2022 was a strange year for NJPW, the first half wasn’t a good as people expected it would be, but the last few months of 2022 were amazing for NJPW, and with that momentum carrying over to 2023. This year looks to be one of major opportunities for NJPW.
As always, NJPW will start the year strong with their January 4th show, Wrestle Kingdom 17. This year’s show has gathered a lot attention from fans because of the possibility of Mercedes Varnado (Sasha Banks) making an appearance but mostly because of the dream match we’ll see between the IWGP US champion Will Ospreay and Kenny Omega. Wrestle Kingdom has always been a strong way for NJPW to start the year and 2023 won’t be the exception.
In terms of booking NJPW has had ups-and-downs these last few years, but the last 4 months of NJPW have seen to carry over and NJPW has strong momentum going for them, not only because of the Omega-Ospreay match, but overall, the NJPW product has improved and feel hot again after so long. NJPW still has some of the same issues, especially regarding the main event scene being comprised of the same 6 wrestlers, but Gedo’s booking still manages to spice things up.
Omega vs. Ospreay leaves a lot of possibilities for NJPW in 2023. If Kenny Omega wins again the IWGP US championship, this could lead to more appearances from Omega in a NJPW ring, and NJPW really needs to spice things up regarding the NJPW main eventers matchups. Ospreay not having the IWGP US title would mean that he could challenge for the IWGP world heavyweight championship down the line. There is also the possibility of Omega just challenging the winner of the Wrestle Kingdom main event, but we don’t know this yet.
2023 will be the year of the IWGP women’s title, especially with the addition of Mercedes Varnado to the fold. The working relationship with STARDOM for this championship will be key, but what everyone still wonders is if women’s division of AEW will also be part of this, and this could make NJPW the bridge for AEW and STARDOM. Overall, Kairi as the first champion was a safe choice, and 2023 looks to be the year to make the IWGP women’s title mean something. There’s also a good chance that NJPW runs another Historic X-Over show with STARDOM this year, and makes complete sense.
We can’t ignore the relationship between AEW and NJPW. Last year, we saw the first Forbidden Door show, a massive success all around and both promotions would be fools if they didn’t run a second show this year. A big possibility would be for both AEW and NJPW to run two Forbidden Door show this year, with one in Japan and the other in the US, but we don’t know if these are the plans. One thing is for sure, the next Forbidden Door show needs to take place in a massive arena, MSG or a stadium needs to be the venue.