New Japan Pro Wrestling
The New Beginning in Niigata 2016
February 14, 2016
Aore Nagaoka – Nagaoka, Japan

Meet our preview team:

  • Rich Kraetsch (@voiceswrestling): Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast co-host, website editor and one of the principle owners of VOW.
  • Rob McCarron (@ShakeThemRopes): Shake Them Ropes co-host, VOW Live host, WWE & NJPW reviewer/preview and a member of VOW’s leadership group.
  • John Carroll (@toshanshuinLA): VOW’s resident Dragon Gate history expert and co-host of our Dragon Gate specific Open the Voice Gate podcast.
  • Bryan Rose (@br26): One of VOW’s longest running staff members and WWE & NJPW reviewer/preview.

Bullet Club (Cody Hall & The Young Bucks) vs. Captain New Japan, Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask

Rich Kraetsch: Don’t look now but Cody Hall is starting to get good. His size coupled with The Young Bucks being… Young Buck-y should make this a fantastic opener regardless of time restrictions. Prediction: Bullet Club

Rob McCarron: Nice, easy, fun opener with the Young Bucks superkicking everyone while playing off the big guy, Cody Hall. Hall was great in a limited, non-wrestling role in Osaka, so hopefully he keeps building on his progression here in the six-man opener. Prediction: Bullet Club

John Carroll: Honestly Cody Hall and the Young Bucks are awesome together, whether Cody’s green or not. One of them is pinning Captain, I would think. Prediction: Bullet Club

Bryan Rose: Since Young Bucks lost on the first show, seems pretty natural for them to get their win back on this show, right? Besides, CNJ is here, so of course he’s going to take the pinfall here. Only natural! Prediction: Bullet Club

CHAOS (Gedo & Kazushi Sakuraba) vs. reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly)

Rich Kraetsch: Match of the Night? Okay, maybe not but how cool is this going to be. Gedo is taking the fall, that’s a lock but who cares it’s fucking Gedo and Sakuraba versus reDRagon, how can you not be hyped for this? Gedo’s love affair with reDRagon is obvious, the dudes never, ever lose and never get pinned — so I’d imagine Gedo is relishing the chance to get in the ring with them. There’s simply no way interactions between Bobby Fish and Gedo are anything less than amazing. Prediction: reDRagon

Rob McCarron: No doubt the true tag team will gain the victory here. Fish & O’Reilly have found good success at avoiding losses. They don’t always win, but they never lose. This should be a win that leads reDRagon back into title contention, possibly with 1-on-1 shot at Sydal & Ricochet at the New Japan Cup final. Or perhaps… ROH Honor Rising. Prediction: reDRagon

John Carroll: Okay so in an even more easy-to-predict match, Gedo is totally going to eat the fall here. I am actually really psyched to see Sakuraba get in there with Fish & O’Reilly and grapple with ‘em for a little while. (Here’s where someone tells me it already happened and I look like an idiot.) Prediction: reDRagon

Bryan Rose: I sense that Gedo’s taking the fall here. reDragon are really protected in New Japan, so it makes sense to get a win on this tour since they lost the big title match on the first PPV.  Sakuraba being in this match though is very interesting. For two dudes who are into MMA, both reDragon members will probably have fun doing UFW-I style matches with who is most likely one of their idols, Sakuraba. Prediction: reDRagon

David Finlay, Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Yuji Nagata vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Matt Sydal, Ricochet and Satoshi Kojima

Rich Kraetsch: The proverbial “alright who doesn’t have a match yet” thrown together multi-man tag match. How David Finlay fits with Nakanishi, Taguchi and Nagata we’ll never know. Hey, Ricochet will do some flips! Prediction: TenKoji & Ricochet & Sydal

Rob McCarron: There’s no chance for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag #1 contenders and the currently IWGP Jr. Heavyweight tag champions to lose this tag against a stable of current nobodies. Finlay will fall to Sydal. Prediction: TenKoji & Ricochet & Sydal

John Carroll: Wow this card is….kind of a whole lot of nothing huh? This match could potentially be pretty decent: I’m sure the exchanges between Finlay and Sydal/Ricochet should be really fun, at any rate. Finlay is getting pinned here as this continues to be the most easily predictable card of all time. Prediction: TenKoji & Ricochet & Sydal

Bryan Rose: This feels like padding. I get the idea of these joint shows, but a lot of the undercard feels little to be excited about. I mean, this will be a good, maybe even great match but my interest levels in actually seeing it aren’t that high. Not sure who would get the win here, perhaps the new champs or TenKoji, who can challenge the winners of the tag title match (not that it’s new, but who else do they have to face in this division?) Prediction: TenKoji & Ricochet & Sydal

Los Ingobernables (EVIL & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Jay White & Michael Elgin

Rich Kraetsch: This is a match that could certainly sneak up on a lot of people. As mentioned in prior previews, Los Ingobernables have been high on character work but ultimately disappointing in ring thus far. This could be a good chance to right that ship against two capable opponents in Elgin (who feels just so right as a member of New Japan’s roster) and White (now a veteran Young Lion with Komatsu and Tanaka moving on). With White inserted into the match, there’s absolutely zero doubt who gets the win but I still think this could end up being a sleeper Match of the Night. Prediction: Los Ingobernables

Rob McCarron: The Elgin vs Naito train keeps rolling, making another stop before its eventual destination. EVIL has been getting wins on house shows, and picked up the pinfall at Osaka, so I see that trend continuing as they build him up to be a relevant player in NJPW. EVIL should pin Jay White, as Elgin and Naito have more interaction with each other. Prediction: Los Ingobernables

John Carroll: Seriously every single match has an obvious fall guy! This is not a very big show! I’m thinking this is a sleeper match, though, provided the Ingobernables chicanery doesn’t overwhelm the actual match. I am 100% here for Naito-White exchanges, as well as Elgin-EVIL power battles. Prediction: Los Ingobernables

Bryan Rose: Gee, I wonder who was originally supposed to team with Elgin here. Tanahashi gone makes things less interesting, but I like the idea of Naito, who does everything in his power to stall or be a heel, face off against the powerhouse Elgin. Evil’s just been okay since his introduction and White will probably look pretty good here and there. Obviously it seems that White will be the one taking the pinfall, and if Tanahashi ends up winning the IC title I can see Naito challenging, leading to that natural program. Prediction: Los Ingobernables

NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi) (c) vs. Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe & Toru Yano

Rich Kraetsch: Puro Twitter will explode but The Briscoes and Yano are winning these titles back, folks. Complain about the titles bouncing around all you want, these aren’t meant to be anything more than titles to help fill out an otherwise boring card. They are on the level of the former NWA Titles. You could argue they had a chance to make them prestigious or mean something but, I mean, c’mon, Toru Yano was an inaugural champion. These titles are destined to be show pieces. Prediction: Toru Yano & Briscoe Brothers

Rob McCarron: ROH Honor Rising is the next event on NJPWWorld after this. I have to believe the Briscoes will defend these titles on the ROH shows, at least once if not on both. It’s odd passing around the titles so much early on rather than giving them a solid start, but the titles won’t mean that much anyway no matter how they began. Prediction: Toru Yano & Briscoe Brothers

John Carroll: So this is officially a title rematch now, and even though I got the first one wrong I have a strong feeling that the Briscoes & Yano are winning the belts back. Yes, it probably seems like a lot of title changes at this point (especially since they’ll then turn around and lose them again at one of the ROH Korakuen shows, probably), but it’s just my gut feeling on this. Prediction: Toru Yano & Briscoe Brothers

Bryan Rose: This is a quick rematch. I don’t see a title change so quickly, but maybe Yano has something up his sleeve, I dunno. Their match wasn’t that interesting on the first show, so I don’t see the second much better but HEY, things can happen. I think Bullet Club still wins as there’s not much to do with them, and having this title gives them things to do. Prediction: Bullet Club

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Hirooki Goto, Juice Robinson & Katsuyori Shibata

Rich Kraetsch: Could we see the seeds planted for future matches here? Could we see a dejected Hirooki Goto finally snap? Is there any doubt that Juice Robinson takes the fall? I’ll be paying close attention to Okada vs. Shibata to see if there’s something in the works down the line. Given Shibata’s current place in the company, I’m guessing an eventual battle between the two will have to wait. However, Goto is clearly in Okada’s rearview and this match was booked for a reason so something’s up. Goto is at his wits end, could he finally explode, destroy Juice Robinson and turn on his long-time friend and colleague Shibata? Prediction: CHAOS

Rob McCarron: I’ll be interested in seeing how Okada and Shibata interact with each other. That’s really the only real story going into this match, in fact. Goto might be there still eyeballing Okada, but his sniffing of the main title is completely over. Ishii and Shibata have nothing else to do, so they’ll battle and that’ll be it. It’s Okada and Shibata, how little or how much they interact, that is the only part worth actually paying much attention to. Ishii pins Juice. Prediction: CHAOS

John Carroll: Hey this should be a pretty fun six-man tag, and there’s finally some actual intrigue here! I’m actually interested to see the interaction between New Attitude!Goto and his Meiyu Tag partner Shibata here. I don’t think we’re going to see anything as serious as Goto turning on Shibata just yet, but it’s possible it happens. It’s probably just going to be teases for now, leading to something else down the line (during the New Japan Cup, perhaps?), as I eagerly await the return of the Shibata-Goto feud. You know it’s coming folks. Anyway Okada or Ishii is pinning Juice, duh. Prediction: CHAOS

Bryan Rose: Man, just how many matches like this are on this card? It’s starting to feel like a glorified Korakuen Hall live event at this point. Okada’s dominant, I see him getting the win. Don’t see anyone challenging since next month is New Japan Cup, but we’ll see! Prediction: CHAOS

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

Rich Kraetsch: Poor KUSHIDA. Just when he finally reached the pinnacle of the Junior Heavyweight division, Gedo found himself a new toy in BUSHI. Let’s be fair though, BUSHI is not only a great in-ring worker but his character work as a member of Los Ingobernables has been on-point — the mist, the mask removal, it’s all been really good. But, man, does it feel all too sudden for KUSHIDA to lose the title. This is finally his chance at a substantial run with the title… but, ultimately… it’s not. Prediction: BUSHI

Rob McCarron: After Osaka, I am seriously hyped for this match. This is BUSHI’s big singles return, and he seems ready for it. KUSHIDA’s momentum stalled when his 2nd Jr. Heavyweight title run was so short. Everyone keeps calling for a long, worthwhile KUSHIDA run, but that doesn’t seem to be his destiny. BUSHI has his name written all over that title right now. Prediction: BUSHI

John Carroll: The Match of the Night by like a country mile, one would think, with only Tanahashi-Omega probably having a chance to even come close. The Caps Lock Junior Battle has been built up extremely well, with BUSHI being rejuvenated by his heel turn and Ingobernables membership in a big way. He came off like just the most bad-ass heel on the planet back at the New Year’s Dash show especially, misting and demasking the world before KUSHIDA came out to try and make the save….only to get laid out himself too, setting up this match. KUSHIDA will probably retain, but I’m really pulling for BUSHI here. He’s a great example of something that can happen once in a while in pro wrestling: a guy who you know is “pretty good” but don’t think much more of than that is suddenly given a new opportunity to do something completely different, and instead of just continuing to be good he’s suddenly awesome. Fewer things are more exciting to me about our weird little fake sport, in fact, so I’m pulling for BUSHI. Still, I think KUSHIDA is probably winning this, keeping the belt warm for Kamaitachi. Prediction: KUSHIDA

Bryan Rose: This should be really interesting. For many years, Bushi was just an okay guy on the midcard with some decent lucha libre. He’s getting a push here with the Los Ingobernables stable coming into fruition, so it’ll be interesting to see just how much he steps it up for a big time opportunity like this. He’s going against Kushida, who is always tremendous and finally deserves a long run with the title after the start and stop year of last year. I don’t see him dropping the title to Bushi so quickly after winning it, so he wins this battle. Prediction: KUSHIDA

IWGP Tag Team Championship
Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) © vs. Bullet Club (Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson)

Rich Kraetsch: I’m of the belief this is it for Guns & Gallows in Japan. Easy money is on GBH winning, Doc turning on Anderson or both guys getting turned on by the Bullet Club, something that looks and feels like a send-off without getting as emotional or featured as the Styles farewell was. Prediction: Great Bash Heel

Rob McCarron: Will Doc & Karl leave? Are Doc & Karl playing WWE and NJPW against each other for more money? Questions will be answered at Niigata. The match itself? Take it or leave it. Prediction: Great Bash Heel

John Carroll: Don’t ask me what’s going on with Gallows & Anderson, I have absolutely no idea. I think at the very least they’re working through the ROH shows, which at least makes the possibility of a swerve here where they regain the belts only to drop them back there. It probably won’t happen, but it could! Anyway, if this is half as good as their Tokyo Dome battle it’ll beat out most of the other Guns ‘n Gallows defenses pretty easily. Prediction: Great Bash Heel

Bryan Rose: Well, this is an easy one to predict. Then again, there’s always that thing in wrestling where they book against the grain just to make you look silly for assuming things. As far as we all know, Gallows and Anderson are leaving in the near future for other places, possibly after this show. It doesn’t seem likely that they’ll regain the titles here. It seems like they have something to do with both Honma and Makabe now, so I’m going to guess they retain here. Even if they weren’t on their way, I’d probably say the same thing as the reformation of GBH seems to be a long term thing. Prediction: Great Bash Heel

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kenny Omega

Rich Kraetsch: The absolute worst decision New Japan Pro Wrestling can do right now is go back to the security blanket that is Hiroshi Tanahashi. It’s not that Tanahashi winning would be bad for business. Quite the contrary, it’s the safe, easy pick in the wake of Styles and Tanahashi departing. But this isn’t the same for safe. This is the time to take a risk, take a plunge and go with Omega. If it fails, you can always fall back on Tanahashi. If they don’t strike while the iron is hot with Omega, it may never happen. I want to be able to say Omega wins, but I just can’t and that makes me really mad. Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi

Rob McCarron: Kenny Omega needs a real strong showing if he’s going to make a name in the heavyweight division. Up against Tanahashi, who has the most credibility of any NJPW star, Omega needs to win and show he can do it by himself. I worry about too much Bullet Club interference, and while that may be fine for future matches, it wouldn’t be fine for his first title shot as a NJPW heavyweight. It’s got to be a win, and it’s got to be by himself. Prediction: Kenny Omega

John Carroll: The post-match angle for their trios match in Osaka, with Omega taking out Tanahashi’s bad shoulder with a chair, really scared me. On one hand, Omega is going to look like a fucking geek if he loses this now, even more than he would have already. And on the other hand, you could easily see a scenario where the valiant hero Tanahashi rises up from his injury a few days earlier and beats the evil gaijin heel to take the white belt and send the fans home happy. If they booked like WWE I would say with almost 100% certainty Tanahashi was winning here, but luckily that’s not the case. While admitting my confidence is a little shaken, I think Omega ultimately does win this and get the IC Title. Tanahashi will get his win back eventually, maybe for the title and maybe not (it could be a non-title win in the New Japan Cup), but it’s very important that Omega wins this and I think they’ll ultimately make the right decision. Probably. Hopefully. Maybe. Prediction: Kenny Omega

Bryan Rose: This is tough, because I can see them going either way on this. Tanahashi is the established guy and considering how they book I can totally see him with the title. Omega is the guy they’re about to elevate as a main event player. He needs the title more than anyone right now as him winning it instantly gives him credibility and makes him a main event player. If there’s any time New Japan needs to push new guys to this level, it’s now. I don’t know if Omega is THE GUY, but I think he’s a very good candidate. Some aspects of his character are goofy, but it works there, and he’s tremendous in the ring. Tanahashi doesn’t need a title at this point anymore. He’s going to be tremendous and get a big reaction no matter what. It’s time to change the old guard, and Omega winning the title makes the most sense here. It’ll be a fantastic match, even if Tanahashi’s having some shoulder issues. Prediction: Kenny Omega