For many wrestling fans, the Royal Rumble is the first big PPV of the year. But that’s simply not the case. For the rest of us, that honour belongs to New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom event, which is the Japanese giant’s answer to WWE’s WrestleMania.
On January 4th, 2019 NJPW celebrates their 13th annual Wrestle Kingdom event inside the hallowed walls of the Tokyo Dome in front of almost 60,000 rabid fans. In previous years we have seen such iconic matches as Kazuchika Okada Vs Tetsuya Naito, Kenny Omega Vs Chris Jericho, and Shunsuke Nakamura Vs AJ Styles – and the 2018 event promises even more classic contests.
So, without further ado, here’s our preview and predictions for every match going down at NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 13 PPV.
MOST VIOLENT PLAYERS & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI Vs YUJI NAGATA, JEFF COBB & DAVID FINLAY Vs CHAOS Vs SUZUKI-GUN Vs THE ELITE
A total of 15 of NJPW’s best wrestlers will compete in a gauntlet match to crown the number 1 contenders to the NEVER Openweight 6-man Tag Team Championship, including former WWE stars Trent Beretta and Davey Boy Smith Jr.
The action will be thick and fast for sure, and it’s almost a given that this will be Chaos’ night to shine. However, with Bullet Club currently in possession of the belts, having them square off against The Elite would make more sense.
Prediction: The Elite go over and fly the flag against their former Bullet Club teammates.
KOTA IBUSHI Vs WILL OSPREY – NEVER OPENWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Will Osprey needs a big win in NJPW to cement himself as a legitimate contender, outside of all the ‘flippy-shit’ he’s known for. A victory over current champion Kota Ibushi is a must for the plucky Englishman, and a move up to the Heavyweight division will only help to increase his value going forward.
Prediction: A long run for Ibushi would have been nice, but it’s finally Osprey’s moment to make a real name for himself in NJPW.
SUZUKI-GUN Vs ROPPONGI 3K Vs LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON – IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
A lot of fans are unhappy that the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships aren’t being contested for in a traditional 2 on 2 matchup, with NJPW’s booking team taking some real heat over their booking decisions of late. Be that as it may, this is the match we have and this is the match we are going to get – and whether you like the creative direction or not, these 3 teams will tear the place up if given a chance.
Prediction: Surely this is LIDJ’s time to shine?
TOMOHIRO ISHII Vs ZACK SABRE Jr – BRITISH HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Personal feelings aside (I don’t rate Zack Sabre Jr. – queue the hatred), there’s no way this two won’t be able to live up the moment, especially if their New Orleans contest is anything to go by. Ishii is a seasoned bruiser who will pummel the much faster Brit, provided he can slow him down enough. But this is about Sabre Jr getting his revenge on his foe, and bringing the British Heavyweight Championship back home to RPW.
Prediction: Ishii is going to look strong, but this will be Zack Sabre Jr’s night.
GUERRILLAS OF DESTINY Vs THE YOUNG BUCKS Vs LOS INGOBERNABLES DOS JAPON – IWGP TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
EVIL and SANADA should really be the focus here, so it was an odd decision for NJPW to insert The Young Bucks into the match. Although the booking team will again court controversy with a 3-team bout, it was perhaps a wise move to throw Matt and Nick Jackson into the mix to avoid a much slower match between LIDJ and the GOD.
Prediction: The smart money is on the Jackson’s, but with All Elite Wrestling possibly happening very, very soon, is it a wise booking decision to have the Young Bucks go over? Probably not. That’s why the Guerrillas are retaining.
CODY Vs JUICE ROBINSON – IWGP UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP
Who would have thought that Cody would have such a fleeting run as NWA World Champion earlier this year? It almost seems like he’s just someone companies like to stick gold on simply because he’s the hottest thing in the business at the moment. That’s not to take anything away from his ability because let’s face it, Cody is great.
With all that in mind, he’s wrapped up with ROH and may be about to do the same with NJPW so there’s only one obvious result here – unless of course, he’s taking the strap to All Elite Wrestling?
Prediction: Juice Robinson is your NEW United States Champion.
KUSHIDA Vs TAIJI ISHIMORI – IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Much of Ishimori’s promos leading up to this point have focused on how boring KUSHIDA has been as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Unless NJPW is planning to run a Cactus Jack in ECW style boring angle, then it’s pretty much a given we’ll have a new champ come the 4th of January.
Prediction: The so-called Mr. Boring is off to join WWE … allegedly. He’s not taking the belt with him.
OKADA Vs JAI WHITE
Jai White has just been named the new leader of the Bullet Club. As such, he joins names like Prince Devitt, AJ Styles, and Kenny Omega at the top of the heel mountain. Whether he’ll have anywhere near as much success or even credibility as the aforementioned names remains to be seen, but if Okada puts on one his usual Dave Meltzer pleasing performances then it’s probably a safe bet he’ll get over by the time the final bell rings.
Prediction: NJPW simply HAS to establish the new leader of the Bullet Club as a legitimate contender. Having him loose to Okada this early on doesn’t make any sense.
CHRIS JERICHO Vs TETSUYA NAITO – IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Chris Jericho’s run in NJPw has been nothing short of breathtaking. The former multi-time WWE Champion has freed himself from the creative shackles of McMahon-land and found a new purpose as one of the very top heels in the company.
At this stage of his career, wins and losses don’t mean much, which is a good thing really because at Wrestle Kingdom 13, Naito is going to tame the Lionheart.
Prediction: Chris Jericho is a main event player no matter where he ends up. Giving him the strap was a nice idea, but it’s time for him to do what he came to do – put over some of NJPW’s most popular acts.
KENNY OMEGA Vs HIROSHI TANAHASHI – IWGP WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Kenny Omega won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship back in June, but it’s never felt like more than a prop for the so-called Cleaner. Omega is bigger than the belt, and after only 3 title defences, it’s time to give the returning hero Hiroshi Tanahashi one more moment in the sun,
Prediction: If Wrestle Kingdom 13 serves one purpose, it’s to get all the gold off the waists of The Elite, because who knows whether they’ll show up in NJPW again when and if AEW takes off as rumoured. Therefore, Tanahashi is your new 8-time IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. Look out for a Chris Jericho run in as the cameras go off.
So there you have it – our Wrestle Kingdom 13 predictions. How do they compare to your own? Let us know in the comments section below, or on social media using the hashtag #tbgNJWK13