New Japan Pro Wrestling
Sengoku Lord in Nagoya
April 20, 2019
Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium

Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers:

Gerard Di Trolio: Life is busy these days (not necessarily a bad thing!) and I am spending all of my free time reviewing Champion Carnival shows for Voices of Wrestling. You should read them. Had some free time on Monday night, and instead of bothering to watch Raw I decided to preview Sengoku Lord. You can follow me on Twitter at @GerardDiTrolio and maybe I will tweet again at some point when I find the time.

John Carroll: I’m counting down the days till Anime Boston, where you can see me present a panel on New Japan Pro Wrestling if you’re attending! At some point while I’m there I’ll have to make time to watch this show I guess. Follow me on Twitter @toshanshuinla or my podcast @wrestleomakase.

Shota Umino & Ren Narita vs. Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura

Gerard: This could end up being one of the best matches on the show if they give them 10 minutes (the time limit is 20 minutes). Will be interesting to see how Tsuji and Uemura work as a team now that they have gone past the 10-minute draw phase of their rivalry and are now trading wins. Would be fun to inject that rivalry into the way that they work as a team. Prediction: Umino & Narita

John: This could be one of the most fun matches on the entire show, just given how good this crop of young lions has become. As Gerard stated Tsuji and Uemura finally broke a streak of 21 straight ten minute time limit draws earlier this week on the Road to Wrestling Dontaku tour, with Tsuji picking up the first win on 4/13 in Tsukuba, Uemura answering with a win of his own on 4/14 in Gunma, and Tsuji firing back with his second win on 4/15 in Kofu. Umino and Narita meanwhile both seem more than ready to head off on excursion and have for some time, so it always kind of feels like we could be watching their final tours as young lions. Given the seniority difference here the winners really aren’t in much doubt, but I expect this match to be quite good. Prediction: Shota Umino & Ren Narita

Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, Tomoaki Honma, Toa Henare & Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Suzukigun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & TAKA Michinoku)

Gerard: An interesting random team against Suzukigun. There is definitely the talent on both sides to make this fun. I expect Suzukigun to make Honma and Henare’s lives very unpleasant. It will be interesting to see given the current New Japan pecking order if it is Henare or Honma that eats the pin in this one, because I don’t think they have signaled that Henare is above that level yet. However, it’s clear Honma has been cycled down the card to an even lower point than he was before his injury. Prediction: Suzukigun

John: Two teams with almost nothing to do on this tour clash here. The Suzukigun side does feature one wrestler with a major match in Taichi, who will challenge Jeff Cobb in the semi-final of the 5/3 Wrestling Dontaku show, but the NEVER Openweight Champion doesn’t join the tour for nearly another week after this show (on the 4/26 special Road To show in Hiroshima). One wrestler I expect to begin making some noise again soon is El Desperado, who has gone quiet after he and Yoshinobu Kanemaru finally lost the junior tag team titles back at Wrestle Kingdom (and lost a subsequent 2 vs. 2 rematch). I expect Desperado to transition into a prominent singles role in the junior division starting with a major run in the Best of the Super Juniors tour, which is, of course, up next after Dontaku is over. So he’s one that might be worth keeping your eye on here. Prediction: Suzukigun

Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Dragon Lee vs. BULLET CLUB (Guerrillas of Destiny & Taiji Ishimori)

Gerard: Honestly given the character work of GOD lately with their feud with The Briscoes and the angle with Yano stealing the IWGP belts, I am down with this tag team feud. And of course Lee vs. Ishimori is going to be awesome. The Juniors will be the glue that holds this match together, and I expect both tag teams to set up some stuff for their title match. While I could see this not being that great, I still think there is a good chance this could be really good with a nice mix of high flying and comedy. Prediction: Yano rolls up Tanga Loa

John: GOD’s feud with the Briscoes is by far the most interesting thing they’ve done in years, as they’ve tapped into a sort of pro-New Japan/anti-ROH snobbery (I say that lovingly) that’s endeared them well to many of the Western fans on Twitter (fueled in no small part by the general crumminess of ROH’s contributions to the G1 Supercard show, as well as distaste for that whole Enzo and Cass thing). However, that’s kind of left their IWGP tag title feud with the Most Violent Players reunion team of Yano & Makabe feeling like a bit of an afterthought here. Yes, Yano is stealing the tag belts and that’s cool, but who cares about that really when GOD and the Briscoes are exchanging fiery shoot promos on Twitter? The Ishimori vs. Lee feud, on the other hand, should be a lot more fun to watch develop, as Lee seems overjoyed to finally be an IWGP champion and he and Ishimori showed excellent chemistry already in their three-way match with Bandido at MSG. Now we’re gonna get the Ishimori vs. Lee singles match many of us wanted in the first place (before Bandido inserted himself in the aftermath of the Anniversary Show challenge), and as an added bonus it’s in the main event of Dontaku night 1, a major show. Here’s hoping we get some great exchanges with Ishimori and Lee and some fun comedy from Yano and GOD. Prediction: Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Dragon Lee

Mikey Nicholls vs. Chase Owens

Gerard: Nicholls vs. Hikuleo in the New Japan Cup was very average though I didn’t think it was actively bad. Hikuelo looked better than he has in the past, but that is a very low bar to pass and Nicholls certainly didn’t make a splash. Okada vs. Nicholls in the New Japan Cup was the rare Gentleman’s ***1/2. It was a technically good match that Okada’s incredible talent made. Nicholls was not bad, but in many ways in it, he was JAG. Now to be fair to Nicholls, I think he began to find his groove as the New Japan Cup tour went on. But it’s do-or-die time here. If Nicholls can’t have a good match against Owens after he has gotten his introductory tour of New Japan, I don’t think he’s going to amount to much. I do think though that New Japan is going to give him a chance to establish himself as a solid midcard talent. It will be up to him to seize that opportunity. Prediction: Mikey Nicholls

John: New Japan seems to be making a new effort lately at putting some more random midcarder singles matches on their undercards rather than exclusively tags, which I appreciate. Am I at all interested in this particular match? Not really. I like Chase but Nicholls has done nothing for me so far. But I appreciate the effort all the same. Prediction: Mikey Nicholls

Hirooki Goto & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Jay White & Hikuleo

Gerard: It’s obvious what this match is building towards and much of it will probably be teasing Goto vs. White at Wrestling Hi no Kuni. There will probably be comedy and size mismatch spots between Taguchi and Hikuleo. Though he’s still got a ways to go, I thought Hikuleo has managed to improve during the New Japan Cup tour despite being out for a long time with injury. I think the big question here is if they tease there is going to be shenanigans in the Goto vs. White singles match. Prediction: Goto pins Hikuleo

John: This is a pretty standard hype match here, as Goto and White are scheduled to meet in a rare non-title, non-tournament singles match main event on 4/29 at Hi No Kuni. To be honest I’m a little worried it’s a way to give White a big(-ish?) win before he gets ready to challenge Okada to another IWGP Heavyweight Title match at Dominion, which I think would be basically the most boring and trite Dominion main possible but also could easily be the one they’re doing. Either Taguchi or Hikuleo could be your pin eater here but I’ll agree with my colleague and assume they give Goto the win. Prediction: Hirooki Goto & Ryusuke Taguchi

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Roppongi 3K) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)

Gerard: This is one of like 750 CHAOS vs. LIJ matches on the shows leading up to Dontaku. I expect the main focus of this match is to build towards Okada vs. SANADA and Roppongi 3K vs. Takagi & BUSHI. I’m not sure what else to say other than these CHAOS vs. LIJ multiman matches are always pretty good even if they happen a lot. Prediction: LIJ, probably SANADA pinning YOSHI-HASHI

John: Some people like to make the wrestling/pizza comparison of “it’s always at least pretty good” to ladder matches, but for me, it’s for CHAOS vs. LIJ multi-man tags. Even when it feels like we’ve seen 500 of them (and it really does feel that way even though the two units haven’t fought that much over the past like eight months or so), they always end up being good fun by the end. The two wrestlers with nothing to do here are YOSHI-HASHI (who has picked up three straight pins in undercard matches on this tour, for some reason, perhaps indicating he’ll be in line for a lower level title shot soon?) and Tetsuya Naito. I was very displeased when Naito lost the IC title to Ibushi at MSG for exactly this reason, as it’s left Naito with no direction on this tour and stalled the momentum of what has been a Wrestler of the Year-caliber campaign for him so far. But my fears of having him sit on ice all the way until the G1 starts were calmed a bit when Naito, after getting the pin in the main event on the very first night of the Dontaku tour, noted that while he had nothing to do now (and even admitted this was his fault for losing to Ibushi) he actually already had his next target in mind. He told fans to enjoy speculating what that could be until he makes his move, which almost certainly would be for Dominion. In my mind unless we’re being set up for some kind of massive disappointment, it could only really be one of three things: Naito challenges Ibushi-ZSJ winner for the IC again, Naito challenges Okada-SANADA winner for the heavyweight, or Naito goes truly galaxy brain and does something very unexpected like challenge Kenny Omega to come back from AEW for a special singles match. Any of those possibilities are honestly fine with me, and we could get our answer as early as this evening if he comes out after the main to challenge the winner. Prediction: LIJ

IWGP US Heavyweight Championship
Juice Robinson © vs. Bad Luck Fale

Gerard: I think the ceiling on this match is probably *** lol. That Fale doesn’t seem to care anymore is practically a cliche at this point. Okada still managed to get a good match out of him on The New Beginning tour, but as much as I love Juice, but he’s no Okada. While the Juice vs. Owens match for the U.S. title got criticized for all the interference and overbooking, I would honestly not be against Bullet Club shenanigans in this context if this match is kept to like nine minutes and Juice wins definitively. That would probably be better than trying to have a straight wrestling match involving Fale that goes beyond 10 minutes. Signing Juice to a three-year contract and booking him as he has been so far in 2019 is one of New Japan’s few blunders so far this year. Hopefully, there are greener pastures ahead for Juice moving forward from this, but then again I thought that in the few seconds after Juice defeated Owens but before they teased Fale challenging him. Also, it’s going to take some time to rehab the status of the IWGP U.S. title which I thought had a good 2018 until Cody won it. Prediction: Juice Robinson

John: Can’t disagree with anything Gerard stated above. I will just add that the US Title is possibly the dumbest title in all of pro wrestling right now. Do you know how many times a Japanese wrestler has challenged for this title? I can answer that for you: once, when YOSHI-HASHI challenged Kenny Omega in the main event of the 9/24/17 Global Wars show in Chicago. Yes, that was indeed an ROH event. So a Japanese wrestler has never challenged for this title on an NJPW show. Though there are many foreign wrestlers in New Japan, I don’t think anyone would disagree with me if I said that the full-time roster is still mostly Japanese. Certainly, most of the top stars still are. So when you create a title that the majority of the roster does not ever challenge for, and express no interest in challenging for it, you’ve created a title that really does not matter. Fale getting a shot is fine and sadly he’s probably the biggest kayfabe NJPW threat to show any interest in it since Omega lost it to White, but this title needs to show it has a purpose other than “we’ll let the foreigners fight over who has this ugly red belt”. It feels like a complete non-factor in the current NJPW landscape, and perhaps nothing showed that more than when it wasn’t even defended on NJPW’s biggest US show of all time. Prediction: Juice Robinson

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Kota Ibushi © vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

Gerard: ZSJ is one of the best wrestlers in the world. Even though his matches so far this year are better than 95% of wrestlers, I still think his two matches against Tanahashi and his New Japan Cup match against Ibushi this year were a shade below what he has managed against those guys in the past. Now to be fair, Tanahashi is looking like his knees are really bothering him, and with Ibushi, they obviously want to save some stuff for the big title match. I have high expectations for this match. These guys will build off of their New Japan Cup match and this is a main event on a fairly big show in Japan’s fourth-largest city. Ibushi is obviously going to want to make a big splash in his first IC title defense and I think he is going to end up having a very memorable IC title run. Prediction: Kota Ibushi

John: Like Gerard, I was not as impressed with the NJC match between these two as some others seemed to be. I went just ***¾ on it, which for many wrestlers would be great but for these two was disappointing, especially given that I went ****¾ on their match in the G1 last year. Can they deliver something much closer to their G1 match here? They’re probably going to have to if Sengoku Lord is going to be remembered as a good show since on paper this is quite the one-match card. Though Zack has shocked us before and shown he can beat virtually anyone in New Japan at any time, I do fully expect Ibushi to retain here rather than lose this belt two weeks after he finally captured it. The big question to me after this match will be what his direction looks like for Dominion, where the IC Title match is usually a pretty big one (last year Naito-Jericho, 2017 Naito-Tanahashi, 2016 originally meant to be Omega-Tanahashi before ending up Omega-Elgin due to injury). Could the Tanahashi injury keeping him off this tour simply be him resting up for a major title match with Ibushi at Dominion? Will Naito’s cryptic talk about already having his next target in mind turn out to be another rematch with Ibushi? Or is it someone out of left field entirely? I’m not sure we’ll even get the answer on this show, as they could easily wait until later in the tour to begin teasing Ibushi’s next challenger, but it will be interesting to see. Prediction: Kota Ibushi