New Japan Pro Wrestling will present Wrestle Kingdom 12 on Thursday, one of the promotion's most prestigious annual events, headlined by the return to the squared circle of international icon and future WWE Hall of Famer, Chris Jericho.
The so-called Alpha will battle Bullet Club's Kenny Omega for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship in a No Disqualification match.
Though Y2J is stealing the spotlight and generating a ton of interest in the show, the real main event will see Kazuchika Okada defend the IGWP Heavyweight Championship against Tetsuya Naito in a match years in the making.
A loaded card that will have the eyes of the wrestling world on it beginning at 2 a.m. ET, exclusively on NJPW World, will kick off what should be another banner year for the company.
What else can fans expect? Who will leave those two enormous matches victoriously? Will Jericho parlay his first in-ring appearance outside the confines of WWE in years into championship gold?
- New Japan Rumble (Participants undecided)
- IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship Match: Roppongi 3K (champions) vs. The Young Bucks
- NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Gauntlet Championship Match: Tama Tonga, Tonga Loa and Bad Luck Fale (champions) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Juice Robinson and Togi Makabe vs. Beretta, Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hanson, Raymond Rowe and Michael Elgin vs. Taichi, Takashi Iizuka and Zack Sabre, Jr.
- Kota Ibushi vs. Cody Rhodes
- IWGP Tag Team Championship Match: Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith, Jr. and Lance Archer) (champions) vs. EVIL and SANADA
- NEVER Openweight Championship Hair vs. Hair Match: Minoru Suzuki (champion) vs. Hirooki Goto
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship 4-Way Match: Marty Scurll (champion) vs. Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA
- IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi (champion) vs. Jay White
- IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship No Disqualification Match: Kenny Omega (champion) vs. Chris Jericho
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Kazuchika Okada (champion) vs. Tetsuya Naito
Alpha vs. Omega
The arrival of Jericho to New Japan Pro Wrestling shook the sport to its core, especially considering the critically acclaimed run he had just wrapped up with WWE earlier in 2016.
Preceded by a social media war of words with Omega, Jericho arrived on November 5 and immediately challenged The Cleaner to a match at Wrestle Kingdom 12.
A dream match of sorts, it pits a master of storytelling against the man many consider the best wrestler on the planet.
Vowing to show the world why he is the alpha of professional wrestling, Jericho went as far as to perpetrate a sneak attack on Omega, busting him open with the United States Heavyweight Championship and wearing his blood as war paint.
Omega responded by attacking Jericho at a post-show press conference, with their rivalry reaching its peak intensity.
For casual fans, the match is the most anticipated on the card.
Jericho has the star power and name recognition while Omega has been red hot, thanks to word-of-mouth across the internet and a plethora of extraordinary in-ring performances.
Throw in a No Disqualification stipulation that opens things up and does not demand a long, traditional match out of the veteran Jericho, and you have even more reason to be excited about the bout.
The outcome, unlike the quality and intrigue surrounding the level of Jericho's performance, is not in question.
Jericho will arrive in the Tokyo Dome and do everything he can to deliver the quality of match fans expect out of him and Omega. In the end, though, he will put the younger star over in spectacular fashion and leave New Japan Pro Wrestling in good hands with The Cleaner.
Prediction: Kenny Omega defeats Chris Jericho
A Redemption Story
Imagine a scenario in which WWE officials are not thrilled with the extent to which Roman Reigns has gotten over with audiences and abort his push. They look to the audience to pick someone else, leaving him to rebuild his career and hopefully re-establish himself as a main eventer.
That is exactly the scenario that has faced Naito over the last handful of years.
Tapped to be the next big thing in New Japan, his inability to get over with audiences and establish a fanbase altered the promotion's plans for him. After a journey to Mexico, which saw him rediscover and recreate a persona for himself as part of the Los Ingobernables faction, Naito returned to Japan a villain.
It was only a matter of time before the Japanese fans took to his new attitude, though, and cheered him.
In April 2016, Naito defeated Okada to capture the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, avenging a loss from January 2014. The new champion basked in the adulation of the same fans who had doomed his initial push.
He would drop the title back to Okada in short order but now, on the heels of G1 Climax victory over Omega, Naito will look to defeat his longtime rival and win the title for the second time.
But he won't.
All signs point to Okada eventually dropping the title to Omega in what would be the latest match in their historically great series. To get to that point, he has to retain here.
Prediction: Kazuchika Okada defeats Tetsuya Naito