Starting in the Spring of 2009 when members of the Great Bash Heel stable turned on the leader of the faction Togi Makabe. One of the members of the stable named Toru Yano interfered in Makade's match against Shinsuke Nakamura costing his former stablemate the match. This would lead to Shinsuke and Toru Yano becoming the central figures of the new faction centered around bringing "Strong Style" back to the prominence it once held in New Japan. Within a year after the stable formed they would hold both the IWGP Tag & World Championship with Bad Intentions & Shinsuke Nakamura holding each title respectively. Things would start to change in early 2012 when the Chaos faction would add a new member in Kazuchika Okada who would announce his involvement in the stable after Wrestle Kingdom 6 during the press conference. At one point this faction had names like Naito, Nakamura, Anderson, Tanaka, and others in the group and though the name recognition might not be as prominent the group is still dominate.
Kazuchika Okada: In the break down of some of the members within Chaos there is no better place to start then with the leader of the group. Until recently Okada held the IWGP World Champion and was the leader of the entire company holding the title for the longest reign of anyone in the companies history. I'm unsure what could be said about Okada that hasn't been said already as he is the "Ace" of New Japan and one of the best wrestlers in the world. I think the one thing I could say is that with Okada a part of the stable it definitely puts the group in a special place as the "Ace" will elevate everyone and everything.
Jay White: It was a tough choice picking another member of the stable to speak about but I think selecting the newest member of the stable. The youngster spent an extended stay with Ring of Honor during his excursion away from New Japan before heading back to the company in late 2017. Upon his return there were some that thought he would join the Bullet Club, but his true allegiance would be reveled. At this time Jay is still only 25 and with him being able to share the ring with a number of veterans & the "Ace" of the promotion at his disposal. However, I will point out that the company seems to think very highly of the youngster based on him defeating Kenny Omega for the United States championship within months of returning from his excursion. Overall as the company continues to expand into the US, I think that Jay White will slowly become one of the top up and comers in the world as he has the skills to have a bright future.
Recently the second biggest event of the New Japan calendar year took place and really lived up to all the expectations that were in place prior to the event. Though some of the matches did fall a little flat but other matches hit a higher peak then some expected. This event was the sight of Omega vs Okada IV which tore the house down after an hour long match the wrestling world would change. I don't remember the last time I actually said that about something that happened in modern wrestling but the end of this event was one of those moments.
To start it is worth noting that following the event more than half of the championships are held by non Japanese stars including two being held by the Young Bucks. I will point out that I don't remember the last time that one team was able to capture both the IWGP Junior and Tag Team titles. Normally it is very rare for junior heavyweights to rise up to the heavyweight division but after seven reigns with junior heavyweight tag titles. One other point I wanted to make was that in 2018 a former WWE star is champion in NJPW; last Saturday the company crowned a new Intercontinental Champion in Chris Jericho. It is incredible to think that Jericho is actually a champion in a company other than WWE and is still on good terms with the company. This is something that I never thought I would see and I don't just mean Jericho holding a title but at one point I really never expected him to return to NJPW.
Though this title change is a major turn of events but we can't talk about this years Dominion event without talking about the main event of the show. As of the event Okada had been IWGP Heavyweight champion for an incredible 720 days becoming the longest running World Champion by a long stretch. However, it was really nearing the time that the company needed to begin thinking about who could defeat Okada and become the new champion. At one point I thought it was academic that Okada would get the win in this match as I didn't think that Omega was looked at as a top star in the same way that Okada, Naito, or Tanahashi are within the company. Overall as I look back on all the years that I have watched Kenny Omega starting with during his time in ROH it is insane to think that the former comedic wrestler is the World Champion.
Looking at this event I think it raises some interesting questions for not just the future of New Japan, but also what this year could look like. I do believe after this event that within the next year we will see the expansion of New Japan continue and for the time being I think that the foreign stars will maintain their stronghold on titles. The main underlying idea that I believe has been brought up after this event is that with the feud between Kenny Omega & Cody not over yet things can take an interesting turn with the World Title now in the feud. Recently, I made a prediction that put Cody in the Wrestle Kingdom title match next January but I didn't expect it to be between Cody and Kenny. I guess at this point we will just have to wait and see what the rest of 2018 has in store for us from New Japan.
The challenge is out there and now it is up to the matches to deliver, but the interesting thing is New Japan has another stacked card and this one seems to be on par with a card we'd see at Wrestle Kingdom. With two very capable main events on the card and a former World Champion set for action at the event this will be one of the biggest events of the year. Now don't get me wrong the Dominion event is yearly always one of the top shows of the year for New Japan. However, I think that this show is really closing on not just how stacked New Japan's roster is right now that this could be the biggest Dominion event in recent memory.
The first match that catches fans attention is the next match of last years incredible series between current IWGP Champion and Kenny Omega. Last year these two men had one of the best series of matches in recent memory. There is no doubt that Okada & Omega getting top billing on this event is enough to draw a crowd, but also throwing in the fact that it is a 2 out of 3 falls match with No Time Limit. Knowing how long these two extremely talented stars normally go in the ring it is incredible to think about how long these two might go next Saturday in Osaka.
The other matches that catches fans attention is one that we never thought would happen due to a certain gaijin disappearing from New Japan. A few months ago Chris Jericho shocked everyone by attacking Tetsuya Naito which let everyone know he wasn't done in New Japan just yet, but then he disappeared which raised questions of his future. This would again change when Jericho would again shock the wrestling world by hitting Naito with a surprise attack in a return that nobody saw coming. Now the one match that I for one didn't expect to see happen especially with the IWGP Intercontinental Championship one the line. Recently, Naito defeated Minoru Suzuki for the IC Title and now faces off with the "Best Wrestler in the World" who completely proves exactly why he is one of the best and most in demand talents in the world.
Though most fans would likely point to this man being a legend in the rival Japanese promotion to New Japan Pro-Wrestling called All Japan Pro-Wrestling. Tenryu did become a borderline "Icon" in All Japan or maybe he did reach such status starting his career with the company in the late 1970's after being scouted by Giant Baba himself. Much like many other of his countrymen early on his career Tenryu was sent on excursion to Texas spending time in Amarillo and then later to the Carolinas to work with JCP. Following his return to Japan his road to superstardom would begin and in many ways his first milestone came in 1989 when the feud he would be most known for began. As starting in the spring of 1989 the iconic feud between Jumbo Tsuruta and Tenryu would begin over the AJPW Triple Crown title and in many ways the rest would be history.
His biggest accomplishments stateside were with the WWF as he competed in two Royal Rumbles & he was actually on the team that defeat Demolition in their last Tag Match at WrestleMania VII. However, in his career Tenryu would also become known for being a promoter as he opened Super World of Sports in 1990. One thing the company was famous for was having a rare working agreement with Vince McMahon who was very picky about working or even mentioning other companies. But the success of SWS didn't last and it was out of business by 1992. Soon after he would move on and open Wrestling and Romance or WAR in actually the same year that SWS collapsed which was 1992. In 1998, WAR began a decline and this saw Tenryu attempt a comeback to one of the bigger companies, but it wasn't All Japan this time.
In the late spring 1998, Genichiro Tenryu would show up in New Japan and with the help of Shiro Koshinaka would become IWGP Tag Team Champion soon after his arrival. The next year we would see Tenryu become the first native to win both the IWGP Heavyweight title and AJPW Triple Crown title defeating Great Muta in December 1999. Even though his run with New Japan was short he would return one more time to NJPW before retiring setting up his retirement match in November 2015 with then champion Okada. Overall it is hard disputing Genichiro Tenryu's standing in the world of pro-wrestling as one of the greatest performers to ever put on the boots in not just Japan but the world.
It is very interesting to see how far both Kenny Omega and Jay Lethal have come in recent years in the ring as both have become incredible talents. Omega has become an ambassador of New Japan and one the companies top stars with his association in the Bullet Club and his ongoing rivalry with Cody. I remember back in the day when Omega was still making his name in Japan and was an underrated star in the United States.
Since he left Impact Wrestling years ROH has done wonders building Jay and giving him the platform to become a star. Honestly after watching him in the same regard of Kenny I didn't expect him to become the star he has become in ROH. For context of the match this was held during one of NJPW's events in California last year and was the start of things to come for the ever expanding Japanese promotion.
For the first time in a long time we dial it back and try to give the spotlight to writers from other sites as we move to the blog of the week. This near the start of the site was used as sort of a way to gain more attention for the site and help me give others a moment in the sun. Even though some might think that this doesn't make sense or sounds lazy, but the reason is because I have always wanted a chance to prove what I can do but nobody to this day has and that's why when I got the chance I wanted to take it.
It is said that more and more wrestling fans from outside Japan are gravitating towards New Japan Pro Wrestling, and I am one of them. Having exclusively watched American professional wrestling for most of my life I have held a NJPW World subscription for almost six months now. Today I share my first impressions of NJPW, what I like, what I don’t like, what is different and what is the same when compared to WWE.
To apply some context, I am 33 years old and have been a fan of wrestling ever since I was a kid. Like most people my age, if you like wrestling then WWE is probably what you grew up on. I did also partake in a healthy dose of WCW while dabbling with ECW and ROH. Over the last two or three years I have gradually turned away from WWE, for reasons that could probably fill another post. Having all but turned off from WWE completely, in January I decided that I’d give NJPW a shot to see what it was like.
Like many new fans, the first show of my NJPW World subscription was a Tokyo Dome show and what a show it was. Wrestle Kingdom is often referred to as the Japanese version of WrestleMania, and rightly so. The elaborate entrances, giant set, massive crowd and sheer length of the show are all comparative. There’s even a pre-show battle royal for the guys not booked on the main show. This type of grandeur is not the norm though. Pretty much every other show is held in a fairly modest, by WWE standards, venue. Korakuen Hall appears to be NJPW’s home arena and it doesn’t even have a proper entrance for the wrestlers. It very much reminds me a slightly nicer version of the ECW Arena. One of the immediate differences for me, however, was the first thing that strikes many a western fan; the quietness of the fans.
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Though most fans at this point tie Kota Ibushi to New Japan Pro-Wrestling but he didn't start in that company. Ibushi would gain the most exposure as a member of NJPW he would get his start in the company called Dramatic Dream Team or DDT which is also the company where he first began teaming with long time partner Kenny Omega as one half of the Golden Lovers. During his time in DDT Ibushi would hold every possible title the company had to offer before leaving the company in 2016. Following his departure from DDT he would shock the wrestling world by signing with WWE to appear in the Cruiserweight Classic over the summer.
Ibushi's mainstream stock begin to rise in 2009 when he first made his NJPW debut as a member of the Best of the Super Juniors Tournament. His first taste of gold came when Ibushi teamed with Omega to defeat Apollo 55 for a short reign with the IWGP Junior Heavyweight titles. For the most part of his run the first time around he was wrapped up in a never ending feud with fellow junior heavyweight in Prince Devitt that was until Devitt got signed and Ibushi would move up soon after. In late 2014 he would attack Shinsuke Nakamura following his match and would challenge the then IWGP IC champion to a match at Wrestle Kingdom 9 which was actually my first exposure to NJPW. Within the next year Ibushi would actually step away from New Japan as well to heal up from various injuries.
In the fall of 2016, Ibushi would make his return to NJPW under the name of Tiger Mask W this would only be a short stint as he would return to his normal name the following June and the rest has been history. With him slowly integrating himself into being a fixture in the companies top story with other members of the Bullet Club. Interesting note though there recent tag matches were the first time that Omega and Ibushi would team together in almost 8 years as they both seemingly went in opposite directions following their New Japan arrivals.
Over the last couple of months things have gotten very interesting within the ranks of the Bullet Club. With things seemingly boiling over between Cody & Kenny and this leading to everyone from the Bucks to Tama Tonga to Scrull being caught in the middle. However, this also means that there is now more room for new members within the stable. Though this might raise a question of weather Bone Solider is with Tama or Cody and if the group is still a full group or if they have been separated but that is a conversation for another day.
Right now we address the perfectly built and insanely put over "debut" of Bone Soldier in not just New Japan but for the Bullet Club. After seeing this video it seems to be clear that Will Osprey now has a challenger for the foreseeable future and that is Bone Solider. Admittedly though I think that the part I enjoyed the most about this video was the announcers shocking when it was reveled to be Ishimori due to him being away in America. For those who may not be aware Taiji was recently not only a member of Impact Wrestling, but was X-Division champion at one point during his stay with the company. Now it seems his stay in the states might be over and not only ready for New Japan, but also to become the newest member of the Bullet Club.
As away to use an old series like Match of the Week and spice things up a bit I have chosen to look at some of the top challengers for, and possible men to end the record breaking run of the current World Champion. Currently in New Japan they have Kazuchika Okada on top of the mountain and it has been that way for amazingly the last 680 days an counting. Though at this point Okada may have his critics there is no doubting his ability in the ring and his current standing as "Ace" of New Japan.
One person who may argue Okada's standing is former "Ace" of New Japan and former IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi. Before the ascension of Okada the New Japan world was ran by the "King of the High Fly Flow" and one of the few bright spots of NJPW's dark ages. Now for those who don't know Tanahashi laid down the challenge for Okada a few weeks ago for his IWGP title and the match is set for Dontaku in a few days. It was for that reason that I thought Tanahashi was the best place to start for this series and I don't think I have to tell you why this man is a top contender so I will him talk in the ring. Below is his match from G1 Climax a few years ago against AJ Styles:
The biggest PPV of the year for any company outside of the WWE is New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom event which always takes place on January 4. Next year we will have the unlucky number 13 edition of the yearly spectacular event and I thought like I did with Wrestlemania I could offer some prediction for Wrestle Kingdom. Looking at this past years card we saw a number spectacular matches including Tanahashi & Naito and Jericho vs Omega which both left fans talking for weeks after the event. To be fair these two matches left fans talking for different reasons as many fans believed that Naito should have won the World Title at the event. However, now let's look at the type of card I see for the event next year:
Wrestle Kingdom 13
New Japan Rumble
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:
(c) Suzuki Gun (Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs Roppongi 3K
IWGP Never Openweight 6 Man Tag Championship:
(c) Young Bucks & The Villan vs Los Ingobernables vs Togi Makabe, Dave Finlay, and Toa Henare
Tomohiro Ishii vs Minoru Suzuki
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:
Will Osprey vs Jushin Liger vs (c) Kushida vs Hiromu Takahashi
IWGP Intercontinental Championship:
(c) Tetsuya Naito vs Juice Robinson
IWGP Tag Team Championship:
(c) Killer Elite Squad vs Golden Lovers
IWGP Never Openweight Championship:
(c) Hirooki Goto vs Jay White
IWGP United States Champion: Rematch from New Japan Cup
(c) Zack Sabre Jr vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, & Tanga Loa) vs Chaos (Briscoe Brothers & Yoshi Hashi)
Hangman Page vs Toru Yano
IWGP World Championship Match:
(c) Cody vs Kazuchika Okada