New Japan Pro-Wrestling kicks off its first of two nights at the Tokyo Dome tonight for Wrestle Kingdom 14. Five titles are set to be defended between the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Championship, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship and both the IWGP Intercontinental and IWGP Heavyweight Championships. Let’s get started!
Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger Retirement Match Part I
Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, Tatsumi Fujinami, The Great Sasuke & Tiger Mask IV vs Naoki Sano, Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Ryusuke Taguchi w/ Special Referee: Norio Honaga
These type of legend matches pop up several times a year across Japan. Normally, you see the veterans flex themselves into the main event spot, hit a handful of signature spots and call it a night. Frustratingly gracious, Liger called for the match to open up the show. In any other promotion across the country this match would be slotted post-intermission or would go on just before intermission as the earliest. Liger has asked for a low-key exit with some of his greatest rivals so that’s what we’ll see here and knowing Liger like we do, it wouldn’t be shocking if he let Taguchi pin him.
Prediction: Team Liger
SANADA, EVIL, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI vs Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi & El Desperado
What looks like a preview match for the following night’s title match between SANADA and Sabre could very well end up being more significant. Minoru Suzuki is nowhere to be seen on the second night. Why? Word has come out he’s been frustrated with his positioning in the company for the better after of 2019 and if it weren’t for his feud with Liger, would’ve asked to split sooner. Pro Wrestling NOAH has a show on the following night that will be airing live from Korakuen Hall. It’s a mystery card that the company has touted as something special so with Suzuki’s ties to NOAH (he’s friends with a lot of the guys along with the booker) don’t be surprised if something big happens with Tai…I mean Suzuki-Gun.
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI vs KENTA, Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi
Just like I believe something signicant will happen in the prior match, we’ll be getting a special moment here as well. This is Wrestle Kingdom, there’s no need for a senseless match, especially this high up the card. Bullet Club will lose but continue the beatdown after the match which draws out Shibata to set up him seconding Goto the following night.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Guerillas of Destiny (c) vs FinJuice
Like any sane person (which I haven’t been the last two years) I tapped out on the World Tag League. FinJuice won the tournament and are being awarded with a carry job for Wrestle Kingdom. No one cares enough about G.O.D. to make a reaction one way or another so it’ll be up to FinJuice to elicit any sort of reaction from the crowd or else the match will die a slow and awkward death. Juice having a singles match the following night leads you to believe he’ll lose this one. That’s what you should bet on but I’m going with my heart because who cares, it’s the New Japan tag division.
IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Championship
Texas Death Match – KO or Submission Only
Lance Archer (c) vs Jon Moxley
There’s two modes of thinking; either they stick with the original plan of Moxley/Juice or continue on the new story between Juice and Archer. Word is, Moxley can opt out of his AEW contract later this year. If he does that, continuing a Moxley program benefits NJPW much more than it does Archer. If Moxley is happy with AEW, you have Archer right here to carry the slack. New Japan likes to carry out their original plans so if Moxley was intended to face Juice then I think it’s a homerun they stay in that direction.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay (c) vs Hiromu Takahashi
Hiromu’s first chance at the title after having to vacate in July, 2018. Normally you don’t see a guy returning from injury win the title so quickly but I think with Hiromu being featured in the match with Liger the following day, you need to have the IWGP Junior title present in that ring. Liger putting Hiromu over is a great moment in of itself but him then putting the title around Hiromu’s waist would be the cherry on top.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Jay White (c) vs Tetsuya Naito
I think this is the safest bet of the entire show. You do NOT put Naito in the consolation match the following night. Screw him over again to close that show out all you want but they need to give the fans that hope on the 5th. Naito has become Nakamura 2.0 with this title. It always finds a way back to him. Since White beat him last, there’s no way they’d allow him a second in a row. Break the fns heart on the 5th but don’t rope them of their hope.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kota Ibushi
As it currently stands, the only person to cash in on their G1 Climax victory and win the title is Hiroshi Tanahashi, who just happens to be Ibushi’s role model. They can run this one of two way by either having Ibushi match Tanahashi or go on a similar redemption run until finally meeting that goal. By having Ibushi beat Okada, they could have him lose on the following night to Naito and have to start from scratch all over again. I believe the first option is the way they will go.
New Japan loves creating clones so Ibushi suffering this loss and forcing him to start fresh is a very new ace-like approach. Then factoring in the Okada/Naito story, it all makes sense they’d go in that direction. Naito has yet to defeat Okada in the Tokyo Dome and that’s the story most fans are hoping to see this weekend so you can’t rob them of that situation because the moment doesn’t mean nearly as much for Naito if he were to conquer his Tokyo Dome curse by beating Ibushi. Okada must win this match because it helps bring together everyone else’s story as well.