The day after the World Tag League final, NJPW made some big announcements via press conference, including the full match schedule for Wrestle Kingdom 13, a new American tour in 2019, and some Road to the Tokyo Dome developments.
- On the pre-show: No.1 contender gauntlet match for the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship, teams TBD
- NEVER Openweight Championship match: Kota Ibushi (c) vs. Will Ospreay
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match: El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru (c) vs. Roppongi 3K (Sho and Yoh) vs. Bushi and Shingo Takagi
- RPW British Heavyweight Championship match: Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
- IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match: Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) (c) vs. Evil and Sanada vs. the Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson)
- IWGP United States Championship match: Cody (c) vs. Juice Robinson
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match: Kushida (c) vs. Taiji Ishimori
- Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White
- IWGP Intercontinental Championship match: Chris Jericho (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship match: Kenny Omega (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
A few takeaways: first, the New Japan Rumble appears to be dead, so my condolences to anyone who loved that collection of Young Lions, jobbers, and guest stars! Instead, our pre-show match will answer the question of what will happen with the trios championships at Wrestle Kingdom, since the current title holders (G.o.D. and Ishimori) are wrapped up in other title matches. The Bullet Club boys will face the winners of this gauntlet match on January 5 at New Year Dash!!.
This card announcement also makes official a few matches that had been challenged for, but not confirmed yet. An RPW championship match between established rivals Ishii and Sabre Jr. seemed inevitable when ZSJ challenged the Stone Pitbull at a RevPro show, then choked him out cold to win a tag league match. The controversial triple threat heavyweight tag championship match also seemed bound to happen and is now official. World Tag League winners Evil and Sanada reiterated that they’re ready to take on both the Guerillas and the Bucks at once at the press conference, in contrast to the champions’ protest about the dilution of the tournament.
We haven’t seen Cody on an NJPW show since King of Pro Wrestling, and his title defense against Beretta in ROH was derailed by an injury sustained by the American Nightmare. Cody quote-unquote defended his championship in comedy matches internationally and Beretta lost a makeshift number one contender’s match against Juice Robinson. Robinson, who lost the United States Championship to Cody at Fighting Spirit Unleashed, cut promos on Cody on the World Tag League tour, to which the champ has so far responded with some minimal tweets about the match announcement.
And hey, speaking of the United States, NJPW will be back there in early 2019 for the New Beginning in USA. This “bi-coastal series” will take place in Los Angeles, California on January 30, 2019, at the Globe (current home of PWG), and in Charlotte, North Carolina on February 1, 2019 at the Grady Cole Center. The company described this new tour as “the third pillar of New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s US expansion plan, along with big match production and new talent development.” They went on to explain the reasoning behind these shows:
“We believe that New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s draw is in the ring, and tours such as this one will give an opportunity for more fans in the US to come see the New Japan matches in person. THE NEW BEGINNING USA will overlap with “THE NEW BEGINNING in Sapporo” that will take place in Japan on February 2nd and 3rd. Wrestlers who are not part of the Japan matches will be heading out to the US matches. This is our first foray of the US expansion that is not determined by the schedule in Japan… With big matches, new talent development and US tour as the three pillars, we hope to have US wrestling fans experience the New Japan Pro-Wrestling fighting spirit.”
But before all these big developments, there’s still Wrestle Kingdom building to do on the Road to the Tokyo Dome tour on December 14-15, including…
- 12/14: Shingo Takagi’s first singles match in NJPW against Shota Umino
- Kazuchika Okada vs. Gedo (!!!)
- Another development in the story of Chaos and NJPW’s core army/Team New Japan/Taguchi Japan when Tanahashi, Ospreay, Makabe, and Yano team up against Elite wrestlers in an eight-man tag team match. Makabe saved Yano, who betrayed him to start the Chaos faction with Shinsuke Nakamura in 2009, from a post-match attack by the Bullet Club on the World Tag League final, and it’ll be crazy to see them in the same corner again.
- 12/15: dojo trainee Teruaki Kanemitsu returns to the ring after a cervical spine injury benched him for about two years in a Young Lion tag team match
- We have an unlikely-yet-logical main event of Tanahashi and Ospreay teaming up against the Golden Lovers
Is that everything? I think that’s everything! NJPW has so much stuff going on right now, and we’ll be eagerly anticipating seeing how it all plays out in early 2019.