Match Point is an on-going series at Last Word on Pro Wrestling, where we look at intriguing matchups in indie wrestling and beyond. They may be dream matches, first-time matchups, or hotly anticipated rematches. In this edition, we cover the upcoming IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship match between a long-standing titleholder and a nefarious challenger: Jon Moxley vs KENTA.
At Wrestle Kingdom 14, Jon Moxley defeated Lance Archer to win his second IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship. During this reign, he would defend against Juice Robinson and Minoru Suzuki. After his defense against Suzuki, Moxley was scheduled to face off against Zack Sabre Jr. However, the pandemic hit worldwide, meaning Jon Moxley could not participate in New Japan Pro Wrestling events going forward. Around the same time, Moxley took the American scene by storm as the reigning and defending AEW World Champion. All the while, he remained an inactive IWGP US Heavyweight Champion.
In August of 2020, NJPW would introduce a series known as NJPW STRONG, based in the United States division of NJPW. It also featured one of their first fours, New Japan Cup USA. This tournament’s main purpose was to crown a #1 contender for Jon Moxley’s IWGP US Heavyweight Championship. This tournament featured names like David Finlay and Jeff Cobb. However, it was the returning KENTA that went on to win the tournament. After the tournament, he made it a goal to defend the briefcase containing the title opportunity.
KENTA would continue appearing on NJPW STRONG, defending his briefcase against Finlay, Cobb, and others. The 2021 G1 Climax saw KENTA make his return to Japan. While the G1 was unsuccessful for KENTA, one loss against Hiroshi Tanahashi would make him want to defend the briefcase in Japan. KENTA would defeat Tanahashi at Power Struggle before entering a feud with Juice Robinson. This match never took place, as Robinson sustained an injury prior to Wrestle Kingdom 15. Instead, KENTA battled Satoshi Kojima, retaining his briefcase once more.
At the same event, viewers witnessed a video package from Jon Moxley. The “Death Rider” declared his eventual return a.nd that he was gunning for KENTA. On the final NJPW STRONG of January, in a 6-man tag team match involving KENTA, Jon Moxley would make his return to NJPW, immediately going after the challenger. Moxley announced that he would defend the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship in the special show known as New Beginning USA.
AEW‘s 2021 Edition of Beach Break was where things became more interesting. In one of the most shocking moments in AEW history, KENTA debuted for the promotion, attacking Moxley. This further ignited rumors of an AEW/NJPW partnership. On the following week’s episode of AEW Dynamite, KENTA teamed with AEW World Champion Kenny Omega to face off against Jon Moxley and Lance Archer. In this Falls Out Anywhere encounter, KENTA and Omega emerged supreme. Keep in mind that, aside from KENTA, all competitors in the match held the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship.
For the past two weeks, Moxley and KENTA conducted interviews leading to their singles encounter. The first interview saw Moxley recall the enthusiasm he felt when KENTA first came to NJPW, only to be disappointed when he joined Bullet Club. Moxley also expressed disdain toward KENTA’s run with the briefcase. Moxley wanted to face, in his words, “the old KENTA, the KENTA that inspired a generation of talent.”
Next week, KENTA called out Moxley for his incompetence as the IWGP US Heavyweight Champion. KENTA said that he deserved the belt; to him, he defended the briefcase for over 6 months while Moxley did nothing to represent NJPW. KENTA expressed excitement for the match. More importantly, he aimed to make history as the first Japanese-born IWGP US Heavyweight Champion.
After almost a year away from competition for NJPW, Jon Moxley will defend his IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship against KENTA. This match will receive significant spotlight on NJPW STRONG. Jon Moxley vs. KENTA has never happened before. Perhaps they will put on a defining match in the history of the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship. Will KENTA be the first Japanese-born IWGP US Heavyweight Champion or will Moxley’s reign continue? We will witness the result of Jon Moxley vs KENTA at NJPW STRONG with New Beginning USA!
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