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Photo Credit: New Japan Pro Wrestling

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Preview- Night 2

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.

If that wasn’t enough, the show will also see the singles return of Hiromu Takahashi, the final match of Japanese legend Jyushin Thunder Liger, a rarely-employed Texas Deathmatch, and an unofficial NJPW vs AEW match. There’s going to be a few memorable moments for sure, and a few surprises no doubt. 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 2.

NIGHT 2

Jyushin Thunder Liger & Naoki Sano (with Yoshiaki Fujiwara) vs Ryū Lee & Hiromu Takahashi

Liger’s 35-year career comes to an end on January 5th, 2020 in this match. Back in the World Tag League, Liger mentioned that he’d like to face Ryu Lee and Hiromu Takahashi before he hung up his boots. Ryu Lee and Takahashi have a long and storied rivalry, traversing NJPW, CMLL and multiple other promotions the world over. Additionally, it was Lee one who injured Takahashi back in 2018, side-lining him for 18 months.

There will be an interesting dynamic at play in this match. Emotions will be high for Liger’s final ever bout, and the relationship between Lee and Takahashi will no doubt come into play.

Unlike Liger’s night one match, he joins forces with lifelong rival and ally Naoki Sano this time. Two generations of Junior Heavyweights will be going at it in what should be a fitting conclusion to Liger’s incredible career. I fully expect Lee and Takahashi to pick up the win here. The retiree always goes out on his back.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match – Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori) (c) vs Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)

Roppongi 3K are three-time Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions over a span of two years, but they’ve only ever managed one successful title defense across all three reigns. I’m not sure what that statistic implies, but it doesn’t sound good.

Since the Young Bucks left, the Junior Tag Title scene has been quite forgettable. Luckily, ELP and Ishimori have recently brought a little credibility to the division with their incredible displays of athleticism. What this matchup does have going for it is that we haven’t seen it in a while. The last time these two teams collided was at Kizuna Road back in June, and it was a pretty impressive match.

Sho and Yoh always put their hearts into everything, so I’m hoping for a Roppongi 3K victory. After that, maybe they can finally enjoy a lengthy title reign.

British Heavyweight Championship Match – Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs SANADA

ZSJ is NJPW’s resident submission machine and Sanada boasts one of the most protected submission finishers in the game today, so you can bet that this match will involve a lot of technical holds, unique reversals and false finishes.

This one could lowkey steal the show on night two. ZSJ and Sanada have developed a rivalry over 2019, trading wins in the closest thing NJPW has to 50/50 booking. Sanada scored a pinfall victory over ZSJ the last time they collided back in the G1, and again in tag-team action during the World Tag League. This time, with the British Heavyweight Championship on the line, will we see Sanada’s first reign of the belt? I certainly think so, as it could help facilitate that singles push which we’ve been hearing about for years.

IWGP US Heavyweight Championship Match – Juice Robinson vs Winner of Jon Moxley / Lance Archer (c)

It’s hard to discuss a match where we don’t know who’s competing, but the fact that both competitors in this match will have performed double-duty will give a nice kayfabe reason for either party losing. The big question is why Archer and Moxley have to win two matches to walk away from the Tokyo Dome as US Champion, whereas Juice only needs to win one. Well, Juice scored pinfall victories over both Archer and Moxley in the World Tag League and G1 respectively, which awarded him this title shot.

Given Moxley’s renewed popularity over in the US, I’d say it was a smart move to make him look like a badass and walk away from the Dome as US Champion. Even if NJPW’s relationship with AEW isn’t as stable as we’d like, it would still benefit them to keep Moxley (and Jericho, more on that in a second) at the top of the roster.

NEVER Openweight Championship Match – KENTA (c) vs Hirooki Goto

Nothing gets the fans invested more than a good blood feud, and that’s what we’ve got here. Aside from the NEVER Openweight Title, this personal rivalry revolved around KENTA and Goto’s relationship to Katsuyori Shibata.

KENTA was Shibata’s tag team partner back in NOAH, whereas Goto was KENTA’s best friend back in their high school years. When KENTA left WWE in the summer, Shibata brought him to NJPW. However, KENTA turned heel and joined the Bullet Club not long after, laying down a beating on the now-retired Shibata.

KENTA then went from strength to strength, racking up a number of impressive wins and capturing the NEVER Openweight Title from Tomohiro Ishii. Then, during one of Goto’s matches, of which Shibata was commentating, KENTA attacked Shibata once more. This didn’t sit well with Goto, who challenged KENTA to a match to avenge his best friend. KENTA’s been blitz-attacking Goto during backstage segments and press conferences ever since, so you can be sure that Goto is looking for payback.

Shibata will no doubt make an appearance for this bout, most likely costing KENTA the NEVER Openweight Title.

Special Singles Match – Loser of Okada/Ibushi vs Loser of White/Naito

It might seem like a total WWE move, pitting two losers against each other in a match with no stakes, but this match could have implications further down the line. No matter who loses out of White, Naito, Okada and Ibushi, it stands a good chance that those people will still be involved in the IWGP Heavyweight Title scene in some capacity. Therefore, this bout can be used to crown the number one contender going into the New Beginning in February.

I personally think we’ll be seeing Ibushi vs Jay White in this match, but alas, NJPW booking is about as predictable as English weather, so I could be wrong.

Special Singles Match – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Chris Jericho

AEW World Champion vs The Ace of New Japan, sounds like a match we’d never see.

At first, this match was kind of a filler match, admittedly it was a rare dream match, but filler nonetheless. This was kinda surprising, since Tanahashi and Jericho are two of the best wrestling minds in the business today. However, with a few simple lines, Jericho and Tana have turned this nothing match into one of the most hotly-anticipated on the entire card.

In a recent interview, Tana said that if he beat Jericho at WK14, he’d like to challenge for the AEW World Championship. In response, Jericho told Bakahashi that he accepted this stipulation. Since then, NJPW have even gone as far as to acknowledge this unofficial stipulation in their own press releases, possibly bridging the gap to a possible working relationship between the two mega-companies. This also marked the first time that NJPW have referenced AEW since The Elite left the company last January.

Well, that’s what we’d like to think. The reality might be a different story, but it’s nice to dream. It’s more than likely just Jericho working us like he always does, and on a similar note, this isn’t the first time Tanahashi has said something along these lines. However, it’s added an element of intrigue that the match desperately needed.

It’s hard to call where this one might go. Rumors abound that this is Jericho’s last match in NJPW, but that’s by no means confirmed. If it is Jericho’s last match, then he’d be going out on his back, meaning Tana would win and therefore challenge for the AEW belt.  It could go either way, but I’d put money on Jericho picking up the win here.

Double Gold Dash – IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match – Winner of Okada/Ibushi vs Winner of White/Naito

Tokyo Dome main events are never just thrown together on a whim. Gedo allegedly has an idea of each year’s main event two years in advance, and goes to great lengths to ensure that such matches are special and haven’t been seen in recent months.

Of all the match combinations, the only one which hasn’t recently been seen in singles competition is Okada vs Naito. They’ve battled in multi-man matches numerous times, but the last time they faced one-on-one was at the main event of WK12 in 2018. Every other combination has happened at least once since April 2019.

Will we be seeing a rematch between Okada and Naito? This is the only matchup I can see worthy of a main event slot at the most prestigious wrestling event of the year (sorry Wrestlemania). Regardless, Ibushi, Naito and White have all made their desires of winning the double-gold very clear. Okada, on the other hand, has stated multiple times that he has no interest in pursuing the IC Title. He sees it as beneath him, especially as he’s the longest-reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion in history. Given Okada’s importance to NJPW, and the fact there’s nothing else for him to accomplish, I can definitely see him walking away from the Tokyo Dome with both belts.