New Japan Pro Wrestling
King of Pro-Wrestling
October 8, 2018
Tokyo – Ryōgoku Kokugikan
Watch: NJPW World
Meet our previewers
- Ryan Glaspell: Part-time VOW contributor. Full-time Taguchi Japan fanatic. Follow me on Twitter: @RyGenerico
- Joel Abraham: Super J-Cast co-host and purveyor of fine t-shirts. These will make you a goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus. For NJPW-related tweets: @thesuperjcast. For videos of my cat, Scampi: @joeljabraham
- John Carroll: Host of Wrestling Omakase (@wrestleomakase), the premier galaxy brain podcast of the VOW network, and also Moon Makeup (@moonmakeupcast), the premier Sailor Moon rewatch podcast of the entire planet earth (yeah I said it, screw that other one I found that I never actually listened to!). You can follow me on Twitter @toshanshuinla if you want aggressively awful garbage, and who doesn’t?
IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships
El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru © vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask IV
Ryan: This will be the first time these titles are contested in almost four months. While there hasn’t been a whole lot of shine placed on these belts as of late, I enjoy the lack of hot potato-ing that has occurred. Despy and Kanemaru are a despicable heel team that could easily be beat by the junior tag league winners. I could also see Liger and TMIV winning the titles and being interstitial champs for Taiji Ishimori and his unknown partner to usurp. I’m going to go with my preference here. Prediction: Despy & Kanemaru
Joel: This seems like a filler defence for Nobu and Despy. Their match at Destruction in Kobe was really good with the grumpy veterans v cheating heel pricks dynamic, so this should be a fine opener to the show. I expect the champions to retain to give them a bit of shine going into the tag league. Prediction: Despy & Kanemaru
John: If you’re gonna do a filler defense, do a fun one at least. Liger & Tiger haven’t had a title shot since losing to the Timesplitters (KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley, for you youngins out there) at Korakuen Hall on March 3rd, 2013, so you definitely can’t say they aren’t fresh challengers. And even though they’ve both been around forever and they’ve been teaming for quite a while now too, amazingly they’ve only held these titles once: a brief reign in 2012 where they beat the Suzukigun team of Taichi & TAKA Michinoku on June 16th to win the vacant belts only to turn right around and lose them in their very first defense to Forever Hooligans (again, that’s Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov for you newbs in the audience) on July 22nd. So anyway, I’m into this blast from the past here. I don’t think there’s any real chance Liger & Tiger win, but at least the title challenge gives them some juice heading into their likely participation in the Super Junior Tag League that kicks off just 8 days later. Prediction: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Juice Robinson & Toa Henare vs. Great Bash Heel
Ryan: It seems like we are going to start seeing more traditional two-on-two tag matches to give teams some juice (pun mostly intended) heading into World Tag League. I respect Honma’s work ethic to return to the ring, but I would rather him retire than risk killing himself by putting on **1/2 matches. I really don’t have any interest in him and an aging Makabe taking momentum away from two younger guys. With that said, I can’t help but think Henare’s got a King Kong knee drop awaiting him. Prediction: Makabe & Honma
Joel: I still have serious reservations about Honma being back in the ring, given that he still doesn’t seem to have full control of the left side of his body and his arm just seems to hang there. Putting that to one side, I assume the intention here is to give what’s left of Great Bash Heel a win to give them some all-important momentum leading to World Tag League. I expect Juice to be teaming with Finlay by the time WTL comes around, but I believe Finlay’s booked for a CMLL show this weekend. Henare’s eating a pin here. Prediction: Makabe & Honma
John: This is a really unfortunate who cares type match for a show that’s supposed to be as big as this one. I get that we’re really padding out the undercards of King of Pro Wrestling and Sakura Genesis these days and that the only true “supercards” left in New Japan are Wrestle Kingdom & Dominion, but even with that caveat, this is still a spectacularly boring looking match. Juice’s US Title reign was an absolute joke and a great example of the booking letting down one of the company’s hardest workers. Seriously, what was even the point? Why bother having him beat Jay White just to turn around and lose nonstop in the G1 and then lose the belt in his very first defense to a part-timer? Just awful. Anyway, I guess Henare is getting pinned here. Who on earth could possibly care? Prediction: GBH
BULLET CLUB Elite (Young Bucks & Hangman Page & Chase Owens) vs. BULLET CLUB OG (Bad Luck Fale & Guerrillas of Destiny & Taiji Ishimori)
Ryan: The Bucks were able to get a pretty good match out of GoD at Long Beach. Throw in Owens, Page, and Ishimori, and you’ve got the makings for a good match. However, with the talent vacuum that Fale is, and the fact that multi-man BC OG matches usually suck, I’m led to believe this is going to be ripe with shenanigans. Hopefully, we get a fun surprise and find out who the Tongans are bringing in to the fold. Prediction: BC OGs.
Joel: This match should be a lot of fun. 8-man tag Fale is a Fale I can enjoy, while everybody else can bring the speed and the workrate. It’s interesting to note that Taiji still doesn’t have a partner for the Super Junior Tag League, so perhaps we get this mystery partner making an appearance here. Prediction: BC OGs
John: The worst feud in wrestling of 2018 meanders on. It boggles my mind that people can bother shit talking the LIJ-Suzukigun feud, which at least produces some fun multi-man tags most of the time and actually gets consistent crowd reactions out of the Japanese fans, when the dumb fucking BULLET CLUB civil war has basically been going in one way or another for going on eight months now (dating back to Cody turning on Kenny in February). The Japanese fans don’t really care about anything related to this unless it involves the Golden Lovers, so I expect them to be nice and quiet for this one once again. Is there even any endpoint here? The OGs have now taken both the heavyweight tag titles and the NEVER six-man titles from the Elite, which maybe you could just take as them having won the feud, but here we are right back at it again on this show anyway. I hope to god this is building to some kind of big blow off, like a “rights to the BULLET CLUB name” multi-man tag at Wrestle Kingdom or something, because I’m sick as hell of this feud and I want it to be over. It’s the worst feud in New Japan and maybe the worst in all of wrestling this year (only Ciampa-Gargano is any real competition for me, off the top of my head). Anyway, obviously Chase is getting pinned. Prediction: BC OGs
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii & Will Ospreay) vs. Suzukigun (Minoru Suzuki & Taichi & Takashi Iizuka)
Ryan: I hope this is short and features as little of Iizuka as possible. I hope Will sets his sights on Taichi. I hope Goto and Ishii become a tag team. Prediction: Suzukigun
Joel: Like Ryan, I’m hoping Will gets a pin over Taichi to set up a NEVER title match. He might even win and then defend his title against Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom! Prediction: CHAOS
John: It’s very weird how little news or movement we’ve gotten out of CHAOS since Gedo turned on Okada to side with White. No one else has really said anything about it as far as I can tell, and the unit has just kind of staggered along. There’s really no issue here to speak of in this match, so you would think this is about setting up a future challenger for Taichi’s NEVER Openweight Title. Goto looks to be busy challenging for the ROH TV Title despite having no grasp on what that belt actually is (he just knows that Jeff Cobb held a belt in front of his face at Fighting Spirit Unleashed this past week, which made him want it), so that would seem to preclude him from going for revenge on Taichi (and honestly he needs a break from the NEVER title anyway after being involved with it off-and-on for nearly two years, so I’m fine with that). That leaves either Ishii or Ospreay as options. It could really be either one, but given all the teases lately of Ospreay going heavyweight and Taichi originally stating that he would like to defend the belt exclusively against juniors if he won it, my money’s on them setting up Taichi vs. Young William for Power Struggle next month, continuing a slow build to his elevation. Prediction: CHAOS
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano & Roppongi 3K) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA & BUSHI & X)
Ryan: This match only exists to reveal who “X” is. The question mark of who the new LIJ member is makes this an intriguing affair. It will also be interesting to see the interplay between Okada and Naito. Maybe I’m suffering from memory loss, but they haven’t interacted much at all since their Wrestle Kingdom match. LIJ have to win here. Prediction: LIJ
Joel: Give me Shingo Takagi pinning YOH to set up Shingo & BUSHI’s entry into the Super Junior Tag League and run to the final. It’s the shot in the arm that LIJ desperately needs. Prediction: LIJ
John: Really excited for Okada and Naito to get by far the biggest reaction of this show for a big showdown and make it clear to everyone that they should be main eventing the Tokyo Dome again! Anyway, yeah, I’m with Joel: I really, really hope the X is Shingo. Starting him out as a junior in New Japan is fine, he’s a little big for it but no bigger than Taichi or Omega were when they were juniors in the recent past, and like them there’s no law that says you can’t move him up down the line anyway. Shingo would be awesome, PAC seems to have little chance now that he just returned to DG but he would still be cool on the off chance it happens, Dragon Lee would be really cool as well (he’s apparently stuck on an island now). Maybe YOH turns on his CHAOS mates or something, who knows! Pretty much any of the widely discussed names I would be cool with except for Austin Aries. Just…..no. Prediction: LIJ
EVIL vs. Zack Sabre Jr
Ryan: The ever so subtle despondence that lingered in EVIL’s shadowy eyes after losing to ZSJ in multi-man matches has me all in on this match. I have seen others brush this off as a way for EVIL to get to Jericho, but I don’t think that’s a certainty. It seems a bit strange for ZSJ to take a loss here, as he’s been groomed pretty well this year as a major league contender in the heavyweight division. But I want to see EVIL vanquish that handsome, vegan prick.
This match gets lost in the card, but I think it has the potential to be one of the best matches of the night. EVIL is powerful. ZSJ is cunning. EVIL is downtrodden. ZSJ is cocky. I’m not confident that we will get through this match without some sort of angle taking place, and I don’t have a feel for who is going to win. EVIL either vindicates himself, or his downward spiral continues. Maybe we see Jericho? Prediction: EVIL
Joel: I would also be expecting some kind of Jericho interference, perhaps leading to a no-contest. Like Ryan, I wouldn’t necessarily want either guy taking a loss. Gun to my head, I’m picking EVIL because he needs a win more than ZSJ does, with Jericho doing a post-match beatdown to set up Jericho v EVIL for Power Struggle, and Jericho v Naito for Wrestle Kingdom. Prediction: EVIL
John: Yeah, in hindsight now I guess this weird EVIL-ZSJ feud was all about stalling for time so you could save EVIL-Jericho for Power Struggle, which unless Omega bucks the recent trend of heavyweight champions at the event and defends his belt there (there hasn’t been an IWGP Heavyweight title match at Power Struggle since Okada defended against Karl Anderson at the 2013 version), would probably be your main event. It doesn’t exactly make EVIL look like he’s heading into that major match strong to get pinned repeatedly in tags, but I suppose you can make up for most of that with a good, definitive win over ZSJ here. Prediction: EVIL
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship Tournament Final
KUSHIDA vs. Marty Scurll
Ryan: The two least popular contenders (according to a poll ran by NJPW) are in the finals of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Tournament. While that is a bit perplexing, at least this is somewhat of a fresh match. This will be their fourth singles match, and only their second in New Japan. Scurll can be plugged into multi-man comedy matches or high stakes main events and make it work. KUSHIDA is the Tanahashi of the junior division. Even when he’s not holding the belt, everyone knows he’s the ace.
Scurll feels like an on and off commodity in New Japan. He comes in when he’s called, but his wrestling identity isn’t biologically linked to this company. KUSHIDA, on the other hand, is New Japan through and through. With Ospreay peeking around the corner at Ibushi and others, KUSHIDA may not be getting his exit of the junior division anytime soon. Therefore, he should reclaim his throne as the junior ace, and rule with a taped fist until a successor arrives. He can put on killer matches and hold the belt in a dignified manner. Prediction: KUSHIDA
Joel: These two met during the Best of the Super Juniors in a match that I remember enjoying, and featured some clever continuity with Marty injuring KUSHIDA’s fingers, forcing him to improvise with his finishing moves. I’ve yet to see Marty have a really good match in NJPW without Will Ospreay, so this will be interesting to see whether he can deliver here without all the comedy schtick. Kushy seems the safe pick, but I can’t rule out the possibility of having another gaijin champion. That said, I’m going with KUSHIDA to win and defend against Ishimori at Wrestle Kingdom. Prediction: KUSHIDA
John: When the bracket for this mini-tournament first came out my immediate thought was “I would be fine with any final except KUSHIDA-Scurll”, so of course here we are. I don’t think anyone would argue with the idea that KUSHIDA is a great professional wrestler, but he’s kind of had his run at the top of the division already. Scurll, on the other hand, is a guy who has struggled to put on awesome matches in this division against anyone not named Will Ospreay, and that would be a problem for him going forward since it sure looks like the company plans to move Ospreay up to the heavyweights sooner rather than later. I get that probably neither of these guys winning the belt here was the plan, but I still think either Ishimori or Desperado would have been much better picks as replacement junior champions than what we’re actually going to get. Here’s hoping KUSHIDA wins and is a transitional champion to get the belt onto either guy because there’s just not a lot of interesting ways to go with yet another KUSHIDA title reign for any real length of time. Prediction: KUSHIDA
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Contract
Hiroshi Tanahashi (holder) vs. Jay White
Ryan: Jay White has been refining the Switchblade character all year, and I feel like we are finally getting to the point where he can break loose and wrestle a compelling match without heavily relying on his cowardly heel tactics. That may be wishful thinking on my part, seeing as he set up this match by pouncing on an unsuspecting, exhausted Tanahashi. Either way, I am extremely interested in how this match plays out. The outcome isn’t in question for me so much as how they reach it. Jay White losing clean would be a major blow to the progression of his character. He had a very good G1 outing and just partnered with Gedo to turn on Okada (and the rest of CHAOS?). Tanahashi is one of the greatest to ever wrestle, so it makes sense that he would be able to dispose of White. Perhaps Tana’s story arc takes precedent over White’s. Does Okada come out and neutralize Gedo and assist the Ace? That actually sounds pretty cool. Prediction: Tanahashi wins (and Okada comes out to confront/neutralize Gedo)
Joel: I agree that we need a Tanahashi win that doesn’t derail Jay White. His outstanding character work has him vociferously booed wherever he goes, carefully toeing that line between heel heat and go-away heat in a truly refreshing way. Like Ryan, I need to see him deliver a quality match with a clean finish that hits at least the **** mark. I often anticipate shenanigans in matches like this which end up not happening, so I’ll say that Tanahashi gets a clean win that White can recover from to head into his feud with Okada. Prediction: Tanahashi
John: Yeah, this feels like they booked themselves into a corner here, unfortunately, which is in a lot of ways kind of the theme of this show. Tanahashi is on his hottest run in years, with a new movie coming out and a huge surge in popularity in virtually every hardcore fan poll taken in Japan this year. He just beat his biggest rival for the first time in three and a half years. He obviously isn’t losing his title shot on the road to Wrestle Kingdom, nor should he really. On the other hand, Jay White is the hottest heel New Japan has had in a long time. He’s one of the only people left in all of wrestling who receives honest-to-god heel heat, and even more amazingly he actually gets booed in both Japan and America. He’s coming off a huge angle where Okada’s manager of six and a half years turned on him to join up with White instead, which made him even hotter. He really shouldn’t be losing a major match like this either, and certainly not clean. So while I get why the match is happening from a storyline logic standpoint (White beat Tanahashi in the G1, he gets a shot at the contract), the way everything has been booked has lead them to a point where someone has to lose who really probably shouldn’t be losing. It’s rare for me to say this, but I hope this match DOESN’T end clean. Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega (C) vs. Kota Ibushi vs. Cody
Ryan: Imagine a chef saying he’s going to prepare for you the most delicious burger crafted out of all of the freshest ingredients. (For me, that’s a black bean patty topped with hot pepper cheese, mushrooms, banana peppers, caramelized onions, and some sort of spicy ketchup.) The chef hypes up this burger, but last minute, with no warrant whatsoever, adds pickled beets to it. Why are there pickled beets on this burger? It doesn’t make sense. No one asked for pickled beets. A great entrée has been tainted with a dirty root-vegetable-thing. You can still probably enjoy the burger to an extent, but you know that you could have had a savory, culinary masterpiece.
Cody is the pickled beet to Omega and Ibushi’s mouth-watering burger. I understand why they did it. From a business perspective, why would you waste Omega vs Ibushi at King of Pro Wrestling? Rather than burn a big money match, preserve it for a huge show.
With that said, this makes zero sense in the world of Kayfabe. Cody has no stock built towards a shot at this belt. Hell, he had no stock built towards the IWGP US Championship that he just won. They shoehorned him in here as a business move, and it damages the credibility of the storyline, as well as the in-ring potential of this match. I am confused and disappointed at his inclusion. This could still be good, but triple threats suck, and Cody rarely elevates matches. I know there’s no chance in hell of this happening, but imagine if we leave KOPW with Jay White vs Cody main eventing Wrestle Kingdom 13. It makes no sense. At the offset of the G1 I thought this might be the year we see a switch-up and someone loses the belt or the contract before January 4th, but I have since changed my mind. Prediction: Kenny Omega
Joel: I don’t think the Japanese fans care about Cody, so putting him in a big spot like this for a relatively big show is a risky move. It makes me worry about the future direction of NJPW, which is beginning to feel more and more like ROH Japan. I understand that whoever booked this believes that Cody brings an extra degree of attention to the match whilst also preserving the Omega v Ibushi rematch. I get it. But I don’t like it. Triple Threat matches suck, and Cody delivering another ‘Gentleman’s Three’ *** special against Juice puts a clear ceiling on this match. The Omega v Ibushi match was great. The Cody v Ibushi matches were decent. The Omega v Cody matches were average. Thus, Kota Ibushi is the only man who can stop this match from being an overbooked mess. Whether or not he succeeds is up for debate. Prediction: Kenny Omega
John: And speaking of booking yourself into a corner, we’ve got this match! Clearly the original plan was to do a Kenny vs. Kota IWGP title match here, which was set up by Ibushi pinning Omega on the final block night of the G1 (in a match that couldn’t have possibly screamed “WE ARE SAVING SHIT FOR A REMATCH” more if both guys literally came out carrying signs that said so). But as Kenny made very clear in his post-match promo at Fighting Spirit Unleashed in comments that sure sounded like a shoot to me, he and Kota felt that going from Budokan to Ryogoku was a step down. He stated quite clearly that if they go back to the well again for another Golden Lovers singles match, it needs to be in an even greater, more historic building than the Budokan, and the only two that would seem to apply that New Japan has any plans to run would be the Tokyo Dome and Madison Square Garden. Either way, that left us without a main event here, so at the end of the show at Fighting Spirit Unleashed, we got……this thing.
This sucks. This fucking sucks. Three ways almost without exception always suck. Cody sucks. Kenny’s title reign sucks. The fact that Kota Ibushi basically can’t do anything that doesn’t involve Kenny in New Japan anymore sucks. Everything about this match sucks. It’s the absolute nadir of modern New Japan, and an illustration of how this entire title reign has been booked like total shit since the day Kenny beat Okada. The only two other three ways in history for the IWGP Heavyweight title were one of the biggest disasters in New Japan history (Lesnar-Fujita-Chono in 2005) or a throwaway impromptu match on an ROH show (Styles-Okada-Elgin in 2014), and honestly, that’s fitting because this is both. It’s a throwaway match that’s likely to go down as a disaster, an insult to Sumo Hall, King of Pro Wrestling, and the New Japan fanbase in general. Let’s just get this over with and hopefully never speak of it again. Prediction: Kenny Omega