It’s that time of year again where the wrestling world will look to the Land of the Rising Sun. New Japan Pro Wrestling will put on its annual Wrestle Kingdom event on January 4th. This year it appears that the stakes maybe higher. Last year the company survived a talent raid by the WWE. Now it appears that WWE is on just looking for talent but looking expand their territory.
Vince McMahon in the 1980s had is eyes on expanding across America to be the dominant promotion. In the late 1990s he was fending off WCW and now here in the 21st century it appears that the WWE is targeting world domination of the wrestling business. In January, they are running tournament for a UK Champion and will eventually start a weekly show base out of the UK with homegrown talent from across the pond.
The WWE has also not been shy about its forays into Japan. They have run more shows in Japan over the past few years than they ever have. Signing talent like Hideo Itami (Kenta), Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura the company is trying to expand their imprint in one of the biggest wrestling markets in the world. They have also brought non-Japanese talent like AJ Styles, Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson and Finn Balor (Prince Devitt) who made their names Japan. This week on Wednesday night they are airing a 2 hour NXT special that was shot in Osaka earlier in December.
Safe to say that the Japan is on the conquering list of the McMahon family. The WWE’s aggressive strategy isn’t going unnoticed. New Japan owner Takaaki Kidani stated during the company’s Road to Tokyo events that “NJPW will be fighting back”. Now New Japan hasn’t been exactly being shy about their forays into the US market over the past years either. They have an existing working relationship with Ring of Honor and through their New Japan World site they have been broadcasting a lot of their PPV events live with English commentary.
Wrestle Kingdom is the Wrestlemania for New Japan and will set the pace for pro wrestling throughout the year. Kidani says that “We are entering a phase where you are either with WWE or against them. WWE have a lot of weaknesses and time is not on their side.” So, you can expect some shots to be fired during this year’s big Tokyo Dome show as New Japan will want to showcase the new stars they have created.
At the center of this will be Kenny Omega. With the departure of all the big names earlier this year Omega want afraid to take the ball and run and he has taken it all the way to the main event. After winning the G1 Climax 26, Omega is on a collision course with superstar Kazuchika Okada (The Rainmaker). Okada has been at the source of the main event picture for the past few years finally overcoming in his rivalry with Hiroshi Tanahashi. Now the future of New Japan will rest on their shoulders and the other superstars on this loaded card that will feature more than a few big title matches.
Keith B. Holt
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