Tonight is New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s 46th Anniversary! Both the IWGP Intercontinental and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships will be on the line. Also, three special singles matches will be taking place. For the main event, the tradition returns as the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champions will collide in a non-title match. 2014 was the last time we saw this take place. Then, it was Kazuchika Okada versus Kota Ibushi. Now, it’s Kazuchika Okada versus Will Ospreay. Catch the show live on NJPWWorld at 2am PST/5am EST/10am GMT. Let’s break down the card in more detail.
Tenzan, Liger, Tiger, KUSHIDA & Taguchi vs Nagata, Oka, Umino, Yagi & Narita
The typical opener between the veterans and young lions. This time, the young lions have the support of Nagata, which is great but unlikely to even the odds. Just a fun showcase for the young lions and give the veterans a place on the show.
Manabu Nakanishi vs Katsuya Kitamura
This will be the end of Kitamura’s seven match series where he took on various veterans in order to gain experience. He hasn’t come out victorious in any of these battles nor was he expected to but he’s shown improvement. Kitamura is still extremely green but due to his size, New Japan sees a lot of potential in him. He could possibly score a big win against Nakanishi but that’s not the point of the series so I wouldn’t bank on a win.
Goto, Ishii & Yano vs Juice, Finlay & Henare
Before EVIL’s injury, this match wasn’t supposed to feature neither Goto or Henare but here we stand. I think Juice would be a fine next challenger for Goto but this isn’t the place to make it happen. Henare will take another fall.
Prediction: Goto, Ishii & Yano
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Roppongi 3K (c) vs Hiromu & BUSHI vs Kanemaru & Desperado
These are the titles that change hands the most often in New Japan. When 3K won them in the fall of last year, they managed to log some defenses before losing them to The Young Bucks. The Bucks, on the other hand, lost the titles without one successful defense. When 3K made their return, the hope many had was that they would stabilize the junior tag division but you never know. Now that Hiromu has lost to Ospreay, I can see him and BUSHI getting a short reign before dropping them back to 3K.
Prediction: Hiromu & BUSHI
SANADA vs YOSHI-HASHI
Initially, this was supposed to be a tag team match. EVIL on the side of SANADA and Goto flanking Y-H. Due to EVIL’s injury, this has become a singles match. Both men are coming off a loss at New Beginning in Osaka. Neither were heavy favorites to win their respective matches but both could use a win here. Y-H is always at that glass ceiling but SANADA feels like he’s truly poised for a breakout. As much as everyone is tired of watching Y-H stumble his way around, never quite meeting his potential, this feels like a SANADA win.
Tetsuya Naito vs Taichi
Seemingly only happening to cause fans to rage, Taichi has moved up to the heavyweight division. Traditionally, when someone moves up it’s typical for them to stumble. Normally, that’s to create a baby face. Taichi is in no way a baby face, his only purpose is to upset the fans. By ways of cheating and imploring an uninspired offense, no one is better at getting booed than Taichi. He will reach new levels of hatred when he defeats fan favorite, Naito.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Minoru Suzuki (c) vs Togi Makabe
For the first time in three years, Makabe is challenging for a New Japan singles title. Suzuki’s treatment of Tanahashi at New Beginning in Sapporo has motivated Makabe to seek revenge for his New Japan ally. He’s aware that he’s become soft over the last couple of years, fading into the background while the Western expansion has taken place. This isn’t Makabe’s title to win, he only serves as another fan favorite to fall victim to Suzuki.
Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay
A true special attraction match. Not only because it’s champion versus champion but this is a rare Chaos versus Chaos match as well. Both men are at the top of their game. Even if you do not appreciate their style, there’s no doubt that they are in their prime. Indeed, there is a pecking order in New Japan, the heavyweights are stronger than the juniors. That said, I can see this going to a draw. The time limit is set at thirty minutes and Okada hasn’t had many singles matches go under thirty in a long time. Whatever happens this should feel like a big deal and be a lot of fun.
Prediction: Time Limit Draw
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