This article does not contain spoilers.
Wrestle Kingdom is the yearly January spectacle produced by New Japan Pro Wrestling (Shin Nihon Puroresu). The show not only represents the biggest box office opportunity for the promotion, it also provides wrestling fans with over five hours of pure wrestling entertainment. Wrestle Kingdom is no different from other New Japan headline shows, in fact, they all follow the exact same formula.
Wrestle Kingdom distinguishes itself from Sakura Genesis, Wrestling Dontaku, Dominion, King of Pro-Wrestling, and other shows by drawing a larger attendance, a far greater gate, and causing international eyes to watch in anticipation.
Wrestle Kingdom 12 was no different. Not only did the show not disappoint, early projections state the show is responsible for tens of thousands of new subscribers to the New Japan World streaming service and sold over 30,000 tickets – the largest paid audience to watch wrestling at the Tokyo Dome in over two decades.
The show itself was something to behold.
Reactions From Wrestle Kingdom 12
Roppongi 3k(C) vs The Young Bucks [IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship]
Wrestle Kingdom led off with Roppongi 3k against The Young Bucks. I previewed the match several days prior to the event, and it delivered a great story that accomplished several important objectives.
- Effectively set the stage for the rest of the event.
- Told a great psychological story in the ring.
- Showed that Roppongi 3k belong on the big stage.
Those who critique The Young Bucks on lacking psychology should watch this match and closely watch the story they helped to craft.
Never Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Gauntlet Championship
It was fun and as was expected. Toru Yano and Beretta came out of the match looking solid. Of note, Michael Elgin appearing leaves a bad taste in the mouth after the scandal surrounding his role in covering up an alleged sexual assault on a fan in the United States.
Along with the New Japan Pre-Show Rumble, this match allows New Japan to get their entire roster on the card of the biggest show of the year.
Cody vs Kota Ibushi
Cody and Kota put together a match which felt like a throwback to the territory days in the United States. Despite the attraction Cody has become, he still receives a lot of unfair criticism for his ring work.
This was an extremely enjoyable match to watch and told a unique story which will have a ripple effect on future storylines. Brandi Rhodes also deserves a lot of credit for the role she played during the match.
Kota is a natural loveable babyface and he did not disappoint on this stage.
Killer Elite Squad(C) vs Evil & Sanada [IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship]
KES (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith, Jr) are incredible members of the only pure Heel stable in New Japan, the match they were able to have with Evil and Sanada was remarkable. This was my favorite heavyweight tag team match in New Japan in quite some time.
The story told here was set up perfectly by the remarks made by Archer at the Fan Festival. Both teams left this match stronger and helps to revitalize the tag team scene going into 2018.
Minoru Suzuki(C) vs Hirooki Goto [Never Openweight Championship & Hair vs Hair]
If you like a fight, this is the match for you. Suzuki is one of the most underrated wrestlers in the business – being one of the top Heels over the past decade. They don’t come much more intense than he and he always puts on vicious brawls with Goto.
While the Never Openweight Championship is arguably the least prestigious singles title in New Japan, they have done a great job at making the title feel relevant.
Marty Scurll(C) vs Hiromu Takahashi vs Kushida vs Will Ospreay [IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship]
For starters, the entrance from “The Villain” Marty Scurll was absolutely stunning and atmospheric and set the tone for a match which highlighted the strengths of each wrestler. The storyline leading into the match was taken to a new level when they stepped into the ring.
Each worker left everything they had in the ring and it’s difficult to imagine a more put together Junior Heavyweight division when you consider New Japan’s relationship with CMLL, ROH, and the rest of the IWGP Conception.
Hiroshi Tanahashi(C) vs Jay White [IWGP Intercontinental Championship]
Jay White has gone all in on the Switchblade character and with his performance against Tanahashi, he has insured himself as becoming a star in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Tanahashi did an incredible job at making White look like a credible threat despite this being his first match after a return from excursion. White has endless potential and was allowed to shine on one of the biggest stages in the wrestling world.
Kenny Omega(C) vs Chris Jericho [IWGP United States Championship – No DQ]
The backdrop for this match drew in a slew of international fans to the New Japan World streaming service. It’s undeniable that Chris Jericho has a loyal audience which followed him to New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Kenny Omega is a top three domestic draw for New Japan, along with being their top international draw. While this match looked uncommon from what is to be expected within the promotion, yet it lived up to the billing as being a fight.
It’s likely that this isn’t the last time we will see Chris Jericho in a New Japan ring.
Kazuchika Okada(C) vs Tetsuya Naito [IWGP Heavyweight Championship]
Tetsuya Naito had a year to remember. His Intercontinental Championship reign reelevated the title, his G1 Climax win was remarkable, and he solidified himself as the largest merchandise pusher in New Japan.
Okada had numerous amazing matches against Omega, began crafting a name for himself in the eyes of international fans, and came into the match in the midst of the longest IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign in the near thirty-one-year history of the title.
The Tokyo Dome crowd was loud and the two delivered a highly competitive match with a different psychology from any other on the show. Okada established himself along with Omega as being the two best big match wrestlers currently going in the industry. When either one has the opportunity to deliver, they never fail to disappoint.