This Sunday two of the toughest wrestlers on the planet go to war at WrestleDream. Eddie Kingston will put both the ROH World Championship and Strong Openweight Championships on the line against Katsuyori Shibata in what should be a knock-down-drag-out affair.
Like many fans, Tony Khan cannot wait to see the two battle at WrestleDream.
“What a great match! This is one of those dream matches I’m so happy to be able to put on. I think they’ve taken very different paths to get where they are but they both hold championships in Ring of Honor and they’ve both been great champions in New Japan Pro Wrestling…I believe these two, while they come from very different backgrounds, while they look very different, if you saw them they’d be like a buddy cop movie with nothing in common but really, they have a lot of similarities…These are two pro-wrestlers who love the sport so much and they prove it every time they go out there,” Khan told Slam Wrestling.
Khan discussed what Eddie Kingston brings to the table and why he is such a tough opponent to put down for the count.
“I don’t think anybody’s ever questioned Eddie Kingston’s love for wrestling. One of his great skills and gifts is that he presents himself with this authenticity and intensity. Nobody ever questions why he’s out there. This guy loves what he’s doing! This guy loves wrestling and this guy is intense! He hates certain opponents. He hates those who disrespect wrestling and this guy takes no nonsense,” he said.
Khan’s thoughts then went to the Japanese legend, Shibata. In 2017, Shibata suffered a subdural hematoma in his match with Kazuchika Okada. It was thought he would never wrestle again but Shibata recovered, became the head coach at NJPW’s dojo located in Los Angeles and returned to action in 2021 to face Zack Sabre Jr. in a 5-minute UWF rules exhibition at G1 Climax 31.
“I think Shibata projects that himself in a different way that’s not as verbal but it is just as impactful. Shibata’s presence in pro-wrestling shows how much he loves wrestling. One of my favorite quotes ever in the sport was when we had the press conference earlier this year and he said: ‘You know, I’m not out here wrestling to die. I’m here wrestling to live. I feel alive doing this.’ He feels more connected to his craft, to the sport, to the fans as he ever has. I think this match is a dream come true,” said Khan.
Khan explained how the WrestleDream concept came about. When word travelled about Antonio Inoki’s passing in October 1st of last year, Khan filed the date away wanting to host an annual event to honor all that Inoki meant to the wrestling world as a talent and as a promoter.
Khan revealed that Inoki’s family will be part of the show this weekend.
“I’m very proud that we’re honoring one of the people who made AEW possible who does not get enough credit in the world of pro-wrestling. He doesn’t get talked about enough despite being one of the greatest promoters and I think pretty much unanimously recognized as one of the all-time great wrestling minds and promoters,” he said.
Headlining the WrestleDream card will be what is expected to be a showdown between two of the greatest technical wrestlers in the world today in Bryan Danielson versus Zack Sabre Jr.
Khan believes that match will be an incredible main event.
“There was worldwide buzz around last year’s Forbidden Door and one of the matches we were planning to have at the event was Bryan Danielson versus Zack Sabre Jr. There was a lot of people clamoring for that match as they had not wrestled in over a decade. It’s amazing how far both of them have come since then…They’ve accomplished a lot but also physically they’ve really built their bodies up,” said Khan. “These are different wrestlers than they were when they wrestled 15 years ago. Bryan Danielson is one of the biggest stars on the entire planet. One of the most recognizable pro-wrestlers in the world. I think Bryan Danielson certainly one of the most important people in AEW and he’s facing off against Zack Sabre Jr., certainly one of the most important people in New Japan Pro Wrestling. They both possess a mastery of grappling. They both have got probably the most complete skill set of any technical wrestler out there and I think the fans would agree with that…This was something I wanted to be able to present at the original Forbidden Door…I think this match is going to be great.”
Khan is proud of Julia Hart who has grown from a Varsity Blondes cheerleader to the manager, valent for The House of Black to having a decent in-ring career herself. At WrestleDream she will face Kris Statlander for the AEW TBS Championship.
“Julia Hart works really hard. She always shows up. She has great ideas. She’s very, very gifted athlete and it’s amazing how far she has come…She’s got a big match tomorrow night on Dynamite and if she makes it through that in one piece she’s challenging for the TBS title this weekend. Statlander is actually the last person to beat Hart in a match, which is crazy to think. Hart has been on this crazy run for so long. I think she is somebody that could be a great champion,” he said of Hart.
The current WrestleDream card is:
- Bryan Danielson vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
- Hangman Adam Page vs. Swerve Strickland
- FTR (c) vs. Aussie Open – AEW World Tag Team Championship match
- Adam Cole and MJF (c) vs. Aussie Open – AEW World Tag Team Championship match
- Chris Jericho and The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi) vs. The Don Callis Family (Konosuke Takeshita, Sammy Guevara and Will Ospreay)
- Christian Cage (c) vs. Darby Allin – 2-out-of-3 Falls match for the AEW TNT Championship
- Eddie Kingston (c) vs. Katsuyori Shibata – ROH Championship and NJPW Strong Openweight Championship match
- Kris Statlander (c) vs. Julia Hart – AEW TBS Championship match
- Young Bucks vs. The Gunns vs. Lucha Bros. vs. Orange Cassidy and Hook – Winning team gets a future AEW World Tag Team Championship match