POLLOCK'S UPDATE: Wrestle Kingdom 18 preview

Originally published at POLLOCK'S UPDATE: Wrestle Kingdom 18 preview

POST IT NOTES

**We are live tonight with Rewind-A-Dynamite at 10 p.m. ET on the POST YouTube channel.

**On Thursday, we will have a review of Wrestle Kingdom 18 for members of the POST Wrestling Café. I will be chatting with Wai Ting & Bruce Lord with a full review of the show from the Tokyo Dome and discussing all the news coming out of it. On Saturday, WH Park & Karen Peterson will review New Year Dash on POST Puroresu.

**On today’s edition of Pollock & Thurston, we spoke with Phil Strum from the Under the Ring podcast on the Worlds End press conference, the handling of the story with Chris Jericho, Tony Khan’s response, and the structure of pro wrestling media. Then, Chris Samsa stopped by before Wrestle Kingdom 18 to chat about the state of NJPW, the key stories going into the show, the upcoming year for New Japan & more. Plus, The Rock’s return to WWE television, the exit of Kevin Dunn, and an analyst forecast for TKO in 2024.

**Below are the categories for the BEST & WORST of 2023 Show this Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on the POST Wrestling Café:

  1. BEST WRESTLER (Female)
  2. BEST TAG TEAM
  3. BEST WRESTLER (Male)
  4. BEST FEUD
  5. WORST FEUD
  6. BEST NON-WRESTLING MEDIA
  7. MOST IMPROVED
  8. BIGGEST SETBACK
  9. BEST ON THE MIC
  10. WORST ON THE MIC
  11. BEST CHARACTER
  12. WORST CHARACTER
  13. BEST WEEKLY TV SHOW
  14. BEST PPV
  15. WORST PPV
  16. BEST ENTRANCE
  17. BEST PROMOTION
  18. WORST PROMOTION
  19. MATCH OF THE YEAR
  20. WORST MATCH OF THE YEAR
  21. BIGGEST STORY OF THE YEAR

POST SCHEDULE

Tonight: Rewind-A-Dynamite with John Pollock & Wai Ting
Thursday: Wrestle Kingdom 18 with Pollock, Wai & Bruce Lord (POST Wrestling Café)
Friday: MCU L8R with WH Park & Rich Fann (Ep. 5-9 of “What…If?)
Friday: Rewind-A-SmackDown (POST Wrestling Café)
Saturday: POST Puroresu with WH Park & Karen Peterson
Saturday: Collision Course with Kate from Montreal & Bruce Lord (POST Wrestling Café)
Sunday: The BEST & WORST of 2023 (LIVE at 8 p.m. ET on POST Wrestling Café)

WRESTLING NEWS

**NJPW presents its annual Wrestle Kingdom card early Thursday morning and streaming live on New Japan World. Last year, the company reverted its Wrestle Kingdom concept to one night at the Tokyo Dome and drew 26,085 with Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay vs. Kenny Omega in the top matches. This year, Bryan Danielson is the major AEW crossover with a rematch against Okada while Jon Moxley is also wrestling on the show. The main event sees Tetsuya Naito return to the Tokyo Dome where he became Double Champion four years ago and had his celebration thwarted by an attack. His opposition is current champion SANADA, who has been ice cold as a champion since winning it back in April even though it’s a natural story of the former LIJ member setting out on his own and achieving the top prize, and now needing to beat his former leader.  

The show comes during a major shift for the company with the recent ouster of Takami Ohbari as being replaced as president by Hiroshi Tanahashi. Will Ospreay is set to join the AEW roster full-time with his appearances in NJPW expected to be much more sporadic and you have questions regarding Kazuchika Okada’s future. It is one thing to see a foreign star like Jay White or Will Ospreay reach a certain level and then sign with a U.S. company as that’s typical for Japanese promotions to see occur, but it would be a major blow to the audience to see Okada sign elsewhere after the company has been built around him since 2012. There will be the perception that once a star reaches his peak in New Japan, they “graduate” to AEW or WWE. With AEW, those stars would, in theory, still be available for certain dates per year but it’s exceptionally difficult to book a promotion where it’s perceived that the biggest stars come in several times per year and work for other companies.

The nucleus that New Japan has nurtured over the past year is the “future four” of Yota Tsuji, Ren Narita, Shota Umino, and Yuya Uemura. All four can have standout performances on this, especially Tsuji and Uemura in a 1-on-1 setting with Tsuji on the most advanced track for stardom.

On the foreigner side, this should be a big year for El Phantasmo, who feels like he is ready to break through to the next level as a top guy. Hikuleo has made significant strides over the past year and benefited from teaming with ELP where he’s not in the deep waters on his own but more than held his end up during a 40-minute World Tag League final last December. David Finlay should be assuming the role of the top foreigner and the role previously held by Jay White. Finlay’s match tonight is a huge one for his career moving forward and making sure he comes off as equals or superior to Moxley and Ospreay and not a third wheel.

Over the next two days, we’ll probably get some excellent matches but also, some directions for the top stars when it comes to the key programs following New Year Dash with upcoming shows in San Jose on January 13, Nagoya on January 20, and Osaka on February 11.

The pre-show begins at 1:30 a.m. ET tonight and the main show at 2:30 a.m.
*IWGP Heavyweight Championship: SANADA © vs. Tetsuya Naito
*Kazuchika Okada vs. Bryan Danielson
*IWGP Global Heavyweight Championship (Vacant): Jon Moxley vs. Will Ospreay vs. David Finlay
*IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi © vs. El Desperado
*IWGP Tag & STRONG Openweight Tag Titles – Winner Takes All: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI © vs. El Phantasmo & Hikuleo
*NEVER Openweight Championship: Shingo Takagi © vs. Tama Tonga
*EVIL & Ren Narita vs. Shota Umino & Kaito Kiyomiya
*Yuya Uemura vs. Yota Tsuji
*NJPW Television Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. © vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
*IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles: Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney © vs. Francesco Akira & TJP
*New Japan Ranbo – The final four will face off for the KOPW 2024 Championship at New Year Dash (pre-show)

**Eric Handler, an analyst with Roth MKM, shared his forecast for the TKO stock in 2024 with The Hollywood Reporter. Handler is high on TKO due to the market for sports rights remaining strong in his estimation and the group having sizable deals on the table with the pending domestic rights for Raw set to expire this year and UFC’s package with ESPN in 2025. For Raw, Handler sees Wall Street underestimating Raw’s renewal with his belief that it will be “at least” a 1.4x increase on its current AAV (average annual value) of $265 million per year with NBC Universal. Even more bold, Handler sees a potential 2x increase for UFC’s linear television and pay-per-view rights package, which has a reported AAV of $300 million and signed in 2018. Last June, Dana White told Sports Business Journal that they were set to begin talks with ESPN about a renewal.

**The final AEW Rampage of the year averaged 326,000 viewers and 150,000 (0.11) in the 18-49 demographic last Friday on TNT. The viewership was down 10% from the previous episode while the 18-49 audience was up by 12% and was its largest over the past three weeks. Females 18-49 and 35-49 were each up from the prior week while adults 18-34 dropped by 6%. The show featured Orange Cassidy, Rocky Romero & Trent Beretta against Top Flight & Action Andretti as well as Wheeler Yuta vs. Matt Sydal, and Ruby Soho vs. Marina Shafir on the night before Worlds End. (Data: Wrestlenomics)

**The latest box office data from Box Office Mojo has “The Iron Claw” at $18.2 million since its release two weeks ago. The film is listed as having a budget of $15.9 million.

**Friday’s “Best of 2023” edition of Friday Night SmackDown averaged 1,355,000 viewers and 367,000 (0.28) in the 18-49 demographic Fox. It aired against the Cotton Bowl game on ESPN, which had 9,720,000 viewers.

**We did a breakdown of WWE’s television viewership for December and will be doing the show for AEW in Friday’s news update.

**AEW Dynamite is at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey for the fallout from Worlds End including Adam Cole scheduled for a segment after his reveal as “The Devil”. WrestleTix latest report is nearly 4,600 tickets distributed. Their last show at the arena was an episode of Collision last July that drew 6,044 paid and a gate of $376,545, per Pollstar data. Below are the announced matches and segments for tonight:
*AEW International Championship: Orange Cassidy © vs. Dante Martin
*Swerve Strickland vs. Daniel Garcia
*Konosuke Takeshita vs. Darby Allin
*Mariah May vs. Queen Aminata
*Christian Cage’s 2024 State of the Union
*Samoa Joe to speak
*Adam Cole explains his betrayal

**STARDOM runs its pay-per-view card at Tokyo Dome City Hall tonight at 11 p.m. ET and is available on the Pia website for $31. The card for tonight’s show includes:
*IWGP Women’s Championship: Mayu Iwatani © vs. Syuri
*Maika & Giulia vs. Suzu Suzuki & Megan Bayne
*Utami Hayashishita, Saya Kamitani & AZM vs. MIRAI, Ami Sohrei & Saki Kashima
*Saori Anou, Yuna Mizumori & SAKI vs. Natsuko Tora, Momo Watanabe & Ruaka
*Mai Sakurai & Thekla vs. Mina Shirakawa & Mei Seira
*Hazuki, Hanan & Saya Iida vs. Starlight Kid, Fukigen Death & Rina
*HANAKO, Yuzuki & Ranna Yagami vs. Lady C, Miyu Amasaki & Hina (pre-show)

**AEW broadcaster and Hall of Famer Jim Ross turns 72 years old today. Ross promoted his first spot show in 1972 and began working for Leroy McGuirk’s Tri-State Wrestling company in 1980 before Bill Watts took over the territory Ross had a significant role in Mid-South Wrestling throughout the ‘80s and was the key negotiator in its sale to Jim Crockett Promotions in 1987. His next book is set to be released in March covering his fifty years in the industry.

*****
POLLOCK & THURSTON
John Pollock and Brandon Thurston are joined by a pair of guests to go over the AEW Worlds End press conference and discuss the state of NJPW.
*****
upNXT – New Year’s Evil
Braden Herrington and Davie Portman are back to review WWE NXT New Year’s Evil from January 2nd, 2024 featuring Ilja Dragunov vs Trick Williams for the NXT Championship!
*****
REWIND-A-RAW
John Pollock and Wai Ting review WWE Raw: Day 1 with The Rock’s surprise return and Seth Rollins defending the WWE World Championship against Drew McIntyre.
*****
AEW WORLDS END REVIEW
John Pollock and Wai Ting review AEW Worlds End 2023 featuring MJF vs. Samoa Joe for the AEW Championship and Jon Moxley vs. Eddie Kingston in the Continental Classic Final.
*****
REWIND-A-WAI #146: WWE Backlash 2007
John Pollock and Wai Ting review WWE Backlash 2007 featuring John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton in a Fatal 4-Way for the WWE Championship.
*****

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