NJPW 46th Anniversary Show
March 6, 2018
Higashikamata, Ota-ku, Tokyo
Ota City General Gymnasium

Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers:

  • John Carroll: John is filling this out absurdly early because they’ll be in Spain by the time you read this. Believe it or not this is their first trip to Europe, and yes they’ve been to Japan twice already, thanks for asking. Follow their Twitter @toshanshuinla for the continuing tales of A Weeb In Barcelona.
  • Taylor Maimbourg: Now that the Winter Olympics have come to a close, Taylor feels an emptiness inside of himself, and the only way to fill that emptiness is returning to preview another New Japan show. If you like what he has to say here, follow him on Twitter @tamaimbo where he talks almost exclusively about non-New Japan promotions.
  • Rich Kraetsch: The face that runs the place. Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast co-host. Managing editor. Spends far too much time learning about databases and trying to fix broken parts of the website instead of writing previews. Follow him on Twitter @voiceswrestling.

Ryusuke Taguchi/KUSHIDA/Tiger Mask/Jushin Thunder Liger/Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Ren Narita/Tetsuhiro Yagi/Shota Umino/Tomoyuki Oka/Yuji Nagata

John Carroll: I’m here for this kind of opener, with the young boys getting lead into battle against a mix of old guys and slightly less old guys by their trainer Yuji Nagata. There’s really no good reason why this can’t be super fun, especially given the quality of the current batch of NJ young lions. Expect the crowd to be super into it, too. Prediction: Tenzan/Liger/TMIV/KUSHIDA/Taguchi

Taylor Maimbourg: With Kawato and soon Kitamura moving on to excursion, this match feels like the start of the new era of Young Lions, with Umino and Oka now at the head of the class and Narita and Yagi moving up and hopefully getting some more solid opportunities in matches like this. The outcome hardly seems in doubt as it is almost guaranteed that one of the young lions will be pinned, but it might be a good idea to start giving Liger some victories as he prepares to face Rey Mysterio at Long Beach at the end of the month. Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi/KUSHIDA/Tiger Mask/Jushin Thunder Liger/Hiroyoshi Tenzan

Rich Kraetsch: I worked myself into a shoot again this year hoping and praying that the opener would be a collection of older, non-normal NJPW veterans, old freelancers or something to make the anniversary show feel connected to NJPW’s history. Alas, we get a random collection of old guys and New Japan veterans vs. Yuji Nagata and his children. It’s fine but as the lone nostalgic trip on a show celebrating the company’s 46th anniversary it feels hollow. Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi/KUSHIDA/Tiger Mask/Jushin Thunder Liger/Hiroyoshi Tenzan

Katsuya Kitamura “Best of Seven Series” 7th Match
Manabu Nakanishi vs. Katsuya Kitamura

John Carroll: They kind of tried to set up Kitamura getting a second shot at Nakanishi in one of the post-match interviews, but even there it just came off as Nakanishi just saying “Yeah, uh, I’m gonna give Kitamura another shot at me, for some reason.” I assume this is how the series was always supposed to end, since the last Nakanishi match only happened because Kojima got hurt and they needed a last minute replacement, but it’s kind of weird they wouldn’t change this one too and let Kitamura have a different opponent. Well, whatever. I get it. Kitamura is the new school Nakanishi so that’s how the series has to end. Let’s hope his visa troubles have been taken care of so we can get that excursion started after this is over. Prediction: Manabu Nakanishi

Taylor Maimbourg: I’ve enjoyed the Best of the Seven Series, as Kitamura has shown flashes of potential in almost every match he’s had, but doubling up on Manabu Nakanishi seems like an indicator that this is the perfect time for it to come to an end. I think Kitamura has reached his ceiling in New Japan, and I’m excited to see how he improves and grows as he heads out for excursion. As for Nakanishi, he actually has an All-Asia tag title challenge in All Japan at the end of the month, so maybe a victory over Kitamura propels him to new heights?  Eh, probably not.  Prediction: Manabu Nakanishi

Rich Kraetsch: He’s going to do it, guys. Kitamura is going to get that big win on his final trial match. Okay, probably not but I still that would be the best move especially given his opponent. The story of him scouting Nakanishi after their first match, using what he learned from the other six matches and leaving for excursion victorious would be super cool. Alas, they won’t do it and he’ll lose here. Darn. Prediction: Manabu Nakanishi

Toa Henare/David Finlay/Juice Robinson vs. CHAOS (Toru Yano/Tomohiro Ishii/Hirooki Goto)

John Carroll: Four of the six men here are coming off some pretty damn good performances on the Honor Rising shows. David Finlay is a case study in how to get someone more over by losing; even though all he’s really done in the past month+ is more jobs to Jay White, it’s given him more of a sense of purpose than any victories over young lions could have. His promos have been good as well in establishing his character as the classic underdog who won’t give up, which is a much better character than his previous one, “guy with a bad look who loses a lot of wrestling matches”. Either he or Henare will probably be losing another one here. Prediction: CHAOS

Taylor Maimbourg: Any match that features Toa Henare across the ring from Tomohiro Ishii will definitely have my attention. They have great chemistry (at this point, who doesn’t with Ishii) and even though I find Henare’s look to be a little too 80’s WCCW for my tastes, he’s shown that he can go in the ring with the best New Japan has to offer. Finlay and Robinson had a great showing at the Honor Rising shows, and they have definitely been added to my list of teams I wouldn’t mind getting a shot at the tag team titles somewhere down the line. The CHAOS team will easily pick up the win here, but I’m not sure if it will mean anything, as Ishii and Yano have been on a hot streak the last month or so with seemingly no benefits or extra opportunities thrown their way. Prediction: CHAOS

Rich Kraetsch: Count me in for anything that continues the subtle but awesome Henare vs. Ishii feud. For those who haven’t kept track Henare has been going after Tomohiro Ishii and anyone with a brain knows that’s a bad idea. He keeps trying to get at him, poke, prod and eventually Ishii is going to snap and kill that little child. It’s a fun micro feud hidden on NJPW multi-man tag undercards but it’s been fascinating to see play out. Overall, really, this match has a lot to love. David Finlay finally feels like he has direction again. Juice Robinson has become a valuable commodity to the roster and, hey, uh, Yano wrestles for NJPW too! Prediction: CHAOS



IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Roppongi 3k © vs. Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI vs. El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

John Carroll: When this match got announced I think a lot of people were surprised that it wasn’t R3K vs. Desperado & Kanemaru straight up, given that they had been working a program for weeks that culminated in Despy & Kanemaru winning a non-title match at the New Beginning in Osaka show, and I have to admit that I was pretty surprised as well. However, whether you like the addition of Hiromu & BUSHI to the match or not, it’s not as nonsensical as it first appears. You see, a few days later at the (untelevised) New Japan Road show in Okinawa, BUSHI pinned YOH in a six-man tag team main event (Okada & R3K vs. SANADA/Hiromu/BUSHI). Though not a straight 2 vs. 2 junior tag like the one Despy & Kanemaru won, it’s still a direct pinfall win over 1/2 of the champions, which is justification for adding them to the title match. I know people don’t like it when NJPW does these multi-way tags, but I think the real problem isn’t doing them at all, it’s overdoing them. The last time we had a multi-way tag for the junior tag titles was, believe it or not, 6/19/16, when the Young Bucks defeated the champions Sydal & Ricochet as well as RPG Vice and reDRagon. Yes, the last multi-way junior tag match involves a team that are now heavyweights, a team that is 1/2 in WWE and the other half banned from ever appearing in Japan again because he’s an idiot, a team that’s 1/2 heavyweight (and injured!) and the other half a manager (of the current champions!) who only occasionally wrestles, and a team that is now doing an earned run average gimmick in the fed or some shit. Yeah, it’s been a while. So as long as they don’t get into the habit of doing these all the time again, I’m okay with bringing it back every once in a blue moon. Anyway, as far as winners I have no idea here. Could easily see any of the three teams winning, so I’m gonna go with my heart and hope Hiromu & BUSHI get the belts, kicking off a long feud with R3K. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI

Taylor Maimbourg: Before I talk about this match, let’s talk a moment to mourn for Taka Michinoku. He’s a talented wrestler, and yet when it comes to these Suzukigun tag title matches, he seems to fall behind Desperado and Kanemaru. In the last four years, TAKA has had one junior tag title opportunity. Desperado and Kanemaru won the titles a year ago, defended them, lost them and got to challenge AGAIN all in the span of one year. To make matters worse, with Taichi moving up to the heavyweight ranks, we might not see another TAKA title match for quite a long time. As for the match itself, I go back and forth over the preponderance of three ways tags in New Japan, but at least this one is fairly well built, with both challenger teams getting wins over the champions in previous weeks. In a situation like this I would usually default to the champions winning, but I could SHO and YOH losing the belts to LIJ here to set up a 2 v 2 match down the line, maybe at Strong Style Evolved. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi and BUSHI

Rich Kraetsch: There is absolutely no reason or justification for Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI being in this match (John did a decent job of laying it out but, I don’t know, still feels too forced for my tastes) Yet despite the lack of reasoning, I’m going to agree with my other previewers in that they are leaving as the champions. Matches and booking like this are why the division continues to flounder despite having elite level talent throughout. The match will still be good, no doubt, but any two vs. two combination featuring these three teams would be better. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI

YOSHI-HASHI vs. SANADA

John Carroll: This was originally scheduled to be a tag match but injuries to SANADA’s partner EVIL mean that we get the resumption of the SANADA-YOSHI saga instead. I would honestly really hate to see SANADA go from main eventing with Okada (in a pretty awesome match) to jobbing to YOSHI-HASHI, but sadly I think that’s the most likely scenario, if only to set up some tag title challengers for whenever EVIL is ready to go again. Match should be fine but after YOSHI really failed to step up against Naito last month, I’m kinda over him, at least for now. Prediction: YOSHI-HASHI

Taylor Maimbourg: It’s a bummer to miss out on the planned tag title match, but there’s not much you can do about injuries, and this match looks like a pretty fun replacement. Hopefully this match is a throwback to their mini-feud which I really enjoyed. YOSHI-HASHI doesn’t have a fantastic reputation, but for a midcarder who doesn’t win much, he puts on high quality matches that never leave me disappointed. I don’t know or remember how long EVIL is going to be out for, but that may determine who wins this matchup. If EVIL is coming back relatively soon, YOSHI-HASHI might win this match so when they’re able to run the previously planned match there’s some extra juice. If EVIL is going to be out for a while or LIJ has to vacate the tag titles, I think SANADA wins to rebound from his loss to Okada last month. Prediction: YOSHI-HASHI

Rich Kraetsch: For reasons beyond explanation YOSHI-HASHI and SANADA have incredible chemistry with one another and often produce their best work when wrestling one another. It’s one of the great mysteries of the world. I’m surprised to see so many people think YOSHI-HASHI has a chance at winning this match. SANADA (for the time being) is a heavyweight (tag) champion and much higher on the pecking order than TACOS. SANADA takes this one easily. Prediction: SANADA

Tetsuya Naito vs. Taichi

John Carroll: Here’s a match that was seemingly booked for me personally: the greatest wrestler in the world vs. one of my personal faves (and my actual husband). I don’t know what I did to deserve this kind of blessing, but I’m extremely grateful. For those unaware of the backstory here, there’s actually quite a lot of it: Taichi challenged Naito to a match in January at TAKATAICHIMANIA, the Korakuen independent show he & longtime partner TAKA Michinoku put on (a great show if you missed it, by the way; it features everything from the aforementioned Naito-Taichi match, which I went **** on, to a crazy Jun Kasai vs. Takashi Iizuka brawl that had to be called off when both men PULLED KNIVES ON EACH OTHER and were about to SLIT EACH OTHER’S THROATS). Naito not only beat Taichi in the main event of his own show, but he sort of humiliated him afterward, stating that he was never going to appear on another TAKATAICHIMANIA show again (yes, it’s a whole series of shows) and that Taichi was being lazy by not moving up to heavyweight despite being as big as he is. Indeed, anyone who watched it would probably think it was absurd that Taichi, who looked both taller and heavier than Naito, was a junior heavyweight while his opponent was a heavyweight. Taichi began openly considering the idea of moving up, and for a solid month in post-match promos on NJPW shows challenged Naito to a rematch so he could return the favor and embarrass HIM in a New Japan ring this time. Naito, of course, did what you’d probably expect him to: completely ignore Taichi. Finally, Taichi got tired of being ignored and attacked Naito from behind at the New Beginning in Osaka show with his trademark microphone, brawling with him all the way into the back. Though after Taichi was finished with his beating, Naito hilariously just got up off the ground and made his way over to the press area to go on with his post-match interview. Later, he complained that NJPW was wasting his time and instead of making him wrestle both YOSHI-HASHI and Taichi, the promotion should have made them fight each other for the right to face him. That’s the attitude he’ll be taking into this match at the Anniversary Show; just like with YOSHI-HASHI, it will be up to Taichi to prove to Naito he deserves his undivided attention. I have to say, I’m pretty pumped for this. And regardless of the result here, Taichi will move straight from here into his first ever New Japan Cup, as his step up to heavyweight continues with none other than Hiroshi Tanahashi in the first round. I don’t care if anyone else on earth is happy about this turn of events, because I sure am. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

Taylor Maimbourg: About a year ago at this time, at New Japan’s 45th Anniversary, Suzukigun won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles with constant interference from Taichi. I remember discussing with friends that I was certain to vote Taichi for Worst Wrestler of the Year at the end of the year. All he seemed to do was interfere in matches I liked and ruin them. What was the point?  And then, in August, he had a pretty great match against Yuma Aoyagi in All Japan. And I started to really enjoy his matches in New Japan. Finally, he had a great match with Naito at TAKATAICHIMANIA and I realized all the sudden that I really liked Taichi! I am really excited for this match. A motivated, new heavyweight Taichi against Tetsuya Naito sounds exactly like the type of match that could steal the whole show. I’m not really sure how this match ends, but either way, I’m excited to see where Taichi goes from here. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

Rich Kraetsch: The other two previews will do a better job of selling it because despite having a decent 2017, I’m still not a Taichi guy. He’s fine but I find myself rolling my eyes at him far more than being excited about his work. …He’s fine. In general though, I’m excited to see Taichi make a move to heavyweight and hope (dear god please) that he drops the interference trope that’s bogged down so many of his NJPW matches and takes on a totally different persona as he moves to heavyweight. No, the singing and the babes don’t have to go but there are several small aspects of his character that can and should be tweaked to make him a much more credible, plausible and enjoyable NJPW heavyweight. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Minoru Suzuki © vs. Togi Makabe

John Carroll: The little Suzuki-Makabe feud that’s been going on for the past month and a half was another example of solid NJPW booking: babyface ex-bad ass (although hilariously in one of his promos Makabe actually made fun of the idea that he was a babyface) who hasn’t been doing much decides he wants to stand up to the bully heel champion, bully heel champion doesn’t take him seriously for a while (Suzuki basically told him to go back to his TV spots before he got hurt!), babyface has to earn a title shot and eventually does so. It’s simple stuff, but it’s executed so well that by the time we’re finally here and ready for what’s really a B-tier title match on a B-tier show, I think a lot of us are actually kind of hyped for it! But with that said, I don’t think the result is really in doubt. Suzuki isn’t going to be dropping the IC belt to Makabe, especially not when I think there’s a good chance Hiroshi Tanahashi is winning the NJ Cup. Tanahashi in his press conference announcing his return was already teasing the idea that he’ll have to choose between trying to stop Okada from tying his record for most IWGP Heavyweight Title defenses in one reign or going for revenge against the man who took him out and took his IC belt, so obviously that set-up would be gone if Makabe won here. Suzuki should retain but expect a hot crowd and maybe a better match than you might at first think. Prediction: Minoru Suzuki

Taylor Maimbourg: Back in 2015, Tomohiro Ishii and Togi Makabe traded the NEVER title in a series of matches that I thought at one point would never end. The endless feud was my least favorite part of New Japan at the time, and at it’s conclusion I was hopeful that I wouldn’t be seeing Makabe near the NEVER title any time soon. Not only has he not been in the NEVER title scene, he hasn’t been in any singles title scene for three years. Now he returns, and his challenge feels really fresh to me and I’m excited to see this match. Titles are obviously the long game for most wrestlers, but there is something to be said for just letting refresh themselves outside of title pictures for a while. The match result isn’t in doubt, but I’ll still enjoy getting to see Makabe flip the double birds in a big spot once again. Prediction: Minoru Suzuki

Rich Kraetsch: While it’s been quite a while since Makabe was a central figure in the NEVER Openweight division the scars are still there. This match announcement gave many veteran NJPW fans PTSD and rightfully so, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. It has nothing to do with Makabe or his contributions (he could disappear tomorrow and I doubt I would even notice). But everything to do with Minoru Suzuki who has a legit, bonafide case as Wrestler of the Year so far in 2018. The year is young and I’m sure others will emerge but Suzuki has been on fire starting with his match against Goto at Wrestle Kingdom. If he keeps it up and drags something good out of Makabe the WOTY conversation becomes less of a small sample size tidbit and a legit, real case we’re going to have to start making. Prediction: Minoru Suzuki

Anniversary Day Special Singles Match
Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay

John Carroll: It’s the return of a proud anniversary show tradition! Though it’s been a few years since we’ve done this, the IWGP Heavyweight vs. Jr. Heavyweight match at the anniversary show has seen such clashes as Okada vs. Ibushi and Tanahashi vs. Devitt. This year, it’s Okada taking on his own CHAOS unit mate, Will Ospreay. Now, I know both guys have their detractors, and frankly I’m not always as high on either one of them as some of the other people on this website are either, but I still think that no matter what you think of them, this is a super interesting matchup. It’s two guys who have very different styles in some ways but in others are actually very similar, and it should result in an extremely unique match that has the potential to be very good. Of course, with all that said, the result ain’t exactly in doubt here either. From a storyline perspective, maybe the most interesting point about this match is how Jay White has taken Okada booking it as proof that he agrees with him that CHAOS members should be allowed to fight each other….. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Taylor Maimbourg: This is going to be a fantastic match, and if you’re reading this preview, you most likely already know that, so I’m going to skip that and think about what this match might mean for the future of New Japan and CHAOS. It would be pretty easy for New Japan have Okada and Ospreay go out and have an entertaining match, shake hands and head out as friends, but something in the back of my mind makes me feel that this is step one in a bigger plan. We know Ospreay can be competitive, so what if he shakes off a hand shake at the end of the match?  Does that start to erode the trust of CHAOS?  Then, less than a week later, the New Japan Cup kicks off. It’s an interesting field, but the count of true contenders seems pretty low. Tanahashi and Ibushi stick out, but what about Ishii?  CHAOS hasn’t gone against each other in title matches, but does this match open the door for Ishii’s challenge?  Maybe he wins the Cup and Okada thinks he’ll challenge for the Intercontinental Title, but changes his minds and challenges Okada. Another crack. Add in the always conniving Jay White and you’ve got a recipe for true chaos (pun most definitely intended). Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Rich Kraetsch: One of my favorite NJPW traditions returns once again for the Anniversary show: Heavyweight vs. Junior in the match event. I hadn’t picked up on this being a yearly tradition until it was announced this year but when you look back at the history of this match type it has produced absolute greatness each and every time. The three most prominent: Okada vs. Tiger Mask W, Okada vs. Tig…Kota Ibushi and Tanahashi vs. Devitt are among my favorite NJPW matches in recent memory. Now you’ve giving me Will Ospreay vs. Kazuchika Okada? Oh you spoil us, Gedo. Regardless of your opinion on Ospreay, you can’t deny the effort he puts into each and every match. When Young Will knows it’s a big moment he brings the “A Game”, gives 110%, insert whatever cliche you want just know that Ospreay will not let this moment slip through his fingers. Ospreay understands this is the biggest match and potentially biggest moment of his career so far. An impressive performance against Okada got him a job with NJPW and another one could cement him as a roster regular. Ospreay never lets a moment like this pass by without bringing something special to the table. I’m salivating at what he’s going to bust out. Oh yeah and Kazuchika Okada is pretty good too. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada