Wrestle Kingdom in Yokohama Arena full card, preview 【WK17】

LIJ vs KONGO in a series of singles


The full card has been revealed for Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Yokohama Arena. After the success of NJPW vs NOAH in the building last year, fans have speculated about the possibility of a second event for the last twelve months, and got that speculation confirmed after Kenoh of Kongo invaded the Tokyo Dome backstage area on January 4. With the other members of NOAH adding their names into the mix, the card was made complete today in a special press conference.

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Main event- Kongo vs LIJ Best of five series: Tetsuya Naito vs Kenoh


Last year’s Yokohama Arena confrontation between NOAH and NJPW was driven by the two companies’ respective champions at the end of that year. Shingo Takagi was carrying the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship at the time, and Katshiko Nakajima was a bullish and arrogant GHC Heavyweight Champion. After verbal shots were delivered by both men, a ten man tag was made between Kongo and Los Ingobernables De Japon, a match that Takagi won, getting his 2022 back on track after a painful loss to Kazuchika Okada on January 4. 

Yet while Tetsuya Naito and crew were happy to move on, the result stuck in the craw of Kenoh. The brash and ever opinionated Kenoh was determined to get even with the members of LIJ one day, all the more so with Naito, who couldn’t help but poke the bear as the group made their exit from Yokohama on January 8 2022. Nearly one year later, Kenoh picked his spot, and arrived backstage at the Tokyo Dome to challenge Naito and LIJ en masse. Kenoh recently had his GHC Heavyweight Championship match with Kaito Kiyomiya placed in the double main event 1 spot on New Year’s Day in the Nippon Budokan, while Great Muta wrestled Shinsuke Nakamura in the top billed bout. As Nakamura was victorious in the main event, Kenoh came up short in his challenge for GHC gold, a position with which Naito is well familiar. Indeed this battle of two wrestlers who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, or to speak their mind in the face of company directives and conventions, is one of two men who have more similarities than differences. But which is the better wrestler?

8th Match Kongo vs LIJ Best of five series: Shingo Takagi vs Katsuhiko Nakajima

Singles record: 2-0 Nakajima


When Kenoh confronted Tetsuya Naito backstage at Wrestle Kingdom, Naito was rather blaze about anything coming from the face to face. Meanwhile Shingo Takagi was perhaps more calculating. When the Dragon suggested that LIJ would reign over Kongo ‘in a ten man, a six man, even a singles situation’, perhaps he was setting bait to which Kenoh and Kongo greedily agreed. Since last year’s Yokohama Arena event was announced, Shingo Takagi has wanted his hands on Katsuhiko Nakajima one on one for the first time since 2012, hungry to right a 0-2 record against the former GHC Champion. Takagi has already had a tremendous start to 2023, claiming the KOPW 2023 belt as well as issuing a challenge to IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada. If Takagi can defeat Nakajima on eon one for the first time in Yokohama Arena, it would be a hattrick of 2023 successes, but his opponent is an extremely dangerous man, and one that could send all of Shingo’s momentum crashing to a halt.

7th Match Kongo vs LIJ Best of five series: SANADA vs Manabu Soya

Singles record: 4-3 SANADA


While other competitors in this best of five series may have shorter resumes opposite one another, Manabu Soya and SANADA are very familiar, albeit reunified after a long time apart. Their past goes back to a mutual start in All japan Pro-Wrestling, where Soya and SANADA were contemporaries that traded singles wins between 2007 and 2012, and were former tag champions together.. While SANADA had the slight singles advantage, Soya would prove more difficult to beat in the tag ranks alongside Get Wild partner Takao Omori, the duo ending SANADA’s AJPW World Tag Team Championship reign along with Joe Doering. Will that success hold true in Yokohama, and can Soya even the score with a Cold Skull hungry to set a new narrative for himself in 2023?

6th Match Kongo vs LIJ Best of five series: Hiromu Takahashi vs Hajime Ohara


The one member of this five on five lineup that was not part of last year’s tag team match between LIJ and Kongo, Hajime Ohara carries an impressive junior heavyweight resume. The former GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion and six time GHC Jr. Tag Team Champion will create somewhat of a junior heavyweight dream match with Hiromu Takahashi. As Hiromu enters his fifth reign as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, he has YOH next on his agenda, but has to make sure to protect the champion’s target on his back, and stop a new contender being created tonight.

5th Match Kongo vs LIJ Best of five series: Tadasuke vs BUSHI


In last year’s ten man tag between Kongo and LIJ, it would be Tadasuke that took the loss. One year on, two men who are perhaps unsung glue guys for either group will collide on on one in an important position as first of the five singles bouts. Who sets the pace and gets the first win?

4th Match: Kazuchika Okada & Togi Makabe vs Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura


Last year’s Yokohama Arena card saw IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada tie up with Kaito Kiyomiya in the main event, Kiyomiya leaving in frustration along with Keiji Muto as they fell to Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Tonight, Okada will have a different partner in Togi Makabe, but still brings the IWGP World Heavyweight title. Meanwhile Kiyomiya takes with him the GHC Heavyweight Championship that he retained against Kenoh on New Year’s Day, and the powerhouse Yoshiki Inamura. Inamura has his own defeat in 2022’s Yokohama card to avenge, and will be bringing heavy duty backup for Kiyomiya in a champion versus champion tag battle.

3rd Match: Master Wato, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask vs Alejandro, Junta Miyawaki & AMAKUSA


It’s a NJPW vs NOAH junior heavyweight battle in the third match of the card when Master Wato, Tiger Mask and Ryusuke Taguchi face Junta Miyawaki, Alejandro and GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion AMAKUSA. The former Hao will be teaming with Miyawaki mere weeks after facing the man in a spectacular defence of GHC gold on January 1, as well as his more regular partner Alejandro, as they present a united front against the Hontai NJPW team.

2nd Match: El Desperado vs YO-HEY


Last Year’s Yokohama Arena card saw El Desperado and DOUKI defeat NOSAWA Rongai and Yo-Hey, but it seemed post match that there was a lot left on the table between the former GHC Jr. Tag team Champion and the then IWGP Junior Heavyweight title holder. Desperado might be without any gold as he heads into January 21, but his fiercely independent nature and desire to compete against the best junior heavyweights around the world regardless of promotional affiliation remains undaunted. Requesting for, and receiving a singles bout with Yo-Hey, can he get his 2023 back on track in Yokohama?

1st Match: Takashi Sugiura, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano vs Gedo, El Phantasmo, KENTA & Naomichi Marufuji 


On a card full of NJPW versus NOAH matches, the opening bout of the main card instead sees an intriguing mixed bout. Satoshi Kojima, an NJPW wrestler is currently GHC Tag Team Champion with the powerful Takashi Sugiura, and recently turned back the challenge of a reunited MaruKen tag team- Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA. Now KENTA’s BULLET CLUB allegiances see Marufuji join a BULLET CLUB side to take on the tag champs, along with Yano and Tanahashi.

Kickoff match 2: Oskar Leube & Tomohiro Ishii vs Masa Kitamiya & Daiki Inaba

Young Lion Oskar Leube gets a big opportunity in the second of two kickoff bouts. He will be alongside Tomohiro Ishii as they face two experienced NOAH hands in Daiki Inaba and Masa Kitamiya. The no nonsense powerful style and truck like hitting ability of Kitamiya will make him a surefire target of Ishii’s, as NOAH and NJPW both try to get an upper hand before the main card starts.

1st Match: Kosei Fujita & Ryohei Oiwa vs Taishi Ozawa & Yasutaka Yano


Kosei Fujita historiansd might point to his January 8 2022 match with Yasutaka Yano as a key turning point in the young man’s career. After putting his head above the parapet to volunteer himself to compete agaionst the young NOAH prospect, the match may have only gone to a draw, but it was the beginning of him taking more chances perhaps not normally befitting of Young Lion status. That would include assisting Zack Sabre Junior to victory twice over EVIL, moves that led him to being inducted into TMDK at New Year Dash. Now he teams with Ryohei Oiwa to take on Yano and the recently debuted Taishi Ozawa; the Noge side will be likely favourites, but might Oiwa feel left behind by Fujita and TMDK?