This Monday marks the second biggest wrestling show of the year, WrestleKingdom 10. It promises to be a huge show with plenty of awesome wrestling action. It will also attract a lot of people who haven’t watched that much Japanese wrestling, or those who only watch the biggest shows. For those people who are new to watching WrestleKingdom, here are five things that you need to know, or at the very least will help you out in maximizing your fun and decreasing the confusion you might have going into something completely new and different.
1. The show will be pretty darn long if you’re watching live.
With this year’s WrestleKingdom show no longer airing at PPV, New Japan will be less stingy with time this year. Not only will the show more than likely be over four hours (most of New Japan’s big shows are near the five hour mark) there will also be a 90 minute pre-show before the main card. This will feature the New Japan Rumble, which is basically a Royal Rumble featuring all the New Japan guys who are not on the card plus a few legends (last year included the likes of Hiro Saito and The Great Kabuki).
While watching a show that might go over seven hours sounds daunting, most New Japan shows are so well paced the time will fly by pretty fast. Just be prepared to clear your schedule if you’re planning to watch the whole show, including the rumble, live. If not, most PPVs are usually on New Japan World later that day anyway, so you can still watch the show in a timely manner.
For the record, if you are looking to sign up for New Japan World for the first time, you can do so here. There is “select language” feature at the top of the page, and once selecting that you’ll see the sign up button at the top of the page, where English directions to sign up are provided.
2. There will be English commentary.
The big difference between this year’s show and last year’s show, as previously mentioned, is that WrestleKingdom 10 won’t be on PPV. Last year’s show is a joint venture between New Japan and Global Force Wrestling. This year there is no GFW involvement, so the only way to see the show live will be via New Japan World. The good news is that New Japan has brought in ROH announcer Kevin Kelly and widely known color commentator Matt Striker to call the action in English, with inactive NJPW wrestler Yoshi Tatsu being brought back to translate whatever promos and storylines happen on the show. It might not be the best commentary team of all time, but I found their work to be solid at King of Pro Wrestling and I expect there to be improvements for the second biggest wrestling event of the year.
Keep in mind for the future that all big New Japan shows will probably have English commentary. The trend started at King of Pro Wrestling, and it will continue at WrestleKingdom and most likely Invasion Attack and G1 Finals later this year.
3. There will be shows before and after WrestleKingdom.
If you thought 7 hours of New Japan on a Monday morning was just not enough to saite your needs, good news! There will be shows on 1/2 as well as on 1/5 featuring matches between all of your favorite New Japan guys. The ⅓ card will feature the debut of two new rookies making their professional wrestling debut as Kanemitsu Taruaki and Kawato Hirai will compete in singles matches against Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu, respectively. It will be interesting to see if this is the swan song for both Tanaka and Komatsu as the rumor is they are soon to be setting out on their excursions. Beyond the rookies making their debut, the ⅓ show will also feature a six man with Jay White, Tiger Mask and Jushin Liger taking on David Finlay, Mascara Dorada and Ryusuke Taguchi.
New Year’s Dash, the show taking place after the Tokyo Dome event on ⅕, currently has no card. Like other years, most likely the card will be announced the day of the show, probably with many tag team matches since everyone will have had their working boots on the day before.
Both shows are scheduled to be broadcast on New Japan World, with the 1/3 show airing at 7 pm PT on 1/2 (I know, time is weird), with the 1/5 show airing at 1:30 am PT.
4. With the exception of one match, every match on the WrestleKingdom card will be for a championship.
You don't absolutely NEED to know this if this is your first time tuning in, but it's an interesting fact nonetheless. This year’s show is interesting in that every title in New Japan will be defended. This isn’t a big shock, as most shows in previous years have had many title matches. But this factoid is amazing in that every match on the show, with the exception of the New Japan Rumble and a grudge match between Tetsuya Naito and Hirooki Goto, will be for a championship.
We have the major titles on the line, with Tanahashi/Okada and Nakamura/Styles for the Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles respectively. The NEVER title will be defended with Tomohiro Ishii defending against Katsuyori Shibata. It’s weird that the NEVER concept died so quickly, as originally it was supposed to be a title for younger contenders from both weight classes to compete for, which isn’t the case at all now. So it’s even weirder that a new set of six man tag belts are being made, complete with the NEVER name, with The Briscoes and Yano facing off against Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Yujiro Takahashi to determine the first champions.
Even with all of that, there are still four other titles being defended. You have both tag team titles being defended as Bullet Club (Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows) defends against Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma). The Ring of Honor title will be defended for the first time in New Japan Pro Wrestling as champion Jay Lethal defends against Michael Elgin. And finally, both Junior titles are on the line as Kenny Omega defends against Kushida and reDragon defends in a fourway against the Young Bucks, Roppongi Vice and Matt Sydal/Ricochet.
In other words...if you love title matches, this is the show for you. New Japan title matches are always special, so expect everyone to have their working boots on. You can also take bets on how many titles change hands and how many don’t with your friends!
5. This isn’t Okada and Tanahashi’s first match, and if history proves right it won’t be their last.
One of the best feuds of this decade has been between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada. Still considered the true ace of the promotion, Tanahashi has had problems with Okada dating back to Okada’s re-emergence from his TNA excursion in 2012. Ever since then, they’ve faced off seven times, six since Okada’s return, with Okada in the lead with 4 wins over Tanahashi’s 3.
The biggest factor in this match however isn’t the overall number of wins, but the wins in the Tokyo Dome. Okada has been unable to defeat Tanahashi in Tokyo Dome matches twice now, and considering he left their match last year in tears, he is sure to want to gain a measure of revenge by beating Tanahashi where it counts the most, at WrestleKingdom. While this all feels like a culmination of a feud that has now lasted four years, it might not be their last as they'll more than likely face each other again down the road. It's just that more than likely, it won't have the same ramifications as this match does.