Wrestle Kingdom Unleashed: The Ultimate Guide for Tourists

Imagine stepping into the Tokyo Dome, surrounded by the energy of thousands of fans, all there for Wrestle Kingdom, Japan’s answer to Wrestlemania. When you think of sports and Japan, your first thought might be sumo or baseball. Well, Wrestle Kingdom is unlike anything else in Japanese sports.

A few wrestling companies put on shows across Japan, but the most popular is New Japan Pro Wrestling. They run the most anticipated pro wrestling show of the year, Wrestle Kingdom, which combines drama, entertainment, and athleticism into a unique spectacle. 

Starting the year with a bang, Wrestle Kingdom always runs on January 4 in the Tokyo Dome. I was there live for Wrestle Kingdom 18, and in this article, I will give you a first-hand look at the spectacle, sounds, and excitement of Japan’s biggest and best pro-wrestling event. 

My guide is for anyone curious about Wrestle Kingdom. I’ll run you through how to get tickets, what the show is like, where to grab a bite or a drink, how to get merch, and some tips to get the most out of the event. Whether you are a pro-wrestling fan or new to the scene, I’ll make clear why this event should be a ‘must-do’ for many tourists visiting Japan in January.

Fans going wild for Zack Sabre Jr and Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Fans going wild for Zack Sabre Jr and Hiroshi Tanahashi.

Why you must see Wrestle Kingdom in Japan

If you are coming to Japan in winter or for New Year celebrations, going to Wrestle Kingdom should be high on the list for many visitors to Tokyo. Here are just some of the groups of people that will almost certainly enjoy the show: 

  • Pro Wrestling Fans: Wrestle Kingdom is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s biggest show, exclusive to Japan, and features all its top stars. 
  • Sports Fans: Pro Wrestling combines sport with a large dose of entertainment. Compared to other pro-wrestling events, New Japan Pro Wrestling is more sports-based and has a variety of hard-hitting, technical, or acrobatic matchups. It has that familiar sports atmosphere, with fans waving flags and banners while chanting for their favourite wrestlers.
  • Explorers of Japanese culture: New Japan Pro Wrestling has mostly Japanese wrestlers, and the Japanese culture shines through. I’ve been to many pro-wrestling events in the UK and the US. I know from experience that the entrance music, costumes, and promotional videos differ in many ways from wrestling events in other countries and feel uniquely Japanese.
  • Bucket List Travellers:  For many people who don’t live in Japan, attending a Wrestle Kingdom show is quite different from other experiences in Japan and is an event you might only get to do once. 
  • Families seeking a fun outing: Many children attend Wrestle Kingdom events and have fun cheering on the larger-than-life superstars.
A wrestler makes his entrance while pyrotechnics light up the stage.
A wrestler makes his entrance while pyrotechnics light up the stage.

Why Wrestle Kingdom Might Not Be For You

I’m a pro-wrestling fan and would highly recommend attending Wrestle Kingdom to many visitors to Tokyo. However, some people might want to skip the event altogether.

  • Not interested in Pro Wrestling: Some people just don’t understand the appeal of pro wrestling. I believe New Japan Pro Wrestling is accessible to a general audience, but some people would have zero interest in an event like Wrestle Kingdom.
  • Not interested in sports: Although matches at this event feature more dramatics and stories, they focus on the same general idea of sport. If you don’t enjoy sports, this might not be for you. 
  • People with limited time: Wrestle Kingdom can take up a big chunk of time. The show lasts four hours or more, and then you must add travel to and from Tokyo Dome. If you have limited time, other shorter experiences might work better. 
  • Visitors on a budget: Wrestle Kingdom could be an expensive day out, especially for families. However, cheaper tickets are available.
  • Dislike crowded venues: Between 30,000 and 40,000 fans usually attend Wrestle Kingdom. This is a lot of people, especially as you enter and leave the venue. Also, some of the food and drink stalls can have long lines, which may annoy some visitors.
A NJPW bus and production truck parked near the Tokyo Dome.
A NJPW bus and production truck parked near the Tokyo Dome.

Introduction to Professional Wrestling in Japan

Professional wrestling exploded in popularity in Japan with its first superstar, Rikidozan, in 1951. He became known as the father of Japanese Pro Wrestling and started the first wrestling promotion, Japan Wrestling Alliance, in 1953.

Pro Wrestling continued to grow across Japan, and more promotions formed. These included All Japan Pro Wrestling, Big Japan Pro Wrestling, DDT Pro Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling NOAH.

Over the years, Japan has created many Pro Wrestling stars who crossed to mainstream media, including Japanese icons like Giant Baba, Tiger Mask, and Keiji Mutoh. 

One of the most popular superstars was Antonio Inoki. Known to sports fans for fighting Muhammad Ali in an MMA-style exhibition fight, he was also a politician, an actor, and the founder of the biggest Japanese Wrestling promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling. 

New Japan Pro Wrestling

Antonio Inoki left the Japan Wrestling Alliance in 1971 and formed New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) in 1972.

The first NJPW event occurred on March 6, 1972, in front of 5,000 fans at Ota Ward Gymnasium in Tokyo. New Japan Pro Wrestling signed a TV deal the following year, and its popularity grew. In 1983, their first Heavyweight Champion was crowned, as Hulk Hogan defeated Antonio Inoki.

The Tokyo Dome opened on March 17, 1988. On April 24, 1989, New Japan Pro Wrestling ran its first show from this now famous stadium. The show, Battle Satellite, drew nearly 44,000 live fans. 

In 1992, NJPW teamed up with the American pro wrestling promotion WCW for a joint show called Super Warriors. This was the first January 4th Tokyo Dome show and would become an annual tradition.

New Japan Pro Wrestling launched NJPW World on December 1, 2014. This worldwide streaming service would air all the live NJPW events, including Wrestle Kingdom. In 2015, New Japan Pro Wrestling started including English commentary options on their live events as their international popularity began to grow and grow.

What is Wrestle Kingdom?

NJPW ran its first Wrestle Kingdom on January 4, 2007. This was their 16th annual January 4 Tokyo Dome show but the first under the Wrestle Kingdom name. 

Wrestle Kingdom became NJPW’s equivalent to WWE’s WrestleMania. The event had the largest crowds, the most exciting matches, the biggest stars, and marquee names. It would become Japan’s biggest yearly wrestling show and a celebration for the beginning of the New Year.

Today, people from all around the world visit Japan to watch Wrestle Kingdom from the Tokyo Dome. As more international fans attended, NJPW launched an international ticket service to make this process easier for foreign visitors.

The stage and setup for Wrestle Kingdom.
The stage and setup for Wrestle Kingdom.

Professional Wrestling vs Sumo Wrestling

Professional wrestling and sumo wrestling are two very popular sports in Japan. Although both sports contain the word wrestling in their names, they have different rules and histories and can attract different types of fans.

History and Culture

Sumo is by far the oldest of the two sports. The first match took place in 23 BC. With its rituals and traditions, sumo is more conventionally Japanese. 

The first Japanese Pro Wrestling match took place in 1887. Pro wrestling started in America, was imported to Japan, and became popular after WW2.


There is a massive difference between the spectacle of Sumo and pro wrestling. 

While both sports feature larger-than-life athletes, sumo is much more stripped back and traditional, from the attire to the entrance and the pre-match rituals. 

In comparison, Wrestle Kingdom is a massive spectacle. Huge screens play promotional videos before matches. Pro wrestlers all have entrance music, with some bigger stars having fireworks or even light shows. There are also a variety of costumes, masks, and more on display.

The Action

Sumo and pro wrestling have entirely different styles of matches and action. 

Sumo wrestling is always 1-on-1, with two competitors trying to see who is the best. The rules are simple: push the opponent out of the circle or knock them to the floor to win. 

Professional wrestling has various match times and rules. The standard matches are 1-on-1, with the winner being decided by either pinning their opponent for 3 seconds or making them tap out. Wrestlers can win if their opponents are counted out of the ring for 20 seconds. Or, they can lose by disqualification by breaking a rule. Some other popular pro wrestling matches include tag team matches with 2-on-2. 

Sumo matches are usually very quick, lasting between seconds and a minute. 

With New Japan Pro Wrestling, matches usually have a time limit, with regular matches being 20 or 30 minutes and title matches being 60 minutes. However, the average match will last between 10 and 25 minutes. 

Pro Wrestling matches are usually story-driven, from good vs. bad to revenge, the underdog story, and the simple story of who is the best.

Fan Culture and International Appeal

Both sumo and pro wrestling have passionate fanbases that attend live events, cheer, and wave towels for their favourite wrestlers. 

Sumo generally has a domestic Japanese audience, airs on Japanese TV, and has little international following. However, it has become a booming activity for tourists, with many foreigners watching it while vacationing in Japan. 

Pro Wrestling is more of a global sport, and it is hugely popular in places like America and the UK. On the streaming service NJPW World, 40% of the subscribers are from outside Japan. Most of the big New Japan Pro Wrestling events will have foreign spectators in attendance, especially Wrestle Kingdom, for which some people fly to Japan specifically.

The fans anticipating Bryan Danielson vs Kazuchika Okada.
The fans anticipating Bryan Danielson vs Kazuchika Okada.

Planning your Wrestle Kingdom Trip

Now that you have decided to visit the Tokyo Dome to watch Wrestle Kingdom, you might still need more information, such as when and where it takes place, how to buy tickets, and whether there are any other wrestling events you can attend.

Wrestle Kingdom – The When and Where

One of the most convenient details about Wrestle Kingdom is that it always happens on the same date (January 4) and at the same place (the Tokyo Dome). This makes it extremely easy to plan.


While the event’s date is always January 4, the start time varies slightly from year to year. For the 2024 edition, the doors opened at 2:45 pm, and the show started at 4:30 pm. For 2023, Wrestle Kingdom started at 5:00 pm, and the doors opened at 2:45 pm.

A pre-show usually features a special match to get the crowd warmed up. It’s usually a fun match that takes place while people are piling into the Dome. For Wrestle Kingdom 2024, the pre-show match started at 3:30 pm. 

Outside of the Tokyo Dome before Wrestle Kingdom started.
Outside of the Tokyo Dome before Wrestle Kingdom started.

How to Get There

The Tokyo Dome is a 55,000-capacity indoor stadium located in Bunkyo, Tokyo. It is central and within 30 minutes of most major areas. To get there:

  • From Shinjuku Station, use the Chuo Sobu Line to Suidobashi Station (13 minutes); from there, it is a 5-minute walk.
  • From Ikebukuro Station, take the Marunouchi Line to Korakuen Station (7 minutes); then, it is a 7-minute walk.
  • From Ueno Station, take the Keihin Tohoku Line to Akihabara Station, then switch to the Chuo Sobu Line to Suidobashi Station (9 minutes). From there, it is a 5-minute walk. 
  • From Asakusa Station, take the Asakusa Line to Asakusabashi Station and then switch to the Chuo Sobu Line to Suidobashi Station (12 minutes). From there, it is a 5-minute walk.
Suidobashi Station is a 5-minute walk from Tokyo Dome.
Suidobashi Station is a 5-minute walk from Tokyo Dome.

Tickets and Seating

Due to the size of the Tokyo Dome, there is a wide variety of seating options and ticket prices. The more expensive seats are the ones closest to the ringside.

Tickets go on sale on the official New Japan Pro Wrestling website. They are also sold through ticket agencies Lawson Tickets, Ticket Pia, and eplus. Tickets can be collected from the following convenience stores: Lawson, 7-Eleven, and Family Mart. 

Wrestle Kingdom 18 tickets went on sale on August 29, 2023, for the January 4, 2024 show. This was earlier than in previous years, which was usually around October.

NJPW also has a separate link on their official website for international visitors to buy tickets. Some visitors struggle to purchase tickets for events in Japan. This special link makes international purchases easier. These tickets went on sale on September 15 2023.

Using a Loppi machine in Lawson to collect Wrestle Kingdom tickets.
Using a Loppi machine in Lawson to collect Wrestle Kingdom tickets.

Ticket Prices

The seats closest to the ringside range in price from 200,000 yen (US$ 1,330) for front-row seats, down to 55,000 yen (US$ 366) for fourth to sixth-row seats.

Arena seating costs 24,500 yen (US$ $163) for Arena A seats and 14,500 yen (US$ $96) for Arena B seats.

Balcony stand seats cost 13,500 Yen (US$ 90.00). 1F Stand seats cost 11,000 Yen (US$ $73). 2F Stand A seats cost 8,500 Yen (US$ 57), while Stand B seats in 2F cost 5,500 Yen (US$ 37). Wheelchair seats cost 11,000 Yen (US$ 73)

Same-day tickets are available at The Tokyo Dome on January 4 if the event isn’t sold out. The ticket office is located in front of Gate 22. Please remember that these will likely be seats further back in the high tiers.

Another option is to purchase reseller tickets through either viaGoGo or StubHub.

Choosing Seats

Before purchasing tickets to Wrestle Kingdom 18, I read that seeing the ring from the floor seats in Arena A and B can be challenging. 

I got tickets for Arena A in row 13. These seats weren’t far back and offered a great view of the entrance ramp. I also had a good view of the wrestlers while they were standing in the ring. But if they were on the mat doing submission work or outside the ring, I couldn’t see and would have to look at the screens. 

The next time I attend Wrestle Kingdom, I will go with the 1F Stand tickets. These are pretty close and are tier seats offering a much better and unrestricted view of the action. 

I wouldn’t recommend the 2F Stand B seats unless they’re your only option. The Tokyo Dome is huge, and the seats are very far back. On the day of the show, I saw nearby convenience stores selling binoculars, which I guess were for these seats.


As the Tokyo Dome is central to most major areas of Tokyo, you could stay in many places and commute to the Tokyo Dome. For example, Shinjuku Station and Asakusa Station are only 20 minutes by train and would both be great places to book your accommodation. 

However, if you want to be in the heart of it all during Wrestle Kingdom, why not stay at the Tokyo Dome Hotel

It’s a 4-star hotel that is 43 stories high and overlooks Tokyo Dome City. This hotel also features many restaurants, cafes, and bars. Facilities, including a swimming pool, a fitness room, and a relaxation salon, are also available.

The Tokyo Dome Hotel is a one to six minute walk from five JR and subway lines and only a five minute walk to the Tokyo Dome arena. 

The Tokyo Dome Hotel stands tall next to the Tokyo Dome.
The Tokyo Dome Hotel stands tall next to the Tokyo Dome.

Other Professional Wrestling Events and Promotions

If you are interested in watching pro wrestling in Japan but can’t make it to Wrestle Kingdom or want to attend additional events, there are numerous other events you can go to.

On January 5, the day after Wrestle Kingdom, New Japan Pro Wrestling hosts its annual show, New Year Dash. This show always takes place in Tokyo, so adding it to your itinerary is easy. The New Year Dash show features the fallout of Wrestle Kingdom, and usually, no matches are announced in advance.

If you want to check out a different professional wrestling promotion, Pro Wrestling NOAH also runs an annual show. Either on the 1st or 2nd of January, NOAH The New Year takes place at a venue in Tokyo. This is one of the year’s biggest and most important shows for Pro Wrestling NOAH. It would make for another fun experience and a chance to see different wrestlers.

There are many women’s pro wrestling promotions in Japan, one of the biggest being Stardom. Also taking place in Tokyo, Stardom usually runs shows on the 3rd and 4th of January to capitalise on the flood of pro wrestling fans coming to Tokyo. The show on January 4 takes place in the early afternoon to give fans time to make it to the Tokyo Dome for Wrestle Kingdom.

If you visit Japan at a different time of year, you can still check out New Japan Pro Wrestling. Throughout the year, NJPW tours the whole country.

Some big events and locations are New Beginning in Osaka and Sapporo in February, Sakura Genesis in Tokyo in April, Wrestling Dontaku in Fukuoka in May, Dominion in Osaka in June, and Destruction in Kobe in September.

Other shows also occur throughout the year, so it’s best to check the official NJPW Schedule to stay up to date.

What to Expect at Wrestle Kingdom

In this section, I’m going to look more closely at the atmosphere, matches, food and merch based on my experience at Wrestle Kingdom 18.

The Atmosphere at Wrestle Kingdom

First thing, this show is huge. The Tokyo Dome is a massive venue, but they make the most of this by turning Wrestle Kingdom into a massive event. 

There is a giant stage featuring screens and LED light boards that change to represent each wrestler. Light shows and fireworks are also displayed during some of the wrestlers’ entrances. 

If you have ever been to a pro wrestling show in the UK or America, you will know the crowds can be rowdy. There will be singing, duelling chants, people standing, and fans heckling their least favourite wrestlers.

In Japan, the atmosphere is completely different. The fans start off the show a bit more reserved. Most of the audience likes to sit down and watch the matches. They will clap to show their appreciation. Or gasp when something wild happens.

As the show progresses, the fans become more and more lively, especially for the final few matches and the main event. This is when there will be loud cheering, booing, and people shouting their favourite wrestler’s name to spur them on. 

During the final moments of the main event, the crowd was electric, coming alive after every single move. It’s impossible not to get sucked in and join in with this passion.

The Matches

One of the most exciting things about Wrestle Kingdom is that you never know exactly what matches you will see. 

The main event is always the World Heavyweight Championship. The current champion will defend his title against the winner of the G1 Climax Tournament held five months earlier (in August). This builds months of excitement before the two wrestlers finally meet.

Most of the other Championships will also be defended, including the Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, the Junior Heavyweight Championship, the NEVER Openweight Championship, and the NJPW World Television Championship. 

Hiroshi Tanahashi hyping up the crowd before the NJPW World Television Championship.
Hiroshi Tanahashi hyping up the crowd before the NJPW World Television Championship.

These matches have different styles, speeds, and rules, which adds a lot of variety to the show. 

As Wrestle Kingdom is NJPW’s biggest show of the year, they like to pull out all the stops for this one. They usually bring in some international stars and have some surprises. At the 2024 edition, former WWE wrestler Nic Nemeth (FKA Dolph Ziggler) showed up and sat in the front row for the show. Later, he got involved in an altercation. At the 2023 Wrestle Kingdom, Mercedes Mone (FKA Sasha Banks) made a surprise debut.

One of the best matches at Wrestle Kingdom 18 was Kazuchika Okada vs Bryan Danielson. Some described this as the best wrestler in Japan versus the best in America. 

Bryan Danielson has had a successful career in WWE and AEW, so his coming to Wrestle Kingdom for a match was a huge deal. This match had the crowd on the edge of their seats, and some of the hard striking and technical submissions made the match unpredictable. 

The matches throughout Wrestle Kingdom can vary in length. Most matches at Wrestle Kingdom 18 were around 10 minutes long. However, the final three matches were all over 20 minutes. Usually, the last matches are the big showdowns, which the crowd comes alive for, and they last a bit longer. 

The main event of Wrestle Kingdom is the World Heavyweight Championship match. After the match, the winner traditionally grabs a microphone and makes a speech to send the crowd home happy.

The main event for the World Heavyweight Championship.
The main event for the World Heavyweight Championship.

Wrestle Kingdom Food

Wrestle Kingdom can be a long pro wrestling show. Wrestle Kingdom 18 was around 4 hours long. If you arrive for the pre-show, the total would be about 5 hours. Thankfully, the Tokyo Dome has plenty of food and drink options inside and outside the stadium. 

Inside the Tokyo Dome, concession stands sell food one might expect at a baseball stadium, as well as many Japanese delicacies. Stands sell classic foods like hotdogs, burgers, nachos, pizza, ice cream, and churros. But since you are visiting Japan, you can also get ramen, takoyaki, sushi, okonomiyaki, and karaage chicken.

Finding a Mos Burger inside the Tokyo Dome was the most surprising food option. Mos Burger is a Japanese fast-food chain and is highly recommended if you crave a good burger.

If you arrive at the Tokyo Dome early and want to grab a bite, there are many options nearby. Some popular chains have restaurants outside the Dome, including Taco Bell, Shake Shack, TGI Fridays, and Schmatz. If you are looking for German craft beer, authentic sausages, and schnitzel burgers, Schmatz will tick all those boxes.

Shake Shack and Taco Bell outside of the Tokyo Dome.
Shake Shack and Taco Bell outside of the Tokyo Dome.

Wrestle Kingdom Merchandise

New Japan Pro Wrestling sells a variety of merchandise all year round. They have everything you need to show your support for your favourite wrestler, including t-shirts, towels, caps, masks, stuffed animals, and even replica championship belts.

Exclusive merchandise is always available for Wrestle Kingdom events. For Wrestle Kingdom 18, an Official Program was available for 2000 Yen (US$ 13.30). This 68-page B4 program features information and pictures about each match and competitor. 

Wrestle Kingdom event t-shirts cost 3500 Yen (US$23.28). Two different designs were available, featuring the Wrestle Kingdom logo, the date, the location of the event, and the official sponsors. 

Two commemorative match t-shirts were also available for 4000 Yen (US$26.60). These exclusive t-shirts were for the matches Bryan Danielson vs. Kazuchika Okada and the main event of Tetsuya Naito vs. Sanada. The fronts of both t-shirts feature portraits of the wrestlers, and the backs feature the date and location.

Wrestle Kingdom merchandise
Wrestle Kingdom merchandise

Tips for Making the Most of Your Wrestle Kingdom Experience

My first tip is to ensure you eat and stay hydrated throughout the show, as it’s a long one. 

Also, there isn’t a best time for a toilet break. I chose to rush to the toilet as soon as the match was finished, so I made it back in time for the next match to start. 

Also, if you are new to pro wrestling, copy the Japanese fans. You will soon learn when they cheer and clap, and you can follow their lead. When they chant for wrestlers, join in. It’s all part of the experience. And don’t worry if they seem a little quiet at the start, as they will get louder as the show progresses. 

A tip for buying Wrestle Kingdom merchandise is to go to the official New Japan Pro Wrestling shop before the event. This shop is called Tokon Shop Suidobashi and is only an eight minute walk from the Tokyo Dome. This shop carries all sorts of goods related to NJPW. They sold the Wrestle Kingdom t-shirts and had much shorter queues than the Tokyo Dome.

The official New Japan Pro Wrestling Tokon shop.
The official New Japan Pro Wrestling shop.

Frequently Asked Questions about Wrestle Kingdom in Tokyo

In this last part of the article, I’ll answer some commonly asked questions about Wrestle Kingdom.

Wrestle Kingdom - Pinterest
Wrestle Kingdom – Pinterest Image

Join the Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group or Discord Server

You are also welcome to join our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group and our Japan Travel Planning Discord Server – they are great resources to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Craig Nixon is a writer and videographer originally from Glasgow, Scotland. He has a bachelor's degree in Film and Television from Edinburgh Nappier University, and he produces short films as well as online video content. He has previously written about and reviewed Asian cinema for the blog TemptAsian Film. As well as writing and compiling movie lists for Taste of Cinema. Craig is a keen traveller, but has now settled in Japan, where he enjoys exploring and documenting this fascinating country. Tag along with his latest adventures here: Instagram: https://instagram.com/jackjeckel Tik Tok: https://www.tiktok.com/@kureigusan