In a feud that is slowly becoming a fan favourite in NJPW, the first night of Wrestle Kingdom will see Jay White defend his Intercontinental Championship against Tetsuya Naito in the push to become the first-ever New Japan dual champion.
This match, which will be the semi-main event on the 4th January, has history dating all the way back to the 2019 G1. However, the purpose of this match dates back much longer.
It has been almost a year since Tetsuya Naito declared his ambition in January 2019 to become the first person in NJPW to hold both the IWGP Heavyweight Title and the Intercontinental Title. Since then, every singles match Naito has had comes with this plan firmly planted in his mind.
From there, Naito has held the Intercontinental Title and has tried everything to achieve it. He attempted to win the New Japan Cup and beat the current champ just to win a shot at the illustrious title.
After holding the title, it seemed as if this dream would eventually come true. However, after losing the title to Kota Ibushi at the G1 Supercard at Madison Square Garden, it seemed as if this ambition would spread to other members of the roster.
One of those men who has been standing in his way and trying to stop the Ungovernable One from achieving his dream: Jay White. Surprisingly, before their meeting on the last night of the G1 blocks, Naito and White had not competed in a singles match with each other. They only occasionally participated in tag matches during Jay’s Pre-Switchblade days.
However, from the first tag match before their G1 meeting, it was clear that these two had an undeniable connection and in-ring chemistry unlike any other duo in that tournament. Personality-wise, they both clashed amazingly with Naito’s Tranquilo attitude and White’s more intense and ambitious tendencies.
After a lot of anticipation, the final match of the block came and NJPW fans finally got to see Jay White and Tetsuya Naito in a ring together. What a match it was! It combined everything fans wanted from the two despite the finish.
Jay White had managed to hit the Blade Runner and pin Tetsuya Naito. Attendees left Nippon Budoken angry after seeing their beloved Los Ingobernables de Japon leader lose. More importantly for Jay White was that, as well as making it to the G1 final, he was now owed a shot at Naito’s Intercontinental Title. The same title White failed to win on his first match back after his excursion against the Ace of New Japan, Hiroshi Tanahashi.
After losing the G1 to Ibushi, Jay White went straight to work and the title match was announced for the Destruction tour. Fans definitely weren’t disappointed.
As the tour started, both men were constantly teasing each other and rubbing each other the wrong way whether in the matches or post-match comments. Naito told Jay to be Tranquilo and White tried to get Naito to smile. At different times, they were really annoying each other and it seemed to work. They had this connection with each other where they saw the similarities within each other. At some points, fans felt as if they were watching a love story rather than a wrestling feud. With a mix of mind games and brutality, both men had managed to capture the audience’s attention. It became a pairing that people wanted to see again and again.
At Destruction in Kobe, on September 22nd, fans saw the match they were anticipating. As with their match during the G1, it started at a pace that suited both men and the energy and stakes slowly increased during the match. After nearly 30 minutes, Jay White hit the Blade Runner on Naito again for the pin and, more importantly, the Intercontinental Title.
From there, Naito seemed to be out of the double championship picture.
That was, until a proposal came from Suzuki Gun’s Taichi that Naito couldn’t refuse. What was offered was a singles match at King of Pro Wrestling in October. This would determine the next challenger for Jay White’s title; this was after the Switchblade initially refused Naito’s rematch. However, after Naito pinned Taichi in a match that saw another more brutal side to the former Stardust Genius, Jay had no option and the Wrestle Kingdom match was set.
This started the road to Tokyo Dome for the duo at the start of the World Tag League Tour. Like Destruction, it saw the tension between the two mount to an all-time high. The chemistry was blazing. If you think about it, both men are very similar. They have an ability to annoy their opponents, whether through mind games or their ability to break the rules. It seemed as if the stakes couldn’t be higher.
So, with the press conferences done and the match scheduled for the semi-main event of January 4th, what can fans expect?
This will not be a technical masterclass of professional wrestling. It will be a fight combining both men’s very different in-ring styles. From White’s methodical and brutal technique to Naito’s reckless and sometimes high-risk move set, this match can’t be denied. Gedo will also be a massive factor working in the favour of White; so will the rest of the Bullet Club. Naito will need to have his head on a swivel and, if possible, the other members of LIJ with him in his corner.
One thing that we can be sure of is who the fans in the Tokyo Dome will be voting for. No matter what venue NJPW goes to in any country, it will always be firmly Los Ingobernables territory. Most fans have another thing in common: their hatred for Jay White.
No matter who comes out on top, audiences can expect that no bars will be held for this match. Neither man cares about breaking the rules. With the addition of Gedo on the outside, I can’t see this match being anything other than a fight. Mixing both men’s very different styles and almost complementary personalities is a recipe for an amazing match for fans in the Tokyo Dome and watching on NJPWWorld.
This match at the Tokyo Dome will hopefully not end this feud between the two. However, it will play a massive role during the Wrestle Kingdom weekend and may determine who the company’s first-ever double champion will be.
Because of this, it seems almost impossible to pick a winner. Jay White has the advantage as champion. However, Naito is known for coming out on top in big match situations. They will both stop at nothing to win that Intercontinental title and pave the way for January 5th – their shot at making NJPW history.