Kazuchika Okada’s current IWGP Heavyweight Championship run is the greatest title reign of all time

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Kazuchika Okada has been champion since June 19th 2016 and when Wrestle Kingdom 12 takes place in January he will have amassed over 550 days as champion. He has easily surpassed Shinya Hashimoto’s record of 489 days and is now the longest reigning IWGP champion is history, winning some of the finest matches the sport has ever seen en route. All of this has seen him become a recognised name across the wrestling world and he has played a huge role in helping New Japan achieve its second most successful financial year ever.  

Longevity is one aspect to having a memorable and legendary reign; but that quantity must contain quality if fans are to hold it in the highest esteem. After all, who wants to watch an incredibly long title run full of poor stories and dull matches? Getting that balance just right is very difficult, but Okada has done it. 

Okada has obliterated the expectations which fans usually have, producing a stream of wondrous matches that may never be equalled. Here’s a rundown of all the best bits, and why you should tune into Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4th when his record run may finally expire at the hands of Tetsuya Naito.  

The Kenny Omega trilogy 

Wrestling is very subjective, but so many fans would agree, the Okada versus Omega storyline produced three of the best matches you will ever see. It all started at the Tokyo Dome earlier this year when they broke the wrestling world and glued eyes to the Japanese product. Dave Meltzer added to the fanfare by awarding the bout six stars, putting it on a new level which was unlikely to ever be topped. 

The 46 minute colossus produced some insane moments of suspense and danger. Kenny setting up a table before taking a hellacious back drop through it, the perilous dragon suplex from the top rope which saw Okada crunch straight onto his skull, and of course all of the finisher teases. 

To many a viewers’ surprise, Okada won the emotional rollercoaster contest – topping off a perfect Wrestle Kingdom event and kicking off 2017 in style. Instantly it became my favourite match of all time and I still haven’t found a hangover cure like it; naturally people were sharing their elation and talk quickly shifted towards a rematch, after all, Omega never landed the One-Winged Angel… 

 

Kenny took a break from NJPW before returning for the New Japan Cup. He was the favourite going into the tournament but crashed out in round one at the hands of Tomohiro Ishii whilst Okada was busy defending his belt against new challengers, leaving us wondering, would we get the rematch we desired? 

Well what seemed a lifetime away was actually right around the corner. After the main event of Wrestling Dontaku, where the CHAOS leader defeated Bad Luck Fale, Okada took to the microphone and hand-picked Omega as his next contender. Okada knew fans wanted to see it, and so at New Japan’s Summerslam equivalent, Dominion, the main event was set. Okada versus Omega II. 

How could they possibly live up to the bar set by the first contest? Especially so soon after the fact. Well, by having New Japan’s first hour time limit draw in 12 years, that’s how.  

 

Once again the pair turned the ring into a ballroom, filling the mat with sumptuous wrestling. We saw a whole host of Rainmakers, V-triggers and Cody Rhodes coming down to tease throwing in the towel to salvage Omega’s career. My spot of the year also occurred, as Kenny, exhausted from the war, collapsed to his knees underneath Okada’s Rainmaker attempt, it was a simply beautiful moment to behold.  

In a hark back to the Tokyo Dome match, Kenny actually hit his finisher and looked certain to become the IWGP champion, but savvy Okada got to the ropes, saving his skin and his belt. The match concluded with Omega’s Bullet Club colleagues stunned on the outside whilst Okada hit a final Rainmaker but couldn’t reach for the cover before the bell sounded. 

I loved this match just as much as the first. It had fewer insane spots but the tension and drama was dancing through the air as they concluded another sensational New Japan PPV – but we weren’t done here, we needed a conclusion, and the trilogy would be finalised at the G1 Climax. 

 

Okay, so this one wasn’t for the title, but it is still an important part of Okada’s lengthy grasp on the strap. After a stonking G1 the final day pitted Kenny versus Kazuchika one again; the prize for the victor, a spot in the prestigious G1 Climax final versus Tetsuya Naito. 

Kenny Omega won. A super quick paced and thoroughly entertaining battle ensued. Each flew out of the blocks and launched warheads at one another, bringing all of their biggest and most brutal moves out of their arsenal. Omega nailed his One-Winged Angel in the middle of the ring, finally overcoming Okada and heading into the final with an extremely important win over his impossible rival under his belt.  

After this, the two went their separate ways again, but were sure to see more in the future. These matches were the biggest of Okada’s title run, but the champion did way more than battle Kenny Omega over his 500 days, and put all other challengers away too… 

 

Shibata’s swansong 

Every good champion, needs a equally enthralling challenger. In Shibata, Okada had exactly that. Their story stretches way back to when Shibata confronted Okada after the champion defeated Hirooki Goto at New Beginning in 2014 – Okada told The Wrestler that he had to win the New Japan Cup if he wanted a shot at the belt, and three years later, Shibata did just that. 

So it was Gedo’s golden boy versus the man who left New Japan in the darkness. It would be Shibata’s first shot at the IWGP Heavyweight title since his return in 2012, and as a result of Okada’s bulletproof nature and Shibata’s self-destructive offence, it would seemingly be his last… 

The match was a violent dance of destruction, as Shibata left literally everything in the ring. After surviving a tirade of vicious kicks, strikes and a disgusting headbutt though, Okada was able to pin his challenger with a rainmaker and continue his stranglehold on the belt.  

Okada concluded a lengthy dramatic story with an equally tense match. The champion proved his point from three years prior, that Shibata was a great fighter, but couldn’t be the IWGP title holder. However, the real talking point following the match was that, whilst Okada would march on strongly, Shibata would collapse backstage, becoming paralysed on the right hand side and requiring emergency surgery.  

Shibata bowed out in exactly the way he would want to – violently throwing everything he had into the match to try and win the title. After all, if he didn’t give everything he had, he wouldn’t be true to himself. All of this simply added fuel to the fire of Okada’s amazing reign; showing that not only is he the top performer in New Japan, but he’s also the best wrestler. 

 

The best of the rest 

As well as the two defences against Omega and the stonker against Shibata, Kazuchika Okada has also successfully put, Marufuji, Suzuki, Fale, Cody and EVIL to the sword as part of his record-breaking tenure. All of these matches delivered in some way or another, but a few in particular stand out as the ripest of the bunch… 

 

Noamichi Marufuji 

After getting systematically schooled by Marufuji in 2016 G1 Climax, Okada simply had to avenge his loss and get his victory back against one of NOAH’s top stars, with the IWGP Heavyweight title on the line. 

Just like at the G1, Okada has his back firmly pressed against the wall after Marufuji dominated New Japan’s new ace with the most accurate and destructive kicks imaginable. Marufuji’s assault may have been powerful but again the champion wouldn’t be topped and battled back with his own impressive strikes, signature drop kicks, tombstone and a rainmaker. The Marufuji-shaped bump in the road had been overcome, but the journey was only starting to accelerate at this point.  

 

Minoru Suzuki 

Following the longest match in Wrestle Kingdom history on January 4th, Okada ran into a brand new roadblock a day later, at New Japan’s New Year Dash event. Returning from NOAH came Suzuki-Gun, and maniacal leader, Minoru Suzuki. He battered Okada and left the champion sprawled in the ring with serious damage to his knee, which he would continue to attack on the road to the next PPV. 

Suzuki would get his title opportunity at New Beginning and the entirety of the match would revolve around his previous game plan – an all out assault on Okada’s knees and legs. Heel hooks, knee bars an figure fours were constantly applied to prevent any sort of momentum being built up – how Okada survived the 30-minute plus onslaught I do not know, but he overcame the adversity and remained the champion. 

The match wasn’t to everyone taste, with some (like me) loving it. It was all on the mat and showed that Suzuki would still be a major player in New Japan, keeping Okada down for the most part, but falling just short. It also proved Okada could do it all, no matter how dirty you play. He is simply the best. 

 

Cody 

It would be fair to say that some people were disappointed when they saw that Okada would be defending his strap against Cody Rhodes at New Japan’s G1 Special in Long Beach, California. In reality though, the main event of the first night was a great success, and had a wonderful dramatic feel to it. Everyone hated Cody, and everyone loved the man himself, Kazuchika Okada. 

Cody really took the fight to the champion and the story of the match was incredibly well played out. Omega came down to the ring and teased throwing in the towel, much like Cody had done to Kenny at Dominion. He pulled out some tasty tricks but would ultimately fall short at the finale of Cody’s best match post-WWE, sending the fans home very happy after a splendid first night in America for NJPW. 

Where do we go from here? 

With Wrestle Kingdom 12 right around the corner and the interstellar rise of Tetsuya Naito being seemingly unstoppable, it appears that it is almost closing time on Okada’s IWGP Heavyweight title stranglehold. The main event is sure to be a storming send-off for the record title reign and it’ll be a crazy ending to the show no matter what. I’ll be incredibly happy to see Naito get a run with the belt that he deserves but a part of me will be sorry to see the end of what was, in my mind, the undisputed greatest title reign of all time. 

Okada and the IWGP Heavyweight belt are like bread and butter, salt and pepper, fish and chips – they’re harmonious and it’ll be so odd to see one without the other. But all good things must come to the end, so be sure to remember it all fondly. 

Not only did Okada help New Japan rise to incredible new heights, he reliably put on the best match on the card, no matter his opponent, validating the title each and every night. Furthermore, he’s the ultimate babyface; he plays by the rules, always gives everything for the fans and epitomises everything that makes pro-wrestling such a joy. So all that is left to say is, thank you for the title memories, Kazuchika. 

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

Image result for minoru suzuki

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/

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!

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.

G1 Climax 2016 Retrospective – Looking Towards the Future for Kenny Omega and back at the Best Matches of the Tournament

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Kenny Omega Bullet Club G1

Sunday 14th saw the conclusion of the most-prestigious tournament in all of pro-wrestling, New Japan’s G1 Climax, and what a bloody brilliant tournament it was! Credit to all of the wrestlers and booked Gedo for the magnificent showing this year – after losing massive main event players in Nakamura, Styles and Anderson few could have imagined such an impressive G1 but from the first night to the last they managed to deliver a truly wonderful wrestling experience.

Before the insanity began many were backing Los Ingobernables leader Tetsuya Naito to top his block and compete in the final against last year’s winner and the face of NJPW Hiroshi Tanahashi. But New Japan threw us a curveball and the hot pick of many did come to fruition…

After the dust settled on the final day of the contest it was Group B winner Kenny Omega who held the trophy aloft after defeating opposing block victor Hirooki Goto in one of the finest matches you will see this year. But this is only the start of a greater story that look set to unfold…

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What is next for Omega?

Safe to say then that ‘The Cleaner’ absolutely smashed this year’s G1 out of the park and left the arena on the final day with his stock at an all-time high. He is undergoing the best year of his career to date, and things can surely only improve for the Canadian as he begins on his pathway to the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 11 where he will battle Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

The build-up and match itself will certainly be a rollercoaster of action and entertainment but before the journey terminates at the Tokyo Dome there will be a few pit-stops along the way. A rematch against CHAOS’s Yoshi-Hashi will likely be the first of these as the up-and-coming starlet managed to knock off Kenny in the early stages of the tournament. In his post-victory press conference Kenny called out Hashi and will hopefully clash at an upcoming PPV as their previous bout was a fast paced and exciting, but given more time they could have been onto something special.

Following what should be a win against Hashi, Omega will likely have one more defence of his title shot before the biggest New Japan PPV of the year and may take part in the tag league at the back end of the year alongside one of his Bullet Club brethren.

If another defence of Omega’s main event guarantee takes place I would love it to be against Tetsuya Naito. I predicted the Los Ingobernables de Japon leader to face Okada in January so a match against Omega would pose a legitimate threat to the title shot in what would surely be another classic between the pair. Naito losing a close fought fight would not hurt the former champion either and he is in line to face Michael Elgin for his Intercontinental title soon too.

Kenny then should have a highly charged run towards Wrestle Kingdom and I would predict him to perform incredibly and avoid all of the roadblocks he may face en route; adding a great deal of danger to New Japan poster-boy Okada’s Championship in a match that you should watch at your own risk as your mind may be blown.

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Top 3 G1 Matches

This year the G1, as with every year in recent history, produced a number of excellent matches featuring the likes of Elgin, Tanahashi, Shibata and NOAH’s Nakajima and Marufuji; all the big stars stepped up and proved why New Japan is so hot right now, but of all of the 91 matches that were showcased, 3 truly stood out to myself.

#1 – Kazuchika Okada V Tomohiro Ishii

Whilst the following two matches both occurred with the drama at its highest peak on the final days of the tournament, half way through this year’s G1 we got treated to this clash between two CHAOS mercenaries in a bout that truly shifted the tournament into overdrive. Wrestling-reporting-Jesus Dave Meltzer gave this one a highly acclaimed 5-star rating, and it was 100% deserved.

Plenty of reversals as both knew each other so well from CHAOS as well as each man battering each other because they know how tough the other man is made this one really special. Ishii’s victory was the highlight of his 2016 G1 as he put Okada away with a wonderful combination of the champion’s tombstone piledriver followed by a sliding lariat and a big delayed suplex.  Breathtaking stuff.

#2 – Tetsuya Naito V Kenny Omega

Oh man, a winner takes the spoils match on the final day of round-robin fighting, count me in. Count me in even further if the two guys are the leaders of two of the finest stables in the business today. Given all that hype and what people wanted from this, it certainly did not let the fans down, in fact, it was even more glorious than many could have ever imagined.

From start to finish this one was faster than the Jamaican sprint team in Brazil. Both men took breath-taking risks in order to claim victory, which included a tons of crazy reversals and Kenny diving from the ring, over the top rope and the guardrail onto Naito who was downed in the crowd. Add all of this action to the stories that were peppered into the match – Kenny wanting to show he is the best in the world and that the fans should cheers for him over Naito, Naito working the leg/knee for his triangle knee submission finisher and the genuine lack of respect for one another (they spat on each other multiple times) – and you have a match made in heaven to savour.

#3 – Hirooki Goto V Kenny Omega

The other two I have mentioned may have been peaches but this one is my match of the year so far for 2016. 2 top pro-wrestlers, both having worked their asses off throughout the previous month and leaving it all in the ring for the one of the biggest prizes in the sport; it was wrestling perfection in my eyes.

Goto and Omega both went full throttle and gave us a final match worthy of topping one of the greatest wrestling tournaments I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Plus, after all the insane action, we got one of the all-time greatest match finishes in my opinion; a Bloody Sunday into a Styles Clash into a One-Winged Angel to finally put down Hirooki. It’s the sort of match I will likely watch again and again and again and never stop enjoying it, it was the perfect finale to the perfect event. Please go and watch this one if you get chance.

G1 Climax 2016 Preview

July 18th 2016 beckons in the 26th edition of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s most prestigious tournament, the G1 Climax. In order to get you in the mood for this festival of wrestling here is a guide on the tournament and its competitors, as well as my personal picks to win the event.

What is the G1 Climax?

The G1 (or Grade One) Climax is a 20-man round-robin tournament, split into two equal groups of 10 each. Everybody in each group battles one-another once and pick up points for their efforts; 2 for a win, 1 for a draw (all matches have a 30-minute time limit) and 0 for a loss. Once all matches are completed an overall table for each group is formed, with the winner of each advancing to the final on August 14th.

Whoever takes the victory in this final match will become the number-one contender for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 11 (essentially New Japan’s Wrestlemania), but given that this event this held in January, the contendership briefcase is defended until then.

Last year saw Hiroshi Tanahashi beat Shinsuke Nakamura in the final but he succumbed to a loss against Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 10, but who are the entrants this year? And who is likely to perform well in the tournament?

Block A Competitors

 

Bad Luck Fale

The huge Samoan enforcer of the Bullet Club hasn’t had the best of years so far and has little momentum coming into the G1. Given his size and lack of technical ability he is unlikely to steal the show with any of his matches and I imagine Tanahashi will break his run of bad luck against Fale and pick up a G1 victory against him this year. Overall, I feel it will be a small year for the big man.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Hiroshi Tanahashi on July 28th – Fale seems to have the better of the face that runs the place, but this year things could, and should, be different.

Overall Standing Prediction: 9th in Block A with 2 points (1 win versus Tonga)

 

Hirooki Goto

Former G1 winner Hirooki Goto has a chunk of momentum coming into this year’s tournament after joining CHAOS, finishing 2nd in the New Japan Cup and currently engaging in a brutal feud with EVIL so far in 2016. He’s been a main event player in Japan for some time but has never won the company’s top prize, this year is unlikely to be his but he should have a solid showing overall and will probably beat a big star, maybe even Okada.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Tomohiro Ishii on July 23rd – Both are CHAOS members which adds spice to the match up and with them both being stellar performers this one should be tastiest than your finest Japanese ramen.

Overall Standing Prediction: 6th in Block A with 10 points (5 wins versus Fale, Ishii, Makabe, Okada and Tonga)

 

Tomohiro Ishii

Say hello to the 4-star machine, Tomohiro Ishii. This guy has been one of the most consistent performers on the planet the past few years and has produced a plethora of 4-star and above matches, including a 5-star bout against Shibata in 2013’s Climax. Basically, if Ishii is on the card, watch his fucking match. Similarly to Goto he has never held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and he is the dark horse to top his block this time around.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Togi Makabe on August 12th – I could have put so many matches down for this but I’ve landed on Makabe and Ishii as they are not ones to do things by halves and will beat the absolute hell out of each other in order to get the win.

Overall Standing Prediction: 3rd in Block A with 12 points (6 wins versus Fale, Makabe, Marufuji, Sanada, Tenzan and Tonga)

 

Togi Makabe

The first of our former champions to appear this year, Togi Makabe last won the Heavyweight title in 2010 when he defeated Shinsuke Nakamura at Dominion but he has recently held the IWGP Tag Team Championships with Honma so he still has a great deal of stature in NJPW. His knees are a bit shot-at now and he’s not going to pull up any tress this year but he will likely still wrestle to the highest level and pick up a few victories along the way.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Hiroyoshi Tenzan on July 28th – I didn’t want to cheat by picking the Ishii match again and this one should be a belter; two big old dudes battering each other, yes please.

Overall Standing Prediction: 8th in Block A with 6 points (3 wins versus Fale, Marufuji and Sanada)

 

Naomichi Marufuji

One of a two Pro Wrestling NOAH wrestler who has been invited to take part in this year’s events. Marufuji has held their top belt 3 times and is currently their tag champ alongside New Japan favourite Toru Yano so he will probably be smartly booked throughout and pick up a big victory somewhere. There’s almost zero-chance that he will reach the final but be sure to check out his matches as he is a top-notch professional.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Hiroshi Tanahashi on August 6th – It’s rare that we get a treat as sweet as this match so you’d be crazier than Beyonce in love to miss it.

Overall Standing Prediction: 4th in Block A with 10 points (5 wins versus Fale, Goto, Okada, Tenzan and Tonga)

 

Kazuchika Okada

The new face of comapny and your current IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Okada has it all and consistently works great matches against whoever may challenge him at the top of the New Japan tree. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t still the champion going into next year’s Wrestle Kingdom so he surely won’t win this tournament or his block – a strong second place showing with a selection of top-drawer matches is nailed on in my eyes.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Hiroshi Tanahashi on August 12th – How could I not pick the match that has main evented the last 2 Wrestle Kingdom PPVs? Their feud has been one of the all-time greatest and I don’t think I will ever get bored of seeing their battles.

Overall Standing Prediction: 2nd in Block A with 14 points (7 wins versus Fale, Ishii, Makabe, Sanada, Tanahashi, Tenzan and Tonga)

 

SANADA

SANADA has recently returned to Japanese wrestling after a notable spell in TNA and his character is far more serious and sinister than his orange-haired run in America as he is the latest component of the Los Ingobernables de Japon stable. Some are predicting SANADA to really break out in this Climax but with so many big names in his group he could struggle to reach the top half, no matter where he finishes though, it’ll be wonderful to see him display his skills in more singles matches in NJPW.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Tomohiro Ishii on August 8th – SANADA facing off against any of the 3 CHAOS members in this group could have been my pick here; hopefully Ishii’s pitbull-like style blends well with SANADA and gives us an entertaining contest.

Overall Standing Prediction: 7th in Block A with 8 points (4 wins versus Fale, Goto, Marufuji and Tonga)

 

Hiroshi Tanahashi

You may know him as the John Cena of New Japan; this guy almost single-handled pulled the company from its darkest period into the current prosperous times and deserves all of the accolades he receives as he is arguably the best wrestler on the globe. Tanashashi has the most IWGP Heavyweight Championship reigns of all-time, is already a 2-time G1 winner and he is my pick to win it again in 2016, whether he keeps the title shot until January remains to be seen however…

Most Anticipated Match: versus Kazuchika Okada on August 12th – I didn’t want to pick the same match twice for any of these but as I said before how could I not? Their storyline is a modern day Japanese Rock v Austin and you do not want to miss it.

Overall Standing Prediction: 1st in Block A with 16 points (8 wins versus Fale, Goto, Ishii, Makabe, Marufuji, Sanada, Tenzan and Tonga)

 

Hiroyoshi Tenzan

A late replacement for Kojima who forfeited his G1 place to his long-time friend at the recent Kizuna Road PPV. Tenzan is a true veteran and I wouldn’t expect him to get too many victories, however, since this storyline between Kojima and Tenzan has arisen, with former telling his friend he has to win it, I can see Tenzan finishing in a much more favourable position than before. Will he win it? Definitely not, but this new development is very intriguing.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Tomohiro Ishii on July 18th – Two huge warriors will collide on the very first day of the tournament and hopefully they will set and impressive marker for others to beat.

Overall Standing Prediction: 5th in Block A with 10 points (5 wins versus Fale, Goto, Makabe. Sanada and Tonga)

 

Tama Tonga

Coming out of an impressive performance in the New Japan Cup, Tama Tonga looked a likely breakout star in 2016. Since that showing though, he has been teaming with his brother and new Bullet Club member Tanga Roa as the Guerrillas of Destiny; they won the IWGP tag titles but their run was awful, their matches were lame and they’ve now dropped the belts to the Briscoe Brothers, with Tama losing all his momentum in the process.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Kazuchika Okada on July 28th – None of Tonga’s matches are all that interesting as he looks set to pick up many losses, hopefully this one will the pick of the bunch.

Overall Standing Prediction: 10th in Block A with 2 points (1 win versus Makabe)

 

Block B Competitors

 

Michael Elgin

Last year’s big revelation, Elgin quickly became a fan-favourite in Japan thanks to his superb showings in this competition and it is safe to say he has gone from strength to strength as he is now the IWGP Intercontinental Champion having won the belt in an amazing ladder match at Dominion. Big Mike is more than capable of having a top-class match with many foes in his block and I hope he leaves the contest in an even stronger position than his current stature if possible.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Kenny Omega on July 30th – They didn’t just tear the house down at Dominion, they ripped it from its foundations; hopefully they can have a similar barn-burner without the ladders.

Overall Standing Prediction: 4th in Block B with 13 points (6 wins versus Evil, Honma, Nakajima, Nagata, Yano and Yoshi-Hashi, 1 draw versus Shibata)

 

EVIL

Another member of Los Ingobernables de Japon – he’s had a decent year after a highly entertaining feud with Goto but I can’t see him going too far in this tournament as most of his focus will lie with Naito’s confrontations and EVIL will probably forfeit a loss to boost his leader’s points total. Not much to shout about here then, but watch out for his entrance, he has a giant scythe and laser pointers, it’s bloody brilliant.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Tetsuya Naito on August 7th – I can’t see this being much of a match, if we get one at all, but the intrigue around it has me more hyped than Mojo Rawley, what will EVIL do? I cannot wait to find out.

Overall Standing Prediction: 5th in Block B with 8 points (4 wins versus Honma, Nakajima, Yano and Yoshi-Hashi)

 

Tomoaki Honma

After picking up his first G1 win against Ishii last year and winning the IWGP Tag Team Championships with Togi Makabe at Wrestle Kingdom it’s been the best year of Honma’s career. Can he build on that in this series? Probably not, but I can see him picking up another shock win this time around, my money is on him hilariously going over Omega and giving the fan’s another memorable moment to relish in. Oh and headbutts, expect many headbutts.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Michael Elgin on August 10th – Seeing these powerhouses face-off will be an absolute joy and I really hope that they capitalise on the face v face dynamic to give us a fun altercation.

Overall Standing Prediction: 10th in Block B with 2 points (1 win versus Omega)

 

Tetsuya Naito

In my opinion, Naito is easily the most entertaining wrestler in the world right now – think Kevin Owens but turned up to 11, this dude just doesn’t give a single fuck. Due to his incredible character and work rate he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the first time this year and, though I don’t think he will be victorious in the G1, I can fully see him sneaking his way into the Wrestle Kingdom main event and walking out a deserving 2-time champion.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Kenny Omega on August 14th – A match between two leaders of heel stables that could potentially decide who advances to the final? Count me in boys. I fully expect a ton of shenanigans and insane reversals on the final day of the round-robin stage.

Overall Standing Prediction: 3rd in Block B with 14 points (7 wins versus Elgin, Evil, Honma, Nakajima, Nagata, Yano and Yoshi-Hashi)

 

Katsuhiko Nakajima

The other half of the two NOAH wrestlers appearing in this tournament. Nakajima is a multi-time Junior Heavyweight Champion who is seemingly set to make the great jump towards bigger and better things over there. I cannot see him doing quite as well as Marufuji in his block but picking up a win against an established star or veteran such as Nagata could really boost his stock and help him rise like a delightful cake.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Yuji Nagata on July 30th – This is the match where Nakajima could really announce himself against a guy who has done it all, hopefully they give him the win too.

Overall Standing Prediction: 6th in Block B with 8 points (4 wins versus Honma, Nagata, Yano and Yoshi-Hashi)

 

Yuji Nagata

Talking of Yuji Nagata, here he is. At 48 years of age he has zero chance of winning his group but he’s no mug as he won the NEVER Openweight Championship as recently as May this year until Shibata reclaimed it in June. He’s mainly there to put over some of the younger guys but hopefully he can show what he is made of against some of the powerful group participants such as Elgin, Shibata and Evil.

Most Anticipated Match: versus EVIL on July 24th – Hopefully these fellas will do what is excpected and beat the crap out of one another; it’ll be brutal but fruitful.

Overall Standing Prediction: 8th in Block B with 6 points (3 wins versus Evil, Honma and Yoshi-Hashi)

 

Kenny Omega

If you put charisma, ability and a whole heap of hairspray into a blender and mixed it all up, out would pop the endlessly entertaining Kenny Omega. Now the leader of the Bullet Club and having held the IWGP Intercontinental Championship for the first time, it’s been a year to remember for him; can he go one step further and win the G1? I feel it may be a bridge too far but many people are backing Omega to reign victorious and advance towards the Wrestle Kingdom 11 main event so definitely don’t count him out.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Katsuyori Shibata on August 4th – This could quite possibly be the best match of the entire tournament and is another feast of wrestling from this G1 that you dare not miss out on. Make sure you mark this one in your calendars.

Overall Standing Prediction: 2nd in Block B with 14 points (7 wins versus Elgin, Evil, Naito, Nakajima, Nagata, Yano and Yoshi-Hashi)

 

Katsuyori Shibata

Another fighter who many folks are plucking to be the overall winner of this year’s contest and while I’m not sure if I would go that far (largely due his past actions in New Japan) I reckon he will just outshine his fellow professional and top the Block B table. Well-known for his lethal in-ring style and insanely good matches against Tomohiro Ishii, Shibata is the current NEVER Openweight Champion and is looking to confirm his spot within the company’s main event scene.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Yuji Nagata on August 10th – Nagata and Shibata are no strangers as we’ve seen them clash many a time already in 2016. The new-found respect between the pair adds fuel to the fire of what will surely be another hard-hitting encounter.

Overall Standing Prediction: 1st in Block B with 15 points (7 wins versus Evil, Honma, Naito, Nakajima, Nagata, Omega and Yoshi-Hashi, 1 draw versus Elgin)

 

Toru Yano

Fan-favourite Yano is more-widely regarded for his comedic abilities and crazy victories rather than his technical wrestling ability. He is almost guaranteed to pick up a big victory over a top star via the daft combination of low blows and roll ups and I reckon Shibata’s seriousness may result in his downfall against Yano. He is however, a current NOAH Tag team Champion with Marufuji so he is certainly not to be messed with.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Tomoaki Honma on July 30th – Probably the most ridiculous yet wonderful pro-wrestling match you will witness all year.

Overall Standing Prediction: 7th in Block B with 6 points (3 wins versus Honma, Nagata and Shibata)

 

YOSHI-HASHI

The final CHAOS member to enter this year’s G1 Climax and arguably the least interesting of them all. Hashi hasn’t really achieved anything from his partnership with Okada’s faction and isn’t very likely to many victories in the round-robin. That said, he is a solid hand and can hopefully have an outstanding match with at least one opponent in order for him to begin breaking out as a star of his own. Finally, he has some fancy pants.

Most Anticipated Match: versus Kenny Omega on July 22nd – Can Omega be the foe that Hashi could really shine against? I certainly hope so. He’s unlikely to get the pinfall a decent match is to be expected.

Overall Standing Prediction: 9th in Block B with 4 points (2 wins versus Honma and Yano)

There you have it then folks, I’m going Tanahashi to beat Shibata in the final before losing the title shot to Naito later in the year. I hope you all enjoy the G1 again this year, it should be a cracker!