NJPW Wrestle Kingdom Preview

This Thursday morning at 1am, Central time, New Japan Pro Wrestling will present Wrestle Kingdom 12 from the Tokyo Dome -- if you're the President of the United States, I'll take a moment and tell you that Tokyo is the largest city and capital of Japan. And Japan is one of our allies in the Pacific Rim, and one of the economic powers of the world.

Anyway, people are stoked for this year's card for a lot of reasons, and Rick asked me to write-up a short preview for it. Normally I would go into a LOT more detail here, but I have a lot of stuff to prep for this week, so you're getting the Cliff's Notes version here.

New Japan Rumble: If you've never seen the NJR before, it's different from the Royal Rumble in a few ways: participants can be eliminated via pinfall, submission, or getting thrown over the top rope, and I don't think NJPW tries to troll its fans with Roman Reigns entering every six minutes. NJPW doesn't release who is participating in the event, but it's usually a space for older wrestlers to make a quick appearance. My money is on Mr. Sparkle to finally win it this year.

IWGP Jr Tag Team Championship: Roppogni 3K (c) vs The Young Bucks: The descendants of Roppogni Vice, Roppogni 3K have held the titles since October, and seem to be ideal opponents for the Young Bucks who are the most prominent tag team in the world right now (including the WWE). This will be a wild match (I really enjoyed the Young Bucks' work at the last Wrestle Kingdom), and I expect the Young Bucks to win back the titles here by super-kicking Sho Tanaka through a stack of cease-and-desist orders from WWE lawyers.

Cody Rhodes vs Kota Ibushi: Rhodes has been fantastic since leaving the WWE, a path that over wrestlers should follow (cough, Ceasro, cough). But Ibushi's been great too, and I think if any wrestler could deal with a loss right now on the big stage, it's Rhodes. In the non-WWE world, wins and losses do matter.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship (4-Way Match) -- Marty Scurll (c) vs. Will Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA vs. Hiromu Takahashi: God, this match is going to be crazy. My gut says Scurll retains here, but ---- no, he retains.

NEVER Openweight Championship (Hair vs. Hair Match) -- Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Hirooki Goto: One of the things I genuinely miss about matches from the regional-era (NWA, Mid-South, etc) is the element of stipulations. Not only are both wrestlers forbidden from having anyone at ringside, but the loser gets his trademark hair stripped away. I'm really looking forward to this match, and I think Goto wins against the legendary Suzuki.

Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer) (c) vs Los Ingobernable de Japon (Evil and Sanada): Yes, that Lance Archer and that Davey Boy Smith Jr. They are going to lose to Evil and Sanada. As they should. They know why.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Switchbade (Jay White) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (c): White's been given a big push in the last bit of time, and I think the company is really confident in his potential as a heel. Tanahashi -- the man of New Japan for years -- seems to be set-up to do the job for White here. But I could see this as the surprise of the night. Tanahashi retains in a shocker.

IWGP US Heavyweight Championship (No DQ): Chris Jericho vs Kenny Omega (c): Okay, raise your hand if six months ago you saw this happening. *Scans room* PUT YOUR HAND DOWN RON!! Look, people are freaking out -- and rightly so -- about this match: Omega might be the best wrestler on the planet right now, and Jericho is legitimately one of the best characters in the business. So -- who wins? I think Jericho does --- and I base this only on the sense he'll be part of New Japan's big American push in the next few months. Plus, how could you not have a second match between these two??

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Tetsuya Naito vs Kazuchika Okada: One of my favorite current wrestlers right now is Naito, who might be the best heel-face in the world right now. His story -- of being exiled to CMLL after an ineffective babyface run, returning to NJPW as a heel, and being embraced by the fans -- is wonderful, but I don't see New Japan putting the belt on him. Okada's too strong right now. He would be me if he worked for WrestlingShame.

So those are my picks!! If I'm up at 1am on Thursday morning, I'll be covering it for us!!

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