At Wrestle Kingdom 10, the two men who’ve dominated New Japan’s Junior division in 2015 will face off once again for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship. KUSHIDA and Kenny Omega have been the only two to hold the title in 2015. Well, technically Ryusuke Taguchi did hold the it for the first four days of the year until he was defeated by Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 9. But since then, it’s been all Omega and KUSHIDA (mostly Omega).
As mentioned literally one second ago, Kenny “The Cleaner” Omega started 2015 in style by winning the IWGP Jr. Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 9. He then went on a rampage through the Junior division, taking on all comers from all* nations (all of the ones that are Japan, Mexico, and the U.S.). With each successful defence, Omega took one step closer to going off the deep end. He became more egotistical, more maniacal, more eccentric 80’s action movie villain, to the point where he now comes to the ring beating a trash can and singing along to his own theme music. For some, it’s overkill. For me, it’s the perfect storm of questionable acting and complete absurdity. Omega provides the enjoyment similar to what one gets from watching a good bad movie. But behind all the wackiness and overacting, there’s an amazingly talented wrestler
While Omega was running roughshod through the Juniors, KUSHIDA was upping his game, with his sights set on Omega and the Jr. title. He finally got his chance for a shot at the title when he won the 2015 Super Junior tournament. KUSHIDA defeated Kyle O’Reilly in the finals of the tournament in what was one of the best matches of 2015. He has been very good for long time now, but for me, that match elevated him to another level. Tanahashi may be the ace of New Japan, but KUSHIDA is the ace of the Juniors.
Kushida made sure not to waste his opportunity and ended Omega’s 182 day run as champion at NJPW Dominion in Osaka. After capturing the title, KUSHIDA looked set for an impressive run as champion. A run that would establish himself as the huge star he has shown he can be. Boy was I wrong. After a one successful defence against Ricochet, KUSHIDA would lose the title back to Kenny Omega at New Japan Destruction in Okayama, a mere 80 days after capturing the belt. All of KUSHIDA’s momentum was stopped dead in its tracks, like a DeLorean with a busted flux capacitor.
After regaining his title, Omega would continue his maniacal domination of the Junior division like he’d never missed a beat, while KUSHIDA, fire unequivocally extinguished, would flounder in the Jr. Tag division with Alex Shelley as the Time Splitters. Heads were left scratching, and it wasn’t due to an outbreak in lice, which took the lives of thousands.
The booking seemed baffling at the time, until it was clear KUSHIDA was going to challenge for the title at Wrestle Kingdom 10. Surely there was a better way to get to KUSHIDA vs. Omega at the Tokyo Dome without cutting KUSHIDA’s momentum off at the knees. It seems like NJPW simply wants to repeat KUSHIDA’s big moment from Dominion when he captured the title on a bigger, grander stage.
And so, "The Cleaner" and "The Time Splitter" will meet for the third (and final?) time on January 4th at the Tokyo Dome. Their previous two matches have been subjectively very good. Some can’t get past Omega’s eccentricities and the usual Bullet Club antics. Personally, I could do without the Bullet Club stuff, but I enjoy the Omega’s rapscallion ways, and don’t allow them to take away from his matches.
As with a good portion of the Wrestle Kingdom 10 card, the journey to get there has been questionable, but the match itself should be solid.