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By Paul Crockett, Matthew Macklin, “The Choice” Christopher Cornwell Boyce and Matt Camp on 2018-01-03 15:09:00

It’s New Japan Pro Wrestling’s biggest show of the year in Wrestle Kingdom late tonight/early this morning (depending on where you live. Here are the picks from the PWInsider’s own Paul Crockett, Matthew Macklin, “The Choice” Christopher Cornwell Boyce and our special guest analyst Matt Camp from the Bleacher Report!

Pre-Show - New Japan Rumble: 

Paul Crockett: On our official pre-game show, I made the audacious pick of Breezango to take it. Since that was obviously done for fun, my real pick will be the undisputed leader of the Bread Club, Satoshi Kojima!

Matthew Macklin: I'm predicting that the entrants will be Cheeseburger, Steve Blackman, The Great Kabuki coming out of retirement, Terry Funk, Giant Bernard, The A-Train, Prince Albert, Tensai, Liverpool’s Number One Zack Gibson, Angel Cruz, Captain New Japan & Bone Soldier with Mike Johnson eliminating Jushin Thunder Liger to win it.

Chris Boyce: After last year’s star studded cast saw a returning Michael Elgin take the win to push him into the New Year, I was hoping we would see something similiar with Jeff Cobb, but being the super well informed reporter I am, I’m not even sure if he’s booked. I guess I'll say Yujiro? He's still a thing right? 

Matt Camp: As I said on the latest Foreign Aces podcast, this feels like the perfect time to bring back Captain New Japan. He can be Captain America New Japan to get ready for the U.S. expansion this year. However, I think Kojima wins it for the Bread Club. 

1) IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles - Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH w/ Rocky Romero) v. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson): 

Paul Crockett: The only thing missing for Roppongi 3K is a legitimate rival. They have done great in their first few months, but I see the Bucks taking this to give RPG3K a great team to go back and forth with.

Matthew Macklin: 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.

Chris Boyce: Roppongi 3K closed the year out with a bang and have been excellent at stabilizing the division for a few months. The Young Bucks, however, are a merchandising powerhouse and the big North American expansion is looming. I'm pulling for Sho and Yo here because I still believe this division needs to create more genuine threats and I think it would hold more weight to have The Bucks grab the belts back in Cali.

Matt Camp: Roppongi 3K have been pushed quickly by winning the titles in their first match back from excursion and then taking the Super Jr. Tag Tournament. They could use a little adversity and having the Bucks as champs isn't a bad idea heading into the next Long Beach show. Bucks become the seven-time champs.

2) Gauntlet Match for the NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Titles - Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Guerillas of Destiny) (c) v. Michael Elgin & War Machine v. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Takashi Ilzuka & Zack Sabre, Jr.) v. CHAOS (Beretta, Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii) v. Taguchi Japan (Ryusuke Taguchi, Togi Makabe & Juice Robinson):

Paul Crockett: I’m going to go with Suzuki Gun, if only because for some reason I want to see Ilzuka doing his entrance wtb a belt around his waist.

Matthew Macklin: 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.

Chris Boyce: Ok. I’m going to say something I didn't think I'd ever say, but I think keeping these belts on the Tongans is relevant. The stuff they've been doing with Chase Owens has been brilliant and if they intend on keeping this division around, these are three bad, bad men they can build it around. That being said, they'll probably put it on Taguchi. Predicted winners? Paul Crockett, Chuck Taylor, and Myself fighting under the banner of The Golden Cube.

Matt Camp: This has become the way to get everyone on the main card, although Ishii without a singles match for the second straight year is a real disappointment. Elgin & War Machine could easily self-destruct and the Suzuki-gun team seems too random to stick together. I like Bullet Club to retain by eliminating Taguchi Japan last. Let Taguchi keep trying different combinations over the next few months to challenge for the titles.

3) Cody v. Kota Ibushi

Paul Crockett: This is Cody’s chance to prove a point. Outside of Okada in Long Beach, he hasn’t had a chance to shine against a Japanese opponent. I see him getting the win and advancing potential matches with Omega and other big names in 2018.

Matthew Macklin: 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.

Chris Boyce: This match has a lot of cool undertones and I think is the least predictable match on the card. On one side you have Kenny Omega's "second in command" who is seemingly poised to turn on him at any moment. On the other hand, you have Kenny's longtime tag team partner. Either man winning leads to an eventual showdown with Omega methinks. I'm going to lean towards the institute only because I think ROH tipped New Japan’s hand a bit booking the belt off Cody when he had been on a roll and clearly one of the most popular figures in the promotion.

Matt Camp: When Cody lost the ROH Title, it seemed to open the door to him actually losing this match, as opposed to retaining in a showcase of the top guy in ROH. However, a win for him here would further a potential divide between Cody and Omega, so by potentially dangerous and nefarious means, Cody wins this one. Maybe we get another backstage interaction with Ibushi and Omega?

4) IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles - Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith, Jr. & Lance Archer) (c) v. EVIL & SANADA

Paul Crockett: I see Los Ingobernables taking their first title of the night. As much as I love KES, this division needs fresh blood and these two are a fantastic injection.

Matthew Macklin: 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 title 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.

Chris Boyce: The first of 3 title matches for the LIJ boys is against maybe the most underrated team in the world right now. KES is really, really good, and in what can probably be considered a lackluster year for Suzuki Gun after all the fanfare for their return, KES has been the standard bearer for the stable outside of Suzuki himself. That being said, I have a strong feeling we'll be entering the 2018 cycle with all the members of LIJ wearing gold. This on any other card of the year might have a darkhorse shot at being match of the night. Expect a lot of hard hitting.

Matt Camp: This feels like the night to go all the way with Los Ingobernables de Japon. EVIL seems destined for a big 2018 and SANADA is one of the best athletes in the company, but could use a little boost to his character, which EVIL could help. Even though tournament champs don't always win, this feels like the right time to go with EVIL/SANADA. I'm hoping this is the start of a potential LIJ/Suzuki-gun feud for 2018.

5) NEVER Openweight Title - Hair versus Hair - Minoru Suzuki (c) v. Hirooki Goto

Paul Crockett: There’s no way they cut off the gorgeous flowing locks of Goto. No way. I see Goto winning and Suzuki finding another way to look psychotic via a new hair style.

Matthew Macklin: 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.

Chris Boyce: Minoru Suzuki is the baddest man on the planet. He fears no one, and no thing. He will continue to reign as supreme overlord of this planet, and Goto is going to look super goofy bald. Kaze Ni Nare.

Matt Camp: First of all, I'm hoping that all the added attention for this show means the big entrances are coming back. If that's the case, we better get Ayumi Nakamara singing "Kaze Ni Nare" with the Toyko Dome hitting the chorus. Would a win really help Goto that much? I say no, so Suzuki winning could send Goto into yet another downward spiral of doubting himself. Hopefully, Ishii steps up at Suzuki's next challenger at New Year's Dash.

6) IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title - Marty Scurll (c) v. KUSHIDA v. Will Ospreay v. Hiromu Takahashi

Paul Crockett: I’m predicting another Los Ingobernables title win with Takahashi winning this. I think Ospreay’s future is at heavyweight, Scurll won’t be around enough and KUSHIDA will potentially challenge a couple of times down the line.

Matthew Macklin: 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.

Chris Boyce: I'm not a huge fan of multi team, or multi man title matches at the biggest show of the year, but the talent in this one is undeniable. The champion, Marty Scurll, has developed into on of the most recognizable faces in both the UK and America, and his "Villain" persona is starting to take foothold in Japan as well (Woop Woop). Will Ospreay, bar none, is the best young talent in the business. His skill translates to all markets and after finally getting to see him live I can say that I fully 100% believe he is the heir apparent to AJ Styles. Hiromu Takahashi lit the world on fire to start 2017 and after a weird middle part of the year has seemingly turned things around along his compatriot and show favorite Darryl Jr. And then there's KUSHIDA, who might be the most underrated wrestler on the planet. After classics with the likes of Ospreay, O'Reilly, Liger, Taguchi and Omega, he still probably doesn't get the credit he deserves. I'm taking Takahashi here because of the LIJ ties but any of these guys winning would not surprise me.

Matt Camp: Sticking with my all LIJ everything logic, Takahashi is the pick to win this one. He's been trying to get this title opportunity for months and is one of the best performers in the world. The Takahashi family will get their WK moment when dad brings home the title. Obviously, this could steal the show, although I'd rather they continue bring out the multi-man singles matches on very rare occasions.

7) IWGP Intercontinental Title - Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) v. Jay White

Paul Crockett: I am predicting gold for Jay White in his first match back after excursion. It will be interesting to see how he handles this new heel role, but I see him getting the nod. This is one I could see going either way, though.

Matthew Macklin: 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.

Chris Boyce: This is such a fun unpredictable out of left field match and I love it. Yes, the Jericho one was obviously more unpredictable but this us right up there. Jay White was always discussed by Paul and myself as having an immense amount of talent, and after an awesome run in ROH (Watch the match he had with Will Osperay, skip the stuff with Punishment Martinez) he gets to showcase himself against the Ace of the Universe. Tanahashi hasn't really been Tanahashi lately, but I still think with the slow burn booking style of New Japan in general it might take Jay a few swipes at the crown before he takes it, but then again they put the belt on Takahashi, Styles and Okada right away so what do I know.

Matt Camp: The interaction between these two at the fan fest showed a confident White, although I expected him to be a man of few words and more of a killer. The result of this totally depends on Tanahashi's health. He's already announced for the ROH/NJPW show during WM weekend, so I'm wondering if he takes time off between now and then to help his knee and biceps injuries. Knowing Tanahashi, he won't do that, so I'll say he squeaks by White, but not before taking a massive beating that leads to an eventual rematch.

8) IWGP United States Title - Kenny Omega (c) v. Chris Jericho

Paul Crockett: On our prediction show I took Omega. I’ve changed my mind. After speaking to some people, I have a sneaking suspicion that this won’t be Jericho’s only appearance and I see him taking this title and making at least one or two more appearances for the company.

Matthew Macklin: 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

Chris Boyce: Ok. Here's the thing. I am a mark for two guys in this company more than any others. I don’t think its hard to guess who those guys are. So to ME, Kenny Omega losing at Wrestle Kingdom two years in a row would be a travesty. That being said, if Chris Jericho is seriously considering sticking around and helping this company expand into North America, I could see it happening because while all of the self made success Kenny has brought himself over the last year, he does not have the mainstream, casual appeal that Chris Jericho does. The build to this match has been amazing, so please don't break my heart again Gedo.

Matt Camp: I've gone back and forth on this one. Jericho is clearly enjoying the freedom and heat he can get working in NJPW, so it's fair to believe he'll be back after this week. Fozzy goes on tour soon, but has an 11-day break from 3/16-3/27, which means Jericho would be available to work the Long Beach show. He has a ready-made feud with Naito, which could be based around Jericho saying he was the one that drew the eyeballs to Naito's crowning victory and therefore should get the credit for making Naito a star around the world. Or does he rematch Kenny for the title? Assuming this isn't it for Jericho, he takes the title in the most intriguing match of the night.

9) IWGP Heavyweight Title - Kazuchika Okada (c) v. Tetsuya Naito

Paul Crockett: I believe it will be a clean title sweep for the Ingobernables with Naito taking the title and beginning what I hope will be a lengthy run with New Japan’s top crown. However, with Jericho taking shots at Naito on Twitter, if Jericho wins, I could also see Naito losing and going after Jericho and the US Title.

Matthew Macklin: In 2014 Naito challenged Okada for the gold at Wrestle Kingdom, a match that should have been Naito's crowning moment as the "Shuyaku" 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.

Chris Boyce: And that leaves us with the Coup De Gras. A match pitting the Ace of the company, the handsome golden boy (who also happens to be the best wrestler in the world) against the apathetic anti hero that almost personifies a generation. This is gonna be soooooo good. Okada's history making title reign began by defeating his opponent for tonight while Naito raised the prestige of the Intercontinental title throughout the year before winning a potential match of the year candidate against Omega to avenge his G1 Finals loss from the year previous. Not to mention the last time these two were supposed to headline this show they got bumped! There’s four years of storytelling built here and much like Okada's road to redemption against Tanahashi finally came to an emotional conclusion, I believe the same for Naito. Something makes me thing we'll be seeing that IWGP title launched into the air when all is said and done.

Matt Camp: The beautiful thing about the booking of NJPW is that you can justify either man winning this. It should be Naito's night and completion of redemption for losing out on the title and main event at WK8, so a win for him completely makes sense, especially if LIJ takes the other matches. Or, you continue to build Okada as the greatest heavyweight champion in the history of the company by earning a victory on the biggest stage he's ever had. However, there seems to be more fresh challengers and matchups (Jericho, Suzuki, Ibushi) for Naito than Okada. Plus, Naito's popularity in America has only grown, so he's a great representative of the company heading into 2018. You can't go wrong with either, but Destino is on Naito's side.

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