New Japan Pro Wrestling‘s final pre-Wrestle Kingdom started at noon on January 3. It was a fan festival over four hours long that included some trainee vs. veteran wrestler matches and celebrity guest stars, but mostly consisted of contract signings and final pre-match standoffs and promos between Wrestle Kingdom 13 opponents. Like at all NJPW press conference-type events, part of the reason to watch Fan Festa isn’t just for the promos, but for the fashion. Wrestlers have to ask themselves “What would my character wear to a fancy work event?” before these things, and it can be fun to see the answers.
We already published a Wrestle Kingdom preview that could be described as “informed” and “way more wrestling-related that the one you’re reading right now,” but also, here are predictions and analysis for WK 13 based only on contract signing fashion.
- With Spandex’s Emily Pratt, author of the Best and Worst of NJPW column and person who rated every look on the most recent WWE Hall of Fame red carpet
- With Spandex’s Elle Collins, resident wrestling fashion expert and person who does not watch NJPW, but will make predictions for match outcomes based PURELY on press conference fashion seen in the videos from the NJPW World twitter account embedded in this article.
Let’s get started!
NEVER Openweight Championship match: Kota Ibushi (c) vs. Will Ospreay
Emily Pratt: Ospreay’s colorful suit fits the theme of bringing freedom and creativity to the NEVER Openweight Championship that he’s been talking about, so I think he wins the fashion game in this context. Only in this very specific context though!
Elle Collins: Will Ospreay can only get away with this outfit because he’s a pro wrestler. That jacket with raw shimmering blue and teal designs – which look kind of like palm trees? – and the otherwise black outfit is kind of like a high school kid’s idea of what’s cool. Of course, being a high school kid’s idea of cool is kind of what being a pro wrestler is all about. Still, everything else aside, the belt should at least be black.
Kota Ibushi, on the other hand, looks more like a high school teacher in his normcore navy blue suit, white shirt, red striped tie, and brown belt and shoes. He pulls it off, but only by being such an uncommonly beautiful man. If I were to pick a winner based on fashion alone, I’d actually pick Ibushi, because he seems comfortable enough with who he is not to need a flash jacket like Ospreay’s.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match: Roppongi 3K vs. El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru (c) vs. Shingo Takagi and Bushi
Emily Pratt: Roppongi 3K look great! They look so much more grown up (and so much less shiny!) than at Fan Festa last year, but the gold details on Sho’s suit and silver on Yoh’s show that fun is still allowed. Shingo Takagi showed up wearing what I think someone would wear to a wedding at a Cabela’s, and I’m not a fan. But Bushi wore the full war bonnet vest plus an entrance mask, AND his actual mask is half WK logo, half dragon imagery for his partner, so he carries his team in the fashion game. As for our champions, El Desperado didn’t try that hard here except for crimping his hair under his mask for some reason. Kanemaru, as befitting the drunk uncle, is even lower effort! This fits them as the shitty heel champs they’ve been all year.
I’m split between wanting R3K and LIJ to win this match based on the outfits alone, but I have to give the match to Roppongi 3K for both looking very nice and matching at the same time.
Elle Collins: I am all about Roppongi 3K and their matching suits with bedazzled lapels. It’s a strong look that stands out without being ridiculous, and it’s the sort of thing that can enable two grown men to wear matching outfits without looking absurd or immature.
I’m way less into Shingo Takagi’s camouflage blazer and Bushi’s Native American warbonnet over a skull mask (which he then takes off to reveal another mask!). El Desperado looks pretty cool in his vest and mask, but his partner Yoshinobu Kanemaru is dressed exactly like Shane McMahon except without the cool shoes that are the only good part of how Shane dresses. So yeah, it’s Roppongi 3K in a walk.
RPW British Heavyweight Championship match: Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Emily Pratt: This match is Brandon Stroud’s pick in advance for WK match of the night, and these two are also the early contender for fashion match of the night at Fan Festa. ZSJ is young and model-esque and can pull off wearing no socks with his monochrome, well-tailored menswear. Ishii, with a similar outfit, shows you don’t have to be all tall and thin to rock a suit, and I always love his press conference glasses. However, I’m giving this to ZSJ for not wearing a t-shirt.
Elle Collins: Zack Sabre Jr. almost has it figured out with his simple black and no tie, but then he kind of blows it by not wearing socks. I think guys think not wearing socks with a suit makes them look casual and easygoing, but it actually just breaks up the look in an awkward way that’s much less flattering than they think it is.
Fortunately for Sabre, Tomohiro Ishii is wearing a black T-shirt with his suit, which particularly on a guy his age just looks awfully dated. So honestly I have to pick Zack. It’s not really your fault, Ishii. Young, absurdly handsome guys can just get away with more.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match: Guerrillas of Destiny (c) vs. Evil and Sanada vs. the Young Bucks
Emily Pratt: What a shockingly low amount of visible merch on the Young Bucks! Especially considering the content of Matt’s douchey Fan Festa promo, I think this is the Bucks’ version of going Hollywood. Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa, who claim to be reformed, are also pretty basic here, and Loa just looks exactly like a bouncer. Our champs finish slightly ahead of their old stablemates.
But then we see Evil is wearing the rock star outfit he wore to the G1 press conference and it perfectly fits his overall presence. Sanada’s look is either really bad or so fashion forward I don’t understand it. I respect his right to do whatever he wants with his facial hair, but THE BEARD HAS GONE TOO FAR AT THIS POINT, SIR. But honestly, this is exactly what I want from Evil and Sanada and only makes me love them more. Give them the tag titles!
Elle Collins: Okay, first of all, I could not care less about the Young Bucks in their casual leather jacket ensembles. If you’re not going to wear something outlandish, at least wear something nice. They just look two dads on a trip, which is not entirely inaccurate, but it’s not the image they should be cultivating.
Sanada and Evil have it figured out, in contrast. Sanada looks like a crime boss in his white suit and black hat, while Evil looks like the leader of an evil black magic cult in a ’90s urban fantasy show, which seems ideal for a guy named Evil.
The Guerrillas of Destiny look pretty good too. Tama Tonga’s got a way better jacket than the Bucks, while Tango Loa’s knit cap with a nice suit gives him personality. Still, my pick is Sanada and Evil, who easily have the strongest looks in this three-way.
IWGP United States Championship match: Cody (c) (with Brandi Rhodes) vs. Juice Robinson
Emily Pratt: Juice Robinson with the space pants! I kind of love them, but overall this outfit is terrible for a normal person, but what we’ve come to expect from the guy with the nickname “flamboyant.” I appreciate that Cody and Brandi are the only people to publicly acknowledge that this is basically a catwalk. They look perfect, which is their whole thing. Cody’s not at peak Patrick Bateman, but he’s close, and Brandi, of course, looks beautiful. I have to give them the fashion W.
Elle Collins: Oh man, this Juice Robinson guy is testing the limits of what a wrestler can get away with, style-wise. That hair is a lot to start out with, and the yellow bowtie and round sunglasses push the look even farther. I think it’s the cosmic space pants that really cross the line for me. I feel like if you’re going to go that far, you need to be a lot more meticulous in execution than Juice is here.
Cody and Brandi, on the other hand, are over the top in exactly the right way. His pink jacket perfectly complements her fur coat, and the way they treat the ramp like their runway is a great display of confidence. Based on this, I’m giving Cody the win.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship match: Kenny Omega (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Emily Pratt: These are two of the lower effort outfits in the lineup, which is probably not great considering the prestige of the title they’re fighting for. Tanashi’s fits his hunky dad situation and is very #ootd. I like that Omega went back to the Cleaner hair (minus the extensions… SO FAR), but I don’t know about the rest of his situation. Overall this is one of the weaker showings of press conference fashion and I’m disappointed, but I’m giving it to the Ace.
Elle Collins: Honestly, if there’s one conclusion I’ve come to from looking at all these outfits, it’s that the Queer Eye guys need to go to New Japan for a few weeks, just to get everyone on the right track. Tanahashi is wearing a suit with no socks and a T-shirt, because of course he is. This is a competition in which Kenny Omega easily wins with his “lush who overslept” ensemble of white khakis, black T-shirt, blue jacket and aviators because at least he looks like he’s making choices. Omega’s natural charisma makes up for what he lacks in specific clothing choices and leaves you with the sense that this is a guy with style.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match: Kushida (c) vs. Taiji Ishimori
Emily Pratt: Ishimori looks like a businessman in a nice, normal suit, which somehow brings out his cauliflower era. The highlight of his outfit is secretly that the jacket lining with little skulls on it, but sadly I only saw that in a fan photo from the venue. Kushida continued his streak of wearing traditional Japanese clothing to Fan Festa, which is cool. I don’t know much about what he’s wearing, but it looks good quality and I think it helps him look extra serious about defending his title. Kushida goes over here.
Elle Collins: I know Taiji Ishimori better than some of these guys, and while I’m always here for a three-piece suit, I was at first a little disappointed that the guy who usually wears a monster skull to the ring didn’t go with a more goth ensemble. Then I saw that his jacket is lined with jolly rogers, and I was won over.
Kushida, meanwhile, is wearing a traditional Japanese ensemble, which is well outside my wheelhouse, but he pulls it off. I’m still going with Ishimori to win (based on the fashion) because he’s got way better hair, and for the secret jolly rogers.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White
Emily Pratt: The visual of these two in similar-colored clothing with contrasting red and blue-ish hair is a good one, I think! Okada looks slightly more grown up and professional than his opponent, and also like a groomsman as a wedding where White is in the band. I give this to Okada.
Elle Collins: I’m not going to mince words – Jay White looks terrible. He looks like a scumbag who’s wearing his only good jacket, and it’s not even a very good jacket. The cheap-looking shades and the touch of green in his hair definitely don’t help. On the other hand, this is a guy who calls himself Switchblade, right? So he’s probably fully on-gimmick.
Okada’s got another pretty basic blue suit, but it fits him well and his dyed hair adds to the look instead of detracting from it, so I’m giving him the win.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship match: Chris Jericho (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito
Before we get to the fashion, it should be pointed out that this is the one part of Fan Festa with an actual WK-related development. At a pretty funny contract signing, Jericho demands their match be made No DQ, and Naito writes the stipulation on their contract himself before signing. The table spot that follows is straight out of WWE and less extreme than the violence earlier in their feud, but gets good crowd reactions. It’s a solid ending for the press conference-type portion of the show.
Emily Pratt: These two had a press conference recently and have been in non-wrestling clothes a fair amount in their feud, so this fashion matchup isn’t as interesting. Naito understandably did not bust out the cape for this, but looks cool in his white suit. Jericho looks more like a normal person than he has previously in this feud (read: no facepaint), but still looks like a washed-up, egotistical rockstar. That works for Jericho’s character, but Naito still wins.
Elle Collins: Now Chris Jericho, there’s a guy who knows how to present himself. The fedora is heelish these days, but it works for him all the more for that. The sparkly scarf with the biker jacket and T-shirt is perfectly him, and the tight pants with studs and boots unite the look into something that’s both tough and flashy, like Jericho should be.
Tetsuya Naito’s white three-piece suit with a black shirt is so good that it almost makes up for the fact that he’s not wearing socks. I still have to give this one to Jericho, though. Maybe I’m biased because I know him better, or because I’m more accustomed to American wrestler streetwear aesthetics, but I think he just barely has it above Naito.