January. It’s usually kinda slow for video games until close to the end of the month. What early January is good for around here is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s premier event: Wrestle Kingdom 13. It happens every Jan. 4 and late, late, late tonight/early tomorrow you can catch some of the best professional wrestling action in the world. What a time to be alive!
Since we don’t have anything better to do, besides chugging through our backlogs, let’s have some fun. Let’s compare anticipated Wrestle Kingdom 13 matches with anticipated 2019 game releases!
Pre-Show Gauntlet Match for #1 Contender to the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Title as… Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
Ace Combat has always been under the radar, so to speak. Its proponents are always so, so, so into the game. Yet it never really gets its due. When you look at the participants of the match that won’t even make the main show, you start to see similarities.
Sure, the match has its share of scrubs. I wouldn’t spend your money to see Yujiro Takahashi wrestle. That represents the certain flaws of Ace Combat 7, which will probably nail a ton of important stuff but also stumble on a few layups.
But hey! You have Jeff Cobb in this match. The Best Friends! Hirooki Goto!! Minoru “By God” Suzuki is on the pre-show!!!! There are elements of Ace Combat I can’t deny get my blood pumping. Even though it’s not one of the games I immediately think about when looking forward, I can’t deny its appeal.
NEVER Openweight Title as… Devil May Cry 5
Kota. Will. These beautiful dinguses.
Devil May Cry 5 looks slick, handsome, and dumb as shit. Expect a lot of fireworks, explosions, wall jumps, and a total narrative breakdown. You might even get some of that in Devil May Cry 5, too.
Three-Way Tag Team Match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Titles as… Rage 2
There’s no doubt these three teams will bring excitement to the Wrestle Kingdom 13 card. The problem? There isn’t really anything new being brought to the table here. But I’m okay with excitement for excitement’s sake.
Like the Rage 2 team, there’s real talent in this match. I’m just concerned I’ve seen it all before. The open world design has my interest piqued, though. Let’s say open-world design as a concept is Shingo Takagi, in this case. The newest LIJ member is cool. I mean, he’s so cool. He’s a hunk who can kill you, which is really all we can ask for in wrestling.
If Rage 2 can turn its brand of chaos (not Chaos) into meaningful open world design, then it can transcend the Borderlands of the world into something special.
British Heavyweight Title as… Total War: Three Kingdoms
My flow through strategy games typically follows this pattern: I plan methodically, act deliberately, and then get forearmed in the throat so hard I forget everything and lose.
I imagine the battle between British Heavyweight Champion Tomohiro Ishii and sentient, Marxist string bean Zack Sabre Jr. will follow a similar flow. The difference? Zack is much, much better at strategy and tactics than I am.
A good strategy player can circumvent even the bluntest, most destructive attack an opponent can muster. But hey, it’s Tomohiro Ishii. He hits so hard I get bronchitis just watching his strikes. I’ve… mostly lost the metaphor here, but basically this match will come down to whether Zack is the superior strategist or whether Ishii can catch Zack with an offensive flurry that’ll negate everything.
Three-Way for the IWGP Tag Team Titles as… Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
In this anticipated tag team match, the three teams couldn’t be more different. Each brings something unique to the table. The Guerrillas of Destiny bring a mix of crafty defense and straightforward offense, The Young Bucks are vertical dynamos, and EVIL and SANADA are beautiful (I mean beautiful) monster boys.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is From Software’s latest. Gone (or at least minimized) are the RPG elements and here to stay is fast-paced action gameplay with much, much more agile movement than in previous Dark Souls games.
The match, like snippets of Sekiro I’ve seen, has me on the edge of my seat. I think this could steal the show — just like Sekiro might steal the year.
IWGP United States Title as… Gears 5
Cody is one of the hottest properties in wrestling right now. He’s about to set sail from New Japan and start his own promotion called All Elite Wrestling. And Juice Robinson is probably the most improved wrestler on the roster year over year.
There’s real quality in this match, so why do I not care at all about it?
Gears 5 has a pedigree and development talent that ought to put it firmly on my radar as something to care about. Yet here I am, not caring about Gears of War, again, in 2019.
Maybe it’s the idea of the US Title. Maybe I don’t care about it. Maybe Gears is the same thing. Third-person mindless muscle shooters just generally don’t do much for me. Not even if they’re the best, most high quality muscle shooters around. We might have a Brandi Rhodes and Pharaoh sighting, though. That’s exciting!
Hey, Microsoft. Put Brandi Rhodes and Pharaoh in Gears 5!
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title as… Kingdom Hearts 3
A time traveling, dimension-hopping warrior looking to get his prize back from a skeleton soldier that now inhabits the body of a previous skeleton soldier is the plot of this match. Kind of. I mean it’s really just two mega talented junior heavyweights going at it, but the title’s on the line, faction lines are blurry, and KUSHIDA is still cosplaying Marty McFly.
Taiji Ishimori is the new Bone Soldier for Bullet Club, which now looks nothing like its previous incarnations. That’s not a bad thing, honestly.
Kingdom Hearts 3 takes some catching up to get into. Similarly, there’s history between KUSHIDA and Ishimori. There’s history between KUSHIDA and Bullet Club junior heavyweights, for that matter. Knowing all the history might make the story sweeter, but it’s a quality showcase either way. Hop in, try not to think about it too much (unless you love thinking about it too much), and enjoy the ride!
Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White as… New Animal Crossing
What do we get when we take the spirit out of Animal Crossing? We got Pocket Camp: a version of Animal Crossing that’s fine, but loses its joy in fundamental ways. When Kazuchika Okada lost the IWGP Heavyweight Title he lost something, too.
Jay White is a great wrestler. but he’s not Kazuchika Okada. Kazuchika Okada is hanging out on the beach in New Leaf, chatting to Isabelle about your decorations, watching the seasons change, and celebrating a birthday with all your friends. He even brought balloons!
Jay White wants to be New Leaf so bad, but everyone sees him for what he is. He’s Pocket Camp. When Okada redeems himself against Jay White, it will be the birth of a new Okada. Whatever that transformation will be, it’ll be much closer to New Leaf than Pocket Camp, too.
IWGP Intercontinental Title as… Mortal Kombat 11
Is there a place in this world for an aging edgelord? That’s the question we’ll have an answer to twice this year. Chris Jericho will give us his answer this week and Mortal Kombat 11 will give us another one later in April.
I have a deep respect for both of these icons. There’s real confidence and talent in both the man and the series. Both had famous slumps in the middle of their careers after a breathtaking sunrise and sometimes-profound sunset. If Jericho is Mortal Kombat, Naito is me. I can’t even remotely say I’m as cool as Naito, but I’m Naito in the sense that I look at Mortal Kombat the way Naito looks at Jericho.
I don’t believe the quality I’ve heard about when I see the edgelord dripping in cheap leather coming to the ring to his own butt rock. But here he is, rambling on to a familiar tune, and playing the hits of his storied career. I can’t help but love it.
IWGP Heavyweight Title as… Anthem
When Kenny Omega won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Kazuchika Okada, I knew things would be different. Kenny promised they’d be different. I believed in him, even though I knew the changes might kill things I once loved. What followed, however, was a string of disappointments.
First came the (probably-in-bad-guy-character-but-yikes-anyway) choice to criticize the work ethic of Japanese wrestlers on the roster. Then came the lack of meaningful title defenses. Then came the countless distractions… and swerves and rudeness and subtle betrayals.
There’s a shining example of how to be a champion right there in front of us all. It’s always been there! The dream of a champion in flesh in blood: Hiroshi Tanahashi.
I don’t know if BioWare is Hiroshi Tanahashi, or if its Kenny Omega. If it’s Kenny, does it lose the heart of a champion? If it’s Tana, do we lose any hope of meaningful progress? Anthem frightens me. I love the old BioWare. The flashes of “new” BioWare point to the failures of Kenny Omega. 2018 for Kenny was Mass Effect: Andromeda — something I wanted to love, but couldn’t.
I just want the old BioWare back, but maybe Anthem is everything I didn’t know I wanted. Will New Japan really be okay with Kenny at the helm, or will we see the return of an old hero?