Wrestle Kingdom Rewind: Rough Naito 【WK17】

Tetsuya Naito came so close and yet so far to Destino at Wrestle Kingdom 12

<– 2017: All the Stars in the Sky      2019: Ace Age–>

International tickets on sale NOW for Wrestle Kingdom!

Watch Wrestle Kingdom 17 live in English January 4 2023 on NJPW World!

As Kazuchika Okada continued to dominate the main event scene in NJPW, another figure had earned the adoration of the fans that put him almost on a level with the Rainmaker. That man was Tetsuya Naito, who, driven to take alternate measures after being forced out of the main event scene back in 2014 had since formed Los Ingobernables De Japon. As the group’s charismatic leader, El Ingobernable had become one of, if not the most popular member of the NJPW roster. Much like Okada himself with Hiroshi Tanahashi though, to cement his own legacy, he had to stand tall with the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the Tokyo Dome. 

Knowing that Okada had surpassed him in terms of accomplishments since he was Naito’s Dojo junior. With the memories of 2014’s fan vote demoting his other battle with the Rainmaker to semi-main status. Holding a dream he had with him since watching NJPW Tokyo Dome events from the cheap seats along the third baseline as a high schooler. Tetsuya Naito had countless motivating factors heading into Wrestle Kingdom 12. It seemed like a fairytale waiting to come true, but one doesn’t always get what one wants. 

With stars in his eyes, Tetsuya Naito would not for a sure fire Destino, but an ascent to the top to land the Stardust Press, a move he hadn’t used since his transformation into El Ingobernable. The result was a heart breaking crash and burn, and not long after, the Rainmaker. Naito would make the long and lonely walk back to the Tokyo Dome dugout, able only to muster a wry grin at the twists and turns of pro-wrestling fate. 

Okada vs Naito would make up the second half of a double main event, with the other bout being a historical first time clash of Alpha vs Omega. Chris Jericho would become one of wrestling’s hottest free agents in 2017, and as Kenny Omega continued his reign as the inaugural IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion, shocked the world when he issued a challenge to the Cleaner for the Tokyo Dome. 

With a brutal and bloody surprise attack to the champion in December at the World Tag League finals, and a wild press conference brawl following, Omega and Jericho were driven to tear one another apart. With hype at a fever pitch, the event became the most internationally watched Wrestle Kingdom to date. That mammoth worldwide audience would be treated to a truly chaotic generational clash, and one that would end with Omega on top, the One Winged Angel granting Omega the glory that had been denied him one year before. 

A month after Wrestle Kingdom 12, it would be not Jericho, but Switchblade Jay White that would end the reign of the Cleaner with the IWGP United States gold. The New Zealand native had worked tirelessly as a Young Lion, eventually graduating in Osaka with an emotional address in Japanese to the assembled fans. yet he would return two years later with a very different attitude. The cold hearted Switchblade immediately targeted Hiroshi Tanahashi, who had by now regained the IWGP Intercontinental Championship from Tetsuya Naito. 

As Tanahashi resisted intense pressure on his knees from White, it would be deadly open hand swats that knocked his challenger senseless enough for a High Fly attack across the back and then an emphatic High Fly Flow. Tanahashi retained the gold, but Jay White would not forget, and seized the richest of prizes from the Ace a mere 13 months later.  

Watch Wrestle Kingdom 12 here!