New Japan Pro Wrestling
August 29, 2020
Meiji Jingu Stadium
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers: 

Jeff: After showing some genuine public positivity towards wrestling this week on Omakase (shameless plug) Jeff looks forward to seeing if he can keep that kind of positive energy going on this preview.

John Carroll: John would like to recommend two albums they can’t stop listening to right now: the Strokes’ New Abnormal that you probably heard already but they missed until like a week ago because they had fucking COVID-19 when it came out (no, seriously; the album rules though!) and ZOMBIE-CHANG’s EDM banger Take Me Away from Tokyo. You can follow them on Twitter @toshanshuinla, their podcast @wrestleomakase, and you can sign up for the Wrestling Omakase Patreon where John is soon going to cover the G1….and the Champion Carnival…..and the N-1 Victory, all at the same time, which might actually kill them.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Master Wato

Jeff: I think this match is a lot more up in the air than everyone else does and I guess I’m fine with being the guy on that island. Kanemaru would have an excellent Jr. Title match with Hiromu if they choose to keep the belt on him, and would make an excellent lead-in to a Desperado title challenge. With that being said and in spite of my own personal headcanon, this will probably be used to add credibility to Wato and set him up as a title challenger for Ishimori. Prediction: 

John: THE MASTER DERBY! MASTER VS. MASTER! ONLY ONE MASTER CAN SURVIVE! Prediction: Victory for at least one Master

KOPW2020 Finals 4-Way Match
Kazuchika Okada vs. SANADA vs. Toru Yano vs. El Desperado

Jeff: I think the match will be Okada vs SANADA vs Yano vs Despy and in the event that I am correct I’m sure the match will be fine. New Japan four ways aren’t my gig and I’m not looking forward to this. Okada should never be allowed within a 35-mile radius of the pen, and that is probably all anyone should take from this. Prediction: Who the hell cares, SANADA I guess. 

John: Unlike Jeff, I waited until after the 8/26 Korakuen to write this, so I can officially congratulate him on calling all four of those results successfully. Also unlike him and seemingly most other people on this earth, I don’t really mind the KOPW 2020 so far. The Korakuen matches were all pretty fun except for the main event, and there was no stipulation in this world or any other that was going to save yet another Okada-Yujiro match. The stipulations brought us some goofy fun on a show that was probably going to be not much of anything otherwise, but it remains to be seen what the actual KOPW 2020 defense stipulations will be like once you only need to do one match per show instead of four (and when they’re presumably bigger matches on bigger shows). I don’t need to see 5-7 NJPW hardcore or ladder or cage matches a year or whatever, but I don’t mind wacky little twists on more standard wrestling matches like we got.

As far as the winner here goes, there’s one of two ways it could go. The obvious one would be to just have Okada win this thing immediately since he’s the one who came up with the idea, but that would just be painfully dull. SANADA should win this, and I kind of think he will. He can finally get one up on his “rival” (conveniently without scoring a direct win over Okada, as he can pin either Despy or Yano instead, assuming this is a one fall match) by becoming the first KOPW champion after Okada came up with it, and it gives Okada someone to chase in the back half of the year. Let’s do it. Prediction: SANADA

NEVER Openweight Championship
Shingo Takagi © vs. Minoru Suzuki

Jeff: I have some genuine reservations about this match unlike pretty much everyone else on the planet. Suzuki and Shingo are great but I worry that there are lots of moves in Shingo’s arsenal that Suzuki will not be bumping around for like a guy like SHO might. I think it’s safe to assume the floor on this match is “very good”, but it may not be the match of the year contender a lot of people are hoping for. As for the winner, I believe this will be Shingo’s year and he will hold on to this NEVER title for quite some time. Prediction: Shingo Takagi

John: I would be more inclined to agree with my colleague’s takes above if not for Suzuki and Shingo’s banger of an exchange in one of the multi-man tags a few weeks back. I have very little trouble imagining that this match will be anything less than pretty awesome, as Shingo is more than capable of adjusting his style into something more strike-heavy to make up for any lack of bumping on Suzuki’s part. Suzuki is also still almost shockingly fast for a man who is in his early 50s, as he showed off during that aforementioned exchange with Shingo, so he should be more than capable of keeping up with the Dragon and having some really fast-paced exchanges. I could definitely see Suzuki winning the belt here to set up a rematch with Shingo, perhaps as a main event on the New Japan Road tour everyone keeps forgetting comes before the G1, but I think Shingo retaining is just a little more likely. This is his year with the NEVER, as Jeff said. Prediction: Shingo Takagi

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IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Hiromu Takahashi © vs. Taiji Ishimori

Jeff: I think this match is entirely up in the air. Everyone thinks Hiromu is moving on to the G1 without the belt so that he can potentially win and simply put I don’t see it. I think New Japan sees him as the junior ace, and will absolutely wait to pull the trigger on Hiromu having a lengthy stay at Heavyweight. I could be dead wrong, but I feel like Hiromu is retaining here and has a lot of great feuds remaining at Jr. Heavyweight. I could really go without another underwhelming Ishimori title reign, and that may be a large part of my hopes here as well. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi

John: I’m of two minds here- on the one hand, if Hiromu Takahashi is going to be mixing it up with main eventers for the rest of the year (and I think he will be, both as a probable G1 entrant and perhaps heading toward a major match with Tetsuya Naito that they keep teasing), you’d think they would want to get the junior title off of him so it can be used in other programs. On the other hand, I mean, does it REALLY matter if we don’t get Taiji-Wato or whatever for the title? There just aren’t that many junior heavyweights around at this point, and even less to get excited about at the moment, so I don’t think it’s any real issue to keep the belt on Hiromu as he continues to mix it up with heavyweights. It’s also been his stated goal throughout the year to win the IWGP Heavyweight Title while still the reigning Junior Champion, and as NJPW fans should have learned from last year, sometimes the wrestlers keep pushing that stuff for a reason. I’m going with my gut here and saying Hiromu retains. The even bigger question to me- can they even come close to touching their five star bout from the 2018 BOSJ finals? Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi

IWGP Tag Team Championship
Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. © vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi

Jeff: It’s amazing to think after all of these years the tag division could’ve been salvaged this easily. Like many I was beginning to wonder if Gedo truly knew how to book tag team wrestling and yet here we have a compelling tag feud with multiple moving parts, and I can’t wait to see where things end up. With that being said, I believe the Tekkers have more interesting matches to offer in title defenses, and I believe we may be building towards an Ibushi-Tanahashi match, and boy oh boy would I be here for that. Prediction: Dangerous Tekkers

John: Of all the matches on the card, this is the one where I don’t have any real read on the result at all. On one hand, you’d think all that TANAHASHI IS A DYING OLD MAN stuff in the build is setting up him coming back and getting the win over the Dangerous Tekkers and regaining the tag belts with Ibushi here. On the other hand, you could argue they basically blew that story off during the Korakuens and Tana already got his revenge when he pinned Taichi and then won another match clean with the High Fly Flow. On the other other hand, maybe you want to give Ibushi a big win to heat him up as he heads into a G1 where he’ll be looking to repeat as champion. On the other other OTHER hand, why are we bouncing these tag belts back and forth again like we have the Killer Elite Squad and War Machine or whatever? These are main eventers, let them have real runs with these titles! On the other other other OTHER hand, does it really matter who wins this at all when all four guys are locks to be in the G1, a singles tournament, and probably won’t have another tag title defense until like November at the earliest? Yeah, I guess it ultimately doesn’t matter, which is what makes this such a hard call! Eh, I’ll just go with the champs, but literally nothing would surprise me here. Hopefully, they have a match as good as their one at Dominion though, which is my favorite match since NJPW returned from their break. Prediction: Dangerous Tekkers

IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Double Championship
EVIL © vs. Tetsuya Naito

Jeff: I would like Naito to win this match and be champion for the foreseeable future but as a Naito fan I’ve learned that I can’t have nice things for any extended length of time. Naito fans, our gift was Wrestle Kingdom and New Beginning was the cake alongside it. It’s all downhill from here. I eagerly anticipate another mediocre title match rife with heavy-handed interference spots and blank, vacant stares from the IWGP Double Champion, EVIL. 

In the event that Naito wins, disregard all of this and just assume I’ve always loved Gedo deeply as a booker and human. Prediction: EVIL

John: Pretend I’m the main character from HameFura, aka the spring 2020 anime smash hit Otome Gēmu no Hametsu Furagu Shika Nai Akuyaku Reijō ni Tensei Shite Shimatta… and I have tiny versions of myself in my brain having a debate about what result to predict here. Let’s hear them all out:

Thinking Logically John: Obviously Naito is winning this match, why is this even a question? EVIL got his big win to establish him as a heel main eventer, just like Jay White in 2019, Okada in 2012 and hell Naito himself in 2016, and he got his one title defense (the same as Naito, one less than Okada but one more than White got!). So now the belt goes back to Naito and we start building to whatever a pandemic-era Wrestle Kingdom main event is going to be. Naito-Hiromu would make a lot of sense if they don’t want to do Naito-Okada again under these conditions, or maybe they just stick to the original plan. Either way, this is Naito’s time to get his revenge and win his belts back, and EVIL still enters the G1 and WK season at a new level of prestige as a former double champion. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito 

Has Been Through This Shit Before John: Hello, it’s Tetsuya Naito in a big IWGP title match! You want me to sit here and predict that he’s WINNING??? When has that EVER worked out for me, except literally one time? Logical John over there had lots of great points as to why Naito was winning at Wrestle Kingdom 12 too, and here’s how that ended—me laying in my bed, not moving and staring at my ceiling, for like an hour and a half. Nobody thought Naito was losing to EVIL at Dominion either, and then here came Dick Togo in a BUSHI mask! I don’t know how EVIL will do it this time—maybe Men’s Teioh will come out in a SANADA mask, who the fuck knows—but he’ll retain. Mark my words. Prediction: EVIL

Wants To Believe John: Look, they’re not going to do this to Naito fans AGAIN right? I mean, everything sucks enough during this pandemic, we don’t need this. The EVIL win was fine to establish him, but it’s time to get Naito’s reign going again. He’s certainly not getting any younger out there. This has to be the title change, I can’t see them ending another big show with the BULLET CLUB geeks (and Dick Togo) laughing it up. Right? No way. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito? Oh god, please?

Also Logical But Pessimistic John: The other one calls themselves the logical one but here’s some REAL logic for you: Naito almost always loses his first 2 matches in a feud before he wins the third one, especially lately. Jay White: beats Naito in the G1, beats Naito at Destruction, finally loses at Wrestle Kingdom. Kota Ibushi: beats Naito in the New Japan Cup, beats Naito at MSG, finally loses at Dominion. Zack Sabre Jr: beats Naito in the New Japan Cup, beats Naito in the G1, finally loses at Power Struggle. Chris Jericho: beats Naito’s ass in a bunch of angles, beats Naito at Dominion, finally loses at Wrestle Kingdom. Okay, that one’s more of a stretch, but you get the idea. EVIL is winning again here and Naito will have to wait for his revenge, possibly even after winning the G1 (or if not, in November at Power Struggle or whatever they call that show this year). Sorry Naito fans- you’ve got a little while longer to wait here (NOTE: whenever we actually get another rematch I’ll probably talk myself into Naito losing there too). Prediction: EVIL

????? John: Oh my god, the entire fucking world is on fire, who gives a shit. Prediction: Eat at Arby’s

Well. That wasn’t too helpful. Oh well. We tried folks. Enjoy the show!