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NJPW ‘King of Pro-Wrestling 2018’ Preview & Predictions

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Returning from Long Beach, back in Tokyo, New Japan are gearing up for one of the year’s staples, King of Pro-Wrestling. The Wrestle Kingdom main event is on the line with six different possible combinations thanks to the main event; a triple threat match between Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi and Cody for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Also on the line is the Wrestle Kingdom briefcase which will see Hiroshi Tanahashi defending the case against Jay White. Both of the junior titles are up for grabs as Marty Scurll and KUSHIDA battle for the vacant IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship and the veterans, Jushin Liger and Tiger Mask, challenge the Suzuki-Gun team of Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. Additionally, a grudge match between Zack Sabre Jr. and EVIL is set to take place. There’s a lot to look forward to, let’s get started!

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado (c) vs Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger & Tiger Mask IV

I love that we’re starting off hot with the junior tag titles. Liger and Tiger pulled off what was somewhat of a surprise win over the champs in Kobe, earning themselves a title shot, but I don’t expect lightning to strike twice. This match serves the purpose of reintroducing the titles and those who hold them before kicking off the junior tag tournament later in the month. It’ll be a fun ten minute opener where Kanemaru and Desperado re-establish themselves as the top heels in the division.
Prediction: Kanemaru & Desperado

Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma vs Juice Robinson & Toa Henare
Late last year Henare filled in for Honma as Makabe’s partner in the heavyweight tag league. Now that Honma is back, Henare has been cast aside and is without a partner. Their tag league isn’t for another couple of months so this may well be a trial series for Henare to find a new partner. He won’t get the win here but maybe his spirit impresses Juice enough to kick Finlay to the curb. I wouldn’t count on it but it’s possible.
Prediction: Makabe & Honma

Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Taiji Ishimori vs Hangman Page, Chase Owens, Nick & Matt Jackson
The Bullet Club OG have stripped the Bucks of both sets of championships, sending the Bucks into this match naked. It was reported that the Bucks will not be participating in this year’s World Tag League so their future in the division feels uncertain. They could possibly take a third straight loss to the BCOG but I see something else happening. If the Bucks are indeed out of the picture then the Bullet Club Elite need a new heavyweight tag team. Enter: Page and Owens. These two teamed up all G1 and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I see Page scoring a win and making claim for he and Owens to be the next challengers.
Prediction: Page, Owens & Bucks

Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & Will Ospreay vs Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & Takashi Iizuka
There still remains uncertainty within Chaos. They came up empty in every match at Fighting Spirit Unleashed but there were no further cracks to be seen. I don’t see any developments happening in a match that doesn’t involve Okada so this will likely be a straight forward match. Maybe Taichi targets Ishii and that becomes the next NEVER Openweight program. I’m selfishly hoping for an interaction between Suzuki and Ospreay. Talk about polar opposites. Taichi will either disqualify himself or Iizuka will take a pin, either way the same team wins.
Prediction: Ishii, Goto & Ospreay

Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano, YOH & SHO vs Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, BUSHI & X
There’s a lot of speculation on who “X” will be. Naito has promised to reveal the newest member of Los Ingobernables de Japon during this match and rumors are flying. Meanwhile, on the Chaos side, we haven’t seen Yano since the attack by White and Gedo. Yano has a history of being untrustworthy so we may see something happen here. What we do know for certain is LIJ will be adding a new member so whether or not there’s any Chaos progression, LIJ will look to come out of this one strong.
Prediction: Naito, SANADA, BUSHI & X

EVIL vs Zack Sabre Jr.
Sabre has been teaching EVIL some tough lessons, one’s that have been frustrating the powerhouse for several weeks now. EVIL has grown predictable in his approach, always displaying feats of strength and power. Sabre has shown him time and time again that technique is stronger than power. It’s uncertain whether EVIL has a new game plan but if he does he has an opportunity to show it in a one-on-one match. I don’t think the lesson will be so cut and dry for EVIL. He’ll take this loss as a final straw before making some serious change.
Prediction: Zack Sabre Jr.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
KUSHIDA vs Marty Scurll

The battle for the vacated junior title. The division leader, KUSHIDA, will be looking to reclaim the title for the first time in a year. It was at last year’s King of Pro-Wrestling event where he lost the title to Will Ospreay and since then he’s struggled to find his groove. He completely obliterated BUSHI on his way to the finals while Scurll defeated his old rival, Ospreay, last week at Fighting Spirit Unleashed. There’s a chaotic nature in the majority of the title holders right now so I’m taking KUSHIDA in hopes of him righting the ship and calming things down.
Prediction: KUSHIDA

Wrestle Kingdom Briefcase
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs Jay White

Nine months have passed since these two met at Wrestle Kingdom 12 and since then, both have gone through a transformation but no one’s has been as extreme as Jay White’s. No matter by hook or by crook, White will take a win however possible and he made that message perfectly clear to Tanahashi during the G1 Climax. A distraction, followed by a chair shot and finished Tanahashi with a Blade Runner. Tanahashi has not lost a match since their G1 meeting. White, on the other hand, has since left Chaos and is more vicious than ever. There wasn’t any sort of discussion about him leaving, he just attacked. That’s what Jay White does and it’ll have to be something that puts Tanahashi on high alert. This isn’t the first time Tanahashi has dealt with somebody like White and if it were up to him it wouldn’t be the last. Tanahashi is stubborn and wants to keep his place on top. He won’t allow someone to take this Wrestle Kingdom spot from him.
Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega (c) vs Kota Ibushi vs Cody

The story is as simple as it is complicated. Ibushi defeated Omega in the G1 Climax. By rule, Ibushi can challenge for the title. Since they’re partners, neither really want to go through with this but they know it’s what the fans want so they were willing to give them the match. Cody interjected himself into their situation and Omega jumped at the opportunity to add him into the match. Omega’s reasoning is that it’ll give he and Ibushi a buffer so they don’t destroy each other like they’d do in a singles match. The problem with all this is that Ibushi isn’t saying much. He’s letting Omega do the talking and going with the flow. This is his first opportunity in over three years to win the title. Does the title matter to Ibushi? No one really knows because Ibushi doesn’t speak his mind. Cody is selfish, Ibushi is selfless and Omega is stuck being the company man. There’s little doubt that Omega will be coming out with the title but there’s a lot of pieces in motion here so be on the lookout for something crazy.
Prediction: Kenny Omega

Robert McCauley hasn't missed an NJPW show since the launch of NJPW World. Always be on the look out for his reviews where he shares results and gives his honest opinions on the goings-on of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

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