The full card has now been revealed for King of Pro Wrestling in Ryogoku Sumo Hall on October 14!
Main event- IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs SANADA
Overall singles record: 6-1 Okada
Of which IWGP Heavyweight Championship matches: 2-0 Okada
The main event of the evening will see IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada defend his title against SANADA. Ever since their championship match at Dontaku back in May, Okada has called SANADA his ‘rival’. For a time it appeared as if Okada was damning SANADA with faint praise; after all, he enjoyed a 6-0 record against Cold Skull after Fukuoka. Then, during the G1 Climax in Osaka on August 3, things changed. After two Moonsaults, SANADA finally got a singles victory over Okada with seconds to spare in the match, causing Okada’s first loss in the tournament, and contributing to his eventual exit.
Later in the month, after Okada successfully defended his IWGP title against Minoru Suzuki in London at Royal Quest, he made an appeal for anyone to step forth who had a ‘debt that needed repaying’. SANADA stepped forward to claim his title shot after pinning the champion in the G1, and the match was quickly made official.
Can SANADA finally make good on his promises, to ‘bring about something entirely new’ in the NJPW landscape? Okada would be the odds on favourite for many a bookmaker, but SANADA could well be the favourite of the Ryogoku crowd. Certainly a SANADA title win would completely change the landscape when it comes to Wrestle Kingdom 14 at the Tokyo Dome, and many will be curious to see that happen; enough perhaps to will Cold Skull to victory, and for Tokyo to become his favourite city in Japan once more.
8th Match- Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight Championship Right to Challenge Contract: Kota Ibushi (holder) vs EVIL
Overall singles record: 1-0 EVIL
Another man with a G1 debt that needs repaying is SANADA’s Los Ingobernables De Japon teammate, EVIL. It was in Ota-ku in the early stages of the G1 that EVIL effectively took advantage of Kota Ibushi’s injured ankle, on the way to a surprisingly dominant victory. Ibushi would later credit his problematic ankle with the inspiration for a new strike based style that saw him to eventual G1 victory, but said that back in Ota, he hadn’t settled on his approach, costing him the match and two points.
After winning the G1, Ibushi was only too happy to grant rematches against the two men who beat him during the tournament. After a hard fought battle with KENTA in front of his home Kagoshima crowd saw Ibushi with hand raised, it was EVIL who emerged from the shadows to challenge the Golden Star next.
EVIL is all too aware of the history of the IWGP Right to Challenge contract. Since the system of having the G1 Climax winner challenge the IWGP Heavyweight Champion on January 4 was introduced in 2012, it has never once changed hands on the road to the Tokyo Dome. EVIL has promised to make history; can he act on his promise to shroud the Tokyo Dome main event in darkness? Or will the Golden Star pierce those dark skies?
7th Match- IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Jon Moxley (c) vs Juice Robinson
Overall singles record: 1-1.
Of which IWGP US Championship matches: 1-0 Moxley.
Already set for Sumo Hall was a No Disqualification match for the IWGP United States Championship between Jon Moxley and Juice Robinson. It was in Sumo Hall on June 5 that Moxley made his first NJPW appearance, and tore into Juice in a vicious and bloody match that saw him win the US title on his debut.
Robinson was transformed from the bout, the usually confident and talkative Juice becoming much more sparing with his words, and much more aggressive in the ring. He had a strong G1 campaign, but was driven most of all to beating Jon Moxley in the Budokan on August 11. This he managed to do, by keeping his approach clean and staying true to his pure approach, even as Moxley tried to goad Juice with weapons. One night later, Moxley would drill Juice through a table and declare that if he wanted his shot, he’d have it; if and only if the referee wouldn’t step in their way and it was no DQ.
Robinson, then, is playing Moxley’s dangerous game in Ryogoku. Can he survive, and take back the red belt in the process?
6th Match- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay (c) vs El Phantasmo
Overall singles record: 3-1 Phantasmo.
In NJPW: 2-0 Phantasmo.
Will Ospreay has made history in 2019, becoming the only man to compete in the New Japan Cup, best of the Super Juniors, G1 Climax and Super J-Cup in the same year, and winning both the NEVER Openweight Championship and his current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship to boot. Through all his results though, one victory has eluded him.
The cocky El Phantasmo defeated Ospreay during BOSJ, and once more in Super J-Cup, as ELP claimed overall victory in the tournament. Even as Ospreay formed a spectacular alliance with ELP’s former BULLET CLUB running buddy turned CHAOS member Robbie Eagles, Phantasmo remained a thorn in both their sides. Phantasmo, along with Taiji Ishimori, turned away the challenge of the Birds of Prey to retain their IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships in Kagoshima, putting ELP in a prime position of his own. A victory on October 14 would give him a third title to add to his tag gold and the RevPro British Cruiserweight Championship, not to mention his SJC gold jacket, as this match should prove without argument who 2019’s most dominant junior heavyweight is.
5th Match: Jyushin Thunder Liger vs Minoru Suzuki
In the fifth match of the evening, Jyushin Thunder Liger faces Minoru Suzuki in a long awaited singles match. This whole issue resurfaced almost six months ago, as Liger was celebrating his 30 year history under the world’s most famous mask. Suzuki would remind Liger of his dominant win in Pancrase back on November 30 2002, as Liger was Suzuki’s last opponent in his fabled mixed martial arts career.
Back then, Liger would respectfully acknowledge Suzuki’s dominant win, but said that in a couple of years he would be ready to fight Suzuki once more. In fact, it wouldn’t be for a decade until Suzuki and Liger faced off again, this time in a New Japan ring under pro wrestling rules. After a competitive bout, Suzuki won with a Gotch Style Piledriver. Post match, Suzuki humiliated Liger, inviting him to join Suzuki-Gun only to kick the legend low. Liger vowed to come for his head soon enough, but instead would move on, and would appear to head toward retirement with this feud unsettled.
Then, in April, Suzuki viciously attacked Liger, who demanded he face Suzuki in a one on one match under pro wrestling rules, rather than the all out fight Suzuki demanded. During the Road to Destruction, Suzuki reignited his issues with Liger. Unprovoked, the self proclaimed King of Professional Wrestling attacked Liger while he was commentating ringside, and delivered a Gotch Style Piledriver onto a chair. Liger grew further incensed with Suzuki’s approach, declaring that Suzuki ‘had no place in a New Japan ring’. In Kagoshima, Suzuki would attack Liger after his match and forcibly remove his mask, declaring it represented the long since departed soul of the great Liger; it only sought to open Pandora’s Box.
On September 22 in Kobe, a six man tag team match was quickly cut short when Liger voluntarily unmasked himself to reveal the terrifying visage of Kishin Liger. Kishin Liger has been seen but rarely over the years; a total of three times in the past, starting when Liger had a blood feud with the Great Muta in 1996, and last seen in 2012 when he was unmasked by Taichi in a tag team battle. This time it seemed the ‘fierce god’ was even fiercer, as he charged at Suzuki with a pointed spike aimed right for his head; Suzuki avoided the steel which pierced a thick wooden table instead.
Suzuki has implied that he wanted to fight the feared Kishin, but perhaps even he does not understand what he has wrought. What will be the result of this carnage in Ryogoku?
4th Match: CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI) vs BULLET CLUB (Jay White, KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi)
In the fourth match of the evening, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI will face Jay White, KENTA and Yujiro Takahashi. After Jay White won the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in Kobe on the 22nd, Goto cut the Switchblade’s celebration short, and now seeks his own title opportunity. Meanwhile, bad blood will likely remain between KENTA and both Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI. NEVER title matches in New York and London saw KENTA retain against both, but not without controversy, and not without scores to settle.
3rd Match: Los Ingobernables De Japon (Shingo Takagi, BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito) vs Suzuki-Gun (Zack Sabre Junior, Taichi & Lance Archer)
The third match of the night sees Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi and BUSHI take on Zack Sabre Junior, Lance Archer and Taichi. Destruction in Kobe did not see a good night for LIJ members, with Takagi defeated by Goto, and Naito losing his Intercontinental title. How will both men attempt to bounce back in Ryogoku? Meanwhile, ZSJ recently regained his British Heavyweight Championship, and Archer and Taichi are returning after strong G1 Climax campaigns that will see them looking to produce further results.
2nd Match: Tomoaki Honma & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Most Violent Players (Togi Makabe & Toru Yano)
The second match of the night sees the fourth and final match commemorating 20 years of Hiroshi Tanahashi in NJPW. Tanahashi debuted on October 10, 1999 in a singles match against Togi Makabe. Now in his anniversary he faces his first opponent in tag action. Makabe teams up with fellow Most Violent Player Toru Yano, against Tanahashi and another partner of his in Tomoaki Honma. This match follows a New Japan Road bout over the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championships that could see Tanahashi and Honma walk in as new champs against two thirds of the former champions. Will Honma be conflicted about wrestling Tanahashi? Or will a Kokeshi be the key to a happy anniversary for the Ace?
2nd Match- El Desperado’s return: SHO, YOH & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado, DOUKI & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
King of Pro Wrestling will kick off with Ryusuke Taguchi, SHO and YOH taking on Yoshinobu Kanemaru, DOUKI, and El Desperado, who returns to action after a broken jaw took him out before Best of the Super Juniors. Desperado teaming with the man who substituted for him in the BOSJ should make for some interesting dynamics, as will SHO and YOH, (who could be IWGP Tag Champions after their September 27 title match against GoD in Lowell) teaming with Taguchi before the Coach forms his own new team with Rocky Romero for the Super Junior Tag League.