wrestling / Columns

Csonka’s NJPW WrestleKingdom 13 Preview

January 3, 2019 | Posted by Larry Csonka
NJPW WrestleKingdom 13

WELCOME back to column time with Larry! Today, I am going to discuss and preview the NJPW WrestleKingdom 13 event. Despite the fact that I watch so much wrestling and have been doing so for so long, I still get really excited for the big events. You simply don’t watch as much wrestling as I do unless you’re a huge fan. I love wrestling, because when the wrestling is great, it’s some of the best stuff around. While many will claim WrestleMania to be “THE big show of the year,” and I get that, there is another big show that I feel is extremely important, WrestleKingdom. On January 4th, New Japan takes center stage; and in my opinion, many times, this show sets the tone for the entire year. So today I will break down the card. I hope that you enjoy today’s preview, and feel free to share your thoughts. It’s wrestling, we love it and will disagree. The only rules are “have a take, be respectful of other’s opinions and don’t be a dick.” Also, don’t be afraid of sharing your predictions. Have fun, and always, thanks for reading.

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NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship Gauntlet Pre-Show Match: Rysuke Taguchi, Toru Yano, & Togi Makabe vs. David Finley, Jeff Cobb, & Yuji Nagata vs. Best Friends & Hirooki Goto vs. Killer Elite Squad & Minoru Suzuki vs. Marty Scurll, Adam Page, & Yujiro Takahashi: One of the big changes made to this year’s show was the dropping of the traditional & loved pre-show RAMBO. While the RAMBO was largely fun and loved, which is appreciated, it had no stakes to it and was really just an add people to the show card. But with Bullet Club holding the trios titles and locked into matches on this show, this gauntlet match replaces the RAMBO to crown a #1 contender at the next day’s New Year’s Dash event. This gives us a match with stakes, a match with title implications, and a match with guys that many people wanted to see on the card. I think the top choices are Best Friends & Hirooki Goto (to play into the Jay White’s mole angle) Killer Elite Squad & Minoru Suzuki (to give Suzuki-gun direction) and Marty Scurll, Adam Page, & Yujiro Takahashi (to play into the former allies colliding angle). New Year’s Dash is known for big angles, so I think I’ll go with Best Friends & Hirooki Goto winning and the implosion of CHAOS at the hands of Bullet Club as that angle. WINNERS: Best Friends & Hirooki Goto

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Champion NEVER Openweight Championship Match: Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay: This is the opening match of the main card, and I have no hesitation with slapping the 100% certified banger alert on this one. It’s Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay on one of the biggest shows of the year, Ibushi is one of the most creative big match workers alive and Ospreay is coming off of an absolutely excellent 2018. I have a feeling that this is the start of a long program between the two, which could see several title changes in early 2019 as they look to give some new life to the NEVER division, which has proven, when you have the right guys involved, can be a great addition to the shows. Now I really try to not get ahead of myself here, but based on the skill level of these two, their in-ring histories, and pure potential, this match has the possibility to not only be match of the night, but also a legit MOTY contender. I am beyond hyped for this match, and see a title change here in order to really solidify Ospreay’s elevation and kick off the main show in a big way. WINNER: Will Ospreay

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IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match: Champions Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado vs. Roppongi 3K vs. Shingo & BUSHI: These three teams faced off in the junior tag league tournament, and while they had a great match, I really wasn’t thrilled with the rush to the rematch here as I feel it devalues the tournament and feels a bit lazy to get more guys on the card. But personal objections aside, there is no reason that they shouldn’t deliver another great match here. They all have history working together, the last match was great, and as long as the Suzuki-gun shenanigans don’t overtake the match, I’m good. It’s time for Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado to lose the titles, but I don’t think it’s Roppongi 3K that does it, as I mentioned above, I see a big CHAOS shake up the next day. I see Shingo & BUSHI winning in what I feel will be a big night for LIJ. WINNER: Shingo & BUSHI

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RevPro British Heavyweight Championship Match: Champion Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: Ishii & Sabre have quite the great history working together in great matches, and with the stakes being raised even more at WrestleKingdom, I have no hesitation with slapping the 100% certified banger alert on this one. I have to admit, we’re looking really good with this opening stretch of matches, and these two boys never fail to deliver. The funny thing is that Ishii & Sabre on paper don’t look like a match up that works as well as it does, but Sabre’s grappling style works extremely well against Ishii’s take no prisoners style. This actually plays well when Ishii works to counter Sabre’s grappling, which turns into these intense scrambles which just rule. I think that with Sabre getting such a big push with NJPW this year, the fact that this is for the RevPro title, and that many are picking Sabre to win here. But I have two title changes already, and feel that NJPW will look at this as a way to give Ishii a big WrestleKingdom moment (which I feel he deserves), and that he will retain here, because he’s the best wrestle lad… WINNER: BIG TOM ISHII

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IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match: Champions Guerrillas of Destiny vs. The Young Bucks vs. EVIL & SANADA: Going into the WTL finals, I think that we all saw this one coming. With the Bucks losing the titles and not being in the WTL, the triple threat was the way to go, especially from a match quality standpoint as LIJ & GOD haven’t impressed the last two years in their matches in the finals. The match is also another case of full circle booking. LIJ won the titles last year, lost them to the Bucks, who lost them to GOD. With the Bucks involved, the potential match quality and interest go up exponentially. GOD are fine when in there with quality teams are fine. LIJ can be great, and the Bucks rarely disappoint on the big stage as they are great big match performers. GOD should lose here, and while I wouldn’t rule out a Bucks win, as previously mentioned, I think this will be a big night for LIJ, and have EVIL & SANADA winning. WINNER: EVIL & SANADA

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IWGP Jr. United States Championship Match: Juice Robinson vs. Champion Cody : At WrestleKingdom 11, Cody made his big NJPW debut, defeating Juice Robinson. Cody was primed for big things, while at the Juice was just a solid hand to make sure Cody’s debut came off well. While Cody would move onto be booked like a star in big programs and matches. But during this time, the rise of Juice continued. The fans embraced him, he became a great babyface, and while he failed to win the NEVER & IC titles, he lost in great efforts to big name stars. But Juice kept busting his ass, became even more popular, and earned a shot at the US Title. Juice would finally win gold on what was a great moment. The moment was short-lived, as Juice had a rough G1 and then lost to Cody afterwards, setting up their match, where Cody bested Juice once again and took the title. And now we come full circle as the two rematch at WrestleKingdom. Cody still plans to work NJPW going forward, but the story is all set for Juice to overcome the odds and to finally get his crowning moment on NJPW’s biggest stage. I think that a Cody win here would be a horrible call, he doesn’t need the title, and honestly, they have invested so much into Juice that a loss here would be extremely damaging to him. As for the match, it all depends on Cody and how much of the circus he brings to town. I really hope that’s kept to a minimum and they just focus on having a really good match, with Juice getting his big moment. WINNER: Juice Robinson

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IWGP Heavyweight Jr. Heavyweight Championship Match: KUSHIDA vs. Taiji Ishimori: 2019 was to be the year of Takahashi, but that was prematurely ended when he was injured in a potentially career-ending injury in his match with Dragon Lee. The only good thing to come from this was the fact that NJPW had several names to fall back in, the junior ACE in KUSHIDA, who I felt would win and hold the title to this event and the newly acquired Taiji Ishimori, reborn as the new Bone Solider. Judging off of skill level, potential, and KUSHIDA’s history of big match performances, I have no hesitation with slapping the 100% certified banger alert on this one. KUSHIDA has been a stabilizing force for the division, and I for one think that holding off on crowning Ishimori has been a smart play as he gets fully used to the house style, the new gimmick and built his list of accomplishments before winning on the big stage. The time feels right for Ishimori to take the title and give him the chance to run, and there are rumors of WWE interest in KUSHIDA and some feeling that he may be looking for a move at age 35 after doing it all in the junior’s division, anointing Ishimori as the new champion on the biggest show of the year makes perfect sense. WINNER: Taiji Ishimori

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Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White: The origins of the White vs Okada feud goes all the way back to January 5th, 2017 when Kenny Omega tried to get White to join Bullet Club following White’s failure against Tanahashi at WrestleKingdom. White refused, and joined forces with CHAOS. But he quickly made it known that he wasn’t just there to be a faction bitch and protect Okada. White needed CHAOS, he needed back up and was initially happy to be there, but immediately planted the seeds that faction members shouldn’t shy away from challenging for titles, which were the initial rockings of the boat. You see, following the events on New Year’s Dash, the next stage of White’s plan was revealed as he joined the CHAOS faction. His reasoning behind this was that he wanted to battle Bullet Club and destroy them, but was smart enough to realize that there was no way that he could do it on his own. But while White is with CHAOS, he also made it perfectly clear that he wasn’t there to bow down to, or kiss the ring and or ass of Okada. White made his standing perfectly clear, and that was that he wanted to be a champion, even if that meant challenging the status quo of CHAOS and challenging a member of the stable namely Okada. White now had backup, he had a plan and more importantly, a new title shot in Sapporo against Kenny Omega. And in Sapporo, the plan continued to evolve as Jay White defeated US Champion Kenny Omega to become a champion in NJPW. In the build to the match, White constantly mentioned taking down Bullet Club and causing them to break down from inside, and his victory, in a very good performance, he ended up doing that. After the match, Adam Page (who had been positioned well with wins on both Sapporo shows), arrived to be the first challenger, but when Omega interrupted to hand White the title, Cody Rhodes arrived and accused Omega of stealing Page’s moment. This led to a confrontation, which had been built up very well on Being The Elite, and Cody laying out Omega, and seemingly taking control of Bullet Club. Not only was Bullet Club ripped apart, but also this led to Kota Ibushi making the save and reuniting with Omega, further changing the landscape of NJPW.

The G1 Climax was the next step in the evolution of White and the story. White made an instant impact, pinning Okada & Tanahashi to jump out in front and prove himself. But if you paid attention to the undercards, he wasn’t thrilled with being forced into tags with his CHAOS stablemates, and not only treated them badly but constantly tried to manipulate young YOH into the dark side. It was an arc that ran the entirety of the tournament and then, the issues continued as friction started to grow between White and Okada. White continually questioned Okada’s leadership since he had defeated him, and that led to more tension within CHAOS, specifically involving White, Okada, & YOSHI-HASHI.

White had a big hand in Bullet Club breaking apart, but we shouldn’t forget that to him the relationship with CHAOS was only one of convenience to him. But now we have to wonder, was this Gedo’s master plan all along? Did Gedo see the cracks in Okada’s armor? Was he frustrated that Okada’s CHAOS couldn’t fracture Bullet Club like White was able to? Gedo and Okada’s split during the G1 seemed completely out of nowhere, why did the separation come then? The one thing we know is that we have gone from perfect order to Jay White’s CHAOS, just like he planned. Despite the rocky start at WrestleKingdom, I have been consistent in preaching how NJPW sees White as a possible top Gaijin star. They built him in their dojo, they sent him on his excursion and brought him back against the ACE. The events at NJPW Destruction in Kobe 2018 had been almost a year in the making. From White’s initial failure to joining CHOAS, to winning the US Title, to his wins over Tanahashi and Okada to the final act in Kobe that saw him rise, it all played perfectly. And that includes the Tanahashi and Okada matches some weren’t a fan of; Okada had to beat Tanahashi to surpass Tanahashi’s records. The G1 draw give Tanahashi reason to demand to defend against his greatest rival so that he could feel worthy again Tanahashi had to beat Okada to give him that momentum for WrestleKingdom, and that loss by Okada was the reason for White to finally put his plan into action, unseat Okada, and also lay challenge to Tanahashi’s title shot. He lost, but things shifted again as White joined forces with Bullet Club, and the unthinkable happened, as that put Okada & Tanahashi on the same page.

But while they came together, Okada & Tanahashi repeatedly failed in matches against Bullet Club in multi-man tags, with White standing tall almost every time over the aces. And that all brings up to this match, with White looking to overtake Okada on the biggest stage and solidify his spot as Okada looks to find the Rainmaker of old and not only win, but get back into the title mix. I think that it goes without saying that this match is the biggest match of White’s young career. In terms of character work, White was had an outstanding 2018, and the booking of his dominance during the WTL tag matches against the aces has made him feel like really big deal. He’s also had a lot of very good and even great matches, but I feel that he’s missing that marquee/excellent match to hang his hat on as a future main event star. And against Okada, he’ll get every chance to do so. But now we come down to who wins? White has owned Okada for months and Okada overcoming and looking to slide back into the title mix makes sense. It wouldn’t even mean ending the feud, as there is a lot of stuff coming up and White could easily ruin Okada’s chances by beating him in the New Japan Cup to continue the issues. But White winning would be huge and again show another big shift and he of course needs the win more than Okada does. In all honesty, I THINK White SHOULD win here, and there is really a lot more to the fall of Okada story they haven’t told and if White is going to be a player, failing at back to back WrestleKingdom events doesn’t help, even if those losses are to Tanahashi and Okada. But I think NJPW keeps serve and hopes that a great and memorable White performance against Okada is enough. WINNER: Kazuchika Okada

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IWGP Heavyweight Intercontinental Championship Match: Champion Chris Jericho vs. Tetsuya Naito: Much like White & Okada, The origins of the Jericho vs. Naito feud goes all the way back to January 5th, 2017 when Naito first attacked Naito at New Year’s Dash to kickoff their feud. Jericho was enraged and embarrassed over his loss to Omega, but Naito looked like a great consolation prize. Naito obviously wanted revenge, but Jericho was setting all the rules, and controlling the game board, frustrating the normally traquilo Naito. It wasn’t until four-months later that a wild Chris Jericho would appear, attacking Naito again at Wrestling Dontaku. Jericho was up 2-0, and that got him a title shot the next month at Dominion. Jericho went shock and awe on Naito, Naito never seemed on his game, and Jericho defeated him to take his title. Jericho then did a short feud with EVIL defeating him and retaining the title as a bridge to get back to Naito. The feud has lasted nearly a year, and while people have been critical of how Jericho has been used, you can’t argue with the fact that he’s felt important and when advertised, has moved business, and overall his matches have been well-received. He gets another chance to impress here, while Naito is looking to make this match his game, on his terms and under his rules as he looks to regain his championship. I’ve said it before in this preview, it’s going to be a big night for LIJ, and Naito retan9ng is part of that. WINNER: Tetsuya Naito

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IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Champion Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi: Three years ago, Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi was to be the marquee secondary feud over the IC Title. Omega was the brash, new heavyweight that thought he had the answers to NJPW’s expansion questions, while admitting that Tanahashi was a legend that saved the company, but wasn’t the man to lead the expansion. But even deeper than the title and main event of the biggest showoff the year is the philosophical difference they are waging war over as they try to prove whose art form and vision of pro wrestling is superior. I think that it goes without saying that this match gets the 100% certified banger alert. Omega has been great in 2108, won the title, made differences in business in the US & Japan, and while not everything is an unrealistic 5 star classic, Omega rarely disappoints, and if he does. It’s when he’s dicking around in house show Kenny mode, not in the dome. Tanahashi’s entire 2018 arc has been fucking amazing, going from the old warrior that was fighting through injury and coming up short, losing his records to Okada and some saying the ace was dead, to putting together a miracle run and not only dominating the G1, but delivering the greatest G1 finals performance in victory. Omega as champion has worked well and is best for international expansion, but I also think a lot of the Omega story was his chase and finally winning the title while reuniting with Ibushi along the way. There are also a lot of rumors about his 2019 NJPW status, which is why he isn’t doing a ton of media, as he said that he doesn’t want to lie about things. And then there is the masterfully done Hiroshi Tanahashi that I as a fan am ALL IN ON and completely invested in. After the emotional ride I’ve been on with the ace is 2018, there is nothing more than I want to see than him holding the title high and air guitaring his ass off to celebrate and close the show. I also think there’s a huge chance he wins, mainly because if you thought there was a huge disappointment and hangover when Naito lost, I think it would be worse here. Also, a Tanahashi win opens up matches with Omega or Okada at the G1 Supercard event over Mania weekend. WINNER: Hiroshi Tanahashi


– End scene.

– Thanks for reading.

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“Byyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyye Felicia!”