New Japan Pro Wrestling is on the road to Wrestle Kingdom 13 right now, with everything building up to the company’s biggest show of the year on January 4 in the Tokyo Dome. Before last night, the only match officially announced was the main event for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship between Kenny Omega (c) and G1 Climax winner Hiroshi Tanahashi. In a press conference on November 4, NJPW made official four big Wrestle Kingdom matches whose feuds we’ve been watching for a while.
In the aftermath of the Super Junior Tag League final at Power Struggle between Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado (c), Bushi and Shingo Takagi, and Roppongi 3K, the Wrestle Kingdom 13 IWGP Junior Tag Championship match is now set as a rematch between these three teams. The reasoning behind this is that Bushi and Shingo Takagi were not pinned in that match and defeated Sho and Yoh, the winners of the final, during the tournament.
Kushida (c) vs. Taiji Ishimori for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship was also officially announced. Ishimori earned his title shot by pinning Kushida in a tag match and started cutting promos on the champion. But because he’s in the Bullet Club, that wasn’t enough, and Ishimori faked an ankle injury that got him removed from a few shows, showed up on crutches at Power Struggle, and then attacked Kushida with a crutch to drive his challenge home.
These two, who have worked for different promotions for most of their careers, have only wrestled one-on-one once before, when Kushida defeated Ishimori in the first round of the 2016 Super J-Cup. At the press conference, Ishimori claimed that because he’s been reborn as the Bone Soldier since then, he’s sure to win this match. Kushida responded that Ishimori only changed his costume, and he’ll be the one truly reborn when he retains his title at the Tokyo Dome.
The highly anticipated Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White singles match was also set up at this press conference. The story between these men started in January of this year when Okada invited White into Chaos and White almost immediately started trying to undermine the faction status quo. After Okada lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and started having a personal crisis, White defeated him on the first night of the G1 Climax.
At Destruction in Kobe, White attacked Okada after a match with the help of the Rainmaker’s longtime manager, Gedo. At King of Pro Wrestling, White was revealed to have joined the Bullet Club and beat up Okada some more. He also repeatedly claimed to have a mole inside Chaos. Since then, the feud has escalated to the point where Okada temporarily aligned with his forever-rival Tanahashi and started calling out White to fight at any time. After the two fought outside of the ring for the entirety of a tag team match at Power Struggle and cut promos on each other, a singles match between them was finally scheduled.
At the press conference, White was confident he would defeat Okada at the company’s biggest show and destroy everything he had built in NJPW. He asked if his rival had “finally realized that I’m a very, very serious threat to everything that you have here? You see, Rainmaker, no more rain will fall by your hands, but you will fall by mine. This… is a new era, not just in New Japan, but in pro wrestling. This is the Cutthroat Era.” Okada was ready to fight White ASAP, as soon as the next tour, and still says White isn’t on his level.
The final and highest profile match announced was Chris Jericho (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Jericho defeated Naito to win this title back at Dominion and since then has been a largely absent champion, with his only defense so far at Power Struggle against Evil. The Y2J character also started insulting Japanese people over the course of his feud with Evil, and continued to do so after he beat the King of Darkness, even claiming, “I’ve never lost a match in New Japan against the Japanese ever, and I never will.”
Naito challenged Jericho after the Power Struggle match, but the Canadian wrestler declared “No rematch for Naito! Ever!” However, the company announced at the press conference that they scheduled the match anyway. Jericho was on a flight home during the press conference, and Naito criticized him for not showing up when everyone else in the company was told to “keep the day clear.” Since his opponent wasn’t there, he kept his promo short and closed his press conference appearance with “If you want a little sound bite on the way out, I’ll bury Jericho at the Tokyo Dome. Adios!”
With World Tag League still ahead and multiple titles and prominent wrestlers not yet on the Wrestle Kingdom card, there are clearly more big announcements yet to come over the next two months. What do you think of the card so far? Let us know in the comments!