The co-main event of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 was aimed at expanding the company’s base in the U.S., and based on social-media reactions, it did just that.
Jericho, a multi-time former WWE champ, surprised the wrestling world with the announcement that he would face Omega, a fellow Canadian who rose to prominence with a pair of six-star matches against IWGP world champ Kazuchika Okada last year.
The booking was classic old-school: Jericho appeared on a video to challenge Omega after a title defense in November, then attacked the champ after a six-man match in Japan last month.
A pull-apart brawl at a press conference led to a stipulation that the match would be no-disqualification, seemingly a nod to the style that Jericho, 47, would need to be able to put on a watchable match with the versatile Omega.
The no-DQ stip did play a role in the drama that unfolded. An early high-spot had Omega flying over the ropes at Jericho onto a commentary table, only to miss and destroy the table, sending English-language commentators Kevin Kelly and Don Callis off the air for a few minutes.
Playing the classic heel, Jericho attacked the referee, one of the Young Lions stationed at ringside, used chairs, tables, bloodied Omega hardway.
But to his credit, Jericho was able to keep up with Omega through his runs of offense, including taking a series of Oemga’s nasty-looking snapdragon suplexes, several V-Trigger knee strikes, a double-underhook piledriver and not one, but two One-Winged Angels, escaping the fall after the first by getting a hand on the ropes, before the second one, delivered on a chair, put him down for the 1-2-3 after 35 minutes of action.
For the thousands of U.S. fans lured to paying the 999 yen ($9.11) to tune in for the show, which began at 2 a.m. Eastern time, Wrestle Kingdom 12 could prove to be addictive.
In addition to the U.S. fan-friendly match, the stacked card also featured The Young Bucks, the best tag team that fans who only watch WWE has never seen, and will want to see more of, former WWE star Cody Rhodes, UK light-heavyweight star Will Ospreay and the aforementioned Okada, the athletic, charismatic world champ.
The 999 yen invested in watching WK12 works similarly to the $9.99 you pay for the WWE Network app, in that it buys you a month’s work of access to New Japan’s considerable archives, which are searchable by name and event, and will keep you up late at night once you start looking for matches involving the likes of Omega, Okada, the Bucks, and former NJPW stars like AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura.
Recommendation: after you get through the six-plus hours of WK12, watch the Okada-Omega trilogy from 2017 that started at Wrestle Kingdom 11.
You won’t watch WWE the same way again.
Story by Chris Graham