It’s Alpha vs. Omega as WWE legend Chris Jericho challenges Kenny Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom 12.
Power Struggle was the last major show for New Japan in 2017. As such, people expected the show to set up many of the matches for Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4th. What they did not expect was just how big one of those matches would be.
After successfully defending his IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Title against Beretta in Osaka, Kenny Omega made a challenge. Talking in both English and Japanese, he asked for his next challenger to step up. When no one entered the ring he bid the fans adieu with his signature “Goodbye and good night” catchphrase, only to be interrupted on the big screen.
Omega was interrupted by none other than Chris Jericho! In front of shocked fans, “The Best in the World at What He Does” praised Omega but claimed that he was the Alpha of professional wrestling. Jericho challenged Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom 12, which Kenny accepted.
This is a huge match for many reasons. Firstly, Jericho vs Omega will pique the interest of US and western fans, a market that New Japan has been targeting as part of their plans for global expansion. Secondly, it’s Jericho’s first non WWE match since 1999 (if you ignore OVW, a former WWE Developmental Promotion). Thirdly, Jericho is the biggest former WWE Superstar to appear in New Japan since Kurt Angle. Finally, this is Jericho’s homecoming of sorts to New Japan as he had a brief Junior Heavyweight run in the promotion in 1997 and 1998 against the likes of Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Koji Kanemoto.
Omega’s IWGP Heavyweight title match in the main event of this year’s Wrestle Kingdom was the match that put Omega on the map for a lot of western fans. While this match may not be as intense as that match, I expect going up against someone with name value like Chris Jericho will further legitimize Omega in the eyes of western fans. Before the announcement fans were predicting that Omega could face the likes of Cody or Kota Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom.
While this was the biggest announcement at Power Struggle, it wasn’t the only one. At intermission New Japan declared that they were returning to Long Beach, California for a show on March 25th, 2018 at the Walter Pyramid. The Pyramid usually seats around 5,000 but the record attendance is 6,912. In comparison, the G1 Special in the USA shows had sold out attendances of 2,300 so this will be a big step up.
Hiroshi Tanahashi successfully defended the IWGP Intercontinental Title against Kota Ibushi in the main event. After the champion’s air guitar celebration, we finally had the debut of Switchblade, a wrestler whose debut had been hyped by a cryptic video for months. Switchblade turned out to be the returning Jay White, a New Japan trainee who had been on learning excursion in the USA and Europe. White’s new look also included a new attitude as he challenged Tanahashi for the IWGP Intercontinental Title at Wrestle Kingdom, taking the champion out with Sister Abigail.
As well as the two big reveals the show also set up The Young Bucks vs. IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Champions Roppongi 3K and a Fatal 4 Way match for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight title between Marty Scurll, Will Ospreay, KUSHIDA and Hiromu Takahashi. After multiple failed attempts to challenge the IWGP Jr champion, Takahashi made his title challenge wearing a football helmet and padded gloves. Prior to today’s show the only match announced for Wrestle Kingdom 12 was the highly anticipated main event of Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito.