New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) is coming off of a successful Fighting Spirit Unleashed event at the Walter Pyramid in California where the main event for King Of Pro Wrestling was set. The Golden Lovers (IWGP heavyweight champion Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi) defeated the CHAOS dream team of Tomohiro Ishii and Kazuchika Okada in the main event. Omega grabbed the microphone post-match to address his tag team partner, Kota Ibushi. Kenny Omega was pinned by Kota Ibushi in the G1 Climax 28 tournament so Omega laid out the challenge to Ibushi for one of the biggest rematches in years. Cody won the IWGP United States Championship earlier that night against Juice Robinson but that didn’t stop Cody from taking the microphone from the IWGP heavyweight champion. Cody wanted to make the match a Triple Threat after feuding with Omega and Ibushi all year and Omega accepted. The rest of the card is highlighted by faction wars and two major singles matches that could change the future of NJPW in a big way. Marty Scurll and KUSHIDA will battle for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in a tournament final and “Switchblade” Jay White will attempt to take the Wrestle Kingdom 13 briefcase from Hiroshi Tanahashi. A new member of Los Ingobernobles De Japon will also be revealed in the tag team match between CHAOS and Los Ingobernobles De Japon. NJPW has a fantastic lineup for King Of Pro Wrestling so let’s break down each match as we head down the road to NJPW’s biggest show, Wrestle Kingdom 13 on January 4.
Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma) vs Juice Robinson and Toa Henare
Juice Robinson suffered a crushing defeat to Cody when Juice put his IWGP United States Championship on the line at Fighting Spirit Unleashed, it led to another fierce promo from Juice where he said maybe he is a tag team guy, because he’s not the IWGP United States champion. It’s obvious that Juice Robinson believes in his abilities but that confidence is waning as Juice progresses in his NJPW career. Cody won that match with an inside cradle, Juice Robinson likes to win matches with a rollup so that is just going to motivate Juice Robinson to give his all in this year’s World Tag League if that’s the direction for Juice Robinson and Toa Henare after this match. Great Bash Heel is perhaps the most beloved tag team in all of Japan, Tomoaki Honma has returned from an almost career threatening DDT he suffered last year but Honma has stated his comeback hasn’t had an effect on the state of NJPW. That makes this match a must-win for both Juice Robinson and Tomoaki Honma, that drive will only mean great things for the stale tag team division. Honma should Kokeshi his way to victory with Togi Makabe before a long-awaited rematch The Guerillas Of Destiny.
Prediction: Great Bash Heel win.
Bullet Club Elite (The Young Bucks, Hangman Page & Chase Owens) vs. Bullet Club Firing Squad (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & “Bone Soldier” Taiji Ishimori)
The Young Bucks lost the IWGP tag team championships to The Guerillas Of Destiny at Fighting Spirit Unleashed and that had a lot to due with Matt Jackson’s back giving out early in the match. Matt Jackson has been fighting his back problems since Wrestle Kingdom 12 in January and it has come back to bite him at the worst times, The Firing Squad will look to attack and not let up. Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa are the NEVER Openweight six-man tag team champions so this will lead to a title match if the champions lose this eight-man tag team match. “Hangman” Adam Page has never looked better after his debut in the G1 Climax 28 tournament, Page and Taiji Ishimori will bring the real fireworks to this match. Ishimori hasn’t had a big win since the Best Of The Super Juniors tournament and he could use one in this match, likely over “The Crown Jewel” Chase Owens.
Prediction: The Firing Squad win.
EVIL vs Zack Sabre Jr
EVIL and Zack Sabre Jr have been brawling in tag team matches pitting Suzuki-Gun against Los Ingobernobles De Japon for the past month. Zack Sabre Jr got the last laugh when he pinned EVIL’s shoulders to the mat with a European Clutch at Fighting Spirit Unleashed, EVIL wasn’t happy about it but the Californian crowd chanted “EVIL” all the same. EVIL is much more of a rulebreaker than Sabre in the traditional sense and that could play in EVIL’s favor. A steel chair or hard-hitting offense could throw Sabre so far off his game that the submission moveset of Zack Sabre Jr could be taken down a peg. Zack Sabre Jr could attempt a stretch and go down to the STO in a heartbeat, EVIL would then possibly get Chris Jericho for the IWGP Intercontinental championship next.
Prediction: EVIL wins.
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & Will Ospreay) vs Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & Iizuka)
The top trinity of CHAOS (besides Kazuchika Okada) team up against the NEVER Openweight champion, Iizuka and the leader of Suzuki-Gun himself, Minoru Suzuki. Ishii and Suzuki have had matches this year for both NJPW and the British Heavyweight Championship in Rev Pro, a rematch looks to be brewing up depending on the result of this match. Will Ospreay has been gaining so much momentum in 2018 from the Junior Heavyweight champion to tag team action with heavyweights like Kota Ibushi, a dream match of Will Ospreay. Ospreay has become an all-around talent that extremely adept at any style, Ospreay would look great with the NEVER Openweight Championship around his waist. Ospreay would surprise many by being the man to beat Taichi. Hirooki Goto lost the NEVER Openweight Championship to Taichi, Ospreay could be next in line for a title shot.
Prediction: CHAOS wins.
Los Ingobernobles De Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, BUSHI and ?) vs CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano, SHO & YOH)
Los Ingobernobles De Japon have promised a new member after Tetsuya Naito told Hiromu Takahashi he could expect a five-man team when he returns from his broken neck next year. Naito rejuvenated his career when he brought the LIJ faction from Mexico to NJPW, Hiromu Takahashi was thought to be the last piece of the puzzle to this popular and anti-authority faction but a new member from international waters could freshen things up to a whole new level. Kazuchika Okada will face the wrath of Naito on this night, this has been a long time coming for Naito after losing to “The Rainmaker” in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 12. Roppongi 3K have been thinking of breaking up because of some thoughts brought up by fellow CHAOS member (at the time) “Switchblade” Jay White during summer. Sho may think he is better than Yoh and make a shocking decision leave CHAOS for Los Ingobernobles De Japon at the conclusion of this match but the new member will be Dragon Gate talent Shingo Takagi, if there is going to be a new member that would be the ideal choice. Shingo Takagi has announced he would be a freelance performer and now is the time for a new heavyweight to enter this faction and the NJPW ranks.
Prediction: Los Ingobernobles De Japon win.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team Championships: Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado (c) vs Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Tiger Mask lV
The Junior Heavyweight tag team scene in NJPW could use a real shot of adrenaline as there are not many in contention for Suzuki-Gun, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado have reigned as champions for half of the year. The veteran team of Tiger Mask lV and Jushin “Thunder” Liger are the perfect challengers at this point in time and they would make for excellent champions as well. Liger and Tiger Mask lV could defend the titles against a plethora of factions and defend the IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team titles in the United Kingdom for Rev Pro as both compete there regularly as well. The dirty tactics of Suzuki-Gun will help the champions a lot, as long as Liger and Tiger Mask lV can avoid the guitar shot to the head, we will have new champions.
Prediction: Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Tiger Mask lV win the IWGP Junior tag team championships.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Tournament Final: KUSHIDA vs. Marty Scurll
KUSHIDA defeated BUSHI to advance in the tournament to crown a new IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion and Marty Scurll pinned rival, Will Ospreay, to earn this match with KUSHIDA. “The Villain” Marty Scurll is the choice to lead a new era in the Juniors division, The Chickenwing and Graduation finishers can come within a split second and Scurll has boatloads of charisma to go with that classic British style. Scurll and Ospreay always steal the show at any event but Scurll has rarely faced KUSHIDA when the gold is on the line. The last time Scurll and KUSHIDA met one-on-one, it was during the Best Of The Super Juniors tournament. KUSHIDA has been at the top of the Juniors for so long that Scurll will know how to counter and when to counter, being a technician that attacks the arm himself.
Prediction: Marty Scurll wins the vacant IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
Wrestle Kingdom 13 IWGP Heavyweight Championship briefcase: “The Ace” Hiroshi Tanahashi vs “Switchblade” Jay White
There are a lot of long-lasting feuds in NJPW, this one being one of the most anticipated in 2018. “Switchblade” Jay White came from New Zealand to become a Young Lion rising up in the ranks in NJPW and he made his return from excursion in Ring Of Honor Wrestling (ROH) and the United Kingdom, in January at Wrestle Kingdom 12. Hiroshi Tanahashi won that match for the IWGP Intercontinental championship in January and White became even more sadistic as a result of the big loss. Many thought White has choked, when in fact it just made White a much better performer in the end. Kenny Omega lost the IWGP United States Championship to Jay White this Summer and White went on to an impressive 12 points in the G1 Climax 28 tournament, pinning Hiroshi Tanahashi in the process. “The Ace” may have defended his G1 Climax 28 winners briefcase against Kazuchika Okada in an unforgettable match but now Tanahashi takes on a man that has no regard for the rules, let alone the rich history of NJPW. Hiroshi Tanahashi will fight for the values he believes in, Tanahashi has as much love for his company as he does for his fans. A High Fly Flow should put down White for the three-count but this will be one of the biggest fights of Tanahashi’s 2018. Tanahashi will go on to face the IWGP heavyweight champion at Wrestle Kingdom 13 and Jay White looks to be on a collision course with Kazuchika Okada at that same event in January.
Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi retains the G1 Climax 28 winners briefcase.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega (C) vs Kota Ibushi vs Cody Rhodes
Not only does Cody fight for the most prestigious championship in NJPW in the main event, Cody does so with two championships already over his shoulder. Cody pinned Magnus last month at All In for the NWA World Championship and then pinned Juice Robinson for the IWGP United States Championship right before making the challenge to Kenny Omega. Kenny Omega vs Kota Ibushi will have to wait, thankfully the long-awaited match already happened with Kota Ibushi earning his title shot by pinning the champion with his Kamigoye knee strike. Cody and Omega have a tied record in singles matched as well with Cody winning at ROH Supercard Of Honor and Omega winning at NJPW G1 Special In San Francisco. This will be the most exciting match of the evening and rightfully so, this is the first Triple Threat match for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship since Kazuchika Okada vs Michael Elgin vs AJ Styles at ROH Global Wars 2014. This is only the third Triple Threat IWGP heavyweight championship match ever, the other being Brock Lesnar vs Masahiro Chono vs Kazuyuki Fujita. Omega must put away Cody in this match or he will be an ever bigger thorn in his side in the future and for NJPW as a whole as the North American expansion continues to grow.
Prediction: Kenny Omega retains the IWGP heavyweight championship.