Sometimes, being a wrestling fan can be a bit of a slog. WWE alone produces at least six hours of mainline content across three days, making it hard to keep up with much else. Still, we do, despite the potential of overloading on wrestling. Yet, every once in awhile something happens that makes fans stop dead in their tracks and take notice. Whether it was something WWE manufactured like AJ Styles’ debut, or the classic Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada at the beginning of the year. Now, it’s Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho, and it’s putting New Japan on the map in a way they’ve never been before.
Slowly but surely, New Japan has been inching closer and closer to mainstream acceptance in North America, and they’ve expressed interest in expanding into that region. The Bullet Club has merch in Hot Topic, they’ve worked with Jim Ross for commentary gigs, and they produce at least one match a year that gets the entire world of wrestling talking, but bringing in Jericho puts the company on a whole other level.
With Jericho, New Japan gets a face that is known the world over. He’s honed his craft around the world and worked in the biggest promotions around. Not only that, but he’s been on top of the mountain. In many ways, Jericho’s New Japan return could be considered a smaller scale version of Hulk Hogan showing up in WCW. Omega recently compared the build to their showdown to Hulk Hogan vs “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and while that seems like a stretch, it is the biggest showdown outside of the WWE since WCW was around. We think it’s a stretch to compare either Jericho or Omega to Savage or Hogan in terms of star power, but Omega vs Jericho is a dream match for many fans, and one no one saw coming.
While it might only be for one night instead of a multi-year run, and Jericho isn’t quite the industry game changer Hogan is, Y2J is coming off the best run of his career. That mixed with the decades of entertainment that he’s provided gives him a legendary status that puts New Japan in a great position to take the plunge into the American market that they’ve only dipped their toes into.
He really couldn’t face a better opponent either. Having two North Americans go at it will make it easier for fans from Canada and the USA to get invested. As for Japanese fans, Jericho has a history in NJPW, making this feel like a return home for the star.
Sentimental reasons aside, fans from both sides of the world are in for a treat when it comes to in-ring work of Omega vs Jericho. Omega had a series of high profile, well-received matches earlier in 2017, his stock couldn’t be any higher leading into this bout. The leader of the Bullet Club is at the top of his game, and is considered one of the best workers in the world, while Jericho showed no signs of slowing down during his 2017 WWE run.
While the idea of Omega vs Jericho is enough to sell most wrestling fans on Wrestle Kingdom 12, NJPW has gone the extra mile and made the bout personal. Jericho’s surprise appearance and beatdown of Omega was one of the most exhilarating post-match altercations in some time, and The Cleaner’s retaliation at a press event has made a lot of fans actually believe these two don’t like each other—which we all know is the best way to put butts in seats. The image of Omega wearing a crimson mask after a surprise codebreaker and a few whacks to the head with his US Title is instantly iconic and will go down in history as one of the great moments in wrestling.
The build to Omega vs Jericho has been perfect, and the anticipation for Wrestle Kingdom 12 is really at fever-pitch. New Japan will have a lot of new eyes on their product thanks to this dream matchup, and hopefully, it will make them a whole slew of new fans. If the payoff for this match is as great as the build, WWE may have to watch their backs as New Japan’s footing in North America will only grow, and with that, Vince McMahon might have some serious competition again. This is exciting and is only great for wrestling as a while.
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