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    Monday, December 12, 2016

    A Look at the Full Card for NJPW's Wrestle Kingdom 11

    New Japan kicks off 2017 with its annual Wrestle Kingdom 11 show at the Tokyo Dome. Hailed as the "WrestleMania of Japan", this show promises several high-quality matches to kick off what should be another good year of wrestling for us avid fans.

    Earlier today, NJPW announced in an official press conference the full lineup of matches that'll happen on January 4. While some of these matches aren't new, it's still worth talking about all of them to see just what kind of action we can expect early next year. Here are the matches confirmed for Wrestle Kingdom 11:

    New Japan Rumble

    The annual pre-show match makes its return this year, giving everyone who isn't booked for the main matches a shot at glory. This usually features a mix of some current NJPW talents, Japanese legends of old and the odd guy (like Cheeseburger last year) here and there. This is also as unpredictable as they come—Jado won last year accompanied by Japanese idol Momoka Ariyasu—so this is a good way to get people excited for what's coming on the main card.

    Singles Match: Tiger Mask W vs. Tiger Mask Dark

    Yes, you read that right. As part of NJPW's efforts to promote the ongoing anime series, Tiger Mask W (who may or may not look similar to this guy) is getting a Wrestle Kingdom match. He faces his rival Tiger Mask Dark in this special bout, playing off the parallel portrayed in the anime series. Whether this will have any connection to what is going on in the anime remains to be seen, but this is certainly a different match than what we've been getting with previous Wrestle Kingdoms.

    NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship Match: CHAOS vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon vs. Bullet Club vs. Satoshi Kojima, David Finlay and Ricochet (c)

    Each faction of NJPW will be represented by the following wrestlers:

    • CHAOS: Will Ospreay, Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI
    • Los Ingobernables de Japon: EVIL, SANADA and BUSHI
    • Bullet Club: Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi and Hangman Page

    Notably, this features all of NJPW's main factions in one match, so expect this to get as chaotic as possible. Expect the same kind of chaos the Junior Tag Team Championship matches of previous Wrestle Kingdoms have caused, only with more people and some bigger guys like Ishii and Fale thrown in. The inclusion of top-tier talent such as Ishii, Ricochet and Ospreay should make this interesting, at the very least.

    Singles Match: "The American Nightmare" Cody vs. Juice Robinson

    As revealed over the weekend, the American Nightmare arrives at the Tokyo Dome as a member of the Bullet Club! His opponent is Juice Robinson, which may not be the name that many people expected Cody to face at this show. Still, Robinson should be a solid hand and will probably work a decent match with Cody. Expect the son of a plumber to establish himself here, giving us a hint of what we can expect from his stay in NJPW.

    Also, yes, this is a match between two former WWE employees. They both seem to have done well for themselves after leaving the global giant that is WWE, so let's see them continue that here.

    IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship Match: Roppongi Vice vs. The Young Bucks (c)

    (Oddly, NJPW had no picture for this match, so we've recycled a previous image from a past match.)

    In a surprise turn of events, this year's Junior Tag Team Championship match is not a four-way. Instead, the Young Bucks renew their rivalry against Rocky Romero and Beretta, who won this year's Super Jr. Tag Team Tournament. These two are no strangers to each other, having faced off in last year's multi-man match at Wrestle Kingdom 10, as well as countless of bouts before that. Romero and Beretta have shown some signs of tension in the past couple of months, but a win here could see the two gaijins back to their merrymaking ways in the streets of Roponggi. The Bucks, meanwhile, are once again out to prove why they're the best tag team on the planet. Expect an ample number of superkicks in this one.

    IWGP Tag Team Championship Match: Great Bash Heel vs. Guerillas of Destiny (c)

    Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma made history when they won their second consecutive World Tag League this December, and once again they get a shot at the IWGP Tag Team Championship. Awaiting them in the Finals is another Bullet Club tandem, the Guerillas of Destiny - Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa. The Guerillas have stepped up their in-ring work in their past couple of matches, and hopefully they're able to continue that with a good performance at the Tokyo Dome.

    ROH World Heavyweight Championship Match: Adam Cole vs. Kyle O'Reilly (c)

    Just like last year, Ring of Honor's primary championship will be defended at Wrestle Kingdom as part of the long partnership between the two promotions. Adam Cole (BAYBAY!) makes his return to NJPW, getting his rematch for the ROH Championship that he lost to O'Reilly at Final Battle 2016. This is O'Reilly's first singles match at a Wrestle Kingdom show, having spent the last two years involved in the Junior Tag Team Championship matches. Cole and O'Reilly have a long, long history between them, so expect this to be one hell of a fight.

    IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA (c)

    KUSHIDA goes full circle when he enters the Tokyo Dome as the defending champion, having entered last year as the upstart challenger for the belt. His opponent? The delightfully odd Hiromu Takahashi (no relation to Yujiro), formerly known as Kamaitachi in other promotions. Takahashi is the man behind the mysterious TIME BOMB vignettes that was revealed last November, and looks to mix things up in the junior heavyweight scene after KUSHIDA established himself as the ace. Notably, Takahashi has aligned himself with Tetsuya Naito and Los Ingobernables de Japon, so let's see if he can tranquilo his way to the title.

    NEVER Openweight Championship Match: Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata (c)

    High school wrestling buddies into bitter rivals into best friends into bitter rivals once more—if there's anything in NJPW that deserves the label of #FightForever, it's this match. Shibata has spent this year either defending or chasing the NEVER belt, kicking his way through a solid list of competition. He kicks off 2017 with a title defense against a man he has spent many years fighting with and against. Goto has long been the bridesmaid of NJPW's big matches, and looked to turn things around this year when he joined CHAOS in an effort to rid himself of that curse. After laying down the challenge at the World Tag League final, Goto aims to capture what has eluded him this year—championship gold. Also, Shibata looks to avenge his Wrestle Kingdom 8 loss to Goto, so this match is not just about the title at stake.

    IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito (c)

    On paper, this championship match between Naito and Tanahashi is a match that screams star power and potential match of the night contender, given the caliber of these stars. But to consider, there is still animosity from El Ingobernable on how a fan voting from Wrestling Kingdom 8 bumped his IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match against Okada match to the semi-final in favor of Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for, ironically, the Intercontinental Championship. It was that very moment that led Naito to the path of the Ingobernable years later, coming full circle to the reason of his title match getting bumped—Hiroshi Tanahashi. So in many ways, while Naito is the champion, he has more to gain from getting revenge on the Ace for that fateful night in history.

    IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada (c)

    And finally, the main event. Kazuchika Okada faces his toughest test yet as the promotion's ace when he takes on Kenny Omega of the Bullet Club. Omega won this opportunity after winning the G1 Climax in midyear, and successfully defending his right for a title match in the next couple of months. It has been a successful transition to the heavyweight division for Omega so far, and a win here would only catapult him further up the New Japan totem pole. Of course, he has to get past Okada first—and the Rainmaker isn't about to go down without a fight.

    What do you think of 2017's Wrestle Kingdom 11 match card? What matches are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments section below!

    Photos taken from the NJPW Twitter account.
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    Item Reviewed: A Look at the Full Card for NJPW's Wrestle Kingdom 11 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Anthony Cuello
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