New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) is gearing up for Wrestle Kingdom 12—their WrestleMania—and for those uninitiated to the ways of wrestling in the East, we put together a list of five reasons why you need to start checking it out. Whether you are a casual fan of pro graps or a hardcore fan who watches everything the WWE produces, now is the time to start watching New Japan. As they are continuing to grow their popularity worldwide, this may be one of the best wrestling shows ever. For just $10 depending on where you are in the world, you can subscribe to New Japan World to watch the show, and even if you don’t think NJPW will be for you, you should give it a chance.
The disconnect between New Japan and Western audiences in the past has mostly stemmed from the difference in culture, and there were few Gaijin (non-Japanese performer) featured on the programming. Now, that is rapidly changing, and this card is evidence of that. The likes of Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, Will Ospreay, Cody Rhodes, and even Chris Jericho are all performing on the show, so if a fan is worried that they won’t understand New Japan Pro Wrestling, this is proof to the contrary. The presentation is definitely different—as it is shown in more of a sporting context rather than entertainment—but that is easier to adapt to when you see such familiar faces to the wider Western audience.
Every single match on the card has the potential to be a match of the year candidate. Though it may be a long show, it will be an easy one to watch for wrestling fans. If you ask any fan of the promotion their favorite match on the card, you could get any of the current six matches as an answer, and that’s a testament to how deep and talented the roster is. Though someone who hasn't watched the show might be confused about the storylines, quickly brushing up on the background of each match is all a WWE fan would need to do to be invested in this card.
This match was being teased for quite some time on social media, but fans assumed it was a set up for a match on Jericho’s cruise in 2018, but we were all wrong. New Japan shocked the world at Power Struggle 2017 when they announced Y2J would compete for the first time in over 20 years for Omega’s IWGP United States Championship. In the ring, this match likely won’t be as good as the thrillers that Omega had over the course of 2017, but the addition of Jericho is huge for the event, as it should draw in plenty more viewers. It’s likely not going to be the best match on the show—as we just mentioned the card is stacked with great bouts—but for Western audiences, this might just be the biggest draw on the whole show.
One of the biggest gripes with WWE is that they fail to book the best cards for their biggest shows. But with Wrestle Kingdom, that is one complaint that can never be made. There are very few dream matches left in wrestling, but with the additions of vital gaijin to the New Japan roster, they managed to create some phenomenal matches that will thrill in the ring and with their stories, and that’s something you can’t consistently say about the likes of WrestleMania or Survivor Series.
This year, Wrestle Kingdom 11 was main evented by Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada, and the match received a ridiculous 6-star rating. While this probably won’t top that, Okada defending his IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Tetsuya Naito will certainly go close. The Rainmaker has been reigning over New Japan for quite some time now—in one of the longest in company history—but after his historic G1 Climax victory, Naito will be gunning for the title. With arguably two of the top five wrestlers in the world today, it will be incredibly exciting. This is one of the only matches to feature Japanese only performers, so casual WWE fans may not know of them as much, but if you want to see phenomenal wrestling with great a great story, this is the perfect main event.
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