What is the deal with January 4? For some reason, more than any other date of the year, this one day seems to always mean something in wrestling. Be it here in America or over in Japan, this date has become one of the most active dates in all of wrestling and for some reason it just fascinates me. Today we’re going to look at some moments on this date over the years and see what’s happened in history.
We’ll start with the big one outside of North America by looking at the annual New Japan January 4 Tokyo Dome show. Simply put, this is the biggest non-WWE show of the year and regularly draws over 30,000 fans to one of the biggest stadiums in Japan. It’s often one of the best wrestling shows of the year with one of the strongest top to bottom cards no matter what WWE can put on.
At the moment this is being written, “Wrestle Kingdom 11” is taking place but the show has actually been taking place annually since 1992 under a variety of names. The first two shows were co-promoted with WCW under the incredibly creative title WCW/New Japan Supershow II and III (the first show took place back in March instead of January).
These shows didn’t really mean anything for WCW as no titles ever changed hands and the shows were barely promoted on regular WCW television. Basically the shows were treated as specials that only major wrestling fans would pay for as they were likely to order anything at that point.
While not huge shows for WCW, they did have some big matches such as Sting/Great Muta vs. the Steiner Brothers and Great Muta vs. Masahiro Chono for the NWA World Title, which promptly meant nothing in WCW because it was 1993 and who in the world cared about the NWA at that point? I would suggest you check these out on the WWE Network but they’re some of the rare shows that actually aren’t on there, likely due to some rights issues.
That brings us to the annual New Japan Tokyo Dome Show, minus the whole WCW aspect. Since there’s almost no way to really talk about twenty six shows, we’ll keep it simple here: the show has a stacked card every year and is basically New Japan’s version of Wrestlemania. There are WAY too may great matches to list but there are a few worth checking out.
To begin with, we have an amazing trilogy between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada, which is probably the closest thing to Randy Orton vs. John Cena that New Japan has. These two went at it three times at the January 4 show with clashes in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Each one was a match of the year candidate and the three combined to tell a story of Okada rising up the ranks and eventually taking Tanahashi’s spot as the ace of the promotion. There’s no bad edition of this match and each one is worth checking out if you have the time.
For a little change of pace, we also have the battles of Shinsuke Nakamura, who fought Brock Lesnar in 2006 and AJ Styles in 2016. Let me repeat that: Nakamura vs. Lesnar and Styles in front of some of the biggest crowds of the year. If that doesn’t make you want to watch some of these shows, I don’t know what else is going to be able to get your interest turned up.
The January 4 Tokyo Dome Show might not be your top interest but it’s something that most fans should see at least once. There’s wrestling in the world outside of WWE and it’s almost always going to produce something worth watching. Sometimes it’s interesting to see what’s going on by itself without being able to understand everything that’s going on. If the wrestling is as good as it should be, the stories will tell themselves.
Now let’s move on to something a bit more American as we jump forward to 2010. In what was supposed to be a rekindling of the Monday Night Wars, Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff debuted in TNA as “Impact Wrestling” moved to Mondays in an attempt to fight “Monday Night Raw”. This included the debut of names such as Jeff Hardy, Shannon Moore and….Val Venis among others for reasons that still aren’t clear.
What followed was one of the worst thrashings in the history of professional wrestling as “Monday Night Raw” proceeded to trounce “Impact Wrestling” in the ratings. “Impact Wrestling” moved back to Thursday nights about four months later but everything started on January 4. The fans who actually stuck around until the end of the broadcast saw a great match between Kurt Angle and AJ Styles but the rest of the show was such a disaster that the show was completely doomed.
It didn’t help that the same night’s episode of “Monday Night Raw” featured the LONG awaited return of Bret Hart, who hadn’t been seen on the show since November 1997. This included a long speech by Hart and a reunion with Shawn Michaels to officially end the longstanding rivalry between the two.
In other words, TNA didn’t have much of a chance and was depending on the even older guard to try to carry them to victory. I get the idea behind trying to make something like this work but just….no. It’s such a mess of an idea and the show is one of the worst episodes of TV I can remember in a very long time. While it didn’t rekindle the Monday Night Wars, it did cause a series of massacres in the ratings. I don’t think that had quite the ring though and there’s not much of a way around that. Well that and so many people not watching the show.
Speaking of not watching the show, we’ll wrap it up with one of the most infamous nights in the history of professional wrestling: January 4, 1999. You might remember this night for the Fingerpoke of Doom, which is that time when WCW felt it was a good idea to make their top face look like a stalker, have the new World Champion lay down so Hogan could win the World Title again and, in case it wasn’t clear enough, make HOGAN THE WORLD CHAMPION AGAIN IN 1999.
Just in case that’s not enough, WCW also decided to tell the fans that they could change the channel and see Mick Foley win the WWF World Title (on a taped show) for the first time ever. Amazingly enough, a lot of people actually did change the channel and watched the title change, only to flip back and see the mess that was the ending to “Monday Nitro”, meaning WCW was left with a horrible ending compared to one of the best moments in WWF history. As usual, WCW managed to screw up something that…..well it was going to be bad anyway but this made it worse.
Is there any date that comes close to this throughout the year? Ignoring more minor things like Natalya making her WWE debut or Jesse Ventura being sworn in as Governor of Minnesota (not directly related to wrestling but still a big deal), it’s just a huge date for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. Either way, check out some Wrestle Kingdom and some of the horrible Hogan related stuff and enjoy something close to Wrestling Christmas.
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