Thy Kingdom Come New Japan Pro Wrestling in the Tokyo Dome
Total Wrestling Magazine|December 2016

This coming January 4, “Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada of Chaos will make his second defence of his current IWGP title reign against Kenny Omega of Bullet Club’s Elite in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 11 at the  Tokyo Dome. James Truepenny looks back at what has made that day so special, and why New Japan in The Egg Dome has become synonymous with great matches and big money feuds.

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s first crack at the stadium known as the “Egg Dome” would be with the Battle Satellite show in April of 1989, featuring the International Wrestling Grand Prix heavyweight title tournament in front of a crowd of 55,000 people.

In 1992, the traditional January 4 date was set in stone. That first year, perennial rivals, Riki Choshu and Tatsumi Fujinami clashed in a battle of the two biggest draws in the company at Super Warriors in Tokyo Dome, they would also have a mat classic. A 63,500 sell out showed that when the company had the right main event, they were the undoubted kings of drawing power in Japan. Fantastic Story in Tokyo Dome the following year was another sell out. The early 90s was one of the hottest periods in Puroresu and they would go quite a few times in one year.

When Hulk Hogan came calling whilst holding the WWE championship it seemed churlish not to give him a dream match with The Great Muta on the March 5 1993. With Battlefield in 1994, New Japan must have thought they were on a real winner; two bona fide legends in Genichiro Tenryu and Antonio Inoki in yet another dream matchup, and while the gate was respectable, 48,000, it must have been disappointing. That initial formula of Chosu and Fujinami; two genuine draws that can offer a classic match, needed to be kept up. It wasn’t a mistake they made twice.

The IWGP heavyweight title was back in the main event position the following year as Shinya Hashimoto defended against Kensuke Sasaki. He was part of The Three Musketeers of alongside Keiji Mutoh and Masahiro Chono who would be the cornerstone of that monster mid 90s run. When the Universal Wrestling Force International promotion fell on hard times in the mid nineties and mega draw Nobuhiko Takada negotiated a cross promotional deal, the Dome was to be the ultimate proving ground. Takada would defeat Mutoh for the IWGP title at Wrestling World at that year’s January 4 show, only to lose it to Hashimoto on April 29 again at The Dome, in what would prove to possibly be the biggest live gate feud of all time.

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