Your Official NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10 Predictions

“Puroresu ikou ze!”

New Japan Pro Wrestling once again brings Wrestle Kingdom, their flagship event, to the Tokyo Dome for the biggest night in Japanese wrestling. Every title in NJPW is on the line, including a new trios championship and the Ring of Honor World Championship, just for kicks. Whether you’re staying up late Sunday night to catch it live or you’re planning to catch a replay, this looks to be a can’t-miss event. Let’s take a look down the card and break down the matches!

1. Four-Way Match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships: reDRagon (c) vs. Roppongi Vice vs. The Young Bucks vs. Matt Sydal and Ricochet

2. Inaugural NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championships: Toru Yano, Jay Briscoe, and Mark Briscoe vs. Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale, and Tama Tonga)

3. Ring of Honor World Championship: Jay Lethal (c) vs. Michael Elgin

4. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega (c) vs. KUSHIDA

5. IWGP Tag Team Championships: Bullet Club (Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson) (c) vs. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma)

6. Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito

7. NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Katsuyori Shibata

8. IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. AJ Styles

9. IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Make sure to weigh in with your own picks in the comments. Here’s how we think it’ll all go down.

Four-Way Match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships: reDRagon (c) vs. Roppongi Vice vs. The Young Bucks vs. Matt Sydal and Ricochet

What Should Happen: A classic case of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The four-way match for the junior tag titles is now a firm staple of Wrestle Kingdom, and they never need to deviate far from the formula. It should be played fast, loose, and kind of light-hearted. Champions Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly should stick to their technical prowess, but eventually find themselves overwhelmed by the three challenging teams. Sydal and Ricochet should just do what comes natural and spend the whole match in the air. The Young Bucks should bring a Jim Cornette voodoo doll to the ring, and Trent Baretta of Roppongi Vice should pull out a photograph of Chuck Taylor and stare at it longingly.

What Will Happen: I think the giveaway here is Sydal and Ricochet’s victory in the 2015 Super Junior Tag Tournament. That doesn’t always translate to victory in the following title match, but I feel like New Japan has been watching the two of them long enough to know that the iron is hot enough to strike. Dario Cueto will then call up Gedo and Jado with an idea for a Prince Puma/Tiger Mask crossover.

Brandon’s Pick: Here’s hoping New Japan is smart enough to just pull the trigger and put the belts on Sydal and Ricochet. As good as the other teams are — and they’re very good — these are the guys you want to put on your posters and in your press materials. They don’t even have a team name, man. Have them win here, use your biggest show of the year to begin to really tell their story as a team, and go from there. If you have Ricochet on your roster, make him a thing. Pull a Dragon Gate and just give him everything.

Inaugural NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championships: Toru Yano, Jay Briscoe, and Mark Briscoe vs. Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale, and Tama Tonga)

What Should Happen: Something uncharacteristically messy for New Japan’s standards. Not messy in the Eva Marie sense, mind you, just out of control and chaotic. It’s nearly impossible to confine Yano to the ring, and it’s unlikely that this Bullet Club squad will decide to play by the rules just because they’re in the Tokyo Dome. On top of that, you’re adding a big dose of REACH FOR THE SKY, BOY by throwing the Briscoe brothers into the mix.

What Will Happen: Yano has been unstoppable when he brings in special guests for Wrestle Kingdom. Two years ago it was The Great Muta, and last year it was a squad of Pro Wrestling NOAH all-stars. By bringing Ring of Honor’s most dangerous tag team along with him, he’s pretty much assured another victory. He and the Briscoes will hold onto the championships until someone beats them during the ROH tour of Japan. Mark Briscoe will confuse and delight the Japanese audience by simply being himself. Takashi Iizuka will make an R-Truth appearance, wondering why he’s not in this match.

Brandon’s Pick: I’m picking Yano here based solely on the fact that I want Yano to have a reason to come to the United States. Plus, Yano as the third Briscoe is something I never knew I wanted to see, but here we are. Just a guy covered in Confederate flags, shrugging.

Ring of Honor World Championship: Jay Lethal (c) vs. Michael Elgin

What Should Happen: A continued display of why foreign audiences should care about American independent wrestling. Any fan of indy wrestling in the U.S. is probably going to be quick to identify Lethal and Elgin as top-echelon guys, but do we really know how far that sphere of influence reaches? This will basically be Ring of Honor’s pilot episode before their full Japanese tour kicks off in February 2016, and I’m sure that people within the ROH organization will be watching very closely.

What Will Happen: Anything other than a Michael Elgin victory would shock me. He’s become a familiar face among the New Japan crowd after his strong showing in the G1 Climax tournament, so he’ll have all of the support when he goes up against Jay Lethal and whatever mind games The House of Truth have in store. Plus, he’s been teaming up with Tanahashi lately, and that kind of invulnerability probably rubs off on you after a while.

Brandon’s Pick: Big Mike, all the way. Your promotion doesn’t get a title match on the most important international show of the year to do scrappy defenses. Besides, Lethal can win it back pretty quickly if he wants to.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega (c) vs. KUSHIDA

What Should Happen: A very early Match of the Year candidate, I hope. Omega’s return to New Japan was marked by instant success in the junior heavyweight division, and his reign of terror over his opponents has been a blast to watch. KUSHIDA, on the other hand, is the personification of grace under pressure. You only need to go back to his match against Ricochet (a literal superhuman) this summer to see his game plan at work. He picks a strategy, he sticks to it, and he finds a way to make you tap out. He’s a bit like Daniel Bryan in that sense, I think. So, just to sum up, this is a match between a delusional real-life anime villain and a budding young ring general. There’s no way this won’t rule.

What Will Happen: Omega draws upon the Dark Custodial Arts (his words, not mine) for some kind of awesome/ridiculous ring entrance. Most likely flanked by the Young Bucks, he plays dirty for the entirety of the match. KUSHIDA exploits Kenny’s ego and frustration by countering the One-Winged Angel into the Hoverboard Lock and getting the win. Bullet Club, winless at this point, starts to show some cracks.

Brandon’s Pick: Yep, KUSHIDA. That’s the call.

IWGP Tag Team Championships: Bullet Club (Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson) (c) vs. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma)

What Should Happen: A fight for supremacy. Bullet Club has run rampant for the better part of two and a half years, never once feeling terribly challenged by the obstacles in their way. To beat some respect into them, someone had to dig up something very mean from the past. Enter the stable Great Bash Heel, now represented by Makabe and Honma. Once a large stable of evildoers, GBH is now back (albeit in more compact form) to show the Bullet Club what it truly means to be bad. The old mob bosses are back in town, and the posers should probably be afraid.

What Will Happen: If NJPW hasn’t taken disciplinary action against Honma for his alleged domestic violence at this point, they probably never will. I’m going to go ahead and set the over/under for missed Kokeshi headbutts at 4.5, but one from the top rope will hit and be enough to crown new tag-team champions. The backslide for Bullet Club continues.

Brandon’s Pick: I’m picking the Bullet Club to retain here. I don’t see them losing everything on the night, and if there’s one match they’re gonna win, I’d say it’s this one. I also kinda wish the Briscoes were teaming with Makabe and Honma here so they could call their team “The Great American Bash.”

Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito

What Should Happen: A clash of ideologies. In case you missed it, 2015 was the year Tetsuya Naito finally became awesome. He is entirely out of f*cks to give, he rolls with a dastardly lucha libre posse, and his right-hand man is named EVIL. He’s a charismatically awful person, and his utter disrespect is only matched by Hirooki Goto’s Art of War sensibilities. Goto is all things bushido, bound by his honor and discipline. Perhaps Naito’s flippant attitude is just enough to make the Wild Samurai lose his cool.

What Will Happen: It’s rumored that this match has #1 contender implications for the heavyweight title, so both men will come out swinging. If I can borrow a turn of phrase, The Damn Numbers Game will probably catch up to Goto, considering that Naito will probably be accompanied by EVIL and Bushi. Goto will end up getting out of his zone and making a careless mistake, giving Naito the room he needs to win. Meanwhile, in my room, I’ll be waving my EVIL-signed shirt like a flag in support of Los Ingobernables.

Brandon’s Pick: Goto is my favorite guy in New Japan. He’s also more or less the company’s Dolph Ziggler. You see him, he’s great, his matches are great, you like his work. He wins sometimes! But it’s always hard to pick him to win, because your brain mostly processes the inexplicable losses and writes him off, even though he’s accomplished great things. Naito takes it, because Naito’s f*cking outstanding right now, and I get six more months of, “I wish they’d give Goto something bigger than these tag and IC title wins! He’s SO GOOD!”

NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Katsuyori Shibata

What Should Happen: MURDER BY STRONG STYLE. The NEVER belt has become something of a brawler’s championship, finding a home with wrestlers like Masato Tanaka, Togi Makabe, and reigning champion Ishii. So naturally, we’ve set up a match between the stout, impervious champion and a challenger whose kicks and elbow strikes probably register on the Richter scale. What could possibly go wrong? I would say to put the kids to bed before this one, but it’ll probably happen around 4:30 a.m. (Central time) or so.

What Will Happen: I’m man enough to say that I have no idea. This is such a good example of a perfectly matched champion and opponent that it feels like a total toss-up. If you were really going to twist my arm about it, I’d have to side with Shibata here. Ishii is Mr. NEVER Openweight right now, with four title reigns to his name. Even so, Shibata’s going to hit him like he’s never been hit, and he’ll win his first singles title in the process.

Brandon’s Pick: Ishii or bust. Nothing in New Japan makes me happier than when Shibata starts unloading on someone and they knock him on his ass. Can’t wait for this.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. AJ Styles

What Should Happen: A fitting resolution for Styles. The Phenomenal One had his share of back injuries that were scary enough to warrant rumors that he might miss Wrestle Kingdom entirely. Now that we know he’s healthy enough to compete, there’s one more bump in the road… his contract with New Japan. Some say it expired back in the autumn, others say it’s done after Wrestle Kingdom. AJ’s future is uncertain right now, so at the very least, this chapter of his career needs a satisfying conclusion. Thankfully, Nakamura could probably drag a good match out of a discarded car door, so we’ve got nothing to worry about. Five years ago, none of us would have ever seen this match coming, but here it is.

What Will Happen: Counter after counter, false finish after false finish. At least one Styles Clash, and at least three Boma Ye knees. Nakamura ends up being too much for AJ to handle. In the most uncharacteristic thing you could expect from the leader of Bullet Club, Styles shakes Nakamura’s hand and graciously accepts defeat. This does not sit well with Karl Anderson, who has already seen one leader go soft and refuses to let it happen again.

Brandon’s Pick: Nakamura’s gonna light him up. I think Austin’s scenario of a battered AJ Styles sorta accepting his own mortality and shaking Nak’s hand makes sense, especially as a way to write him out for a while. Give him the Hollywood Hogan ending. I will make sure we have at least three people on GIF duty for Nakamura’s entrance.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

What Should Happen: The start of the new era. Kazuchika Okada has made it clear that he is the top heavyweight, time and time again. To hell with the Ace, and to hell with his air guitar. And yet, Okada is winless against Tanahashi in the Tokyo Dome. This has been haunting him for years. It pushed him to the point of tears last time. If Okada can’t exorcise this curse now, it’s likely that he’ll never do it. By now, the two have faced off enough that they know the counters to the counters of each other’s counters. Familiarity has bred a lot of contempt between the two, but it should also breed a beautiful match. Okada getting his moment is the only thing that makes any sense here.

What Will Happen: Probably 30+ minutes of action, similar to Tanahashi/Nakamura at the G1 Climax finals. They’ll have to try and differentiate this match from their previous ones, and if I’m being honest, there may actually be a few moments where they fail to pull that off. Still, another chapter of this rivalry is infinitely better than 500 Days of Reigns/Sheamus. Okada kicks out of the High Fly Flow after just a 1-count and hammers Tanahashi with multiple Rainmakers for the victory. No handshake. No hug. On to the next chapter.

Brandon’s Pick: The wrestling nihilist in me wants to pick Tanahashi. If I’ve learned nothing else from Japan, it’s that they don’t pull the trigger on a guy and move on to the next generation when you think they will. They don’t do it the two or three times after that, when you think they should. Okada IS the only thing that makes sense here, which is why my brain’s saying, “LOL, Tanahashi’s gonna win.” You don’t go from sobbing after losses to your big moment, you go from sobbing to begrudgingly accepting to nobly accepting to your big moment.

(I’m just staying pessimistic about it because I want Okada to win, work with me here.)