New Japan Pro Wrestling
King of Pro Wrestling
October 14, 2019
Ryogoku Kokugikan

Watch: New Japan World

Meet our previewers:

John Carroll: Everybody calls this the last “big” stop before Wrestle Kingdom, but that’s Power Struggle erasure in John’s mind and they won’t stand for it. Follow them on Twitter @toshanshuinla if you like dumb weeb tweets, or just follow their podcast @wrestleomakase if you’d rather not have that in your life (who could blame you).

Paul Völsch: He’s back for the last big stop before Wrestle Kingdom as World Tag League is not real and has never heard of a show called Power Struggle. Don’t follow him on twitter.

Tyler Forness: After surviving the Destruction in Kobe and Fighting Spirit Unleashed previews, Tyler is back to review the second to last big stop before Wrestle Kingdom, and he also doesn’t believe World Tag League is real. Follow him @CCSTheRealForno for wrestling and football (he writes about that too!) inspired tweets.

Ryusuke Taguchi & Roppongi 3K vs. Suzukigun (El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI)

John: El Desperado finally returns to the ring over five months after Jun Kasai broke his jaw on the last TAKATaichiMania, and I for one couldn’t be more excited. Desperado went down at pretty much the exact wrong time, as he looked poised to have a huge Best of the Super Juniors after spending most of 2018 as junior tag champs with Kanemaru. He returns right on the eve of another junior tag tournament, as the Super Jr. Tag League starts just two days after KOPW. Last year Roppongi 3K won a three-way final over Kanemaru & Desperado and Shingo & BUSHI, and while of course the Shingo/BUSHI team will not return given one-half of the team has graduated to heavyweight, both R3K and Kanemaru/Despy are in the tournament once again. Anyway, picking a winner here is a little difficult because on one hand DOUKI sticks out like a sore thumb as a possible pin eater, but I could also easily see them giving Desperado a pin over one of the 3K boys both to play into his big return and remind us that these two teams very much don’t like each other (and build heat for their eventual Junior Tag League match). I’m gonna go with the latter, but poor DOUKI getting pinned also wouldn’t shock me. Prediction: Suzukigun

Paul: We finally see the return of El Desperado after a long absence- just as the future of his stable hangs in the balance with the potential impending departure of Minoru Suzuki, more on that later. This is likely the sleaziest combination of guys in Suzukigun and this match should be a ton of fun. Roppongi 3k get to team up with their new co-coach since Taguchi recently convince Rocky to join forces. This should be a quick sprint as the juniors prepare for the upcoming Junior Tag league. Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi & Roppongi 3K

Tyler: As Paul and John mentioned, we finally get the return of El Desperado! The biggest disappointment in this New Japan year for me was not having Despy in the Best of the Super Juniors, as he had an excellent showing in the 2018 tournament. With the graduation of Shingo Takagi, and likely graduation of Will Ospreay to heavyweight, the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 is a great opportunity for El Desperado to emerge as a major junior heavyweight star. I am with John in that they will give El Desperado the pin to re-establish him as a major threat and it will likely be over SHO or YOH to lead into Junior Tag League. Prediction: Suzukigun

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomoaki Honma vs. Togi Makabe & Toru Yano

John: This is billed as a “Hiroshi Tanahashi 20th Anniversary Match” (as a number of matches on the New Japan Road mini-tour were also billed), although honestly getting stuck in a match 2 tag with the likes of Honma, Makabe and Yano seems more like a 20th-anniversary punishment than a reward. There probably won’t be a whole lot to this one. Honma definitely takes more falls than Makabe or even Yano so he could just get pinned here again, but given that it’s Tanahashi’s celebration (and his team just lost to Makabe, Yano & Taguchi for the NEVER 6-man belts at Korakuen) I think they’ll let the Ace pin Yano at least. Tana is in kind of a weird holding pattern as we await the start to the Tanahashi-Jericho build for Wrestle Kingdom, and it could come here, though I think it’s far more likely to be via a Jericho video message than an in-person attack. If Jericho was showing up you’d think they would have Tanahashi higher up on the card than match 2, right? We may just not get any kind of tease at all until Power Struggle, that wouldn’t surprise me either. Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomoaki Honma

Paul: Great Bash Heel explodes. A very low key 20th-anniversary match for the Ace Hiroshi Tanahashi, who clearly has been downcycled by New Japan over the last couple months. While still an important figure he is no longer presented as a main eventer and is second from the bottom at one of New Japan’s biggest shows of the year. Not feeling very confident about the match quality in this one. I still feel somewhat uncomfortable watching Honma wrestle and the rest are who they are in these types of matches at this point. Prediction: Togi Makabe & Toru Yano 

Tyler: As mentioned earlier by John and Paul, this is another one of the Hiroshi Tanahashi 20th Anniversary Match series, and what better way to do it by having the Ace of New Japan across from the Ace of comedy wrestling in Toru Yano. This will be a fun match where Togi Makabe doesn’t do a whole lot and we get a fun sequence with Tanahashi and Yano. Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tomoaki Honma

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. Suzukigun (Zack Sabre Jr, Lance Archer & Taichi)

John: This is a really interesting tag match here, as we try to figure out exactly how New Japan will get to what I think we all assume is happening: Jay White vs. Tetsuya Naito for the Intercontinental Title on 1/4, with the winner facing the Okada-Ibushi IWGP Heavyweight winner for all the marbles on 1/5. Naito has already been cutting promos about how he can’t necessarily see a road to his double title goal now that he’s lost the IC to Jay but that just means he’ll need to make his own path instead, so those of you under the delusion that losing to White at Destruction was the end of his story and he’s headed to some undercard match at Wrestle Kingdom are quickly going to be in for a rude awakening. I think it’s pretty clear he’s going to wrestle someone at Power Struggle, but the two questions I have are: 1) Will it be a “de facto” #1 contendership match without being called that and Naito just walks out and challenges White after they both win, or will they explicitly say it’s a #1 Contendership match? & 2) Who will Naito’s opponent be? Given who he’s matched up against here I think we can safely eliminate Lance Archer (with all due respect to the big man, you’ve had a great year dude!) which would make it Sabre or Taichi, and either would make sense: Sabre is a champion in his own right who talked about how he wants to be the “first triple crown champion” back at Destruction (and he has a winning record against Naito too), and Taichi beat Naito during the G1 and their feud looks far from over as well. I think it’s going to be Zack but I’m hoping for Taichi. Either way, I think we’ll find out after one of them gets a pin on BUSHI in this match. Prediction: Suzukigun

Paul: This match is more intriguing than it looks at first glance. We are still in the middle of the collapse of Tetsuya Naito and while BUSHI looks like the prime target to eat the pin here, it’s not impossible that Naito will be the one staring at the lights. After this, though I expect them to start his rebuild for Wrestle Kingdom. On the other side you’ve got Taichi who soon might be in charge of his own faction, but more on that later. Zack Sabre has been positioning himself as a potential candidate for the title picture at Wrestle Kingdom and is most likely going to face Naito at Power Struggle for the fourth spot in the Dome title tournament. Prediction: Suzukigun

Tyler: Not only is this going to be a fun match, but it screams to me a setup for a match to enter the presumed mini-tournament for Wrestle Kingdom. As John mentioned earlier, Naito has discussed his loss to Jay White has put him on the outside looking in for the tournament, and he will have to earn his way back in. I believe this will be a setup for Power Struggle. Zack Sabre Jr. has mentioned wanting in on the mini tournament and holding three belts, but there is an argument to be made for Taichi getting that spot, as Zack could defend the British Heavyweight Title for the second year in a row. I think that Zack gets the pin and calls out Naito for Power Struggle to secure a spot at the dome. Prediction: Suzukigun

CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. BULLET CLUB (Jay White, KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi)

John: Speaking of matches for Power Struggle, Hirooki Goto and Jay White are almost certainly headlining that event for the Intercontinental Championship, despite Jay’s many aggravated kiwi noises about the possibility. While it’s not exactly a match that leaves you guessing about the result (though few major title or contract matches in NJPW’s fall ever are, to be fair) I’ve been into their exchanges so far, as White is a great prick heel and Goto is the perfect fiery babyface to play off it. Goto is a good challenger for a situation like this because you know he won’t win but you still want to root him on anyway. Meanwhile, KENTA and Ishii seem like they’re headed for a NEVER Openweight Title rematch, though I suspect it could be for the Showdown in San Jose event as Power Struggle is probably already set with Goto-White and Naito-ZSJ or Taichi and obviously San Jose needs some matches too. Anyway, Yujiro is getting pinned here to give the CHAOS challengers some momentum. Prediction: CHAOS

Paul: Err so this match exists and I totally didn’t forget about it or anything like that. This should serve to establish some new contenders for the two title holders in this match. Goto just beat Shingo at Destruction so he is a likely candidate for a go at White’s IC title. We could also see a rerun of Ishii vs KENTA, which should be better than their last match barring any further concussions. Now that is one option, but there is another one as well. Goto is well known for his relationship with Katsuyori Shibata and if KENTA is in fact facing Shibata at Wrestle Kingdom then Goto makes sense as the perfect set up guy for that match. Nevertheless, the CHAOS team should take the win here. Prediction: CHAOS

Tyler: I am with John on this, as this match is a setup for Power Struggle. We know we are going to get Goto vs Jay White and a rematch with KENTA and Ishii also seems likely. Considering Gedo doesn’t book rematches just to have one, I think we see Ishii get the pin here, but probably not over KENTA, as they will want to keep him hot going into Wrestle Kingdom. Overall, this should be a good match with some good workers, but also there will be shenanigans, as Bullet Club is in the match. Prediction: CHAOS

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Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Minoru Suzuki

John: Folks, I can’t even begin to guess what is going to happen here. Liger vs. Suzuki was an unpredictable feud to begin with, but now with Joe Lanza of this very website noting that Minoru Suzuki could be on his way out of the company- and in fact, he may have already left if not for this feud!- I don’t know what will happen. Will things blow off here? Will Liger hit a shotei and knock Suzuki unconscious and that’s the last we ever see of him in New Japan? Will we get another appearance from Kishin Liger? Will one William Ospreay live to regret this tweet, because if this feud is going to continue to Power Struggle or even the Dome I think a DQ here is actually pretty damn likely? I know that’s a lot of questions, but I really don’t have a clue what’s going to happen here! I’m just gonna strap myself in and enjoy the ride. Prediction: I really don’t know!

Paul: Kishin Liger is back baby! This match is going to be absolutely nuts. There will be a lot of blood and probably more than many New Japan fans will feel comfortable with. I expect a full on war between the two and both of them to leave everything in the ring. This feud has been nothing short of amazing and the blow off should deliver as well. As Suzuki is rumored to be on the way out of New Japan I fully expect Liger to win this one. This is easily the match I am most excited for on this entire card and it’s going to be crazy. Prediction: KISHIN LIGER by murder

Tyler: A continuation of the hottest feud in New Japan, we finally get the singles match between Jushin Thunder Liger and Minoru Suzuki. The question is: will we actually get a match? Last year, we had a singles match scheduled between EVIL and Zack Sabre Jr and it never started due to an attack by Chris Jericho. With this being the first of five (yes 5!) singles matches and we had the return of Kishin Liger on the Destruction tour, I don’t think we get a winner in this match and it gets thrown out, furthering the storyline for their eventual Wrestle Kingdom match. Prediction: No Contest

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay © vs. El Phantasmo

John: The gap between the end of the Destruction tour and KOPW, and the fact that Ospreay & ELP both missed the Fighting Spirit Unleashed tour in the US AND the New Japan Road mini-tour back in Japan, kind of makes this one feel like it’s coming in cold. And that’s a shame because, whatever your thoughts on either man, it actually felt like a bit of a hot program through the Super J-Cup, Royal Quest & Destruction. ELP has been doing nothing but racking up the accolades since entering NJPW: he took the British Cruiserweight Title back on May 10th, the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Titles with Taiji Ishimori on June 16th, and then, of course, became just the fifth man in history to win a Super J-Cup on August 25th. He’s on quite the hot streak of accomplishments, and on top of that he’s won three straight singles matches against Young William. Ospreay won their first encounter in Revolution Pro back on 5/11/18, before ELP won in UK promotion Defiant on 10/11/18, and then after coming to NJPW defeated him this year in the BOSJ on 5/22 and in the SJC semifinals on 8/25. All of that strikes me as a simple proposition here: when you go to the roulette table and see that Red has won 8 times in a row, are you a bet on Red and ride the streak kind of person or do you think that Black is due? Well, either way you’re wrong Mr. Gambler’s Fallacy, but as a fellow dumb degenerate, I’m ready to bet on Black. ELP’s hot streak is finally about to end, Will Ospreay is retaining the junior title and sticking with this division a little while longer, and after it’s over the one person who would be a big enough challenger to justify Ospreay sticking to a junior title match at Wrestle Kingdom will finally come walking through that door: Hiromu Takahashi. Prediction: Will Ospreay

Paul: As John pointed out this match feels weirdly cold. They did face off in the Junior Tag Title match at Destruction, which really just served as a set up for this match. Ospreay has been on an amazing run this year and while ELP can be a mixed bag, I expect this match to deliver as well. With that said there is very little doubt that Will is going to retain his title here. He is going to have a major match at Wrestle Kingdom most likely defending the Junior title high up on the card on either of the dome shows. Now the popular guess is that he will face a returning Hiromu, but I’m not willing to commit to that until he actually returns. Prediction: Will Ospreay

Tyler: Will we get ELP 3 belts? I don’t think so. We all know that Will Ospreay is moving to heavyweight, but I think he makes the full transition after the Tokyo Dome. In their first two singles matches in New Japan, El Phantasmo has gotten the best of the Aerial Assassin both times and I don’t think that it will happen for a third time. Plus, with having to fill the Tokyo Dome two consecutive nights, is El Phantasmo a big enough draw in a junior title match? The answer is no. Ospreay will get the win here and, as John alluded to, this seems like the perfect spot (after the other 6-8 that we thought were) for Hiromu Takahashi to walk out and challenge Ospreay for the title that he never lost. Prediction: Will Ospreay

IWGP US Heavyweight Championship – No DQ
Jon Moxley © vs. Juice Robinson

John: This is the third straight singles match on this card where I really wouldn’t be shocked by either outcome, which is, of course, a stark contrast to the double main event. Moxley’s contract only runs through Wrestle Kingdom and just, in general, it seems like having a US Champion who can’t actually defend his title in the United States of America on New Japan shows is a bit of an untenable situation, but on the other hand, will it really shock me if Moxley wins here and Juice has to come back and finally overcome him at Wrestle Kingdom? No, it won’t. Still, I lean toward Juice winning this one and both men moving on to something else at the Dome. It would also free up the US Title to actually be defended in the US in November, which again, seems very much like something that should happen. Either way though I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do to top their previous wild brawl at Sumo Hall back in June. Prediction: Juice Robinson

Paul: This match is pretty straightforward. Juice lost the title against Mox at the BoSJ final, who hasn’t defended the title since. Mox is going to have quite a few time commitments for AEW now that TV has started. He also can’t defend the title at New Japan’s US shows, which is the whole reason this title was created in the first place. As such, a win for Juice is pretty much guaranteed here. Now the no DQ stipulation works very much in Mox’s favour and this is going to be a wild brawl. Prediction: Juice Robinson

Tyler: It is a real shame that Jon Moxley cannot defend the IWGP US Title in the US because of his AEW contract, but it is what it is. This feud has been really fun so far, providing a different edge that isn’t normal in New Japan: weapon-based brutality. As John alluded to with their brawl at Sumo Hall in June, I believe this will be even more violent with the no disqualification stipulation. With Jon Moxley only having a deal through January 5th, I think Juice beats Moxley for the second straight time and the US Title main events the San Jose show in November. Prediction: Juice Robinson

#1 Contendership for IWGP Heavyweight Title Rights Contract
Kota Ibushi vs. EVIL

John: Well, one thing you can say about this one is they sure weren’t shy of beating Kota during the buildup. When New Japan scheduled two straight EVIL/SANADA-Okada/Ibushi 2 vs. 2 tags leading up to KOPW (in NYC and Korakuen) I kind of figured the LIJ team would win both, but I also thought perhaps SANADA would get a flash pin over Okada to remind us that he often does win matches that way and he could do it to the Rainmaker too. Instead they opted to have poor Ibushi eat the pin twice in a row, both times clean in the middle via the EVIL (his STO thing, which Kota of course helpfully took directly on his neck the first time), which certainly made a statement I guess. I worry a little bit that Ibushi feels like a bit of a weak challenger heading into Wrestle Kingdom now, but maybe that doesn’t matter anyway given the whole weirdness of the 2-night/double title gimmick. And at the end of the day, he did beat Okada at the G1 so you can’t take that away from him. He’ll polish off EVIL with the Kamigoye here of course, so maybe by the end of the show when he’s standing tall with his now properly colored briefcase confronting Okada everything will feel cool. But as I sit here and type this, I just can’t shake the feeling that Ibushi challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight Title at the Tokyo Dome just doesn’t feel as special as it should, and I’m not sure whether that’s the fault of EVIL pinning him twice in a row, the fact that we just saw the Ibushi-Okada match in the G1 Climax (which almost never happens with a WK IWGP Title match) or just the whole double dome/double title weirdness of it all. But anyway, I’m confident this match will rule even if the winner is a foregone conclusion, because these two simply have great chemistry together (and they’re both really good pro wrestlers). Prediction: Kota Ibushi

Paul: EVIL is always a candidate for a big match at the back end of the year. Last year he challenged Jericho for the IC title and two years ago he faced Okada for the IWGP title. In both cases he ended coming up short and that’s going to be the case again this year. EVIL has built up a lot of equity as a credible challenger, but he isn’t quite at the point yet where he is ready for a big win. Next year is going to be a critical year for him to see if he will get there or if he will remain at this level. Ibushi has been getting a big push now that he finally signed a contract but he hasn’t managed to build a lot of momentum since winning G1. He feels like the coldest G1 winner since pre-LIJ Naito. Now a lot of that is due to the weird set-up they’ve been doing for Wrestle Kingdom this year and the fact that this all feels like Naito’s story and not Ibushi’s. As such he feels like a side character and not a main character. With all that said this match should be a lot of fun regardless. Prediction: Kota Ibushi

Tyler: One of the issues I have with this match is that EVIL, even with the G1 win over Kota Ibushi, just doesn’t feel like a real threat to take the briefcase. As Paul mentioned, EVIL is good for a late-year big match, but that is because he is a guy you know will deliver a good match in a big spot, but won’t be hurt by a loss because he isn’t a real threat to winning a major title or the contract for Wrestle Kingdom. His standing right now feels like Hirooki Goto and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. This will be a great tune up match for Kota Ibushi as he goes into the dome, but it just doesn’t feel the same as it has in past years. The last few years, the Wrestle Kingdom main event has been relatively fresh, having not had a match that had been done in the previous calendar year (or even longer in some cases), whereas this year’s main event will be a match done just four and a half months prior at the G1 A Block final. Even though that match was great and they left something on the table for the Tokyo Dome, having a rematch from August just feels weird and not special. With all of that said, this will be a fun match where Kota Ibushi Kamigoyes EVIL back into the darkness. Prediction: Kota Ibushi

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada © vs. SANADA

John: This match kind of sums up the weird year Okada is having for me: I’ve really liked him in tournaments this year, speaking specifically of the New Japan Cup and the G1 Climax where I thought he had awesome runs filled with outstanding matches, but with the exception of one excellent defense against Minoru Suzuki I haven’t really liked his IWGP title matches nearly as much. That macro trend for me with Okada matches plays out on a more micro-level with this Okada-SANADA series: I absolutely loved their match in the New Japan Cup final as well as SANADA’s buzzer-beater victory in the G1 Climax, both of which I went ****¾ on and list as two of my top 10 matches of the year. On the other hand, I wasn’t nearly as high on their IWGP Heavyweight Title match at Wrestling Dontaku, which I was a full star lower on at ***¾ (still a very good match but not quite up to the very high standard of NJPW title match main events). 

And while I like both guys and really loved 2 of their 3 matches, even I can’t say I’m really all that excited about seeing their fourth straight meeting of the year, one where the outcome is a foregone conclusion at that. So if you’re a little bit lower on either guy and/or wasn’t as big of a fan of their earlier matches as I was, I totally get why you just might not be into this one at all. But at the end of the day, will I be surprised if they go out there and find a way to have another incredible match? Not at all, especially since I think the crowd will be really behind SANADA (as they have been all year, much to the chagrin of his many haters). Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Paul: SANADA has been quite the controversial figure in New Japan this year and the opinions vary from wrestler of the year to worst major wrestler in the company. I’m falling somewhere in the middle where there are matches of his that I’ve liked and matches that I didn’t. His match with Okada at the G1 was a weird one for me. A long stretch of that match was just a whole lot of nothing for me, but then the finish was absolutely perfect. As such I’m not quite sure what to expect of this match. Okada generally is very reliable when it comes to his title defenses and only his defense against Chris Jericho at Dominion was underwhelming. Therefore, I’ll be cautiously optimistic for now that this match will be good. The outcome though will not be in doubt as New Japan won’t go into Wrestle Kingdom with SANADA as champion, at least not this year. Next year might be a different story though. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Tyler: Regardless of whether you like SANADA’s fashion sense, its clear to me that he has taken a big leap in his standing in the company. Being put in huge spots in the New Japan Cup and at Wrestling Dontaku, SANADA delivered against his biggest rival Kazuchika Okada. After losing both matches, SANADA dropped to 0-6 in singles matches against The Rainmaker. Leading into the G1 Climax, I started to wonder what his direction was and if/when he would be able to beat Okada. We got that answer when SANADA beat him with only 13 seconds left in the 30-minute time limit. The real question now is: can SANADA win the big one with a 60-minute time limit?

The fact that SANADA finally got the win makes a difference, but a G1 match is much different than the main event epics that we are used to with New Japan. With a 30-minute time limit, matches are faster paced due to the time constraints. Can SANADA last for that long with the current ace? I think we are still a little ways away from SANADA winning the title, but I do believe that he will take the next step, just like Kenny Omega did in 2017 at Dominion, and he will take Okada to the limit, ending in a time limit draw. While this result doesn’t hurt Okada, it does prevent SANADA from taking a hit as a draw and shows that he is taking steps to become the IWGP champion, rather than taking a step backward. Prediction: Time Limit Draw