IWGP World Heavyweight, Junior Heavyweight Championships on the line in the Tokyo Dome
A special press conference today in Tokyo officially announced the theme and first matches for Wrestle Kingdom 17 in the Tokyo Dome on January 4 2023.
Headlining the special Antonio Inoki memorial event will be G1 Climax winner Kazuchika Okada challenging IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Jay White. Okada has been carrying the legacy of NJPW and its founder Antonio Inoki on his shoulders as he’s battled through the 50th Anniversary year of 2022, and now will pit his fighting spirit against that of the World Heavyweight Champion. Yet Jay White owns a 4-1 record against the Rainmaker, and odds may be long against Okada even in his de facto home territory of the biggest stage in professional wrestling.
The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship will be on the line when Taiji Ishimori defends against Master Wato, Hiromu Takahashi and El Desperado in a four way match. After Ishimori won the junior title at Dontaku on May 1, and defended against Hiromu in Korakuen after Best of the Super Jr., the Bone Soldier appeared to set himself out as the ‘big one’ in a junior heavyweight ‘big three’ consisting of himself, Desperado and Hiromu. Yet Ishimori has been far from a fighting champion. After refusing to grant KUSHIDA a title shot, Master Wato stepped up to fill the void in the wake of the Timesplitter’s illness, and stunned the champ with Recientemente II. Now Ishimori has no choice but to defend his title against not one but three contenders, but will do so with the longest gap between title matches in the belt’s 35 year history. Is Ishimori more concerned about his champion status than he’s let on up to this point?