6 Burning Questions For Wrestle Kingdom 12 | Smark Out Moment

6 Burning Questions For Wrestle Kingdom 12

Posted by Callum Wiggins Friday, December 29, 2017
One of the biggest wrestling shows of the year is just around the corner, as New Japan Pro Wrestling presents Wrestle Kingdom 12 on Thursday January 4th, 2018. In the company's equivalent to WrestleMania, many are expecting a ground-breaking show, one that could launch NJPW to previously unseen heights.

New Japan Pro Wrestling Kenny Omega Chris Jericho Tokyo Dome

Wrestle Kingdom 12 is promoting a double main event which demonstrates NJPW's potential on a global stage. The true main event sees Kazuchika Okada defend his record-breaking IWGP Heavyweight Championship run against G1 Climax winner Tetsuya Naito. Meanwhile, a match that will bring many international and casual eyes to NJPW is Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho, Alpha vs Omega, for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship. Six other titles are on the line in this marathon spectacular, featuring a blend of Japan's greatest wrestling talent and many of the finest names on the independent circuit right now.

If you are on the fence about checking this show out, I highly recommend you give it a shot. I did last year, and it put me on an awesome journey to discover more about the history of NJPW and familiarize myself with their incredible roster. So, before the hype ends and the show begins, let's address six burning questions that Wrestle Kingdom 12 will hopefully provide answers to.

1) How many titles will change hands?

One of the standout aspects of Wrestle Kingdom 11 was the huge number of title changes. Out of the eight championship matches on the show, six new champions were crowned. NJPW are typically less trigger happy than WWE when it comes to switching belts, but in recent years Wrestle Kingdom has witnessed a significant number of title changes. It is part of what makes the show so unique, and why helps sets the tone for a new year.

So, should we expect another flurry of title changes at Wrestle Kingdom 12? It's certainly a huge possibility. Once again there are eight championships being defended, including a second consecutive gauntlet match for the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championships featuring five teams. Add the unpredictability of the four-way match, the health of Hiroshi Tanahashi (more on that later) and a highly anticipated main event match, don't be surprised if we once again witness a lot of gold change hands by the end of this marathon event.

Personally, I'm predicting five title changes. Let us know how many belts you think will have new owners on January 5th in the comments below.

2) Could the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match steal the show?

For regular WWE viewers, a four-way match is commonplace. Frankly, it's gotten to a stage where it seems we see at least one every PPV, and multiple times a month on television. But, for NJPW, this is strange new territory that has undoubted show-stealing potential, as Marty Scurll defends the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship against Kushida, Hiromu Takahashi and Will Ospreay, all of who held the title in 2017.

Firstly, there is how the crowd will take to this match. While there have been several three-way matches and multi-team clashes, the NJPW audience is by-and-large conditioned to expect one-on-ones and tag matches on big events. The frantic pace and constant action of a four-way, particularly with the talent involved in this one, could be too much to take in, or result in some of the biggest reactions of the night.

Then, you consider the competitors. Champion Marty Scurll is a fabulous heel performer, taking shortcuts whenever possible and playing to the crowd with inimitable confidence. Kushida and Will Ospreay could both stake a claim to be the pound-for-pound best wrestlers in the world currently, while Hiromu Takahashi has a powerful following and unique charisma within the ever-popular Los Ingobernables de Japon faction.

All four would make exceptional champions, making the match extremely difficult to predict. Add that to each performer's ability, the non-stop action and uniqueness of this stipulation to NJPW audiences and you have real potential to outdo Wrestle Kingdom 12's highly touted main events.

3) What is the condition of Hiroshi Tanahashi?

Those that follow NJPW closely will not be shocked if Wrestle Kingdom 12 is the last we see of Hiroshi Tanahashi for a while. The Once in a Century Talent has been carrying injuries since the middle of 2017, which were heavily exasperated during the G1 Climax. Tanahashi suffered a ruptured biceps tendon in May, followed by a knee injury that has kept him out of action since early December.

While Tanahashi has assured everyone that he will defend the IWGP Intercontinental Championship against Jay White in the Tokyo Dome, it is unknown what his condition will be before, during and after the match. Tanahashi desperately needs time off and surgery on at least one of his several injuries, but his tireless work ethic and loyalty to NJPW and his fans create doubt as to whether he will actually step away from the ring for a while.

Plus, there are question marks over 'Switchblade' Jay White. White has only just returned to NJPW following excursions to ROH and Europe. While NJPW have aired a lot of vignettes for his character, will they entrust the very prestigious Intercontinental Championship to a relative rookie? And, with Tanahashi's growing ailments, do they even have a choice in that matter?

4) Is Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho one and done?

When it comes to Chris Jericho, it is best to expect the unexpected. Few people have reinvented themselves as many times as Jericho, who is now going under the moniker of 'The Alpha'. From a seemingly harmless Twitter debate, Chris Jericho vs Kenny Omega caught the usually very savvy and knowledgeable wrestling audience off-guard. A dream match for many (whether they knew it beforehand or not), it pits a legendary wrestler in Jericho against a man many consider the greatest worker in the world right now in Omega.

While the quality of the match is up in the air, especially with the No Disqualification stipulation attached to it, the real question is will this be Chris Jericho's only venture to Japan in 2018? Jericho's last run with WWE was arguably the best of his entire career, as while he may not be as crisp or rapid in the ring as he once was, his character work continues to deliver in new, original ways. With Omega's IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship on the line, a Jericho win would pretty much guarantee his run with NJPW will be longer than we anticipate.

Regardless of whether he wins or loses, if Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho delivers as many hope that it will, Jericho might have all of the motivation he needs to stick around with NJPW for more matches. Matches with the likes of Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi would be tremendous. Personally, I would love for Jericho to lock-up with Hiroshi Tanahashi when he is fully healed up. And while there are several fresh matches for Jericho in WWE to explore, NJPW might be the new challenge a goal-oriented person like Jericho needs at this stage in his career.

5) Will Tetsuya Naito finally become the 'Shuyaku' of NJPW?

Back in 2014, Tetsuya Naito's claims to be the new Shuyaku (top star) of NJPW were met with ironic laughter, as he struggled to find a place in a main event scene dominated by Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Now, as the leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon and one of the most charismatic performers in all of wrestling, few would argue against Naito's claims to be NJPW's biggest attraction right now.

However, while many believe Wrestle Kingdom 12 will be Naito's crowning achievement, it is virtually impossible to rule Okada out of any match. At over 560 days, Okada is the longest reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion ever, and the undisputed Ace of NJPW. Okada's three-match series with Kenny Omega in 2017 is one of the most celebrated trilogies in history, and while his body has been broken down by so many epic encounters and title defenses, Okada's inhuman willpower has kept him on top for well over a year.

That being said, it does feel like January 4th is Tetsuya Naito's time to shine. While he has been IWGP Heavyweight Champion before, winning it against the all-conquering Okada at the Tokyo Dome in the biggest show in NJPW's storied history will firmly cement Naito amongst the elite. His popularity is growing leaps and bounds, his matches are outstanding and his anti-hero persona suits him to perfection.

On Thursday, expect a gobsmackingly good main event, the end of a truly history-making run, and the dawn of a new beginning.

6) Will this be the moment for NJPW to mount a challenge on WWE?

The eternal question - can NJPW ever realistically compete with WWE? After the hype surrounding Wrestle Kingdom 11, the rise of Kenny Omega and the surprise of Chris Jericho's appearance, Wrestle Kingdom 12 will likely extend to a greater domestic and international audience than ever before. The divide between NJPW and its global fan base feels smaller, the potential for worldwide touring is great, and names like Okada, Omega, Naito and Tanahashi are becoming household names to wrestling fans in general.

Of course, nobody should expect NJPW to directly compete with WWE by the end of 2018. As much as many lament stale storytelling and overexposure of WWE's shows, it makes them omnipresent in the United States and worldwide - to many casual fans, WWE is professional wrestling. But, Wrestle Kingdom 12 can be the launching pad for NJPW to extend their reach internationally, bring in new viewers and subscribers, and let wrestling fans the world over that there is an alternative.

As much as WWE can and does piss me off (plenty of examples of that in Smack Talk's Best & Worst of 2017 Podcast), I feel too deeply entrenched to ever consider not watching. NJPW offers an escape and a fresh experience that I'm still fascinated to learn more about. It's certainly not a perfect product, especially if you're not a fan of seeing the same tag team matches over and over again. But, with many more eyes expected to be on this show than in previous years, Wrestle Kingdom 12 might be the catalyst for others to join me in seeking an alternative to WWE. And, as more and more fans take that attitude, the closer NJPW gets to what many still consider an impossibility - a direct competitor to WWE's dominance.

Are you looking forward to Wrestle Kingdom 12? Which match are you most excited for? Let us know in the comments section below, or join the conversation on the Mega Maniacs Facebook group.

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Callum Wiggins hails from Essex in the United Kingdom. He recently graduated from the University of York with a degree in History and has been a fan of professional wrestling since 2002. Outside of wrestling, he is also a fan of Arsenal FC and enjoys video games, darts, and Formula One. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter.


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