NJPW Dominion – A Primer for New Japan’s Massive Summer PPV

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Prepare your snacks, take refuge in your comfiest seat and switch your browser over to New Japan World as this Sunday one of the most stacked wrestling card’s you’re ever likely to see is taking place, NJPW’s Dominion.

Last year at the event we saw Kazuchika Okada defeat Tetsuya Naito to reclaim his IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and they year before that, he defeated AJ Styles in the main event in order to win the same strap. Okada is rightfully main eventing against but this time he faces what I believe to be his toughest test yet, Kenny Omega.

More on that later though, as there is a whole card of pro-wrestling delight available for your viewing pleasure on Sunday, so let’s jump right in.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi and Satoshi Kojima vs. Tiger Mask, Tiger Mask W, Togi Makabe and Yuji Nagata

The main card begins with an 8-man that should warm your platter. It’s a bit like the small basket of bread you get at restaurants; you are happy to nibble on it but you know your bigger, better main course is just around the corner.

Those familiar with New Japan will know exactly what to expect here, it’ll be a standard solid tag match and everyone will get some shit in before the finish. There not really much for me to say about this one but given that Tiger Mask W has been heavily rumoured to be entering the G1 (which officially starts on July 17th) I would imagine that he will take home a victory here.

All in all, it wouldn’t be a disaster if you woke up late and missed this one but it’ll be a fun match nonetheless.

Predicted Winner: Tiger Mask, Tiger Mask W, Togi Makabe and Yuji Nagata

Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL and SANADA) (c) vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page and Yujiro Takahashi) vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano and YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Suzuki-Gun (Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. Taguchi Japan (Juice Robinson, Ricochet and Ryusuke Taguchi) – Gauntlet Match for the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship

Wow, that title was a mouthful. Following the Gauntlet match for the same championship at Wrestle Kingdom back in January, New Japan have decided to host another, this time the team who won the original match are defending their straps.

The last match was far better than I anticipated but this certainly stinks of, ‘how do we get everyone on the card?’ With talents such as SANADA, BUSHI, Ishii, Zack sabre and Ricochet in there the gauntlet is sure to have some really great moments but I’d be lying if this was one of the matches I was super hyped for.

If I had to call it I would say Los Ingobernables will make it through Bullet Club and Suzuki-Gun before coming unstuck against Taguchi Japan due to their fatigue late in the contest, also, I feel Taguchi Japan having the belts will add to another member of the factions celebrating further through the show, but more on that to come…

Predicted Winner: Taguchi Japan

Roppongi Vice (Trent Baretta and Rocky Romero) (c) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match

The first of 5(!) Wrestle Kingdom 11 rematches taking place on June 11th. Roppongi Vice are in their 4th reign as Junior tag champs having lost and reclaimed the belts to Suzuki-Gun in Spring, whilst the Young Bucks are returning to New Japan for the first time in a while and will likely be at ringside during the main event of the evening too.

The Junior tag division is really floundering at the moment, there’s zero depth in talent pool and injection of new life is desperately needed. I really like both Roppongi and the Bucks but it does get a little tiresome seeing them play pass the parcel with the titles all the time. Personally, I loved the tag team of ACH and Ishimori and wish they would become a mainstay in the division and have a title run, just to see something new.

That said, the match will likely be superb. Expect fluid flips, high spots and dives galore as the two teams know each other extremely well and have collided a number of times. There’s unlikely to be much of a story running throughout the action but if you like insanely athletic wrestling then this is one for you.

Predicted Winner: Roppongi Vice

War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe) (c) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa) – IWGP Tag Team Championship Match

War Machine have been on a decent tear since crossing the pond to Japan and it’s no surprise really, they fit the powerful, big-guy mould that New Japan fans love.

Having pinned TenCozy at Sakura Genesis to begin their first ever IWGP tag title reign, they then successfully defended their belts by pinning Tenzan in a triple threat tag match, much to the distain of fellow competitors, the Guerrillas of Destiny. Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa attacked the champion after said match, which prompted War Machine to challenge G.O.D to a face-to-face confrontation and thus, the Dominion tag match was announced.

G.O.D are so much better than they were a year ago so I’m very excited for this match. All four guys can really go and the power spots will be lathered all over the ring, so expect strong reactions from the crowd to all of those. Plus, whilst Hanson, Rowe and Roa are big hosses, they really can shift and will easily keep up with Tonga, who will surely be the wildcard in this match as his speed and precision could spell disaster for War Machine.

Though War Machine are really great I’m going to expect the Bullet Club boys to reclaim the titles and parade them around during the G1, with Tonga getting the pin. War Machine will be back though and already seem like a great shout to win the World Tag League, which occurs towards the back-end of the year.

Predicted Winner: Guerrillas of Destiny

Cody vs. Michael Elgin

Michael Elgin is back babyyyyyy! Good lord he’s so good and in the past year has turned me into a super-fan of his. Earlier this year he had a barn burning match and very nearly captured the Intercontinental Championship from Naito and now he has the chance to add another high-profile name to his victory resume, in the form of the American Nightmare, Cody.

After arriving in New Japan on January 4th Cody has been a part of many Bullet Club tag matches and most importantly, has secured singles victories over both Juice Robinson and David Finlay. Cody big bollocks took these wins as an opportunity to challenge NJPW to find him a tougher opponent, so they did, and big Mike will attempt to make Cody eat his worlds.

As for the match itself; I reckon Elgin will dominate a large portion proceedings and showing off to the fans with his impressive strength and vertical delayed suplexes before Cody manages to somehow pull a win out of the bag following a Elgin mistake. Maybe the big man will crash and burn following a top rope splash or maybe Cody will cheat the win with some shenanigans, but either way, I see Mr. Rhodes coming out the victor here.

Both should be in the G1 so it is likely that whichever of the pair takes it down, the other will win the return match, them being in the same block permitting.

Predicted Winner: Cody

Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. KUSHIDA – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match

Unless you’ve been under a wrestling rock for the past month or so, you’ll know that KUSHIDA is now a 2-time Best of the Super Juniors trophy winner having defeated Will Ospreay in a truly excellent final. The killed each other for half an hour before KUSHIDA broke out his new Back to the Future finisher to complete his redemption song.

The former title holder has been experiencing the worst months of his career in 2017 as he was beaten at Wrestle Kingdom and never got close to getting his strap back; with the worst of his losses coming in under 2 minutes against Hiromu. But he has earnt his final swing at the champion, much to the displeasure of Takahashi.

Hiromu (of Los Ingobernables de Japon) on the other hand has had arguably the best year anybody could ask for. His eccentricities have captivated fans and he loves his belt for than I love a good beer; but not only that, in the ring he has been dominant over all that have come before him. I’ve already mentioned his sub 2 minute win over KUSHIDA, but he has already defeated Ricochet, Taguchi and Dragon Lee in his inaugural reign and is already aligning the stars to become one of the finest Junior stars we have ever seen.

I expect nothing less than a beautiful car crash from these two, they really, really hate on another and will risk it all to stand tall following the carnage. Hiromu is a daredevil in the squared circle so you’ll be sure to see his apron sunset flip powerbomb, diving senton to the outside and maybe even a bloody Canadian destroyer! KUSHIDA on the other will look to slow the pace with his superior submission game but that hasn’t proved effective so far against Takahashi, so good luck to him on that front.

KUSHDIA is likely regaining the Junior belt here in order to give a feel-good ending to his rise back to the top but a potential Hiromu win has me very intrigued. Should he defeat his rival again he would be undeniably one of the most dominant champions the NJPW have ever seen and it could blast him even further than his current stratospheric heights.

Predicted Winner: KUSHIDA

Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Hirooki Goto – Lumberjack Deathmatch for the NEVER Openweight Championship

Lumberjack Deathmatch?! Sounds like a recipe for bloody violence and disaster, doesn’t it? Well, if that’s what you’re into, don’t get your hopes up too much. There will likely be a small amount of weapons in play but not a massive amount; the more interesting part about the match is the lumberjacks as the ring will be surrounded by CHAOS and Suzuki-Gun wrestlers, all ready to get in a scrap.

El Desperado helped Suzuki wins the NEVER Openweight belt under very dubious circumstances and Goto repeatedly requested a refund after his loss. Suzuki then, being the mad bastard he is, challenged Goto and the entire CHAOS gang, erupting the sides into all-out war.

I would personally prefer to see this without the interference in a straight shooting singles match as I rate both of these men incredibly highly, they are both a sight to behold when they’re on song. But hey, this should be frantic fun and definitely will be a fresh matchup following a few non-stipulation matches in a row. And I’ll go Suzuki to retain, if only because I have no idea what to expect from these crazy rules.

Predicted Winner: Minoru Suzuki

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Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match

The first of 2 absolutely giant Wrestle Kingdom 11 main events see Los Ingobernables leader Tetsuya Naito come face to face with Hiroshi Tanahashi once again. Having defended his belt successfully against both Michael Elgin and Juice Robinson, Naito was riding high, though people were happy with his disrespectful treatment of the Intercontinental Championship.

Naito’s actions towards the belt got even more aggressive following New Japan’s introduction of the new IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship; he proclaimed that his Intercontinental it represented the same as his belt, making his title worse less than a ¥10 coin. Having become so disgruntled with the situation, he claims that if he wins at Dominion, he will vacate the ‘worthless’ championship.

Who else to step up and save the championship, than New Japan’s ace in the hole, Hiroshi Tanahashi. Initially Naito turned down Tana’s challenge but after seeing the belt’s peril increase to the point where it had actually been smashed, New Japan made the match official, and the floundering ace has chance to get back to the pinnace as, despite this being his return after injury, he feels his is fully ready to dethrone Naito.

I don’t need to tell you that 2 of the best wrestlers in the world are likely to put on a technical masterclass, because I’m damn sure they will, but instead, I will look more towards the potential result.

Based on the entire build you’d have to say that Tanahashi is the favourite; he’s going to be the friend the IC belt needs and finally claw it away from Tetsuya’s nasty grasp, with them potentially presenting him with a brand-new, squeaky-clean, non-smashed title belt upon getting the 3 count. My only doubt comes in the fact that Naito may win the match and vacate the belt a dominant, undefeated champion. Either way, this would then make Naito a shoo-in for winning August’s G1 Climax, propelling him into the Wrestle Kingdom 12 main event.

Predicted Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi

Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Kenny Omega – IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match

Never before in my life have I been so excited for a pro-wrestling match. Okada v Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 11 was without a doubt my personal favourite wrestling match ever, and as much as I would love them to, I don’t think they, or anyone else for that matter, will top it. It’s basically ruined wrestling for me because I’m sad that I’ll likely never see another match that amazing again. After all, it got 6 fucking stars.

So how did we arrive at this rematch? Well, Kenny wants to be the champion when New Japan present their G1 Special shows in California at the start of July, but he failed to win the New Japan Cup to get a title shot and instead he had to avenge his cup defeat to Ishii before, following his victory against Bad Luck Fale, Okada finally called out Omega.

Okada nominated Omega as he felt he was the strongest potential challenger to the championship that has become synonymous with the Rainmaker, and he also pointed out that he wanted the match that the fans most wanted to see. You’re damn right we want to see it! And on Sunday, we get it, so get excited.

They’re surely going to go for a hell of a long time, and crazy spots will be littered throughout, just like in the first match where we had the Terminator dive, the table smash, the spinning tombstone, the moonsault over the barrier, the dragon suplex off the top, and more and more and more. These two mesh like hand in glove.

I’ll say it now, if Kenny hits the One Winged Angel, he will win the title. Okada didn’t get caught by it last time out so I’m almost certain that if he does this time, it’s all over for the champion. It’s his time, it’s his moment, and I’m 99% certain that Omega is going to take it.

Predicted Winner: Kenny Omega

So that’s the lot, be sure to enjoy the show and tune in on New Japan World, both English and Japanese commentary will be available on the site, which you can find here: http://njpwworld.com/

What is your stance on the CM Punk Chants?

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CM Punk Champion

It is no secret that chants for former WWE champion CM Punk have been shouted loud and clear in 2017, with the name recently been blared during certain segments on Monday Night Raw.

Much discussion and debate has risen as a result and whilst some are against the chanting see for example, What Culture’s video on the matter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHTfiXrUaRc others sit on the opposing side of the fence and are unfased by the noise of the fans in attendance.

What I was wondering though is how do people at home feel about it in general? Do you like or hate the CM Punk stuff? Or do is not bother you either way? I thought it best to present the case for and against, and try to allow everyone to discuss their standpoint accordingly.

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Prologue

99% of wrestling followers know exactly who the man in question is, but just in case you’ve been living under a wrestling rock the past 10 years, or you’ve not been into WWE for too long, let me quickly run down a brief overview of CM Punk.

Punk was a massive indie star before arriving in WWE and as a result, he almost always had the backing of the fans as he broke onto the biggest scene before exploding into the biggest star in the business after his infamous pipebomb promo.

After that he was on top of the world and held the WWE Championship for a massive 434 days, but after missing out on his dream of being in the main event of Wrestlemania to the Twice in a Lifetime matches between The Rock and John Cena, he left the company the day after the 2014 Royal Rumble. He was banged up and worn out but even in leaving his action paved the way for Daniel Bryan to take centre stage at Wrestlemania XXX, one of the finest moments in WWE history.

Because of his amazing promos, his fantastic matches (my personal favourites being against Jeff Hardy, Brock Lesnar and many times against John Cena) and his stratospheric popularity people want to remember him in WWE. A lot of people would also consider him their favourite wrestler, and rightly so, he was/is one of the best in the world.

Chants have really picked up in volume recently however as a fake AJ Lee was bought out on a dark segment at Raw, as part of the film WWE and The Rock are making based on Paige. During this thunderous rendition, Rocky called Punk and left him a voicemail, Punk duly responded with a grateful tweet: https://twitter.com/cmpunk/status/833905165145145344?lang=en

Since then they have continued; very notably so in segments involving the Raw women, Stephanie McMahon, Seth Rollins and HHH, which leads up to this discussion, what do you think about people chanting CM Punk? And why perhaps, do people continue to chant his name?

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For

Everything mentioned in the above introduction shows exactly why people want to chant for their hero, and since they’ve paid their hard-earned money for ticket to the show, why the fuck not? So long as no offence is being dished out and no harm is being done to anyone, then the fans are free to enjoy shouting about their favourite wrestler, whether they’re still with the company or not.

If you’ve ever been to a wrestling show of any kind you’ll also know that shouting together as a huge audience is really, really fun. This might not always project through the television screen but by and large people are having a laugh and getting involved with the show, rather than trying to kybosh it as some may feel.

Crowds also often chant CM Punk in the direction of heel authority figures, namely Stephanie, Hunter and even a while ago, Vince. Seemingly the Punk chant represents a sort of ‘fuck you’ to the authority, which is exactly what the man stood for both in the sense of kayfabe and reality; personally I find that all quite amusing and enjoyable, especially when it elicits a response such as Stephanie’s recent classic, ‘if you could keep that up for 2 minutes and 15 seconds, you’d last one second longer than Punk did.’

Oh and finally in this section, do you actually need me to explain why Chicago will forever chant for Punk after gifting them the best wrestling moment the city has ever seen? Nope, didn’t think so, cheers.

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Against
Here’s where things could get a little spicy… There are seemingly 3 primary reasons why people dislike the CM Punk chanting. Irrelevance, trying to make the show about the crowd rather than what is going on in-ring and, most pertinently, throwing off segments.

Firstly, the point of irrelevance. CM Punk, fantastic as he was, hasn’t been seen in WWE since the Royal Rumble in 2014 and with his name being all but blacklisted by the company, he doesn’t currently have any place on Raw and Smackdown. Hence then why people do not see the point in the fans in attendance shouting the former champion’s name throughout arenas; it’s seen in a similar vein to the ‘what’ or former ‘ECW’ chants as it is just unnecessary.

Show goers trying to make their presence felt at home and almost attempting to make themselves appear more important than the wrestlers is something that has raged on for a while, especially in NXT since Owens labelled them ‘the John Cena of wrestling fans.’ Some of the Punk chants have the same effect and whilst, as mentioned, it is fun to get a reaction, it can go too far and feel like the crowd just want to take over the show instead; making it very tiresome for many.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, throwing off and even ruining segments is something that really has got under the skin of fans when the CM Punk chants begin. Rollins’ segment a few weeks back really suffered as while he was giving an emotional speech the crowd seemed to ignore him and chanted for Punk instead. It took the shine off what was a crucial moment in the lead up to Mania and that really isn’t cool.

Conclusion

So I pose the question to you all again, what is your stance on the CM Punk chants? Do you mind them? Do you hate them?

Personally, I’m of the volition that it is all fine if the timing is right. During Steph’s promos it pretty fun because she bites back, but when Bayley is speaking or when someone like Rollins is stating something really important, Punk chants are something we could really do without. There really is a time and place for everything, even Punk chants.

Wrestle Kingdom 11 – A Beginner’s Guide to the January 4th Tokyo Dome Show

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2017 is all but upon us and New Japan will be there to kick of your new year off with a bang as Wrestle Kingdom 11 will be coming live on Wednesday 4th of January. Last year’s show was phenomenal as it featured AJ Styles’ last Japanese match against Shinsuke Nakamaura and was headlined by Okada versus Tanahashi in a blow-off match to top all blow-off matches.

Wrestle Kingdom 10 then will clearly be a tough act to follow but based on the card announced they will certainly be going all out in order to put on the greatest show possible. But what if you aren’t into New Japan? Or what if you’re just looking for a reminder as to what is scheduled for the show? Well, my friends, I am here to assist you and hope my handy guide gets you all excited for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s flagship showcase.

I’ll be running through the matches, give you context of the storyline and what to perhaps expect to see before rounding off with my prediction for each bout’s victor. So strap yourselves in because I’m about to beam some information into your eyeballs.

 

Tiger Mask W versus Tiger the Dark

So the first show on the main card is based on the Japanese anime show, Tiger Mask W. The Tiger Mask character has long a part of NJPW but this year the newest version of the anime series was launched, so much like WWE promoted 2K17 with Goldberg, New Japan are promoting the series with a match, albeit in a less high profile face-off the Goldberg v Lesnar.

It will be the second match in New Japan for the character who defeated Red Death Mask at King of Pro Wrestling earlier this year. Babyface Tiger Mask should easily topple the villain from the anime, Tiger the Dark in a short match that will likely get the crowd nicely warmed up with some playful flipping and won’t be taken too seriously by many.

Oh, and who is Tiger Mask W? Well currently it’s Kota Ibushi! It seems bizarre that he is taking on this persona rather than appearing in New Japan as himself but hey ho, we get an Ibushi match on the undercard. For reference, Tiger the Dark will be a masked version of ACH who should blend well with Ibushi’s style as he continues to work his way up the New Japan ladder having shone in the Super Junior Tag Tournament earlier in the year. Probably not one worth tracking down if you miss it, but it’ll be fun nonetheless.

Predicted Winner: Tiger Mask W

 

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship – The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) (C) versus Roppongi Vice (Trent Beretta and Rocky Romero)

New Japan have ducked what was seemingly becoming a tradition for Wrestle Kingdom – a Super Junior Tag Title 4-way of excitement and crazy spots – as this year the straps will be defend in a simple 2 versus 2 scenario. However, as big a fan as I am of that car crash style 4-way, this should still be an absolute Christmas cracker.

Roppongi obtained this Tokyo Dome opportunity as they overcame their differences in order to be victorious in the Super Junior Tag Tournament which culminated at Power Struggle in November, defeating the aforementioned ACH and Taiji Ishimori in a wonderful final match. They will be looking to begin their 3rd Junior Tag Title in January but it won’t be easy as they face the highly-regarded Bucks of Youth.

The Bucks haven’t had a high profile match in New Japan for a while and have instead been largely tagging with Bullet Club leader Kenny Omega to take on CHAOS, the Okada led group which Roppongi are part of. They have also been defending their ROH tag title over in America recently, so this match has taken a bit of a backseat but this tag bout will almost certainly turn some heads at Wrestle Kingdom.

Expect high energy, speed, dangerous spots and creative offence between the teams; they both know each other so well and their styles blend excellently for a high-risk, high-reward showcase. I also don’t feel one finisher will finish someone off here and suspect we will need a team to pull out a huge combination in order to go home with the belts. I see Rocky and Trent putting an end to the Bucks’ fifth reign with the titles and hopefully they will go on to produce some fresh feuds for the gold.

Predicted Winner: Roppongi Vice

 

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship – David Finlay, Ricochet and Satoshi Kojima (C) versus Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi and Hangman Page) versus CHAOS (Jado, Will Ospreay and YOSHI-HASHI) versus Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL and SANADA)

Well that title was a bloody mouthful! So remember that 4-way Junior tag match I mentioned earlier? Yea? Well, this appears to be replacing that in the insane, ‘get everyone on the card, good luck keeping track on the action’ match. It will probably be decent and wrestlers get to perform on the grandest stage in Japan but this is madness. At least it is a gauntlet so not everyone will be battering each other at once and a little cohesion will be present amongst the 12 fellas.

The champions are defending against the 3 main groups in company and despite having fun matches during their reign, I think is this the end for Finlay, Ricochet and Kojima. There’s no story behind this stage-by-stage contest so I would just expect the faction members with the most momentum behind them to rise above the others, and that to me is Los Ingobernables de Japon.

Following an above-average World Tag League performance by EVIL and SANADA I would imagine that they, along with BUSHI, have enough to win. Page and Takahashi also did surprising well in the Tag League but given that Fale stank up the league I wouldn’t give Bullet Club too much chance, but they are more likely to win than CHAOS who are all good workers but don’t really have the star power compared to the other 3. If I had to predict the order of elimination I would guess the champs begin against CHAOS, then take out Bullet Club before finally succumbing to Ingobernables.

If you can keep up with the action this one should be pretty enjoyable but fighters will likely be spilling all over the ringside area, so best of luck to yourselves. Everyone here will hopefully get a chance to shine, especially my favourites: Ospreay, Ricochet, HASHI and the Ingobernables boys, but as I have covered already, this is going to be a daft wreckage of action with everyone trying to get their party pieces in within their short stay in the bout.

Predicted Winner: Los Ingobernables de Japon

 

Cody Rhodes versus Juice Robinson

Cody Rhodes is about to become the first man to appear at Wrestlemania, Bound for Glory, Final Battle and Wrestle Kingdom within the space of 12 months as he makes his New Japan Pro Wrestling debut this January against fellow former WWE alumni, Juice Robinson, who was CJ Parker in NXT.

The ‘American Nightmare’ was introduced to the Japanese audience as the latest member of the Bullet Club and instantly had the wrestling world buzzing to the name of Cody and Bullet Club once again. A big, established name like Cody adds much needed freshness to the Bullet Club as the last few inductees haven’t exactly set the world alight with their presence; I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him in a co-leadership role (in a similar vein to Anderson under Styles) before too long.

Kicking his New Japan career off against Robinson is a smart move too. Our dreadlock-headed friend has really improved throughout the year having worked alongside top stars such as Hiroshi Tanahashi and Michael Elgin, making himself a very good hand for anyone to work with. I would expect the match to be similar to most of Cody’s on the indies thus far, nothing too special, but certainly not bad; at the very least it will flow well and Cody will get to show off his arsenal to an untapped audience.

If Cody doesn’t take the win here I’ll eat my hat. It would make absolutely zero sense for Juice to go over someone who is destined to be in and around the main event scene in the next year; plus, given Cody’s now infamous list, a match with NEVER Openweight Champion SHIBATA surely isn’t too far in the distance.

Predicted Winner: Cody Rhodes

 

ROH World Championship – Kyle O’Reilly (C) versus Adam Cole

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I’ll be honest with you and say that I don’t know as much about this match compared to the others, as whilst I love to keep up with New Japan, I tend to skip weekly ROH television and only watch the PPVs. So this will be a brief overview of the big Ring of Honor title match which looks to become settling in as a staple of the January show of all shows.

Kyle O’Reilly, who New Japan are very big on right now, will collide with Bullet Club’s Adam Cole in a rematch of the Final Battle main event, occurring on December 2nd. The two had been clashing heads for some time and Adam Cole issued a great promo video to hype the match as he talked down O’Reilly as inferior to Cole and stated that Kyle would be unable to ever defeat the heel champion; obviously he was made to eat his words and now O’Reilly comes into the Dome as the defender.

Even though Adam Cole has a full-time New Japan contract and O’Reilly is still negotiating his between ROH and NJPW, I would imagine the latter would probably retain here given the recent change of the ROH title. Plus, whilst it is not their show, I doubt New Japan would want to make their partner company’s main show of the year feel redundant just a month down the line.

Predicted Winner: Kyle O’Reilly

 

IWGP Tag Team Championship – Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa) versus CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) versus G.B.H (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma)

Well, what looked to be another standard tag match between G.O.D and G.B.H just got really, really interesting as just a few days ago, Yano returned from NOAH requesting to be added to this match with Ishii as his partner. Following that, the two CHAOS guys attacked the Tonga and Roa, stealing their belts in the process and as such, they have been added to this contest, making it a triple threat for the heavyweight gold, nice!

Bullet Club’s G.O.D have improved immensely throughout the year; their initial title reign was abhorrent but second time round they have had some quality matches, including at the Tag League final when they were beaten by Makabe and Honma. This is the second consecutive year in which G.B.H have won the league and will compete at the Dome again as a result, however this time, I can’t see them repeating their success.

A hard-hitting fight is on the cards here and I would especially keep your eyes peeled for Honma’s insane headbutts and Ishii’s seemingly annual ‘I’m going to headbutt you until we’re both concussed’ segment. Tonga will likely keep the action flowing too as he has become a real master of the tag match lately, whilst Yano will cheat and perform his usual comedy spots – so this match has a chunk of different and interesting offerings.

Before the adding of CHAOS I would have predicted that G.O.D were set to go from strength to strength and retain their title in another solid match, but now I would say Ishii and Yano are the favourites because whenever a new tag team appears NJPW love to throw the belts onto them. However, I would like the champions to continue their successful second reign; something I cannot believe I’m saying after watching the twosome earlier this year.

Predicted Winner: CHAOS

 

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship – KUSHIDA (C) versus Hiromu Takahashi

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Oh man, there are so many reasons to be excited about this match. Ever since Hiromu Takahashi reappeared in New Japan when the timebomb went off at Power Struggle I have been hyped for these two throwing down at Wrestle Kingdom, and the Junior Heavyweight belt is set for another wonderfully entertaining January 4th match.

KUSHIDA has had a truly tremendous year in 2016 having really made the Junior belt his own collectors item in a bunch of top level matches against the likes of Will Ospreay and BUSHI amongst others. In 2017 I would really like to see him advance into the heavyweight scene and finally challenge for Japan’s most valuable prizes such as the G1 or the New Japan Cup; he’s definitely at their skill level so I just pray his size doesn’t hinder him in stepping up to the next stage.

The eccentric Takashashi returned looking like a Back to the Future character after travelling the world of wrestling under the alias Kamaitachi, most notably in CMLL and ROH, and at the Tag League final he joined the team that has been putting the boots to KUSHIDA all year, Los Ingobernables de Japon. So if there wasn’t enough beef between the two before, they will certainly want to beat the crap out of one another now.

This is probably the toughest on the card to judge so far as both have really good reason to win. Takahashi taking the belt would give him a real boost with the Asian crowd as he will look like an even bigger deal to them with a victory, similarly to how he is respected in the American and Mexican scene. KUSHIDA winning would continue his strong push towards the previously mentioned heavyweight roster, however, much like Omega did last January, he might be better dropping the title and then building afresh from the loss. If you held a gun to my head, I’d go with the new boy.

Predicted Winner: Hiromu Takahashi

 

NEVER Openweight Championship – Katsuyori Shibata (C) versus Hirooki Goto

Now you may have noticed that many of the matches so far are not so much storyline driven and are instead booked from wrestlers appearing in the company or straight up challenging someone for their belt. Shibata versus Goto still has elements of that challenger versus champion build but these two have been intertwined throughout their careers in New Japan and will come to violent blows once again at the Tokyo Dome.

The former classmates feuded when Shibata returned to New Japan in 2012 and then teamed together, evening winning the 2014 Tag League and IWGP Tag Team Championships, but earlier this year Goto finally jumped to CHAOS after being persuaded by Okada and their alignment permanently ended. Shibata was understandably pissed off and threw some shade Goto’s way, but everything was brushed under the rug until now.

After Shibata (with Nagata) pinned Goto at the World Tag League and Goto (with Ishii) returned the favour 5 days later, New Japan made the match official and we will get treated to an insane face-off for the NEVER Openweight title. Shibata has made the championship his own this year and, in my opinion, has been the best champion since the carnation of the belt after having stellar matches with many of the older hands in NJPW, EVIL and both members of ReDRagon, just to name a few.   

Another tough one to choose a winner for but I would lean towards Shibata retaining as he is a real favourite for the New Japan Cup which takes place in March; even if he doesn’t win that, a feud for his title against Bullet Club’s Cody Rhodes could well be on the cards. Hirooki Goto just wouldn’t gain as much by winning as Shibata would be retaining, but stranger things have happened in wrestling.

Predicted Winner: Katsuyori Shibata

 

IWGP Intercontinental Championship – Tetsuya Naito (C) versus Hiroshi Tanahashi

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What a year it was for Tetsuya Naito; after navigating troubled waters in previous years he became a leading talent in New Japan and became only the 4th man in 5 years to hold the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Now he is the Intercontinental Champion having crushed Michael Elgin in an insanely good match back at Destruction in Kobe, leading to this dreamy co-main event between the Los Ingobernables leader and the face of resurgence in New Japan.

There was talk of a potential fan vote for what would main event Wrestle Kingdom 11, which happened a few years back at WK8, seeing Tanahashi being pushed into the main event against Shinsuke Nakamura, whilst Naito went on second last against Okada; this has not come to fruition though and as a result, Hiroshi Tanahashi’s long streak of main eventing the Tokyo Dome comes to an end.

Naito has turned everything he has touched into gold this year and his Ingobernables stable is the most popular thing in New Japan right now. He lies, he cheats, he steals, he throws belts, he has incredible matches – the man can do it all, say it all, and winning against Tananhashi would be the perfect conclusion to what has been a wonderful story of redemption.

Tanahashi on the other hand, has stalled throughout 2016. He lost at the Tokyo Dome against Okada and was topped by Kenny Omega for the Intercontinental belt in February before suffering an awful injury which kept him out of the ladder match between him and Kenny. Aligning with Elgin, Kushida and company against Ingobernables (he beat SANADA at Power Struggle too) put him and his wonderful hair in the perfect position to attempt to bring down Naito, and with Tanahashi that is certainly possible, much like John Cena in WWE, he is the man in New Japan.

Further stacking the deck against the champion is the fact that he has never won a singles match at the January 4th show, having been defeated in 5 solo attempts, whereas Tanahashi often comes out on top. I would say that despite me wanting Los Ingobernables to take over the wrestling world and that I believe a victory would be most beneficial to Naito, I feel given the draw that Tanahashi is, the 40-year old will go over and begin his second IWGP Intercontinental Championship reign.

Predicted Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi

 

IWGP Heavyweight Championship – Kazuchika Okada (C) versus Kenny Omega

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Hold onto your balls and get your popcorn ready because this could well be the first 7 star Dave Meltzer match and the 2017 match of the year. If you have never seen either of these guys before let me tell you that Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada are two of the finest pro-wrestlers walking the earth today and both have potential to become the best of all time at just 33 and 29 years old respectively. Seriously, they’re right up there with AJ Styles.

So how did these two generals of pro-wrestling get to the main event of the 2017 Wrestle Kingdom? Well, Kazuchika Okada has been the top champion in New Japan for all but 70 days of the calendar year and has had another annum of incredible matches and stories against top talents such as: Tetsuya Naito, Naomichi Marufuji and Hiroshi Tanahashi. At the end of all of these mountains he has triumphed but at the Tokyo Dome he faces what may be his bigger threat of them all…

Bullet Club leader Kenny Omega has a defining year in New Japan and has been a fine leader for the prestigious faction since AJ Styles moved to the WWE in January. Not only did he claim his first IWGP Intercontinental Championship, he also put on some of the best matches you may ever see against Nito, Goto, Elgin and Tanahashi. But to top it all off, he became the first gaijin to win the G1 Climax in its current incarnation, granting him this title shot in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 11.

Since his crowning moment in August Omega has successfully defended his main event briefcase against Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI and has been beating the snot out of Okada on the road to Wrestle Kingdom, standing tall over his foe at the final New Japan PPV of the year. Okada then will want to not only defend his Heavyweight belt but he will also want some revenge on the man and faction that have troubled him so much lately.

Okay, so who wins? Well, I really couldn’t call this one, it’s the hardest of the lot! Kenny Omega having his crowning moment after one of the best years possible in the sport would be both ideal and exciting for me but Okada, being the golden new boy of New Japan, could well retain his championship, just as he did a year ago. Screw it, I’m going to say Okada will win but honestly choosing is so hard.

Predicted Winner: Kazuchika Okada

 

So that’s your lot then folks, I’m sure many of you will agree there’s a selection of tasty matches to sink your teeth into and you can watch it all on New Japan World, which is available via the following link: http://njpwworld.com/ – if you have the time to watch it is certainly world the money, so treat yourself folks and Happy New Year!

FloSlam.tv – Can this new wrestling streaming service be a success?

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This Monday a new pro-wrestling streaming platform, FloSlam.tv, was announced and whilst details remain to be finalised there is a lot of interest surrounding this potentially game-changing service. Following the success of the WWE Network alternative streaming services appear to be the way forward for the wrestling distribution industry and the website already has people stirring about the potential behind this site and whether it will deliver a wrestling fan’s dream or an overly-ambitious nightmare.

At present the website is rather bland (almost like an illegal streaming website), but it is already clear as to some of the programming we can expect to see upon potentially signing-up to the service. WWNLive productions including Evolve, SHIMMER and SHINE appear to be the foundations of what will be offered, with further promotions expected to be added in future, as well as an archive of all WWNLive video dating back to 2003.

Getting to view these PPV’s live on what should be a more reliable webcast than is currently available – Evolve, for example, is sometimes difficult to watch live without a stream mishap – is so appealing as poor production quality often leads to viewer frustration and inevitably turns people away from something they will potentially adore.

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Furthermore to this large catalogue of content, we will also be getting treated to original documentaries featuring the very best wrestlers in the independent companies of the world and the number of companies involved in this program will hopefully increase rather quickly as FloSports are looking to add the very best from the UK and Japan to their network.

The company are apparently searching the globe for even more content from the pro-wrestling hotbeds, Japan and the United Kingdom. So being able to watch the aforementioned companies as well as potentially shows such as Progress, ICW, RevPro, Dragon Gate and more means this streaming system could be astonishing value for wrestling fans who are looking for a simpler, more streamlined way to view some of the leading and highly entertaining independent promotions that may not be easily available to them.

Ring of Honor has also been heavily linked to the FloSlam service so far and should they be a part of this venture it could gain some real momentum and their inclusion would likely be a fruitful way to assist subscriber numbers in taking flight.

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It all sounds very similar to the Network, wouldn’t you say?

Being similar to the WWE Network is certainly not a bad thing; after all, the service currently has just under 1.5 million paying users on its books. Hence why WWE have invested in this new streaming site. They clearly see the value in streaming wrestling rather than in the PPV purchasing system but is this new platform worth purchasing? On the other hand to the many positives listed above, there are some clear concerns.

For starters, PWG, whom many see as the best indie promotion currently running, have already turned down a deal with the site without even considering the move. They make a heap of their income on DVD Sales and removing their exclusivity would likely have a hugely negative impact on the number of discs they would ship after each event. On top of that, a lot of the talent they use may be restricted by TV deals meaning that, had they opted to move to the FloSlam system, some of the wrestlers may not have been available to work for PWG.

Secondly, Dave Meltzer has mentioned that WWE, despite being an investor, are unhappy with Flosports already. It is unclear as to why but one would imagine it has something to do with their partnership with Evolve – maybe they were looking to put some Evolve programming onto the Network rather than another streaming application? Or perhaps it is due to their lack of content control? At this point a concrete reason for their disappointment remains to be seen and all speculation should be taken with a pinch of salt and should be food for thought only.

Finally, we have to address the elephant in the room. The price. $20 per month, which is £16.64 for us British folk. Now if this service fails to deliver on its early promises it will almost undoubtedly not be worth you cash; a large catalogue spanning the world of quality independent companies is vital in the making or the breaking of the FloSports service. If they manage to get hold of ROH programming and beyond this could be an absolute revelation for independent streaming and lead to a lot more talent breaking through into the big leagues. So let the balancing act ensue.

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The ultimate question remains then, can this new FloSlam.tv streaming service be a success for independent wrestling? Yes, it can be a success if they manage to expand their catalogue of companies as speculated so far – and I really hope it does take off, an oasis of indie wrestling is something I am very interested in getting behind. Supporting your favourite wrestlers and promotions raises the game across the board and as a collective these companies could experience a real boom thanks to the new website.

However, I would wait before putting your hard-earned money on the line. $20 per month is pretty steep given the little content they have readily available and the fact that the WWE Network and New Japan World are both available at a much cheaper rate. But give it a couple of months and it could be the best thing to happen to the wrestling business in some time. I’m excited, and I hope you are too, FloSlam may be the one to watch for 2017.

Dropping the Ball: When will Triple H explain his recent actions?

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Kevin Owens has been WWE Universal Champion for approximately month and a half now and his feud with Seth Rollins looks set to culminate at the upcoming PPV event, Hell in a Cell. The cell match should be used to finalise the storyline but we are yet to discover exactly how Owens became champion. Why did Triple H choose him? Why did he turn on his golden boy?

The week after Owens’ victory on Raw there was a great atmosphere of excitement as fans tuned in to hear Triple H congratulate Owens, raise his new protégé’s hand and explain his interference in the previous main event. Instead we got an Owens title celebration and a confrontation between Rollins and Stephanie as the story of Seth being unable trust the wife of the main who screwed him out of the championship. It was sloppy, and way too much focus was put on Rollins’ relationship with Steph, Hunter and even Foley.

Immediately this made Owens take a backseat instead of driving the vehicle of momentum forward as the lack of Triple H appearance or any sort of reasoning for him gift-wrapping a win for KO left fans confused and frustrated that everything was still and mystery. Plus, we had no top babyface to rally behind as, given that Stephanie and Foley were positioned as faces, Seth’s intentions still remained murky too, a factor that really hurt their otherwise brilliant Clash of Champions face-off.

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Such fan frustrations reign true to this day. Whilst Rollins has transitioned into a more overtly good-guy he is still walking the line between heel and face, and we are yet to find out what the hell is going on behind the scenes with Triple H. Surely we are going to end up with a mega-face Rollins versus Triple H match somewhere in the next year but we don’t have any clue of when that might be. Will Hunter appear at Hell in a Cell, or Survivor Series maybe? Or will the trigger be pulled as far away as 2017 instead?

Viewers are left longing in the dark and the steam around storyline has been lost; sure, a HHH v Rollins feud and match will be awesome but why leave the fans confused and deflated, and why not give some extra momentum to Owens via a Triple H promo? Striking whilst the iron was hot would have surely added fire into the Raw main event picture, rather than slowly burning through another Authority angle. How many more can they churn out?!

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Luckily the champion has managed to remain on track thanks to his partnership with the always-excellent Chris Jericho – Owens has been able to avoid taking pins in his tag matches with Y2J and has been involved is the most entertaining segments of Raw because everything Jericho touches turns to gold. JericKO’s promo with the New Day had me balling. Now we just need that sweet sweet Triple H endorsement to round off this chapter so that Owens can begin to branch out alone and likely have a world title clash with Chris after abandoning their already fragile friendship.

Given the direction that both wrestlers are moving in, Rollins will likely lose inside the cell due to some sort of tomfoolery which could likely involve Hunter and the tale will probably continue until Wrestlemania as having Seth v HHH overshadowed by Brock v Goldberg at Survivor Series would be an odd decision. This is a main event match-up on every card apart from perhaps Wrestlemania and Summerslam so it shouldn’t be wasted half way down a PPV card.

I want to make it clear; I’m all for Triple H choosing Owens to be the top guy and I’m all for a match between him and Seth, but things need to start picking up some pace, otherwise fans will be left tired of the constant cliff-hanger and struggle to get behind the feud because nothing has been answered. They’re testing the fans’ patience with this one but I really hope they address the elephant in the room before the crowd gives up on the angle.

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Bold Predictions for the next 12 months in Pro-Wrestling

A hell of a lot can change in 12 months. This time last year AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura were both still main eventers in New Japan, Seth Rollins hadn’t got injured yet and the Cruiserweight Classic was something that wrestling fans could only dream of. Now, a year on from October 2015, all of the above has changed; Nakamura and Styles are NXT and World Heavyweight Champions in WWE, Seth has returned from a lengthy spell on the side-lines and Cruiserweights now have their own personal spot on Monday nights. Crazy.

With that in mind, I’m going to make some bold predictions as to what I think will happen in the wrestling world within the next annum…

Big E wins the WWE Universal Championship

Kicking things off with a literal big one, I truly feel that Big E will rise to the top of the WWE ladder in the next 12 months and will get his hands on the top Raw title at some point. After all, he has all of the makings of a champion; huge stature and strength with an interesting move set and is a thoroughly entertaining presence on the mic thanks to his work with New Day.

He has also firmly established himself in the midcard having held the IC and tag belts during his tenure, so once the New Day ship sails, Big E will be firmly established as a legitimate and threatening superstar, ready to voyage boldly into the main event ocean. Almost like the opposite of roman Reigns whereby the fans will get behind him because they have seen him work insanely hard further down the card before his top-level push begins.

So long as he keeps his character interesting as it is now he will surely be a babyface that we can all get behind, something that the company is seriously missing at the minute. There’s no Kazuchika Okada or Daniel Bryan for us all to support and that factor, ultimately, is hurting the show. (See: Clash of Champions main event.) Maybe Big E can fill this hole in the coming year? I believe he may be the answer to Raw’s current woes. Plus, when Roman Reigns was selected as ‘the guy’ apparently Big E was in the frame to be pushed too, but Roman obviously became the chosen one of the pair, so management are hopefully very high on him.

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Jay Lethal and Adam Cole sign with WWE/NXT

It is surely only a matter of time before the current and previously ROH Heavyweight champions follow in the footsteps of Daniel Bryan, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and more and make the transition from Ring of Honor and New Japan towards the biggest wrestling company on the planet.

Having done everything there is to do in ROH, they’ve both (especially Adam Cole) been on the radar of Regal and Hunter for some time and with NXT losing a lot of key men to the main roster, and the annual post-Mania jump bound to occur again, it would add much-needed weight and interest to the yellow brand. So not only would this be a great benefit to their individual careers, it would be of huge benefit to the NXT roster too as it would add some much-needed star power to get viewers back on the hype train.

I also feel that, whilst 1 year feels too soon, in 2 years’ time, Michael Elgin will also join WWE. Right now he is killing it in Japan, having held the Intercontinental belt and performing in classic matches against Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito. Though I love him in New Japan I really cannot contain myself at the thought of Elgin coming face to face with Nakamura, Samoa Joe and maybe even Brock bloody Lesnar.

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Undertaker retires in the Wrestlemania main event versus John Cena

Rumours of a John Cena versus Undertaker match fly about every year come Mania time and this year’s only different will be that the highly-anticipated collision may actually take place. I imagine Taker, much like Flair and Michaels did before him, will want to bow out on the grandest stage against the opponent who could give him the best and biggest match possible, and Cena is undoubtedly the man to tango with for that.

And despite there not being a title involved in the face-off I would fully expect this match to be the main event of Mania 33. After all, we have 2 world titles now so which would deserve the top spot and also, in terms of draw power, this is the biggest showing they could top the card with. Both are world renowned megastars and Undertaker deserves the spot after years of incredible work and countless colossal matches.

It’s a shame that the streak is no longer intact for matches like this as someone retiring the Undertaker via cheating, especially Cena, would draw Hulk Hogan Bash at the Beach levels of heat from the fans. Cena beating Taker in the dead man’s final in-ring appearance may not do much for John in terms of a veteran rub and that could maybe be better used for Owens or Ambrose for example, but it certainly would be a spectacle, and that is exactly what Wrestlemania has always, and will always, be about.

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Katsuyori Shibata wins the G1 Climax 27

It has become a running joke for New Japan fans that, despite his sheer brilliance, Katsuyori Shibata will never rise to the top of the company and has little chance of winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, let alone standing tall at the finale of the greatest competition in the sport and going on to headline Wrestle Kingdom 12 at the Tokyo Dome. That joke will surely become reality someday though, and why not make it next year?

Yes, he left the company in a time of need, and yes, the trust barrier is still tarnished from such an event, but when someone is as good as Shibata, how long can you keep them out of the spotlight for? He’s been a key figure in the NEVER Openweight picture for the entire year and had a good showing in the G1 too; so he’s been slowly building his reputation back up and has already won over the crowd as a result.

If this year was Omega’s then next year could easily be Shibata’s as NJPW continue to push out top talent on their conveyor belt of stars. A main event match against either Okada or Tanahashi could easily cement Shibata as another giant babyface in the company and will give them even more pulling power moving forward. Overall, whilst this prediction is rather speculative, it would be bloody phenomenal if it occurred.

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So there you have it, my bold(ish) predictions for the next year of professional wrestling. What do you think will happen in the coming 12 months? Let me know in the comments or via Twitter @wrestlewreview

New Japan Pro Wrestling: Destruction 2016 – Reviewing the key matches over the 3 days

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NJPW’s latest PPV production was delivered across 3 nights in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Kobe – there was a ton of matches across the trio of shows but I’m going to focus solely on the most important and most impressive matches. Overall, people seemed indifferent with the showings and wanted more from the productions overall, but here’s a rundown on what I thought of a bunch of the bouts.

Night 1 – Destruction in Tokyo

NEVER Openweight Championship Match – Katsuyori Shibata (C) versus Bobby Fish

The always-excellent Shibata was cleared at the last minute for his title defence against Bobby fish on the opening night as he is currently suffering from thoracic spine deterioration. Obviously this is very serious and he has since been pulled from the other Destruction nights in order to allow him time to heal. Right now, it would likely be best for him to take some extended time off in order to return stronger than ever towards the end of the year when the NOAH versus New Japan story looks set to explode.

That said, he competed against Mr. Fish and successfully defended his NEVER Openweight Championship for the second time since regaining the belt at Dominion. Likely due to Shibata’s injury they worked a slower, submission based match which I really enjoyed; the pair both tried to outsmart one another with their mat wrestling in order to lock in a hold. Despite this there were still some stiff strikes from both as they each showed their toughness to the crowd, a couple of dirty suplexes and a headbutt that landed with an earth-shattering thud.

In the end, after both men showed so much fire and intensity, Shibata won the dramatic contest after slapping on the sleeper and blasting Bobby with the PK Kick, which is one of my favourite finishers right now. After the pinfall, Fish’s ReDRagon teammate Kyle O’Reilly hit the ring and a match against the champion looks set to take place if Shibata is healthy enough. If it goes ahead I see no reason why this wouldn’t be a fantastic face-off; Shibata has been one of the best in New Japan for some time now, and O’Reilly is really breaking boundaries and showing his is something special, here’s hoping we get that one.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match – KUSHISA (C) versus BUSHI

Based on their tremendous match at New Beginning back in February this year, I had really high hopes coming into this main event. In reality however, whilst this was by no means a bad match, it wasn’t a particularly good one either – it was messy and the timing of events seemed rather off and considering that this something that New Japan usually nail, it was a very strange watch.

Before anything began a new mystery member of LIDJ (Los Ingobernables de Japon) walked out donning a mask, who that will be remains to be seen but it’s a very interesting prospect moving forward. BUSHI and KUSHIDA entered afterwards and the match began with the LIDJ junior using as many dirty tactics as he could to get on top; he threw KUSHIDA into barricades, used a chair, choked his foe with his T-shirt and topped it all off with his own variation of Naito’s pose, it really started off strongly.

Then the madness began to ensue. During a KUSHIDA comeback the referee was knocked down meaning BUSHI could shoot the black mist and Naito could saunter down to the ring to help put the boots to the champion – Michael Elgin limped in to make the save and chucked Naito to the back, saving KUSHIDA’s skin. Timing for this disruption seemed far too early and somewhat unnecessary as there was still a lot of the match to go.

The two traded moves until KUSHIDA finally sunk in his Hoverboard Lock and somehow BUSHI escaped before rallying and nailing the title holder with a Canadian Destroyer followed by 2 of his MX finishers to take the belt! I for one was rather surprised by the result, especially given that the win was pretty much clean due to the interference coming so early on. Score one for Ingobernables then as the night ended with BUSHI spitting mist onto the belt and posing for the cameras.

Night 2 – Destruction in Hiroshima

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match – The Briscoes (C) versus The Young Bucks

Will they, won’t they? That is the question that New Japan fans are asking in regards to the unification of the tag belts. Whilst this match looked to be a step in the direction of combination, The Briscoes overcome their junior challengers and the belts for now, seem destined to remain separate. With their titles not being on the line I can understand why The Bucks didn’t win this match but I really thought, at least for a little while, one team would hold both belts given the thinness of the 2 divisions.

The battle of the brothers had a very clear story; the Briscoes, as heavyweights, were the more powerful of the teams whilst the Bucks, as juniors, needed to use their superior high flying and speed to get ahead. After a bunch of nearfalls from both and Matt and Nick almost getting the pinfall after a More Bang for Your Buck the Briscoe brothers, in their fancy pants, retained their titles thanks to a Doomsday Device. We’ve seen these guys have better matches in the past but this was still a fun contest and had me popping for all the big moves.

The Bucks weren’t hurt by the loss but I would have liked to see them win just to have a new direction for the suffering tag belts. Instead what we look to be getting is another Guerrillas of Destiny title shot as they surprise attacked the winners during their celebrations – talk about one step forward, two steps back – I really don’t want them to have the championships again, one reign was bad enough.

ROH Heavyweight Championship Match – Adam Cole (C) versus Will Ospreay

Adam Cole’s first big solo appearance in New Japan involved him defending his ROH belt against one of the most promising pro-wrestlers on the planet, Will Ospreay. The twosome looked very excited and happy to be participating in such a match and, whilst both are capable of so much more, it was enjoyable and a solid introduction for Cole as he knocked off a current NJPW favourite.

Cole made sure to get his signature ‘BAYBAY’ catchphrase over to the Japanese crowd and got a decent reaction given how early it is in tenure there. Ospreay didn’t seem to be going quite as hard as we have seen throughout 2016 but that is likely due to his injuries mounting up, so taking things a bit easier for B-level shows is welcomed. That said, the pair still hit a bunch of exciting moves that got the fans into it, Ospreay also peaked their interest by taking the piss out of Cole’s chants and taunts. I was pleasantly surprised by how much offence the Englishman landed as I expected a more dominant Cole performance, but in the end, we got the obvious victory for Cole via the Panama Sunrise and a crazy brainbuster to the knee.

A clean and clear win for the champion was a good way of fully introducing him into New Japan and the loss shouldn’t stunt Ospreay’s momentum – I feel like Cole will become a massive deal over there, much like fellow ROH pro Michael Elgin has done before him. Hopefully we get a rematch of this sometime down the line as we know they could have a barnstormer if given the time and the right slot on the card. I also believe this is just the beginning for Ospreay and the ROH title as I’m almost certain he will win it in his career if he does not end up moving to NXT/WWE anytime soon.

Tokyo Dome Contract Match – Kenny Omega (C) versus YOSHI-HASHI

Other than for the sweet banter of Okada versus HASHI main eventing Wrestle Kingdom 11, the rising CHAOS man was never going to take the highly-sought-after title shot away from Kenny Omega. Despite that though (and I can’t believe I’m saying this about a YOSHI-HASHI match) I was very excited for this show-closing contest. Their face-off at the G1 was probably my favourite solo YOSHI match but this 25-minute stonker in Hiroshima definitely topped it in my books.

Omega started with a slower, more methodical pace than in their last match as, though he knew he had the beating of his foe, the surprise win for HASHI in the G1 would have been playing on his mind. He worked over HASHI with powerful strikes and, with the assistance of the Bucks on the outside, took full control of proceedings until an eventual and impressive comeback from the challenger. It’s great to see how much more captivating HASHI is now, he’s really improved over the summer period and is smooth as butter – that Head Hunter (front flip neckbreaker) is a thing of sheer beauty.

After the slow start and the comeback things really heated up and the ending sequence included a plethora of nearfalls and the trading of brutal strikes. Eventually Kenny hit the V-Trigger knee strike and the One-Winged Angel to kill off his courageous challenger; HASHI looked so bloody good during this one and Kenny has another top-drawer match to add to his collection. I really, really got into this main event and am so pleased with the direction that New Japan seem to be going with both men, onwards and upwards for them!

Following the bell, Goto, who was supporting his CHAOS brethren throughout, entered the ring and pointed towards Kenny; Omega responded by cutting a promo on Hirooki and told him, and the audience, they can Go-to hell. Many expected Shibata to be the man to get this challenge for the Tokyo Dome spot but given his injuries it’s safe to assume the Goto has been shoehorned in as his replacement for now. Reaction for this has been mixed but personally I’m all for it given that their last clash on the final day of the G1 was easily one of my favourite matches of the year.

Night 3 – Destruction in Kobe

NEVER 6-Man Tag Team Championship Match – Satoshi Kojima, Ricochet and David Finlay versus Adam Cole, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson

Matt Sydal, teammate of Ricochet, was taken off the show due to ‘travel issues’ but rumours all seem to point towards him being finished with New Japan, reasons as to why remain unclear but it is concerning news if he doesn’t have another big contract lined up. His replacement was young lion David Finlay, who has been growing in stature at a rapid rate due to his impressive work in the opening matches and in the Super Juniors tournament. It’s brilliant to see him get such a big opportunity early on in his career and he will learn so much by working with Kojima and Ricochet.

These belts have been tossed around like a game of pass-the-parcel so far but this match was exactly what I want to see for the straps moving forward, it was super-entertaining. All 6 guys looked great throughout and everyone got some cool spots and offence in; I loved Kojima’s triple chops in the corner and Ricochet hitting a mesmerising springboard cutter to prevent the Meltzer Driver. There was also a really funny spot where each Bullet Club guy would come in and shout ‘Brainbuster!’ before trying to hit it on Finlay, all 3 would then fail before Kojima and Ricochet hit the ring and the faces hit a trio of stereo suplexes.

Ricochet scored the eventual pin for his team with his always lovely Shooting Star Press, making Kojima (who looks revitalised working with the two younger stars) Ricochet and Finlay the champions. Post-match Finlay got on the mic and laid a challenge down from him and Ricochet to the Bucks, pretty much cementing his position as Sydal’s long-term replacement – that collision should be really fun and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Kojima versus Cole for his ROH belt too. Overall, this was all fantastic.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match – Michael Elgin (C) versus Tetsuya Naito

So we arrive at the final main event of the 3 days and it was bloody brilliant. Really bloody brilliant, in fact. Both men have been churning out amazing matches already this year with their clashes against Kenny Omega being the highlight for both, so we knew beforehand that we were bound for something extra special here; especially given that Elgin is insanely over with the Japanese crowd and Los Ingobernables have been the best thing in wrestling this year.

Power from Elgin was constantly opposed by Naito’s intelligent targeting of the knee as he looked to end the match with his kneebar finishers on a couple of occasions. A series of dropkicks, including a missile one and one to the barrier, really wore down the champion’s foundations and reduced his ability to capitalise on situations after he nailed huge powerful moves. Elgin landed Germans, a falcon arrow and a powerbomb but failed to take the impetus as he missed a thunderous top rope splash, Naito would then come back with ranas before Elgin managed to again stabilise with the DVD to the apron and a highly impressive deadlift second rope falcon arrow!

The referee took a bump and Naito’s band of merry men invaded the ring to beat on Elgin before Tanahashi and KUSHIDA tried to make the same before getting their asses handed to them. In the end Elgin essentially fought SANADA, EVIL and BUSHI off by himself, disposing the trio to the outside with a double fallaway slam and powerbomb combo. Into the final furlong of the show, Naito landed a Destino but only managed a 2-count before Elgin reversed a second attempt into a smooth side slam. The buckle bomb was delivered but the Elgin Bomb was countered into a pair of Destinos and Naito grabs the Intercontinental Championship in a stellar match! What a spectacle!

Post-match Naito did his usual awesome rally on the mic and stood tall with his Ingobernables teammates, his triple-crown trophy and the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Elgin looked super strong for the entire fight and the fans may get even more into him given the fact that the win was pretty dirty due to the interference. We look all set for Wrestle Kingdom now then, as Naito versus Tanahashi will likely co-main or even main event if they win a fan vote – New Japan is in great shape and I cannot wait for the next PPV, Kings of Pro-Wrestling, which takes place next month.

CWC Community Survey Results

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The inaugural Cruiserweight Classic tournament concluded last a week ago and most fans have stated that it was a massive success overall and did a wonderful job in displaying the very best wrestlers under-205 lbs walking the planet today. After picking up impressive victories throughout the tournament it was T. J. Perkins of The Philippines who stood tall over fellow finalist Gran Metalik and was crowned the first Cruiserweight champion of this new and exciting era of pro-wrestling.

Personally I couldn’t get enough of the showcase and after tuning in every week I was always left wanting more – it reminded me of the G1 Climax in this sense as, whilst the format, competitors and style are completely different, it gave me that same wrestling craving.

The presentation, the commentary, the wrestling itself, the lesser heel/face dynamic, the whole thing just worked perfectly and regardless of what direction the Cruiserweight division moves on Raw this tournament will be looked on with fond memories by myself and many, many others.

Interested to hear what others thought of the contest I issued a survey to the wrestling community and after 1436 responses, the results were as follows. I will be showcasing the top 5 results from each of the large categories but at the bottom of this page there will be a link to the results in a spreadsheet for your viewing please.

#1 – Who was your Favourite Wrestler in the CWC?

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The golden star of this tournament, Kota Ibushi takes the crown as the most-loved wrestler to appear in the CWC; from night one in his match against Sean Maluta to the final night when he succumbed to T.J. Perkins he constantly thrilled the crowd at Full Sail and at home. Experience from big matches in Japan clearly helped as his vast arsenal of moves won the hearts and minds of the western viewers too. He killed it.

Second place was fellow Japanese pro, Akira Tozawa, third was the gentleman Jack Gallagher, fourth, technical master Zack Sabre Jr. and fifth, the champion, T.J. Perkins. All these guys offered something entirely different to one another and epitomised what was so wonderful about the CWC; many style and cultures of wrestling combining to create something unique, interesting and mind-blowing.

Personally picking, I was torn between Tozawa, who won me over as he progressed through the tournament, and Brian Kendrick. Kendrick stunned me with his work and I wanted him to win the trophy so so badly as his performances got me so emotionally invested in him, but hey, at least he is on Raw and getting a second shot at the biggest company in wrestling.

#2 – What was your Favourite Match in the CWC?

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Seemingly the tournament match quality peaked in round 2 as Ibushi met Cedric Alexander in a 15 slobber-knocker. Both pulled out a whole heap of creative offence and showed why they were two much talked about names before the tournament kicked off. The only disappointment with this one can be that it wasn’t later in the bracket as this clash and Cedric himself both deserved to appear in the latter stages.

The Japanese sensation also featured in highly acclaimed matches against Perkins and Kendrick which were voted in second and fourth respectively. Third went to the best contest of the first round as the DIY tag partners, Gargano and Ciampa, beat the living crap about of one another, and fifth was the amusing and extremely fun battle between Gallagher and Tozawa as the twosome showed how well alternate styles can mesh in the ring. My favourite, Metalik v Tozawa from the quarter-finals, landed in seventh place, just behind the final between T.J. and the aforementioned luchador.

#3 – Who was the Biggest Disappointment in the CWC?

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Now this one is set to cause some controversy, and before I get into the results I would like to say that I left this question open to interpretation but the community have spoken and they have voted that T.J Perkins was the biggest disappointment in the CWC. It could be because fans did not feel he was the rightful winner of the tournament, that people hate dabbing or maybe even that his style wasn’t enjoyable to some, I certainly do not know, as personally, I thought everything surrounding T.J was wonderful.

Ho Ho Lun being so high on this list is unsurprising as he looked very green, especially in his opener against Ariya Daivari; he looked much better against Noam Dar in the second round so hopefully it will be onwards and upwards for him. British wonderboy Zack Sabre Jr. was certainly the most polarising wrestler in this tournament as after being voted 4th favourite he has also been placed at 3rd most disappointing. This is likely down to his unconventional wrestling style, which personally, I love.

4th and 5th were Noam Dar and Rich Swann. Both of these guys have been signed to the division on Raw and will hopefully excel there as both are extremely talented young men who are surely set to expand their skillsets and learn a lot as a part of wrestling’s premier weekly show.

#4 – Who did you predict to win the CWC?

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Massive pre-CWC favourite Kota Ibushi again tops the polls, as the biggest name in the tournament it is unsurprising that he was voted to the top here. Had he signed with WWE he almost certainly would have taken home the gold but he states that he still has more to experience in Japan instead. The choice to not sign with WWE may have also been the reason Zach Sabre Jr. did not win too – having won PWG’s BOLA and being arguably the biggest name in British wrestling he was hyped up as a potential winner.

Finalists Metalik and Perkins were also voted into the top 5 as many people made good calls that these two fine fighters would make it very far. Hotly tipped Jonny Gargano didn’t make it nearly as far as people had predicted but he did have two stellar matches in the bracket and we will thankfully be seeing him a lot more on the network in NXT.

#5 – Who do you think should have won the CWC?

And a final victory on the votes for former New Japan star Kota Ibushi; even though he hasn’t put pen to paper and remains a free agent, a large number of fans still believe he was the right man to win the trophy and the belt as he would have added a ton of prestige to both as the debut victor. Actual winner T.J. followed just behind him and was certainly a rightful winner in my eyes – he has worked his entire life to get to the summit and can be an excellent face at the forefront of the Cruiserweight division.

Metalik, Tozawa and Sabre Jr. would have all been worthy winners too. All 3 had some great matches that will be re-watched time and time again, and whilst it isn’t too late for the first 2 to win the Cruiserweight Championship in WWE, for now, Sabre doesn’t look like he will ever get his hands on that prize.

#6 – Out of 10, how highly would you rate the CWC overall?

Only 10.2% of people who took this survey gave the tournament a core of 6 or less which is a fantastic statistic to showcase how much many people enjoyed the Cruiserweight Classic. I hope that WWE takes the superior presentation, wrestling and timing into account when producing their other shows because as an overall package so many people enjoyed the hell out of the weekly production as over half of voters rated the tournament either a 9 or 10!

These percentages then lead well into our final question…

#7 – Should there be another CWC next year?

Just under 60% said yes, meaning just over 40% said no. I for one, am very surprised by this and expected a much higher amount of people to want another CWC next year. However, people probably don’t want this concept to be worn out, as seeing a new set of 32 stars in 12 months may not be possible and instead, the rumoured women’s invitational, or an extended tag team tournament may be more favourable to keep the format fresh.

So thank you to WWE for putting on one of the finest wrestling contests we have seen, here’s to more Crusierweights on Raw and any future tournaments of this kind.

Thank you for reading, further responses to this survey can be found here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ZNwI8a4qowU9PAFwt421yadPv706O4KcLNYL4Oz-4sI/edit#responses

 

WWE Backlash 2016 Review

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Smackdown broadcast their first solo PPV since the most recent brand split this Sunday and they truly laid down a solid marker for Raw to attempt to top with their first swing, Clash of Champions.

With only 6 main card matches advertised and just over 2 hours and 30 minutes to fill the show was a big success in terms of fan reception as very segment got an appropriate amount of time and the wrestling was constantly captivating as a result.

Here then, is a rundown of the matches from Backlash that have us pumped for No Mercy next month:

#1 – Becky Lynch def. Alexa Bliss, Carmella, Naomi, Natalya and Nikki Bella

We began with the crowning of the first Smackdown Women’s Champion in a match that most thought was either going to be really fun or a huge clusterfuck.

In the end it was both; a really fun clusterfuck. There were a couple of botches here and there but the action came thick and fast with each wrestler coming off as a star – establishing each of the 6 as a legitimate threat in the division.

Following a flurry of T-bone suplexes and her patented disarmer submission Becky Lynch eliminated her final foe Carmella to be the last woman standing; claiming her rightful and deserved place atop the Smackdown ladies’ tree.

Hopefully this is the start of something sensational for Lynch, she is a wonderful performer and can set the bar extremely high for whomever takes the strap from her. Overall this was a great opener, popped the crowd early on and set the tone for the evening.

#2 – The Usos def. The Hype Bros

Our second contest of the evening could have easily been any standard, weekly-TV tag but it was definitely better than that. Mojo in particular showed himself off as a menace to the Usos as he had the better of both brothers and avoided taking the pin/submission for his team.

Usos sneaked the victory with a really marvellous finish. A chop block to Ryder’s knee backed up with a brutal half crab/grapevined arm combo; advancing the Samoans to the final later in the evening in impressive fashion.

Heel Usos are very cool in my opinion – they have a great deal of swagger, a solid look and true brutality in the ring. Now they just need to change their shitty face titantron and the twosome will be right at home in their new persona.

#3 – The Miz def. Dolph Ziggler

Who could have possibly predicted that The Miz versus Dolph Ziggler would be a bloody brilliant PPV match?! These 2 went all out, balls to the fucking wall and showed why they deserve the respect and adulation of the fans. With all the talk about ‘indie darlings’ and ‘hottest free agents’ it was refreshing to see two WWE-birthed stars perform to such a high level.

This was a fast-paced bout filled with smooth mat-wrestling, nearfalls in the form of a Ziggler Superkick and nearly submission with Miz’s long-locked figure 4. There even seemed to be a nod to CM Punk’s UFC fight in the beginning from the pair; the match was a real blast to witness.

After 18 minutes (!) of constant battling, Maryse would intervene to screw Ziggler by spraying him in the eyes with an unknown substance – much like The Elite with their hair spray – before a Skull Crushing Finale blasted Dolph to the mat for the 1, 2, 3.

Miz retaining his championship was certainly the right choice. He’s so so easy to hate and whoever finally takes the belt from him is going to get a really exciting pop and a highly beneficial rub. Personally, I hope he goes full Honky Tonk Man and holds the belt for over a year, or at least until Mania 33 before an uber-face a la Sami Zayn or Cesaro puts Miz’s IC title world tour on a permanent stop.

#4 – Randy Orton Kane def. Bray Wyatt

WWE management had hoped that the Viper would be cleared in time to compete at Backlash, but alas, he couldn’t make it. As a result they shot an injury angle and Bray was counted as the victor by forfeit before the Big Red Machine stepped up for a No Holds Barred match.

For their 1st Smackdown-only show this looked real bad for the blue brand, and the fans sounded disgruntled as they knew they were getting bullshitted. But lo-and-behold, Kane and Bray had a very entertaining collision, one far better than many would have hoped.

Despite the entire match being set up for Bray to lose via an RKO, the pair did a wonderful job of keeping the viewers invested with forceful chair shots, a fantastic senton through the announcers table and Bray mocking Orton with the legend killer pose.

People seemed pissed off that Wyatt lost again on PPV but the loss was dirty as they come as Randy slithered in with the RKO and Kane followed up with a chokeslam. This feud is only just heating up so hopefully we see them clash at No Mercy, and if Bray wins, this defeat will be instantly forgotten.

#5 – Heath Slater and Rhyno def. The Usos

He’s only gone and done it, hasn’t he! Heath Slater was victorious at Backlash, securing himself a contract on Tuesday nights. And not only that, he is, alongside the veteran Rhyno, a Smackdown tag team champion. Truly amazing scenes.

After getting battered for 90% of the contest, Heath came back and ran wild before a eating a superkick as the Usos looked set to take the win. But Rhyno, the wily old fox, hit a sneaky gore before Heath, bereft of energy, pinned Jimmy to become the inaugural champions.

Slater and Rhyno winning was the perfect decision in my eyes; the Usos can feud with American Alpha until the latter are already to carry the belts forward whilst the champs can go through a few challengers in the meantime, personally I want they to battle FaBreeze next. Long live the Heath hype train though – he feels like this year’s Mizdow, the fans love his character and how much he commits each and every week, it’s a joyous story to get wrapped up in.

Styles became WWE World Champion in controversial circumstances

#6 – AJ Styles def. Dean Ambrose

If you’d have told me a year ago that then Bullet Club leader, TNA hero, AJ Styles would be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion I would have called you a fucking lunatic. But here we are, let it be known, that on September 11th 2016 at Backlash, the phenomenal one rose to the very top of the international wrestling scene.

AJ and Ambrose put on a wonderful main event as Styles continues to rack up his number of world-class matches, whilst Ambrose looked like he returned to the in-ring level he was at a couple of years ago when feuding with Seth Rollins. The twosome had clicked on the mic beforehand and blended beautifully in the squared circle too.

Styles was again presented as the better pure wrestler in the world, displaying more pace on the mat and countering Ambrose with speedy forearms and smooth transitions in the calf crusher. Dean on the other hand showed he was prepared to risk everything in order to keep him title; including him sprinting across the announcers’ desks to drop a giant elbow over the barricade onto Styles.

The finale of the show came about as Ambrose went for the dirty deeds but styles countered, inadvertently knocking down the ref, Styles quickly noticed and smashed in a dick kick plus Styles clash combo to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. WOW.

There’s little more to say about this victory other than to reiterate how amazing and unbelievable it is that AJ bloody Styles is the top guy in WWE right now, it is a historical moment and one that I will likely never forget. The man is riding a tidal wave of success at the minute and I cannot wait for No Mercy as he looks to retain his belt against both Ambrose and Cena.

NXT as a Developmental Brand – When will there be another Home-Grown NXT Champion? Who will the Next Home-Grown NXT Champion be?

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Rising from the ashes of the terrible half-reality, challenge-based wrestling show hosted by Matt Striker, NXT was transformed into an entirely new beast. Headed by Triple H and featuring a mix of brand-new stars either from the indie circuit such as Seth Rollins or home-grown beauties a la Bray Wyatt, NXT has grown into a magnificent wrestling showcase and is a hotbed of top talent from the indies, ROH and Japan.

Given all of this illustrious talent flying through the doors at Orlando’s performance centre it is understandable that the last 6 champions (Nakamura, Joe, Balor, Owens, Zayn, Neville) have all been graduates of the independent circuit and have not been birthed from the WWE itself. In fact, of the 9 men who have held the top male title in NXT only 2 of them had their pro-wrestling debuts in WWE; Bo Dallas and Big E.

Each had a solid run with the NXT Championship and become highly entertaining characters as a result, with Bo transforming into a delusional cowardly heel and Big E showing pure dominance as he downed his foes for a 5-count, because 3 just wasn’t enough. The successes experienced by these 2 men in NXT whilst they held the top strap clearly shows that it can be used as a tool for improvement.

So given that this is a developmental territory and that up-and-comers may improve a great deal by holding a top championship belt, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask, when will the next home-grown champion be crowned? And who will be the next home-grown NXT champion?

Looking at the most recent batch of NXT graduates those indigenous performers most likely to have a shot at winning the big one down in Florida were Baron Corbin, Big Cass and arguably Jason Jordan. Whilst going even further back you have Tyler Breeze, who was a main event mainstay on the yellow shaded brand.

All of the above wrestlers all moved up to the Raw or Smackdown before they could get their hands on the NXT championship but rather than making way for home-brewed stars, instead it is more ‘hot free agents’ who have followed in their footsteps.

The best way to see this would be to look at the most recent NXT Takeover card as No Way Jose and The Revival were the only 2 acts to appear whom weren’t huge stars before appearing in WWE. Compare this to the first Brooklyn show last year which featured: Tyler Breeze, The Vaudevillians, Blake and Murphy, Tye Dillinger and Baron Corbin and you can see that the number of performers who weren’t indie stars has halved.

So I guess this answers our first question; unless No Way Jose is to dethrone the mighty King of Strong Style then it doesn’t look like a domestic wrestler will hold the NXT Championship any time soon. Plus, given that the newest batch of stars include the likes of Bobby Roode, Austin Aries and Andrade Almas, no other non-indie star even features in the chasing pack, meaning our next home-grown head-honcho in NXT will likely only surface in 2017 or beyond.

This 2017 date pretty much answers the second question too but the answer is similarly distant. Given the aforementioned depth of the world-renowned pros currently residing in NXT and the fact that even more independent signings are just around the corner (Tommy End and Big Damo from the UK circuit may be there soon) it is quite clear that the next top champion in NXT is not currently featuring on television and may not have even debuted at any of the performance centre shows yet.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love the Takeover PPVs and I truly enjoy seeing all of the stars who have worked their asses off for years finally getting a shot at the big time in WWE. I just worry for those who are learning their trade at Full-Sail who may never get a chance to experience how to hold yourself as a champion before they arrive on Smackdown or Raw. It’s an important aspect of being a pro-wrestler and can add so much hype to a main roster debut as the crowd treat a former champion like a huge deal, and rightly so.

So there you have it I guess. Unfortunately the answer to both of the questions are inconclusive as realistically we are so far away from seeing another home-grown NXT Champion; hopefully one arises before too long, but until then, I would love to know what you think of the matter, who the next champion will be and when they will appear?