Wrestle Kingdom 13

Wrestle Kingdom 13 : new year having arrived, it’s time for the most exciting event that New Japan Pro-Wrestling has to offer. Wrestle Kingdom 13, New Japan Pro Wrestling is back in the Tokyo Dome for the biggest, Wrestle Kingdom 13 (Friday, January 4, 2AM Eastern / 11PM Pacific). The Dome is always the Dome. So the setting hasn’t changed. But the scenario, not a main event, not a title match.

New Japan Pro Wrestling Wrestle Kingdom 13 preview & predictions: Battles of soul and style. Yes indeed, ladies, gentlemen, and assorted nonbinary folks, it’s time to return to the Tokyo Dome for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s annual spectacular supershow, Wrestle Kingdom! So I’m here to prime y’all on the big show and give you the low down on what’s going down, folks.

And as an added bonus, we’re making predictions! On with the (breakdown of the) show!

Wrestle Kingdom 13 (Friday, January 4, 2AM Eastern / 11PM Pacific)
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kenny Omega (c) (IWGP Heavyweight Championship)
Tanahashi and Omega aren’t simply wrestlers, they represent philosophies.

The 1/100 Ace is tradition, simple and pure. Two men meet in the ring and go to war, strike for strike and hold for hold, with respect, dignity, and honor. To determine who’s the more skilled competitor.

The Best Bout Machine is the new way, going all out and trying to not only defeat your opponent, but make each match bigger and better than the last. To put your life on the line for the glory and the art of pro wrestling.

And so, this is, more than anything, a battle for the soul of New Japan Pro Wrestling. A victory defines the future, molds it in the winner’s image. Sure, putting it that way is a bit melodramatic, but it’s true. A promotion’s tone is set by its top star and whoever leaves the Tokyo Dome as champion has staked a real claim to the right to set that tone.

But it won’t be easy, as both men enter bruised and battered. Years of carrying the weight of being the Ace on his back have wrecked Hiroshi’s elbow and one of his knees, painted them up bright as targets that everyone he’s wrestled has been targeting with abandon, while Kenny’s neck and foot have both been significant issues for him off and on all year.

It’s the main event of Wrestle Kingdom, the biggest single match of New Japan’s calendar, and almost guaranteed to be an instant classic.The IWGP Heavyweight Championship hasn’t changed hands at Wrestle Kingdom since 2011, when Hiroshi Tanahashi beat Satoshi Kojima in the main event. If anybody could repeat that effort, it’s the 1/100 Ace, but I don’t think it happens. No, I think the story here is that you can ride a hot streak and prove to everyone that you’ve still got it, you can fight with all your heart and soul for your way of life, but Father Time comes for us all, and Kenny Omega retains the title.

Kyle’s prediction: I’ll be honest. I haven’t watched New Japan in a long while so most of these picks aren’t going to be based in any in depth knowledge of the product. If you’re looking for that, probably just re-read Claire’s. This is an interesting one mainly due to contracts and all that. If there weren’t question regarding Omega’s future, I’d pick him in an instant. But I suppose he can retain here and lose it at the next big show if need by so I’m going to pick Kenny Omega to retain.

Sean’s prediction: The challenge of following The Elite crew across multiple companies and storyline, including alignment shifts to create the battle for leadership of a Club they then walked away from and to set-up ALL IN, and the worked/shoot nature of this feud, and the suspense about where Omega will sign when his NJPW contract expires… it’s all very confusing for a gaijin who tries to keep up with seven different promotions at once. In the end, we’ve got the guy who saved the company against an upstart who’s questioning the traditions of a country that honors tradition above almost eveything. LOL Hiroshi Tanahashi wins.

Chris Jericho (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito (IWGP Intercontinental Championship)
Tetsuya Naito mistreated the IWGP Intercontinental Championship belt worse than any other champion in the title’s seven-year history. He battered the title, tossing it around, cracking the plate, distressing the leather, and just generally beat it to hell and back in his first reign as champion.

And now he’s the only man that can save it.

After coming up short against Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12, Chris Jericho attacked Naito at New Year Dash!!, but then the trail went cold for months, with some doubt as to whether or not he would ever return to NJPW. Y2J then blindsided the Stardust Genius at Wrestling Dontaku in May, shortly after he won the title back from Minoru Suzuki.

Gold in his eyes, Jericho had waited until Tetsuya had something to take before making his move. And oh, what a move he made, defeating Naito in a violent brawl of a match at Dominion in June… and then he left again, claiming he had no intention of ever defending the title.

Shocker, again Chris was just waiting to pick his opportunity, attacking EVIL at King of Pro-Wrestling and then successfully defending the title against him at Power Struggle, taunting Naito that there would be no rematch.

New Japan officials felt differently, and here we are. Y2J, of course, had to get one last word in and left the Stardust Genius battered and bruised at the press conference for the match, promising to end his career at Wrestle Kingdom.

Claire’s prediction: Tetsuya Naito reclaims the title he never wanted and, ironically, restores it to its glory.

Kyle’s prediction: I can’t imagine Chris Jericho retains here. In the end, this is about putting Tetsuya Naito over.

Sean’s prediction: Both because I don’t think NJPW will remain a priority for Jericho (not that it was a major one, but it was his primary wrestling priority, and I think that changes shortly) and because the story calls for it, Tetsuya Naito will save the Intercontinental title from Y2J.

“Switchblade” Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada
The fires are almost all burned out.

Throughout 2018, New Japan has been consumed with civil war. First Bullet Club went up in flames as Cody Rhodes and Kenny Omega struggled for dominance, with Tama Tonga’s Firing Squad soon enough turning things into a three-way fray. Cooler heads prevailed and Rhodes and Omega reconciled, but the split with the OGs proved permanent as the embers cooled to ash.

…and then the Switchblade collected the remains, doused them in lighter fluid, and sparked them back to raging inferno to envelop the Rainmaker and attempt to pitch Chaos into darkness.

Gedo, you see, had no use for his golden boy after he lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship to Kenny Omega and failed to either win the G1 Climax or beat Hiroshi Tanahashi for his winner’s title shot, and conspired with White and the Bullet Club remnant to rend Chaos asunder.

Jay had been needling Okada for months to be more vicious, more brutal, less compromising and when the Rainmaker came up empty, well, the jig, as they say, was up. The remainder of Chaos stood by their man, and so White and Gedo’s actions come off less like the first shots of a civil war and more like an attempted coup, but even so, this fight was destined from the moment the chair connected with Okada’s back.

Claire’s prediction: I think it’s pretty clear that Okada’s arc bends towards his final redemption being to regain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship once again, but I don’t think that’s starting here, tonight. The Rainmaker excels when he’s put through depressive slumps following a big loss (see his reaction to losing at Dominion last year or at Wrestle Kingdom 9), and so whether by hook or by crook (and Gedo is most certainly a crook), I’ve got “Switchblade” Jay White winning this one.

Kyle’s prediction: It still feels weird picking against Kazuchika Okada so I’m not going to.

Sean’s prediction: Sticking with the mix of business and kayfabe picking strategy, the Bullet Club brand is too important to take a loss in its highest profile match on the card. And the Rainmaker’s old mentor is the difference maker, allowing “Switchblade” Jay White to twist the knife deeper in Okada’s back.

KUSHIDA (c) vs. Taiji Ishimori (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship)
The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship’s had a rough go of it in the back half of 2018, with Hiromu Takahashi forced to vacate after a tragic and potentially career-ending neck injury. Stalwart KUSHIDA prevailed in the tournament to crown his replacement, and now he faces a man whose New Japan career hasn’t yet reached its apex.

Taiji Ishimori was brought into Bullet Club with much fanfare after leaving Pro Wrestling NOAH, crowned as the new and improved BONE SOLDIER, but opportunities to win any of New Japan’s junior heavyweight titles have evaded him as he’s come up short in both Best of the Super Jr. and Super Jr. Tag League.

No more. This is Ishimori’s chance to take one of the most distinguished and overall talented men on the roster down and bring some gold back to Bullet Club in the process.

Claire’s prediction: While I deeply wish KUSHIDA could get a good long run as the kickass gatekeeper junior champ, this is the new and improved Boner’s night. Taiji Ishimori ends the night ten pounds heavier.

Kyle’s prediction: I’m kind of surprised that Taiji Ishimori didn’t win the belt already so I’m going to pick him to here.

Sean’s prediction: Yeah, I really wish I didn’t keep up with the dirt screens – or have to write about rumors & news – heading into this show. The Marty McFly cosplayer is maybe fielding offers, and New Japan will go with the young gun. Which is held by a Bone Soldier named Taiji Ishimori.

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