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By Matthew Macklin on 2018-01-01 12:37:00

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12 in the Tokyo Dome comes to us live on on Thursday morning at 2AM Est/7AM UK. The show will have English commentary from Kevin Kelly and Don Callis.  The show is rumoured to be on course to be the largest NJPW crowd in 15 years.  

The pre show will see that annual whacky New Japan Rumble that will see a mix of mid careers, veterans and returning legends.  You could get anyone from Scott Norton to Cheesburger in this one.  

IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: SHO & YOH (c) vs The Young Bucks

SHO & YOH, under the direction of Rocky Romero and now known as Roppongi 3K, made their return to NJPW at King of Pro Wrestling in October. There they won the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Championship from Ryusuke Taguchi & Ricochet in their first attempt. Soon after, they went on to win the Super Jr Tag Tournament, a tournament that usually determines the challengers for the titles at Wrestle Kingdom.  Up stepped The Young Bucks to make the challenge.  The Bucks are now veterans of the Jr tag division and Wrestle Kingdom, so this is a big test and an opportunity for SHO & YOH to continue to establish themselves as a main stay in this division and the fresh blood it has so badly needed for a very long time. The Bucks always bring it in these big match situations, and Roppongi 3K are absolutely phenomenal talents who will be carrying NJPW for many years to come. As a straight up tag match, this has all the potential to be a show stealing opener.  

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

This is a gauntlet match, meaning that two teams start, the winning team stays on and faces the next team until there are none left.  This match and these titles mean absolutely nothing.  This is just a way to squeeze some more names onto the show.  Some of the teams make absolutely no sense.  Literally anyone could win this one.  Tomohiro Ishii is the stalwart of NJPW and had an excellent 2017, so he deserves much better than this.  This will also likely be War Machine's last appearance in NJPW, where they hang out with Michael Elgin for the final time.  Hopefully the champions retain, because they're the only team that really make any sense to hold them or even be together.  

Special Singles Match: Kota Ibushi vs "The American Nightmare" Cody

This was originally scheduled to be an ROH world title match until Cody lost the belt to Dalton Castle at Final Battle.  Every year at Wrestle Kingdom we usually get one singles match like this with the winner soon after stepping up to challenge for a title.  So this is somewhat of a number one contenders match.  This is an interesting clash of styles as Cody is a traditional American/WWE style wrestler, while Ibushi is one of the most spectacular and innovative wrestlers in the world. This is a huge test for Cody, and one that he has to deliver in.  Ibushi has only been back in NJPW for a few months, so he will be looking to impress and continue to re-establish himself as a top star.  Ibushi likely wins this one.  

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Davey Boy Smith Jr & Lance Archer (c) vs EVIL & SANADA

Los Ingobernabes De Japon team, EVIL & SANADA earned this title match by winning the 2017 World Tag League and are a welcome addition to a tag division that had gotten very repetitive over the last year.  2017 saw the titles endlessly bounce around between KES, GOD & War Machine, so a title win here for EVIL & SANADA would be a great change and give both guys some direction heading into the new year.  This will most likely be a wild brawl with some jaw dropping athleticism from SANADA in there somewhere.  EVIL & SANADA will likely win this one starting off a huge night for LIJ.

NEVER Openweight Championship: Hair vs Hair Match - Minoru Suzuki (c) vs Hirooki Goto

Last year at Wrestle Kingdom, Goto won the NEVER Openweight Championship from Katsuyori Shibata in a win that was supposedly Goto finally winning the big one.  He lost the title to Suzuki a few months later and has done very little ever since, just becoming a guy in CHAOS that's there to make up the numbers.   The story here has been Goto desperately trying to get Suzuki to give him a title match, so much that he voluntarily put his hair on the line.  Suzuki accepted and said that he will also put his hair up, but this is Goto's last shot at the belt.  The match will strictly be one on one, with no interference, something that has become a frustrating staple of Suzuki's title defences this year.  This should be a really good physical match with a lot of intensity to it, and you'd have to imagine Goto wins, because it's very hard to see where he goes after that.  Although, seeing Suzuki without his famously mad hair would be hard to get used to.  

IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship: Marty Scurll (c) vs KUSHIDA vs Will Ospreay vs Hiromu Takahashi 

This title has bounced around for the last few months to set up this match.  The first half of 2017 saw KUSHIDA & Hiromu battle for the gold with KUSHIDA finally winning it back at Dominion in June.  Ospreay scored the win of his career at King of Pro Wrestling in October when he defeated KUSHIDA, but his reign was short lived, losing it to long time rival Marty Scurll the following month.  Since June, Hiromu has been vying for an opportunity, being pushed aside by Ospreay & Scurll on occasions and being frozen out of the title picture.  If this match is given time, this has the potential to be absolutely outstanding. With four incredible talents, that all have something very different to offer, this match will be full of amazing innovation and athleticism.  I'm expecting Hiromu to win and continue a big night for LIJ. 

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

After successfully defending the title against Kota Ibushi at Power Struggle, the mysterious "Switchblade" videos revealed the return to NJPW of Jay White, who laid out the legend, Tanahashi.  White has spent the last two years in ROH and it is very clear that NJPW have major plans for him by catapulting him into a major championship match against one of the promotions top stars on the biggest show of the year.  Tanahashi is injury stricken, something that White has played up in the build to this, calling Tanahashi "old man" on several occasions.  Tanahashi is used to being in one of the top two matches at the Tokyo Dome every year, so he will most likely be looking for a big performance here to prove that he still belongs, and he can do that by making Jay White in the process.  No promotion in the world know how to create stars like NJPW do, and this is proof of that. If White wins here, NJPW will have created another legit player overnight, and even if he loses, Tanahashi is so good that he will make NJPW a star in defeat.  

IWGP United States Championship: Kenny Omega (c) vs Chris Jericho - No Disqualification 

This is the big one for a lot of people and the reason why this show is probably the most talked about show in the recent history of NJPW.  It is very rare anymore that there is a truly shocking moment in pro wrestling, but Jericho popping up on screen at Power Struggle was just that.  It was something that hadn't been felt in 20 years since the days of guys defecting from WWF and popping up in WCW.  No one would have ever expected Jericho, who is WWE to his core, to ever show up in NJPW, let alone for a major dream match such as this.  

This whole thing has been orchestrated perfectly, from the set up on social media, to the shocking angle in December that saw Jericho bloody Omega.  Their press conference brawl was one of the most realistic and believable things in pro wrestling in quite some time. Jericho has once again reinvented himself and made people believe he is a maniacal veteran, hell bent on proving he is the very best and that he still has it.  Omega has said openly that this match will be a fight and that it will be a side to him that people have never seen before. This is a major test for Jericho, in what is in many ways the biggest match he has had in years.  He is in a co main event of a show that is known for matches that are a level above everything else in wrestling, and he has to hang with a guy in Omega that is one of the best big match performers alive today.  

It's unlikely that Jericho wins, and he shouldn't, but I can't see this being the last of Jericho in NJPW with their shows in Long Beach coming up in March.  No matter the outcome, this is a match that has everyone talking and is something that is driving new eyes to NJPW.  

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

The main event of Wrestle Kingdom 12 sees The Rainmaker Kazuchika Okada, the longest reigning IWGP champion in history defend against 2017 G1 Climax winner, Tetsuya Naito.  The history here is incredible and is perfectly explained in this video by Showbuckles: 

In 2014 Naito challenged Okada for the gold at Wrestle Kingdom, a match that should have been Naito's crowning moment as the "Shuyaka" of NJPW, the "top star", but instead the match was pushed aside by a fan vote that saw that years Intercontinental title match main event. This is something that stuck with Naito and has shaped him into what he is today.  Now three years later, Naito is perched and ready to claim his spot at the main man in NJPW.  He has beaten Okada for the title before, but with outside help. Now he walks in with the confidence to know that he can and has to do it by himself to fully prove his place. 

The build up to this has saw Okada introduce a Cobra Clutch to his arsenal to combat Naito's Destino. Okada has choked out Naito on multiple occasions, and quite easily. That was until their final meeting when Naito was able to counter the Cobra Clutch and lay out Okada with Destino, standing over the champion as the final NJPW image of 2017.  This match is the reason why this show is set to break attendance records for the company. The crowd is very ready to see Naito become their guy and it is something that is going to give this match a truly special atmosphere and the big fight feel that only NJPW can create.  Naito has to win.

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