New Japan Pro Wrestling has never had higher visibility among international fans than it does right now. The company is firing on all cylinders, has created a tremendous grassroots following in North America, and on the strength of the Bullet Club and some six-star matches, is gaining acclaim and selling a butt-ton of merchandise online and in Hot Topics all around the world.
Even if it weren’t for the Bullet Club and the Elite’s stunts and making money off of some bizarre setbacks, New Japan would be gaining momentum among American fans. Their in-ring product is consistently spectacular, and the Young Bucks’ “Being the Elite” webseries keeps fans entertained and engaged on a weekly basis.
To celebrate Wrestle Kingdom 12, which will take place in Tokyo on January 4 and will be broadcast live on New Japan World, AXS TV (the home of New Japan’s weekly English-language broadcast) will be presenting the event as an English-language special two days later. It will comprise most of the event and will be three hours long. And they’ll also be airing a New Japan marathon leading up to it, to get you as pumped as possible.
AXS TV also aired part of New Japan’s wildly popular Long Beach shows this past summer. And while the live English commentary was something of a polarizing topic among fans, pretty much everyone was grateful there was another way to watch the show other than New Japan World. International wrestling on your television? Almost always a good thing.
The full press release for AXS TV’s plans, including the marathon leading up to the broadcast:
As the exclusive U.S. television home for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), AXS TV will premiere the promotion’s biggest show of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 12, in a three-hour special Saturday, Jan. 6 at 8pE/5pP. AXS TV FIGHTS CEO Andrew Simon made the announcement that the Wrestle Kingdom 12 national television broadcast marks the fastest turnaround time for the spectacular airing just two days after the event takes place at the Tokyo Dome. AXS TV’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 special will showcase the event’s three headlining championship matches: IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada vs. G1 CLIMAX 27 Tournament Champion Tetsuya Naito, and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White.
“While NJPW has delivered some of the greatest matches in wrestling history over the past year, we’ve seen viewership growth on AXS TV thanks to New Japan’s expansion in the U.S. and our commitment to air matches closer to when they take place,” said Simon. “With Wrestle Kingdom as their marquee annual event, we thank NJPW and TV Asahi for their support and are proud to kick off 2018 with this historic primetime Saturday night special featuring the dream match-up of Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho.”
AXS TV will continue its coverage of Wrestle Kingdom 12 following the special over five episodes Friday nights starting Jan. 12 at 8pE/5pP on the network’s award-winning weekly series, including the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship match between RPG 3K (Sho & Yoh) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson), the four-way IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship bout featuring Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA vs. Hiromu Takahashi, and the ROH World Title Match between Cody and Kota Ibushi. The championship matches featuring Tanahashi vs. White, Omega vs. Jericho and Okada vs. Naito will also have an encore airing during this time.
Leading up to the Wrestle Kingdom 12 special on Jan. 6, AXS TV will air an eight-hour marathon of NJPW starting at 12pE/9aP. Episodes in the marathon will feature matches that set up the main card at Wrestle Kingdom, including Omega winning the IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Title versus Tomohiro Ishii at the G1 Special in USA; Omega vs. Naito in the G1 CLIMAX 27 Tournament Finals; Omega’s first U.S. Heavyweight Title defense at Destruction in Kobe; an encore of the three-hour King of Pro-Wrestling special headlined by Okada vs. EVIL; and two episodes from Power Struggle headlined by Omega vs. Beretta featuring a special appearance by Jericho.
And the Wrestle Kingdom 12 card, as it currently stands, with more matches to be added later:
1. IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito
2. IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship Match: Kenny Omega (c) vs. Chris Jericho
3. IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Jay White
4. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Marty Scurll (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA vs. Will Ospreay
5. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match: Roppongi 3K (c) vs. The Young Bucks
6. Ring of Honor World Championship Match: Cody (c) vs. Kota Ibushi
Without even knowing the full card yet … uh, yeah. This is going to be a good one, people.