New Japan Pro Wrestling
Dominion 6.19 in Osaka-jo Hall
June 19, 2016
Osaka-jō Hall – Osaka, Japan
Watch: NJPW World
Meet our preview team:
- Joe Lanza (@JoeMLanza): ½ of the VOW Flagship podcast, King of Banter.
- Rich Kraetsch (@VoicesWrestling): The other (better!…okay, not really) ½ of the VOW Flagship podcast.
- Jimmy Dylan (@JimmySusumu): Despite his Twitter name, he is not Dragon Gate wrestler Jimmy Susumu. Although, I’ve never seen them in the same place at the same time…
- Taylor C. Mitchell (@MrTCMitchell): VOW mainstay currently heading up our Match of the Month project.
Third Generation (Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima and Manabu Nakanishi) vs. Juice Robinson, David Finlay, and Jay White
Rich Kraetsch: It feels like only yesterday when pro wrestling Twitter was abuzz about this unknown young lion standing ringside at a NJPW event. Nobody knew exactly where he came from, how he got to New Japan or what potential he’d hold. We had heard maybe he was from Australia, maybe it was New Zealand…?! If I recall correctly, many people assumed it was someone other than White so they began tagging whoever that rando New Zealand wrestler was in multiple tweets, poor guy. This frustration and need to discover who the real man was led to numerous people direct messaging Bullet Club muscle Bad Luck Fale to see if he had any insights on where this young lion came. He never responded. Little did we know, some two years later he’d have one of the best young lion runs ever and leave New Japan for excursion as a superstar-in-waiting. Jay White will be a superstar, make no bones about it. Already brimming with unmatched charisma and polished, smooth work, White has all the tools to be the man. What follows is the most important part of his career. White will join Ring of Honor’s roster at a time when the company and its roster is in desperate need of new blood. Should ROH see the same potential we all do, this could be a monumentally important excursion the likes of which haven’t been seen since Great Muta misted his way through WCW in the late 80s. Prediction: Third Generation
Jimmy Dylan: Saying goodbye to Jay White is going to be hard, just as hard as it was when Yohei and Sho left for their CMLL excursion. I’m so used to seeing him bouncing around in the opening matches that I don’t know how it’s going to feel to only have Finlay left out of the original four Young Lions who were in training when I started watching NJPW back during Wrestle Kingdom 9. But Jay is an incredible wrestler for his age and it’s very exciting that he’s going on his learning excursion because that means he’s one step closer to a push in the junior division. I’m going to miss this kid, but probably not as much as Finlay considering #PleaseDontGo. Prediction: Third Generation
Taylor C. Mitchell: This will be Jay White’s final match in NJPW before going on excursion to the United States to compete in ROH. White has been an incredibly talented Young Lion who will no doubt produce a solid résumé of matches on American soil. White has already expressed interest in returning as a heavyweight which will be interesting to have a homegrown gaijin heavyweight in NJPW. This match will act as an opener, a dark match, and most importantly Jay White’s sendoff. I predict Finlay will be taking the fall here. Prediction: Third Generation
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page and Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Captain New Japan, Togi Makabe and Yoshitatsu
Joe Lanza: Adam Hangman Page makes his New Japan debut as part of the ever growing Bullet Club, and as someone who has never been all that impressed with Page, to me he has to prove he can hang on this roster. He’ll have a chance to get off to a good start and shine in this one, as this match reeks of being a showcase for the new guy against the prelim Bullet Club Hunters and the temporarily demoted Makabe, who will surely lack motivation here as he patiently waits for tag partner Tomoaki Honma to recover from surgery. The over/under for total Makabe flat back bumps is set at 0.5. Prediction: Bullet Club Black & White
Rich Kraetsch: Oh… this is going to be very, very ugly. You’ll be lucky to get Makabe in the ring for more than two minutes, Tatsu and Captain New Japan’s Bullet Club Hunter tag team is the cringiest thing in New Japan right now, Fale likely has zero motivation going into this match and Yujiro, is, well, he’s Yujiro, he’s bad. This leaves Hangman Page. The former Adam Page has a huge chance to shine in this match and looking at the other participants, that’s exactly the intention. Will Page rise to the occasion? He needs to or else this will be an absolute trainwreck. Prediction: Bullet Club
Jimmy Dylan: I was still watching Ring of Honor when Adam Page was a big part of the storyline between BJ Whitmer and Steve Corino. He was unimpressive then and I don’t see much changing now, and that’s sad because I really liked his look when I first saw him and by God, I really wanted to like him. He was lucky that he didn’t have to carry the weight of his stable then and I can only hope they don’t expect him to do it now with the lower tier of BC. CNJ makes me laugh and I at least like everyone else in the match. Makabe will clearly just be biding his time but maybe with some new BC members thrown abruptly into the mix, Yoshitatsu can gain some momentum behind his gimmick and actually start laying some guys to waste. Page needs something to do anyway and there’s no title scene he belongs in right now. Prediction: Bullet Club
Taylor C. Mitchell: Bad Luck Fale’s role this year has been to squash guys in the curtain jerking spot. That will be the same here when perennial jobbers/ Triple H impressionists, Captain New Japan and Yoshitatsu punch their time cards on Sunday. There is the interesting facet of “Hangman” Page making his NJPW debut. I haven’t watched a large sample size of Page’s work, so I’m curious to see how he handles the crickets chirping during his initial match. Yoshitatsu’s Triple H shtick really bugs me and is easily my least favorite thing in the promotion right now, but as long as he continues spitting water in the opening matches, my least favorite thing will be merely a minor gripe. Prediction: Bullet Club
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (BUSHI and SANADA)
Joe Lanza: One of my favorite programs in New Japan these days is YOSHI-HASHI vs SANADA. SANADA, along with guys like his stablemate EVIL and BIG MIKE (copyright VOW) Elgin, represents the group of newcomers who have replaced the elevated Naito’s and Omega’s and Shibata’s of the world as the “next in line” upper midcarders slowly being built and developed. YOSHI-HASHI, in a storyline rooted in some semblance of reality, is tired of being passed by, especially by a guy like SANADA, who failed to catch on with New Japan as a young boy while Y-H has paid his dues and been here all along. While Y-H has done a lot of moaning, SANADA has calmy choked him out with the Dragon Sleeper in many a hot CHAOS vs LIJ tag. On this night, I think BUSHI has a LOOSE EXPLOSION (copyright VOW) in his future, as YOSHI-HASHI gets some comeuppance as they build to a singles match. Prediction: CHAOS
Rich Kraetsch: CHAOS and Los Ingobernables is arguably this year’s Feud of the Year and for good reason. With so many intricate wrinkles, micro feuds and great matches to boot, the feud has been a huge score for New Japan Pro Wrestling this year. This match pits some of the stable’s seconds but like with much of this feud, it’s not a random collection of members from each stable. These guys have legit beefs with one another including most notably, SANADA and YOSHI-HASHI who have a spectacular little feud going — one that has me legitimately excited for YOSHI-HASHI matches, a rare occurrence over the last few years. I’ve advocated a huge main event Elimination Tag style match for these stables down the line as I think the feud has deserved that type of blow-off if and when it happens. For now though, sit back and enjoy. Prediction: CHAOS
Jimmy Dylan: The Chaos/LIJ feud has been one of the best feuds New Japan has booked in 2016. What makes it so compelling is that the storylines almost read like real life issues. From Naito’s complaints about Kidani to Yoshi-Hashi taking offense at Sanada coming in when he’d walked away from New Japan previously. It also gives Yoshi-Hashi and Sanada something to do, as Sanada looks to gain momentum following his loss to Okada and Yoshi-Hashi finally gets to be more than just the guy in Chaos tags who takes the fall. The way I see it, if you’re going to pay the man and keep him contracted to your company and have him tag so frequently with Okada during the Tag League, you might as well give him something to do because it’s clear New Japan does see something in him to put him in a feud with one of their hottest up-and-comers. He works well when he’s motivated and this feud has finally given him something to fight for. The eventual singles match between the two of them should be great, as Yoshi-Hashi had an incredible match with Michael Elgin back during the G1 and Sanada is an even better worker than Elgin is. Prediction: CHAOS
Taylor C. Mitchell: CHAOS vs. LIdJ is the hottest feud in all of pro wrestling today and I’ll watch any combination of matches either faction puts together. One of Shinsuke Nakamura’s parting sentiments when leaving NJPW this past winter was for YOSHI-HASHI to step up his game as a member of CHAOS. Y-H was always just that weird guy in the group that carried around his staff and jobbed out for the team. Ever since Nakamura’s departure Y-H has been on fire and is clearly one of the most improved wrestlers of 2016. The subplot to this match is the on-going battle between Y-H and SANADA, which has been a real treat within this faction war. SANADA has locked Y-H in the Skull End to finish most of the multi-man tag matches between these factions, but Y-H has been quick to point out that he hasn’t tapped out. This is important because Y-H has stated that he is not a quitter like SANADA, who quit NJPW and went elsewhere after failing his first tryout as opposed to Y-H who also failed his first tryout with NJPW, but Y-H didn’t quit. In fact, he failed in a couple more tryouts before finally earning a spot in the New Japan Dojo.
It will be a great moment when Y-H finally defeats SANADA, but that moment won’t happen for a very long time. CHAOS wins here, but it’ll be BUSHI taking the fall to Ishii, post-Seated Lariat. Prediction: CHAOS
EVIL vs. Hirooki Goto
Joe Lanza: These two dudes have great chemistry, and this figures to be another short, hot, ugly-in-a-good-way brawl. Goto is seemingly in the same place Naito was in post Wrestle Kingdom 8 and before his career altering 2015 CMLL trip in that he isn’t being pushed, so losses don’t hurt him, but he’s still viewed as a respected upper midcarder, so beating him still means something, especially for a guy like EVIL. An EVIL win here would mean two in a row, and Goto’s victory at Wrestle Kingdom was via DQ, so since this doesn’t feel like the blow off yet, I see a Goto win with a potential fourth match during G1. Prediction: Hirooki Goto
Rich Kraetsch: I’m still not all-in on EVIL’s gimmick. It comes off not only as low rent but sticks out like a sore thumb even in his own stable. With that said, he’s definitely made the most of it and is finally feeling comfortable in his own skin. He’s making it work, scythe be damned! It makes sense that Goto gets his win back leading to a fourth and potential final match during the summer months. Prediction: Hirooki Goto
Jimmy Dylan: EVIL deserves credit for taking a ridiculous Halloween clearance rack gimmick and making the most of it. He’s also grown leaps and bounds as a performer in the last few months as he’s finally found his footing and the style of wrestling he’s particularly good at. Goto makes a fantastic opponent for him as Goto has been essentially lost; joining Chaos hasn’t really changed anything for him the way he seemed to think it would. These two have excellent chemistry with each other and their styles mesh well together. Since this match probably isn’t the blow-off to their feud, given the nature of Chaos vs. LIJ, Goto could get a win here and it wouldn’t hurt EVIL at all because he’s clearly still the future of New Japan, and the G1 can offer them another chance to face each other and for EVIL to get the win back. Prediction: Hirooki Goto
Taylor C. Mitchell: In an interview leading to this match Goto stated that he wants to take the evil out of EVIL and wants to bring back Watanabe. Goto continued that he wants to clear EVIL’s head by taking him through the same spiritual waterfall training that helped himself get through his numerous losses prior to joining CHAOS. Now, this is either awesome or completely silly depending on your personal beliefs about spiritual waterfall training. Hopefully this is just Goto paying lip service and has no actual bearing on the future of EVIL, because I’d like EVIL to stay evil. With that said, I’m predicting EVIL picks up another win over Goto on his path to his first G1 where he will be the (in-ring) breakout star. Prediction: EVIL
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships – Elimination Match
Matt Sydal and Ricochet (c) vs. reDRagon vs. Roppongi Vice vs. The Young Bucks
Joe Lanza: This should be a reDRagon title challenge, with RPG Vice and the Bucks facing off on the undercard to set up the next challengers. In what has been a very strong year from a booking perspective for Gedo, the junior tag division continues to be an obvious wart. He simply doesn’t care about these titles, which is a shame, because this is by far the deepest collection of junior talent in the world and this tag division should be as vibrant and exciting as anything else on the roster. As it is, it’s the same match over and over and over and over… Prediction: Does it matter?
Rich Kraetsch: Hey, you guys, this isn’t the same match we’ve seen 15,000 times because now it’s ELIMINATION! THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING, RIGHT?! …Wrong. There’s no juice in this match despite the fact that it will be awesome and that all four teams totally kick ass. Multi-man Jr. Heavyweight Tags need to go away, for awhile. Let these teams shine individually, let reDRagon have a few more minutes to get themselves and their team over. Let Sydal and Ricochet display their unbelievable charisma. Let the Bucks superkick to their hearts desires. Why pack all of these teams into a 10-minute clusterfuck? It does no good for anyone and coupled with constant title changes, its rendered this division—which is so supremely talented, it’s sick—into a joke. Prediction: The Young Bucks
Jimmy Dylan: We have already seen this exact match in various formats, with maybe one or two team changes, and then we had this exact match at Wrestle Kingdom. I’ve seen the Young Bucks have this same match so many times I can probably predict most of their big spots just by guessing. We don’t even have Cody Hall to pull off an impromptu kidnapping scheme in the middle of the match. When it’s the same matches and the same teams and the story really doesn’t change no matter what show we’re on, you might as well just pull a name out of a hat. Gedo doesn’t seem interested in long term booking these titles anyway so it’s only a matter of time until the belts bounce around the whole division again. I’ll say the Bucks take the belts back because they’re coming back off an injury and because they almost always seem to win anyway. Prediction: The Young Bucks
Taylor C. Mitchell: This match will be a fun, yet forgettable encounter. The interesting caveat here is that the Young Bucks could win the titles for the fifth time, which would break the tied record of four reigns held by the Bucks, Apollo 55, and Gedo & Jado. So, for that reason I’m going with the Bucks hitting the Meltzer Driver and pinning Ricochet. Prediction: The Young Bucks
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
KUSHIDA (c) vs. Will Ospreay
Joe Lanza: The outcome here is very interesting and hard to call. Young Will is pretty much the hottest talent on Earth, so there is a very easy argument to crown him while the iron is hot, but I think the better story is KUSHIDA putting the cocky punk in his place and schooling him for the second time in a row. Complicating matters is that unlike most years, where the junior title focus is effectively shut down in between the Super Junior winner’s title shot and Wrestle Kingdom, we still have the Super J Cup to consider. I don’t think Kyle O’Reilly’s high profile main event win over KUSHIDA was an accident, so I’m taking KUSHIDA here, which sets up a fall title defense vs O’Reilly. Ospreay’s time will come, perhaps at Wrestle Kingdom. Prediction: KUSHIDA
Rich Kraetsch: Many New Japan loyalists threw their arms in the air when youngster Billy Ospreay won the Best of the Super Juniors. While few would argue with him getting the honor over NJPW veteran Ryusuke Taguchi, many were groaning at the potential of Ospreay unseating KUSHIDA as Jr. Heavyweight Champion. KUSHIDA worked so hard to finally reach this point in his career and now, in a blink of an eye, it’ll be gone. Don’t be so sure of that. With Super J Cup still looming in July and Ospreay signed to a two-year New Japan deal, the title change doesn’t have to come here. Ospreay doesn’t really lose much momentum if he can’t win the big one here, in fact, it’s probably a better story if he does need to wipe the silly smirk of his face and get more serious to finally win the title. Or, hey, Gedo could strike while the iron is hot and give Ospreay the title now. I’m not so sure of it though, KUSHIDA fans, breathe easy, your boy lives to fight another day. Prediction: KUSHIDA
Jimmy Dylan: Will Ospreay is in a bad state right now. After working one of the most grueling tournaments of his young life, he continued to take bookings. He was so tired at his last show that he got sick. Booking logic aside, it would be unwise to put the pressure of a championship on someone who clearly deserves a break from something like that. Kushida can beat him here and they can have another meeting later on down the line for the belt, but Will is tired. Let him rest and maybe push Kyle since he’s one of the only other juniors who we know works just as well as a singles champion as he was more than an excellent champion when he reigned in PWG. Kushida winning here would also continue to solidify him as an ace for the juniors, something they’ve needed for more direction for a long, long time, and it’ll make the win that much more memorable when Will does manage to gain it. Prediction: KUSHIDA
Taylor C. Mitchell: Ospreay has put together a catalog of great matches in the last five months that the vast majority of wrestlers could only dream of having throughout their entire career. This match will solidify Ospreay as the definitive Most Outstanding Wrestler of the first half of 2016. It will be interesting to see how Ospreay is able to finish out the year, but he will be doing so without the IWGP Jr. Title. KUSHIDA has cemented himself as the ACE of the junior division and with that should come a long reign with the title. KUSHIDA should retain his title here, defeat O’Reilly in a rematch, win the Super J Cup and walk into Wrestle Kingdom 11 as the champ. WK11 would then be the ideal spot for Ospreay to win the title, but not here. And quite frankly, Ospreay doesn’t need to the title. Ospreay has that Teflon quality to him that you see in a Sami Zayn where he can lose and be okay, because Ospreay is so relatable that you want to cheer him on in victory and pick him up off the mat in defeat. This match will be incredible and will be the talk of the wrestling world all day Sunday. Prediction: KUSHIDA
IWGP Tag Team Championship
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa) (c) vs. The Briscoe Brothers
Joe Lanza: #SaveUsBriscoes Prediction: Briscoe Brothers
Rich Kraetsch: We can only hope The Briscoes win here as the alternative—more god damn G.O.D. matches—is too painfully a pill to swallow. I’ll come into this match with an open mind and hope the interactions being Tanga Roa and, well, anyone is kept to a minimum and instead the match focuses on the Briscoes and Tama. Roa is awful and the more he’s hidden throughout a match, the better. Prediction: Briscoe Brothers
Jimmy Dylan: This seems like the new era of Guns n’ Gallows vs. The Kingdom considering that G.O.D. are BC members and the Briscoes are at least affiliated with Chaos through Yano. Mark Briscoe is someone I like for his goofy character work more than I do his wrestling and Jay is… Well. At any rate, the Briscoes have history with Tama Tonga and are better as a team than Great Bash Heel were, so maybe working with a better team will help G.O.D. find their flow as a team as they’re still relatively new at this team thing compared to almost every other team in the division. It’ll probably be a better outing than the GBH matches, and if the Briscoes win here, the titles will probably bounce back and forth a few times. G.O.D. have also taken on ROH dates so it’s unlikely this one match will be the end of these teams’ interactions with each other. At any rate, the Briscoes are more experienced and are good workers, so it benefits G.O.D. to have this match with them as the better the workers, the better the match. At least, usually. Prediction: Briscoe Brothers
Taylor C. Mitchell: I’ve always had an affinity for Samoan tag teams, so I’ve been way more patient with the Guerillas of Destiny than most. This is a first time ever matchup between camo covered tag teams. The Briscoes are world class and will never fully get the credit they deserve as one of the greatest tag teams of all-time, but alas, it’s great seeing them in a New Japan ring and we can only hope their tours of Japan increase in quantity. This will be the Guerillas of Destiny’s best match of their short existence and the Briscoes will continue to win over the Japanese audience, even in defeat. Prediction: Guerillas of Destiny
NEVER Openweight Championship
Yuji Nagata (c) vs. Katsuyori Shibata
Joe Lanza: I figured Katsuyori Shibata’s feud with the New Japan Dads was going to be a short diversion to keep him busy until he moved on to more important and interesting matters, but this thing has turned into something far more compelling than I ever thought it could. The cocky and disrespectful Shibata was put in his place by Nagata, whom he has never pinned. This has been about Shibata learning respect (his disrespect being replaced with bows as of late), and Nagata taking pride in preserving strong style with Shinsuke Nakamura plying his trade in WWE and the main event scene littered with constant LIJ antics. I see Shibata regaining his title here, and this feud being the final stamp of approval and catapult to his eventual main event run. Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata
Rich Kraetsch: Arguably my most anticipated match of the night, Shibata vs. Nagata has everything a wrestling fan could possibly ask for. The story is deep with Shibata working his way through heralded New Japan Pro Wrestling veterans, finally reaching the top dog, Yuji Nagata before being humbled by King Dad. Shibata now has to show some humility and grace if he wants to get by Nagata, win his title back and move onto the next chapter of his journey. How can that not pump you up? I can’t wait. Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata
Jimmy Dylan: Shibata and his feud with the Dad Squad has been one of the more exciting ones this year because while Tenzan’s knees are probably not long for this world, Kojima and Nagata can still go and proved it. Nagata beating Shibata at the time was the right choice as we know Nagata has been talking about being bored and letting him school Shibata was more than worth it. But now is the time for Shibata to get his win back, his belt back, and finally pin the man he’s never pinned before. He’ll look all the better in a country that believes in respecting your elders for learning respect in the process and the belt works for him because he elevates it, something that men like Makabe and Ishii have been unable to do in the past by passing it back and forth so much. It’s going to be a little sad to see Nogami’s reaction to Shibata winning, though. Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata
Taylor C. Mitchell: I absolutely love that the NEVER title has a distinguished identity. One that Nagata has described as being comparable to the classic IWGP Heavyweight a Title bouts that would be just 1 on 1 matches between the best wrestlers in NJPW. No shenanigans. No interference. This identity separates NEVER Openweight matches from all other matches on the card without having to attach a goofy gimmick to it, or worse let it get lost in the shuffle by having no special qualities about it.
Shibata won the NEVER title and became an obnoxious jerk that disrespected tradition. Shibata didn’t care who paved the road prior to his career and he has proved this by kicking Nagata in the face every chance he gets. Nagata has slowly been trying to knock some respect into Shibata and finally got to the young wrestler by defeating him for his title. The only way this feud can properly end is with Shibata regaining the NEVER title with a lasting image of Shibata and Nagata on their knees in the middle of the ring bowing to each other. It will be a classic moment that will be the launching pad for Shibata as a true player on this roster. Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata
IWGP Intercontinental Championship – Ladder Match
Kenny Omega (c) vs. Michael Elgin
Joe Lanza: I expect a show stealing match here, with two motivated, happy, and hungry wrestlers aided by the use of a prop essentially foreign to the New Japan ring. It isn’t the right time for a title change, and a loss doesn’t hurt Elgin at all, especially since this should be loaded with BC/Elite shenanigans. Prediction: Kenny Omega
Rich Kraetsch: It’s been years since New Japan Pro Wrestling did a ladder match and this is arguably the first NJPW “proper” ladder match in its history. This should be entertaining as hell with Omega and Elgin both familiar with the stipulation and looking to steal the show. An underrated aspect of this match: the native Japanese crowd. They don’t see shit like this often in a New Japan ring. Where we’ve been desensitized to ladder matches in America (in fact, this Sunday we’ll see a PPV centered around a match with dozens of ladders), this is something new and unique for the native crowd. Think back to the pop Elgin got when he powerbombed Omega through the ladder at the Best of the Super Juniors finals. It was deafening. The roof is going to blow off the Osaka-jo Hall for this and I can’t wait. There’s almost no chance this doesn’t deliver big. Prediction: Kenny Omega
Jimmy Dylan: I have to be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of gimmick matches and they were something in the WWE and TNA that turned me off from wanting to watch the products. I don’t even really necessarily understand why NJPW had to bring ladder matches in especially considering the fact that they aren’t usual in the promotion and it’s probably not going to be the blow-off match, so it seems unusual. If you’re going to go gimmick match, at least make it the blow-off match so it doesn’t seem like you pulled it out for no reason. It would have worked better for Tanahashi as we could have moved away from him pursuing Omega and moved on to Elgin. At least Elgin probably has a better grasp on such a western gimmick and Omega has been around ladders in DDT, so at the very least it’ll be a fun match. Don’t see Elgin pulling out a win just yet but he has to be getting close as he’s been in New Japan for quite some time without getting near a title with weight, and that seems unusual when you consider how they book gaijin. Prediction: Kenny Omega
Taylor C. Mitchell: Elgin is taking the spot in this match that originally belonged to his Unbreakable Aces tag partner, Hiroshi Tanahashi. As much as watching the all-time great, Tanahashi, navigate his way through a westernized gimmick match like a Ladder Match would’ve been great, Elgin is the best replacement available. Omega has done an incredible job building this match as the prick heel trying to force his North American pro wrestling culture on the Japanese audience. It adds a sense of depth to his role as the leader of Bullet Club that was missing from AJ Styles’ run.
Omega and Elgin will have an all-time classic Ladder Match on Sunday and this crowd in Osaka will be eating out of the palms of their hands with each ladder spot. Omega will retain his IC title because he needs a longer reign to solidify his spot as a main eventer in NJPW. Prediction: Kenny Omega
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada
Joe Lanza: This is absolutely not the right time for Naito to lose, with him being the hottest act in the company and business holding strong without Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, Kota Ibushi, and Hiroshi Tanahashi. The problem, is this means Okada will have to absorb two straight defeats to Naito, in addition to being on the losing side of 13 out of 14 (!!) tag bouts to LIJ on the BOSJ tour (many of which were punctuated by post match beat downs by the heels). How much losing can (should) Okada absorb? He can be rehabbed with a dominant G1 (where he’ll be the huge favorite should he lose here), but that’s a lot of losing for the presumptive new ace from Invasion Attack to September. With all of that said, I see no other outcome here other than a Naito win, with Okada winning the G1. Predictable, but sometimes the best course of action is the obvious one. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito
Rich Kraetsch: The dynamic relationship between Naito and the Osaka faithful will make this one of the hottest NJPW crowds you’ll ever witness. This match should have molten heat throughout and continue to propel Naito into another stratosphere. The big question — who wins? NJPW has put themselves in a weird spot with this match as both scenarios have numerous pros/cons. It’s way too early for Naito to lose, he’s just starting to build some momentum as champion and a loss will derail a lot of what they’ve been building with the budding star over the last year. However, Okada, presumably the ace of the company following Wrestle Kingdom 10, will take another loss in that scenario. Sure, he can be re-built through the summer’s G1 Climax tournament with a build towards Wrestle Kingdom 11 and a rematch between these two but still, Okada takes over as ace and proceeds to lose a bunch? It’s an odd story no doubt even if the end result is pretty cool. Regardless of the boxed into a corner booking, this match should be spectacular aided by a molten hot crowd. I’m saying Naito wins here and Okada gets another chance… but not until January. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito
Jimmy Dylan: Tetsuya Naito is one of those guys I was told nobody really liked when I started New Japan but I took to him after his match with AJ Styles. He was always kind of in the background, a high flyer who wasn’t quite as good as Kota Ibushi and didn’t seem to really be going anywhere. When he came back from CMLL with his new gimmick and a new attitude to match, I was enthralled. This is the most compelling that Naito has ever been as a wrestler and as a character, and it shows when he’s in the ring. The fact we’re coming to Osaka, the city that notoriously loathes him no matter how NJPW books him, only makes this match more exciting. At the beginning of the year I would have guessed that the title change would occur here first so that Osaka would rain down boos on their new heel champion.
Nevertheless, this match is an exciting one. Naito only gets more exciting as a character with every promo and every jab he makes at New Japan and Kidani. His tailoring of his new finisher to be a perfect counter for the Rainmaker is still the kind of character work that should never go overlooked. And he gives Okada a real villain to fight against because with the departure of AJ Styles, there wasn’t really anyone on Okada’s level he can feud with (and I don’t know if Kenny Omega is never really going to make it that far). Naito is everything that Okada hates and it only builds the fire between them better. It’s also nice to see Chaos finally acting like a group and coming out to stop LIJ’s interference. This match should be much better than their first and I would hope Naito retains because he’s too hot to take the belt off of right now. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito
Taylor C. Mitchell: A few years ago Naito promised the Osaka crowd that the next time they saw him he would be IWGP Champion or else they should boo him for being a failure. Naito didn’t win the IWGP title and has been the bane of Osaka’s existence ever since. Osaka loathes Naito as opposed to Tokyo who has taken a liking to him in a regional way that reminds me of Bret Hart’s love/hate relationship with USA/Canada circa 1997. This will be Naito’s first big match in Osaka as the IWGP Champion since making that declaration. The crowd’s reaction alone make this match intriguing. Add the inevitable red hot crowd to the fact that these men put together a stellar MOTYC together at Invasion Attack and we have ourselves a great match coming our way.
I fully expect there to be interference from LIdJ that will eventually be thwarted by CHAOS and it won’t ruin the match one iota. All players involved are super talented and will make this match as entertaining as possible. We will get plenty of great 2.9999 kickouts from the best near fall guy in the business, Okada, and we will be immersed in the sense of danger Naito brings to NJPW. Get your popcorn ready, because this match is going 30+ minutes and it will absolutely take you on a wild ride. Naito is successfully defending his title here for the second time and these two will meet again. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito