Previewing the possible outcomes of the main events of Wrestle Kingdom 1
Before I start, it is very important that I give the disclaimer that I have not been as prevalent in my New Japan watching since Jay White won the briefcase, so please don’t attack me if I miss some details here.
Anyways, New Japan Pro Wrestling is hosting Wrestle Kingdom 15, once again a two-night affair after the success of last year’s event. Night one is headlined by IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito defending both belts against the winner of the G1 Climax, Kota Ibushi. This match was originally supposed to headline Night Two, but we’ll get to that.
The main event of Night Two is the winner of that match defending both belts against the holder of the title shot from the G1, Jay White.
With the matches presented, let’s break down the three possible outcomes: how we got here and where we the company may be going with the main event picture.
Outcome #1: Naito Retains… twice.
Naito had a strange year as champion. After winning the belts on Night Two of Wrestle Kingdom 14 against Kazuchika Okada, he was turned on by fellow stablemate EVIL. EVIL joined Bullet Club, won the titles from Naito, lost the titles back to Naito, and is now booked for a grudge match against former stablemate and tag team partner Sanada. Great year for EVIL, weird year for Naito. Coming off the multiple reigns by Okada, it was a strange series of bookings for the new top guy of the company.
Naito has been great as champion, still being the most over wrestler in the company. That’s really the case to keep the belt on him. Japan is so different from anywhere else in the world when it comes to wrestling. If the people are behind you, they will always be behind you no matter what. Naito has a passionate fanbase and it’s his popularity that makes his case to remain champion. As far as the story goes, I don’t see why he should beat Ibushi or White.
Should Naito make it through with his titles, I believe that he will lose one at some point. It’s time to split the two belts and it’ll give a wrestler a chance to elevate their standing with the company by beating the top guy. There is one person that sticks out to me for this and would be winning the Intercontinental Championship. That is Sanada. I believe he beats EVIL at Wrestle Kingdom and with a major win like that to cap off that deep feud, he is primed to move up the ladder. Sanada has always been one of the guys in Los Ingobernables De Japon. That’s it. He’s an exciting guy with an exciting style, but he wasn’t Naito, Evil or any of the others that were able to translate more with the crowd.
This is his chance to break out. He doesn’t need to turn heel on Naito and frankly, I don’t want him to. He can challenge Naito straight up to a one-on-one match for the IC title. Why? He’s a babyface. Just say that he feels he hasn’t earned a chance at the big belt, but wants to prove that he can not only beat Naito, but hold a major single’s title in the company. On whatever show the match happens, he cleanly beats Naito to split the titles and elevate a new babyface to a potential main event level.
Outcome #2: Ibushi is crowned
Kota Ibushi has been robbed of his moment too many times. Back at Wrestle Kingdom 9 he was defeated by Shinsuke Nakamura for the IC title. He not only should’ve won that match, it should’ve primed him for a push that eventually led to a main event run with the Heavyweight title. Kenny Omega wins the belt and they had every chance to finally give us the main event match between the two at Wrestle Kingdom 13. Instead they wanted to tell the Hiroshi Tanahashi redemption story. Last year he lost to Okada on Night One of Wrestle Kingdom 14 for the Heavyweight title after winning the G1 Climax.
So, how did we get here?
Well, after losing his title match, Ibushi went and won the G1, defeating Sanada in the final to win a shot at the champion again. Less than a month later, he was challenged for the briefcase/title opportunity by Jay White, the man he had beaten in the final of the previous year’s G1. Ibushi lost the match, and the briefcase, once again dealing a blow to his prospects of ever being the top guy of New Japan.
Naito, being the lovable babyface champion that he is, offered Ibushi a title match on Night One of Wrestle Kingdom. Ibushi accepted and here we are.
Should Ibushi beat Naito, it would be his crowning moment. He had previously held the Intercontinental Championship before, but he has never been the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. The irony of the moment? It can all be taken away 24 hours later.
Ibushi would then have to go on and face Jay White for the titles to headline Night Two. White could very easily win that match, but we’ll get to that.
So Ibushi wins the match and keeps his titles. I think that where the company goes is really building Ibushi up as a credible champion. I think they’ll throw him in the ring with Minoru Suzuki, Okada, Tanahashi, and Naito again. Ibushi would vanquish all of his demons except one: Bullet Club.
This was a group that stole his best friend from him in Kenny Omega. He was a bad guy when he was with the company, and his relationship with fellow stablemates the Young Bucks led to him leaving the company. The current iteration of the group is led by White, who has been a thorn in his side for years. I believe that Ibushi will have to go through EVIL and Kenta on his revenge tour, but he’ll get the job done. Eventually, all roads lead back to White, who I believe is the man to finally take the titles off of Ibushi.
Speaking of White…
Outcome #3: Switchblade cuts through
Jay White has been positioned as a top guy since returning from excursion back in 2018. Since then, he’s beaten every single top guy in the company. He’s become both Heavyweight and Intercontinental champion in the process, and firmly established himself as one of the top heels in the company. Since turning his back on Okada and joining Bullet Club, he has been on an upward trajectory and this feels like the moment where he’s finally truly crowned.
The stage is all set. This will not be a sold out Tokyo Dome with a crowd eagerly awaiting a babyface champion to vanquish the evil foe. White could conceivably walk out with the belts, regardless of who he beats, and there wouldn’t be too much backlash that night.
I believe the outcome of the entire show will be this, which is why I’m including it here. Kota Ibushi will defeat Tetsuya Naito on Night One and finally claim his place as the top champion. It will be bittersweet, however, because 24 hours later Jay White will defeat him to win the belts.
The aftermath will have Ibushi go on a run where he takes his serious moments in intense matches and molds that into his character, thoroughly beating his opponents out of pure anger before finally finding himself again and winning the love of the crowd back. White will continue to be White. He’ll be a snarky heel who uses every trick in the book to win his matches, but he will win his matches.
In his run, I think he defeats the likes of Okada, Tanahashi, Naito, and every babyface New Japan wants to throw at him. As far as splitting the titles, I think that there is still a story there with Sanada, but this can work with almost any babyface really. White will be a heel and say that said individual does not deserve a shot at the Heavyweight title but can challenge for the IC title. The babyface wins and White is stunned, but is still the top champion. I want to make a bold prediction, so let’s say that the person that takes the IC title is Jon Moxley.
In the end, White will lose his title back to Ibushi at some point. The reign for Ibushi will lead him to Wrestle Kingdom, where he will lose to the winner of the G1 Climax 31, Will Ospreay.
Javier Melo is a writer of Pro Wrestling for Full Press Coverage and co-host of the Crossbody of Work podcast. Follow Javier on Twitter @JMeloSports.