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31 Days of Wrestling (12/1/2018): Winnipeg Boys Conquer the Tokyo Dome (Wrestle Kingdom 12)


Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2018 produced for us.

Where were you on the afternoon of November 5, 2017?

Or to be specific, where were you when Chris Jericho challenged Kenny Omega for the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship for Wrestle Kingdom 12?

No wrestling fan would have ever imagined putting all those words together in a sentence. But here we are, living in a world where Chris Jericho—who declared that he’d never work for anyone in his life aside from Vince McMahon—faced Kenny Omega—the person hailed as one of, if not the, best in the world right now—for a New Japan Pro-Wrestling championship in the company’s biggest event.

The premise was simple: Jericho is the alpha to Omega’s, well, omega. The beginning versus the end. Jericho slammed down the notion that Kenny is the best in the world. Those things alone set the two giants up for an epic confrontation.

Except that they decided to up the ante and make it a no disqualification match.

A NJPW newbie should understand that stipulation matches like this don't come regularly. Their first stipulation match happened just last 2016 when Kenny Omega (again, yes) battled Michael Elgin in a ladder match for the IWGP Intercontinental title in Dominion. New Japan is a traditional company that sees more gravity in singles matches, hence the rarity of stipulation matches.

But when they whip out stipulation matches like this, and in their biggest show at that, you know shit's going down.


One cannot help but think that the stipulation was pulled out of the bag to cover Jericho's age and seeming lack of ability to keep up with The Cleaner.  He is 47 and he hasn't wrestled in quite a while at the time. But Jericho's performance confirmed that The Man of 1,004 Holds still is one of the best in the world.

While it broke the New Japan main event mold (there was blood in the match!), the so-called "co-main event" still had the physicality fans had come to expect from a New Japan main event. The only difference was that Jericho and Omega seasoned it with broken tables and chairs.

Jericho and Omega played their cards really well. Jericho wasn't the Y2J of WWE that we knew. He was vile, rude, and violent in this feud. Omega, on the other hand, may have been the most babyface Kenny Omega I have ever seen. The Japanese fans loved him as their own, and he was there to defend the fort.

Omega retained the title after a 34-minute, slow-burning war. But more than the match itself,—which was so good, Dave Meltzer gave it five stars, if you subscribe to his match ratings—it was the effect and message to the business that mattered more.

Wrestling is alive and it's growing. Walls are being broken down, and dream matches are coming true one by one. If 2018 already gave us inter-promotional matches like Jericho versus Omega, among others, what more can we expect in the coming years?

And if fans win, then it is #BestForBusiness.


*****

31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2018.

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