-With World Tag League concluding, NJPW released the final card for Wrestle Kingdom on Jan. 4, 2019. Several new matches were added to finalize the card including IWGP U.S. Champion Cody Rhodes vs. Juice Robinson, new NEVER Openweight Champion Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay, and G.O.D defending the IWGP Hvt. Tag Team Championship against World Tag League winners EVIL & SANADA and The Young Bucks.
The matches announced for the show are as follows:
IWGP World Hvt. Champion Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, IWGP IC Champion Chris Jericho vs. Tetsuya Naito, Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White, IWGP Jr. Hvt. Champion KUSHIDA vs. Taiji Ishimori, IWGP U.S. Champion Cody Rhodes vs. Juice Robinson, IWGP World Tag Team Champions G.O.D. vs. The Young Bucks vs. L.I.J. (EVIL & SANADA), RPW British Hvt. Champion Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr., IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Team Champions Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs. L.I.J. (BUSHI & Shingo Takagi), NEVER Openweight Champion Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay, Pre show: #1 contender gauntlet match for the NEVER Six Man Tag Team Championship.
Radican’s Analysis: This is probably the deepest Wrestle Kingdom card I’ve seen in a long time. The singles matches on the card should be off the charts and the addition of Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay makes the card even deeper. It’s disappointing that people that invested their time and energy into watching World Tag League and the Jr. Hvt. Tag Team Tournament didn’t get a proper payoff, as L.I.J. was added into the Jr. Hvt. tag match even though they didn’t win the Jr. Hvt. Tournament, and The Young Bucks were added to the heavyweight tag title match even though they didn’t win World Tag League.
There’s a lot to digest with this card, but the top matches should all be fantastic, although I haven’t been thrilled with the build of Omega vs. Tanahashi, that match along with Jericho-Naito and Okada-White should all be fantastic in-ring matches mixed with good storytelling elements.
-NJPW announced their plans today to run their first shows in the U.S. during a regular touring time in Japan. NJPW will run two shows under The New Beginning USA banner. The first show will take place on Jan. 30 in Los Angeles, Calif at The Globe Theater, which is where PWG now tapes their events. On Feb.1, NJPW will debut in Charlotte, N.C. at The Grady Cole center. Wrestlers not on The New Beginning Tour in Sapporo shows, which take place on Feb. 1 and Feb. 2 in Japan will be used for the events held in the U.S.
NJPW called this the third pillar in their U.S. expansion with the other two pillars being big match production and new talent development in reference to the L.A. Dojo with head coach Katsuyori Shibata. It was noted during the press conference announcing the tour that the Young Lions from the L.A. Dojo will be part of these events.
Radican’s Analysis: It seems like NJPW is distancing themselves from ROH with this move. There is no ROH World Title match or presented match at Wrestle Kingdom in January and now NJPW is running a show for the first time in an established ROH market on their own.
On the surface, these shows appear to be scaled down NJPW events in the U.S. with a split roster coming over to the U.S. to put on shows in Los Angeles and Charlotte. It will be fun for fans to be able to get the NJPW experience in the U.S. without having to travel to L.A. to see the company live.
These new “tours” bring about the question of what is going to happen with ROH and NJPW going forward. They still have the big G1 Supercard event at MSG during WrestleMania weekend, but the question that needs to be answered is what is going to happen after that.
The joint tours have gotten stale recently with NJPW sending largely the same roster of L.I.J. members over from Japan multiple times in the past couple of years. It would be interesting to see what these two companies could do together with a more productive working relationship in terms of the quality of the shows and a talent exchange program in place. Ongoing storylines between the two companies would benefit both sides as well.