Wrestle Kingdom – for NJPW fans, January 4th marks the greatest show of the year, and for New Japan newbies, it’s the perfect place to start your journey with this great promotion. That’s how it started for me.
Even with the efforts New Japan have made over the last couple of years to make their content more accessible to fans around the world, it can still be a bit of a strange world to become involved with, so that’s where I’m here to help. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the show, why you should watch it, what to watch in preparation, what you can watch afterwards, ways to watch it with info on which method is the best value for money, and more. So let’s get started with my Bullet Point Guide to Wrestle Kingdom 13.
- Why you should watch
- Start times
- How to watch
- How you can watch for free (legally)
- Pros and cons of each way of watching
- Sampling free matches beforehand
- Match card and why each match is taking place
- What to watch after Wrestle Kingdom
- List of recommended matches with NJPW World links and English commentary
Why You Can’t Miss Wrestle Kingdom
- This is New Japan’s biggest show of the year, with one hell of a great card. Several potential five-star bouts are on Wrestle Kingdom this year.
- Wrestle Kingdom is a great way to start watching New Japan. It demonstrates what the company is like at its most grand. It introduces you to most of the roster and shows you how good the quality of their matches are.
- The spectacle of being inside the Tokyo Dome is a wonderful sight.
- Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tomohiro Ishii.
- Taiji Ishimori vs. KUSHIDA.
- Will Ospreay vs. Kota Ibushi.
- Toru Yano is going to be there.
- In my opinion, when it comes to in-ring action, no promotion in the world can rival New Japan Pro Wrestling right now.
- NJPW has some of the best wrestlers in the world signed to its roster, and with fewer restrictions and more time for matches and builds than WWE, the quality of their matches is the best in the world. If you love professional wrestling, you owe it to yourself to at least attempt to watch this promotion once or twice.
Main Card Start Times
Wrestle Kingdom takes place on January 4th every year.
A Pre-Show will take place one hour before the event, featuring the 6-Man Gauntlet Match, so if you want to watch it take an hour off these times
- 12:00am Pacific
- 3:00am Eastern
- 8:00am UK
- 5pm Japan
How to Watch:
Best Value: NJPW World
- The only way to watch all of these shows is through the company’s streaming service – NJPW World. – CLICK HERE FOR MY GUIDE ON USING AND GETTING THE MOST OUT OF NJPW WORLD
- NJPW World can be accessed through an official app on Amazon Fire Sticks, as well as through on most browsers, laptops, phones and tablets with Chromecast support.
- Do not use the iOS/Android app. Just use your browser if watching on your phone or tablet.
- Not only does it work out at slightly cheaper than WWE Network every month, it offers regular live shows, as well as access to previous events from decades past, matches from select indie promotions such as Ring of Honor and RevPro, the full ALL IN show, and exclusive documentaries that follow the lives of both their Japanese and English speaking roster members.
- Please note that there is no free trial period available, so you will need to purchase the service in order to watch.
- Regardless of when you sign up, the billing date for NJPW World is the first day of every month for every user (so you could be charged 2 days in a row if you signed up on the last day of a month) – IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON SIGNING UP, DO IT AS CLOSE TO THE BEGINNING OF THE MONTH AS POSSIBLE.
- Once you cancel your subscription, you immediately cannot use your account, even if you have weeks left until your next billing date – IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON CANCELLING, DO IT AS CLOSE TO THE END OF THE MONTH AS POSSIBLE.
- Live shows are available to watch in full usually within thirty minutes after they’ve been broadcast.
FITE TV (Easy and FREE If You’re Willing to Put in Some Effort)
- For the first time ever, Wrestle Kingdom will be available to watch through the popular service, FITE TV. The show costs £/$33.99 (you will be given $7 back in credit if you pre-order), significantly more than an NJPW World subscription, plus you don’t get the entire month of content that comes with NJPW World (read the next section below to learn about watching it for free).
- FITE TV can be streamed through their website, through apps on certain streaming devices, or you can use the FITE TV app on your mobile or tablet to link with streaming devices or your Smart TV. The good thing about using FITE on your mobile and linking it to another device is that you’re free to use your phone for other things and it won’t effect the streaming quality (I watch FITE through my Amazon Fire Stick via my mobile app whilst I use my phone to tweet at the same time, and I have never experienced streaming issues because of it.)
- HOW TO WATCH ON YOUR SMART TV OR STREAMING DEVICE WITH FITE – If you don’t have a streaming device with a FITE app available, you can use your phone to link up with it. Just make sure your phone and your streaming device are connected to the same WiFi, click the Play button on the event you want to watch, and then you can use the TV symbol in the top right hand corner to pick which screen you want to watch it from, pick your streaming device, and once it’s loaded up, you’re free to use your phone for other things as you watch.
How to Watch for FREE on FITE TV (Legally)
- FITE TV has a credit system that rewards users that help others sign up to their service.
- CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FITE TV APP or SIGN UP USING THE FOLLOWING CODE: ndvz0yo and you will get $15 FREE CREDIT (The link is for mobile users to download the FITE TV app with, and will automatically add the $15 to your account)
- If you have a friend that uses FITE TV already, please use their referral code to sign up instead and help them out. You can use anybody’s sign up code to do this.
- Highly recommend you download the mobile app because it is far easier to do this entire thing through it compared to the website.
- IMPORTANT: FITE TV credits cannot be used to get discounts on shows, you can only purchase a show using credits if you have the full value of the show in credits on your account (e.g. you can’t use $15 to put towards the $33.99 price of Wrestle Kingdom and pay the rest yourself, you have to either pay for it all with credits or all with actual money).
- This is how you get more credits – open up the sidebar menu on the left hand side of the FITE TV app and press the “Watch FREE PPV” option (there should be $15 credit next to that from signing up).
- On here, you will get a unique promo code and a social media link to share – anybody that signs up to FITE using your link/code will get $15 of credit to use.
- Any time somebody uses your link or promo code to sign up, you get $5 of free credit added to your account. (NOTE: If that person orders a PPV through FITE with actual money, you get an extra $10. It used to be that you would get the extra credits when they used FITE credits you gave them but that seems to have changed recently).
- The currency shows as $ regardless of what region you’re in, but that dollar value converts to the same numerical value in your currency – e.g. $5 FITE credit is actually worth £5 for UK users.
- WHEN YOU GO TO ORDER A SHOW, IT HAS THE PRICE OF THE SHOW IN A BLUE BUTTON, THEN BELOW IT SHOULD SAY “BUY WITH CREDITS” – MAKE SURE YOU CLICK THE “BUY WITH CREDITS” OPTION
- TO GET ENOUGH CREDITS TO WATCH WRESTLE KINGDOM FOR FREE:
- Sign up using code above (or any other referral code), and then have four accounts sign up using your code, and you will then have enough to watch Wrestle Kingdom for FREE.
- An easy way of doing this is to ask family members or friends to sign up to FITE TV using your code. It won’t cost them anything and they can delete the FITE app once you have your credit.
- If you pre-order Wrestle Kingdom, you will receive $7 of that credit back to use in FITE.
- New Japan will still receive payment for anybody that watches the show through their FITE TV credits so you will still be supporting them, plus FITE gets an increased number of subscriptions so it helps everybody.
- Once you’re signed up to FITE, they offer a lot of great free content, such as MLW and ROH’s weekly television shows, as well as PPV’s from a lot of quality companies.
Quick summary: You download the app using the link in the article to get $15, once in the app go to the “Watch free PPV” button, on there it gives you a code to give to other people, every time someone signs up to FITE with your code you get credits, repeat until you have enough credits
AXS TV (Not a live broadcast!)
- IF YOU HAVE AXS TV - For the first time ever, AXS will be showing highlights from Wrestle Kingdom within 24 hours of the event with commentary from Kevin Kelly, Don Callis and Chris Charlton.
- In 2019, Kevin Kelly and co will take over commentary duties on AXS, improving massively on the previous duo, and AXS’ weekly NJPW show is aiming to be much more up-to-date that it has been in the past.
- Personally I’d recommend watching on NJPW World in order to enjoy the excitement of the full show without having to wait or watching edited versions of matches (editing is bound to happen with longer matches), but if you have AXS and want to try out NJPW before buying NJPW World, this is a great way of experiencing it.
Pros and Cons of Each Method of Watching:
NJPW World: Pros: Cheap, includes pre-show, reliable stream, get a full one month subscription with several other shows included and access to hours of content. Cons: App only available on Fire TV, not as compatible with as many devices as FITE.
FITE TV: Pros: Free if you’re willing to put in the work, easy to use, reliable stream. Cons: Expensive if you pay for it, doesn’t give you access to future shows in January.
AXS: Pros: Free if you already have AXS, good way to watch for newer fans. Cons: Isn’t live, won’t cover the full show, AXS isn’t widely available.
What if I want to Sample Some NJPW Matches First for Free?
- Check out New Japan’s English language YouTube channel. They regularly upload past matches featuring full English commentary, including world title matches. They upload a new free match every Monday that has some sort of connection to an upcoming show.
- Also, they upload press conferences, interviews, promos and sometimes documentaries with English subtitles.
- If you have AXS TV, you can watch their New Japan highlight show every Friday night, however the shows aren’t covered until several weeks after they’ve aired live.
Pre-Show Trios Gauntlet Match
The one big disappoint with this year’s Wrestle Kingdom card is the omission of the always fun New Japan Rumble. Instead of the rumble, we’ve got a five team gauntlet match, with the winner receiving a shot at the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Championships on January 5th at New Year Dash. Although some are disappointed by this New Japan Rumble replacement, myself included, here are some positives about this pre-show bout:
- Taguchi, Yano and Best Friends, arguably New Japan’s best comedy wrestlers, are all in this match, so expect to smile quite a few times.
- There are twelve opponents for Jeff Cobb to throw around like they were small children.
- Minoru Suzuki is in it.
- Marty Scurll is in this match which means the Japanese founds are likely to shout “Whoop whoop!” which is always satisfying.
Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado) vs. Roppongi 3K (Sho and Yoh) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Bushi and Shingo Takagi) – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match
Desperado and Kanemaru have quite surprisingly been the longest-reigning champions the junior tag division has seen in years, using an array of sneaky tactics to clinch their various victories in true Suzuki-Gun style. That being said, the task of defeating both LIJ and Roppongi 3K may be too big of a task for the champions, as we already saw during the 2018 Super Junior Tag League, which is where both challenging teams won their right to compete for the belts at WK (Roppongi 3K won the tournament, and LIJ beat the champions and were never defeated throughout the tournament).
The single biggest threat to this history-making reign has got to be Shingo Takagi. Since debuting in New Japan in October, it’s been clear that Takagi is set to be a dominant juggernaut in the junior division. His size and talent make him an exciting force to watch, and it would not surprise me whatsoever if he got his first taste of NJPW gold inside the Tokyo Dome.
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL and SANADA) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) – IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match
EVIL & SANADA won the right to compete at Wrestle Kingdom when they clinched their second straight World Tag League tournament this past December… and then The Young Bucks walked out immediately after the victory and demanded to be in the match despite not competing in WTL, and were instantly granted their shot for no real reason. Sure, they weren’t given a rematch when they lost the belts in September, but on that very same show when they asked to be involved in the WK bout, Ospreay challenged Ibushi to a title match seconds after he won the NEVER Championship, without a single mention of the former champion Goto being involved in their match.
Wrestling bullshit aside though, the addition of The Young Bucks will certainly add some excitement to this bout, especially considering G.O.D vs. LIJ is a match we’ve already seen twice in the last couple of months. It will most likely be one of the more forgettable bouts of Wrestle Kingdom, but with a card this good, that’s not an insult at all.
Cody vs. Juice Robinson – IWGP US Heavyweight Championship Match
Despite this match being announced out of nowhere with no real build and feeling slightly thrown together, possibly due to Cody’s recent injury questioning whether he could have a Wrestle Kingdom match or not, there is still plenty of history to justify these two having a title match at the biggest show of the year.
For a start, Cody’s first bout in New Japan was at Wrestle Kingdom 11, where he faced none other than Juice Robinson. Since that match, both men have gone strength-to-strength in their NJPW careers, with Juice winning over fans thanks to his charming, captivating promos, and his lovable, underdog personality. Back in July, Juice hit the pinnacle of his career by defeating Jay White for the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship, in surprising, feel good fashion.
Unfortunately, in his first defence of his new prize, Juice lost the belt to Cody, the man who had beaten him at Wrestle Kingdom almost two years earlier. Now, Juice is looking to get that championship back, and if he can do that inside the Tokyo Dome against somebody with so much buzz around them at the moment, it will be a major reward for all the hard work he’s put in to win over fans across the globe.
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – RPW British Heavyweight Championship Match
Champion vs. the former champion he once defeated for the belt. Stone Pitbull vs. Windy Man. Ishii vs. ZSJ.
If you watched their match during the 2018 G1 Climax tournament, you know we’re in for something special here. Ishii has a knack for pulling out epic, thrilling fights when given the opportunity, thanks to his stiff strikes and ability to absorb waves of punishment. Zack has a history of grounding big opponents and building tension by finding new, innovative ways of countering their attacks at every opportunity, making for fascinating viewing. Put those two together, throw in a championship, and place it inside the biggest venue possible, and you’ve got something special.
KUSHIDA vs. Taiji Ishimori – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match
This right here is my dark horse for match of the night.
Taiji Ishimori was brought in as the new Bone Soldier of Bullet Club in May 2018, and has impressed ever since. His quickness and beautiful fluidity in the ring make him a very exciting competitor to watch, and his MOTY contender against Hiromu Takahashi at the BOSJ Finals was evident of just how good he is. Place him in against KUSHIDA, the ace of the junior division, who Ishimori pinned in a tag match towards the end of the year, and we’re bound to be in for a spectacular match.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White
On January 6th, ‘Switchblade’ Jay White was brought in as the newest member of CHAOS, much to the surprise and confusion of many fans. From the start, it was obvious White wasn’t the right fit for the group, given his villainous, rule-bending ways, yet clearly Okada saw potential in the young star, but it was this eye for talent that would ultimately prove to be his undoing.
During the G1 Climax tournament, White held nothing back when he faced The Rainmaker, throwing him around as his if he was his greatest enemy. And what’s more, Switchblade cheated his way into beating the longest-reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion of all time. Throughout the G1, the tension between CHAOS and Jay White built further thanks to Switchblade’s treatment of his tag partners in non-tournament matches, ordering them to take shortcuts and being resistant to tag in.
Then September came along. After Okada lost to his biggest rival, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jay White stormed to the ring and decimated the leader of CHAOS, cutting all ties with the group, and subsequently joining Bullet Club, bringing Okada’s long-time mentor Gedo along with him. Now, after being betrayed, Okada is looking for redemption inside the Tokyo Dome. Expect a lot of underhanded tactics from the hands of White, and a very stiff Rainmaker or two from Okada.
Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay – NEVER Openweight Championship Match
Whoever has to follow this one, I feel deeply sorry for them.
This right here is a modern dream match that’s had fans salivating at the thought of it happening for months. In New Japan, the two weight divisions, junior and heavyweight, are mostly kept separate in singles competition and two-on-two tag team competition, with only 6+ tag matches giving fans the opportunity to see stars of both divisions mix it up between the ropes.
The NEVER Openweight Championship was established in 2012 as the only singles belt in New Japan with no weight restrictions, acting as a bridge between juniors and heavyweights… Except it’s never really achieved that. In fact, the NEVER belt has only ever been held by heavyweights in it’s six year history, and has yet to hold much prestige in the company. However, if there’s one major positive to the existence of the title, it’s that Ospreay vs. Ibushi probably would never happen any time soon in New Japan without it.
Two incredibly gifted and utterly insane athletes with absolutely no regard for the safety of their necks will collide in a battle which will no doubt will be filled with adrenaline, innovation and spectacle. The world got a taste of this bout during a tag team match at a Road to Tokyo Dome show in December, and that alone was enough to break the internet. A clip of Ospreay landing on his feet after a top rope frankensteiner from Ibushi went viral across social media, with just one of the many tweets featuring this moment receiving almost 200K likes. If we’re all losing our minds over a 10 second clip, imagine what a whole match will do.
With Ospreay making it public knowledge that he wishes to move up to heavyweight, his war against Ibushi will be a great way of transitioning to this new division. You’ll wince in pain, you’ll gasp in awe, and may even leap up with applause by the end of it.
Chris Jericho vs. Tetsuya Naito – IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match
A day after his match against Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12, Jericho surprised us all (something he’s very good at) by brutally attacking Tetsuya Naito at New Year Dash. Just when it seemed Jericho was all but gone from New Japan after months of absence, he reappeared once more to attack the LIJ leader, which lead to an Intercontinental Championship match at Dominion in June.
In this brawl, Jericho physically destroyed Naito in a way which we had never seen before, defeating him for the belt in shocking fashion. After then defeating LIJ stablemate EVIL in September, it was obvious that Naito and Jericho would meet once more. Expect this to be a physical, entertaining brawl around the ring, in the ring, and throughout the Tokyo Dome.
Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match
After winning the G1 Climax in August, The Ace of New Japan looks to climb the mountain one last time at the event that he helped build to prominence. But this championship match is about much more than just a title, it’s a battle of clashing ideologies that’s become deeply personal. It’s the new direction of New Japan facing off against the MVP of the last decade, and it’s a main-event well worthy of the biggest show of the year.
Where Do I Go From After Wrestle Kingdom?
- New Year Dash is essentially New Japan’s Raw after Mania. It takes place the day after Wrestle Kingdom, and sets up a new year for the company. Expect feuds to be formed, surprise appearances, and challenges to be made. Also, it’s free to watch even for non-NJPW World subscribers.
- Several FantasticaMania shows take place every January, crossover shows involving stars of CMLL from Mexico. Nothing substantial takes place at these events, but they’re fun nonetheless.
- Two New Beginning shows will take place in Japan at the end of January, and one in Los Angeles. An event from Charlotte will also take place on February 1st. Each show will have at least one big title match on it.
- That’s all within a one month period.
Recommended Matches with Links and English Commentary
- Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – New Beginning in Niigata 2016 (Japanese commentary only)
- Tetsuya Naito vs. Chris Jericho – Dominion 2018
- Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega – G1 Climax 2018
- Taiji Ishimori vs. Hiromu Takahashi – BOSJ Finals 2018
- Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tomohiro Ishii – G1 Climax 2018
- Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada – Dominion 2018
- KUSHIDA vs. Will Ospreay – BOSJ Finals 2017
- Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega – Wrestle Kingdom 12
- Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada – G1 Climax 2018
- Will Ospreay and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. The Golden Lovers – Road to Tokyo Dome 2018
- Kota Ibushi vs. Kenny Omega – G1 Climax 2018
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchia Okada – G1 Climax 2018
- The Golden Lovers vs. Tomohiro Ishii and Will Ospreay – Road to Destruction 2018
- Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kazuchika Okada – Strong Style Evolved UK
- LIJ vs. Suzuki-Gun vs. Roppongi 3K – Power Struggle 2018
- The Young Bucks vs. G.O.D – Fighting Spirit Unleashed
- Cody vs. Juice Robinson – Fighting Spirit Unleashed
Follow me on Twitter – @HairyWrestling