Tuesday, January 2, 2024

NJPW WrestleKingdom 18 Preview & Predictions

Oh by the way there's a huge Tokyo Dome show this week.....

NJPW's flagship PPV WrestleKingdom 18 is once again taking place on January 4th, and like last year but even moreso, this lineup feels a lot closer to the show's glory years from 2015-2020 (minus the main event).  We have a loaded ten-match card that's a good mix of the promotion's cast of regulars, some up-and-comers making their Tokyo Dome main card debuts, and a pair of AEW guest stars.  Should be a pretty damn good show overall, and apparently the advance ticket sales are even better than last year.  WrestleKingdom was for many years a can't-miss event and this card certainly has a bit of that aura.

Let's take a look....

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney vs. Catch 2/2 

Jr. Tags used to be the standard hot opening match at WrestleKingdom so I'm glad to see that tradition is being brought back.  There are few better ways to get a NJPW crowd hyped than with a blistering, fast-paced tag bout.  The Bullet Club War Dogs stable has been a welcome return to form for the longtime heel faction, after years of being so watered down.  Connors and Moloney have held these titles since July so I could see the babyfaces finally winning them back here.

Pick: Catch 2/2

NJPW World TV Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

We are now a year into the lineage of the NJPW TV Title and only one man has held said championship.  Does ZSJ's run end here or does he hold on a bit longer?  If I'm booking this I keep it on Zack, as Tanahashi isn't really in any condition to be defending championships (plus he's still 1/3 of the trios champs).  Also he's the new NJPW President so he's got a lot on his plate.  But I could see this going either way.

Pick: Eh, I'll stick with Zack to retain, maybe via time limit draw

Yota Tsuji vs. Yuya Uemura

I'm very excited for this one - two rising stars included on the WrestleKingdom card for the first time.  I've said it before but Tsuji needs a rocket strapped to him, as he's the complete package.  Give this guy a hard-fought win here and then put the big belt on him at New Beginning.  Should be a great match if given ample time.

Pick: Tsuji

Shota Umino & Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Evil & Ren Narita

I'd be more excited about this one if it were just Umino vs. Narita.  You all know how I feel about Evil and his House of Torture nonsense.  Hopefully that stuff is kept to a minimum here and they just let these guys wrestle.  Ren just turned on Shota and presumably those two will continue feuding into the spring, so the heels probably take the first battle.

Pick: Evil & Ren

NEVER Openweight Championship: Shingo Takagi vs. Tama Tonga

This is a rematch from last October, where Shingo unseated Tonga to become the champion.  Shingo's a pretty perfect fit for the NEVER Title, in the grand tradition of sluggers like Ishii, Makabe, Shibata and Goto.  I could see Tama winning the title back and freeing Shingo up for a crack at the top two belts though.  The main event scene is about to be a lot thinner with Will Ospreay signing with AEW.  

Pick: Tama

IWGP/Strong Openweight Tag Team Championship: Bishamon vs. Hikuleo & El Phantasmo

This match has a pretty big feel to it, the division's current mainstays vs. a recently minted pair of singles guys, with two sets of belts at stake.  Bishamon has had the IWGP straps since Dominion, while Hikuleo and ELP have only been Strong champs since October.  I'll go with the younger team to win here I think.

Pick: Hikuleo and ELP

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Desperado

These two have a pretty long history together and know how to put on a helluva contest.  Takahashi is another champion hitting the one-year mark, and he's beaten everyone there is to beat in this division.  Unless the company has an ace up its sleeve and is bringing in someone new or bringing someone back, it probably makes sense for Desperado to win the title and have Takahashi chase it for a while.

Pick: El Desperado

IWGP Global Championship: Will Ospreay vs. Jon Moxley vs. David Finlay

The IWGP US Title is no more, now it will be transformed into the IWGP Global Title, which I guess means it will be defended outside Japan more than the World Title?  World and Global mean the same thing though, don't they?  This must be their equivalent of WWE having two world championships, which to me isn't really something you want to emulate.  Anyway this match should be fantastic; it's the supernatural Will Ospreay vs. the rock-solid Moxley vs. the company's next top gaijin.  Since Mox is an AEW star and Ospreay is jumping to AEW in February, a Finlay win makes the most sense to me.

Pick: Finlay

Kazuchika Okada vs. Bryan Danielson

Here's the real main event of this show, the match that will bring in the most new eyes to the product.  And hopefully this time no one gets hurt and we get the match we were expecting at Forbidden Door (not that Okada-Danielson I was bad by any means).  Give these guys a half-hour and let 'em fly.  Okada is obviously getting the payback win, maybe we'll get a rubber match down the line.

Pick: Okada

IWGP World Championship: Sanada vs. Tetsuya Naito

Aaand now for the billed main event, which is as lackluster a Tokyo Dome headliner as I can recall.  Good luck following Okada-Bryan.  Sanada's a solid wrestler and can deliver a great main event match when he's really on, but he's been one of the least interesting top champions since I started watching NJPW.  And we've seen the Naito title quest play out at the Dome multiple times.  I guess you have Naito win here and then lose it in pretty short order to one of the young lions, preferably Tsuji, who can then take over as leader of the LIJ stable.

Pick: Naito

Alright, so we have a stacked lineup full of mostly compelling matches and hopefully some young stars can be catapulted into top spots as a result.  More than ever it's crucial that NJPW build for the future.  Let's hope they seize their moment.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment