For the first time ever, Wrestle Kingdom 14 is a two night extravaganza where the first of its kind scenario will happen on night one and two as history will be made. Four men will go into night one with a shot at history, two going is as champions, and two going in as challengers. It truly is the first-time ever situation that so many have excitement for. That is why we are here to break down all four men’ road to Wrestle Kingdom 14 since Wrestle Kingdom 13 last year. It has been an impressive year for New Japan Pro Wrestling, with these four men having completely different roads to getting a shot at making history in the Double Gold Dash.
IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada. G1 Climax winner, Kota Ibushi. IWGP Intercontinental Champion, Jay White. And Tetsuya Naito. One man leaves as the first-ever dual IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion. Here’s officially how each man got here.
The IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada, returned to form in the past calendar year despite starting off with a rather shaky Wrestle Kingdom 13. An event that we will go back and look at right now. Okada went one-on-one with Jay White as NJPW’s huge event and returned in a “vintage” Okada style by returning to his blonde hair and his classic shorts that he for so long dawned in his dominance the years before. This was also the first time since Wrestle Kingdom VI in 2012 that Okada was not competing for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship as either champion or challenger. It was unusual waters for Okada and it led to him coming up short, suffering defeat at the hands of White and many wondering what was next for “The Rainmaker”.
Okada’s next big test was the New Japan Cup. Winning the Cup would give him the chance to challenge Jay White again, this time for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at the G1 Supercard inside Madison Square Garden. Okada defeated the likes of Will Ospreay, Tomohiro Ishii, and SANADA in the finals to win his opportunity at redemption.
Redemption time it was, as the main event of the G1 Supercard saw Jay White defend the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the very first time against Okada. After 30-plus minutes of back and forth action, it was “The Rainmaker” Okada who won his fifth IWGP Heavyweight Championship and officially returned to the mountain top of New Japan.
Okada was clearly finding his stride at the right time, as he had defense after defense against some of the best challengers possible. At Wrestling Dontaku 2019, Okada faced SANADA once again but had no problem in the end. It was another win for the champion over SANADA, but just a month later had to go head-to-head in a first-time-ever match against Chris Jericho at Dominion. “The Painmaker” had done everything in his power to get into the head of Okada and at times come close to winning his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship from one of the best champs ever. He came up short, however, as Okada once again proved to everyone that he is the top dog in New Japan for a reason.
The G1 Climax was up next for Okada, who, with a win, could have become the first IWGP Heavyweight Champion to ever win the tournament and decide his own opponent at Wrestle Kingdom 14. The champion actually tied for the most points in the entire tournament, but a loss to the Block A winner, the G1 Climax winner, and his opponent at Wrestle Kingdom 14, Kota Ibushi, gave Ibushi the advantage in seeding.
What stood in the way of Okada being in the main event on Night One were two men. First, Minoru Suzuki at Royal Quest. Second was SANADA, the only other man to defeat Okada in the G1. “The Rainmaker” himself managed to successfully defend his title against both men, despite his fourth time against SANADA going almost 40 minutes at King of Pro Wrestling.
After plenty of back and forth between him and his opponent, the possible wrestler of the decade has a true shot at making more history at Wrestle Kingdom 14. Beginning with Kota Ibushi in the main event of Night One.
Kota Ibushi signed an exclusive contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling last year for the first time, solidifying his future and giving NJPW the opportunity to fully get behind “The Golden Star”. A year ago, Ibushi went one-on-one with Will Ospreay for Ibushi’s NEVER Openweight Championship. This was a match that Ospreay discussed dreaming of and he managed to come out the winner over Ibushi. The bout included the scary Hidden Blade elbow to the back of Ibushi’s head that seemingly knocked him out cold. It was time for Ibushi to reassess what was next for him after the loss. He didn’t compete until the New Japan Cup, where he managed to get through one round by defeating Tetsuya Naito but then losing to Zack Sabre Jr. in the second round and ending his shot at heading to the G1 Supercard to compete for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Rather than that, he earned an IWGP Intercontinental Championship match with his win over Naito in the first round. At the G1 Supercard, he won his first Intercontinental title by pinning Naito for a second straight match. The bout between these two was quite possibly the best match on the entire card, with both men putting their careers on the line at times with the moves that were executed in this one. Kota Ibushi’s win here only furthers the belief that New Japan was fully behind Ibushi as one of their top guys.
What happened next for Ibushi only made sense, as he had to defend his championship against Zack Sabre Jr., the man who eliminated him from the New Japan Cup. This one was not so shockingly back and forth, with Sabre working over the limbs of Ibushi in an almost 30-minute marathon to the end. The master of the Kami-Goye managed to pull out the win, however, giving him a huge first title defense to add to his reign.
A first successful title defense was all that we could appreciate for Ibushi’s IWGP Intercontinental title run. At Dominion, he faced Naito in a rematch, leading to Naito winning to win back the IWGP Intercontinental Championship yet again. With Kota suffering the loss two month’s into his title reign, many asked what would be next for “The Golden Star”. It was simple actually. The 29th edition of the G1 Climax.
Kota Ibushi had no hot start in any way when it comes to the G1. He kicked off against Kenta, a match that saw him badly hurt his ankle and lose the match. Ibushi was limited to start the tournament already, giving him a difficult shot to run the table. In his second bout, he found him on the losing side again to EVIL. To even have a shot, he was going to go almost undefeated for the remainder of the honored tourney. That’s exactly what he managed to do. Wins over Will Ospreay, SANADA and Hiroshi Tanahashi highlighted his huge wins. It call came down to the final match of the tournament between him and Okada, where the winner would win Block A. Like I said earlier, Ibushi walked out as the winner and went to the finals to face Block B winner, Jay White. It was there where these two had one of the best matches of the whole tournament, with Ibushi winning the first G1 Climax of his career.
With his two losses coming to Kenta and EVIL, he defended his contendership against both men. As you can see by him being part of this primer, he succeeded in both matches and proceeded to stay alive and set his sights on Kazuchika Okada. Now, it is time for Ibushi to not only win his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship but become the first-ever dual champion in IWGP title history. He has outlived everyone in the G1, now it’s him time to do so in the Double Gold Dash.
What a year for the new top gaijin in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Out of all the four men chasing this opportunity, Jay White may have had the best year altogether. In one year’s time, fans had to go from loathing White to living in the “Cut Throat Era”. At Wrestle Kingdom 13, the era that White wanted to bring in as the Bullet Club leader was in full force when he went one-on-one with Kazuchika Okada. The “Switchblade” faced the revamped Okada in the biggest match of his career on the grandest stage. He made the world breathe with the Switchblade when he won the match with the Blade Runner on Okada to capture the win. The major win over Okada propelled him to the top of the mountain, giving him all the confidence in the world as the new “face” of New Japan.
“Switchblade” laid his eyes on Hiroshi Tanahashi and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Fans around the world believed that it was not White’s time just yet even though it was coming. The “Cut Throat Era” was made official when he shocked the world, pinning Hiroshi Tanahashi in the middle of the ring at the New Beginning In Osaka. 30 minutes into the next biggest match of his career and he became the champion. Top gaijin? Yep. The 68th IWGP Heavyweight Champion? You bet.
White’s first title defense would be at the G1 Supercard. And that defense would be against the same man he had beaten twice before in Kazuchika Okada. A piece of cake could have been expected for “Switchblade”, but there is something about Okada that proves to come out on top almost 90 percent of the time. And that’s exactly what happened, as the reign of White was over before it could ever really start. To “Switchblade” sit there and accept defeat? Or did the “cut-throat” gaijin to anything and everything to get back on top? He did all in his power to get back to the top.
Singles matches against Hirooki Goto and Tanahashi were exactly what could get him back on top. White captured wins in both bouts, setting him up beautifully just in time for the G1 Climax.
Even though he won both of these matches to get himself refocused, his start in the G1 Climax was incredibly disastrous. The cut-throat mindset was seemingly missing, as his focus was off. He expected a huge win over Goto to start off but was instead decimated early on and started off 0-1. His next two tourney matches would be against Tomohiro Ishii and the goofiest of them all, Toru Yano. White got pinned by Ishii, then rolled up by Yano to set him far back in Block B. White needed a miracle to get back into it, which is exactly what he got. Undefeated the rest of the way with a Block B clinching win on the last night against Tetsuya Naito gave him a shot at Kota Ibushi in the finals. Unfortunately for him, it was “The Golden Star” who’s name was called rather than the “Switchblade”.
Not all hope was lost for White, though, as a win against Naito in the tournament earned him an IWGP Intercontinental Championship opportunity at Destruction in Kobe. The man would not be denied, as the tough year for his Wrestle Kingdom 14 opponent continued while the year of the “Switchblade” had him win his first Intercontinental title. A successful defense over Goto was all he had to experience on his way to the next biggest night(s) of his career.
After the year he had, all signs point to “Switchblade” continuing his rise by winning the Double Gold Dash.
Is Wrestle Kingdom 14 the final “Destino” for Tetsuya Naito? He can only hope following 2019 that was in all cases one of his weakest years in recent memories. The fan-favorite can not only be the underdog out of the four but the one with the most to lose despite not holding a championship. This tough year can only lead to one thing. The first-ever dual IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion. Otherwise, the hopes of Naito being a top contender ever again may be lost for good. His “down” year started at Wrestle Kingdom 13. Believe it or not, he actually walked out successful at the show when he regained the IWGP Intercontinental Championship from Chris Jericho, making it his third title reign. But after this, the downhill spiral began.
The unquestioned leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon had no problems defending his championship heading into the New Japan Cup. But it was the Cup that saw him suffer his first major defeat of many in the year of 2019. Naito lasted just one round, losing to Kota Ibushi in the first to halt his chances of competing for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the first time in a long time. Rather than chasing the title he hadn’t held since 2016, he had to defend his own championship against Ibushi at the G1 Supercard. As have noticed prior, it was another loss for Naito.
Two months later, he would manage to regain the title he lost for the fourth time in his career. By the time he knew it, it was time for Naito to enter the G1 Climax, going in with a rather rocky first half of the year. Ugly losses to Toru Yano and Taichi had Naito railing and fans complaining as no one could understand why it wasn’t Naito’s time to shine. No fear, as Naito figured out a way to find some momentum with wins over Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii to grab four points in total and get back on track. But it was the match against Jon Moxley that sent him back to troubling waters in the tournament. He was going to have to follow the footsteps of Jay White and win out. The problem is that he had almost zero chance unless he pinned White in the finals. He managed to run the table until the final day, the day where White pinned him to move on to the finals. Naito was once again left without anything to show.
The rest of 2019 wasn’t too impressive for Naito, who would lose his IWGP Intercontinental Championship to White and his only singles win the rest of the year would come against Taichi. Trying to understand what was next was simple, but nothing really fans could be excited for until now. Tetsuya Naito now has a chance at redemption, climbing to the top of the mountain, and finally being in the spot that he has been long awaiting for so many years. This is by far a non-bias primer, but as a wrestling fan and a person, its difficult to not be cheering for Naito in this one. The talent is there. The charisma is there. This could finally be the event where Tetsuya Naito achieves the glory he has been forever chasing.
Well, there you have it. Four men all chase the opportunity for one goal, which is to be the first-ever dual IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion. We do not know if there will ever be another to hold both championships at the same time. So for now, this is the biggest match in the history of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Who will get past night one to compete in the Double Gold Dash on night two of Wrestle Kingdom 14?
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