Bullet Club vs Young Bucks
This storyline between the leaders of the Bullet Club possibly fracturing in a bad way with it seemingly various members picking sides. Though the Club could use some momentum, I don't think it will come at the behest of Young Bucks. With that being said I do think that the Young Bucks will get the win at the event.
Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii vs Taichi & Takashi Iizuka
This match is tough to call due to my lack of knowledge with the talent in this match other than Ishii. I do know though that Ishii took a big loss back at Wrestle Kingdom to Suzuki and still hasn't regained some momentum. I think this will point to a win for Ishii & Yano as a way to give Ishii some momentum back.
Never Openweight 6 Man Tag Title Match:
Ryusuke Taguchi, Michael Elgin, and Togi Makabe vs (c) Bullet Club
I will be the first to admit that I have not always been a fan of New Japan, but I have definitely started to pay attention more in recent years both due in part to ROH & the other due to expansion. The first part of this match is that I remember Makabe when he was TV champion in ROH and thinking that he must've been skilled to be able to win a title in ROH as a loaned wrestler. But also far none the Guerrillas of Destiny have been my favorite team in NJPW for the longest time just based on the success & chemistry these two have. Keeping that in mind there is no doubt for me that the Bullet Club gets the win and retains the gold.
David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi, & Juice Robinson vs Jay White, Yoshi Hashi, & Hirooki Goto
First of all I have to say that Jay White's stock has took off to heights I didn't think it would at this point and time, but it just shows what happens when New Japan sees something in someone. I have seen Jay compete for ROH and thought that he was good but right now was more a secondary player rather than a possible leader. However, after seeing his recent performances in New Japan he has changed my opinion of him and now I think he has potential to really help New Japan stay in front of the expansion. However, much like I mentioned earlier and keeping the results of last weeks show in mind I do think that the face team wins to get both Tanahashi & Finlay on the good side of momentum.
Suzuki-Gun vs Los Ingobernables
A very interesting match and one that could be steal the show if given the opportunity to based on the amount of talent within the match. From Suzuki to Naito to Sanada to Davey Boy Jr there is a tremendous amount of skills and ability in this match for these teams to tear the house down. But the underling idea of the match in my opinion is that this will play a part in both Suzuki's future challengers and where New Japan goes with the IC title in the next few months. This is why I think that Los Ingobernables will get the win and Naito might pick up the win the move into contention for the IC title.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Los Ingobernables vs Roppongi 3K vs (c) Suzuki-Gun
The junior heavyweights always find a way to be one of the highlights for New Japan events and though they have their critics, I will say I am a fan. This is a tough match to call as I do think that the Junior titles are still looking for a new identity after the Bucks moved up from the division which has now left a whole. Now I think Sho & Yho were good champions but with a loss for part of Suzuki-Gun earlier I think the title should stay were it is for right now. Suzuki Gun retains the titles.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:
(c) Will Osprey vs Marty Scrull
There is no pair in modern wrestling that has been more attached at the hip then these two men have been in their careers. Though these two may have their critics there is no doubt that these two are tremendously talented at what they do. However, it is worth noting that since Marty has joined the Bullet Club in place of Adam Cole a few months back he has become one of the top members. With that being said I think that Will Osprey will retain his title as Marty winning the title doesn't make sense due to his place in the Bullet Club feud.
Golden Lovers vs Cody & Hangman Page
The tension has been building for almost a year between Cody & Omega over their place in the Bullet Club. I remember last year at I think it was Dominion when Cody tried to throw in the towel during Omega's match against Okada which started the tension. Things boiled over a few months ago when Cody finally attacked Omega setting things up for the future. Though it will be interesting to finally see Omega and Cody together in the ring and with the interactions that Page & Omega have had makes this all the more interesting. Last week we saw Kenny & Kota against the Bucks and this is the natural progression but is also a tough decision. I think that it seems likely that Kenny & Kota will get the win over Hangman Page to keep the heat on Cody without him losing.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match:
(c) Kazuchika Okada vs Zack Sabre Jr.
It has been a crazy month of March for one Zack Sabre with his amazing victories during the New Japan Cup earlier this month. Sabre has victories over Tanahashi, Sanada, Ibushi, and Naito during the tournament. Over the years Sabre has become one of the most skilled talents in the ring and has really carried on the amazing mat wrestling skills that UK stars have been known for in the past. I don't think that anyone has more momentum at the moment then Zack Sabre and this is the perfect time for him to get into the World Title picture. Some fans are now questioning if the momentum can continue and if Sabre can end the record breaking 648 day reign. I think that this "push" will be the start of things to come for Sabre Jr. and could actually be the World Champion one day. But I don't think that it will happen right now I think that Okada will maintain his record breaking run with the IWGP title.
On this day in wrestling history two very different workers are celebrating their birthdays. Now I know I very rarely do back to back posts like this, but I've seen two former New Japan stars celebrating on the same day. Even though both men have made names for themselves in the tag team division in New Japan one of them reached legendary status and the other would just be thought of as a veteran of sorts. The interesting thing about New Japan though is that a tag team wrestler could in some cases be looked at as a equal to singles star.
At one point two former WWE stars were the most dominate team in the company and it was Giant Bernard & Tyson Tomko. Though his time in New Japan was very short Tomko did accomplish a lot during his time with the company as the multiple time IWGP Tag Champion and would even drop the titles in his last match with the company. Hiroyoshi Tenzan on the other hand has become a legend within New Japan and his partnership with Kojima is one of the best ever. Tenzan's career has not only be memorable, but the longevity that he has built his career has been even more incredible. Keep this in mind Tenzan is still relatively active even at 47 years old.
The series that really never got going will finally get it's start with one legend that really needs know introduction. One part of Japanese wrestling that has never caught on in the states is the connection to cartoons and anime. In the spring of 1984 a young gun named Keiichi Yamada would make his debut in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Though most people know him as Jushin Liger he wouldn't dawn his legendary outfit for the first few years of his career. Actually his first career accomplishment came under the Keiichi Yamada name when he won the Young Lions Cup in 1986.
It was soon after this win though that Yamada would go on his excursion to both Europe & Canada for around a year before returning to Japan. Upon his return to New Japan he would finally dawn his gimmick as Jushin "Thunder" Liger. For those who don't know Liger he portrays an anime superhero and has become an "Icon" in the land of the rising sun.
Dawning the gimmick in late 1986 it is crazy think that Liger has been under the mask for the last thirty years of his wrestling career. For better part of a decade Liger would be one of the leaders of NJPW's Junior division and it was around this time he'd become a legend based on longevity alone. Now don't get me wrong Liger has competed for each of the major wrestling companies in the world at one time or another excluding ECW. Liger has had matches for WCW, ROH, WWE, & TNA during his career and has of course competed in CMLL due to the working agreement that NJPW has had for decades. In recent years Liger has also competed in companies like Chikara, PWG, PWS, and various others.
Overall there is no doubt that Jushin Liger is a member of the upper echelon of legends in the history of pro-wrestling. In a way Liger is on part with the Undertaker based on how long both stayed in character and how serious both men took their gimmicks. Though at this point he might not be fully active but it is still crazy to think that not only does he still compete at 53 years old but also the idea that he has been an active wrestler for the last 34 years which is insane. Thank you for the memories Liger and all you have done and continue to do for this great profession.
The countdown has been dragged out for a few weeks at this point but now we have reached the number one wrestler from 2017. Though some might disagree at this point I don't think there is any debating that after last year Kazuchika Okada is the best wrestler in the world. Even though Kenny Omega was a close second I think overall Okada was able to pull out great match after great match with just about everyone he was put in the ring with last year. New Japan has been able to build Okada from the ground up over the years and has developed him from a young gun to the "Ace" of the company.
Though his time in New Japan did begin in 2007 it took a few years and a trip over to the United State for him to find his footing. For those who may not be aware Okada did spend time in TNA for a short period of time during his excursion, but was booked as nothing more than a jobber within in the company. In many ways though the way they booked the Japanese stars really is what causes the end of the working agreement between New Japan and TNA. Upon his return in early 2011 Okada's push would begin and within a year would challenge for the IWGP World Title and begin his feud with Tanahashi. It was also around 2012 that Okada would begin to create his new gimmick. To create his new gimmick he would bring together parts of various wrestling styles including the "dropkick" from Mexico, "fighting spirit" from Japan, and "TV & Entertainment" from United States.
Overall it did take Okada a few years to put everything together it is a testament to the potential that NJPW saw in him that right after his return from being a jobber in America he is pushed to the World Title. From there he would slowly become one of the primer athletes in the world and would move to become the "Ace" Now at the age of thirty and already not just the longest reigning IWGP Champion in history but one of the greatest at that their is no telling where Okada ranks among the all time greats once he hangs up the boots for the last time.
Every company has their major event the one that they spend the entire year building to and always try to put the best foot forward. To state the obvious Wrestle Kingdom is New Japan's biggest event of the year & WWE's biggest event of the year is WrestleMania. Typically the build for Wrestle Kingdom usually sees many of the top feuds come to a head and very rarely if ever does the pay off disappoint. The same could said for WrestleMania, but in a different way as the feuds that culminate at WrestleMania very rarely have the build that matches at Wrestle Kingdom do. Now I know that not every feud needs to be built up for a year, but sometimes we also see years of build culminate at the event.
We could look no further to see the build then this years main event at Wrestle Kingdom 12 with Tetsuya Naito & Kazuchika Okada colliding in the rematch that had three years of build. For those who don't know Naito actually lost the main event of Wrestle Kingdom that he won from winning G1 Climax due to Fan Vote. This lead to IWGP Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura vs Hiroshi Tanahashi headlining the event instead of the World Title. Within that year Naito would end up leaving for Mexico to find himself and get sort of a reset to his character. However, this Wrestle Kingdom event did end up leading to the start of the feud between Okada & Naito that hit another milestone at this years event. Either way though this happens all time with matches at this event and to give one other example look no further then Okada & Tanahshi's set of matches they had at the event.
It is pretty to me that the main difference between Wrestle Kingdom and WrestleMania is the concept, and by that I mean that Wrestle Kingdom still tries to be a wrestling show & WrestleMania doesn't just want that. Now I know that WrestleMania is a wrestling show ran by a wrestling company, but it focuses more on the spectacle rather than the wrestling aspect of things. Wrestle Kingdom always focuses on the wrestling and though this could make the matches blend together, but some stick out either way. However, on the WrestleMania side of things there are always matches that stick and they very rarely blend as matches are memorable for different reason. Overall though all companies have their major events, but some look at their special events differently then others and plan further ahead.