NJPW's Wrestle Kingdom 17 Sets Record with Kenny Omega, Rumors of Sasha Banks' Debut

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 6, 2023

TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 04: Kenny Omega enters the ring prior to the IWGP Heavyweight Championship bout during Wrestle Kingdom 13 of New Japan Pro-Wrestling at Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Wednesday's Wrestle Kingdom 17 event was the most-watched New Japan Pro-Wrestling show ever on the NJPW World streaming service.

New Japan announced Friday that a record 92,409 unique users watched Wrestle Kingdom live, 30 percent of whom watched from overseas despite a significant time difference.

Wrestle Kingdom 17 was headlined by Kazuchika Okada beating Jay White for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, but that may have only been the third-biggest happening of the show.

The biggest was likely the debut of former WWE Superstar Sasha Banks as Mercedes Moné. It was rumored in the weeks leading up to the event that Mercedes would appear at Wrestle Kingdom, but it wasn't advertised ahead of time.

Despite that, the possibility of her making her NJPW debut likely contributed heavily to the spike in viewership.

After Kairi beat Tam Nakano to retain the IWGP Women's Championship, Mercedes showed up with a new name, look and entrance. She confronted Kairi, attacked her and challenged her to a match at NJPW Battle in the Valley in San Jose, California, on Feb. 18.

njpwworld @njpwworld

IT'S MERCEDES MONÉ!<a href="https://twitter.com/MercedesVarnado?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@mercedesvarnado</a> is in the Tokyo Dome!!!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/wk17?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#wk17</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/njpw?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#njpw</a> <a href="https://t.co/PD54lqLr1L">pic.twitter.com/PD54lqLr1L</a>

Unless she wrestles before then, that will mark Mercedes' first wrestling match since walking out prior to a May 2022 episode of WWE Raw due to creative differences.

Additionally, the semi-main event of Wrestle Kingdom 17 saw Will Ospreay put the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship on the line against AEW star Kenny Omega.

Omega was a one-time IWGP heavyweight champion before helping form AEW and becoming AEW champion, and Wednesday marked his first New Japan match since January 2019.

He didn't miss a step, as he and Ospreay engaged in a classic encounter that drew massive praise and Match of the Year hype from fans and analysts alike.

With the debut of Moné and return of Omega, NJPW has a strong foundation and a chance to build on the new audience they drew at Wrestle Kingdom moving forward.

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