I don’t know what this whole Wrestle Kingdom thing is.. but I figured I’d help the cause by posting what’s available of their version of a Pre-WM Rumble show (i.e. setting up the big matches). Also good to see the Sooners lose another game on Saturday, being that a third loss on the season was all Jim Ross needed, as far as clearing his January schedule.
00) — Mascara Dorada & BUSHI vs. Tiger Mask IV & Fuego
The dark match, think “Sunday Night Heat”. Dorada & Fuego are from CMLL, just in for a tour. The other two I wouldn’t expect to see on the Kingdom card.
00) — Opening Video Package
The title pretty much explains it all. A sharp little video package breaking down the match card.
NJPW Power Struggle 11-8-14 Opening VTR by original_bonski
01) — Young Bucks vs. Forever Hooligans vs. TAKA Michinoku & El Desperado
The Bucks are going to get their fair share of votes for Best Tag Team this year, and justly so. While it’s fun to watch them play to the Reseda crowd in PWG, this is front of about 20 times as many people, and they’re just as effective on the bigger stage. Forever Hooligans are former ROH tag team standout Rocky Romero, and former WWE developmental guy Alex Kozlov, as underrated as any tag team going today and extremely entertaining. And yes, TAKA is still looking young at 40. A more-than-suitable opener, 3-way Jr. tag style, presumably to set up a number one contender for Wrestle Kingdom (more on that later). Meltzer even gets his name dropped after the match. Hilarious.
Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov & Rocky Romero… by original_bonski
02) — Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka vs. Kazuki Sakuraba & Toru Yano
The final build to a Suzuki/Sakaraba match on January 4th, as the two have gone at it in a seemingly endless string of tag matches this year. For those unfamiliar with these two, they’re both products of the 90’s MMA scene, with Suzuki being the more established pro wrestler and Sakaraba being the biggest MMA star in Japan, their version of a Randy Couture so-to-speak.
03) — Chase Owens (c) vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger for the NWA Jr. Heavyweight Championship
A title new to NJPW, as it had been the Tag Team and Heavyweight titles representing the NWA previously. After defeating BUSHI last month on pay-per-view to retain the title, Owens called out Liger (turning 50 years old in two weeks) and the title match was set. Also, if this is your first introduction to Bruce Tharpe as the wacky American manager, you’re in for a treat. For some reason there’s a Liger vs. Muta rumor floating around for the Tokyo Dome show, but I could live without that.
04 — Bullet Club (Machine Gun Anderson, Doc Gallows, Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Togi Makabe, Tetsuya Naito, Tomoaki Honma & Captain New Japan
Just your standard multi-man Bullet Club low-card filler match to get a bunch of big names on the show. Gallows & Gun will most likely be defending the titles they won in January at the last Tokyo Dome show, marking a one year title reign, against the winners of this month’s World Tag Leauge. Makabe will be challenging for the NEVER Openweight Title against the winner of that match, while Naito looks to redeem himself after losing his world title match at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom, in a mighty big singles match of his own against a former IWGP champion.
05) — “The Time Splitters” Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA (c) vs. “reDRagon” Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships
This is a good one, and hits a fever pitch by the end. Two of the best tag teams in the world, as the ROH stalwarts take on the improved version of the Motor City Machine Guns. This is a rematch of their encounter at the G1 Climax Finals in August, also a killer match. Definitely New Japan’s most important tag belts, and you can’t ask for more than what these four guys are doing right here, putting it all on the line. The post match also serves to break down what you’re going to be seeing at Wrestle Kingdom (spoiler: a 4-way for the titles).
06) — “The Funky Weapon” Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs. Taichi for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Hey look, they tried. I just don’t know if Taguchi is the right guy to be carrying the title. More importantly though, the post-match includes a Karl Anderson promo concerning the reveal of the newest member of the Bullet Club, and he’s coming for the Jr. Heavyweight Title at Wrestle Kingdom.
IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship Match Ryusuke… by original_bonski
07 — AJ Styles vs. Yoshitatsu
Despite Styles losing the title last month, he was in control and close to retaining. Jeff Jarrett was out and Hiroshi Tanahashi looked to be defeated, when out of nowhere Yoshi Freaking Tatsu made his return to NJPW, put the boots to Jarrett, and as a result Styles went on to lose his title. This is a revenge match of sorts for Styles, while Tatsu returns to both prove a point that he’s still got it, and to put a target on the Bullet Club. Once again in a recurring theme, the post-match looks to set up one of the bigger matches on the Wrestle Kingdom card.
08 — Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto
Featured on the BoD the other day. Absolute classic, G1 quality shit right here. Nothing quite like an Ishii match to get the beer in your veins flowing. He’ll certainly be getting his fair share of votes for Wrestler of the Year in 2014, as his NEVER Openweight title defenses carried the company during the first half of the year when management decided to prevent Okada from defending the IWGP title for months at a time, while Nakamura was stuck in a dreadful feud with the frigging Gracie Family, of all people. Goto brings the goods here as well, and the result is one of the best matches of the year. Once again, post-match leads to a Kingdom match.
09) — Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI
This is one of the many things that sets New Japan apart. If WWE had two big title matches at the top of the card, they’d be separated by a Diva’s match, the theory being to bring down the crown. Instead, we get IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada and his opponent in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom, Hiroshi Tanahashi, in a tag match. Throw in Kota Ibushi and you have 3 of the Top 10 wrestlers in the world. No need to bring the crowd down before the main event, because that’s why Nakamura and Shibata are in the main event, they don’t need help getting the crowd into their match.
10) — Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. “The Wrestler” Katsuyori Shibata for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Speaking of Nakamura & Shibata, here’s your main event. As you can see, this version of the “secondary” title is prestigious enough to main event a pay-per-view. The Intercontinental title has provided killer matches since its inception and this one is no different. Just a great battle between two guys with a bunch of different techniques in their arsenal. The post-match sets up a killer match at Wrestle Kingdom, likely the semi-main, a rematch of the Tokyo Sports 2013 Match of the Year.
So there you go. A little insight into one of the biggest shows of 2015. In an era where people are still willing to throw money at pay-per-view providers, the GFW/NJPW connection looks to make a strong debut and plant their feet firmly in the game. With the talent they have, they won’t need luck.