New Japan Road 2017
March 1, 2017
Korakuen Hall
Toyko, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers:

  • Rich Kraetsch: Founder and managing editor of Voices of Wrestling, ½ of the Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast. Eater of donuts. Recently turned 30 and is very depressed by it. Follow him on Twitter @VoicesWrestling
  • John Carroll: John is for some reason a staple in these NJPW previews, probably because nobody else is actually watching these ten thousand Korakuens on the day they air anymore. Follow them @toshanshuinla for, honestly, mostly nonsense.
  • Matt MacLean: An infrequent voice on wrestling, but a frequent watcher of NJPW, follow along for musings, thoughts, and outrages on the twit machine @shining_wiz13

Yujiro Takahashi vs. Tomoyuki Oka

Rich Kraetsch: Oka was famously kept under mothballs for what seemed like years as New Japan held off on debuting their prodigy. Now fully engrained with the roster, Oka has shown promise but the 25-year-old seems a few steps behind the rest of Japan’s young upstarts. Unfortunately, his opening match running mate Henare suffered a major injury at Togi Makabe’s Anniversary show and will be out of action for an undisclosed amount of time. In his stead, Yujiro. Woof. Prediction: Yujiro Takahashi

John Carroll: Well this is, uh, sure an opener. I assume we would have gotten match #50 in the Oka-Henare series, which honestly would probably have been better than this in a weird way. Yujiro is just a guy and it’s really unfortunate he’ll be taking up a spot in the New Japan Cup this year. Why not use that on a junior like KUSHIDA or something instead? I mean, they can challenge for the NEVER title anyway right? Anyway. This will be a match. Prediction: Yujiro Takahashi

Matt McEwen: A chance to see Oka in a one one one atmosphere absent Nagata for only the third time. Either way, just ten matches into his career, I can see why Oka has the NJ brass excited for him.  He’s going to settle very nicely into the Minoru Suzuki role of “Yeah, you’re all prettier than me, but I will beat the holy living hell out of you” role that NJ needs.  Not saying he will reach Suzuki level in ring, but from what I’ve seen so far, I’m not ruling it out either. In the meantime, though, he has to pay his dues against the bottom rungs of the promotion. Prediction: Takahashi the lesser

Jado, YOSHI-HASHI, Beretta & Rocky Romero vs. Taichi, Taka Michinoku, Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Rich Kraetsch: Undoubtedly the greatest injustice in pro wrestling history, Taichi and Kanemaru disowned their former tag partners (Taka and Desperado, respectively) to form their own Suzukigun “super team”. No, seriously, they said they were the elite members of each team and broke off to form a self-appointed super team. I’m not making that up. Yes, that Taichi. Ugh. Look for a Suzukigun win here as they build to their IWGP Junior Title match with Beretta and Romero. Prediction: Suzukigun

John Carroll: The Suzukigun-CHAOS feud is continuing in the junior side of things at least, as this is a prelude to Taichi & Kanemaru getting their IWGP Jr. Tag Title shot next week in Ota Gym. I know some people are turning the corner on Kanemaru already but I honestly do not see what there is to like about him in NJPW so far, unless you are a really big fan of stomping. Taichi I think everyone pretty much agrees is awful. So yeah. This is a match setting up a tag match I don’t really want to see, and I fear a title change that I REALLY don’t want to see, so my excitement level isn’t exactly high. Prediction: Suzukigun

Matt McEwen: Prediction: Ew…Taichi.  I can tolerate a lot in my wrestling, but wherever my line is, he’s on the wrong side of it.  Unfortunately he’s tagging along with the returned Suzukigun, and even more unfortunately, he is in the junior tag title picture along with Kanemaru.  But, since the vastly superior Desperado is in this match, maybe he’ll replace his replacement, and Taichi can slide more deeply into irrelevance?  Either way, Suzukigun will be taking the win here and further along the junior tag feud.  Prediction: Suzukigun

Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tanga Roa, Tama Tonga, Kenny Omega & Bad Luck Fale

Rich Kraetsch: This match could go one of two ways. Omega and Bullet Club can jack around, have some fun and understand it’s a throwaway show and not give full effort (sadly, this is the most likely scenario) or the Dads and Bullet Club could have one hell of a show-stealing match. Nakanishi may even have his bi-yearly full effort match. No matter how you slice it, Omega is among the biggest stars in the company right now and the crowd will always be in love with each and every member of the Dad team, so expect a hot crowd regardless of the effort level put in. Prediction: Bullet Club

John Carroll: Okay, this is more like it. The New Japan Dads always give you effort and are always, always over. GOD have gone from an awful team to a pretty damn great one in awful time (someone tell Tama to unblock me on Twitter so I can tell him he’s good now!), Fale always serves his role well, and Kenny Omega is probably the hottest guy in this whole promotion. This match will be super fan and super heated, and I’m looking forward to it. Prediction: Bullet Club

Matt McEwen: Well now….I’m oddly intrigued by this.  I have a soft spot for the Dads, and the opposing Bullet Club combo could actually be really fun.  The Bullet Club takes the win here, but the interesting thing to keep an eye out for will be if there is any decision from them getting there.  BC’s best before date was sometime in 2015, so at the very least a big shake up is coming, and Omega will likely be beginning of the…end…of them.  Prediction: Bullet Club

Jushin Liger, Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe vs. Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto

Rich Kraetsch: The Makabe/Honma vs. Yano/Ishii feud does nothing for me, so let’s ignore that completely and talk about Hirooki Goto. Often underrated, Goto could be on the best run of his entire career over the last six months. After blowing the doors off during the final nights of the G1, Goto has been on an absolute rampage and night-in, night-out blowing the doors off any expectations we have going in. Goto had a legit great match with Punisher Martinez. His matches with Juice Robinson have been awesome and I fully expect him to once again bring the goods on this night. It’s a shame he’s being wasted on a team with Toru Yano, my least favorite NJPW performance this side of Taichi. Prediction: CHAOS

John Carroll: Okay, back to the “who gives a crap” portion of this card, we have this. The IWGP heavyweight tag titles are maybe the worst booked belts in all of wrestling. I can’t possibly care less about this GBH-Yano/Ishii feud, especially when it now looks like whoever wins is probably just going to drop the titles to War Machine soon. Yes, a gaijin ROH team coming in and winning the belts for a few months in the spring, where have I seen that before? The last two years of New Japan maybe? These belts used to mean something, I swear, but years of the same stale booking pattern and Gedo clearly not caring about them have taken their toll. It’s a shame when you look at how other Japanese promotions treat their tag team titles, with main eventers actually fighting over them, but what can you do I guess. Anyway, this is another match hyping up a match I could care less about, so it will just be there. Prediction: CHAOS

Matt McEwen: I saw yesterday that GBH is touring North America this summer, and found that odd.  Then I realized it meant the punk band, not the tag team, and it made more sense.  That I’m talking about a punk band more over the hill than the tag champs tells you how intrigued I am here. This is kind of an odd six man, with Liger being really out of place as a junior, and Goto being the NEVER champ but apparently just along for the ride in this one.  I will assume this pairing means that Ishii will waste more of his (unfortunately limited remaining) time teaming with Yano. Prediction: CHAOS

Minoru Suzuki & Davey Boy Smith Jr. vs. David Finlay & Katsuyori Shibata

Rich Kraetsch: For those who haven’t seen Togi Makabe’s Anniversary show (and let’s be honest, why should you?): Shibata and Suzuki were clearly building to a future match. We speculated if it was going to be a longer term storyline or just a build to New Japan Cup. As we found out today, it will indeed be a first round match for the Cup. That doesn’t meant the two can’t keep the feud going after the Cup, but I’m a little disappointed it’s happening so soon. Well, until I remember that we get to see a Shibata vs. Suzuki match that will no doubt rock. I’m also happy to see Davey Boy Smith Jr getting higher profile matches. Of course, I’m not happy it came at the expense of a Lance Archer injury but Smith was always someone who impressed me during singles matches (often during G1 season). Look for him to surprise a lot of people with his competence in the coming months. Also look for poor David Finlay to get stretched by Suzuki for the finish. Prediction: Suzuki & DBS

John Carroll: Okay, thank god, another chance to be positive here. It feels weirdly early to be doing Minoru Suzuki vs. Shibata, but even with that caveat this feud is already intense and great. This tag match continues their build up to their first round NJ Cup match (one of the very few first round matches with any intrigue whatsoever), and I’m pretty pumped for it. Meanwhile, Finlay & DBS are both no slouches in there either, so you’ve got the potential for a really great little tag team match. Prediction: Suzuki & DBS

Matt McEwen: This could be really, really, REALLY fun.  Shibata and Suzuki have a date in the first round of the NJ Cup, so this will be there to further those issues along.  But it’s their back up that makes this first truly intriguing matchup of the show.  DBS Jr. is really underrated, and his game fits perfectly in Japan in a way it never could in North America where his charisma deficiencies are too hard to hide.  Add in Finlay who looks like he wants to chase Juice Robinson up the card towards greater relevance, and this could make the whole card worth waking up for. Prediction: Suzukigun

BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA, Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi, Juice Robinson, Michael Elgin & Hiroshi Tanahashi

Rich Kraetsch: The unfortunate circumstance of both Los Ingobernables and Suzukigun being on the same show — there’s only so many matches to go around. Thus, LIJ gets lumped into a 10-man, everyone get on the show match. Many will focus on Hiromu and Taguchi as they continue to build to their IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title match. Otherwise, this isn’t a very anticipated match, at least not by this previewer. Prediction: KUSHIDA, Taguchi, Robinson, Elgin & Tanahashi

John Carroll: Is there like a law now that says LIJ can only wrestle in 10-man tags? It sure feels like it lately. This is what happens when your roster is as bloated as NJPW’s is post-Suzukigun return, but anyway. I usually enjoy these LIJ 10-mans but I would like to see them spread my favorite unit around the cards a little bit more. This should be about what you expect it to be though: a fun tag that you probably won’t remember long after it’s over. Hiromu-Taguchi is the most interesting feud NJPW has going at the moment, so their continued interaction building up to their title match next week should be the highlight. Prediction: Tanahashi & Elgin & Juice & Taguchi & KUSHIDA

Matt McEwen: Speaking of Juice, here he is rubbing shoulders with some of the best and hottest acts in the company.  These ten men tags are always pretty fun and always kind of hectically crazy, and this should be no different.  Look for showcases of Tanahashi/EVIL and Taguchi/Takahashi leading to their inevitable match ups, and look for Naito to continue to be the coolest man in the world of the world’s nerdiest sport. Prediction: Juice is pinning someone

Tiger Mask IV & Tiger Mask W vs. Gedo & Kazuchika Okada

Rich Kraetsch: This is going to be amazing. The optics alone of two Tiger Masks teaming together is great and historic but knowing it’s grumpy as fuck Tiger Mask IV and Tiger Mask W aka Kota Ibushi (sorry for ruining Christmas) teaming together is that much better. Fun fact: The first time these two men were on the same team as one another was August 30, 2009 on a NJPW/Jado & Gedo Produce Show called “Get out of my way ~JG20FTW~” Kota and Tiger Mask teamed with the Great Sasuke and Jushin Thunder Liger to take on Dick Togo, Koji Kanemoto, Ryusuke Taguchi and Taka Michinoku. BRB, gotta find this show and watch it right now. …..Anyway, all eyes will be on Tiger Mask W and Kazuchika Okada as they will battle at this weekend’s NJPW 45th Anniversary show. It’s so weird how quickly a Kota Ibushi vs. Okada IWGP singles match came to be, but who’s complaining? I’ll also be keeping an eye on Tiger Mask W’s performance. Thus far, his matches have been fine but he’s never been asked (under the mask) to have a great match. On this show, he’ll be in the main event as a preview to a huge show coming up in a few days. This is going to be so much fun. Prediction: Tiger Mask IV & Tiger Mask W

John Carroll: And here we have a match that I legitimately have no idea what to expect out of. There’s some big question marks to me, including: did the NJPW office here Kota’s complaints about the mask being hard to work in and adjust it accordingly? What will the Okada-Tiger Mask W interaction actually be like? How over will the twin Tigers be (I would assume very, but I guess you never know)? And will Okada & Gedo do what they should do here and work subtle heel, since I’m assuming the crowd will be cheering the Tiger Mask duo anyway? If everything goes right this could be a really special match at Korakuen, but boy that’s a lot of questions. Prediction: Tiger Mask IV & Tiger Mask W

Matt McEwen: What a weird situation – one of the most exciting wrestlers in the world today, after essentially being a part time, freelance wrestler for the past year, steps back into the main event scene…as the personification of a cartoon character.  And teams up with the fourth version of the original cartoon character his cartoon avatar is based on.  Regardless of how animated the crowd may or may not be for the rest of the show, the second Ibushi/TMW comes face to face with Okada, they’re going to go nuts.  I haven’t a blessed clue what the outcome of their non-title Anniversary main event is going to be, but you know Ibushi doesn’t want to let himself be lapped by Omega in their race to greatness.  I expect a bit of a tease here at just how good next Monday’s main event might end up being. Prediction: Tiger Masks