Jon Moxley And Dragon Lee Made Surprise Challenges For Matches At NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom

Both Jon Moxley and Dragon Lee experienced unexpected wrinkles in their New Japan Pro Wrestling careers earlier this year, but at the December 8 World Tag League final, challenged for big matches at Wrestle Kingdom 14.

After an unusual reign as U.S. Champion (Mox won the belt on his first night in NJPW; his All Elite Wrestling contract prevented him from appearing for the Japanese company in the United States), Jon Moxley lost the belt in an even more unusual way. His flight for his No DQ defense against Juice Robinson that had been months in the making was delayed by Typhoon Hagibis and since he couldn’t make his scheduled defense he had to vacate his title, per New Japan rules. Juice Robinson and Lance Archer ended up wrestling for the belt and Archer came out on top, winning his first singles title in NJPW.

Moxley made his challenge when he showed up to the final show of NJPW’s World Tag League tour in Hiroshima. While Lance Archer and Minoru Suzuki posed victoriously after a win, Moxley’s entrance video started to play. He stalked to the ring, stepped up to Archer, and hit him with the Death Rider (the NJPW name of his Paradigm Shift DDT finisher.)

The AEW star grabbed a microphone and declared he wanted his belt back and he would take it back at the Tokyo Dome. He then named a stipulation for his bout with the champion from Dallas: “Texas Deathmatch.” Moxley then set up a table from under the ring and tried to put Archer through it, but Archer resisted. Neither man managed to put the other through the table and they ultimately brawled out of the arena.

Dragon Lee’s NJPW future was uncertain after he and his brother Rush were fired from New Japan’s partner company CMLL, though they both continue to work for Ring of Honor, which also has a relationship with NJPW. Lee, a former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, made his surprise appearance remotely with a video challenge after the next match on the show: Kazuchika Okada, Sho, and Yoh vs. Kota Ibushi, Tiger Mask, and Jushin Thunder Liger.

The luchador said he now goes by “Ryu Lee” (“Ryu” means “Dragon” in Japanese) and addressed the retiring “living legend,” thanking Liger for being his friend. He called Liger a role model and an icon, and said respectfully, “I understand that you are retiring. It would be an honor to face you in one of your last matches.”

Liger got on the mic and responded (as interpreted by Chris Charlton of the English commentary team), “I’m going to take that has a challenge… But there’s one other person that I want to wrestle, the man who injured his neck and is getting a fresh start. So why don’t you both take me on?”

So while Liger will face mostly wrestlers from his generation in his first retirement match on January 4, his second, on January 5, will include performers in their primes. The most obvious interpretation of his promo is that this will be a triple threat of Liger vs. Ryu Lee vs. the recently-returned Hiromu Takahashi, but it’s possible this could end up as a tag match too, with Lee and Takahashi teaming up against Liger and some to-be-determined partner.

Either way, just as much Archer vs. Moxley promises to bring some hardcore-style violence at Wrestle Kingdom, the match with Liger, Lee, and Hiromu promises to bring some real emotions.