Tuesday, January 3, 2023

NJPW WrestleKingdom 17 Preview & Predictions

After three years of two-night WrestleKingdom shows at the Tokyo Dome (with mixed results), NJPW is finally going back to the format that yielded some of the all-time great wrestling PPVs. 

Man, NJPW has been on the opposite of a hot streak since COVID started, but if ever a single PPV lineup had the potential to kickstart their product again, this WrestleKingdom 17 card is it.  The main show will feature ten bouts and include talent from both AEW and WWE (which I believe is a first for WrestleKingdom), not to mention one of the most hotly anticipated dream matches in many a year.  We'll also see the first wrestling-related appearance of the former Sasha Banks, post-WWE contract.  Mercedes Varnado is still everyone's prediction for Saraya's mystery opponent next week on Dynamite, but for now we'll get a public appearance to likely set up a match for the IWGP Women's Title.  On top of that, WK17 will include Keiji Muto's final NJPW match ever.  Lots of history to be made on this show, and on paper this lineup is PPV of the Year-caliber.  

Let's take a look.....

Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima and Togi Makabe vs. Tatsumi Fujinami, Minoru Suzuki and Tiger Mask

This legends six-man match is in tribute to the late Antonio Inoki and likely won't go very long, but should be a fun little way to open the proper show.  I'm gonna go with team Nagata to win and give everyone a nice warm feeling.

Pick: Nagata/Kojima/Makabe

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Catch 2/2 vs. Lio Rush & Yoh

Here's where the real show starts.  Rush and Yoh just took down the Super Jr. Tag League field to earn this title shot and I think they'll probably win here as well.  It'll be interesting to see if Lio Rush can make a run in NJPW work for him, he's been seemingly struggling to keep his head clear elsewhere.

Pick: LiYoh

IWGP Women's Championship: Kairi vs. Tam Nakano

This should be the first great match of the show, made that much bigger with the involvement of Mercedes.  Kairi's title win last month was pretty spectacular and I expect more of the same here.  It's too early to take the title off her, particularly if she's to face Varnado.

Pick: Kairi

IWGP Tag Team Championship: FTR vs. Bishamon 

Poor FTR are in the middle of their worst losing streak since WWE and I'm not sure what the endgame is.  Their contracts are up in the spring and I really hope they stay in AEW long-term.  Regardless I'm guessing they'll be dropping the IWGP straps here, though I wish NJPW had selected a stronger team to beat them.  Goto and Yoshi just don't scream "division centerpiece" to me.

Pick: Bishamon

NJPW World Television Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Ren Narita

This one should be stellar.  This company has way too many belts, but a TV title with 15-minute time limit matches is a fun idea.  Can we get rid of the dumbass provisional title now?  The focus of this title is meant to be on the younger stars so I'm going to pick Narita to win it.  But Zack should be built up for Forbidden Door 2 so he can face Danielson.

Pick: Ren Narita

NEVER Openweight Championship: Karl Anderson vs. Tama Tonga 

You read that right, a WWE-contracted wrestler is defending a New Japan title on a New Japan PPV.  Vince definitely wouldn't have stood for this one.  I don't doubt Anderson will drop the title back to Tama, but it will probably involve some kind of shenanigans with Gallows and Jado so the loss won't have to be clean.

Pick: Tama Tonga

Keiji Mutoh, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Shota Umino vs. Tetsuya Naito, Sanada & Bushi

How weird is it that Tanahashi and Naito are in a six-man tag match on a WrestleKingdom show?  I know it's Mutoh's last New Japan match but this is surreal.  Making this a six-man was a smart move to hide Mutoh's limitations and I think Bushi is probably here to eat the pin.  Maybe we'll see a green mist battle.

Pick: Team Mutoh

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Taiji Ishimori vs. El Desperado vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Master Wato

This'll be a wild one; the last time WrestleKingdom featured a Jr. Title four-way it was nutso.  And given the placement of this match I think it will get a good amount of time.  I think Hiromu probably wins back the title at long last; it's been a full two years since he had to vacate it due to injury.

Pick: Hiromu Takahashi

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay vs. Kenny Omega 

Holy jumpin' shitballs.  It's two of the best big-match wrestlers in the world, maybe of any era, facing each other for the first time in the Tokyo Dome.  Sweet Jeezus this will be insane.  May as well give out the 2023 Match of the Year award now.  This being a NJPW match I'll pick the NJPW guy to retain his title, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a rematch at Forbidden Door.

Pick: Ospreay retains

IWGP World Championship: Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada

These two have a very tough act to follow but they're always great together and should be fully up to the challenge.  White has had a pretty lengthy title run and it won't be his last I'm sure.  I wonder if Kota Ibushi will emerge at the end to challenge the winner.  I think Okada captures his 7th World Championship in another excellent match with White.

Pick: Okada

From where I sit I'm looking at five potential ****+ matches on this card, making WK17 an easy PPV of the Year contender and hopefully a return to form for New Japan.  Their growing collaboration with AEW should help them continue to re-engage their North American audience.  I haven't been this excited for a NJPW show in a long time.

Thanks for reading - subscribe to our mailing list, and follow us on Twitter, MeWe, Facebook and YouTube!

No comments:

Post a Comment