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By Matthew Macklin on 2015-12-28 14:11:00

NJPW present Wrestle Kingdom 10, their annual Tokyo Dome show on January 4th.  The show is live on at 17.00 JST (3AM EST/8AMUK).  The show will have the option of Japanese or English commentary from Kevin Kelly, Matt Striker and Yoshitatsu.  This is New Japan’s equivalent of Wrestlemania, so expect major production, over the top entrances and plenty of spectacle.  The show usually runs for close to five hours.  This years show sees a huge ROH presence ahead of the ROH shows in Japan in February.  Eight of the nine matches on the card are championship matches.

Their will be a pre show New Japan Rumble.  A Royal Rumble style battle royal featuring anyone not on the main card as well as some surprise legend entrants.  Expect the likes of Yuji Nagata, Jushin Thunder Liger, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, YOSHI-HASHI etc.

IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
ReDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) vs. Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs. Matt Sydal & Ricochet

The Jr tag four way has become a Wrestle Kingdom tradition.  This will open the show and feature all the crazy, fast paced dives, double team and superkicks you’ve come to expect from these teams.  ReDRagon walked in as champions in last years match and retained the gold.   The Young Bucks took the titles in February, before losing them to new team RPG Vice in April, a team that has been a huge surprise in the Jr tag division this year.  They were seemingly thrown together, but Romero & Beretta gelled instantly, with Beretta doing the best work of his career.   RPG Vice dropped the titles back to The Bucks in May.  ReDRagon began their reign in August when they defeated The Bucks and have held them since.  The wildcard team in this is Matt Sydal & Ricochet who won the Super Jr Tag Tournament to get involved in the equation.   The quality of matches between these teams all year has been superb and they all know each other extremely well.  The Tag Tourney winners usually end up with the titles, so that would see Sydal & Ricochet as favourites, but realistically the titles could go to any team.  I don’t see Sydal & Ricochet taking the titles simply because of the fact that Ricochet isn’t an ROH guy and you’d expect the titles to be involved in the ROH shows in Japan in February.

NEVER Openweight 6 Man Tag Team Championship
Toru Yano, Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe vs. Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi & Tama Tonga
(Bullet Club)

This will see the crowning of the first ever 6 man tag team champions in NJPW.  The last thing NJPW needed were more titles and seems like a mistake to introduce this title when they can barely get a tag division together.  These titles are open to any weight limit, so they will probably bounce around the undercard.  Toru Yano has been on the receiving end of Bullet Club steel chair attacks since the World Tag League Final in December.  Yano had to go to ROH for back up in the form of Dem Boys.  This will see the long awaited debut of The Briscoes in NJPW.  The Briscoes are made for NJPW.  I originally thought this match would lead to them challenging for tag team gold, but with the 6 man tag titles now involved, they could be winning gold in their very first match.  It would make sense for them to win here as we head into ROH’s shows in Japan in February.  Mark Briscoe & Toru Yano have the makings of the greatest odd couple pairing in history.  This should be a fun match and I really hope Tama Tonga gets a chance to shine. 

ROH World Championship
Jay Lethal vs Michael Elgin

Big Mike has become a sensation in NJPW since his debut in the G1 Climax.  He has quickly become one of the most over foreigners in the company and has found somewhere where everything just clicks for him.  Within a few weeks of his debut he had Korakuen Hall and Sumo Hall chanting his name, and the very same thing could happen in the Tokyo Dome.  Elgin earned this match when he won Survival of the Fittest in November and immediately said he wanted his title match in Japan.  This will see Jay Lethal make his NJPW debut.  Lethal has had an amazing 2015 and could easily be called the finest all round talent in the world, so he deserves to be showcased on one of the largest shows in the world.  Lethal & Elgin have had great matches in the past, so this should be special as all the pieces have fallen into place.  Lethal is in his prime, Elgin excels in Japan and with the title on the line the NJPW crowd will be firmly behind Elgin’s quest for gold.  I don’t see Elgin winning as Lethal has so much more to do as champion and a win for him here would establish him in front of the NJPW audience. 

IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega vs. KUSHIDA

At Wrestle Kingdom 9 Kenny Omega wrestled his first match as a full time member of NJPW and Bullet Club, winning the IWGP Jr title from Ryusuke Taguchi. KUSHIDA won the Best of the Super Juniors in June and went on to take the gold from Omega in July at Dominion, a match that many thought would see KUSHIDA finally get the run on top as champion that he deserves, but it wasn’t to be.  Omega regained the title in September at Destruction in Okayama after Bullet Club interference, a match that many rolled their eyes at as it looked like KUSHIDA was being cut off before he even began and wasn’t given a fair crack as champion.  KUSHIDA made the title challenge after making Omega tap during a Super Jr Tag Tournament match to set up this match at the Tokyo Dome.  This will hopefully see KUSHIDA finally ascend to the top of the Jr division and become the centerpiece of it.   The matches that these two have had, particularly at Dominion, have been absolutely sensational.  KUSHIDA is an incredible talent that doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves. Omega is a superstar that oozes with charisma and has the in ring talent to back it all up.  Omega has hinted that he may soon make the jump to the heavyweight division.  I expect that to happen after he drops the belt to KUSHIDA here.  This could easily steal the show.

IWGP Tag Team Championship
Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (Bullet Club) vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma

Makabe & Honma won the World Tag League on December 9th to earn this title match.  Anderson & Gallows, now in their third reign as champions have held the titles for the best part of the last two years, only dropping them twice for short durations.  They lost the gold at Wrestle Kingdom 9 to Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata, but soon regained it.  Honma has had a whirlwind year.  He finally got his big singles win in the G1 when he defeated Tomohiro Ishii in what might have been the 2015 pro wrestling moment of the year.  Allegations of domestic abuse made by his girlfriend could easily have ended his NJPW career, but the situation is complicated and nothing has come of it.  NJPW stuck to the booking plan and Makabe & Honma won the Tag League in an incredible final over Tetsuya Naito & EVIL.  The crowd rallied behind NJPW’s ultimate underdog as he put on another amazing performance that sucked the crowd in.  40,000 plus, rallying behind Honma in his quest for gold on January 4th could make for a spectacular atmosphere.  You can be sure that Anderson & Gallows will play their part in making sure that this match is meticulously put together to capitalise on Honma.   A Honma & Makabe win here could easily be the 2016 moment of the year.  The IWGP tag division needs something new and a title run for Honma & Makabe would give it just what it needs.  

Hirooki Goto vs Tetsuya Naito

This is the only non-title match on the card.  2015 has been the year of Tetsuya Naito in NJPW.  Naito reinvented himself when he turned heel due to his association with Los Ingobernables in CMLL.  The once clean cut, respectful Naito completely changed and became a disrespectful, uninterested rule breaker that turned his back on his friends.  Naito has become known for attacking referees, young lions, cameramen and anyone else around him.   The last couple of months have seen the growth of Naito’s faction, Los Ingobernables de Japon, something that Goto and his tag partner Shibata took exception to. Goto himself is coming off an IC title reign in 2015 and doesn’t want to drop further down the card.  Naito along with EVIL & BUSHI has formed one of the most interesting heel groups in wrestling.  Naito has said that Wrestle Kingdom is the chance for Los Ingobernables to leave a mark and has said that people will be talking about them even in defeat.  There have been rumours of a new member being added to the group.  Captain New Japan has been hinted at, but young lion Yohei Komatsu has been the biggest talking point.  Naito spared him in a post match attack a few weeks ago.  Komatsu has also said he will be “ingobernable”, while BUSHI has said that he will challenge for the IWGP Jr tag titles with a new “pareja”, which would further hint that it may be Komatsu.  The winner of this match between Naito & Goto could be the next challenger for the IWGP Heavyweight championship.   Naito battled AJ Styles last year in a losing effort at WK in one of the only non-title matches on the card and Styles went on to challenge for the title the following month.  As with everything involving Naito at the minute, this should be all extremely interesting to watch develop and you’d have to imagine something big is coming on the biggest show of the year.

NEVER Openweight Championship

Tomohiro Ishii vs Katsuyori Shibata

Ishii and Shibata are going to beat the hell out of each other.  These two have had wars in the past.  If you haven’t seen their match from the 2013 G1 Climax go and watch it.  It may be the stiffest match in NJPW in years.  Shibata pinned Ishii on the opening day of the World Tag League and again in the last NJPW match of the year, so Shibata has Ishii’s number.  Ishii spent most of 2015 battling Togi Makabe for the NEVER title and once again holds the gold.  Shibata won gold at last years WK along with Hirooki Goto, but Shibata has never held a singles championship in NJPW.  The crowd are dying for Shibata to move up the card and get a title run.  Expect lots of stiff kicks, forearms, suplexes and headbutts in this.  You have to hope that neither of these guys get hurt as they don’t exactly hold back.  The NJPW crowd will probably be firmly behind Shibata, but Ishii always has huge support as the gritty underdog that never quits.  A Shibata win here would be great and would open up a lot of fresh matches for the NEVER title, so hopefully that’s what happens.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles

This is a major first time ever dream match and one of the biggest matches NJPW could possibly put on.  They met once in a tag match in 2008 when TNA were involved with NJPW and in a match in the World Tag League last month, but other than that, two of NJPW’s top stars are meeting for the first time.  The story here will be AJ Styles back injury.  He went into his match with Jay Lethal at Final Battle hurt, but put on an incredible performance, but the question is, did he do more damage to the back?  Styles has had a few weeks to rest and no matter how much pain he is in, Styles will probably go all out here.  Nakamura brings it to a whole different level at Wrestle Kingdom.  His match with Kota Ibushi last year was an instant classic and one of the matches of the year.  This will be something similar.  There’s no way that this won’t be one of the finest matches of 2016.  Both Styles & Nakamura are in the best form of their lives and deliver in big time title matches.  There are few bigger than this.   This is one of those matches that sells itself.  Their is no real backstory and their have been very few interactions between the two.  These two are at such a high level in NJPW that one simple face off is all that is needed to create all the hype necessary.   The fact that AJ Styles is taking on Shinsuke Nakamura at the Tokyo Dome is enough to sell this.  This one could easily go either way as I can see Styles with the gold heading into the ROH shows, and I expect Nakamura to challenge for the ROH title soon and he might be better off doing that without the IC title.  No matter the outcome, this will be one to remember.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

It’s the eigth meeting in one of pro wrestling’s greatest feuds.  The series is tied with one draw and three wins apiece and the story being that Okada has never gotten the big win over Tanahashi in the Tokyo Dome.   So much has been said about the history of this feud and it’s importance in the rebirth of NJPW.  The quality of each match has been sensational with every match seemingly topping the last.  It’s the modern day equivalent of Steamboat vs Flair, Rock vs Austin or Kobashi vs Misawa.  Last year at Wrestle Kingdom 9 Tanahashi beat Okada in another classic, a loss that brought Okada to tears as he exited the Tokyo Dome and sent The Rainmaker on a downward spiral.  He suffered clean losses to Bad Luck Fale and the first half of the year saw the story of Okada trying to bounce back.  He eventually beat Fale and regained the IWGP title from AJ Styles, the man he lost the belt to almost a year prior.  The cocky, confident Rainmaker was back.  The first half of 2015 saw Tanahashi embroiled in a comedy feud with Toru Yano.  Tanahashi was saving himself for the G1 Climax and went on to win it.  King of Pro Wrestling saw Tanahashi successfully defend his Tokyo Dome title shot and Okada defend the IWGP title again against AJ Styles. The main event of Wrestle Kingdom was set.  Things boiled over at Power Struggle in November as frustration got the better of Okada as both men lost their cool.  We ended up with an amazing pull apart brawl with Okada taking cheap shots at Tanahashi as both guys brawled all over the building.  This was the spark that this feud needed to create some excitement.  Tanahashi & Okada have rarely ever lost it with each other, so we saw a different side to the feud. 

This could happen again at WK and we could have a very different match to the previous seven.  The stage is set for Okada to get that elusive Tokyo Dome win over Tanahashi in his third attempt.  This could be the final meeting of these two incredible pro wrestlers and they will once again deliver.  Okada is the champion and Tanahashi is the challenger, but in many ways Okada walks into this as the real challenger as he needs to win this match more than Tanahashi.  A loss for Okada here would be devastating for The Rainmaker character.  Okada will likely kick off 2016 with one of the biggest wins of his career and hopefully see some fresh title challengers this year in the form of Naito, Shibata and others. 

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