It has been a long time since I gave this series another try and we find ourselves back in New Japan to another star who has called both New Japan and WWE home. Matt Bloom debuted with WWE in 1999 as the bodyguard of Darren Drozdov and later the protege of Big Bossman. In late 2000 Albert would join the tag team ranks with Test as T & A and would be managed by Trish Stratus. Following the ending of his team with Test he would hover around the upper mid-card as a complimentary character adding depth to WWE during a time when they were changing eras. After six years though Matt "Albert" Bloom would leave WWE and in 2006 would begin touring in New Japan.
Upon his arrival now known as Giant Bernard would begin teaming with a fellow former WWE stars in Travis Tomko and later teaming with Karl Anderson. On both occasions Bernard would and his chosen partner would dominate the tag team division holding the IWGP Tag Titles for 343 days with Tomko and 564 days with Karl Anderson respectively. A main difference in Japan though is that a tag team performer could headline the show and in some cases be a bigger or more recognizable star then the man wearing the World Title. II wouldn't call everyone equal in Japan as far as the championship picture, but I would call there booking strong and point to that being the main reason any champion could main event. New Japan has a way of making their champions strong and keeping an aura around every championship in the company.
In 2012, Brock Lesnar returned to WWE the night after Wrestlemania and so did Matt Bloom under a new gimmick. Now called Tensai, but looked more like a knock off of Hakushi twenty pounds heavier. Admittedly, the gimmick was a flop from the start partially due to timing and just the fact that the fans didn't believe it. Albert went from being box office gold to being a complimentary piece again, but this time on a very weak roster. In my opinion, the main reason for the difference is that in Japan they saw the best way to make Matt a star was to place him in a tag team and take advantage of his strengths. On the other side WWE just saw his weaknesses, but liked his size which gave them reason enough to keep him strong similarly to Luke Harper they just couldn't figure out the right thing to do for him.
Starting in the spring of 1984, the wrestling world would change when Keichi Yamada would step into a ring for the first time. Unlike most of his fellow young lions Yamada would leave New Japan on a high after winning the Young Lions Cup. It would be two years before Yamada would be sent on excursion to All Star Wrestling in Europe and Stampede Wrestling. Upon his return Yamada would be repackaged as Jushin Thunder Liger which was taken from a very popular Japanese anime called Jushin Liger. For the next thirty years all over the world Jushin Liger would cultivate a career for himself as the most legendary junior heavyweight. It wouldn't take Liger very long to become the measuring stick of the junior heavyweight division for New Japan.
Liger would set the world on fire with Tiger Mask, Black Tigers, Kuniaki Kobayashi, Naoki Sano, and others over the years. In December 1991, Liger would make his return to the United States to feud with Brian Pillman over the WCW Light Heavyweight Championship. The feud would end in February at Superbrawl, but it would only be the beginning for Liger and his trips back to North America. Since then Liger has spent time with ROH, WWE, TNA, and CMLL perfecting an imagine of a legend.
Last weekend Jushin Liger wrestled his the final matches of his career lacing up the boots one more time for another Wrestle Kingdom. Liger will go down as a legend and one of the greatest performers in the history of New Japan. Even blessing the new generation of the junior division in his last match taking the pin fall against the team of Dragon Lee & Hiromu Takahashi. His commitment to the gimmick and ability to embrace the anime side of the character never really needing to change with the times Liger is by far one of the best ever. Thank you for all you did for wrestling, New Japan, and the Junior Heavyweight division!! You deserve the rest now after 30 plus years of giving us your body, mind, and soul.
It's that time of year again as a new year beckons we await the first major event of the calendar and like always it is from New Japan. This year wrestling fans will be treated to a very special event with this years event stretching across two days instead of the traditional one day event. Doing this prevents burnout from fans and also allows New Japan to maximize the Wrestle Kingdom banner. Another reason this year's event is very special is due to the "Double Title Match" set for the January 5 event.
For months there has been a focus placed on showing how important this "Double Title Match" will be coming on January 5 for everyone involved. The "Double Belt Dash" is one of the more intriguing aspects of the new year as most times wrestling companies try and prevent talent from holding two titles at one time, but right now it seems like it's being encouraged. In my opinion, New Japan should seize this chance to really put someone on Okada's level, because right now he's on a level all his own.
On January 4, the "Painmaker" returns to fight Hiroshi Tanahashi it another dream match we didn't know we wanted until it was announced. Jericho is riding a hot ticket right now by starting off the decade in the drivers seat. Jericho and his Inner Circle are the hottest ticket in wrestling right wrapped in a developing feud with Jon Moxley and then he promises Tanahashi a shot at the AEW World Title if he can beat Jericho. Last time I checked AEW and NJPW weren't on the same page, but could things have changed or maybe at least soften. Seeing AEW expand overseas even a little bit with the help of New Japan will benefit both promotions equally as it could help each of them develop a foot hold in the US and Japan respectively.
For the last couple of weeks I have been providing updates on the final tournament of the year in New Japan the World Tag League Tournament. The World Tag League tournament is the way that New Japan determines who will challenge for the IWGP Tag Team Titles at Wrestle Kingdom on January 4. Back in 2017 and 2018 the tournament was won by Los Ingobernables de Japon members Evil and Sanada. These two men also made it to the finals this year, but came up short against the winner David Finlay Jr & Juice Robinson. Now I don't know a lot about this team, but to me this is exactly what New Japan needed to do this year after losing so many stars earlier in the year. This means that on January 4 at the Tokyo Dome the IWGP Champions Guerrilla's of Destiny will fight FinJuice for the Tag Titles.
Another surprise video appeared as the "Painmaker" graced us with his presence further building his match with Hiroshi Tanahashi on Wrestle Kingdom Day 2. For the first time Wrestle Kingdom will be split up over the course of two days with one day being headlined by Kazuchika Okada vs Kota Ibushi and another day being headlined by a match between IWGP Heavyweight Champion and Intercontinental Champion.
* Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kota Ibushi (IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match)
* Jay White (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito (IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match)
* Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi ( IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match)
* Lance Archer vs. Jon Moxley (IWGP United States Championship Match)
* The Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Dave Finlay and Juice Robinson (IWGP Tag Team Championship Match)
* YOSHI-HASHI, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii, and Hirooki Goto vs. Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale, and KENTA
* BUSHI, Shingo Takagi, EVIL, and SANADA vs. El Desperado, Taichi, Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr.
* Jushin Thunder Liger, Tatsumi Fujinami, The Great Sasuke, and Tiger Mask (with El Samurai) vs. Naoki Sano, Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, and Ryusuke Taguchi (with Kuniaki Kobayashi)
IWGP Champion vs. IWGP Intercontinental Champion (Title vs. Title Match)
* Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Chris Jericho
* Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo (c) vs. Roppongi 3K (IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship Match)
* Loser of Okada vs. Ibushi vs. Loser of White vs. Naito
* KENTA (c) vs. Hirooki Goto (NEVER Openweight Championship Match)
* Winner of the Lance Archer/Moxley Match (c) vs. Juice Robinson
* Zack Sabre Jr (c) vs. SANADA (RevPro British Heavyweight Championship Match)
* El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori (c) vs. SHO and YOH (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match)
* Jushin Liger and Naoki Sano vs. Ryu Lee (Dragon Lee) and Hiromu Takahashi (Jushin Liger's Final Wrestling Match)
Around a week ago I was writing a match of the week article and after seeing that the World Tag League was underway I thought why not check that out. I was impressed by David Finlay and Juice Robinson holding the first place in the round robin tournament so far. For those who don't know or are unsure the World Tag League is basically the tag equivalent to the G1 Climax including the winners of the Tag League earning a title shot against the IWGP Tag Team Champions at the following years Wrestle Kingdom. The only way the winners don't receive a title shot is if the champions win the tag league. The teams included earn two points for a win, one point for a draw and zero points for a loss.
The tournament normally runs for about two weeks from the middle of November to the first of second of December depending on when the company wants to run the event. This year the Tag League started on November 16 and will run until December 8 when the finals will be determined. It is all about the rankings in New Japan and the top two teams are the ones that matter on the final day as they will fight for the trophy. Check out the updated standings:
EVIL and SANADA: (20 pts)
* David Finlay and Juice Robinson: (18 pts)
* Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa: (18 pts)
* Toru Yano and Colt Cabana: (16 pts)
* Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI: (16 pts)
* Minoru Suzuki and Lance Archer: (14 pts)
* Jeff Cobb and Mikey Nicholls: (14 pts)
* KENTA and Yujiro Takahashi: (12 pts)
* Shingo Takagi and El Terrible: (12 pts)
* Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi (12 pts)
* Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima: (8 pts)
* Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens: (8 pts)
* Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma: (6 pts)
* Hirooki Goto and Karl Fredericks: (4 pts)
* Hiroshi Tanahashi and Toa Henare: (4 pts)
* Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata: (2 pts)
To check out the cards for the four remaining for shows that include tournament matches click here!
One of the biggest parts of New Japan's calendar is their yearly tournaments starting with the New Japan Cup in March then Best of the Super Juniors in June to the busy month of August with both the G1 Climax and Super J Cup both taking place in this month. Following that things are quite until November which is where we are at now with the last tournament of the year being World Tag League. The tournament actually started last weekend and it is by far one of the most unique tournaments in wrestling as there is nothing like anything we see in American wrestling. Check below who was included in the tournament:
The amount of talent in this tournament is incredible and just shows how deep the New Japan is for one and how serious they take these tournaments. Remember in WWE when was the last time you saw a main event talent in a King of the Ring it's been a while, but yearly the IWGP World Champion is in the G1 Climax. In this case Guerrillas of Destiny are the IWGP Tag Team Champions and are in the tournament and currently aren't leading in the standings with four points. Even though some might question the booking in reality they have the least amount to prove in the tournament and could help improve the tag scene in NJPW. Either way keep an eye out for any news about this years tournament which comes to an end on December 6.
Current Standings: Tournament Continues 11/23/19 (Click Here for More Information)
* David Finlay and Juice Robinson: (8 pts)
* Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI: (6 pts)
* Toru Yano and Colt Cabana: (6 pts)
* EVIL and SANADA: (6 pts)
* Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima: (6 pts)
* Jeff Cobb and Mikey Nicholls: (4 pts)
* KENTA and Yujiro Takahashi: (4 pts)
* Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma: (4 pts)
* Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi (4 pts)
* Hirooki Goto and Karl Fredericks: (4 pts)
* Hiroshi Tanahashi and Toa Henare: (4 pts)
* Minoru Suzuki and Lance Archer: (4 pts)
* Shingo Takagi and El Terrible: (4 pts)
* Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa: (4 pts)
* Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens: (2 pts)
* Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata: (2 pts)
For the longest time I've been thinking about this series and never got around to doing it even though I thought it would be a great series. Basically the extent of this series is comparing the booking styles of wrestlers from one company to another and attempting to try and figure on why they were booked so different. Starting right out with an interesting wrestler to talk about is Scott "Flash" Norton. Norton would get his first big break in the early 1990's in New Japan. In his first run Norton would just be a tag team wrestler partnering up with both Tony Halme and Hercules, and would gain exposure through the WCW/NJPW working agreement.
Fast forward to late 1995 when Scott Norton would return to WCW on a more semi full time basis. Norton would eventually become the muscle of the New World Order after the stable formed in 1996. Though he would be apart of the hottest stable in wrestling his stock never really changed in WCW. Realistically his stock may not have rose in WCW, because he would only be in the company in between tours of Japan. However, the NWO did help his stock in New Japan during the height of the NWO in 1998 after winning the IWGP World Title from future NWO member Yuji Nagata.
A year later Norton would leave WCW and head back to New Japan full time winning the World Title again in 2001. Norton is one of only nine gaijn to hold the IWGP World Title joining names like Brock Lesnar, Vader, Bob Sapp, Kurt Angle, and others. In my opinion, Scott Norton didn't have the charisma to make it big in America, because he wasn't the best promo and with managers becoming a thing of the past it would've been hard to get him over. In New Japan though talent doesn't need to talk they just need to be able to fight and that's why Norton is a legend in New Japan and just another name in America.
This is a trip down memory lane from Brock's short lived stay in New Japan Pro-Wrestling following his WWE departure in 2004. Brock's arrival in New Japan was met with some issues due to it being prior to the expiration of his 90 day no compete clause, but things were different back then. At this point New Japan was getting closer to getting out of the dark ages the company had been in for the last few years and just moving forward. Anyone who knows New Japan especially during this time Shinsuke Nakamura was one of the reasons that New Japan was moving forward at this time.
Now we fast forward around 15 years and both Brock and Nakamura have found a home in WWE imagine with the right build a match between these two happening. Even though more than likely due to Nakamura's up and down status in WWE and many not considering him on the level of Brock Lesnar it is almost impossible to think this match will happen. Either way though it's one of those matches that still could happen and give Brock a legitimate opponent that could work with him in the ring.
Though some fans might be among the idea that Jericho vs Omega not only should've been the main event, but would go as far to say that it was the main event. However, I am one of the members of the concept that the World Championship should always main event a card no matter how well other matches are hyped. For someone who has never seen New Japan or the "Rainmaker" himself Okada is a freaking machine in the ring & clearly the franchise of New Japan. With how freaking hard hitting this match was it is incredible how long both Okada & Naito were able to go in this match.
There is no doubt that both Naito & Okada had an incredible 2017 with both men moving to another level and helping New Japan expand into the United States. Now with Tanahashi taking a step down the card into the Intercontinental title picture it left a spot open for a new face & it is perfect timing for Naito who is finding his way up the card himself. Okada on the other is slowly becoming on par with legends of the past like Fujinami, Inoki, or Great Muta who helped carry the company.
Though some fans believed that Naito should've came out the winner of the match as it was his time to become champion. However, at this point Okada is still chasing down the legacy of the previous "Ace" of New Japan which meant he had his own story. Which is just another why New Japan is so unique, because their are so many different stories & what if situations that it is very hard to keep track of them all. But I will say that this match was the only match that could've headlined the first major event of what promises to be an incredible year for New Japan.
For the last month New Japan Pro-Wrestling wrestlers have been dazzling audiences with show stealing performances across Japan. The reason is everyone in New Japan during this time of year, because it is G1 Climax season. Last week the 29th edition of the most prestigious tournament in wrestling came to a close with a surprising winner. Even though Kota has always been a marque name in wrestling he has never reached the level to breakthrough the junior heavyweight stigma that was place on him early in his career.
However, this isn't Ibushi's first trip to heavyweight division as he had a classic match a few years ago with Shinsuke Nakamura challenging for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Interesting note Kota Ibushi actually Kazuchika Okada in 2017 at the NJPW 45 Anniversary show the only difference was Kota was under a mask as Tiger Mask W. Upon his return to New Japan as Ibushi something changed, because from the start his stock began to slowly rise and rise. It hit it's peak or so I thought in his feud with Cody, but then the reformation of the Golden Lovers led to a matches with the Young Bucks.
Fast forward to this year and Ibushi becoming Intercontinental Champion by defeating Tetsuya Naito and even though the reign didn't last still it was his first taste of gold outside of the junior division. In my opinion, after the departures of Cody, Hangman Page, Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega for AEW it was time for New Japan to step up and make new stars. This decision is evidence of that Ibushi definitely has what it takes to become a star in New Japan and with the bumps I have seen him take he has earned his spot and this victory. I for one can't wait for Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi to tear the house down on January 4, 2020!!!
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