KENTA’s victory in the first ever New Japan Cup USA Tournament on August 21 gave him the right to challenge for the IWGP United States Championship. KENTA has held only one title, the NEVER Openweight championship, since arriving in the promotion in 2019 and now wants to add the U.S. belt to his list of accomplishments.
But the problem is that the current United States champion, Jon Moxley, is also the AEW World Heavyweight champion. Mox has obligations to Tony Khan’s company and thanks to travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the champ has been unable to work in Japan. So what happens now?
Fans of both KENTA and Mox want to see a match between the two and that’s been evident since KENTA debuted in NJPW. KENTA was very vocal about wanting to face the best competition in New Japan and that was the case from the moment he arrived. Moxley’s name was thrown around more than once, teasing fans with a showdown that was surely on the horizon.
But that match never happened and now the world that both men inhabit is far different from the one they knew just one year ago. Jon’s time in New Japan never materialized as a full-time run, as he signed with All Elite Wrestling, debuting on May 25, 2019. Moxley rose in the ranks over the following year and eventually became the face of the company.
I’m coming for YOU.
— KENTA aka Lil’K (@KENTAG2S) August 22, 2020
KENTA’s stint as the babyface legend in New Japan was not what many fans expected it could be, as he never seemed to get any real traction. But all of that changed when he joined The Bullet Club on August 12, 2019. Since that time, his career has been rejuvenated and he has become one of the most hated heels in New Japan.
But while their career paths have taken them in different directions, KENTA and Mox now find themselves back on the same page. New Japan’s USA Cup was held with the promise of a IWGP U.S. title shot as the prize. Why make that promise if there was no way that the company could deliver?
While KENTA is indeed an important part of NJPW’s roster, he’s remained in the United States because of the pandemic. KENTA has been seen on NJPW Strong, the weekly series airing from the New Japan Dojo in Los Angeles. So since he’s in the states and Mox is as well, why not book this match now?
The problem of course is that Jon’s status as AEW World champion prevents him from working such a match. There’s very little chance that Mox could show up on an episode of NJPW Strong. Such an appearance by the champ would possibly dilute his title run and that’s a notion that’s existed for years in the business. No national pro wrestling company wants its top champion to lose his shine in another promotion.
Check out highlights from the latest NJPW Strong!
Then there’s fact that AEW and New Japan doesn’t appear to be on speaking terms. There has never been an official working relationship between the two companies and with good reason. The Elite of Cody, Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks and Hangman Page, left New Japan behind to form AEW and when that happened, it was apparent that such a relationship was likely not going to be possible.
So the likelihood of KENTA coming to AEW for a one-off match against Moxley is probably not realistic either. Tony Khan would surely not want to portray his world champion in a negative light and possibly losing to an outsider, despite KENTA’s respected pedigree in the industry, is not what AEW would want.
But none of this has prevented KENTA, or NJPW, from mentioning Jon Moxley on their programming. So it could very well be that a deal has perhaps been made behind the scenes and if that’s the case, then fans could actually see this match happen in the very near future. But what would the outcome be?
Listen to Moxley’s words following September 9’s All Out! Warning, NSFW!
KENTA versus Jon Moxley would certainly be wild and vicious, thanks to Mox’s penchant for violence and KENTA’s association with The Bullet Club. Assuming KENTA’s running buddies would be involved, Moxley would undoubtedly be targeted throughout the bout and be forced to watch his back from all sides.
The fact is that the showdown would surely be exciting and could potentially be a match of the year candidate. It’s a dream match that fans of both men have wanted to see for a long time and there doesn’t seem to be a better time than now. New Japan is forcing the issue on their end and AEW needs only to respond.
But what will that response be? Will AEW and New Japan finally do business in an official capacity? Or will Jon Moxley eventually surrender the IWGP United States Championship, thus preventing a match with KENTA from occurring anytime soon? Only time will tell of course. But when it comes to pro wrestling fans who have been asking for the match, Jon Moxley versus KENTA cannot happen soon enough.
Tom Clark is a Senior Pro Wrestling Analyst and Featured Columnist for Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify ,YouTube and live every Friday at 12pm EST on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live