New Japan Pro Wrestling
Sakura Genesis 2023
April 8, 2023
Watch: NJPW WORLD
Meet our previewers
J Michael: J. Michael’s WrestleMania Weekend highlight – The pop that KUDO got when he came out to support Sakaguchi and Takanahi on the DDT Goes Yokohama show, a surprise Shuten Doji reunion.
J. Michael’s WrestleMania Weekend Lowlight – J. Michael didn’t know what Circle 6 was, so he just assumed there would be some sort of fencing tie-in. Maybe they get Nick Itkin to wrestle Nick Wayne in a 5-minute exhibition. Instead, what happened was… whatever the fuck all that was.
The highlight will change if he ever gets confirmation that Paul “Triple H” Levesque saw the Naito vs.. Okada Wrestle Kingdom 12 finish in 2018 and gave himself a five-year window to replicate it at a WrestleMania.
Jeff Andrews: WrestleMania weekend for Jeff was a bit of a disappointment, mostly because despite his best efforts he hasn’t been able to avoid hearing about it. Thankfully, New Japan will be providing a nice palate cleanser this weekend and we should all be thankful for that.
Shinnichi Champion Grand Prix Celebration Match
Mystery Team One (Three Unknown Members) vs. Mystery Team Two (Three Unknown Members)
J. Michael: There’s a New Japan-related show on TV Asahi called Shinnichi Champion. It is hosted by Tsumugi Mitani, who pops up several times a year to deliver an address to crowds about the show. The show won a poll which granted them a broadcast special. As NJPW1972 explains:
During the special, much discussion was centered on classic entrance music, sparking this special match to start the night. This six man tag bout will have participants only revealed when they make their entrance, meaning that two wild combinations could be squaring off April 8!
From Post Wrestling:
Mr. Ohbari turns it back on her and asks if NJPW TV will produce one of the matches at Sakura Genesis (4/8)! She submitted her proposal for a dream match packed with her favorites (watch the episode and find out who) for review NJPW. Her dream is to produce a match that fans normally wouldn’t see, like a mixed tag with people from multiple factions, and not just CHAOS/Hontai vs. everyone else.
And so, this mystery vortex match could include literally anyone from anywhere from any time, with some sort of entrance theme emphasis. I expect Makabe, possibly Kojima, maybe Fujinami. Amongst those absent from this card: Ryusuke Taguchi, Minoru Suzuki, and El Desperado. In fact, that very trio as a team. Prediction: Only one company does pro wrestling correctly, and they have one edict, confirmed on April 2nd: in wrestling, if you haven’t suffered enough, or overcome enough adversity, you deserve to lose. That is the secret to their success. The winners of this match will be the group with the highest cumulative amount of suffering and adversity. The losers will lose because they need more obstacles to earn a victory, lest the story become too predictable and the fans turn on them in 6-8 months.
United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Aaron Henare and Francesco Akira) vs. House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi and SHO)
J. Michael: Catch 2/2 has been called out by the Jet Setters, Kevin Knight, and KUSHIDA. In pure New Japan fashion, three of the four participants in that future match are absent from this card.
The House of Torture team failed to defeat Strong Style for the NEVER Openweight 6-Man tag team titles on April 3. They also failed to get Ren Narita as over as much as they did back at New Beginning in Osaka. SHO took the fall in the rematch, and one has to wonder what SHO did to deserve his booking from the last two years.
But maybe, just maybe, he’s suffered enough, and this suffering will fuel the champion within him to emerge and overcome the necessary amount of adversity to win a professional wrestling championship. Such are the methods and best practices of the only company to do professional wrestling correctly, as was displayed on April 2.
Or maybe SHO needs to suffer more; either a Tour of the Islands or a Streets of Rage should provide him an ample boost in that department, though I’d rather see the unspeakably awful Yujiro take a shoot version of either. Prediction: United Empire
Jeff Andrews: This match is about as nondescript as a match can be, and I think the outcome will be similarly uninspired. I have long suspected that Yujiro Takahashi knows where the bodies are buried, as it’s the only meaningful explanation for his continued employment, given that he is by far one of the worst wrestlers still employed by New Japan. SHO feels wasted in this role, and I hope he is allowed to flee this sinking ship of a faction sooner rather than later. Prediction: United Empire
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Hikuleo) and Master Wato vs. BULLET CLUB (David Finlay, El Phantasmo and KENTA)
J. Michael: I defer to my colleague here; he is the one that wrote a forthright missive about David Finlay’s ascension before the New Japan Cup even started. And Jeff was correct; they pushed Finlay hard and Finlay met the challenge exquisitely. And the domestic audience appeared to buy the transformation.
Even so, there’s an unnatural forcefulness to Finlay’s presentation right now. This has led some to speculate that Finlay’s claim to the Bullet Club throne is a red herring. Obviously, ELP is the most obvious choice; he has literally claimed leadership of BULLET CLUB in the wake of Finlay’s New Japan Cup finals loss.
By all means, this should be a prolonged story, as BULLET CLUB stories are, with multiple detours and misdirections, all ultimately meaningless because the whole thing is going to derail before an ending is reached.
But my instincts, which are terrible and always incorrect, tell me that this Finlay vs. ELP program will be much shorter. It may be prolonged and continue past their BULLET CLUB cohabitation, but the critical aspect of who will lead Bullet Club might be solved more rapidly than expected.
And the leader will be David Finlay. No overthinking this.
In fact, I was checking Finlay’s record in New Japan against a cheat sheet I created, which measures the amount of suffering and adversity a wrestler has endured against the amount of suffering and adversity endured by the superior athletes of the NewCo professional wrestling enterprise, the only company in the world that does professional wrestling correctly.
By the numbers, David Finlay placement on the Suffering/Adversity Scale is roughly at the level of Randy Savage at WrestleMania VIII. And thus, David Finlay should be the new leader of Bullet Club
Regardless, with the participants and the character interplay, this should be an undercard treat. Expect BC to win, officially setting up Tama v. Finlay for Dominion. Prediction: BULLET CLUB
Jeff Andrews: Despite its appearance as a nondescript six-man tag, there are a lot of narrative threads that make this match somewhat compelling. Seeing Tama Tonga and Hikuleo teaming together is very exciting, and I think this match could serve as something of a preview for their inevitable team down the line. Make no mistake about it, Tama Tonga has evolved into a crafty veteran before our very eyes, and while he lacks the peaks offered by those at the top of the card, he will be factored into the upper mid-card for years to come and it feels very rewarding to see him in this role. Master Wato is an interesting piece to be involved in this match, but if I had to guess he’s just here to be the pineater.
Then we look at BULLET CLUB. The drama around this faction is seemingly unending, but the quarrels regarding leadership between David Finlay and El Phantasmo do make me wonder how exactly this match might serve to progress that narrative thread. I myself am not as high on El Phantasmo as others, but I think it’s fair to assume his time within the faction has probably peaked and come to an end and in order for him to reach the next level, he may need some form of babyface run. I believe this issue will come to a head eventually, but I don’t believe it’ll happen here. I believe Finlay will win and challenge for the Never title, and the issues between Finlay and El Phantasmo will continue to simmer. Prediction: BULLET CLUB
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi and BUSHI) vs. Just 5 Guys (Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and DOUKI)
J. Michael: LIJ simply don’t have enough pineaters, which leads to only two outcomes:
- A card has multiple LIJ matches, and the one without BUSHI in it is a guaranteed LIJ win
- A card has a match with all the available LIJ members teaming. BUSHI, who fucking sucks, eats the pin.
The Just 4 Guys portion of Just 5 Guys are all pineaters, although the Just 3 Guys composite of Just 4 Guys presented here are a bit stronger.
DOUKI is an interesting one to keep your eye on. After revealing that he has a ridiculously jacked body underneath his San Francisco Armory Collection shirt, and now being the top junior of a faction, and being only 31, and having a legitimately unique style for the promotion… hopefully DOUKI grabs the fall here to give him something going into Best of the Super Juniors.
Obviously, one must always view a match, even inconsequential multi-man tags, through the prism of the only company on Earth, and in the scope of recorded history, to do professional wrestling correctly. And possibly narrative storytelling altogether (get fucked, Homer. It’s only a rumour that Vince can’t see; your scraggly Ionian ass was legitimately fucking blind).
LIJ seem like overwhelming favorites here, but I think they need to suffer. Sure, Naito is incapable of winning relevant matches anymore, and BUSHI fucking sucks, but have they really faced adversity as a unit? I don’t believe they have. No good story has a predictable ending. Prediction: Just 5 Guys
Jeff Andrews: Sometimes matches exist just for the sake of existing, and this feels like one of those.
I can totally see a world where Just 5 Guys and LIJ are feuding coming out of this event, but I have a hard time believing anything meaningful will be setup with this match. Bluntly, this feels like an easy way to get a few crowd favorites on the show, and to give Naito a win to keep him warm for something down the line. With that being said, this match has 5 genuinely excellent wrestlers (and Bushi) involved and I think the floor on this match is “very good.” Prediction: Los Ingobernables de Japon
IWGP Women’s Championship
Mercedes Moné (c) vs. Hazuki vs. AZM
J. Michael: Ya see, it’s spelled like Moh-NEE, but with the accent over the “e” it’s pronounced Moh-NAY, which Mercedes pronounces as MUH-NAY, which sounds like MUH-nee. MUH-nee is another word for currency, the medium of exchange offered as recompense for goods and services. Throughout history, many things have been used as currency: cows, horses, shells, the tail feathers of a Quetzl bird, cocoa beans, stones, lambskins, beads, compressed tea bricks, giraffe hair, knives, pelts, bottle caps, and even cheese wheels.
In this case, Moné is talking about fucking BILLS, them STACKS, the fucking MUH-NAY WHICH IS IN FACT paper banknotes which are used as a kind of fiat currency, containing no inherent value beyond the strength of the government securing the notes and the trusty faithfulness of the populace that uses them. It’s another constructed sham, like wrestling itself, or time.
Mercedes Moné, though, is more like the substance we prescribe to our worthless currency. She’s a singular performer, someone we are blessed to have seen in real time.
By the way, most banknotes are laced with cocaine. Well, not laced, but there are trace amounts of cocaine all over them. In 2000, there was a study of banknotes used in London, and of the 5000 banknotes tests a large majority tested positive for traces of cocaine. And by “large majority,” I mean 99 fucking percent! I’m not trying to imply anything here, I just don’t know where else I’ll ever get the chance to share that. MUH NAY.
AYY-ZEE-EMM comes into this contest both apotheosized by Mercedes as an outstanding young wrestler, Mercedes personal choice of nascent talent. AZM has also been completely denigrated, her name continually misrepresented. It’s actually ah-ZOO-mee.
I’m happy that this match is on this show, and that Mercedes continues the work towards globalizing joshi and connecting the disparate worlds of women’s wrestling on equal terms. That said, I know who AZM and Hazuki are, and I know how to pronounce their names; that’s where my expertise ends.
For the sake of argument, let’s take a page from the only company in the world that does wrestling correctly and say that the challengers here need to suffer, that they need more adversity, before winning this title. Prediction: Mercedes Moné
Jeff Andrews: Joshi is definitely one of my blindspots, and so I won’t present myself as an expert to the detriment of anyone reading this. The work I’ve seen from all three of these ladies in brief snippets has been excellent, and Mercedes looked much better in her debut than I think anyone could have reasonably hoped for. I do not think she will be losing her title here, but I think this will be a fun sprint and an easy defense to help set up her next feud. Prediction: Mercedes Moné
NJPW World Television Championship
Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Shota Umino
J. Michael: Not many people can pull off the finger-point promo, but Shota Umino sure can. The range of emotional expressions and conceits he ran through on the New Japan Cup tour was phenomenal:
- Cheeky disappointment with how Yujiro Takahashi has become an abysmal pile of syphilis
- Ebullience over trading holds with the great Zack Sabre Jr.
- Indignance over Finlay’s wretched betrayal of all things good and decent
He may dress like Tanahashi and carry the physical specter of Jon Moxley, but he has the hair of Tetsuya Naito, and I’m starting to think that those roots literally connect to his brain. He has the performative confusion that Naito excels at, “just askin’ questions” in a way that belies coy impudence, concentrated sass with plausible deniability.
Their New Japan Cup match was Umino’s best match since returning last autumn. Unlike Naito, Sabre brought out a special babyface energy from Umino. Not the played-out, boring underdog valiance of fighting back from underneath. We’ve had enough of that nonsense. Sabre’s barking and insouciance forced Umino into a much more belligerent place. He wasn’t allowed a prosaic, predictable comeback. He had to respond with ferocity. He had to fight back with an authenticity, one that belies the hodgepodge patchwork of his look.
I expect that zeal to come across here as well, although they will have significantly less time than the 25 minutes of their New Japan Cup match. That’s the intriguing question here: is Zack simply unbeatable in 15 min? And how will Umino respond and perform with a set time limit?
We already have the answers. As we’ve learned in the last week, there is only one company that does professional wrestling correctly, and anything that they do is inherently the proper way to do professional wrestling. And so, the REAL question is this: has Shota Umino suffered enough, has he overcome enough adversity to earn a title? To end this story in an adequately non-predictable way?
Probably not. The young man’s title stays on the 35-year-old with a youthful disposition a little longer. Prediction: Zack Sabre Jr.
Jeff Andrews: I think in a world where the main event underdelivers, this could be the match of the night. Shota appears to have come a long way in a very short term, and the fire he’s been displaying in matches has been making a real mark with a domestic fanbase desperate for young Japanese stars. Shota is being given every opportunity to make his mark in New Japan this year, and while it hasn’t all been perfect, the match with Zack Sabre Jr. from the New Japan Cup was absolutely sensational. Shota’s intensity and confidence are seemingly increasing by the day; if you dumped your stocks in him after the Naito match, you’re going to end up regretting it.
Then, of course, there’s Zack. Using Zack Sabre Jr. to establish this title meant for the younger talents was an outstanding idea in hindsight, whether people see that or not. The title means more now that it is attached to someone at his level. Sabre continuing to rack up title defenses against young talents only helps to further the belt’s prestige going into the future. I believe the wrestler who beats Zack for this title will be a younger guy, it may even be Shota Umino, but I don’t think it will happen here. I believe the shorter time limit on this match will give this match an excellent pace that benefits both wrestlers, but it will end with Zack as the victor. Prediction: Zack Sabre Jr.
IWGP Tag Team Championship
Bishamon (Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI) (c) vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher)
J. Michael: I’m willing to bet that most intermittent New Japan watchers still have not embraced Yo-chan and Go-chan. But what convinced those watching consistently was, indeed, very simple: Bishamon’s matches fucking rule. The misdirections, with YOSHI-HASHI hiding in Goto’s penumbra, emerging forth with superkicks: rules. Their tandem offense: rules. The way they weave through the traditional tornado tag sequences: RULES. Everything about them is great.
These two teams had an excellent match in the finals of World Tag League last year. And why wouldn’t they? Aussie Open complement each other as well as Bishamon. Kyle Fletcher’s angular features and gliding offense is a nice counterbalance to Mark Davis’ gruff, hirsute, ironclad striking and power moves. They make incredible use of the different paces each brings.
Bishamon should reign for years. They should retire with the goddamn titles. And don’t forget, there’s the Hirooki Goto 20th Anniversary Event coming up later this month on the 22nd. Are they really going to have Goto lose the titles here instead of carrying them into his show?
Of course they are. Two things New Japan loves: switching the IWGP tag belts on a whim, and making sure Hirooki Goto looks like the biggest geek alive. Both converge here into a neat little package, and Gedo cannot wait to open it.
BUT… there is only one correct way to do professional wrestling, and that way diffuses worldwide from Stamford, Connecticut. The wise elders have spoken, headed by a man with the sort of mustache Nas ethered Jay-Z over. And so, can we really say that Aussie Open has suffered a sufficient amount? Have they turned back enough adversity to earn a title? Have they marinated in the heartbreaking loss in World Tag League long enough for this story to properly end?
No, it’s never enough. Heartwarming Dad Goto gets to carry the strap to his ceremony. Prediction: Bishamon
Jeff Andrews: Aussie Open have seemingly stormed into the picture for New Japan, and I couldn’t be happier with how they’ve acquitted themselves. Mark Davis was seen as the after-thought within the team, but I think there’s a real chance he goes on to have a genuinely fun and exciting run with New Japan going forward. Mark Davis has leaned into his larger frame, and the stiffness of his work has helped to set him apart from others. It’s incredible to see how far he’s come as a performer, and I think he and Fletcher have both found homes within New Japan long term if they choose to accept it.
As for Kyle Fletcher, I am not as sold on him as others appear to be but it should be pretty clear that they have him earmarked for stardom. He is still young, but he looks better with every in-ring rep he gets and he’s filling out his frame quite nicely just like every pushed foreigner before him. With all this being said, I do not believe it will be Aussie Open’s time. Bishamon has been the best tag team champion tandem we’ve seen in years, and they are genuinely becoming something special as a pairing. The future holds IWGP Tag Title Gold for Aussie Open, but I’d be lying if I said I see it coming to them in Sumo Hall.Prediction: Bishamon
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. Robbie Eagles
J. Michael: Robbie Eagles looks very sleek in his TMDK gear, not that his gear before wasn’t nice as well. It was, of course, very nice, a splendid design of color combinations and symmetry.
Eagles switched factions again last month, which actually highlights how conservative New Japan is about allegiances. Robbie was in Bullet Club for eight months, and then in the alleged faction CHAOS for nearly four years before joining TMDK. If this was NOAH, a junior like Robbie Eagles in four years time would have started his own unit, been kicked out of his own unit, started a new unit, turned on his own unit to re-join his old unit, and found himself in the main faction at least 4-5 times along the way.
Robbie is an excellent fit into TMDK. He’s like Zack: there’s an inherent likability to them, and somehow an underlying abrasiveness about them as well. They are both such versatile performers (perhaps even more so in Robbie’s case, being one of the most supremely balanced wrestlers alive); all they have to do is dial one side up to suit the context.
Robbie won the Junior title in 2021, during the absolute doggiest fucking tortuous dog days of the pandemic in Japan, having exceptional matches with El Desperado and Taiji Ishimori along the way. Challenging the man he defended that title against successfully is a fitting return.
Much is said of how thoroughly depleted Hiromu Takahashi’s character is at the moment. That’s partially true; Hiromu has played around with being more serene in his delivery, but for the most part he just screams over people and projects one of the most laboriously artless characters outside of a Circle 6 experience.
He’s also preposterously over with the domestic Japanese crowd. Case in point: the crowd was booming for the entire Lio Rush match, and a lot of that was their boisterous adoration of Hiromu. They treasure this feverish caterwaul of non-sequiturs and relentless exclamation.
I’m now convinced that New Japan really is going to have Hiromu break Minoru Tanaka’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight defense record.
It took Tanaka 13 months to hit 11 defenses. This would be defense #3 of Hiromu’s reign. Hiromu could defend against the BOSJ winner, sneak a few in America (Forbidden Door, G1 Climax season, etc.), and a couple to close out the year. Hiromu could finish the year at 8-9 defenses, and hit 12 early in 2024, only tying up the belt for a little over a year.
And lest we forget, Robbie is just coming back to New Japan after a bit of a break from Japanese shows. If this was the only company that knows the correct way to do professional wrestling, Robbie would lose. Sure, he seems like an exciting option with substantive fan support, but when I put that on one side of a scale, and “suffering and adversity endured” on the other, the latter is simply far too light.
And so, while I’d love for Robbie to shake the division up a bit, I expect he comes up short here. I also expect incredible work. The depth of Hiromu’s abilities have shined through since his last injury hiatus in 2021; Eagles can do much more than Hiromu at this point, and make no mistake this WILL become a leg match, but Hiromu still has that surge, that burst of charismatic obstinance that few ever project. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi
Jeff Andrews: Robbie Eagles is the most underrated wrestler in the world.
I don’t say that lightly, there are plenty of great wrestlers in the world who don’t get the accolades or praise they deserve, but Robbie Eagles is one of the best in-ring technicians in wrestling. With that being said, I think it’s fair to say that his presentation had grown a bit stale during his time in CHAOS, and I believe swapping factions and joining the Sabre Jr. Australian fraternity faction will be a boon to his wrestling career. Hiromu Takahashi is perhaps the most popular junior heavyweight in Japan since Jushin Thunder Liger, and while he is still firmly a tier below him it’s hard to see a world where Hiromu isn’t heavily featured during this time of year.
In a way, I think this works against him. Hiromu will almost certainly be used as a drawing card in the Best of the Super Juniors Final, and I can’t see a world in which this happens while he holds the title. I think Robbie Eagles deserves a run with the belt in a non-COVID era, and I think that’s exactly what he’s going to get here. Hiromu has had a tremendous run with the belt and will almost certainly have a few more, but right now is Robbie’s time. Prediction: Robbie Eagles
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. SANADA
J. Michael: April is a bizarre time for New Japan to present such robust booking, but here it is: two guys who seemingly cannot lose. SANADA is a new faction leader, with a new look, a new finisher, and finally, after a number of 2nd place finishes, a big tournament win at New Japan Cup 2023. All of his detriments have been solved.
But Okada has presented a rejuvenated character, slightly modifying his traditionally cavalier dismissiveness by infusing it with a veteran’s acrid cruelty. And it has taken over the Japanese wrestling landscape. No one is safe. And that includes corporations. They aren’t safe either, no matter how comforted they feel in their warm, emerald green glow.
According to very wise people that based their positions entirely on the decisions of a repugnant old man with zero dignity and William Powell facial hair, it’s very simple: a professional wrestling story can’t end until someone has suffered enough to earn it (including the audience). That is how professional wrestling is done correctly, and only one company on Earth knows how to do it that way. And New Japan desperately wants to be like them.
Has SANADA overcome enough adversity? The turmoil, strife, dissonance, and awkward, painful backstage comments with his crew?
Probably? He’s lost to The Rainmaker eight out of nine times they’ve clashed since their first match on 3 May 2016. That includes three world title matches where Okada prevailed. And that’s just Okada. Let’s not sell SANADA short: he’s lost to all sorts of people when it counts the most. With a second life here, he can erase all of that sullen history.
And yet, the question still persists: is super hot sexy masculine perfection faction leader SANADA a better choice moving forward in 2023 than aggravated, veteran bully champion Okada?
He’s not. This Okada shouldn’t lose. This version of Okada should walk into 2024 as champion, uninterrupted.
For some, a loss here would be the final bell for SANADA’s credibility, but I doubt that. The Japanese fans clearly adore him. They’ve loved him persistently.
A loss here would murder SANADA’s credibility with those fans. In fact, I think it would sustain it, one last time. Now that SANADA is a new man, a delicious, garrulous, toothsome, seductive dish, this new look offers him the chance to get another chance. But he has to do that by having the performance of his career here. He can’t just have a great match like YOH, in a similar situation, had with Hiromu last month. SANADA needs to exceed it.
SANADA and Okada have had matches of that caliber, and I believe (especially after seeing the determination and fire SANADA displayed on the April 3rd Korakuen show), that we will see that type of match here. But, peak Okada absorbs a world’s fill of damage and still perseveres. That is what will happen here, and the crowd will be pyroclastic.
Not to fantasy book, but there are two potential options here: SANADA defeats Okada at a later date and his big defense is against Naito, or vice-versa. I prefer the vice-versa; this company loved establishing people through title defenses. I believe that is how SANADA will truly claim his status as Okada’s “rival:” by shutting down an Okada challenge, instead of dethroning him.
But he has to prove that he deserves that chance here, which he will. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada
Jeff Andrews: It’s hard to fathom a match feeling novel on its tenth iteration, yet this match has an air of freshness to me that can be traced to the not-so-subtle character shifts in both men. SANADA is a changed man in nearly every aspect of his presentation. He’s better groomed, his outfits are less gaudy, he has a new finisher that makes more sense in the context of the New Japan main-event style, his work has become much tighter and less prone to nonsense. There is no more Paradise Lock, there are no more LIJ Theatrics, main event man SANADA has arrived on the scene flanked by a ragtag band of misfits and I can’t think of anything more fitting for a guy with his history. I believe New Japan has done an excellent job with SANADA since the New Japan Cup, and I believe this match will be an excellent test for where exactly they see him slotting in for the next several years.
Then there’s Okada. It feels odd to have an Ace who feels so much more at home as a tweener style heel but Okada has been outstanding in this role. Babyface Okada is fine, but Over-Your-Shit/Not-Paid-By-the-Hour Okada is something genuinely special. Make no mistake about it, when Okada adopted the heelish edge he is currently employing it was done with this match in mind. Okada will not be cheered for in this match, SANADA has always punched above his push in regards to popularity and connection with the crowd and I believe that if this match is even half as good as it should be, a raucous Sumo Hall crowd will be more than enough to carry it to greatness.
Whether this match ends with a rainmaker or the solidifying of a new star, I believe that this is a main-event that can go either way and carries a tremendous level of intrigue. As far as the result goes, this may go down as one of the two to three most important booking decisions of this calendar year for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Do you double down on creating a new star, or do you trust that even in victory Okada can carry him to that next level?
If there’s an important booking decision to be made in New Japan, it’s never wise to bet against the Rainmaker. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada
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