New Japan Pro Wrestling has finally finalized its card for one of the biggest wrestling events on planet Earth, Wrestle Kingdom 12, which is set to go off on January 4th at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan.
For those casual wrestling fans not plugged into anything other than the WWE, let this be your wakeup call: there are other wrestling shows out there that put on fantastic matches. One of those organizations is New Japan Pro Wrestling.
For the last few years, NJPW has been killing it with its Wrestle Kingdom mega-events, which typically feature five or six-star matches.
Last year’s Wrestle Kingdom 11 was an absolute delight and one of the best cards in the history of pro wrestling. How is New Japan going to one up last year’s show? By signing one of the biggest icons in the wrestling business, Chris Jericho, and having him go up against New Japan’s biggest superstar, Kenny Omega.
After being inspired by the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor spectacle, Jericho wanted to see if he could find a match that would garner the same kind of buzz in the wrestling community. He was no longer under contract with the WWE, but that didn’t stop him from calling Vince McMahon and asking for his blessing anyway. McMahon approved and the secret plans were made.
As Jericho has been known to do throughout his career, he shocked the world with his New Japan debut. Via videotape, he challenged Kenny Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom 12 and the internet erupted.
Since then, there has been a nice pre-match buildup. Jericho has fully embraced the role of the heel/outsider, as Omega plays the babyface role as New Japan’s hero.
But what makes this matchup really interesting is the chance to see Jericho in a match with no restrictions. Believe it or not, the WWE plays it really safe. Gone are the Attitude Era days where they pushed things over the line. Today’s WWE is very cookie cutter compared to what you see in the indie scene and in Japan. How will a guy like Jericho, who is used to wrestling a certain way in the WWE, adapt to Kenny Omega’s New Japan strong style.
Clearly, it’s the Alpha vs. Omega dynamic that will bring in the big western audience, but the entire card from top to bottom is worth watching. A heavyweight title fight between Kazuchika Okada (c) and Tetsuya Naito is being billed as the co-main event, and it should tear the roof off the Tokyo Dome. Both these guys are among the best in the world and I’m expecting a massively entertaining match.
Let’s take a look at the most talked about wrestling match of 2018 and pick a winner. Stay tuned for more Wrestle Kingdom 12 odds and predictions as we get closer to January 4th.
Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega (C): IWGP United States Championship
This is actually a tough match to predict, but drink it in maaan.
The buildup alone has been crazy-fun to watch. It’s great to see Jericho outside of the PG WWE. We are about to witness a match with no restrictions and no handcuffs. This is a no disqualification match, period. Anything goes, baaabbby!
There is some talk that this is more than just a one-off for Jericho and that he could stick around New Japan for a couple more matches. He’s currently a free agent and is doing basically whatever he wants. If he does plan on participating after Wrestle Kingdom 12, then there is a good chance he will take the United States Championship away from Omega, triggering a series of quality matches between these two.
Jericho has also taken some verbal shots at Tetsuya Naito, who is slotted in the WK12 co-main event against IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada. If New Japan is setting up a potential matchup between Jericho and Naito, that only adds to the potential of Y2J beating Omega.
Bus still, having an outsider come into New Japan and beat their biggest star in a potential one-off match seems rather unlikely. Omega is coming off a huge star-making year at NJPW and it’s hard to see the powers-that-be allowing their long-term moneymaker to lose at Wrestle Kingdom for a third straight year.
Having Jericho lose a close match will not weaken his star power. The most likely outcome is that Y2J will put Omega over on New Japan’s grandest stage and then nmove onto another big-money matchup or possibly a rematch down the road.
- Predicted Winner (and odds): Kenny Omega (-300)
- Odds Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer rates the match 5 stars: +130
- Odds Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer rates the match 6 stars: +150
Below is the full card, with matches in chronological order:
NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12 (January 4, 12 AM Pacific / 3 AM Eastern)
- PRE-SHOW (11PM/2AM): New Japan Rumble
- Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) (c) vs. Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson): IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
- Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, & Tanga Loa) (c) vs. Chaos (Beretta, Tomohiro Ishii, & Toru Yano) vs. Michael Elgin & War Machine (Hanson & Ray Rowe) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Takashi Iizuka, & Zack Sabre, Jr.) vs. Taguchi Japan (Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Togi Makabe): NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship Gauntlet Match
- Cody Rhodes vs. Kota Ibushi
- Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith, Jr. & Lance Archer) (c) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA): IWGP Tag Team Championship
- Hirooki Goto vs. Minoru Suzuki (c): NEVER Openweight Championship Hair vs. Hair Match
- Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA vs. Marty Scurll (c) vs. Will Ospreay: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
- Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. “Switchblade” Jay White: IWGP Intercontinental Championship
- Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega (c): IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship No Disqualification Match
- Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito: IWGP Heavyweight Championship