New Japan Pro-Wrestling kicked off 2024 with a pair of former WWE stars joining their fold: Nic Nemeth, formally Dolph Ziggler, and Matt Riddle.
Nemeth was the first man to make his presence felt when he sat ringside at Wrestle Kingdom 18 for the IWGP Global Heavyweight Championship match. David Finlay came out on top over Jon Moxley and Will Ospreay, and after becoming the inaugural champion, got into an argument with Nemeth outside the ring. The two men eventually began exchanging blows, and had to be pulled apart. Later, while Finlay was giving post-win comments to the press, Nemeth charged the room, leaped over the table, and attacked Finlay before delivering an impassioned promo about wanting to win the IWGP Global Heavyweight Championship.
Riddle entered the NJPW fray the next day at New Year’s Dash. Unlike Nemeth, Riddle did not physically appear for the fans overseas but instead showed up in the form of a well-produced vignette. In it, he delivered a message to NJPW President and World Television Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi that he had him in his sights.
Earlier today, NJPW confirmed that both Nemeth and Riddle will wrestle their debut NJPW matches on night one of The New Beginning on February 23. Nemeth will face Finlay for the IWGP Global Heavyweight Championship, and Riddle will take on Tanahashi for the NJPW World Television Championship.
Two championship matches are official for February 23, chief among them the IWGP Global Championship in its first ever defence. David Finlay emerged from a wild three way on January 4 as the very first IWGP Global Champion having pinned Will Ospreay to lift the gold. A victory of that calibur would have anyone ready to fight the world, and Finlay spied a target in ringside guest Nic Nemeth, but after trash talk between the two saw Finlay spit at Nemeth, the result was a fist fight that carried overt into the backstage area. Nemeth would state after the incident that he couldn’t forgive Finlay for his disrespect to the fans; counting himself as one of their number, he was apologetic. Now though he steps into Sapporo not as a fan but a competitor in the cerulean blue for the first time. Willthis global superstar become the second Global Champion, or will the Rebel’s reign claim a significant defence?
Hiroshi Tanahashi will defend the NJPW World TV Championship for the second time as he takes on Matt Riddle. Riddle issued a challenge to the Ace at New Year Dash as he sets out on a very different chapter in his career. Will he be able to put Tanahashi away under 15 minutes, or will the Ace put his superstar ego in check?