New Japan Pro Wrestling
“King of Pro-Wrestling 2014”
October 13, 2014
Ryogoku Sumo Hall – Tokyo Japan

The third installment of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s King of Pro-Wrestling comes to us this Monday, October 13 (Health and Sports Day in Japan) in an event that’s notable for a number of reasons. Previous King of Pro-Wrestling’s haven’t been newsworthy in terms of title changes (outside of Low Ki’s defeat of Kota Ibushi at the 2012 event) but rather known for being great shows. Most notably, both years featured MOTY contenders from Hiroshi Tanahashi. In 2012, he and Minoru Suzuki battled for nearly 30 minutes in our #2 match of 2012. Last year, Tanahashi battled Okada in an all-time NJPW classic, resulting in a King of Pro-Wrestling main event again ranking #2 in our Match of the Year poll. Can 2014 make it three in a row? All the pieces are in place: Tanahashi is in the main event against the ever-improving champion AJ Styles, could this be another MOTY contender? Let’s hope so. Outside of the main event King of Pro-Wrestling looks like a great watch up and down the card. Sure, there’s some boring, mundane booking (Yano vs. Suzuki in a tag match, KES vs. Tencozy and the Jr. Tag three-way) but the top three matches all have the potential to be show-stealing MOTY contenders. The aforementioned Tanahashi/Styles match will no doubt be one to remember, Kazuchika Okada puts his Tokyo Dome contract on the line against the breakout in-ring star of 2014 Tetsuya Naito and Shinsuke Nakamura teams up with Yoshi-Hashi to take on NJPW’s tag team of the year Shibata and Hirooki Goto. Even if you aren’t invested in the current storylines from NJPW, you aren’t going to want to miss these matches.

King of Pro-Wrestling is newsworthy for another, less exciting reason — as expected, KOPW will not air on NJPW’s USTREAM channel. This is ironic in that King of Pro-Wrestling 2012 was NJPW’s first worldwide iPPV offered on the USTREAM service and now 2014 is the first in the post-USTREAM era. We knew this was the case, as USTREAM announced months ago the discontinuing of their iPPV service but we always held out hope something was going to happen between USTREAM and New Japan. When Ring of Honor announced their iPPVs would run on USTREAM’s back-end but be hosted by Ring of Honor themselves, it gave us hope the same could be done for New Japan. While we still don’t know for sure about that arrangement, this post from NJPW’s English Facebook page doesn’t inspire much confidence:

To add a bit more confusion to the whole situation, NJPW’s USTREAM page says that on October 13, 2014 a new iPPV service will be launched, or “carried out”:

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 2.44.49 PM

The best insights I can give are: who the hell knows? Some people have gotten NicoNico to work out and going forward that seems like the best option for live NJPW iPPVs. You can wait like some of us do for various sources around the web to upload these (usually a fairly quick turnaround) or we can keep our fingers crossed that something is going to happen between NJPW, USTREAM and maybe even Global Force Wrestling.

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson and Tama Tonga) vs. Kota Ibushi, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma and Yuji Nagata

Rich Kraetsch: It use to be easy to predict these Bullet Club vs. Etc. tag matches but this one has some heavy hitters in it including Ibushi, Makabe and the underdog star Tomoaki Honma. There’s still a good chance Honma takes the fall here, or maybe it’s Nagata but I’m thinking the tide has completely turned. Yes, I think Kota Ibushi gets the pinfall here and the usual Bullet Club beats up the random collection of NJPW deal is over. Bullet Club has ran it’s course for the most part and it especially doesn’t matter if one of the bit players, let’s say Tama Tonga, takes the fall here.

Prediction: Kota Ibushi, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma and Yuji Nagata

Joe Lanza: After going winless as a late replacement in the G1, Tomoaki Honma went 9-4 on the Destruction tour (all tags, but hey, wins are wins, brother), including picking up a high profile (by his standards) pinfall in Kobe over Captain New Japan in a trios match. It sure looks like he’s the designated Bad Luck Fall taker in this one, but who knows? Would it be crazy if Tonga took an L?

Prediction: Kota Ibushi, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma and Yuji Nagata

Bryan Rose: Looks like this will be the usual NJPW opener. Won’t be terrible, but will probably be just alright at best. Considering Makabe’s punishment on the last tour, maybe that’s a good thing. I see Fale pinning Honma with the Bad Luck Fall. He lost clean in the middle at Destruction, and Honma shocked everyone by picking up a win on a televised event. Since Fale is still going to be a pushed guy and Honma doesn’t seem to be going anywhere above midcarder status, it makes the most sense for Fale to get his heat back. Plus it ties into the Bullet Club domination storyline.

Prediction: Bullet Club

Fujiwara Armbar: One sidebar feature of the Kenny Omega signing press conference was the public articulation of Kota Ibushi’s move up into the heavyweight division. Though he’s mixed it with NJPW’s big lads before, I’m going to assume that this match marks his official coming out party alongside assorted various storyline-free babyfaces and am giving him the W.

Prediction: Kota Ibushi, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma and Yuji Nagata

NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champions
BUSHI vs. Chase Owens (c)

Rich Kraetsch: BUSHI singles match! A rare but welcomed sight. I don’t know much about Owens outside of the few matches I’ve seen of him on tape. Either way, I think this could be a lot of fun and c’mon, we get Bruce Tharpe so you know this is going to be the best.

Prediction: Chase Owens

Joe Lanza: This will be the biggest match of Chase Owens life, but more importantly, this match will mark the return of Bruce Tharpe-des and his glittery jacket. Owens can go, and BUSHI is a good opponent for him. Lost in this, is this will be the first big singles match for BUSHI since Best of the Super Juniors, and his first singles match period since the Thailand tour in May.

Prediction: Chase Owens

Bryan Rose: I’ve never seen Owens so I don’t know what to expect coming into this. Bushi is pretty alright, so I think this will be an alright match at the very least. The most important thing here is that the NWA storyline is continuing…into something, and plus Bruce Tharpe-des and his outfits are back, so even if this is a negative star range match at least there will be something to look forward to! I don’t think Bushi is winning here, but we’ll see.

Prediction: Chase Owens

Fujiwara Armbar: Owens was described by a friend of mine as ‘that guy who wrestles AJ Styles when Styles comes to work your local indy.’ At first I took this as a diss but then I watched some of his stuff and realised that he’s a pretty solid worker and that this match, against a guy desperate for his break, has a lot of potential to slyly impress and register the best entry in the recent NWA talent share agreement. Given that neither has had a roll to particularly be on, I’m going to suggest that the home guy wins to drop Stateside.

Prediction: BUSHI 

NWA World Tag Team Championship
Tencozy (Satoshi Kojima/Hiroyoshi Tenzan) © vs. Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer/Davey Boy Smith Jr.) 

Rich Kraetsch: I think Joe and I have picked KES to win the titles back at least 10 times already and just like Joe below me, I’m not stopping now. It makes no sense for Tencozy to still have the titles and by god, THIS has to be the time KES finally gets ‘em back. If not, check back with us next month for the exact same prediction.

Prediction: Killer Elite Squad 

Joe Lanza: I will keep picking KES to win the titles back until they actually do. It just doesn’t make a ton of sense to keep the titles away from America for this long. As an aside, these teams work very well together, and the matches always exceed expectations.

Prediction: Killer Elite Squad

Fujiwara Armbar: You might complain that it’s a well-worn battle but they’ve developed great chemistry down the 18 months of their on-off rivalry. Besides, Archer and Smith Jr. grew in stature during the G1 Climax and their interim absence has made the heart grow fonder. I cannot see KES losing here. They will take the titles back to North America and defend them there.

Prediction: Killer Elite Squad

Kazushi Sakuraba and Toru Yano vs. Suzukigun (Minoru Suzuki and Takashi Iizuka)

Rich Kraetsch: What can you even say about this anymore? Is there anything to say? What have we done to deserve this?

Prediction: Don’t care. Alternatively: Kazushi Sakuraba and Toru Yano

Joe Lanza: Enough.

Prediction: It will stink.

Bryan Rose: I’d rather watch three hours of Raw than this match again.

Prediction: WHO CARES 

Fujiwara Armbar: There has to be politics preventing the much-desired Suzuki-Sakuraba singles scrap and I’m guessing NJPW are betting their shirts on a better draw for the Dome after Sakuraba potentially enhances his Gracie Killer reputation by defeating Renzo Gracie at Metamoris V in November. Similarly, I can’t imagine that Sakuraba is going to be too pleased to kill his own draw by taking a defeat or anything too strenuous here. You’ve more chance of a five star classic between Yano and Iizuka.

Prediction: Kazushi Sakuraba and Toru Yano

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Time Splitters © vs. Forever Hooligans vs. The Young Bucks 

Rich Kraetsch: Look, people get bored of the same matchups, the same guys, for the same title, I get it, I really do. But look on the bright side, this match is going to be great, it’s going to be a Superkick party with KUSHIDA and Shelley doing some crazy stuff, Kozlov will do his dance. It’s all about time for these guys so if they get 15-20, this should be pretty awesome. Given the placement on the card, I’m expecting pretty awesome. I have no clue who’s going to win because it really doesn’t matter.

Prediction: The Young Bucks

Joe Lanza: No outcome would shock me here. This title will basically go into hibernation after Power Struggle as we move into the end of the year and focus on the heavies with Tag League, so whoever wins this could very well be the junior champs heading into Wrestle Kingdom. Flip a three sided coin.

Prediction: The Young Bucks

Bryan Rose: Should be a pretty damn good match all things considering. TS are great, Young Bucks are the tag team of the year and the Forever Hooligans are pretty good as well. Kinda feels like I’ve seen this before too, but the difference between this and the previous match I previewed is that all six of these guys are pretty good. Time Splitters I think will retain. If not, I’m assuming whoever wins the title will be challenged by them at the Tokyo Dome. Wouldn’t mind a new team (reDragon?) to become regulars here and mix things up.

Prediction: Time Splitters 

Fujiwara Armbar: I found this one the most difficult to predict and write about because we know that it will deliver the thrills and spills. A do-over of a match from the ROH/NJPW show from Toronto that probably earned MOTN, you wouldn’t expect them to not try and go for that again. Time Splitters to retain, Young Bucks to save the Meltzer Driver for the Dome.

Prediction: Time Splitters

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champions
Ryusuke Taguchi © vs. El Desperado

Rich Kraetsch: Is there a wrestler in New Japan right now who elicits less opinion than Taguchi. He’s not bad, he’s not good, he’s just the very definition of “there.” I can’t imagine he loses the title this quickly so I guess it’s his to roll with for awhile. I can’t get a read on this match, it will probably be painful average.

Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi

Joe Lanza: I was shocked KUSHIDA lost, and while I’d rather see the title on the wild and reckless El Desperado, I can’t see another quickie switch. Taguchi vs Kenny Omega at Dome?

Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi 

Bryan Rose: I kinda wish Kushida was champion still. I think he had tons to offer for a long run, but I guess it wasn’t in the cards. Taguchi is…ok. I dunno. He’s really good, but something’s missing. Desperado has been alright for most of this year, so i think this will be a pretty good match, though not as anticipated as last month’s Jr. title match. The one thing I do have to give to New Japan is the revitalization in the junior divison as it was pretty dormant most of last year, and now it’s being defended monthly again. That’s kinda nice! Don’t see Desperado winning here, though.

Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi 

Fujiwara Armbar: Taguchi’s title-winning outing at Destruction was widely-hailed as his best singles outing since recovering from hip surgery, canning a great deal of his Eddie Guerrero tribute act in favour of outsmarting KUSHIDA on the mat. Desperado, yet to really find his niche, appears to be nothing more than a default challenger to the title and if anything this match underlines how much the company needs Kenny Omega and maybe two or three more juniors more (hint: Komatsu and Tanaka). Expect a routine defense, with Taguchi dulling the Funky Weapon to become more of a blunt instrument.

Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi 

NEVER Openweight Championship
Yujiro Takahashi © vs. Tomohiro Ishii

Rich Kraetsch: Yujiro isn’t long for the NEVER title, he’s dropping it very soon but not this soon. He’s retaining here in a hard-fought, intense battle with Ishii. Maybe Ishii gets his rematch at Tokyo Dome when he’s healthier, who knows, but I can’t see Yujiro losing here. Let’s all just hope Ishii’s shoulder stays attached.

Prediction: Yujiro Takahashi 

Joe Lanza: I’m going to stick to my theme of New Japan vs Bullet Club at Tokyo Dome, with our New Japan heroes getting revenge on the BC bullies across the board on January 4th. That’s why I think the Bucks to head into Dome with the titles, and that’s why I think Yujiro will retain here.

Prediction: Yujiro Takahashi

Bryan Rose: Hmm, this is a tough one to predict. I can see Ishii regaining the title. I can see Yujiro retaining too. Retaining it would lead to maybe a match at the Tokyo Dome where he loses it. I don’t know who Ishii would defend it against if he wins. So I’m going with my gut instinct and say Yujiro retains. As for the match itself, it’ll probably be alright. Yujiro doesn’t light the world on fire here but Ishii is awesome, though obviously hurting from his G1 exploits still. Maybe this will lead to a crappy finish that gets resolved at the Tokyo Dome, who knows.

Prediction: Yujiro Takahashi 

Fujiwara Armbar: Ishii made the NEVER title something to actually give a flying fart about and eeeevvvvveeerybody knows his loss was (kayfabe) a total travesty and (shoot) an over-determined move to show how assholish the Bullet Club are. This match should be better than the one where Ishii dropped the title at Kizuna Road, not least because the end result will be Ishii reigning supreme as the greatest wrestler of 2014, but because I expect a straighter and harder-hitting affair between the two.

Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii 

Shinsuke Nakamura and Yoshi-Hashi vs. Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata

Rich Kraetsch: Is it fair to call this the sleeper match of the night? Is it really a sleeper if everyone knows it’s going to be great? Well whatever, this is a match not many people are talking about but could very well be the match of the night. Goto and Shibata are a great team and any chance to see Nakamura and Shibata work against one another is a treat. I can’t wait for this.

Prediction: Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata

Joe Lanza: This smells like the seeds of Nakamura vs Shibata being planted.

Prediction: Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata

Bryan Rose: This should be really good. Three of these guys are awesome and will work their ass off to have a great match. Yoshi-Hashi showed tons of potential during the last tour and has gained considerable momentum during it and hey, I think he might be just fine being up there with those three. I think they’ve been grooming Goto and Shibata for a eventual tag team title shot, so I think they win and make a challenge to the champions.

Prediction: Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata

Fujiwara Armbar: Whilst Shibata managed to clean the clocks of Tanahashi and Nakamura during the G1, the Ace of the Century has already registered his win back and all signs appear to point toward the King of Strong Style doing the same. Not here though. YOSHI-HASHI may have climbed a couple of rungs on the ladder but in this company he is still fodder. Whatever the result I’d look to this match having the chance to take the roof off.

Prediction: Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata 

IWGP Heavyweight Champion Number 1 Contender’s Contract
Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito

Rich Kraetsch: C’mon, you know Naito isn’t winning here. To some, that’s a disappointment. No, they don’t want Naito to win but they are disappointed the G1 title match is up for grabs in a match nobody believes Okada will lose. You can call it lazy, illogical booking but I think it’s just basic to a fault. Why wouldn’t Okada, a fighting champion, let people take their chance at dethroning him? Why wouldn’t Naito want the opportunity? Okada knows he’s the best and know he isn’t going to lose, so why not give these plebeian a chance? I kind of like it. These two have developed some nice chemistry and Naito has had a great year so I expect nothing short of greatness here.

Prediction: Kazuchika Okada 

Joe Lanza: Some people don’t like the idea of the G1 MITB case being “defended”, but I don’t mind. Much like the Anderson challenge for the case, this is a placeholder bout that bridges the gap to Okada’s inevitable Dome match (and victory) vs AJ Styles. I’d like to see somebody lose a case defense one of these years, but this isn’t the time. Sometimes the obvious story is the right one.

Prediction: Kazuchika Okada 

Bryan Rose: Their G1 match this summer was really awesome, and their Tokyo Dome match last year was pretty good too. I don’t expect anything less than a great match here. No way do I see Okada losing his number one contendership match as I am very sure we are seeing AJ Styles vs. Okada at the Tokyo Dome. Okada wins.

Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Fujiwara Armbar: For a start there is absolutely no way that Tetsuya Naito could win here. Ousted from the rightful headline slot at the Dome in 2014, he’s fallen through the card a little and not won sufficient acclaim to crawl back into serious contention. However, don’t view that as a negative for this match. Think of it as pressure off. What we’re going to see is Okada and Naito build on their fantastic outing at the G1 Climax, a match that went to great places whilst holding something back, with a real exhibition of wrestling. It would be brave of the bookers to prove us wrong, but ultimately foolhardy.

Prediction: Kazuchika Okada 

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
AJ Styles © vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Rich Kraetsch: As I mentioned in the intro, Tanahashi has owned King of Pro-Wrestling. Not only in his tremendous success but working unbelievable MOTY-level matches in the past two years. Does he have another in him? I believe so. Styles looks better than ever and Tanahashi has had some time to rest and really give it 110% for this one. These two have great chemistry and so long as the ending isn’t filled with Bullet Club bullshit, this could be something special. The key here is to make Style look strong going into the Tokyo Dome and there’s not a better guy in the world to do it than Tanahashi. Man, I can’t wait for this.

Prediction: AJ Styles

Joe Lanza: Styles isn’t losing the title. The only question here, is do we get a clusterfuck BC finish with Jeff Jarrett costing Tanahashi the match and/or title? I hope not, but it would make sense in order to put more heat on a potential Tanahashi/Jarrett match for January 4th.

Prediction: AJ Styles

Bryan Rose: Finally, a title defense on a major show by AJ Styles! I don’t know if this was the greatest idea to put the title on him if you’re that afraid to headline with him through the Tokyo Dome. But again, they had their story to tell so at least unlike some companies they don’t change their minds at a drop of a hat. As for who wins…it’s AJ. Wouldn’t make any sense for Tanahashi and Okada to headline the Tokyo Dome, even though that would be an awesome match to headline with. But they have their story, and I am sure it’s Okada/AJ.

Prediction: AJ Styles

Fujiwara Armbar: AJ made a sneaky defence off-radar on an independent show in the UK against former TNA wrestler Doug Williams and the fine Leeds-based independent Rampage Brown (look out for him on British Bootcamp). We know that Jeff Jarrett will be present in Sumo Hall and my only real demand for this show is that he does not factor in the result no matter who wins. I’ll take a Yano-Suzuki broadway, an impromptu Tatsumi Fujinami dance-off and one year of my life with Hiroshi Tanahashi’s hair to prevent that. Can we set that up?

The last two Kings of Pro-Wrestling events have seen Tanahashi work five star matches. Against AJ in his current form I wouldn’t bet against a third.

Prediction: AJ Styles