NZPWI Roundtable: NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12

More than 30,000 fans will pack the Tokyo Dome for Wrestle Kingdom 12, NJPW’s biggest event of the year, this Thursday, January 4.

Featuring a “double main event”, Kazuchika Okada defends the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Tetsuya Naito in the last bout of the night. And in a highly anticipated No Disqualification Match, Chris Jericho challenges IWGP United States Champion Kenny Omega.

New Zealand will be well represented when Jay White faces IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi. Bad Luck Fale and tag team partners the Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) defend their Never Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championships in a Gauntlet Match against four other teams.

Who will emerge victorious at the Tokyo Dome and begin 2018 in the biggest way possible? Join the NZPWI Roundtable as we break down the card for NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12.

***

IWGP Heavyweight Championship:
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito

Grady Hooker:
So much history in one match. Okada had the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for all of 2017. It’s time for a change, and that change has Naito’s name written all over it.
Winner: Tetsuya Naito

Richard Butler:
This match has been years in the making and the lead-up has been tremendous. Okada is fighting to keep his title and extend his record-setting reign. Naito is fighting for himself, for redemption. After being denied the main event of Wrestle Kingdom a couple years ago by a fan vote, Naito is out to prove everyone wrong, prove he is the man and that he is the best.
Winner: Tetsuya Naito

David Dunn:
Okada has cemented himself as an all-time great with his reign as the 65th IWGP Heavyweight Champion. It feels silly to bet against him, it really does, but when you’ve been at the top of the mountain for so long, the only way is down.
Winner: Tetsuya Naito

 

IWGP United States Championship, No Disqualification Match:
Kenny Omega (c) vs. Chris Jericho

Grady Hooker:
The surprise of 2017 right here, that this match is even happening! No disqualification is going to let Omega and Jericho go at it and tear the roof off the building in one of the many match of the night contenders. In terms of a winner, I think they are both pretty even on a mental stand-point, but Omega has got the physicality down while Jericho is busy planning a cruise.
Winner: Kenny Omega

Richard Butler:
That’s right, Chris Jericho, Y2J, the Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla is in New Japan for what many had thought was a dream match that would never happen. I really don’t know which way this will go. On one hand, I don’t see Jericho sticking around too long, so if he’s just there for the cheque does he care about the win? Kenny, on the other hand, has the United States title to lose and no doubt he wants to prove that he is the future of the business. By that logic Kenny Omega should win… but this match is so out of left field who knows?
Winner: Kenny Omega

David Dunn:
Jericho’s been one step ahead of Omega ever since this match was announced—surprising Omega as his challenger at Power Struggle and later bloodying him in a nasty attack in Fukuoka. This is a match Omega wanted, but I think “The Cleaner” should be careful what he wishes for…
Winner: Chris Jericho

 

IWGP Intercontinental Championship:
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Jay White

Grady Hooker:
How can I not root for the Kiwi boy here? With all respect to Tanahashi and the Intercontinental Championship, it is time to step aside and let our boy “Switchblade” hold the title upon his return from a successful excursion.
Winner: Jay White

Richard Butler:
The Ace of New Japan vs. the returning Young Lion. Since leaving New Japan to go on his excursion Jay White has been attracting a lot of attention wrestling frequently in ROH. Tanahashi is the man in New Japan though—arguably the most popular wrestler on the New Japan roster known for his grit, determination and never say die attitude. That said, Jay White has youth on his side and a new, darker outlook on life, not to mention he’s a Kiwi which has to count for something, right?
Winner: Jay White

David Dunn:
Tanahashi’s been such a pivotal part of NJPW’s identity, but he’s showing the wear-and-tear from a decade at the top of the game. White, meanwhile, hasn’t even entered his prime. “Switchblade” proved he’s not above exploiting a weakness when he returned to NJPW and laid out Tanahashi at Power Struggle. In the state Tanahashi’s currently in, it’s only a matter of time before White finds another one.
Winner: Jay White

 

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:
Marty Scurll (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kushida vs. Will Ospreay

Grady Hooker:
This is going to be good. I can’t even begin to analyse all of the guys in this one, but I know that Will Ospreay has had a really good 2017 and I think it might be his time to snatch the title back from Scurll after their match at Power Struggle left Bullet Club with another championship.
Winner: Will Ospreay

Richard Butler:
This match will be incredible. Four of the absolute best junior heavyweight wrestlers in the world in one ring at one time. All of these men have issues with each other. This match would be a main event on any other card in the world and I expect it to deliver like one. It’s so hard to call who will win this so I’m just going to make a selfish call and hope it’s Ospreay so he can bring the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship with him to SPW Fight Nights.
Winner: Will Ospreay

David Dunn:
The title is anyone’s for the taking in a Fatal 4-Way, but I can’t help but favour five-time champ Kushida and his impressive record in NJPW’s junior heavyweight division.
Winner: Kushida

 

Never Openweight Championship, Hair vs. Hair:
Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Hirooki Goto

Grady Hooker:
Not only can Suzuki lose his hair, but with the title on the line it isn’t going to be easy for Goto to pick up the win. The extra restrictions on the match attempt to tip the scales back into Goto’s favour by removing Suzuki-gun seconds from the equation, but I think you will find Suzuki leaving with the Never Openweight Championship.
Winner: Minoru Suzuki

Richard Butler:
Minoru Suzuki must be the scariest man in professional wrestling today. He is sadistic, skillful, and strong. Hirooki Goto has great fighting spirit and that great never say die attitude that Japanese wrestlers pride themselves on. Recently Suzuki has been relying a bit on his buddies in Suzuki-gun to help him pick up victories. Without them at ringside he might be slightly disadvantaged.
Winner: Hirooki Goto

David Dunn:
Wrestle Kingdom 12 is where Hirooki Goto finally shakes his reputation as a nearly-man, the perennial bridesmaid of NJPW. Losing your hair is a big deal in Japanese culture, so for Goto to propose that stipulation shows his state of mind. He’s going all-in at the Tokyo Dome.
Winner: Hirooki Goto

 

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship:
Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr & Lance Archer) (c) vs. Evil & Sanada

Grady Hooker:
Davey Boy and Lance may have got a good score in the World Tag league this year, but the guys from Los Ingobernables de Japon took out the entire thing. I feel sorry for KES because they are about to be in for a hell of a lot of pain.
Winners: Evil & Sanada

Richard Butler:
I have a feeling that this match will foreshadow the main event with Naito’s Los Ingobernables de Japon stablemates claiming the tag titles from Suzuki-gun’s KES.
Winners: Evil & Sanada

David Dunn:
Evil and Sanada are riding the momentum from their World Tag League win all the way into Wrestle Kingdom. This looks like another loss for the Suzuki-gun stable to me.
Winners: Evil & Sanada

 

Cody w/ Brandi Rhodes vs. Kota Ibushi

Grady Hooker:
This one should be bloody awesome (a theme for the matches on this card) with Cody really pulling himself up into super-stardom since leaving WWE and Ibushi being the one that got away. Both guys are real hot right now, and that is what makes predicting this a little bit harder, but I gotta give the edge to Ibushi purely because I don’t want to just pick all the Bullet Club guys to win.
Winner: Kota Ibushi

Richard Butler:
This match is very interesting me. Kota Ibushi is the former tag partner of Kenny Omega and recently Cody and Omega have been slightly at odds within the Bullet Club. With that in mind I’m expecting Cody to use this match to send Kenny a message.
Winner: Cody

David Dunn:
Cody seems slightly better rounded than Ibushi in my eyes. Ibushi’s world-class when it comes to high-flying and striking, but Cody was born into the business and seems to be at his best when he’s not weighed down in Bullet Club drama.
Winner: Cody

 

Never Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship, Gauntlet Match:
Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa (c) vs. Beretta, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano vs. Michael Elgin & War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe) vs. Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi & Togi Makabe vs. Taichi, Takashi Iizuka & Zack Sabre Jr

Grady Hooker:
I’m scared to bet against Bad Luck Fale for fear he will find me and kill me. Putting that to the side, there are some great three-man teams in here representing a huge spread of styles—and the gauntlet stipulation should provide some interesting match-ups. I still lean towards the Bullet Club keeping their titles coming out of this one.
Winners: Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa

Richard Butler:
So much of this match will come down to the order of entry, which we won’t know until the match begins. That makes making an accurate pick very hard, so I’ll go with the only Kiwi in the match again.
Winners: Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa

David Dunn:
There’s no champions’ advantage per se, but I think the champions definitely have an advantage. Especially if the luck of the draw is on their side when it comes to entry order. Either way, Bullet Club should survive with their titles intact.
Winners: Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa

 

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship:
Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh) (c) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson)

Grady Hooker:
I love me some Young Bucks, but they have been on the top of the tag team scene across the independents and NJPW for too long. I also love Rocky Romero, so that helps Sho and Yoh when it comes to me picking a winner here.
Winners: Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh)

Richard Butler:
This match is going to be a lot of fun to watch. I never bet against The Young Bucks because they always find new ways to innovate and catch their opponents off guard.
Winners: The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson)

David Dunn:
Under the guidance of Rocky Romero, Roppongi 3K can do no wrong. This’ll be a high-energy, great start to Wrestle Kingdom 12, and it’ll be a victory for Sho and Yoh.
Winners: Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh)

 

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12 Picks Summary:

IWGP Heavyweight Championship:
Kazuchika Okada: 0 (0%)
Tetsuya Naito: 3 (100%)

IWGP United States Championship:
Chris Jericho: 1 (33%)
Kenny Omega: 2 (67%)

IWGP Intercontinental Championship:
Hiroshi Tanahashi: 0 (0%)
Jay White: 3 (100%)

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:
Hiromu Takahashi: 0 (0%)
Kushida: 1 (33%)
Marty Scurll: 0 (0%)
Will Ospreay: 2 (67%)

Never Openweight Championship:
Hirooki Goto: 2 (67%)
Minoru Suzuki: 1 (33%)

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship:
Evil & Sanada: 3 (100%)
Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr & Lance Archer): 0 (0%)

Cody: 2 (67%)
Kota Ibushi: 1 (33%)

Never Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship:
Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa: 3 (100%)
Beretta, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano: 0 (0%)
Michael Elgin & War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe): 0 (0%)
Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi & Togi Makabe: 0 (0%)
Taichi, Takashi Iizuka & Zack Sabre Jr: 0 (0%)

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship:
Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh): 2 (67%)
The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson): 1 (33%)

 

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12
Thursday, January 4
9pm NZDT (New Japan Rumble from 8pm NZDT)
NJPW World