By Will Pruett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@itswilltime)
These predictions are basically complete guesses. I mean, I know how professional wrestling tends to work and am using that to frame my analysis, but I have no insider information. Join Jason Powell for live coverage of NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 beginning with the pre-show as it airs Friday morning at 1CT/2ET for the pre-show! He’ll probably stay awake through the whole show!
Wrestle Kingdom 13 is a show at a crossroads for NJPW, multiple wrestlers, and the wrestling industry as a whole. All Elite Wrestling is launching their operation, with Cody and The Young Bucks officially signed on. We don’t know whether they will have a working relationship with NJPW or not. We don’t know what the other “Elite” wrestlers (like Kenny Omega) have planned.
Match results will be important on this show, as they always are in NJPW, but perhaps what happens when this show is over will be more intriguing. Let’s get into it!
Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship – Kenny Omega, since winning the IWGP Championship from Okada, has been an underwhelming champion. He couldn’t have lived up to Okada’s title reign without absolute epic storytelling, but he’s been in a lull since the G1. This is almost standard for the IWGP Champion, but expectations were really high for Omega.
Tanahashi, on the other hand, felt revitalized as the G1 went on. He’s seemed like a man back to his true self. The story of the once and future ace of NJPW reclaiming his glory is a compelling one. It makes Tanahashi the sentimental favorite here and makes Omega a defacto heel.
Another wrinkle to this is Omega’s contract situation and the launch of All Elite Wrestling. Will the new promotion manage to lure Omega away from Japan, which has been his home for years? Will the two promotions manage to work together? This match feels as much about the in-ring action as it does the backstage maneuverings as the wrestling industry is about to change.
Hiroshi Tanahashi defeats Kenny Omega to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Chris Jericho vs. Tetsuya Naito the IWGP Intercontinental Championship – I may be in the minority, but even last year, I found getting into Chris Jericho’s middle-aged goth act in NJPW challenging. It’s a year later, we’ve seen him more, and the eye makeup is getting worse. I know these wrestlers will put on a great showing here. I know Naito and Jericho will live up to being the semi-main event at the Tokyo Dome. I know it will be fun to watch.
With all of that knowledge, I just can’t get into Jericho, still. I’m hoping for and expecting a Naito win and, ideally, a resurgence of him in the picture for the main IWGP Championship soon. He’s felt a little lost since losing to Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 12. Let’s get Natio back on track.
Tetsuya Naito defeats Chris Jericho to win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White – Speaking of lost wrestlers, here’s Okada! Maybe it’s not just a slump for the IWGP Championship since the middle of 2018, but a slump for the whole promotion after the insane creative high that Okada’s long title reign produced. Hey, they can’t all be winners and NJPW still managed to put together a great Tokyo Dome card. I’m not complaining.
This story is about Okada coming back to beat Jay White. It’s been built well with twists, turns, and Gedo’s betrayal. Now it’s time for Okada to step up and right the wrongs. It feels weird not seeing Okada in the main event of this show, but after so many main events, maybe it was time to step aside for a year.
Kazuchika Okada defeats Jay White.
Kushida vs. Taiji Ishimori for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship – It’s still refreshing to see a singles match for the IWGP Junior Championship at the Tokyo Dome. I’m excited for this one and expect the action to be fast, furious, and delightful. I’m picking a lot of stories to end here and a lot of championship changes, so that’s why I believe Kushida retains. Not every title can change and not every story can peak.
Kushida defeats Taiji Ishimori to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
Cody vs. Juice Robinson for the IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Championship – Another match with even strong implications for NJPW’s relationship with All Elite Wrestling. Cody’s career resurgence since leaving WWE has been amazing. His two years in NJPW could come to a close here. He has been a remarkable talent and a major piece of NJPW’s U.S. expansion. Holding the U.S. Championship seems fitting for him.
Juice is coming off the best year of his career, with a major win at the G1 Special in San Francisco as a highlight. It feels like a major Tokyo Dome win can help solidify Juice at the top of the NJPW card, something they’ll need with a potential loss of talent coming around the bend.
Juice Robinson defeats Cody to win the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship.
Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay for the NEVER Openweight Championship – This match is set to open the main card and I cannot wait. It’s probably my most anticipated match on this show, a true dream match, and a match I don’t care about the result of. Is that weird? The NEVER title has never mattered to me, but putting the two premier high flyers in a match together on a major stage has made me want to see a match for it.
Ibushi and Ospreay could end up as an all-time great opener. I could be cursing the match somehow, but I’d look to the likes of Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart and Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan to find comparable openers on major shows. This is going to rule.
Kota Ibushi defeats Will Ospreay to retain the NEVER Openweight Championship.
Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Sanada and Evil) vs. The Young Bucks for the IWGP Tag Team Championship – Tag team matches at the Tokyo Dome usually get the short end of the stick. They’re rarely the most anticipated matches. They’re rarely as important as they might be on other shows. They’re rarely as long as they should be (even though this show will be over five hours).
This could be the final NJPW appearance of The Young Bucks for a while (aside from the New Years Dash show) as All Elite Wrestling takes over their lives. I’m excited to see what they come up with in a last major match.
It feels like putting Los Ingobernables on the a winning path could be the overall right choice for this show, so I’ll pick them to win, especially since they won the World Tag League.
Los Ingobernables de Japon win the IWGP Tag Team Championship.
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr. for the British Heavyweight Championship – This seems to be the slot usually filled by a Ring of Honor match going to Rev Pro. Sabre and Ishii always have great chemistry and I expect this match to showcase that well. I also expect it to be one of the shorter one-on-one matches on the card. Look at the past ROH Championship matches at Wrestle Kingdom for an example.
Ishii is always towards the top of the card and capable of rising to Heavyweight Championship level. ZSJ was elevated in NJPW via his feud with Okada this past year. They are going to need top level stars (or stars capable of being at that level) as the year goes on. For that reason, I expect this to be a hard-fought showcase win for Zack Sabre Jr.
Zack Sabre Jr. defeats Tomohiro Ishii to win the British Heavyweight Championship.
Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado) vs. Roppongi 3K vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Bushi and Shingo Takagi) for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship – The Junior Tag Titles are a fun part of NJPW, but this match lacks the excitement of some past years. It has the same issues as the heavyweight tag match, plus we end up with three and four way Junior tags pretty often. Hopefully the action of this delivers.
I have no idea who will win this one. Someone?
As with every year, this show will set the standard for the show of the year conversation. NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom shows always deliver some five star (or more) action. This show will be no different.
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. Of interest to him are diversity in wrestling and wrestling as a theatrical art form. To see his video content subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.