New Japan Pro Wrestling
Fighting Spirit Unleashed
September 30, 2018
Long Beach Walter Pyramid

Watch: NJPW World/AXS TV (tape delay)

Meet our previewers

  • Joe Lanza: The LEADER of the hardcore wrestling intelligentsia, setting all of you dopes straight since 2012
  • Taylor Maimbourg: Taylor returns to his rightful spot at VOW as a member of the New Japan Preview Squad after spending a few months spreading his wings a bit. You can follow him on all social media @tamaimbo.
  • John Carroll: The stalwart midcard hand of the New Japan previews. Still running high on the pure excitement of the announcement of DDT’s American show. Follow them on Twitter at @toshanshuinla, check out their podcasts @wrestleomakase & @moonmakeupcast.

CHAOS (Roppongi 3K & Rocky Romero) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi & ACH

Joe: After watching Tiger Mask & Jushin Thunder Liger defeat El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru in an absolute banger of a match in Kobe, I am fired up for the junior tag league. It’s been whispered that ACH is working the next tour, which means Taguchi might just have his partner. Prediction: Liger, Taguchi, ACH

Taylor: ACH returns for his first match in New Japan since Best of the Super Juniors back at the beginning of June. Since his last match, there’s been a lot of speculation about whether he would return to join his former tag partner Taiji Ishimori in Bullet Club OG. This match seems to indicate he may reform Super 69 with Ryusuke Taguchi for the Junior Tag League, but don’t count out a mid-show heel turn (more on that later). On the other side of this match, Roppongi 3K and Rocky Romero enter this match hot off the shake-up of CHAOS at the last Destruction show. Rocky refused to give Jay White his chair during the beatdown of Okada, seemingly indicating he will stay on Okada’s side, but we haven’t heard yet from SHO and YOH on the matter. We’ve already seen one CHAOS manager go his own way, will this show make it two? Prediction: Jushin Thunder Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi and ACH

John: I would agree that Taguchi & ACH teaming here probably means the return of Super 69 in the Junior Tag League, which sounds cool with me. Here we’ve got a fun looking six-man tag opener, with Liger likely to be extremely over (as he almost always is in the US) and probably some comedy mixed in giving that Taguchi is involved. Of course where Roppongi 3K and Rocky stand in the CHAOS split could be a big story going forward, but I doubt we’ll get any kind of major development on that here. Prediction: Liger & Tiger & ACH

Hangman Page & Chase Owens vs. Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian

Joe: I’ve seen some complaints about this card, but there is very little filler and most of it looks like it could be very good. Take this match, which should be very good, even with the obvious finish of Chase Owens eating a fall. Prediction: SCU

Taylor: Daniels and Kazarian haven’t appeared in New Japan proper since World Tag League in 2015, but have seemingly carved out a niche for themselves on the New Japan US shows, having also appeared in a tag match back at Strong Style Evolved in March. They are a solid team, but because they appear so infrequently, it’s hard to feel any stakes in this match. Maybe Daniels and Kazarian pick up a victory to get themselves back into the World Tag League? There’s certainly room for them and they would be a better choice than some of the duds that have populated that tournament over the years. Prediction: Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian

John: Yeah I’m pretty solidly in “who cares” territory here. I understand that Daniels & Kazarian are working these shows primarily because they’re in SoCal and they’re SoCal Uncensored and all, but their frequent presence on these cards without ever going to Japan is a huge part of why they feel less than authentic as New Japan shows (don’t take my word for that though, ask Okada). If they would at least get another run in the World Tag League or something that would help (and maybe they will this year, who knows) because right now it just feels like they have nothing to do with New Japan and have no place on these cards. Anyway, I’m sure this match will be fine. Prediction: SCU

CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Best Friends) vs. Jeff Cobb, Chris Sabin & Flip Gordon

Joe: Like ACH & Taguchi, Sabin & Gordon could be another junior tag league team preview. But the most intriguing thing about this match is Cobb (who bizarrely feels like an Elgin surrogate on these USA shows) hoss’ing it up with Goto, and the potential CHAOS turmoil which could permeate every CHAOS bout on the show. Prediction: Cobb, Sabin, Flip

Taylor: Another CHAOS match, and another opportunity for some friction within the ranks. Beretta and Chuckie T are pretty tight with their friend Little Kazu and would be an odd choice to throw their lot in with the Switchblade, but Goto is an interesting one. Goto joined CHAOS in 2016 after repeated failed attempts at winning the IWGP Heavyweight Title. It was a slightly baffling move at the time, as it seems like an acknowledgment by Goto that he’d never be able to pull off the victory he so craved, and so he just gave up and become another cog in the machine of CHAOS. It appeared Goto would prove people wrong as he advanced all the way to the deciding match of the G1 before falling to Kenny Omega, but since then, Goto has been relegated to the NEVER title scene. A former Intercontinental Champion, Goto now has to look at where exactly he belongs. Since joining CHAOS, his career certainly hasn’t seen a resurgence, and joining up with Okada hasn’t really gotten him anything he couldn’t have achieved on his own. Maybe Jay White can get him to the place he thinks he belongs.

Oh yeah, and everyone’s favorite wrestler Flip Gordon is back. Prediction: Jeff Cobb, Chris Sabin and Flip Gordon

John: Goto is indeed one of several candidates in CHAOS to end up with Switchblade-gun/Evil CHAOS/whatever you wanna call it, as they’ll need a #2 general type and Goto could very easily fill that role. There’s another guy who I think is possible as well, but we’ll get to him later. Either way, I do expect at least a tease of dissension here. The gaijin team again feel like guys who don’t have much to do with New Japan, but at least they’ve all appeared this year even if they aren’t exactly regulars. Flip Gordon sucks ass. Prediction: Cobb & Sabin & Gordon

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA) vs. Suzukigun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Killer Elite Squad)

Joe: Stop dick teasing us with a Naito vs ZSJ feud and just give it to us already. Prediction: SZG

Taylor: I truly have no idea what’s going on with Tetsuya Naito. He seems to be an afterthought in his own unit, as this match seems mainly put together to push the brewing EVIL/Zack Sabre Jr. feud. I was OK with the decision to keep the belt off Naito at Wrestle Kingdom, but just about every move since then has absolutely baffled me. I suppose at the end of the match, Chris Jericho could come out and attack Naito to set up a match at Wrestle Kingdom, but after sitting through an unnecessary rehash of the Suzuki feud, why do I want to sit through an unnecessary rehash of the Jericho feud? Prediction: Zack Sabre Jr. and Killer Elite Squad

John: Taylor pretty much said exactly what I would have said, other than I was not at all OK with Naito losing at Wrestle Kingdom and I will go to my goddamn grave thinking that was one of the dumbest booking decisions in wrestling history. Anyway! I don’t know what we’re doing here. EVIL looked like he was going to be the next Jericho challenger, but now he’s busy with ZSJ. Naito looked like he was going to be feuding with ZSJ, but now ZSJ is busy with EVIL. Don’t ask me to explain what the fuck is going on here, other than the continued wasting of the most over guy in the company by a country mile. Prediction: Suzukigun

Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA vs. Jay White & Gedo

Joe: I’m pretty hyped for the debut of White & Gedo as a team. We’re probably headed towards a Tanahashi/White briefcase match, but I feel like White absorbing a high profile singles loss would be all wrong at this stage of his character development. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. As for this match, the finish intrigues me. At first glance, Gedo is the obvious choice to lose. Will White treat him like other CHAOS partners, uncaring as he gets pummeled and eats a pin? I can’t see that. With that said, they aren’t going to beat KUSHIDA in the middle of the junior title tournament. That means it’s entirely possible White pins Tanahashi put heat on the (presumed) upcoming case match. I’ll show some guts and go with that finish. Prediction: White & Gedo

Taylor: Lost in the hoopla over the chaos in CHAOS, Jay White made it pretty clear that he will be challenging Tanahashi for the Wrestle Kingdom briefcase. I would imagine that match will happen at King of Pro Wrestling, and I am starting to get another case of deja vu with White. I’m a big fan, but it seems like 2018 has been the year of big opportunities for Jay White that he hasn’t quite managed to nail. His last match against Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom was good, but not great. His US title opportunity against Kenny Omega was decisive, and then his G1 was a bit underwhelming. He just can’t quite seem to stick the landing. It seems like the logical direction would be for White to win the briefcase here, and we are quickly approaching the point where “good enough” won’t be good enough very soon. One thing that I’m sure will help is the addition of Gedo, who can now go back to the smarmy heel that he had to tone down as Okada moved from heel to company ace babyface. Prediction: Jay White and Gedo

John: I liked the Gedo turn a lot because he’s much better as a heel manager anyway and it definitely adds some juice to the Okada vs. White feud that now seems likely to go all the way to Wrestle Kingdom. There’s still a lot of big questions to answer, including whether anyone else from CHAOS will join White’s burgeoning Switchblade-gun, or even whether there will be a Switchblade-gun at all (I think it’s possible he and Gedo join up with the BULLET CLUB OGs instead, even though I think this would be a huge mistake). But the NJPW unit scene desperately needed a shakeup, so this is already a positive regardless of how it ultimately shakes out. Obviously, it looks like we’re building up White challenging Tanahashi for the briefcase here, maybe as soon as King of Pro Wrestling, and like my colleagues, I’m not sure another major loss is what Jay really needs right now but it seems like they’re kind of backed into a corner here. Either way, I’ll go with them and say White gets the surprise pin on Tanahashi to further set that up. Prediction: Jay White & Gedo

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship Tournament Semi Final
Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll

Joe: These two have never had a match anything less than great, and Will very clearly gets the best out of Party Marty. This is going to rock, and we’re getting another Will/KUSHIDA match down the road. Hard not to be excited.

BUT WAIT!

What if Will really is moving up to heavyweight? Is it possible he loses here? Nah. I could see him losing to KUSHIDA in the final, though. Prediction: Will Ospreay

Taylor: This will undoubtedly be a great match, but my interest is fairly low as I’m a bit taxed on the matchup and the outcome seems pretty obvious. This clearly was not the original plan as Hiromu’s injury threw the company a curveball, but looking at the horizon, not much is blowing me away. We’ll most likely get Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA at King of Pro Wrestling, but what comes at Wrestle Kingdom? The dream answer would probably be Ospreay vs. PAC, but looking within the division, there aren’t too many fresh matchups to put on a big show. I thought Ishimori would be that guy, but he seems to have faded into the background a bit and stuck in the Bullet Club vortex. Prediction: Will Ospreay

John: Yeah again, I’m sure the match will be good—I loved their match at Sakura Genesis despite usually not being a Scurll fan at all, they clearly have great chemistry together- but I don’t really feel much hype at the prospect of seeing it yet again. It just feels way overdone at this point. Then again, so does Ospreay-KUSHIDA, which is the most likely final. Hiromu going down with injury really made it clear just how stale this division really is, because he was the only thing keeping it interesting. Simply put we’ve seen all these guys face each other a million times, and neither an Ospreay or KUSHIDA reign would have much in the way of fresh matchups to look forward to. Hopefully whoever wins this can quickly transition the belt to a fresh heel champion, preferably either El Desperado or Taiji Ishimori. Prediction: Will Ospreay

IWGP Tag Team Championship
Young Bucks (c) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny

Joe: I don’t see any reason why the Bucks should retain here. They’ve committed to a Firing Squad mega push, and taking the tag titles off of The Elite is the next logical step in the story. The Bucks don’t have bad matches, so this will deliver bell-to-bell. Prediction: GOD

Taylor: Bullet Club OGs have been teasing “new recruits” for the last few weeks, and it seems like this would be the perfect spot to debut him, her or them. The Bucks should and most likely will lose the titles here, and adding another member would give a little juice to the interim before an inevitable rematch. Hopefully, once the group is fleshed out and a little more established, we’ll see a dial down of the non-stop interference that has plagued the BCOG matches since the G1. Prediction: Guerrillas of Destiny

John: I’m 100% onboard with the Guerrillas of Destiny winning the belts here, simply because it keeps Tama Tonga away from the New Japan singles heavyweight division. I don’t know if there’s anyone in wrestling right now who is simultaneously a pretty damn good tag worker and yet utterly horrendous as a singles wrestler to the degree that Tama is, but that’s where we’re at with him after a hideous G1. If the Bucks do drop the belts here this was pretty much the definition of a nothing title reign. Prediction: Guerrillas of Destiny

IWGP United States Championship
Juice Robinson (c) vs. Cody

Joe: I totally understand that many of our readers may not be particularly excited for this, but from a business perspective, New Japan would be nuts to not feature Cody in high profile bouts on these American shows. He’s a legitimate top draw, and it wouldn’t be the worst idea to strap him up with the United States title. It wouldn’t hurt Juice at all to lose this. Prediction: Cody

Taylor: Cody has gotten a much-deserved rest over the last month since All In, but one drawback has been that the build for this match has been non-existent. This match will be an interesting test for Juice. In the past, Juice’s best matches have tended to be with some of the best wrestlers in the company. He’s had to bring his A-game, but he’s had more than capable partners on multiple occasions. Across from Cody, he will probably need to find another gear to ensure that this match hits Juice’s usual level. Also, Cody is NWA Champion, and the finish may give us some indication of where Cody and the NWA think their heavyweight title falls in the pecking order of the larger wrestling world. Prediction: Cody

John: I’m gonna laugh and laugh and laugh when this match ends up being better (maybe significantly better) than that horrendous Kenny vs. Cody IWGP Heavyweight title match from the last US show. Anyway! I understand why this is happening, pretty much what Joe said, but I couldn’t give less of a crap. The decision to introduce the United States title is one of New Japan’s bigger recent blunders, as the belt means less than nothing while it passes from white guy to white guy to white guy. I guess it’s probably Cody’s turn next. Good for him. Prediction: Cody

Golden☆Lovers vs. Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii

Joe: There are two arguments that really show someone’s hand in terms of dated New Japan critique. One, is that the junior tag division isn’t booked well. This hasn’t been true for about a year, since R3K returned from excursion, with R3K providing an anchor to the division, Despy & Kanemaru in the midst of a cool title reign, and an expanded junior tag tournament booked for the fall.

The second criticism that has been smashed to bits this year is that New Japan doesn’t feature all-star tag bouts. Not true at all in 2018, where earlier this year The Golden Lovers (listen, I don’t know how to type that cool star symbol) took on the Young Bucks in a dream match, two consecutive Korakuens on the Destruction tour were headlined by high powered main event tag matches (including a killer Golden Lovers vs Ishii & Will Ospreay match) and now this surprise main event for Long Beach that nobody saw coming. Many people smell a CHAOS angle here, and it wouldn’t shock me at all, but I don’t want to overthink it. This looks like a killer match, and any post-match happenings will be a bonus. Prediction: Golden Lovers

Taylor: This certainly was a surprise. This is another match that will have the spectre of the CHAOS dispute hanging over it, but in the main event spot and with these four guys, I’m positive it will be a barn burner regardless of whether the match ends in a surprise. I’ll also be keeping my eyes on the Golden Lovers. It seems like we have now moved past the first phase of the Golden Lovers story, and I’m waiting to see what happens in the second phase. I, like many people, felt like both Omega and Ibushi were holding back in their G1 Climax match, which seems to indicate another match down the road, but I’m not sure when that happens. I think with the CHAOS action taking center stage here, the Golden Lovers might just be along for the ride on this one, but I think something will break soon with the both of them. Prediction: Golden Lovers

John: As I broke down on Twitter when this match was announced, I think there’s a non-zero chance that Tomohiro Ishii is turning on Kazuchika Okada either during or after this match to side with Switchblade-gun. It would make a lot of sense in that Ishii has a ready-made motivation (“why did you never give me a title shot after I beat you in the G1, fucker?”), would be a great #2 general for a theoretical new White unit, and would give Okada a hell of a match at Power Struggle before he gets to Jay at Wrestle Kingdom. I’ve seen some people argue that Ishii is too sympathetic to be a true heel now, and while I don’t really agree (he’s been an effective heel before and it’s not like New Japan fans don’t just cheer for heels when they feel like it anyway) I could understand where people are coming from there. Whether it’s Goto or Ishii, I do feel strongly that at least one other major guy in CHAOS should turn on Okada and side with White, so we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, this surprise match almost single-handedly saves the card here. In addition to the fact that it will likely be a hell of a match, it’s the most authentic New Japan-feeling main event we’ve had on one of these US cards by far. Everyone in this match is a New Japan regular (even Ibushi has appeared on a lot more cards this year than someone like Cody or the Young Bucks) and this just feels more like a real NJPW match than anything else we’ve gotten so far. Anyway, I think it seems pretty obvious that the Golden Lovers are winning this match and Ibushi is challenging Omega for King of Pro Wrestling. We’ll see if anything else comes of it when it comes to Okada and CHAOS, or if that will wait for now. Prediction: Golden Lovers