RADICAN’S NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12 preview: Everything you need to know about NJPW’s biggest show of the year headlined by Jericho-Omega, Okada-Naito

By Sean Radican, PWTorch Columnist


Where to watch live at 2:00am Eastern on Jan. 4 and on demand: NJPW World (subscription required). There are two options for commentary. Kevin Kelly and Don Callis will be on English commentary. There is also the option to watch the show with Japanese commentary.

Note: the signup process should be fairly easy. You can now translate the signup page to English.

Devices with NJPWWorld.com apps: Amazon Fire Stick

Devices to cast NJPWWorld.com to your TV: Google Chromecast

Note: You can also wire your computer to your TV with an HDMI chord.

AXS TV will air Wrestle Kingdom 12 in pieces beginning with a three hour premier event on Jan. 6 at 8pm Eastern time with Jim Ross and Josh Barnett on commentary. The top three matches will air on this show (IWGP IC Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White, IWGP U.S. Champion Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho, IWGP Hvt. Champion Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito). The rest of the card will air over the next five weeks as part of the regular NJPW on AXS airings, which will include an encore airing of the three top matches on the show.

Note: If you don’t get AXS TV, it is available as part of many OTT “cut the cord” services like Sling TV Direct TV and Philo

Wrestle Kingdom 12 Lineup

Pre-show: New Japan Rumble

I’m not sure who is going to be in the match, but it’s usually a mix of veterans, Young Lions, and surprises. This is usually a skippable match from my experience.

IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Team Champions Roppongi 3K vs. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson)

The Young Bucks have seemingly done everything there is to do in the Jr. Tag division in NJPW. It’s time for them to move to the heavyweight division and work with different teams. With the way NJPW pushes their tag divisions in general, there’s only so much room for growth for The Young Bucks in the promotion if they don’t move on to working with different teams.

That being said, there aren’t many teams left that Roppongi 3K haven’t beaten. They won the titles in their debut match and have been on a roll ever since. A short-term feud between these two teams would be best for the future of the division. The Young Bucks should go over here and then drop the titles back to Roppongi 3K in February or March.

Gauntlet match: IWGP Never Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champions Bullet Club (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa & Bad Luck Fale) vs. Beretta & Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano vs. Michael Elgin & War Machine (Hanson & Rowe) vs. Suzuki-Gun (Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. & Takashi Ilzuka) vs. Taguchi Japan (Juice Robinson & Ryusuke Taguchi & Togi Makabe)

Anyone can win this match given how often the six-man tag belts change in NJPW. The real shame here is that Tomohiro Ishii and Togi Makabe, who usually are good for a killer match on a big NJPW card, are tied up in this match.

Cody (w/Brandi Rhodes) vs. Kota Ibushi

I wish Cody was a manager and not a wrestler. He’s not terrible in the ring, but his matches are all very similar with few exceptions and they only reach a certain level in the ring with a few exceptions. Ibushi is someone that is capable of putting on a great match with Cody depending on what NJPW wants to do with this match. NJPW was building towards Ibushi vs. Omega at the Tokyo Dome until Chris Jericho came into play. Ibushi vs. Nakamura was an all-time classic at Wrestle Kingdom 9. Ibushi hasn’t been in a high-profile match at Wrestle Kingdom since then and it’s disappointing, but understandable that this is his matchup.

This is a tough match to predict. Cody is likely going to be more active in NJPW this year, so a win over Ibushi makes a lot of sense to build him up going forward. Ibushi can take the loss and not lose anything from it, especially if Cody wins via interference.

IWGP Hvt. Champions Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) vs. L.I.J. (EVIL & SANADA)

I’m not a fan of NJPW’s heavyweight tag division. The matches are largely boring, although they did upgrade the division using War Machine regularly got the last year. This could be a fun match if both teams just go wild. I’m guessing this is the start of a big night for L.I.J. and they take the titles here.

NEVER Openweight Champion Minoru Suzuki vs. Hirooki Goto in a Hair vs. Hair match with Suzuki-Gun banned from ringside

Minoru Suzuki has the best hair in NJPW, so my guess is that he loses this match. The hair stipulation is very interesting. NJPW just doesn’t do many stipulation matches, so I’m wondering if this is an attempt to appeal to a western audience alongside the No DQ stipulation for Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega in the semi-main event.

This should be a fantastic brawl. Suzuki won’t have his partners to rely on here, which is a good thing in my opinion given that Suzuki-Gun interference can just overwhelm Suzuki’s matches at times. Goto is capable of putting on great matches on big stages and this will likely be one of the more memorable matches on the undercard.

IWGP Jr. Hvt. Champion Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA in a Four-way match

This has been a good long-term story. I was against KUSHIDA losing the title so quickly after he avenged his shocking loss to Takahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 11 last year and beat him at Dominion in July. Then all four men involved in the match became intertwined. Ospreay beat KUSHIDA for the title at King of Pro Wrestling and then lost the belt to Scurll at Power Struggle all in the span of a few short months.

Poor Takahashi kept trying to get a title shot and was turned into a comedy character of sorts as he kept getting upstaged by Ospreay and then Scurll. These guys are capable of putting on a really good match if given enough time.

IWGP IC Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White

Wow! What a spot this is for White. A win here over Tanahashi on this stage would establish him immediately as a player in NJPW. I love his new character and how he debuted at Power Struggle by wiping out Tanahashi with his shell shock finisher.

I’m not sure if the dark brooding gimmick is a great fit for White, who has all the makings of a great babyface given his looks. He’s going to have to get over his new character here and if NJPW is confident in him, the best way to get him over quickly is to have him go through Tanahashi in rather convincing fashion. There are some questions here for White to answer about whether or not this character is the right fit for him, but he’s shown so much potential as a Young Lion and during his learning excursion in ROH that I would bet on him to do great in this setting.

IWGP U.S. Champion Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho in a No DQ match

In terms of reaching a western audience, this is the biggest match in NJPW history. It was a brilliant move on Don Callis’s part to pitch the idea of this match to Jericho. Jericho has put in the work flying into Japan multiple times to build the match. The promotion of the match has garnered mainstream media attention and generated a lot of buzz. I’m interested to see what the final attendance number is for the show and how much NJPWWorld.com numbers have grown if they announce them like they usually do.

Jericho bloodied Omega after his six man tag at the World Tag League Finals in December. This match has since been made a No DQ match after their wild brawl at a press conference. On the surface, this seems like an attempt to cater further to the western audience. In NJPW, it seems nearly impossible to get DQ from my experience watching the promotion.

I don’t expect this to be the usual great in-ring performance from Omega, but I am expecting a wild brawl with some run-ins from The Young Bucks and perhaps Cody. Deep down I believe there will be a rematch, so my prediction is that Jericho wins and then Omega wins the strap back from him in the near future.

IWGP Hvt. Champion Kazuchika Okada (w/Gedo) vs. Tetsuya Naito

Naito beat Kenny Omega in the G1 Finals to cap off the best G1 in history. It’s just time for him to beat Okada on this stage and cement himself as a top tier player in NJPW. Okada has had an incredible title reign. He’s been the champion for a year and has had one of the best world title reigns I can remember since the days of Samoa Joe, Nigel McGuinness, and Bryan Danielson in Ring of Honor when they had long-term runs with the ROH World Title.

Okada beat Naito at Wrestle Kingdom 8 after Naito won G1 Climax 23. The Naito we see today is a direct result of his match with Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 8 being voted into the semi-main event slot by popular fan vote after the fans voted the Nakamura vs. Tanahashi match with Nakamura defending the IC Championship into the main event.

Naito underwent a transformation in CMLL and formed L.I.J. in NJPW with EVIL, SANADA, and BUSHI. Naito has held the IWGP Hvt. Championship in the past, but winning it on this stage and ending Okada’s reign would do a ton for him. Okada is already cemented as the guy in NJPW. It’s just Naito’s time for his big moment in the Tokyo Dome.

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Contact Sean at pwtorchsean@gmail.com. Follow Sean on twitter HERE. Follow and like Radican’s Wrestling Community Facebook.com HERE

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