The biggest event of the New Japan calendar is coming up on us really quick it is now two days away. For wrestling fans the upcoming Wrestle Kingdom event is the first major event of the new year is here and almost ready to get going. After taking a look at the card for the event it is a very solid event for the show and is on par with every other card from this event. At this point New Japan has a reputation to uphold for what fans expect from this event every year and with this being the event that sets the stage for 2019 it will be interesting to see how it goes.
Before this years Wrestle Kingdom event I thought it'd be fitting to put our focus on the main event for this year. With that being said our main event this year will see current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega face former "Ace" of New Japan Hiroshi Tanahashi. In the last few Tanahashi has taken more of the veteran role or the role of someone who will watch on the side & jump in when needed. But now the former "Ace" has the chance to move to the top of the mountain once again and with all the questions surrounding the The Elite it might be the perfect time for a new champion in New Japan.
If one word could be used to describe New Japan it would be expansion. Starting in January last year the company would get the year off on a high note with another successful Wrestle Kingdom. Though some fans believe that Tetsuya Naito vs Kazuchika Okada ended the wrong way it was a very good event and the right way to start the year. Seeing Chris Jericho appear at his first non WWE event in almost twenty years makes him the wild card from the event. It is amazing to recall the amount of hype that went into this event and how this really set the stage for what would be another year of expansion for the top Japanese wrestling promotion.
One major point of the year was the event in May as this was the next United States based event which once again went extremely well. From the first event last year when New Japan brought their brand of pro-wrestling to California. This year the company went to San Francisco specifically the world famous Cow Palace and they sold out the legendary arena.
The success of this event as well as the event in 2017 has set the Japanese based promotion to run two events in the United States in 2019. In my opinion this sets the promotion up for even more expansion as long as both events especially the special in MSG are as successful as they are projected to be. Overall though this year wasn't all good for New Japan as they have lost a number of wrestlers and need to rebuild the company a little bit next year with some top names not yet signing back with NJPW. To be frank though I think they succeed for the most part in the last twelve months, but we need more time to see the success or failure of major booking decisions, like Jay White's ascension into a leadership role in the bullet club.
Coming up on the new year and that means one thing for non-WWE fans. The first PPV of the new year in New Japan is the biggest event of their calendar year. In my opinion this is the only event that could be compared to Wrestlemania on any level. This is one of the reasons that I'd want to hype up the event as the annual event draws near.
This event has produced some of the top matches in not just New Japan but over the course of the year. One of the matches that really left a lasting impression on fans was the match featured below between AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura from Wrestle Kingdom 10. This match left enough of an impression on fans that everyone was extremely excited at the prospect of seeing the match in WWE when both men joined the company. These two posse chemistry with each other, but I feel like it is limited chemistry and they showed that in the lackluster WWE feud they had. Overall though this was one of the better matches in recent memory from this event in my opinion.
Change is something that runs parallel with wrestling and is really how company or talent finds success by getting in front of the changes. One wrestler has really taken the idea of reinvention to keep himself always fresh and new before he got outdated and stale. In reality not many talent can get a list over better then other wrestlers on the roster or can really make such a drastic change that he has from being in WWE to how he is in New Japan. Following his appearance at All In at the start of last month Chris Jericho proved just how unique of a character and talent he is from any other name in wrestling.
During his last run in the WWE we saw Chris Jericho playing a totally different part then he did when he was last with the company. Jericho would create the "List of Jericho" which would become a highlight of each show that he was on always getting a pop from the fans when he would mention it. Though early on in his run he would be a heel with Kevin Owens which made his last run even better, and by the end we Jericho turn and become a good guy.
Jericho would then shock the wrestling world appearing in New Japan Pro-Wrestling to challenge Kenny Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom. Many thoughts after his show stealing performance at the biggest event of the year he would be done in New Japan but he would shock the world again by showing up to attack Tetsuya Naito starting a feud with the leader of LIJ. Though things would start slow we would end up getting the match between Jericho & Naito and it was for the IWGP Intercontinental Title which Jericho would shockingly win. Now not only is Jericho an aggressive, arrogant, violent, veteran, but he is the first star to hold the IWGP & WWE Intercontinental championship. Jericho has proven how important reinvention is in wrestling and that truly age is just a number and doesn't really have a great effect in wrestling if you have taken care of yourself over time like Jericho has during his career.
Since the news of Neville getting out of his contract with the WWE after a back and forth with the company since last October. Though I am sure there is joke somewhere in here with Enzo about him defeating Neville in a rematch for the title. However, since both of them are no longer we move on to where Neville could be heading now that he is free. One company that does really have open door for Neville to return is New Japan which would make things a little more interesting. New Japan is always looking for the next big talent especially when it comes to dream matches. This would be especially interesting considering Neville has never really had an official run in New Japan and his only time in the company was during the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. Seeing Neville across the ring from various names like Dragon Lee, Jushin Liger, Kota Ibushi, and others especially when Hiromu Takahashi when he return.
It is interesting thinking about the possibilities that are now available with Neville free as it adds another wrinkle to the ever changing and expanding world of New Japan Pro-Wrestling. In his past run on the Indies Neville was more the white meat baby face that likes to fly around but after returning from his injury and flipping heel he showed a side to himself that nobody knew existed especially before WWE.
Overall I think that Neville showed his potential to be a top star when he really got into his gimmick as the cruiserweight king. He showed a side that nobody thought he could as an aggressive, ruthless bad guy that was extremely skilled in the ring. Honestly, I would love to see Neville in some way show up in Impact Wrestling even though they have shaken the WWE reject reputation Neville is different I feel like and would be more on par with Austin Aries then some of Impact's past signings. However, I do think to start Neville's place is on the international market as a way for him to see how much things have changed since he left for the WWE 6 years ago. Where do you want Neville to end up?
The 28 annual G1 Climax has come to an end and the winner has been declared after a classic match between two of New Japans best workers. The tournament came down to Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Isbushi with Kenny Omega and Shibata in each challengers respective corners. These two men tore the house down and really showed just how important this tournament is to every person who competes in it; because the winner earns an opportunity to challenge for the IWGP World Title in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom. One last thing if you have not seen this match I suggest putting aside some time and giving it a watch as I highly recommend it.
Now that the stage is set we can declare the winner of this years tournament is Hiroshi Tanahashi. This is interestingly enough one of the only things that Tanahashi had yet to do in his legendary career and now it is official that for likely the first time Tanahashi will enter Wrestle Kingdom's main event as challenger. Not to discount Ibushi who put in an amazing performance, but it will be interesting to see the former "Ace" in a different role on January 4 next years.
Some other interesting notes from the G1 finals event is that Kenny's first challenger for the IWGP World has been announced as Tomohiro Ishii declared his intentions after a six man tag. This is one of the many benefits of the tournament, because it can set up feuds or matches after it is over as Ishii notched a victory against Kenny during the tournament to earn the opportunity. Also following a tag match another champion found his next contender with Cody making his interest clear in challenging Juice Robinson for the IWGP United States Championship. The announcement of these upcoming matches along with new 6 man tag champions should help in continuing the seemingly always high momentum that New Japan prides themselves with carrying. Overall G1 Climax 28 showed exactly why this tournament is far none the most prestigious event of it's kind in wrestling history.
Kenny Omega Controversial First Loss, Toru Yano Tied Up, Boma Ye Leads to Victory: G1 Climax Night 14 Results
Block B was up on Night 14 the standings going into the show was IWGP Heavyweight Champion “Mr. Terminator” Kenny Omega in the lead with 12 Points and a six win and no losses record, but also is dealing with a foot injury, “Los Ingobernable” Tetsuya Naito in second with 10 points and a five win and one loss record, In third is “Golden Star” Kota Ibushi with 8 Points and a four win and two loss record. The rest of the standings are below
4. Zack Sabre Jr 3-3 6 Points
-. SANADA 3-3 6 Points
6. Hirooki Goto 2-4 4 Points
-. Juice Robinson 2-4 4 Points
-. Tama Tonga 2-4 4 Points
-. Tomohiro Ishii 2-4 4 Points
10. Toru Yano 1-5 2 Points
SANADA def. Toru Yano, the typical Toru Yano comedy match saw a bit involvement from Rocky Romero to help his Chaos teammate Yano out of a Paradise Lock. SANADA wasn’t having it though and after a Yano Shrug from Romero he put the “Roppongi Leader” in a Paradise Lock as well. Then the man whose hair never moves tied Yano to the guardrail then tied the guard rail to the ring post which got SANADA the count out victory moving his score to 8 points and a 4-3 record.
Hirooki Goto def. Tama Tonga, this match was what you can expect out of the OG Bullet Club/Firing Squad. Constant interference and referee bumps, it’s obvious the Firing Squad doesn’t care about the tournament and just love the hate and boos from the crowd. This match ended via DQ after Bad Luck Fale hit a Grenade on Goto. The Never Openweight Champion Goto has 6 Points with a 3-4 Record.
Sidenote: Hirooki Goto is competing in his 11th Consecutive G1 Climax which is second only to Toru Yano who is competing in his 12th Consecutive and Hiroshi Tanahashi who is competing is his 17th Consecutive G1 which is the record.
Zack Sabre Jr. def. Juice Robinson, the Harry Potter of wrestling was gunning for a United States Title Match as told to us by his manager TAKA Michinoku before the match. Sabre repeatedly twisted and bent Juice and was vile going for the injured hand of the “Fruit”. The ending to this match saw a wicked painful submission move pulled out by the “Wizard” where he sat on Juice’s shoulders tying his legs up in them then began to pretzel up the loveable Robinson’s arms until the referee called for the bell. Sabre now has 8 points and a 4-3 record and is at the head of the line for a United States Title shot.
Sidenote: Does anyone think if you have a country specific title then the title should only be defended against wrestlers from that country?
Tomohiro Ishii def. Kenny Omega, IWGP Heavyweight Champion “Best Bout Machine” Kenny Omega and “Brick Wall” Tomohiro Ishii had a trilogy in 2017 with Ishii winning their first contest in the New Japan Cup and Omega picking up the win in the next two in the finals of the United States Title Tournament and Wrestling Dontaku. This match had much more at stake though with Kenny coming in with an undefeated record in the G1 this year and Ishii possibly earning an IWGP Heavyweight Title matches. Like always Omega was the “Knee Machine” relying his V-Trigger a lot in this match which could contribute to his loss with a unwillingness to change up his move cycle. But you can’t sell the “Stone Pitbull” short as he kicked Omega’s butt in this. At one point Kenny’s mouth and lip were busted open it was so brutal to look at. Ishii took advantage of the damaged and injured Omega hitting the Brainbuster to get the pinfall. The Controversy is in the pinfall though as before Red Shoes counted three Ishii pulled so hard on Kenny’s leg that the Champion’s shoulder came off the mat but Ishii was in Red Shoes view so he could not see the shoulder come off the mat. It looks like the decision will stand though giving Omega his first loss. Tomohiro Ishii now has 6 Points and a 3-4 record and is most likely gonna get a title shot after the G1.
Kota Ibushi def. Tetusya Naito, this match you could argue had the most importance as it now changes the outlook of the B Block. Naito is still behind Omega on the board and now with an Ibushi win can really be the beginning of his downfall in the 2018 G1 as he now needs to win his next match to even have a narrow shot a victory. The “Los Ingobernable” Naito went a bit heel again “Golden Star” attacking the knee and then neck of Ibushi setting up for a Destino. The Destino connects but like many other opponents Ibushi kicked out at two. Naito really needs to be looking for a new finishing move; the Destino is becoming the Stardust Press which was his old finisher before being influence by La Sombra (aka Andrade Cien Almas) in Mexico a few years ago. To end the match Ibushi hit a Boma Ye Knee (a Tribute to Shinsuke Nakamura) after that Kota hit the Kamigoye for the pinfall win.
Based on the somewhat successful first edition of the new series I thought we'd define another stable from New Japan. Last time we looked at the stable that former IWGP World Champion Okada calls home and this time we move to one faction that was started in Mexico and expanded to Japan. For those who don't know early on in his career Tetsuya Naito was a plain white meat baby face & really couldn't get over to his potential. Naito would actually win G1 Climax and didn't land in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom which to my knowledge is extremely rare; the main event of that Wrestle Kingdom in particular was Tanahashi vs Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.
Tetsuya Naito: Soon after Naito was sent on excursion to Mexico and would join Los Ingobernables in CMLL which was a stable lead by La Sombra, La Mascara, and Rush at the time of him joining the faction. It was here when Naito began to become the wrestler he is today and upon his return to New Japan it was clear that he was comfortable and might be on the road to find his potential. After seeing a number of matches and video clips from the leader of LIJ it is clear to me that nobody was better served to lead the expansion then Naito. Even though we have yet to see Naito get the long World Title reign that most of think his has the potential for well that gives us something to look forward to and that just means Naito hasn't hit his full potential just yet.
Hiromu Takahashi: Right now I think the only thing that anyone thinks when we see the name Hiromu Takahashi after the events of the G1 Climax special. During his IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match with Dragon Lee we saw Hiromu take a nasty bump landing on his head. At first many thought that Hiromu broke his neck, but we know now that the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion was just a little shaken up but luckily didn't sustain any major injury from the spot. Overall all though I think that Takahashi really found his footing a few years ago when NJPW's roster went through some changes and spots were left open. If Takahashi does miss any time it is a big loss for the division, but the depth would allow them to handle it.
Sanada: I can't talk about LIJ without talking about the one man who can do anything in the ring and not have a hair out of place. For any fan that has never seen New Japan and might remember Sanada from his time in Impact he is totally different now and you will be entertained just by his hair dew. Anytime I've seen Sanada work I'm entertained by the fact that you watch him do things and his hair doesn't move which is puzzling. In my opinion I think that Sanada keeps you invested in the match just looking at his hair and seeing if it does ever move.
Prior to the start of this year's G1 Climax I made the assertion that this would be Jay White's biggest chance to prove that he could be a top star for the company in the future. Thus far he has shown a little bit more improvement from where he was earlier this year in his lackluster match against Hiroshi Tanahashi Wrestle Kingdom 12. A lot has changed since then though with his title reign and victory over Kenny Omega at New Beginnings. But it is clear that Jay has some new found aggression that he took with him into the tournament and it's working quite well for him with victories over both Okada and Tanahashi.
The reason that Jay White isn't the point leader is because he is currently tied with fellow former IWGP United States Champion and current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega with 6 points. Now I'm not surprised that Kenny has the lead as I believe that they are trying to make the new champion look stronger before starting to give tournament loses. In my opinion this is one of the tougher parts of having a new champion in the tournament because having him lose early risks making him seem weak. Looking at the B-Block I do think that when the time comes Omega could see defeat at the hand of either Naito, Ibushi or Sabre Jr. any of them could hand the current champion his first loss.
Right now it is to early to point out one major surprise for the tournament as we are still very early in the stages of this years tournament. Thus far it is a little surprising that Juice Robinson hasn't got a win yet after defeating Jay White for the United States championship just before the tournament. To find the full updated standings for the G1 Climax: Click Here
Now this might be an odd choice to select, but seeing Zack Sabre get a heavy push earlier in the year as a way to get him ready for Okada lends some credence to this idea. Recently, at the G1 Climax Special in San Francisco we saw Jay White lose the IWGP United States Championship to Juice Robinson which was a nice surprise. This does though lend some to wonder what will Jay be doing next and with the G1 Climax right on the horizon it is the perfect time for Jay not to really have a direction. I know that two years ago Jay was on excursion in Ring of Honor, but if you know anything about New Japan when they see something in someone they aren't against taking a chance. Speaking of the G1 Climax the first round match for Jay White will see him face the former World Champion Okada.
Some fans might forget that Jay White already holds a win over Kenny Omega when he defeated Omega for the IWGP United States Champion that is his claim to fame. The G1 Climax always brings about unique events with shocking victories and defeats in the matches. In reality I don't think that right now Jay White is near the top of the list, but he is a very interesting person to watch during this years tournament.
Though it is a tough start for Jay White going against the longest reigning World Champion in round one. However, based on his past success I think that Jay will go far in the tournament and could be one of the men leading the charge after we get a few weeks into the tournament. I believe that someone in New Japan does think that Jay White has it and I can't disagree with them as he does have a bright future in the business. It doesn't matter if Jay wins or gets a lot of points in the tournament, but if he does get the win against Okada in Round One that will show just how much they believe in this youngster who could challenge Omega by the end of the year.