New Japan Pro Wrestling
November 5, 2017
Edion Arena Osaka
Osaka, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers:

Joe Lanza: Big time shows call for big time internationally acclaimed broadcast journalists as heard on BBC Radio and as quoted by Forbes Magazine. Behold, as Joe breaks this show down with the precision of a surgeon.

Rich Kraetsch: The face that runs the place. ½ of the VOW Flagship Podcast. Editor of Follow him on Twitter @VoicesWrestling. Cheap Plug: Follow Rich and his wife the famous Nurse’s 90s nostalgia podcast at @all90spodcast.

John Carroll: Two big puro shows this week, two shows John is on the preview for. Just call them 王子未来, baby. You can also find them every week hosting @wrestleomakase, every time the stars and the moon align hosting @openvoicegate, and every single day posting weeb garbage @toshanshuinla.

David Finlay vs. Katsuya Kitamura

Joe Lanza: What a cool little surprise we get here, with David “No Direction” Finlay vs Katsuya “The Man Who Will Draw A Billion Dollars Soon” Kitamura squaring off in one on one singles action. Kitamura is so imposing, so charismatic, and so obviously a star that it’s kind of silly watching him sell, which is insane to say about a young lion. Prediction: Finlay

Rich Kraetsch: Am I crazy or is there a chance Kitamura pulls a massive upset here? I know, it’s unprecedented but Kitamura is unprecedented. His connection to the crowd so early into his career, his look, his stature — it’s all unique and unlike anything we’ve seen from recent young lions. You don’t want to mess with tradition but man, can you imagine if Kitamura picks up the huge win here? It’s not going to happen but man, I think he’s the guy to do it with. Prediction: David Finlay

John Carroll: I largely agree with the masses that Kitamura is already good as hell and has great in-ring charisma, but I also kind of agree with this tweet from notorious anti-fun dad Pol (I kid, Pol is a swell guy). Seriously, it kind of remains to be seen whether Kitamura’s popularity is a net positive or negative on New Japan’s future, to be quite honest. I don’t really want to see a future where a 2021 NJ main event is Kitamura and another huge roided-up man trading shoulderblocks for 20 minutes. But in the short term, I like Kitamura and what he brings to the table. And fuck it, I’m gonna go one step forward from Rich and just predict him to win this. Let’s do it baby. Prediction: Katsuya Kitamura

Dragon Lee and Titán vs. The Young Bucks

Joe Lanza: What is this? A non-title junior tag match? With no young lions to be found? This is a rare, second unexpected surprise for us on this loaded top to bottom show. Speaking of rare, this will only be the fourth two vs two non-joint show New Japan proper tag bout that the Bucks work in Japan this year. Hard to believe. This figures to be a title match setup for the Bucks, who haven’t worked a New Japan match since dropping the junior tag belts to Taguchi & Ricochet in August. Even with the predictable outcome and slotted as the opener, this is the sleeper match of the show. It’s the Bucks, who always try to steal the show, and on the other side you have Dragon Lee & Titan, two dynamic wrestlers who’ve had an excellent tour. Prediction: Young Bucks

Rich Kraetsch: Flips on flips on flips. Dragon Lee and Titan, though unsuccessful in their quest to win the Super Junior Tag Tournament hang around for one last show. They are a remarkable team and one that I’d love to see on a much more regular basis in NJPW. On this night though, they are fodder for The Young Bucks who despite being regulars have only worked three times this year in a pure tag match on Japanese soil. Even if you include six, eight and ten man tags you still only have seven “proper” NJPW matches this year for the Bucks. The point is they feel a little fresh here, they feel like a team ready for their spotlight again. I, as many others do as well, think the time is ripe for them to win and challenge for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles, perhaps at Wrestle Kingdom. Either way, Bucks will get the win here but expect a dizzying contest before it happens. Predictions: The Young Bucks  

John Carroll: Oh boy, a Young Bucks New Japan match. Well, putting them on first decreases the likelihood the fans will use them as the beer run match, I guess. In all seriousness, they haven’t been here all year so they do actually feel sort of fresh, and this match will probably be fine for the all of 10 minutes it gets. But Titan & Lee deserve better than a first round exit in the junior tag tournament and jobbing duty to set the Bucks up for a title challenge. Prediction: The Young Bucks

Hirai Kawato, Juice Robinson, Jushin Thunder Liger, KUSHIDA and Tiger Mask vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Taichi, Taka Michinoku, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Zack Sabre Jr.)

Joe Lanza: I expect Kawato to be the focus again, as New Japan continues to build matches around and spotlight the young lions in ways that have rarely been done historically. It’s clear to me that they see major upside in Kawato and Kitamura, with Takaaki Kidani pet project Oka waiting in the wings. The New Japan dojo delivers quality workers at a super high percentage, and now they’re rolling out large classes and developing potential stars, too. Prediction: SZG

Rich Kraetsch: This is one of only three “get everyone on the card matches” on a surprisingly deep overall show. The shame of seeing ZSJ as one of ten guys in a match hurts, but this should be really good. The talent in this match is absolutely incredible for a throwaway rando undercard mish-mosh of leftover wrestlers. My focus will be on Juice Robinson who recently wiped all of his social media accounts fueling speculation that he may be “Switchblade”. Whether it’s a red herring to get people off the scent of Switchblade’s true identity or not, we’ll see. Prediction: Suzuki-gun

John Carroll: I could go either way with the Juice thing: it could be a red herring as Rich teased, or maybe Juice isn’t Switchblade himself but is getting ready for a reinvention by joining a new Switchblade-gun of sorts. Blade-san will need a partner at the World Tag League, at the very least. Anyway, I’ve turned a corner on the Suzukigun juniors of late; their undercard heel tactics are actually good fun for the most part (unlike that of their boss) and Taichi especially has really grown on me this year as a fun scumbag. I’m not saying I really want any of these guys to get a junior title run or anything, but for what they are they are usually an enjoyable part of the card. Sabre, aka the guy who weighs less than Taichi but is a weight class above him, is a weird fit in this group but a good professional wrestler. Throw Kawato and his charisma in there and this should actually be a pretty damn fun match. Prediction: Suzukigun

Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Cody and Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Tencozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima) and Togi Makabe

Joe Lanza: We recently mocked TNA/Impact/Global Force/Anthem/Xplosion for their world champion working third from the bottom on a NOAH show, but at least that was a title match. Here we have Ring of Honor World Champion Cody working third from the bottom in a meaningless six man tag. Something doesn’t smell right. This wouldn’t be the first time Cody worked a meaningless mid card tag in New Japan, but why fly him in for this? Is there a chance he picks up a win over Tenzan, setting up a Wrestle Kingdom singles match against Kojima? Maybe Chase Owens loses, but one of the veterans (Makabe) faces off with Cody to set up a ROH title match? (Sidenote – I’d like to see TenKoji & Makabe chase the NEVER trios titles) Prediction: TenKoji & Makabe

Rich Kraetsch: Pin eater extraordinaire Chase Owens will definitely be staring up at the lights when this is all said and done. I’m oddly intrigued by this match with legends like Tenzan, Kojima and Makabe facing off against the bottom rung of Bullet Club Japan. I’m also oddly intrigued by the possibility that Cody wins but wondering who in the hell he would pin? NJPW still very much protects both Tenzan and Kojima, they wouldn’t have Makabe eat a fall, would they? The predicted answer is that Owens loses but I’m definitely curious to see if they deviate from that. Owens will have his work cut out for him as this is looking like the favorite to be worst match of the night. Prediction: Tencozy & Togi Makabe

John Carroll: Oh god, Cody R and 2017 Togi Makabe in the same ring? Is the world ready for that much laziness? Have a good piss break, everyone! Prediction: Tencozy & Makabe

Super Junior Tag Tournament Finals
Roppongi 3K (Sho and Yoh) vs. Super 69 (ACH and Ryusuke Taguchi)

Joe Lanza: Not sure why people are being so hard on Roppongi 3K. Their debut ruled, their tournament matches have ruled, their entrance theme rules, Sho looks like a future star, and Rocky Romero has been a revelation as a manager. The act is working, and it’s only going to get better as the guys settle in and get comfortable. What should happen is R3K runs the table and face the Bucks at WK. What could happen is Super 69 wins, and we get a dreaded three way at the Dome. DO NOT WANT. Keep pushing the new team, and give us the potentially awesome R3K vs Bucks match on the big stage. Prediction: R3K

Rich Kraetsch: HYPED. I cannot wait for this match. Whether you’re into Roppongi 3k’s look and characters or not, it’s impossible to deny the shot in the arm they’ve given the junior heavyweight division. The ring work is superb and should only improve as they build more chemistry with the NJPW roster. On the other side you have the relatively new team of Super 69 (nobody likes a good 69 joke more than Taguchi) with ACH taking over for the departing Ricochet. This match looks and feels fresh, which is nice for this division which can often find itself in a lull period with the same teams over and over again. Roppongi 3k are the champs, if they win this tournament, what’s next? Who challenges them? That’s why it makes sense for Super 69 to win. But… if you’re trying to get Roppongi 3k over as this brand-new, hot-shot act, what better way than to have them win the whole damn tournament. You can figure out a challenge later, hell, the Young Bucks can come out and challenge them after this win and nobody would bat an eye. I don’t think they go that direction and I do think Super 69 picks up the win but I’d like to see NJPW get bold and have Roppongi 3k run the table. Prediction: Super 69

John Carroll: Count me in as one of the people who are skeptical of the Roppongi 3K gimmick so far, and of Gedo’s sort of over reliance on these kinds of gimmicks for bringing young guys back from excursion in general. First it was Watanabe coming back as a spooky Undertaker rip-off with an English name, then it’s SHO and YOH getting extremely simplified (and English-friendly) names, sparkly outfits, and this weird forced “party boys” gimmick based off a previous junior tag team, and possibly soon another ex-young lion is about to come back with a wacky new gimmick as well. Did they need all that? Would they not have been better off just coming back as Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu, two young junior wrestlers forming a tag team? In my opinion they’re talented enough in the ring and Sho especially has enough charisma to stand out without all this stuff, and one can easily note that the guy they DID just bring back with his actual name (Hiromu Takahashi) is possibly the most over guy of the entire bunch. Now, with all that said EVIL has really grown into his gimmick and gotten himself over after starting out looking just as awkward as R3K have looked at times so far, so I’m not suggesting they’re doomed or anything. I am suggesting that I hope when they send Kitamura and Kawato away, they don’t come back as MUSCLE MAN and JUNIOR LAD, the wacky superhero tag team!! Oh, R3K should totally win this by the way. Young Bucks come out and challenge after, blah blah blah. Prediction: Roppongi 3K

CHAOS (Gedo, Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA and Tetsuya Naito)

Joe Lanza: This will probably be very good. I’m just sick of seeing it. Prediction: CHAOS

Rich Kraetsch: The never-ending cycle of CHAOS vs. LIJ continues. Per, this is the 22nd TV/PPV tag match between the two stables. I get it, they are feuding stables but man do these guys fight one another a lot. At this point, you’re really just anticipating interactions between Okada and Naito and wondering where the old stable members will fall and if they’ll break off into their own micro-feuds. Prediction: CHAOS

John Carroll: The state of that CHAOS side, good god. You’ve got the unbeatable, eternal champion and his jobber friends: the tiny man with no neck who can beat Naito a million times except when it actually counts (and as Y2J & Lex Luger can tell you, “can’t win the big one”-man is not exactly a great role to have), the guy who has gone from lovable underdog to complete fucking joke since joining this unit, the guy who they just used as a mannequin for the Bullet Club to run circles around in ROH (and sadly that may have been the highpoint of his entire year), and fucking Gedo. Yeah. Please break this stupid unit up, for the love of god. Prediction: LIJ

NEVER Openweight Championship – Bullrope Deathmatch Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Toru Yano

Joe Lanza: The previous match is overdone, but at least it’ll probably be good. This match is overdone, and it probably won’t be good. It’s impossible for me to care, other than hoping Suzuki retains because he would have a far more interesting title defense at WK than Yano would. Prediction: Suzuki

Rich Kraetsch: This is the first bull rope match in NJPW history, yeah? Hopefully it’s the last. Don’t let the deathmatch part fool you, the majority of the match will be Yano trying to tie Suzuki’s legs with the rope. Let’s hope Suzuki finally beats this geek so this “feud” (10 singles matches since August 2013) can finally be put to bed. Prediction: Minoru Suzuki

John Carroll: I like Toru Yano, but 2017 Minoru Suzuki is such a black hole of suck that he even manages to make Yano not fun. I don’t know what’s left to say about this belt, this overdone feud, or anything else here really. It sucks. It really sucks. Prediction: Minoru Suzuki

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay (c) vs. Marty Scurll

Joe Lanza: It took ages, but finally Will Ospreay, one of the five best wrestlers on planet Earth, is getting a proper New Japan push. I didn’t see it coming, but Scurll as his first challenger is pretty brilliant. I’ve never seen a Will/Marty match that I didn’t love. Will should survive this, and hopefully face Hiromu at Wrestle Kingdom in a match that could steal the show. I want KUSHIDA nowhere near that, but I fear one (or even both) of the junior title matches at Dome could wind up being three ways. Prediction: Will Ospreay

Rich Kraetsch: Traveling matches were seemingly a relic of the past, a matchup between two wrestlers that transcended brands and regions—think Rey Mysterio vs. Psychosis—but they’ve come back recently and there’s no better example than Ospreay vs. Scurll. These two have wrestled singles matches for Wrestling in Bedford, WWL, RevPro, NWA FIGHT, PROGRESS, WrestleCon, wXw, WCPW, ROH, DW and even NJPW back in May. They’ve wrestled in England, Texas, Germany, Scotland and Tokyo. From an in-ring standpoint, their chemistry is off the charts and while I can’t call it their biggest match ever, it has the chance to be one of their most memorable. Marty has a four-match win streak over Ospreay. To get the title Ospreay had to vanquish long-time foe KUSHIDA. Can Will make it two-for-two? Prediction: Will Ospreay

John Carroll: This is one where I can accept that my own personal tastes will not match up with most people’s: Marty Scurll always comes off like an e-wrestling character to me, something a 16-year-old sitting at his computer would have created. “Dude he’ll be called the VILLAIN, and he’ll wear PLAGUE MASKS, and he’ll carry BLACK UMBRELLAS, and it will be totally badass!”. And just like lots of heel fantasy wrestling characters back in the day, Scurll always comes off like he’s trying so hard to be cool that he’s completely uninterested in actually, you know, being a heel. But I understand that most of you disagree with me on Marty and think he’s totally awesome, and if you do feel that way I completely understand why you must be looking forward to he & Young William bringing their now-famous rivalry back to New Japan with the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title on the line. I’m not hyped for it at all personally, but I do understand the appeal. Enjoy your edgelord and his flippy friend, everybody. Prediction: Will Ospreay

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega (c) vs. Beretta

Joe Lanza: This has a chance to be the Beretta coming out party. Hardcores know how great he’s been this year, but it’s hard to grab the attention of the masses when bumping and selling has been your calling card. I think he’s been one of the 20 best wrestlers in the world in 2017, and if this delivers, this could be the match that breaks him out in a big way. Beretta is a quirky guy, but I think he knows that this is the biggest singles match of his career and a big opportunity to show that he can be a real singles player moving forward. Unless the knee is still an issue, Kenny will work hard. Prediction: Kenny Omega

Rich Kraetsch: Kenny Omega singles matches were treats earlier in the year, matches that you had to drop everything and watch for the pure spectacle and excellence. Can the same be said today? I don’t want to let the very underwhelming Omega/YOSHI-HASHI US Title match from ROH Global Wars sour me but I can’t help it. As someone who went to that show entirely to see Omega, his lackluster performance left me very disappointed. Here’s the difference though: Beretta is better than YOSHI-HASHI. Omega is in Japan where he thrives. The match won’t be in ROH or in America where Bullet Club reigns supreme. Kenny’s damaged knee should be fully healthy by now. With all those factors in place, this has the recipe to be a stellar match to add to both men’s incredible 2017 catalog. But… I’m still worried, still reserved. I just can’t help it. Prediction: Kenny Omega

John Carroll: This will be Kenny’s second defense of this IWGP US Title in Japan, and after defending against Juice on the last Destruction show he’s once again facing a gaijin in Beretta. I like the idea of making this title basically the NJPW version of the SWA title in STARDOM, where Omega defends it almost exclusively against other foreigners in Japan (god knows NJ has enough of them to do it at this point). It helps the belt stand out in a promotion that already had too many titles before it was even introduced. So make it serve these dual roles: it’s the NJPW belt that’s defended in the US (and that’s where you can have Japanese guys challenge for it) and when it’s defended in Japan, it’s defended against gaijin. Makes sense to me. Anyway, I think this match will be fine at worst and probably has a decent shot of being very good. Prediction: Kenny Omega

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Kota Ibushi

Joe Lanza: Oh hey, remember main eventer Hiroshi Tanahashi, the best wrestler in the world a couple of years ago? He never really went anywhere. Tanahashi is having a sneaky great 2017, Wrestler of the Year caliber in a normal year, and there is no reason that this bout shouldn’t be great and potentially crack the toughest Match of the Year list maybe ever. I’m beyond hyped for this, and waiting to see what kind of callbacks and counters they come up with for Ibushi’s new knee strike finish that put away Tanahashi in the G1. Prediction: Tanahashi

Rich Kraetsch: In contrast to the semi main event where I’m tempering expectations, my hype level for this match is through the roof. These two have low-key had one hell of a feud going on with small nuggets and breadcrumbs being inserted into their match with focused body part attacks and a two-faced “respect” amongst the two. When that bell rings, it’s going to be pure destruction. These are two of the smartest, thinking man wrestlers in the game and I fully expect to be taken on a roller coaster of emotions throughout. Their last two singles match in August 2016 and July 2015 were both *****-level matches and I see no reason this won’t match or exceed those previous encounters. Keep your Match of the Year spreadsheets and lists close by, you’ll be adding to them shortly. Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi

John Carroll: Tanahashi has quietly been having a hell of a year. You had the Naito trilogy, all of which were excellent matches (my personal favorite being the Dominion match, but really I could easily understand if you preferred one of the other two, as they were all that great); you had the feud with EVIL which produced some really good stuff, plus he was a big part of some super fun NEVER six-man title matches during that feud; and you had an excellent G1, filled with some really awesome matches (Tanahashi-Nagata might have been the most underrated match of the entire league). Really I’d say the only disappointment for Tanahashi this year was the IC title defense against Sabre at Destruction, but even so that’s a damn good track record for a 40-year-old man a lot of people were ready to write off last year. Meanwhile, Kota Ibushi has been exactly as good as you’d probably expect him to be: he also had an excellent G1, and one of his best matches was with Tanahashi, who he’s rematching with here. These two in a main event really has no excuse to be below ****1/2 level; anything else would be a big disappointment. Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi