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Posted in: The Eternal Optimist
The Eternal Optimist Presents: The Idiot's Guide to Wrestle Kingdom 12
By Dave Fenichel
Dec 27, 2017 - 11:03:48 PM

Question of the Day: Do you currently watch NJPW? If so, what do you like most about it? If you don’t, what would they have to do to convince you to tune in?

Hi kids.


The joke amongst my inner circle of wrestling friends is that I’m a WWE homer that doesn’t stray outside his lane. They like to ignore that the only piece of wrestling clothing I currently own is a Pentagon t-shirt and I’m the only one in the entire group that watched WWC live on PPV in 1994. Go ahead, take a pause and go look up what that is. I’ll wait here.

Anyway, that same circle of friends heaps praise upon NJPW the way I tend to heap servings of corn pudding upon my plate at Thanksgiving every year. NJPW is hip and trendy. It has not so quietly replaced NXT as the IWC darling promotion of the week.

Curiosity has gotten the best of me. I haven’t been watching regularly nor do I plan to. I enjoy all types of wrestling but with a big boy job, a house, a wife and kid number two on the way, I simply don’t have the time to devote to another promotion. On a related side note, is it or is it not acceptable to refer to your impending second child as “Dropping a Deuce”? Comments and feedback appreciated.

Back to business – I call this The Idiot’s Guide to Wrestle Kingdom 12 because I’m an idiot and I’m providing the guide. Rut rut rut.

Ok. In all seriousness – I’ve been researching NJPW for quite a while now in preparation for this column. My goal is to provide those of you reading this who like myself, aren’t avid NJPW watchers, a beginner’s guide to what they are all about. Without further ado:

The Eternal Optimist Presents: The Idiot’s Guide to Wrestle Kingdom 12.

Before getting into the card itself, there are several things you need to know about NJPW prior to jumping in head first:

Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega Are This Generation’s Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.

Okada and Omega are the unquestioned two building blocks that the entire organization is centered around. Okada is the no-nonsense Bret Hart, Omega the flamboyant Shawn Michaels. Even when they aren’t wrestling each other, the talk constantly centers around the next time they are going to get together. Much like it seemed inevitable that HBK would eventually eclipse Hart and take his spot, it seems to be just as much of a foregone conclusion that Omega eventually knocks Okada off his mantle. If you’re new to NJPW and you’re looking for the top draws, look no further than these two.

Stable Affiliation is a Status Symbol.

New Japan Pro Wrestling has four major stables – The Bullet Club, CHAOS, Suzuki-Gun and Los Ingobernobles de Japon (L.I.J.). In NJPW, stables don’t exist for the purpose of feuding with each other, but rather to signify that a particular wrestler is important through affiliation. Just about all of the major players in the company belong to one of the four abovementioned groups. In fact, only one match on the entire card, the Intercontinental Title Match between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Jay White, consists of solely wrestlers without a stable affiliation. Think of it like the end of the N.W.O. run in WCW – if you didn’t belong to the group, you weren’t important.

NJPW Carries Itself Like a Legitimate Fighting Organization.

It is an undeniable fact that NJPW does a far better job than the WWE in portraying their wrestlers as legitimate athletes engaging in a fighting sport. A lion’s share of the matches at Wrestle Kingdom 12 are title matches that were derived from tournaments to crown the top contenders. Additionally, they group their competitors into weight classes - a) Heavyweight (top guys), b) Jr. Heavyweight (Cruiserweights) and c) NEVER Openweight (Hardcore division with a much stiffer style, no weight restrictions as the name would imply). If you are a fan of realistic competition in your wrestling product, NJPW is the show for you.

Now that you understand some of the basics, here’s why you should care about every match on the card, along with my uneducated prediction on the likely winners.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Title Match – Rappongi 3K v The Young Bucks (Bullet Club).

The Story – None really. Rappongi 3K won the Super Jr. Heavyweight Tag Tournament and were challenged by The Bucks. This is more or less a rinse and repeat storyline every year. The Young Bucks are big stars and are the title challengers almost every year come Wrestle Kingdom. The best parallel that I can draw is the Undertaker come Wrestlemania season. It doesn’t matter what they’ve been up to or if they’ve even been around at all. Come Wrestle Kingdom, you can insert The Bucks into any tag match and it automatically becomes a bigger deal.

Why I’m Looking Forward To It – Like any match featuring the Bucks, it will be a tremendously entertaining spot fest.

Prediction – Rappongi 3K retain. NJPW is all about protecting the integrity of their championships, and it’s unlikely that they booked Rappongi 3K to win the belts only to drop them shortly thereafter.

NEVER OPENWEIGHT 6 Man Title Guantlet Match: Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and Bad Luck Fale (Bullet Club) v Ryusuke Taguchi, Juice Robinson and Togi Makabe v Beretta, Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii (CHAOS) v Hanson, Raymond Roe and Michael Elgin v Taichi, Takashi Iizuka and Zack Sabre Jr (Suzuki Gun)

The Story – There isn’t one. This match is an excuse to get popular wrestlers onto the show. As you can see, three of the four major stables are represented here.

Why I’m Looking Forward To It – I’ve heard really good things about Tama Tonga, Bad Luck Fale and Tomohiro Ishii. I am looking forward to seeing all three in action. Hanson and Raymond Roe make up War Machine, a heavily hyped tag team soon to make their debut in NXT. Juice Robinson used to be C.J. Parker in NXT – a seldom used jobber who has exploded in popularity over the last year in New Japan. Last, but certainly not least, Zack Sabre Jr. is one of the best technical wrestlers in the world. It’s always a treat to see him in action.

Prediction – It’s shaping up to be a bad night for Suzuki-Gun, so I’ll go with the team of Taichi, Iizuka and Sabre Jr. to capture the gold here.

IWGP Tag Title Match: Killer Elite Squad (Suzuki Gun) v EVIL and SANADA (L.I.J.)

The Story – EVIL and SANADA recently won Tag League to earn a title shot at Killer Elite Squad.

Why I’m Looking Forward To It – I’m really not. This looks like the worst match on the show by a landslide. Killer Elite Squad is made up of Lance Archer and none other than Davey Boy Smith Jr. I had no idea that bag of dicks was still wrestling. I’m mildly curious as to whether or not he’s improved from his days of being a giant turd wipe in the WWE, but I have little interest in this match otherwise.

Prediction – L.I.J. isn’t walking away empty handed at WK12, and I think NJPW will want to reward a tourney winner in an effort to continue to legitimize their tournaments as viable methods to create credible challengers. EVIL and SANADA take home the gold.

NEVER OPENWEIGHT Title, Hair v Hair Match: Minoru Suzuki (Suzuki-Gun) v Hirooki Goto (CHAOS)

The Story – This is the closest thing to a traditional feud that you’re going to get on this card. These two have had great matches throughout 2017. Recently, Suzuki has attempted to Shave Goto’s head. Thus, a hair v hair match was made for the title.

Why I’m Looking Forward To It – As I mentioned in my intro, the NEVER OPENWEIGHT division is a hardcore division that is the stiffest of all stiff styles. There are rumors that this match will be an empty arena death match. I have absolutely no idea what that means, but count me in. I’m fairly certain that THERE WILL BE BLOOD.

Prediction – Suzuki has been trying to shave Goto’s head for a while. Logic follows that Goto will turn the tables on Suzuki, win the match and turn him into a marble.

IWGP JR Heavyweight Title Match: Marty Scurll (Bullet Club) v Hiromu Takahashi (L.I.J) v KUSHIDA v Will Ospreay (CHAOS)

The Story – Nothing to see here. These four are widely considered to be the top 4 Junior Heavyweights in the company. Scurll is one of the biggest international stars in the world right now, KUSHIDA and Takahashi are former champs, and although a grade A woman-hating domestic violence-supporting d-bag, Will Ospreay has a tremendous following and can flat out go in the ring.

Why I’m Looking Forward To It – What’s not to like about the 4 best light heavyweights going toe to toe? Also, Hiromu Takahashi apparently either had or still has a pet stuffed cat named Daryl. I’ve been advised that we are not to speak badly about Daryl for if I do, terrible things will happen to me. According to my trusted NJPW avid followers, Daryl Takahashi is everything that is right in the world.

Prediction – Complete toss-up for me. I’m going to lean towards Scurll here. He’s a big star and has only recently debuted in NJPW. I think they’ll look to continue his momentum and have him retain.

IWGP Intercontinental Title Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi v Jay White.

The Story – Not much of one. Tanahashi is a major player in the organization. Jay White recently returned as a heel under the “Switchblade” moniker to set up the title match.

Why I’m Looking Forward To It – A friend I trust is raving about this match. I’ll take his word for it. On paper, this looks like the second least interesting match of the night behind the Tag Title Match.

Prediction – I’m torn on this one. My gut tells me Tanahashi retains, but NJPW is going to need a new title contender after WK12 and he looks like the guy. As such, I’ll go with White to pull off the upset and free up Tanahashi to move onto bigger and better things.

Cody Rhodes (Bullet Club) v Kota Ibushi

The Story – There isn’t one. Cody showed up to the Power Struggle press conference to “taunt” Ibushi. In other words, NJPW pulled a WWE and threw two big stars together for no reason other than to add a big match to their biggest show of the year.

Why I’m Looking Forward To It – Who wouldn’t be psyched about Stardust v The Guy Who Jobbed to T.J. Perkins? Seriously though, Cody is the ROH World Champion and has tons of momentum, and Ibushi is one of the best workers in the world. For the diehard fan, this is a dream match.

Prediction – Cody isn’t coming across the pond as ROH champ to do the job. He’s going over.

IWGP U.S. Title Match: Kenny Omega v Chris Jericho

The Story – Jericho made a shocking appearance recently via a tremendous video package and sneak attack on Omega. He challenged him to a match at WK12. Omega responded by attacking Jericho at the WK12 press conference.

Why I’m Looking Forward to It – Everyone and their mothers are excited about Omega. A match with Jericho brings in some casual to semi-diehard fans that may not normally see the show. It’s a chance for Omega to show the world what he can do. I’m also interested in seeing whether or not Jericho can hang in a style of match bound to be more physical than anything he’s done in years.

Prediction – Pin me, pay me, watch me leave. Kenny Omega wins.

IWGP Heavyweight Title Match: Kazuchika Okada (CHAOS) v Tetsuya Naito (L.I.J.)

The Story – Tetsuya Naito was the somewhat surprising winner of the G-1 Climax Tournament - a multi-month tournament considered to be the most prestigious on the NJPW calendar each year. Like is the case with the Royal Rumble winner, winning the G-1 Climax nets you an automatic title shot in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom.

Why I’m Looking Forward To It – It’s New Lion v Old Lion. Is Okada still the man or is it Naito’s time? Those in the know believe that this will be the best pro-wrestling match of the year. Who am I to argue with that?

Prediction – It all comes down to whether or not you think NJPW is ready to make Naito “the guy”. I don’t think that they are. I’ll take Okada to retain and eventually put over Omega for good at WK13.

That’s a wrap kids. I hope that you had as much fun reading this as I did taking a journey down the tunnel of despair to write it. Agree or disagree? Sound off below!

Who am I kidding? I just wrote an article about NJPW. No one’s reading this crap. End scene.

Facebook: David Fenichel

Twitter: @FFFIghtLeague

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