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.
For the longest time the main focus for this series has been sharing individual matches with you that I have found on video sharing sites. However, in trying to mix things up I found a video that reflects on some of the best matches from 2017 and even though you might know of some it will give you a lot more matches to watch then the match does.
Last year we saw the ascension of a number of New Japan stars with Kenny Omega and Young Bucks moving to the forefront with NJPW expansion. Names like Cody, Juice Robinso, Will Osprey and others also dazzled wrestling fans and even though some of them may have just missed the list they showed how far they've come and the potential that is waiting for them. Looking at the New Japan current roster I think that company is closing in on not just a perfect roster to expand with but one of the best rosters they've had in decades.
About a week ago the longest reign in the history of New Japan ended when Kenny Omega was finally able to defeat the "Rainmaker." For the last 700 plus days Okada was the leader of the company and it will no doubt be a little strange seeing him in a different position after all this time. However, seeing him chance the title will be a much needed breath of fresh air for New Japan which the company I'm sure very much needed at this point and time. Okada has no doubt position himself now as one the greatest World Champions in the history of New Japan. The only question that remains is who will get the first shot at Omega and I think the answer is pretty clear that it will be Okada as he needs a rematch.
The series will now continue only with a new champion in the place and some fresh challengers will no doubt await Omega. From the start the company has been doing what they do best by building their own talent like Okada or Tanahashi or Naito. New Japan has always been well versed in getting talent off the ground and fans invested in certain talent in different ways. It doesn't matter if it was an excursion or building them from the ground up they always found a way. Now you can take a look below as to why Okada is still on top:
Every year New Japan tries to pull out all the stops for the Dominion event and sometimes the event delivers more than Wrestle Kingdom but that is very rare. It is pretty crazy looking at the card seeing the position that some talent is in compared to where they are now. Looking at the card and seeing David Finlay, Jay White, and Juice Robinson on the pre-show comparing that to where they are in modern New Japan; especially Jay White and Juice Robinson who have made such waves in the company in the last two years it reflects how much New Japan believes in these two.
The major talking point of the event is that Kazuchika Okada defeated Naito to regain the IWGP World Title and this would begin his record setting reign as champion. In my opinion it was starting at this event that Okada would set the foot forward as far as really becoming the one true "Ace" of New Japan. The one other thing that caught my attention about this event is that I don't know the last time that I saw a NJPW ladder match. But either way this card had Michael Elgin and Kenny Omega lock horns in a very rare match type for New Japan. Overall this event will go down as a very special event because it was the start of Kazuchika Okada's record setting reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
NJPW Dominion 6.19
Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi & Satoshi Kojimadef. (sub)David Finlay & Jay White & Juice Robinson
Bad Luck Fale & Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi def. (pin) Captain New Japan & Togi Makabe & Yoshitatsu
Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI def. (sub) BUSHI & SANADA
Hirooki Goto def. (pin) EVIL
Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson def. (pin) Matt Sydal (c) & Ricochet (c), Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly, Beretta & Rocky Romero four-way elimination tag IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
KUSHIDA (c) def. (sub) Will Ospreay IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe def. (pin) Tama Tonga (c) & Tanga Loa (c) IWGP World Tag Team Titles
Katsuyori Shibata def. (pin) Yuji Nagata (c) NEVER Openweight Championship
Michael Elgin def. Kenny Omega (c) ladder match IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Kazuchika Okada def. (pin) Tetsuya Naito (c) IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
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.