Pondering The New IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Belt

New Japan Pro Wrestling unveiled their new IWGP World Heavyweight Championship belt yesterday at a ceremony in Korakuen Hall. Kota Ibushi relinquished the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental belts at the ceremony before the new belt’s reveal.

After a video celebrating the two titles’ merging, NJPW officials presented Ibushi with the new title. Ibushi is now officially the inaugural world heavyweight champion, ending the historical lineage of the two titles.

Continue reading “Pondering The New IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Belt”

NJPW Unifying IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Titles

The IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Titles will be unified and officially recognized as the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. News of the merger was announced at a press conference earlier today when NJPW Chairman Naoki Sugabayashi said New Japan has decided to uphold the request of the champion and unification will bring the linage of both titles forward under a new banner.

Continue reading “NJPW Unifying IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Titles”

Favorite Matches #1: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kota Ibushi

For twenty-three years, Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin from the 1996 Survivor Series was my favorite wrestling match of all-time. That all changed on January 4, 2015, at 5:30 A.M. EST as the IWGP Intercoientlal Title was defended in the co-main event of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s preeminent show, Wrestle Kingdom 9.

I’ve been a casual fan of New Japan since the mid-’90s. Through internet tape trading, I would often see the promotion’s marquee matches weeks or even months after they occurred. Five years ago, New Japan was in the midst of a resurgence that got fans excited. The company’s streaming service debuted within that time and American fans had the opportunity to watch Wrestle Kingdom, for the first time, live.

I had seen Nakamura wrestle for the first time at a 2011 New Japan show in NYC. I was thoroughly impressed with his in-ring style but I was unfamiliar with his character. Wrestle Kingdom served as my introduction to Kota Ibushi and knew absolutely nothing about him going into the match. The show was already great and I assumed that Nakamura in the second to last match against anyone had to be good.

So, why do I love this match? Well, for starters, Nakamura came to the ring dressed as a combination of Freddie Mercury and the Statue of Liberty. The attire was Nakamura’s flamboyant way of proclaiming himself the King of Strong Style. The story going in was simple. Ibushi was a newly minted heavyweight coming up from the junior heavyweight division. He assaulted Nakamura two months earlier and challenged him to a title match.

Ibushi got into Nakamura’s head early, mocking him at every turn. Nakamura missed the Bom A Ye knee and received a dropkick in the back. Ibushi hit Nakamura with some of his own signature moves including the good vibrations kick in the corner. Nakamura regained control and pumbled Ibushi with every type of knee strike imaginable. Nakamura slapped Ibush a few times and followed up with a backstabber.

Ibushi landed on his feet from a Nakamura suplex, delivered a hurricanrana and followed up with a moonsault off the top rope and to the floor on Nakamura. Back in the ring, one roundhouse kick from Ibushi appeared to knock Nakamura out cold. I jolted out of my seat at that moment because I truly believed Ibushi hit him too hard and the match was going to be called early. Nope, I was wrong. It was a testament to how well Nakamura sold it.

What I thought was the move of the match came when Ibushi jumped up for a leapfrog, Nakamura slid underneath and Ibushi connected with a double foot stomp to the chest. It looked like something out of The Matrix. The real move of the match came when Ibushi climbed to the top rope, grabbed Nakamura, who was standing on the apron and threw him with a German suplex into the ring.

At that point, I was sold. This was officially my new favorite wrestling match of all time.

The finish came when Nakamura blocked a Phoenix plex attempt from Ibushi and delivered the following onslaught of moves. Head-butts, elbows, Bom A Ye knee to the back, a backstabber, a falcon arrow, and finished it off with a vintage Bom A Ye for the 1-2-3.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi was a transformative experience for me as a wrestling fan. I went from a casual viewer to a full-on die-hard fan of anything carrying the red and yellow lion mark New Japan. Both wrestlers produced a twenty-minute masterpiece of personified action and excitement.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly articulate how much I love this match. I’ll always remember where I was the night Nakamura and Ibushi blew the roof off of the Tokyo Dome.

 

My Favorite Matches

Kenny Omega vs. Okada III – G-1 Climax B Block Finals 2017

Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 25

Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin – Survivor Series 1996

Kurt Agle vs. Chris Benoit – Royal Rumble 2003

Bret Hart vs. Undertaker – One Night Only 1997

Ricky Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage – WrestleMania 3

Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart – Summer Slam 1991 

British Bulldog vs. Owen Hart – Monday Night Raw 3/5/97

Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog – Simmer Slam 1992

NJPW G1 Climax 29 Review

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G1 Climax 29 Final | August 12, 2019, | Nippon Budokan Tokyo, Japan | New Japan World

“The Golden Star” Kota Ibushi pinned Jay White on Monday to win the grueling month-long G1 Climax tournament. Ibushi beat Okada to win the A Block while Jay White defeated Naito to secure the B Block, setting up the final match in Tokyo. White blindsided Ibushi the night before and reinjured his ankle.

The match drew a lot of heat form the Budokan crowd as White targeted Ibushi’s ankle at every turn. The finish came when White went for the Blade Runner, and Ibushi dug down deep to deliver a Kamigoye, followed by a flying knee and two more Kamigoye strikes for the win.

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In one of the best angles of the year, KENTA turned on his tag team partners and joined the Bullet Club. What was even more shocking was the physicality of Katsuyori Shibata as he jumped into the ring and cleaned house. It was terrific, and a little scary consider Shibata retired from wrestling several years ago due to an injury that resulted in bleeding of the brain.

Shibata was ultimately subdued by the Bullet Club’s strength in numbers. KENTA delivered a PK kick on Shibata and proceeded to sit on top of him in Shibata’s signature pose. KENTA threw up the too sweet sign, confirming his affiliation with Bullet Club. Shibata left the ring under his own power, which was a drama-filled moment in itself. I’m curious to see where it all leads. It was a compelling moment.

The dream team of IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi fell to Suzuki-gun ringleaders Rev Pro British Heavyweight Champion Zack Saber Jr. and Minoru Suzuki. The finish came when Suzuki choked out Okada and hit the Gotch Piledriver for the win.

Suzuki cut a promo after the match and bragged that Okada lost to a guy that wasn’t allowed in the G1. Suzuki told Okada to hand over the IWGP belt to him. Simple storytelling built to its finest. I wondered why Suzuki was not in the tournament, now, we have our answer.

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Final Thoughts: When it is all said and done, G1 Climax 29 will go down as one of best there has ever been. There were a lot of great matches and moments that kept me coming back for more. Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi continued their string of legendary matches on opening night in Dallas. Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay in Tokyo was probably the best match of the tournament. The all-out brawl in Korakuen Hall between Jon Moxley and Tomohiro Ishii was my favorite match of the tournament.

Lance Archer stepped up his game throughout the tournament while Jon Moxley took the whole thing by storm. Will Ospreay gets my vote for tournament MVP and the in-ring work Hiroshi Tanahashi never ceases to amaze me. Will Ospreay delivering a shooting star press into a Zack Saber Jr. triangle choke was a breathtaking finish. Tachi vs. Ishii during the B Block finals was my favorite match of the weekend. That includes White vs. Ibushi, which as sensational.

Kota Ibushi became the first wrestler to win Best of the Super Juniors, the New Japan Cup, and the G1 Climax. Three unique tournaments in two different weight divisions puts Ibushi in a class all by himself. The artistry on display by Ibushi was on another level. His G1 win guarantees him an IWGP Heavyweight Title Match at Wrestle Kingdom on January 4th in the Tokyo Dome.

This truly feels like its Ibushi’s year. However, two years ago, it also felt like Tetsuya Naito’s year, and he was unsuccessful in his Tokyo Dome bid. It’s hard to doubt the booking of New Japan since they rarely get it wrong. However, with the top-level wrestling landscape changing so drastically with the emergence of AEW, ROH’s decline at the box office and WWE moving to FOX, everyone needs more stars. Ibushi is primed and ready to be the golden star of the lion’s den.

Brackets Revealed for the New Japan Cup

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New Japan Pro Wrestling announced the brackets for this year’s New Japan Cup tournament. This will mark the 13th annual Cup where the winner of this single elimination tournament will earn a title shot at any singles championship they wish to challenge for at Sakura Genesis (formerly Invasion Attack) on April 9th at Sumo Hall.

The first round matches will begin on March 11th (The right side of the brackets) and March 12th (The left side of brackets) the quarterfinal matches will occur on March 13th and March 17. Semifinal action will take place on March 19 and the finals on March 20th. The Wrestling Observer has confirmed that the last two days will air live on New Japan World while the rest of the shows will air on a delay.

These matchups make for some interesting possibilities. I’d expect Hiroshi Tanahashi to at least make it to the finals of his bracket. Besides Toru Yano, who he’ll face in the finals is anyone’s guess.

Katsuyori Shibata vs. Minoru Suzuki in the first round is just all sorts of awesome. Booking their match in this position is the right call because placing them anywhere else in the same bracket makes the outcome too predictable.

O Kenny! My Kenny! What do we do with Kenny Omega? “The Cleaner’s” white-hot popularity makes him the easy pick to win the whole enchilada, however, does New Japan plan on having the Okada/Omega II on April 9th?

If not, how do you beat Omega?  Continue reading “Brackets Revealed for the New Japan Cup”