Pro-wrestling is the absolute greatest thing in the world. Without question. Bar none.
It is the only art form on the planet where, when you step through the doors of the arena, literally anything is possible. On any given night you tune in to a wrestling show and see the most athletic, amazing, utterly ridiculous shit. You can see the son of a billionaire be thrown throw a plate glass window, twice, by a legitimate Olympic gold medalist. You can see a leather-masked, pig squealing psychopath be hurled off a 25-foot cage by an undead shaman. You can see a woman overcome two years of heartbreak, anguish, and external torment to achieve all her dreams through the sheer force of her own heart and determination. Hell, you can see a man reduced to tears after claiming the title his late father held 30 years prior AND another man rise from the grave with an army of giant penises on the same dang show, because – and I cannot stress this enough – pro-wrestling is the greatest goddamned thing on the goddamned planet.
As far as wrestling in Japan goes, it’s practically a national sport. And there are no bigger events than the annual January 4th Wrestle Kingdom show held by New Japan Pro Wrestling.
NJPW is easily the second-largest promotion on the planet, behind only the WWE, and Wrestle Kingdom is only surpassed by WrestleMania for size and reach.
Tonight’s Wrestle Kingdom show, the 13th in its current form, takes place at its traditional home: the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome. You should do everything in your power to watch it. It will absolutely kick ass.
New Japan Pro Wrestling presents a vastly different product to what most western audiences are used to, but it’s by no means less action-packed. This year’s Wrestle Kingdom has a little something for everyone: inter-gang fighting, revenge plots, shocking betrayal, a bi-sexual love story unlike anything put toe screen in any form ever. Literally everything.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a quick run down of the card.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP: Kenny Omega (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
Kenny Omega spent much on 2018 in pursuit of both the elusive IWGP Heavyweight title he could never quite win, and the purest love of all with his former tag team partner/long lost beau Kota Ibushi. After winning the title in June, it almost immediately poisoned his soul, causing him to cheat to retain in a match against Ibushi, tearing the star-crossed lovers apart once again.
In contrast, Hiroshi Tanahashi is easily the most popular wrestler in Japan right now, and one of the most beloved people in the nation full stop. His mission? Wrest the country’s most prestigious wrestling championship away from the evil, brain sick Canadian who is almost certainly going to leave the company the day after Wrestle Kingdom.
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Chris Jericho (c) vs Tetsuya Naito
You might already be aware of Chris Jericho thanks to his various exploits in the WWE and beyond, but what you might not know is that he’s spent the past year leaning all the bloody way into a Marilyn Manson-huffing Vegas stage magician aesthetic while attacking people exclusively via costume.
He, New Japan’s Intercontinental Champion, is set to defend his title against baseball cap and suit enthusiast Tetsuya Naito in a no disqualification match, meaning they’re going to spend 20 minutes beating the ever-loving holy hell out of each other with bats and such until only one man remains standing.
Kazuchika Okada vs Jay White
Okada, New Japan’s former golden boy, is still recovering from the unholy betrayal of having his lifelong friend, mentor, manager, and company boss Gedo show up pretending to have been hit by a car, only to turn around and mace Okada in the face after being exposed. He now has to fight a weirdly built Kiwi named Jay White who is the future of the company and also a world class piece of shit. Get him, Okada. Rip his bloody head off.
IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP: Kushida (c) vs Taiji Ishimori
The Junior Heavyweight division is reserved largely for small boys who move fast, hit hard, and do big flips. Kushida, the champion, is a lovely boy who can do all that. Taiji Ishimori is a troll-faced gang henchman who can do all that too. Ever wanted to see a man wrap another man up into a tiny ball and drop him on his head? This is your chance.
IWGP UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP: Cody (c) vs Juice Robinson
Cody is about to leave the company and form his own game-changing promotion in the United States All Elite Wrestling, so he’s 100% losing to Juice Robinson here. All you really need to know is that Juice nearly didn’t make it to the match after suffering a borderline heart attack due to SUDDEN CRYING CHILD.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: Guerrillas of Destiny (c) vs EVIL & Sanada vs The Young Bucks
Two handsome and virtuous very large Samoan men versus two ungodly terrifying Japanese men versus two virtually identical American brothers with an absurdly popular YouTube following. They’re the goddamned Logan & Jake Paul of wrestling. But… y’know… without the whole “filming a suicide victim and uploading it” thing.
IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado (c) vs Roppongi 3K vs Bushi & Shingo Takagi
Easily scoring the title for match with best named participants, the Junior Heavyweight Tag Title division applies the same rules as the Junior Heavyweight singles division, just with more people. So… move fast, hit hard, do flips, only… y’know… more.
RPW BRITISH HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP: Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr
Zack Sabre Jr is a rangy British man with a deep hatred of conservative Government and a pure love of stretching people until their tendons pop. Tomohiro Ishii, conversely, appears to be a sentient pile of rump steaks.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP: Kota Ibushi (c) vs Will Ospreay
If you happen to pass anyone on the street today wearing a wrestling t-shirt who is openly foaming at the mouth, it’s about this match. This match is going to rule. It is going to kick immeasurable amounts of ass. It is going to melt your fucking mind.
Both Will Ospreay and Kota Ibushi are dead set geniuses at what they do; Will a solid British ball of muscle with apparent IRL cheat codes, and Kota a flying Japanese beautiful man with more guts than brains.
This is a GIF of Will Ospreay temporarily defying gravity to pull another man’s soul out of his body:
This is a GIF of Kota Ibushi deadlifting a 102kg man and throwing him on the back of his damned head:
They’re going to do that to each other.
Fuck. And. Yes.
If you’re interested (and you should be) a bunch of pubs around Australia are hosting viewing parties for the event, like Cheers Bar in Sydney, with the show starting from 6pm.
For those of you at home, you can navigate the Japanese NJPW World streaming service and get stuck into it.
Hell yeah Wrestle Kingdom! Hell yeah pro-wrestling!