestlers in the world, two guys that always deliver in key matches… two guys that, on January 4, I’m sure will gift us with something unforgettable.
Editor’s Note: Be on the lookout for a comprehensive, multi-person Wrestle Kingdom 13 preview & prediction piece in the next few weeks.