Wrestle Kingdom 13 has come and gone. At the time of writing, I’m yet to witness this potentially incredible show, and I had each match on the card lived up to its potential. Wrestle Kingdom season got me thinking – of all the people to have competed at New Japan’s flagship show, how many of them also have also been a part of the biggest pro wrestling event in the world, WrestleMania? Well, I did all the hard work and found out. Here are 30 Wrestlers That Competed at Both WrestleMania and Wrestle Kingdom.
Rules: I am only counting people that have wrestled in a match broadcast on each show. Dark matches won’t be counted yet pre-show matches that were streamed live are eligible, and I also won’t include commentary appearances.
Tomko, Beretta, and Davey Boy Smith Jr. all competed at Wrestle Kingdom, but only were involved in dark matches at WrestleMania, and never had their own match on the main show (decided not to count Davey Boy’s appearance in Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon as he wasn’t an official part of the match).
Remember when Big Show had that sumo match for some reason at WrestleMania 21? Well, you might not be aware that the legendary sumo competitor he lost to that year went on to be a successful pro wrestler, debuting in 2005 for All Japan Pro Wrestling. The following year, Akebono went over to New Japan, where he would wrestle at the 4th and 7th instalments of Wrestle Kingdom, and earned himself a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship along the way.
The first Universal Champion made his WrestleMania debut last year in 2018, however it’s not the first time he’s performed on a major stage, for he made several appearances inside the Tokyo Dome. Balor, then known as Prince Devitt, was a staple of Wrestle Kingdom cards for many years, most notably his IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship matches against Kota Ibushi. Personally, I’d recommend the triple threat match (a rarity in NJPW) against Ibushi and Low-Ki at Wrestle Kingdom 7.
Throughout the thirteen year history of Wrestle Kingdom, some unlikely faces have made appearances inside the Tokyo Dome. Case in point: Rob Conway. The former La Résistance member had a match at the 8th Wrestle Kingdom, losing the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to our honourable leader of Bread Club, Satoshi Kojima. Prior to that, he appeared in a fatal four way tag team bout at WrestleMania 20.
Here we have a more unique entry on this list, as Shinsuke is one of only two men (we’ll get to the other later) to have had a singles match against the same opponent at both WrestleMania and Wrestle Kingdom. Although many were slightly disappointed by their clash at WWE’s flagship pay-per-view, their bout inside the Tokyo Dome is a fantastic exhibition of pro wrestling that no fan should miss. Also, do yourself a favour and watch Shinsuke’s Wrestle Kingdom match against Kota Ibushi – you will love it, trust me.
D’Lo Brown and Bull Buchanan
At the very first Wrestle Kingdom, New Japan partnered with All Japan to bring in interest to the new incarnation of their annual January 4th show. Thanks to this alliance, WWE alumni, D’Lo Brown and Bull Buchanan, both of whom competed at three WrestleMania’s, teamed with the aforementioned Tomko in a losing effort against Makabe, Ishii and Yano.
Giant Bernard, aka Albert, aka A-Train, aka Prince Albert, aka Jason Albert, aka Lord Tensai, aka Tensai, aka Sweet T, aka Matt Bloom, had lengthy careers in both WWE and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Even though he found success during The Attitude Era, competing at WrestleMania 2000 and WrestleMania 19, it was in NJPW where he became a dominating force, competing at six Wrestle Kingdom shows, both winning won and lost the IWGP Tag Team Championships at the event.
No, it’s not ZACK SABRE TIME, it’s time for the first WWF Light Heavyweight Champion of The Attitude Era, TAKA Michinoku. After competing at WrestleMania 14 and 2000, TAKA would join NJPW in 2007, and compete at four Wrestle Kingdoms. Now, hopefully he’ll be accompanying Zack Sabre Jr. to many victories inside of the Tokyo Dome.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
A couple of good brothers made their WrestleMania debut in 2017 when they defended their WWE RAW Tag Team Championships in a fatal-four way ladder match, yet they wouldn’t be competing on that stage if it wasn’t for their escapades on the other side of the world. With an impressive eight year Wrestle Kingdom streak, Karl Anderson was a staple of the company’s heavyweight tag division, teaming with Giant Bernard, Hiroki Goto, and then finished his final three Tokyo Dome shows with big Doc Gallows as members of the extremely popular Bullet Club.
With a single main card appearance at both WrestleMania and Wrestle Kingdom, competing in a WWE Cruiserweight Championship Open Match and a tag team match against Akebono and Nagata, Tajiri may not have made the biggest impact in these marquee events’ histories, yet he still poison mist his way into our hearts.
Jeff Hardy – Also Competed at: Bound for Glory
Jeff Hardy once defeated Tetsuya Naito inside the Tokyo Dome for the TNA Heavyweight Championship. Pro wrestling is weird sometimes.
Christian – Also Competed at: Bound for Glory
We’re all aware of the legendary ladder matches Christian was a part of at WrestleMania, yet you may not realise that thanks to TNA Wrestling’s relationship with New Japan at the time, he also competed at the second ever Wrestle Kingdom, teaming with AJ Styles and Petey Williams, defeating Prince Devitt, Milano Collection A.T., and Minoru Tanaka.
Terry Funk – Also Competed at: Starrcade
And now, for the oldest man to have competed on the main card of a Wrestle Kingdom, Terry Funk. At 65 years old, The Funkster was involved in an eight-man tag match at Wrestle Kingdom 4. Another record Funk holds on this list is the difference in time between his WrestleMania and Wrestle Kingdom main card debuts, having first competed at WWE’s flagship show all the way back in 1986 at the second ever edition.
Bobby Roode – Also Competed at: Bound for Glory
Another Wrestle Kingdom appearance you can thank TNA for here. Bobby Roode As a member of Beer Money, Roode was part of a three team hardcore match for the IWGP Heavyweight Championships at Wrestle Kingdom 5, and of course, seven years later, he would make his WrestleMania debut in front of a hot New Orleans crowd.
Rob Van Dam – Also Competed at: Bound for Glory
You know Toru Yano? Rob Van Dam had a hardcore match with him at Wrestle Kingdom once. And you know that pose Yano does where he points at himself with his thumbs? That came about when he started mocking Rob Van Dam in this match. Now you know!
Haku – Also Competed at: Starrcade
Terry Funk may hold the record for most time between Wrestle Kingdom and WrestleMania main card debuts, yet when pre-shows are counted, the legendary King Haku takes the crown. Competing all the way back at WrestleMania 2 in a battle royal, and then coincidentally debuting at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in another battle royal, this future WWE Hall of Famer is still going today after over three decades.
MVP – Also Competed at: Bound for Glory
The first IWGP Heavyweight Champion made two Wrestle Kingdom appearances, competing in a couple of throwaway tag team matches, whilst over in WWE, he racked up four WrestleMania matches in his respectable career, three of which were Money in the Bank matches.
Shelton Benjamin – Also Competed at: Final Battle
Shelton Benjamin had respectable mid-card careers in both WWE and NJPW, racking up several appearances at both company’s biggest shows, most notably being the star of Money in the Bank matches, and a NEVER Openweight Championship bout against Masato Tanaka.
Chris Jericho – Also Competed at: Starrcade
At Wrestle Kingdom 13, Chris Jericho became the first person to have competed for WWE’s Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania, as well as New Japan’s Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom. In his fourteen WrestleMania matches, Jericho put on a great showing every single time, with his encounters against Shawn Michaels and CM Punk being standouts. Also, we cannot forget his match of the night bout against Kenny Omega in his first Wrestle Kingdom match in 2018.
Billy Gunn – Also Competed at: Bound for Glory
HE’S AN ASS MAN! (DUN! DUN!) And he’s also competed in the New Japan Rumble at Wrestle Kingdom 11, along with several WrestleMania appearances. But mainly, he loves asses.
Kurt Angle – Also Competed at: Bound for Glory
Kurt Angle has pretty much done it all. He even won an Olympic gold medal with a broken freakin’ neck! Along with his highly celebrated WrestleMania matches, most recently teaming with Rhonda Rousey, Angle defeated the legendary Yuji Nagata for the very confusing IWGP 3rd Belt Championship (read my guide to NJPW’s history for more info on that), and returned a year later to team with Nash, Chono and Choshu.
Scott and Rick Steiner – Also Competed at: Bound for Glory, Starrcade
One of the most legendary tag teams in history surprisingly only made one WrestleMania appearance, back at WrestleMania 9. What you may not know is that almost fifteen years later, they wrestled at NJPW’s biggest annual show too, in a losing effort against Giant Bernard and Tomko.
Kevin Nash – Also Competed at: Bound for Glory, Starrcade
Big Sexy competed at WrestleMania’s in the mid 90’s, and even showed up to help Sting fight Triple H at WrestleMania 31 for some reason, but in between his appearances at The Grandest Stage of Them All, Kevin Nash managed to fit in an eight-man tag team match at Wrestle Kingdom 3, and thankfully, he didn’t tear his quad in this one.
Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley – Also Competed at: Bound for Glory, Final Battle (Bubba Only)
The only tag team on this list to have made several appearances at both Wrestle Kingdom and WrestleMania are the most successful duo in pro wrestling history. The Dudley Boyz/Team 3D made history when they faced The Hardy Boyz and Edge and Christian in two incredible WrestleMania matches, then on the opposite side of the globe, they racked up a three year streak at Wrestle Kingdom, competing in a hardcore tag team match at each event.
Cody – Also Competed at: BOLA, Final Battle
The career of Cody Rhodes over the last few years has been an incredible ride of variety and success. In that time, he became the first person to appear at WrestleMania, BOLA, Bound for Glory (did not wrestle there), Final Battle and Wrestle Kingdom, all within a twelve month period. Now, with him helping to run his own wrestling company, perhaps his IWGP US Championship defence against Juice Robinson may just be his final ever Wrestle Kingdom appearance.
Jeff Jarrett – Also Competed at: Bound for Glory, TripleMania, Starrcade
When it comes to people who somehow manage to get themselves onto big shows and involved in big situations, Jeff Jarrett may just be the king of that. At Wrestle Kingdom 9, Jeff Jarrett was involved in a tag team match….. as a member of Bullet Club. Still, that doesn’t beat him throwing tortillas at TripleMania.
A.J. Styles – Also Competed at: BOLA, Bound for Glory, Final Battle
AJ Styles competed against Shinsuke Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in a 2016 MOTY contender. Just three months later, he would make his WrestleMania debut against Chris Jericho. The following year, he surprised us all with a showstealing brawl against Shane McMahon, and the following year came full circle by bringing his feud with Shinsuke to New Orleans.
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