New Japan Pro Wrestling still has a some big shows coming up before Wrestle Kingdom 14 on January 4-5, but all eyes are already on the Tokyo Dome. While much about those shows remains unknown, the company made some significant announcements about it and NJPW events coming up this fall at a press conference on October 15. They fall into three categories: Liger’s retirement, the possibility of a double champion, and the Power Struggle tour. Let’s go over the new info in that order!
Liger’s Retirement Is Going To Be Legendary
We already knew that Jushin Thunder Liger would retire at Wrestle Kingdom 14, but we didn’t know which night. It turns out that both January 4 and January 5 will include retirement matches for Liger and he’ll have a retirement ceremony on the 6th. We don’t know what will happen in those last two things yet, but NJPW announced Liger’s first retirement match, an eight-man tag filled with friends and rivals from earlier in Liger’s career. It’s going to be Liger, Tatsumi Fujinami, The Great Sasuke, and Tiger Mask (accompanied to the ring by El Samurai) vs. Naoki Sano, Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, and Ryusuke Taguchi (with Kuniaki Kobayashi) with Norio Honaga as the special guest referee.
For his January 5 match, Liger said he isn’t requesting any particular opponent and he just wants it to be good. He also said he really will stay retired after these matches. When asked what retirement means to him, Liger said, “It means the wrestler Jushin Thunder Liger will disappear forever.” The Beast God doesn’t plan to slow down before then, though. Before January 5, he wants to “wrestle anybody I haven’t wrestled yet.”
The Champ Champ Could Be Here Soon
After Okada defeated Sanada and Ibushi beat Evil at King of Pro Wrestling, the Wrestle Kingdom 14 main event was officially set. G1 Climax 29 winner Kota Ibushi will challenge IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada for his title. For those wondering which night they will main event, the press conference established that it will be January 4.
Ibushi: You've had that (IWGP title) too long. I really think you are truly the best. But I want to show you that I can surpass even you. That I am the strongest there is.
Okada (in response): Sorry for being too good.#njpw #njwk14
— NJPW Global (@njpwglobal) October 15, 2019
But there’s been a question hanging over this match: will it be possible for someone to win not just the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but the Intercontinental Championship, and to hold both titles at the same time?
Back before the New Japan Cup, then-IC champ Tetsuya Naito started talking about how he wanted to win the Heavyweight Championship while he still held the white belt. Ibushi jumped on the bandwagon after winning the G1 and added that he wanted to be able to challenge for the IC title on January 5 if he won the big one on January 4.
There was no precedent for this and no kayfabe sign that it would happen besides that these two were both into it, but other wrestlers still started throwing their hats in the ring. Jay White declared he wanted to be the first double champ on the Super J-Cup tour before he beat Naito for the IC title, Zack Sabre Jr. brought it up after he won back his RevPro title on the Destruction tour, Hirooki Goto got in the game after he ran up on White in Kagoshima, and Taichi most recently brought it up after he beat up Naito at KOPW.
New Japan still hasn’t announced what will happen with the Intercontinental Championship at the Tokyo Dome, but at this press conference, the Heavyweight Champion finally responded to all this double title drama. Okada said he’s willing to defend on both nights of Wrestle Kingdom 14. He also stated that he has no interest in the Intercontinental Championship, displaying a very different attitude from that of Naito and Ibushi, who have talked about the personal significance holding both these titles would have for them.
Overall, this doesn’t seem like a huge step towards finding out what’s happening with this storyline on January 5, but it’s definitely a step.
But Before All That, Here’s Power Struggle
Besides all this Wrestle Kingdom information, this press conference also included announcements about much New Japan shows coming up much nearer future: the Road to Power Struggle/Super Junior Tag League tour and Power Struggle.
Before the conference began, NJPW informed fans that the October 18 Road to Power Struggle show has been canceled and ticket buyers are being refunded. The event was scheduled to take place in Nagano, but the area has suffered too much damage from Typhoon Hagibis to host a wrestling show. The typhoon is obviously a very serious real-life event and this is one of its least important impacts, but here is the wrestling world takeaway: the October 18 show was a house show, so this cancellation doesn’t change the NJPW World broadcast schedule for this tour and just changed up the tag league cards a little bit.
For the end of this tour, New Japan announced the big matches for Power Struggle on November 3. Along with the Super Junior Tag League final, Power Struggle will include:
- Kazuchika Okada and Yoshi-Hashi vs. Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi
- Tetsuya Naito vs. Taichi
- NEVER Openweight Championship match: Kenta (c) vs. Tomohiro Ishii
- IWGP Intercontinental Championship match: Jay White (c) vs. Hirooki Goto
The tag match pits Wrestle Kingdom main event opponents against each other and Naito vs. Taichi is a grudge match that gives Naito the chance to just win something, please. Kenta’s second defense of the NEVER title is against the man from whom he won it (with the help of his Bullet Club friends.) Kenta and Ishii recently brawled backstage at King of Pro Wrestling, as you can see above. Kenta said part of why he hates Ishii is because he fits “that pretty-boy look” that New Japan is promoting. Goto vs. White is White’s first IC title defense and their third singles match this year. They’re currently 1-1, with Goto spending months in America after his first, humiliating loss to White, then coming back to beat him in the G1.
To bring this all back to Wrestle Kingdom, your guess for who wins these Power Struggle matches probably depends on who you’re predicting will fight for these titles at the Tokyo Dome.