The card for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 10 was announced this morning, and it’s has a lot of potentially great stuff on it. The show is still almost a month away, but by finalizing the matches now, New Japan has plenty of time to promote the show. Imagine that, making matches for big shows more then a week or two in advance… Anyways, let’s go over the upcoming matches and give some picks.
New Japan Rumble – To kick off the show, NJPW will have their version of the Royal Rumble. Last year, the un-aging wonder Yuji Nagata won and went on to challenge for the Intercontinental Title, and a similar thing could certainly happen this year. Out of all the old veterans in NJPW who aren’t elsewhere on the card, Satoshi Kojima has looked the best, and a win here would not be out of the question. Or we could get a younger winner to give someone like EVIL a push. Either way, the winner will just be a road bump for whatever champion they challenge. Prediction: Satoshi Kojima.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match: ReDragon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly)(champions) vs. Roppongi Vice (Trent Baretta & Rocky Romero vs. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs. Matt Sydal and Ricochet – This will be a huge spotfest to start the show proper. Expect a great many flips and dives and complicated double team moves. I would have rather have seen the titles defended in a simple 2 on 2 match, but oh well, this will still be fun to watch. The Jr Tag belts jump around so much it’s hard to predict who wins. ReDragon barely loses and have been champions for a couple months now, which is an eternity in the Jr Tag division. Sydal (formerly Evan Bourne of the WWE) and Ricochet (Prince Puma of Lucha Underground) won the Jr. Tag tournament last month, while RPG Vice beat the champs in said tournament. And the Bucks are the Bucks, and can never be counted out. Prediction: ReDragon. In the end, I think Sydal and Ricochet got their moment when they won the tournament, RPG Vice is entertaining but mostly non-essential, and while I could see the Bucks winning, I think New Japan will want to avoid too many repeat wins from last year’s Wrestle Kingdom.
Toru Yano, TBA & TBA vs. Tama Tonga, Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale – Toru Yano was involved in a similar match at last year’s Wrestle Kingdom, and he brought in wrestlers from Pro Wrestling Noah to help him out. Will he go a similar route here? Will be bring in a New Japan tag team like Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan? Or perhaps someone from Ring of Honor? Who Yano brings with him is more interesting then the match will be. I enjoy the antics of Yano a lot, but the Bullet Club B-Team is pretty hit or miss with me. Prediction: Toru Yano and friends.
Ring of Honor World Championship Match: Jay Lethal (champion) vs. Michael Elgin – This match is dependent on Jay Lethal staying champion. He defends the ROH belt against AJ Styles later this month, and assuming he wins, Lethal will defend the belt at Wrestle Kingdom. If not, I guess they just have a regular match. Lethal keeping the belt is not a foregone conclusion, New Japan event put on the card that Lethal might not be champion. While Lethal is a newcomer (I think) to New Japan, Michael Elgin has had a great year in NJPW, and is very over with the Japanese fans. A win here for him would not surprise me, though does he walk out as Ring of Honor champion? Prediction: Michael Elgin.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship Match: Kenny Omega (champion) vs. KUSHIDA – One of the weak points of New Japan this past year has been the booking of the Jr. division. Kenny Omega was a decent champion but was in many ways disappointing. KUSHIDA winning the Best of the Super Jr’s tournament and dethroning Omega was a good moment, but then he lost the belt right back to Omega and we’re back to where we started. Why give KUSHIDA his big win and the title just to undo it immediately? Hopefully sanity will prevail and KUSHIDA will get to carry around the belt he deserves, and Omega can move on to more varied competition. Prediction: KUSHIDA
IWGP Tag Team Championship Match: Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson (champions) vs. Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe – One one hand, this is one of the easiest matches to predict. The Bullet Club are lame duck champions, and the rise of Honma has been one of the best underdog stories told in wrestling in a long time. Unfortunately on the other hand, Honma has recently faced accusations of domestic violence, and while he disputes these claims, it still creates a shroud over what should be a happy and long-awaited occasion. I have to imagine that if New Japan thought there was any weight to these allegations, Honma would not be put in a match on their biggest show of the year. History has proven though that wrestling companies do not always make the right decisions in these cases though. Prediction: Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe. The story being told here is Honma finally winning a big one, and unless more unpleasantness comes up, I don’t think that will change
Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito – Naito has been feuding with the tag team of Goto and Shibata since Naito introduced his new attitude earlier this year. Naito’s “lazy” attitude is the exact opposite of the serious wrestlers like Shibata and Goto, and while the rest of Los Ingobernables is not officially involved in the match, it’s not a stretch to see them get involved to aid Naito. This is the first of the four(!) potentially great matches on the show, and the only one not for a title. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito. Naito has the potential for a HUGE 2016, and it would not surprise me to see him hold the IWGP belt before Wrestle Kingdom 11.
NEVER Openweight Championship Match: Tomohiro Ishii (champion) vs. Katsuyori Shibata – This promises to be a hard-hitting no-nonsense affair. Ishii is my favorite wrestler currently, but I’ve never seen him wrestle a guy like Shibata, a smaller guy who is just as tough as Ishii. While Ishii favors the forearms and headbutts, Shibata prefers the kicks and submissions. Unfortunately there has been zero build to this match. Shibata hasn’t really won any feud he’s been in since the summer, and has been involved in a rivalry against Naito lately. Ishii meanwhile has feuded with Honma and Makabe all year, and while I’m glad he’s fighting someone else, this match came out of nowhere. I’m still looking forward to it though, as I love the hard-hitting style these two bring. Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata. Ishii’s role is to carry the NEVER title until someone comes along who’s ready to win. Shibata is ready to win.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match: Shinsuke Nakamura (champion) vs. AJ Styles – One of the most anticipated matches of the year. Nakamura and Styles have never fought 1 on 1, and have rarely even been involved in the big CHAOS vs. Bullet Club tag matches that take up nearly every minor show. There are so many variables here. AJ is currently hurt with back pain and had to pull out of the tag tournament NJPW was running. How will his health be? Also, will AJ be Ring of Honor champion going into this match? He fights Jay Lethal later this month for the belt, so this has the potential to be Title vs. Title. If he is ROH champion, will that belt be on the line too? In my perfect world, Nakamura becomes the ROH champion and comes to America for a while to defend the belt, but is that actually practical? There’s just too many variables right now, but this should be one hell of a match in any case. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura. Assuming his health holds up, I think AJ becomes IC champion sooner rather then later, but I don’t think it happens at Wrestle Kingdom.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Kazuchika Okada (champion) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi: A rematch of last year’s five-star classic main event, but now the roles are reversed. Last year, Okada came in as the young, cocky, arrogant challenger and left a broken man. This year, Okada is champion, and Tanahashi is eager to prove he still has was it takes to lead New Japan as it’s “Ace.” Okada has beaten Tanahashi, but never at Wrestle Kingdom, and that is his last big hurdle to be considered the face of New Japan. These two have been at each other’s throats for the last couple months, brawling at every opportunity, so I’m hoping we something completely different from last year. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada. This is almost as certain as it comes. Okada cannot lose two years in a row to Tanahashi and still be taken seriously. He spent the entire year redeeming last year’s loss, and to lose again would be a huge hit to his credibility. With Tanahashi not getting any younger, Okada is ready to step up and be the face of New Japan as it continues to expand internationally.