NJPW’s biggest show of the year is live on NJPW World tomorrow morning. Here’s a full preview.
0. New Japan Rumble: TBD
Last year we had everyone from Haku to Cheeseburger to The Great Kabuki, so who knows who will pop up this year. This match is usually just a whole lot of fun. Expect someone like Yuji Nagata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan or Jushin Thunder Liger to get the win. Who knows, we could see the return of Minoru Suzuki, but hopefully that will be kept for a bigger moment.
1. TV Anime Special Match: Tiger Mask W vs. Tiger the Dark
We already know that Tiger The Dark will be portrayed by ACH. Tiger Mask W was last portrayed by Kota Ibushi, so if we get Ibushi vs ACH here, this could be a hell of a ten minute sprint. This won’t mean much, it is more of an exhibition to promote the anime series.
2. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title: Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson (c) vs. Rocky Romero & Baretta
For the first time in what seems like forever we don’t have a four way Jr Tag title match in the Tokyo Dome. Finally two teams will be given the chance to go out in a traditional tag setting with a proper chance to haves great match as opposed to a fifteen minute car crash. RPG Vice teased a break up a few months ago, but managed to work through it and get back on track on route to winning the Super Jr Tag Tournament to earn this spot. It would make sense for RPG Vice to continue their story by winning the titles. The Young Bucks have quietly become one of the most successful IWGP Jr Tag champions in history, now holding the record for most reigns. These titles change hands constantly, so I’d like to see The Bucks retain here and put together a more lengthy reign. These teams have had outstanding matches in the past that have flown under the radar, so I expect this to be something really great. In a lot of ways it’s the biggest opportunity to shine in the careers of both teams.
3. NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Title, Gauntlet Match: Satoshi Kojima, Ricochet & David Finlay (c) vs. SANADA, “King of Darkness” EVIL & BUSHI vs. Jado, YOSHI-HASHI & Will Ospreay vs. Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale & Hangman Page
Even reading the names in this is a cluster. The six man titles have been ping ponged around so much since their creation last January 4th that it’s almost impossible to remember who has held them. The right thing to do here is have LIJ win them since their the only participants in the match that resemble a proper team. It could be the start of a big night for LIJ as all five members of the group have a chance to take good. This will be a car crash that will hopefully see the likes of Ricochet & Will Ospreay stand out.
4. Special Singles Match: Cody vs. Juice Robinson
This match will likely play out in front of a silent crowd. Cody did not get much of a reaction when he was introduced a few weeks ago. Cody has been creating a whole lot of buzz for himself on the indies since leaving WWE. He has popped up just about everywhere and carries himself like a star. However, NJPW is a very different animal. As much as the NJPW style has changed in recent years to more of an American style, it is still very different from what we usually see from Cody. Cody has all the tools and will likely do well, just as long as NJPW give him time to adapt and don’t shoot him to the top instantly, which they have a habit of doing with second generation American names. Juice Robinson has been arguably the most improved wrestler of 2016, and deserves his spot on the biggest card of the year. He is a good first opponent for Cody as he can bridge the gap between the WWE and NJPW styles of wrestling.
5. ROH World Title: Kyle O’Reilly (c) vs. Adam Cole
Just like the previous match, this will also likely play out in front of a muted crowd reaction. Cole isn’t over with the NJPW crowd and O’Reilly is starting to get there after his career making performance against Shibata in October. O’Reilly is the new ROH champion after a long road to the title, and as someone who has followed the careers of Cole & O’Reilly very closely, it will be very cool to see them take their rivalry to such a large stage. Their rivalry is much like that of Owens vs Zayn, and will likely always follow them around no matter where they go. This should be an excellent match, as it always is between these guys. Both guys have been rumoured to be on the way to WWE at different points, so we could see this go either way. Once the final bell rings we will know who will be sticking around ROH for the time being.
6. IWGP Tag Team Title: Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa (c) vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma vs. Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii
NJPW’s original plans for this likely got thrown out the window when their partnership with Pro Wrestling NOAH ended. The obvious plan here would have seen GOD defend against Ishii & Goto. We ended up getting a GBH tag league win for the second year running, to the excitement of almost no one. Then Yano showed up, hassled both teams and ended up putting himself in the match with Ishii as his partner, making the tag league mean nothing. GOD finally hit their stride as a team since the world tag league, putting in some excellent performances and really looking like a proper well oiled tag team. I want to see them get the win here. They have worked hard to justify their spot and have much more going for them as a team than either of their challengers.
7. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: KUSHIDA (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Under the name Kamaitachi, Hiromu Takahashi made quite the name for himself in CMLL. Now he’s back in NJPW, after being revealed as the “Time Bomb”, and will challenge the “Time Splitter” for the Jr Heavyweight title. Hiromu is the newest member of LIJ, and is a perfect fit for the group. His return has already added some excitement to the Jr division and it’s a very strong possibility that he takes the title here. KUSHIDA had an incredible 2016, and is a guy that gets overlooked when people are discussing the best wrestlers in the world. Hiromu is a guy that goes all out and has no problem putting his body on the line. This has the potential to be the show stealer here. Hiromu is going to be out to make a major impression in the biggest match of the career, and KUSHIDA enters every match looking like he has a point to prove.
8. NEVER Openweight Title: Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Hirooki Goto
Shibata & Goto have quite the history together. From being in the same college class, to having previous Wrestle Kingdom history including a match against each other and a tag title win on the big stage. They are currently tied in singles matches with two wins each and two draws. Their previous encounters are some of the most physical and gruelling matches I have ever seen in NJPW, so this should be no different. Expect the usual carnage from Shibata. Goto has had a mixed year, starting it out in a slump and slowly getting back on track after joining CHAOS. Shibata has had his biggest year to date, proving that he is deserving of a singles run. Shibata Will likely be moving on from the NEVER title soon, so wether Goto is the guy to take it and become this years NEVER title holder remains to be seen. Shibata had some stern comments for Goto in interviews (https://twitter.com/reasonjp/
status/814069427335352320) lea ding up to this, so we’ll see if it fires Goto up.
9. IWGP Intercontinental Title: Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Naito has said leading into this match that Tanahashi has fallen, is past his prime. Naito is struggling for motivation because he has nothing to prove against Tanahashi. Tanahashi has claimed we will be seeing a new Tanahashi debut in this match, complete with new ring music and a new look. The story is that Naito, once pegged as the next Tanahashi, has silently overtaken him by just being himself and getting away from all the elements about himself that made people compare him to NJPW’s ace. This is a huge match, and is a match that Naito really needs to win. His 2016 was monumental. He became a major star in the last twelve months, so he needs the win here to solidify himself as one of the top men in the company’s leading into 2017. This has all the makings of an instant classic.
10. IWGP Heavyweight Title: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Kenny Omega
This is going to be something. The hype and expectations going into this match are something else, and I’m firmly believe that they will surpass expectations and deliver one of the greatest matches of the decade. Kenny Omega has a major chip on his shoulder. We saw him tear up the G1, including what might be the two greatest back to back performances ever in pro wrestling on the final two nights of the competition. Omega is one of the most elite performers in the world and is hell bent on making sure everyone knows that. Back at King of Pro Wrestling, Omega told Okada to his face that he has had everything handed to him and at the Tokyo Dome he will take it all away. Having seen what Omega has done over the last six months and knowing that Okada is one of the finest main event performers in the world, it’s hard to even imagine how good this match could potentially be. Personally, it’s been a very long time since I’ve looked forward to a match this much.