New Japan Pro Wrestling‘s NEVER Openweight Championship picture has included some wonky twists and turns over the past few months. Will Ospreay was scheduled for a title match against then-champion Taichi at Power Struggle, but that had to be canceled due to an injury sustained by Ospreay. Hirooki Goto ended up winning the championship back from Taichi on that show, then challenging Kota Ibushi, who Ospreay had previously been courting for a match of any kind prior to his pinning of the Holy Emperor. Ibushi was eventually tricked into accepting a championship opportunity on the World Tag League Final show on December 9, leading many fans to expect that he would win the belt and go on to face Ospreay as his first challenger at Wrestle Kingdom.
The card for the Iwate show was set up so this could easily and logically happen. Goto vs. Ibushi for the NEVER Openweight Championship was scheduled as the semi-main event, with Ospreay vs. Taichi (who had asked for his rematch from his September 17 loss of the title earlier this week, once he was sure he and Zack Sabre Jr. were mathematically eliminated from WTL) in a number one contender match directly beforehand. Ospreay’s injured ribs were taped up and targeted by Taichi throughout the hard-fought match, but the British high-flyer managed to pin the former NEVER champ after a Stormbreaker.
Kota Ibushi then won the NEVER Openweight Championship after concluding a match that was one of the show’s highlights by pinning Goto after a Kamigoye. After Ibushi accepted his new title, his first in NJPW since he last held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in 2014, Ospreay entered the ring with a microphone. He made his challenged official with a short promo:
“Ibushi, I have been waiting for this moment for a long time now. They’re calling it the dream match, Ospreay vs. Ibushi. And I can’t think of a better place for this dream match than the stage of dreams. Ibushi, I challenge you for the NEVER Openweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 13.”
After a moment of tension, Ibushi shook Ospreay’s hand and looked pleased about this upcoming match. So if you have a Wrestle Kingdom drinking game, you might want to add a rule about drinking for neck bumps! These two notoriously creative, high-risk wrestlers are now set to face off on January 4, 2019, at the Tokyo Dome.