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Wrestle Kingdom 11: The Official Smark Henry Preview




Ladies and gentlemen, it is that time of the year when New Japan Pro Wrestling takes the wrestling world by storm with their January 4 tradition, Wrestle Kingdom 11 in Tokyo Dome! With so many great matches this year, the new era of NJPW is ready to show that even after the mini-exodus a year ago, New Japan is alive and well in 2017. So, without any further delay:

Match #1: Tiger Mask W vs. Tiger the Dark (Tiger Mask W TV Anime Special Singles Match)




Naoto Azuma and Takuma Fujii were both young boys under the Jipang Pro Wrestling group, at least until its destruction courtesy of the Global Wrestling Monopoly (GWM), an evil wrestling promotion supported by the shadow wrestling group known as the Tiger's Den. Since then, these two have plotted their revenge on GWM, but taking two different paths. On one hand, Naoto took the mantle of Tiger Mask to take the evil faction head on, while Takuma adapted the Tiger the Dark persona and worked within the Tiger's Den, hoping to destroy the group from the inside. 

With New Japan Pro Wrestling having taken the mediator role between the two sides in the show, it only makes sense that finally, Tiger Mask W and Tiger the Dark would face each other at Wrestle Kingdom 11, as was meant to be.

In all consideration to the skills of these two talented wrestlers, there is just no way to determine who will win this battle to determine just which Tiger is the best, and frankly, it would be hard to make an argument about this. Hell, a golden star might shine towards the victor that night. But no matter what happens, one thing will forever be for certain:

They both are miles better than Tiger Mask IV.

P.S. Tiger Mask W is available through Crunchyroll. Check it out!

P.P.S. Let it be known that we kept it kayfabe for the love of pro wrestling

Prediction: Both men will come out leaving a better legacy than Tiger Mask IV


Match # 2: The Young Bucks (c) vs. Roppongi Vice for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships




This year’s Junior Heavyweight Tag Title opener goes back to the simpler team vs. team format as the arguably the most decorated tag team champions in the world today, The Young Bucks, defend their championships against Roppongi Vice, the first time this has happened since Wrestle Kingdom 6 (would you believe that?). The Bucks’ 2016 was a banner year, not only ending it holding 3 different tag team titles, but also lit up the promotion as two-thirds of The Elite. 

On the other hand, RPG Vice has had a rough couple of months as a team, and was even at a verge of a breakup. That was, until their win in the 2016 Super Jr. Tag Tournament some time ago, granting them a title match to be cashed in at Wrestle Kingdom 11.

For what it is, kudos to NJPW for finally bringing back the simpler team vs. team format, as there is actually much to offer by giving focus back to the division. Being said, expect this match to further pump up the crowd for the rest of the night. While a Bucks win is to be expected given their spot in the company (and in anticipation of their match against the Broken Hardyz), expect RPG Vice to put on a show. Nonetheless, this bout is going to be on fire.

Prediction: The Young Bucks retain

Match #3: Satoshi Kojima, Ricochet, and David Finlay (c) vs. CHAOS (Jado, Will Ospreay, and YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi, and Hangman Page) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, and SANADA) in a Gauntlet Match for the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship




This may very well be this year’s spiritual successor to the four-way Jr. Tag Title match: a four-team NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship Gauntlet Match featuring the prevailing tag champs and representatives of all NJPW factions in a first of its kind bout. What is so great is that this match will feature the rest of the NJPW roster in a big way, exposing fans to more of what the promotion has to offer.



Ever since Matt Sydal got fired from NJPW, David Finlay managed to secure a premiere spot in the roster as one-third of the tag champs alongside Kojima and Ricochet, with all three being able to deliver when it matters most. All advantage of the champs are out of the window, however, as they will be involved in a first-ever Gauntlet Match, where luck will play a huge factor into the bout. As such, there is no real way to determine who will actually win the match (although the thought of Ospreay and Ricochet tearing it up in the Tokyo Dome would be a win for all fans). Regardless, the favorites have got to be the LIJ tandem, who has more to gain given the momentum they gathered over the past year. An LIJ win will give the division a much needed boost in the coming year, and a great way to elevate SANADA further in the roster as a future main event player.

Prediction: LIJ somehow wins the belts

Match #4: "The American Nightmare" Cody (Rhodes) vs. Juice Robinson




This may be the only non-title match on the card (not counting the Tiger Mask W thing), but the match is still equally of importance as it marks the official NJPW debut of “The American Nightmare” Cody (Rhodes) as he will take on a diamond in the rough that has made quite an impact in Juice Robinson. 

Less than a year since the former Stardust left WWE, he immediately made his mark in the American pro wrestling circuit, having been in PWG, TNA, and ROH among others. Now, he is finally making his mark in the land of puroresu under NJPW and the Bullet Club stable, further cementing himself as a premiere star.

On the other hand, ever since leaving WWE NXT, the former CJ Parker has taken every opportunity given to him by NJPW, even getting to team with the likes of the Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi. This marks his first ever singles bout in the Tokyo Dome, something no one ever imagined when he was an angry eco-warrior in NXT and a testament to his willingness to succeed.

It may be a given at this point that Cody will secure his debut win and hopefully be that much closer to a match with Shibata, but much like RPG Vice, expect Juice to do the same and capitalize on this rare opportunity to showcase his goods to a grander audience.

Though it is funny and ironic that Juice is practically a sacrificial lamb, a call to his previous role in NXT.

Prediction: Cody wins his NJPW debut match

Match #5: Kyle O'Reilly (c) vs. Adam Cole for the Ring of Honor World Championship




This year’s ROH offering comes in the form of the rematch from Final Battle weeks ago: Kyle O’Reilly defending his newly-won ROH World Championship against his former friend, Adam Cole (baybay).

These two men are no strangers with one another, having been partners and enemies over the years. The latest chapter of their ongoing rivalry saw the Martial Artist beating the BC member to secure his first world title win at Final Battle. Instead of having to wait for a while before Cole gets his rematch, it was decided that the rematch will take place at Wrestle Kingdom 11, which would be his first ever appearance at the Dome.

Given the chemistry between these two ROH standouts, it wouldn’t be surprising if they outdo the previous year’s ROH title defense. Being the case, it also wouldn’t be surprising if this match attempts to outdo the rest of the card. If you aren’t a fan of modern day Ring of Honor, these two will convince you guys to come and join the ride!

The money’s on KOR to retain the belt given that he is primed to become a top star in the long run, and a successful defense will cement this further. Cole has already held the title, so perhaps he can look at NJPW for some future title opportunities.

Prediction: Kyle O'Reilly retains

Match #6: Guerillas of Destiny (c) vs. Great Bash Heel vs. Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii for the IWGP Tag Team Championships




Previously, this match was supposed to be the rubber match between the GOD and GBH for the tag belts, the champs vs. the winners of the 2016 World Tag League. However, a unexpected turn of events saw a returning Toru Yano, fresh from his time in Pro Wrestling NOAH, surprise both teams and demanded that he be inserted into the title picture as well, Ishii being his chosen partner. NJPW (controversially) seemed to be behind Yano’s proposal and opted that the belts be on the line in a three-way match, the first time since 2011 that this has occurred in a Wrestle Kingdom.

The inclusion of Yano and Ishii brings a whole new dynamic into a bout supposedly all about brawling and brutality, with the Master Thief bringing his cheating ways to the mix and Ishii delivering his pitbull-like aggression. While the original plans were good enough, given the improvements Tonga and Loa have been getting over time, the three-way bout is sure to keep things exciting especially with Makabe and Honma in the mix.

While it would have been a want to see Makabe and Honma win the titles once again, the need for NJPW at this point is to have the GOD retain the belts and help establish the new tag team division even further. Given this is a step up for Tonga from days gone by, when he was the fourth wheel of the original Bullet Club, we might as well make a declaration that 2017 will be a year of revelation for the son of Haku.

Prediction: GOD retains

Match #7: KUSHIDA (c) vs Hiromu Takahashi for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship




It is the dream match you never knew you wanted: Time Splitter vs. Time Bomb for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship at the Tokyo Dome!

Since the G1 Finals, a mysterious video about a time bomb has been playing, fueling rumors of a Minoru Suzuki return or even a Ryback debut. But at Power Struggle, we got a swerve of sorts when, after KUSHIDA successfully defended the belt against BUSHI, the mysterious videos’ meaning was revealed: the return of Hiromu Takahashi to NJPW. The former Kamaitachi, fresh from his years-long excursion over the world, went up and straight challenged KUSHIDA to a match for his title, the latter gladly accepting the proposition for Wrestle Kingdom 11. Things got more complicated when Takahashi made his allegiances known and joined the LIJ weeks later.

Here’s a bold prediction: this match will be the sleeper match of the night. KUSHIDA’s become the Jr. standard-bearer everyone expected him to be, while Takahashi’s been awing fans all over the world with his undeniable talent, a far cry from his young lion days. The thing about this match is that no matters who wins, it ends with the fans benefitting from it. Either KUSHIDA remains the face of the division or a new face like Takahashi gets the win and runs with the ball; you really cannot go wrong. So for this match, predicting the results is a toss-up, but it’s a guarantee that this match is must-see.

Prediction: Toss-up, but the fans will win from watching this match

Match #8: Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight Championship




Two years ago, both of these men, as Meiyu Tag, defeated Gallows and Anderson to become the IWGP Tag Team Champions. My, how 2 years can make a difference.

Hirooki Goto went from challenging Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship early in the year and attempting to end his bad luck to joining CHAOS, the irony being quite strong on this one. On the other hand, Shibata has been very successful when it comes to being the face of the NEVER Openweight Championship scene, winning the belt three times in 2016. Now, these two high school friends meet up once again for the belt following a Goto pin over Shibata in the end of the World Tag League tour, setting the match up for Wrestle Kingdom 11.

As much as this match is going to be a top-quality brawl from start to finish, one has to wonder where  or not someone in NJPW management will finally give Goto a bone after being the bridesmaid for so long, especially since Shibata has set himself up well as the face of the NEVER Openweight title. For that reason alone, a Shibata win is a safe bet, given how much of a respectable run The Wrestler has with the title. And that is a sad thing as Goto is becoming the Manabu Nakanishi of today’s era: always the bridesmaid.

Prediction: Shibata retains

Match #9: Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship




On paper, the idea of Naito vs. Tanahashi for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom is, in and of itself, more than enough reason to put butts in seats, as the old saying goes. But that’s just it: on paper, as there is more significance to this match than meets the eye.

At Wrestle Kingdom 8, the Naito vs. Okada match for the Heavyweight Championship was bumped to the semi-final in favor of Tanahashi vs. Nakamura for the Intercontinental Championship as the main event via fan voting, one that has arguably damaged the image of both Naito and Okada at a time. And it is a fan vote that Naito never forgave the fans for, finally culminating to him embracing his Ingobernable side in 2015. Ironically, it’s that apathetic attitude that won fans over, finally becoming the megastar and merchandise mover he was meant to be. 

But he still never forgot about that fateful fan vote that almost ruined his career. As a matter of fact, Naito would not allow another fan vote to have his own match with Tana be the main event as he believes the Heavyweight Championship should main event the show, and also to stick it to the Ace for what happened three years ago.

Tanahashi, on the other hand, has not been the same since the loss to Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 10, which led to a chain of unfortunate events including a loss to Omega for the Intercontinental Championship at The New Beginning and an injury that derailed his chase for said title. As to prove to everyone that he is still the top guy in New Japan, he made the challenge to El Ingobernable for the belt, which was immediately set for the show.

There is no bone about this: Naito has to win this. Tanahashi has practically done it all as a wrestler and is a certified Hall of Famer, and there is much to do with Naito and what he can offer in today’s New Japan. In a simple way of putting it, it is time to finally give Naito a singles WK win, and who better than against the aging Ace?

Prediction: Naito retains

Match #10: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Kenny Omega for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship




If you asked anyone in the beginning on 2016 that Okada and Omega will main event a future Wrestle Kingdom, you would probably call us crazy for making such a bold prediction. But here we are now, the first WK main event in years to not feature Tanahashi, and with all eyes on the future of NJPW in one match.

Okada has been riding a wave of momentum since winning the main event of last year’s Wrestle Kingdom, officially becoming the face of NJPW in the midst of the company’s global expansion efforts. Likewise, he also managed further establish his position inside the ring as well, recently finally overcoming Naomichi Marufuji of Pro Wrestling NOAH at King of Pro Wrestling. In the one year anniversary of his win over Tanahashi, he aims to keep his winning ways going, but to do so, he needs to overcome a man that has proven to be a revelation for the past 12 months.

Kenny Omega lost the Jr. Heavyweight Championship at last year's show, but alas, one door closes, another one opens. When AJ Styles left for WWE, The Cleaner took over the role as the new leader of Bullet Club, won the Intercontinental Championship, the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship, and the G1 Climax (first gaijin to win the whole thing), all while having been part of the first ladder match in NJPW history. To say the least, his graduation to heavyweight has been doing wonders to his career. And now, by virtue of the G1 Climax victory, he gets a crack at Okada and will attempt to wrest the title away from him, capping off a monumental year for the Canadian.

This first-time singles bout between the two men is going to be the most dynamic main event of its kind in years. Okada has the athleticism in his side while Omega brings in a hybrid Jr. Heavyweight style to the mix. To put it in perspective, this is the closest we would ever see high flying action in a Tokyo Dome main event, so the contest is sure to be exciting, wild, and dramatic. More pressure, however, for Omega given it is his first time main-eventing a show of this magnitude, but as the past year has shown us, he is more than ready to grab the opportunity in front of him. And let us not forget, if Omega wins, he becomes the first ever wrestler to have won the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight and Heavyweight Championships.

While it seems delightful to see Omega get that win, and a lot of fans certainly do, money is on Okada right now. Okada is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete carrying the weight of being the face of the second-largest promotion in the world. And the scariest part? He arguably hasn’t even reached his prime yet. An Okada win is best for the company right now, but don’t be surprised if Omega gets a title run in the future.

Prediction: Okada retains

Tomorrow cannot come soon enough, as wrestling fans will celebrate New Year in a big way with NJPW's latest offering. Don't forget that you can subscribe to NJPW World for only 999 yen a month, which will give you access to future NJPW events.

Do you agree with our predictions for tomorrow? Let us know in the comments!

Images from NJPW

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