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NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Preview

njpw wrestle kingdom 16 2022

Welcome to TJRWrestling’s preview for New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s premier event, Wrestle Kingdom. For the first time in history, Wrestle Kingdom will take place over not one, not two, but three nights. Just like the past two years, there will be events on January 4th and 5th.

But in addition to that, there will also be a third event on Saturday, January 8th, 2022. The first two shows will air exclusively on New Japan World, while the third show will air first on a PPV channel called AbemaTV and will later appear on NJ World and Wrestle Universe.

The first two shows will act as conclusions to all the big storylines from 2021, with lots of big title matches and collisions between big rivals. But there’s something special with the third show. For the first time in years, a Wrestle Kingdom show will be a cross-promotional event due to the involvement of Pro Wrestling NOAH. I’m curious how this will be handled, especially since these sorts of gimmicks send to be hindered by company politics all the time.

Anyway, New Japan is giving us plenty of wrestling to start 2022, so let’s hope that, based on the matches below, this high quantity will be matched with high quality.

 

Night One – January 4th, 2022

Match #1: New Japan Ranbo for the Provisional KOPW 2022 Trophy [participants currently TBA]

The KPOW title is an undercard gimmick title that gives lower-card wrestlers something to fight for. Past wrestlers have fought in matches with stipulations voted on by fans, such as blindfold matches, one hand tied behind the back, pure amateur rules, etc. This first match will be much simpler, though. It’ll be a royal Rumble-style match, except eliminations here can come from throwing an opponent over the top rope plus pinfalls and submissions. And since this is to build to the final four that will fight to the title on the second night’s show, it’ll probably be as wild and unpredictable as the division itself.

Winners: Toru Yano, Jado, Chase Owens, and Tom Lawlor (from NJPW Strong)

Match #2: YOH vs. SHO

SHO and YOH spent many years teaming together as team Roppongi 3K and were one of the top junior heavyweights in the company for a while now. Then SHO attacked YOH following a disappointing team performance at the 2021 Super Junior Tag League in which they failed to win any matches. SHO aligned himself with EVIL and his House of Torture Bullet Club sub-group, and now looks to strike out on his own. Considering that NJPW is in desperate need of more believable villains, I think SHO will take it here to create more sympathy for YOH for the coming months.

Winner: SHO

Match #3: Six-Man Tag Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi and The Mega Coaches (Ryusuke Taguchi and Rocky Romero) vs. Bullet Club (KENTA, Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo)

This match follows a very obvious structure that New Japan and other Japanese companies are known for: put feuding wrestlers in opposing tag matches on one night to set up the bigger singles match the following night. We’ve seen this in both previous two-night WK shows and that’s what they’re doing here. The main story here is the one between IWGP US champion KENTA and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Since KENTA is the champion and Tanahashi is the challenger, Tanahashi will most likely pin or submit one of KENTA’s partners to send a message to him before their title match the following night. Is it obvious? Sure. But it makes perfect sense and gives people a reason to want to see them face off.

Winners: Hiroshi Tanahashi and The Mega Coaches (Ryusuke Taguchi and Rocky Romero)

Match #4: Los Ignobernables de Japón (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA and Bushi) vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay, Great O’Khan and Jeff Cobb)

Like the previous match, this one’s pretty obvious due to a stipulation on the second show. Ospreay faces the winner of this night’s world title match, so it stands to reason that NJPW would want him to look strong. Not only that, but Ospreay has Jeff Cobb on his side and Cobb has had a tremendous 2021 as a wrestler. He’s a huge asset to Ospreay’s stable and has the potential to be a top singles title challenger in 2022. That’s not to say that LIJ isn’t strong; it’s just that they gain nothing from winning here compared to the United Empire.

Winners: United Empire (Will Ospreay, Great O’Khan and Jeff Cobb)

Match #5: Katsuyori Shibata vs. TBA

Four almost five years ago, Shibata nearly killed himself in a match with Kazuchika Okada (that I reviewed here). And now he’s coming out of retirement, which is something few people thought would ever happen. This will definitely be one of the highlights of the show: seeing Shibata in action after such a long time. This has the same hype as Shawn Michaels returning to WWE after four years or Daniel Bryan being cleared after his 2016 retirement. That said, I don’t expect much in terms of depth here. This will be a simple match with amateur grappling and low-risk bumps that will go around eight minutes max. Shibata will show off his ground game and hit a few strikes, before dropping his opponent with a Penalty Kick. It doesn’t matter who his opponent is. This will be a feel-good return match with Shibata coming out on top.

Winner: Katsuyori Shibata

Match #6: NEVER Openweight Championship match: Tomohiro Ishii [c] vs. EVIL (with Dick Togo)

ISHII SMASH!

Winner and STILL NEVER Openweight Champion: Tomohiro Ishii

Match #7: IWGP Tag Team Championship match: Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre, Jr.) [c] vs. Chaos (Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI

Goto and YOSHI-HASI have got to be two of the most unfortunate souls in New Japan. HASHI is like Santino Marella or post-2010 Kane: a guy put into matches just to fill out the numbers in matches here or there. Goto was once had a chance at world titles, but that time has come and gone. He can still be relied on for great matches, but don’t expect him to win anything big anymore. The same goes for HASHI; he’s been a fall guy for many years and I just don’t see his career doing a sudden 180. Especially when he and Goto are facing the protégé of Toshiaki Kawada and the only guy better than Bryan Danielson at being Bryan Danielson.

Winners and STILL IWGP Tag Team Champions: Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre, Jr.)

Match #8: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match: El Desperado [c] vs. Hiromu Takahashi

Hiromu has to be one of the unluckiest wrestlers in New Japan. Twice now he became Junior Heavyweight Champion, only to relinquish the title due to an injury. But there’s a problem in New Japan right now: they don’t have anyone else on Hiromu’s level to carry the brand. Despite solid efforts from guys like Despy, SHO, YOH, Eagles, and El Phantasmo, the company booked themselves in a way that makes Hiromu the division’s new centerpiece, for better or worse. That needs to change. They need to take a radical approach and elevate new stars ASAP so that the whole division doesn’t come crumbling down when one guy gets injured. Despy will have to pull off something incredible on this show to do that, given Hiromu’s track record of insane cruiserweight performances. It’ll be a tough mountain to climb, but I think he has a chance.

Winner and STILL IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion: El Desperado

Match #9: IWGP Heavyweight Championship match: Shingo Takagi [c] vs. Kazuchika Okada

This is the hardest match to predict by far. That’s because there’s a compelling case to be made for either of them winning, as well as the fact that the winner of this match faces Ospreay on Night Two. On one hand there’s Takagi, who has been on fire in 2021 with great matches and has matured as a heavyweight wrestler. I’ve seen several Takagi matches since he came to NJPW and for the most part, they’ve been pretty damn great. If he beats Okada here, then he’d go on to face Ospreay in a rematch from Wrestling Dontaku 2021 that Dave Meltzer rated 6 stars (I haven’t reviewed it yet, but you can be sure I will). On the other hand, if Okada wins, not only would it be the status quo pick in terms of popularity and money, but he’d also be able to have another singles match with Ospreay. And Okada is one of Ospreay’s biggest supporters and once said that Ospreay would surpass him. And yet, there’s one other critical factor that makes this a foregone conclusion: there’s no way New Japan would book a one-day world champion. And they definitely wouldn’t do that to Okada. They treat both the title and Okada’s reputation as sacred, so making him a transitional champion for Ospreay would be too out of left field for them to book.

Winner and STILL IWGP Heavyweight Champion: Shingo Takagi

 

Night Two – January 5th, 2022

There’s one match that’s still to be announced so we’re going to ignore that one since it might remain unannounced until the day of the show.

Match #2: Three-Way Tag Team Match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Flying Tiger (Robbie Eagles and Tiger Mask IV) [c] vs. Bullet Club’s Cutest Tag Team (their name, not mine) [Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo] vs. vs. The Mega Coaches (Ryusuke Taguchi and Rocky Romero)

These titles change hands very often and I don’t see that changing here. Even though Eagles and TM4 have been solid as a team so far, they’re not on the same level as Ishimori and ELP. Those two have better tag team chemistry and logic, and are also stronger both as individuals and as a team. As for the Mega Coaches, I don’t think they’re meant to be taken seriously. Taguchi is a veteran that does comedy for the most part and Romero is solid but can’t win tag titles on his own. for those reasons, the Bullet Club takes this one in around fifteen minutes.

Winners and NEW IWGP junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions: Bullet Club’s Cutest Tag Team (Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo)

Match #3: Stardom Match: Mayu Iwatani and Starlight Kid vs. Tam Nakano and Saya Kamitani

For the first time ever, a Stardom match is on the main card and not the pre-show. This is telling because it shows how much Bushiroad, the parent company of both Stardom and New Japan, wants to elevate the women’s brand further. In terms of predictions, this one’s pretty easy because one side has Iwatani on it. From what I’ve seen and heard, she’s one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world right now and has one of the longest resumes of anyone in Stardom. She’ll be the fixture of this match and will get the win for her team in about ten minutes of fast-paced wrestling.

Winners: Mayu Iwatani and Starlight Kid

Match #4: Four-Way Match for the Provisional KOPW 2022 Trophy: Toru Yano vs. Jado vs. Chase Owens vs. Tom Lawlor

The KOPW is a silly gimmick division involving guys not doing much else. And since the rest of the card is stacked, this division will be filled with people that New Japan can’t stick anywhere else. Yano is a favorite to dominate the match since this division is his specialty. But him winning three times in a row would be boring and unnecessary. Jado will serve as the fall guy and Lawlor will be there to bring a bit of seriousness and legitimacy to the match. But in the end, it’ll be a non-native wrestler, Case Owens, that will win the match and use this to start his 2022 on a high note.

Winner of the Provisional KOPW 2022 Trophy: Chase Owens

Match #5: NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship Mathc: House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi and SHO) [c] vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI and YOH)

The CHAOS trio challenging for these titles already won them once before in 2020 and held them for 459 days, the longest reign in that title’s history. Granted, much of that was due to wrestling being shut down because of COVID, but still, it’s a long reign. And the House of Torture trio won these titles back in November 2021 so it makes no sense for them to lose so soon. EVIL needs to win something to prove that his time at the top wasn’t for nothing. Losing here would send him back down the card even further and faster. And while a lot of people think that makes sense given his disappointing time as world champion, New Japan invested too much in him to sacrifice all that work for a quick swerve title change here.

Winners and STILL NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Champions: House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi and SHO)

Match #6: SANADA vs. The Great O’Khan

I have no idea why New Japan keeps pushing O’Khan. Over the past almost-four years since his repackaging, he has done nothing impressive. Every time I look back and see what he has done, O’Khan has lost more high-profile matches than he has won. He had chance after chance against big name after big name and has lost way more. there was a time when I thought New Japan would give him a push similar to Okada’s to make something out of him. But that time has come and gone, especially since he lost a 2021 KOPW challenge match to Toru Yano, the king of silly gimmick matches. As such, this should be an easy win for SANADA, though it’ll drag on for a while. Not because it needs to, but because O’Khan is slower than molasses in the ring.

Winner: SANADA

Match #7: Tetsuya Naito vs. Jeff Cobb

2021 was a great year for Cobb and an ok year for Naito. the former kicked things off with a great WK15 match against Takagi and went on to have a solid year over all. Meanwhile, the latter went on to watch from the sidelines as Takagi became world champion, and then Naito suffered an injury that forced him out of the G1. He appears to be healthy enough to wrestle, but I doubt he’ll be healthy enough to win. Cobb is a beast that will likely get the top-gaijin push in 2022 and will soon find himself rubbing shoulders with the world champion. He’s much more believable than his United Empire stablemate in Night Two’s main event (we’ll get to him soon), and I think he’ll defeat Naito in a strong performance to set himself up as a challenger by Dominion in June.

Winner: Jeff Cobb

Match #8: No Disqualification Match for the IWGP United States Championship: KENTA [c] vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

This will be one of the most violent matches on the card thanks to the stipulation and KENTA’s penchant for remorselessness. These two have faced off before and the results were solid. This won’t be the most blistering or explosive match – both KENTA and Tanahashi are getting more and more broken down, but they can still fight – but it’ll be entertaining nonetheless. Especially since Tanahashi has John Cena-level talent at getting a crowd behind him and KENTA is tremendous at being a d**k in the ring. Tanahashi might be a wrestling god that can somehow pull of miraculously-great matches despite his age and physical decline, but that won’t save him from KENTA. It’ll be close once again, but KENTA will use some sort of cheap trick to score a big win and retain his title in just over twenty minutes. Then KENTA can go to AEW and kick the crap out of CM Punk for stealing his finisher.

Winner and STILL IWGP United States Champion: KENTA

Match #9: IWGP Heavyweight Championship match: Shingo Takagi [c] vs. Will Ospreay

I’ll be blunt here: I don’t want Ospreay to win. I don’t want him to carry the world champion and walk around like he’s the best wrestler in the company. His wrestling style is extremely hit-or-miss; it’s as if he saw one too many Kenny Omega matches, took Omega’s “best bout machine” formula and cranked the insanity meter up to twenty out of ten. He just doesn’t come across as a pro wrestler to me; he’s like an acrobat doing Cirque de Soleil stuff when he should be grappling, striking hard, and more commonsensical things. Yes, some people like his shtick, but I don’t think what he does is engaging enough to make him the guy around whom you build a company. Takagi, on the other hand, is a different story. While he does still have some of Ospreay’s high-flying explosiveness, he tempers it with some hardnosed badass brawling. He carries himself like a fighter or a competitor, not as an ‘athlete’ or a ‘performer’. He’s more believable in the ring, and to me believability trumps agility in terms of excitement. But even though these two have so many differences in how they wrestle, they’ve faced each other enough times to have terrific chemistry. Whether that chemistry translates into yet another scale-breaking match remains to be seen.

Winner and STILL IWGP Heavyweight Champion: Shingo Takagi

 

Night Three: New Japan vs. NOAH – January 8th, 2022

Pre-show: Match #1: Kosei Fujita vs. Yasutaka Yano

This is match between two rookies. I don’t know enough about them to make an educated guess, so for this one it’s a coin flip.

Winner: Kosei Fujita

Match #2: Tencozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima) and Yuji Nagata [NJPW] vs. Funky Express (King Tany, Muhammad Yone and Akitoshi Saito) [NOAH]

It’s the New Japan Dads versus the NOAH Dads. Tenzan, Kojima and Nagata are long-term veterans, with Tenzan having the distinct honor of wrestling in the first match in January 4 Dome show history. Because of that, I think NOAH will get the win here. These inter-company gimmicks are treated as competitions with which company can get more wins by the show’s end. To give the idea that NOAH has a chance, their team should beat the sympathetic New Japan Dads in the first big match. That will create more sympathy for New Japan later on the card and will lessen the chance that fans believe that New Japan will completely squash the competition.

Winners: Funky Express (King Tany, Muhammad Yone and Akitoshi Saito) [NOAH]

Match #3: SHO [NJPW] vs. Atsushi Kotoge [NOAH]

This will be something of a Japanese junior heavyweight dream match. Both wrestlers are highly decorated smaller wrestlers and so both of them will use this match to dazzle the audience with their skills. Expect lots of blistering action and fancy moves with this match. in terms of who wins, I’m going with Kotoge from NOAH. If he wins, it will add more drama to the gimmick of the show if NOAH gets a 2-0 lead over New Japan instead of New Japan evening the score.

Winner: Atsushi Kotoge [NOAH]

Match #4: Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori and Gedo) [NJPW] vs. Stinger (Hayata and Seiki Yoshioka) [NOAH]

I get the feeling that Ishimori has been completely neglected both as a cruiserweight and as a Bullet Club member. It seems that all the big matches and title shots go to other wrestlers while he trudges along, hoping someone will notice him again. But since that doesn’t appear to be happening, I predict that Ishimori tries to steal the show here. He’ll spend more time in the ring than Gedo and will mop the floor with both members of Stinger, though Hayata will give him a much bigger fight since he’s NOAH’s junior heavyweight champion. Hopefully, Ishimori’s win here will lead to a renewed push for him, especially given how he and Hiromu had an epic BOSJ finals match three years ago.

Winners: Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori and Gedo) [NJPW]

Match #5: Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and DOUKI) [NJPW] vs. Los Perros del Mal De Japón (Yo-Hey and Nosawa Rongai) [NOAH]

Another bland lower-card tag match involving the lesser members of various stables. Despy is the most important wrestler in this match given that he’s the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and earlier I predicted that he’d retain against Hiromu. And yet, I think he and DOUKI will lose here, simply because Despy will be too tired from his January 4 title defense. That will lead to Yo-Hey getting a pinfall win over him, setting up a renewed New Japan vs. NOAH feud. Both companies did this same storyline back in the early 2000s and it was quite successful. I can see them doing that again, especially since New Japan’s trying hard to elevate their junior title to even further heights.

Winners: Los Perros del Mal De Japón (Yo-Hey and Nosawa Rongai) [NOAH]

Match #6: CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI), Master Wato and Ryusuke Taguchi [NJPW] vs. Daisuke Harada, Hajime Ohara, Daiki Inaba, Yoshiki Inamura and Kinya Okada (no relation to Kazuchika) [NOAH]

Ten-man tag matches with this middle-of-the-show placement don’t tend to mean much. It’s one of those ‘let’s-put-as-many-people-on-the-show-as-we-can-in-one-match’ spots and that’s all it’ll be. This will probably be an exhibition match involving each wrestler getting one minute of control to show what they can do. But in the end, no amount of effort from NOAH’s team here will be able to topple the wrestling fire hydrant that is Ishii.

Winners: CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI), Master Wato and Ryusuke Taguchi [NJPW]

Match #7: Suzuki-Gun (Zack Sabre, Jr. and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) [NJPW] vs. Naomichi Marufuji and Yoshinari Ogawa [NOAH]

This will be the most technically-sound and quick-transition-focused match on the card, which means it’ll most likely steal the show. Kanemaru is a former NOAH wrestler that has spent the past several years training New Japan’s new junior heavyweights. Ogawa’s gimmick for decades has been to make up for his small size with quick pins and counters, and he was also a key trainer in All Japan’s dojo. ZSJ is a grappling master that can tie people in knots without breaking a sweat. And finally, there’s Marufuji, protégé of Mitsuharu Misawa, who has been the heart and soul of NOAH for well over a decade and hasn’t really aged or lost his step since his prime almost twenty years ago. Though I’d prefer this be split into two singles matches, I think this’ll be a tremendous match that will be so competitive that it’ll come down to who gets the first surprise pin for the win. Honestly, this’ll have to be another coin toss prediction; not because of apathy, but because it’s too close to call.

Winners: Naomichi Marufuji and Yoshinari Ogawa [NOAH]

Match #8: Suzuki-gun (again!) [Taichi, Minoru Suzuki and TAKA Michinoku] vs. Sugiura-gun (Takashi Sugiura and Kazushi Sakuraba) and KENTA

This is a match five years in the making. In 2015, New Japan sent Suzuki-gun over to NOAH to help them out and it led to a year-long ‘outside invaders’ angle. But instead of turning things around, a lot of the booking was botched and the result tanked NOAH’s already fledging growth. That led to a sour taste in the mouths of NOAH fans and wrestlers, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sugiura, one of NOAH’s biggest stars of the past decade, will want to get revenge on Suzuki and his goons. That will be the main story, but there will be a second as well: Suzuki vs. Sakuraba in an MMA fighters’ match. Suzuki might be one of MMA’s innovators in Japan, but he’ll be in the ring with the fabled ‘Gracie Hunter’ and one of the most feared men in NOAH. It’ll definitely be one of the most exciting matches on the card.

Winners: Sugiura-gun (Takashi Sugiura and Kazushi Sakuraba) and KENTA [NOAH]

Match #9: House of Torture (EVIL and Dick Togo) vs. Go Shiozaki and Masa Kitamiya

No matter what trickery New Japan tries, EVIL just isn’t that credible a wrestler to me. I don’t buy him as a main-eventer or someone at that top-level in terms of skill. All he has done in the last two years is that he pulled a typical Russo-style swerve and he managed to bloat the Bullet Club even further. He and Togo won’t be a match for Shiozaki – NOAH’s current ace – and Kitamiya, one of NOAH’s top wrestlers. They’ll out-wrestle the House of Torture and leave them lying after just under twenty minutes.

Winners: Go Shiozaki and Masa Kitamiya [NOAH]

Match #10: Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Keiji Muto and Kaito Kiyomiya

This is going to be special. Tanahashi and Okada teaming together after being bitter rivals for almost a full decade against one of NOAH’s top rising stars and KEIJI F***ING MUTO! Even though Muto is WAY past his prime, he has a magnetism and drawing power that few other wrestlers possess. Only Ric Flair and the Undertaker are as captivating as Muto or more so. But as great as this match-up looks on paper, we shouldn’t kid ourselves. Muto is 59 years old with artificial knees, hips, and God only knows what else. He can’t do his moonsault or the handspring corner elbow, move around the ring very much in general anymore. He can still land Shining Wizards, but that just speaks to how smart he has been at making the most out of so little. So his interactions will be limited to a few signature moves and a tense but applause-inducing exchange with his former student Tanahashi. He’ll leave most of the heavy lifting to Kiyomiya, who will do most of the fun stuff and look great against two of New Japan’s greatest wrestlers ever. He’ll take the fall for his team but he’ll look incredibly strong in the process.

Winners: Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi [NJPW]

Match #11: Los Ignobernables de Japón (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, SANADA, Bushi and Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Kongoh (Katsuhiko Nakajima, Kenoh, Manabu Soya, Tadasuke and Aleja)

I hate to say it but this match is a pretty foregone conclusion. Even though Kongoh includes NOAH’s world champion and their National champion, the wrestlers on the New Japan side are stronger overall. Naito is still a solid main-event wrestler despite disappointing a bit in 2021. Takagi is on fire and I think he’ll leave this three-night event with only wins. SANADA was once pegged as a future main-eventer and I think there’s still a sliver of potential left in there. BUSHI is alright as a filler guy but he always knows what to do in these big matches. Lastly, Hiromu is a junior heavyweight wrestling machine that’s as crazy as he is quick. i don’t think NOAH’s team here will have an answer for each one of them and that’ll be their downfall. That said, it’ll be a long and brutish match with lots of key interactions, including a champion vs. champion war between Takagi and Nakajima that’ll probably be the most exciting part of the match.

Winners: Los Ignobernables de Japón (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, SANADA, Bushi and Hiromu Takahashi) [NJPW]

That’s six wins for NOAH and four wins for New Japan (the pre-show doesn’t count here). it makes sense for NOAH to win since the show will be co-aired by their service instead of being exclusive to New Japan World. Also, New Japan winning everything decisively three nights in a row would tire the fans out and be lead to overkill (except for Takagi winning on all three nights).

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Match I’m looking forward to the most: Takagi vs. Okada (Night One), Takagi vs. Ospreay (Night Two), Tanahashi/Okada vs. Muto/Kiyomiya (Night Three)

Match I’m looking forward to the least: The New Japan Ranbo (Night One), The NEVER Six-Man tag match (Night Two), the middle-of-the-card ten-man tag (Night Three)

Longest match: LIJ vs. Kongoh. A ten-man match in the main-event will probably go upwards of 40 to 50 minutes.

Shortest match: Shibata vs. whoever. Given Shibata’s condition, I strongly doubt it goes more than eight minutes.

Overall Excitement level: 8 (Night One), 8 (Night Two), and 6.5 (Night Three)

I think Night One will be a very top-heavy show with four title matches and the special nature of Shibata’s return match. Night Two will have a more balanced card, but I’m most curious about the heavyweight title match than anything else. As for night three, most of the match look promising on paper, but it’s hard to say how they’ll deliver.

And yet, I can’t overstate how disappointed I am with the Night Three line-up. All the biggest stars are thrown into the kinds of tag matches you’d find on a random house show. By booking the show this way, we’re missing out on the following matches:

  • Marufuji vs. KENTA
  • Shiozaki vs. Okada in a battle of the aces
  • Muto vs any of the New Japan dads
  • ZSJ vs. Sugiura (battle of the grapplers)
  • KENTA vs. either Kitamiya or Kiyomiya (two smaller future prospects)
  • Tanahashi vs Muto one-on-one in a student vs. master rematch from Wrestle Kingdom III
  • Suzuki vs. Sakuraba one-on-one
  • Suzuki vs. Sugiura
  • Tanahashi vs. Marufuji G1 2016 rematch
  • Ishii vs. Sugiura
  • Marufuji vs. ZSJ
  • Tanahashi vs. Kiyomiya
  • Okada vs. Nakajima
  • Takagi vs. Nakajima
  • Takagi vs. KENTA
  • Marufuji vs. Takagi
  • SANADA vs. Muto in a student vs. master rematch from 2012-onwards

That’s just a handful of possibilities. It’s so disappointing to have this big NJPW vs. NOAH show happening and there’s not a single singles match on the card. Maybe this’ll lead to something more down the road, but for now this will be one of those ‘it could’ve been so much better’ moments in Wrestle Kingdom history.

Thanks for reading. I will review each show for TJRWrestling not long after it comes out. And be sure to check out my Five-Star and Almost-Five Star Match Reviews series as well.