5 Questions Heading Into NJPW King of Pro Wrestling: Can Cody & Kenny Coexist?, Is Naito Safe?, More
This Monday, New Japan Pro-Wrestling will be presenting one of their biggest shows of the year: King of Pro-Wrestling. There are a number of lingering questions, that will hopefully be answered at the 10/9 NJPW supershow.
Is Naito’s Main Event Spot Safe?
But is he?
Like all G1 winners before him, Naito will be defending the contract for a IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match at Wrestle Kingdom 12 that he carries in a black Halliburton. Monday, he’ll be facing Tomohiro Ishii.
It’s become part of the road to Wrestle Kingdom that the G1 Climax winner must defend his briefcase, which is why an upset isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Ishii has had a phenomenal 2017 and has never felt closer to an IWGP Championship match. If anyone could upset Naito, it could be Ishii.
Unfortunately for The Stone Pitbull, no one can upset Naito. Naito and Okada had a great rivalry in 2015, and now that Okada is in the greatest run of his career, a meeting with Naito in the Tokyo Dome feels inevitable.
NJPW is steadfast in their devotion to the LIJ vs. CHAOS, and an EVIL vs. Ishii match just doesn’t scream “Tokyo Dome main event,” so Naito seems safe.
But is he?
Can Cody & Kenny Coexist?
While there are two true-blue main events on the card, the undercard also features some possible golden nuggets. A notable undercard tag team match will see Jado, Yoshi-Hashi & the new heavyweight Beretta take on the Bullet Club trio of Kenny Omega, Cody [REDACTED] & Marty Scurll. This match could have serious implications for Wrestle Kingdom 12.
Tensions between Cody & Kenny have been bubbling throughout 2017. With Okada seemingly tied up with Naito for the Wrestle Kingdom 12 main event, The Cleaner finds himself without a dance partner. While Omega had a main event defense against Juice Robinson, and will be in action during the Global Wars tour, he’s yet to defend the title against a major name in NJPW. A Cody/Kenny match for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship would be a huge event, and would be help legitimize the new title. Can these two alphas coexist on the same team, or will they fracture Bullet Club en route to a Wrestle Kingdom showdown?
Can The Rainmaker Overcome The King of Darkness?
By bell-time on Monday morning, Kazuchika Okada will be less than 20 days away from the longest reign in IWGP Heavyweight Championship history. His current run with the championship has been the stuff of mythology. Star ratings aside, during this reign he’s bested MMA Legend Minoru Suzuki, Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Naomichi Marufuji, and wrestled a heralded trilogy with Kenny Omega.
His opponent at King of Pro-Wrestling will be EVIL. The former Takaaki Watanabe has become a major player in the faction war between CHAOS and Los Ingobernables de Japon. While not as popular as Bullet Club on this shore, LIJ has been a major force in merchandise sales for NJPW. As a member of the group, EVIL has found himself holding the NEVER Openweight Championship and the NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship with BUSHI and SANADA.
Can EVIL topple the Rainmaker, or will Okada best The King of Darkness to cap off a mythical 2017?
What’s Next For The Young Gaijins of NJPW?
Kenny Omega isn’t the only foreigner in NJPW that’s turning in career defining performances in 2017. Will Ospreay is set to challenge KUSHIDA in a rematch from May’s Best of Super Juniors final. Beretta will do battle alongside his CHAOS brethren. Juice Robinson gets to team with Kota Ibushi, and not his Tiger Mask W alter ego, ACTUAL Kota Ibushi. Michael Elgin is not on the card, but no article mentioning “NJPW gaijins” is complete without brining up how good his 2017 has been.
The biggest gaijin mystery will be the members of Rocky Romero’s “Roppongi 3K.” Romero promised a new Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team to challenge the current IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi. Who are these mysterious Jr. Heavyweights and will they be able to defeat Funky Future?
What Lies Ahead For Katsuyori Shibata?
At April’s Sakura Genesis, Katsuyori Shibata made many fans question their loyalty to Strong Style with a headbutt so powerful that it split Shibata’s skull and caused a subdural hematoma that many thought spelled the end for Shibata’s in-ring career. Then at the G1 Final in August, Shibata shocked the Ryogoku crowd by delivering a brief promo, “I am alive, that is all,” and then taking a back bump in the center of the ring.
While one back bump doesn’t necessarily mean that Shibata is back in fighting shape, it does add a sense of mystery to the vicious wrestler’s future. Will Shibata return in 2018?
King of Pro-Wrestling airs at 4am EST on njpwworld.com