Has it really been a year? It doesn’t feel like 12 months have passed since the wrestling world was waiting for Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega’s first meeting, but the calendar doesn’t lie. January 4 is just about here, and January 4 can only mean one thing - NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12.
There isn’t a company on the planet that produces as consistent a big wrestling show as New Japan Pro Wrestling. The first major show of the pro graps year features another stacked card, and it won’t be surprising if the worst match on Thursday’s card is a three star bout. NJPW in the Tokyo Dome is a guarantee of quality.
2018 is another important year for the standout number two wrestling company on the planet, and a successful Wrestle Kingdom showing will set many a thing up. The promotion needs to avoid any major creative mistakes in order to set up for an all out assault in the new year. Every match carries a story, and every match must deliver.
Wrestle Kingdom will kick off with the annual New Japan Rumble, the winner gaining a championship match at some point in the future. Michael Elgin begrudgingly won this bout last year, but it will be the unusual interactions and nostalgic returns that make this a genuinely fun 20 minutes.
The participants aren’t clear, but anyone not involved in a match should find a spot here. That means legends like Kojima, Nagata and Nakanishi, young stars like Henare, Oka and Kawato, and the odd blast from the past like Scott Norton. Expect Cheeseburger to be the highlight of the match.
This is something of a lottery, but there is a clear favourite if he is indeed involved in the match. Katsuya Kitamura won the 2017 Young Lion Cup before announcing that he was going to the US on excursion in 2018. Having Kitamura win the Rumble before flying the nest is the right move, and will give him a ready made reason to return to New Japan later in the year.