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Photo Credit: New Japan Pro Wrestling

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Preview- Night 1

This year (or next year, if we’re being precise), Wrestle Kingdom is breaking new ground in no less than three different ways.  First of all, the event is taking place over two days as opposed to one, featuring a grand total of seventeen matches (not including pre-show matches). Secondly, night one will feature a match under the Stardom banner, making it the first women’s match to ever take place at a Wrestle Kingdom show. Finally, night two will see someone take the Double Gold, crowning the first-ever concurrent IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion. 

In this preview, we’re going to do a quick overview of each match (barring the pre-show matches) as well as taking a look at the events which led up to each match.

Here are the predications for Night 1.

NIGHT 1

Mayu Iwatani and Arisa Hoshiki vs. Giulia and Hana Kimura

Stardom, the exlusively-joshi promotion has recently been acquired by Bushiroad, the same company that owns NJPW. With this recent acquisition, it only made sense that the talents of Stardom would be on display at NJPW’s biggest show of the year. Unfortunately, while this is technically the case, this Stardom tag-team bout will be a dark match, and therefore not televised. 

It’s a little disappointing that such a historic display won’t be available for the world to see, but NJPW’s history with joshi wrestlers hasn’t exactly been straightforward. However, showcasing the talents of these little-known female stars is indeed a good start, and I hope they continue down this path in the future. 

Jyushin Thunder Liger, Tatsumi Fujinami, The Great Sasuke, and Tiger Mask (with El Samurai) vs. Naoki Sano, Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, and Ryusuke Taguchi (with Kuniaki Kobayashi)

Liger’s first of two retirement matches, and the match which is scheduled to open night one. It certainly seems strange that for such a monumental occasion, Liger would be battling in an 8-man tag team match. However, this match is a collection of junior heavyweight legends, many of whom Liger has a rich history with. The bout will also be officiated by Norio Honaga, another Japanese wrestling icon who helped establish Liger as a major player during multiple feuds throughout the nineties. 

There’s not a lot to say about this match as it’s mostly just going to be a showcase for Liger. It’s most likely that Liger’s team will be picking up the victory here, probably leading to a loss for Liger on night two in true retirement tradition.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Evil, Sanada, Shingo Takagi, and Bushi) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr., and El Desperado)  

It seems like we’ve seen this match a hundred times this past year, but it’s a good match. I’d hesitate to call any match involving Takagi, Suzuki, Evil and Sanada a filler match, but that’s more or less what this is. It’s pretty much a teaser match for the Rev Pro Championship match between ZSJ and Sanada on night two, but a good finish could add some interesting implications to said match. For example, there have been some rumors that the partnership between Evil and Sanada might be coming to an end soon, and they could use the big stage of WK to kickstart the process.  Likewise, there is also talk that Suzuki is finished with NJPW, so we could see something play out regarding that. It’s interesting to note that this is Suzuki’s only match on the WK card too. 

It does seem almost criminal that Takagi doesn’t have a singles match at this year’s WK, especially after his phenomenal G1 performances against practically everybody, but I have no doubt that his time will come. Regarding the winner of the bout, I’d never bet against LIJ. 

Chaos (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, and Yoshi-Hashi) vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, Kenta, and Yujiro Takahashi)

Another teaser match for night two, this time for the NEVER Openweight match between Goto and KENTA. KENTA already put on some spectacular matches with Ishii back when he first joined the Bullet Club, and hopefully this gave us a flavor of what KENTA and Goto can do in the ring together. We might be looking at a rare Shibata appearance, possibly costing CHAOS the match, but other than that there’s nothing super important about this contest. 

When it comes to the result, there are three things certain in life. Death, taxes, and Chase Owens eating the pin in multi-man matches. My money’s on CHAOS. 

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match – Guerrillas of Destiny (Tanga Loa and Tama Tonga) (c) vs. FinJuice (Juice Robinson and David Finlay)

With a surprise victory over Evil and Sanada in the World Tag League Final, FinJuice earned themselves a chance at the IWGP Tag Team belts at WK14. This is the first of two title matches for Juice Robinson, who will also go on to face either Jon Moxley or Lance Archer on night two. Could we see Juice leave the Tokyo Dome as the second double-champion of the weekend? 

It’s very possible, as NJPW seem to be pretty high on Juice and we’ve seen him win championship gold at the Dome before. However, Juice flourishes more in a tag team environment than in singles competition, and FinJuice provide a little variety to NJPW’s somewhat underwhelming tag division. GoD have certainly been synonymous with the IWGP Tag Titles for a long time now, with a combined reign of over 300 days. It’s safe to say that their numerous championship runs get stale quickly, so I’m praying that we see FinJuice takes the belts. However, the reality is that GoD will pick up the win, leading to a longer feud between the two teams. 

IWGP United States Championship Texas Deathmatch – Lance Archer (c) vs. Jon Moxley

Now we’re getting down to the real action. The story behind this match has pretty much written itself, and it’s a great example of NJPW letting things organically unfold rather than forcing an angle they’d decided beforehand. 

Back in October, Typhoon Hagibis prevented Jon Moxley from entering Japan to defend his IWGP United States Championship against Juice Robinson. Japanese wrestling tradition states that if a champion is unable to defend his title for whatever reason (kayfabe or not), he must vacate the belt. 

That’s exactly what happened, leading to a championship win for Lance Archer. Then, on the final day of the World Tag League, Moxley showed up and attacked Archer, challenging him to a Texas Deathmatch at the Dome. 

Archer might be the most impressive big man on the current NJPW roster, and his no-bullshit style should gel really well with Moxley’s brand of hardcore violence. Since Moxley is a big deal over in AEW, it will be interesting if he’s booked as the same uncontrollable monster he is over there. I don’t anticipate that the match will go beyond chairs, tables and fighting amongst the crowd, since the NJPW deathmatch style doesn’t really incorporate tools used in the Western hardcore approach (thumbtacks, barbed wire, a board of mouse traps).  

A win for Mox would reinvigorate his dominant position on the NJPW roster, since he hasn’t done much since the G1. He could then go on to fulfill the match with Juice on night two. 

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match – Will Ospreay (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi

Dave Meltzer recently told Will Ospreay he’d had one of the most impressive years of any professional wrestler in the history of the sport. Looking at Ospreay’s accolades throughout 2019 alone, it’s pretty safe to say Meltzer is on the money here. Ospreay put on more than a few world-class performances throughout both the G1 and the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, even scoring a clean victory over Hiroshi Tanahashi in the former.  

But there’s one person Ospreay hasn’t best, and that’s the Time Bomb Hiromu Takahashi. The two last collided one-on-one at Dominion 6.9 in 2018, in what was easily one of the best Junior Heavyweight bouts of all time. Takahashi picked up the win after a grueling bout, but was soon legit injured by Dragon Lee in a botched suplex spot. Takahashi has since been on the bench, finally returning to in-ring action in December 2019. 

So, Ospreay and Takahashi have got some history. If there recent interactions at the Road To The Tokyo Dome shows are anything to go by, then it looks like they’ll be picking up right where they left off 18 months ago. Takahashi looks like he hasn’t missed a step, so this match could easily be the highlight of the weekend. As Takahashi is 0-3 on his return matches, a surprise win for him here would be great. 

IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match – Jay White (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito (winner goes on to face winner of Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada on Night 2)

White and Naito met in their respective block’s final match in the G1 this year. White picked up the victory, dashing Naito’s hopes of competing for the IWGP Heavyeight belt at WK and leaving the event a double champion – something which Naito had referenced a few times before. Not long after, White also took Naito’s IC Championship, pushing Naito’s double-gold dream even farther adrift. 

However, perhaps the most resilient man in NJPW history, Naito clawed his way back into the title scene. In the process, he earned himself a rematch against White for the IC Championship at WK. Shortly after, the double-gold stipulation was introduced, renewing the hope that Naito could fulfil his dream. 

Since his loss to Okada in the main event of WK12, Naito has been something of an afterthought left tailing the IC Championship. Just when we think that NJPW are going to pull the trigger on another IWGP Heavyweight win for Naito, the rug is pulled out from underneath. However, this hasn’t hurt Naito’s popularity in the slightest, and he still continues to be one of the biggest fan favorites on the roster. 

Meanwhile, Jay White’s enjoyed a rise to the top so rapid it would make Goldberg jealous. That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve it, of course. White is a fantastic heel, he’s good in the ring and he looks cool as hell. But should he be headlining the Tokyo Dome alongside some of the greatest performers of all time? 

Compared to Naito, Ibushi and Okada, White’s in-ring abilities just don’t compare. The other three are next-level wrestlers who regularly put on world-class performances. White falls short in this category, so it’s tough to picture him in the main event on night two. Regardless of who wins the double gold, I’m pretty sure Naito is winning against White. 

IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match – Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kota Ibushi (winner goes on to face the winner of Jay White vs. Tetsuya Naito on Night 2)

Ibushi might be the most insane man in pro wrestling. He was allegedly banned from Budokan Hall for moonsaulting off their balcony. He was once recorded shooting himself with fireworks on top of a car. And my personal favorite, he once high-fived Vince McMahon without knowing who he was. 

The man definitely has an aura of mystique around him, but for all his craziness, he’s one of the most gifted performers in the world today. He exudes charisma and wrestlers an impressive style of high-flying offence combined with grounded martial arts. He’s been wrestling for NJPW for seven years now, although only recently has he finally committed to a “lifetime” contract with the company. No longer can he wrestle dolls and fight kaiju in DDT, and now can only compete in a NJPW ring. 

Fortunately, this comes with added benefits, such as being rocketed into the IWGP Heavyweight Championship scene. Ibushi won the 2019 G1 Climax, setting him up for a date with Okada at the Tokyo Dome. Okada, of course, is intent on proving he’s the absolute best wrestler in the world. He’s already achieved everything there is to achieve in NJPW, with a record number of days as champion and the most successful defenses in history. He’s surpassed almost everyone who has come before him, including his long-time rival Hiroshi Tanahashi. 

However, there’s only one person who Okada is yet to best, and that’s Ibushi. The two have met in singles competition before, but never with such a prestigious prize on the line. Judging by their brawl during the World Tag League, all honor between the two is gone. 

Impossible match to predict a winner for, but I believe an Okada vs Naito main event in night two would be the best route to go. It’s interesting to note that the statistics don’t fall in Ibushi’s favour here. Barring people leaving the company (Omega, Nakamura), the IWGP Heavyweight Title rarely changes hands in the Dome main event. Additionally, this is Ibushi’s first WK main event, and it’s rare for someone to win the big one on their first try.