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”

Coronavirus Slams Pro Wrestling

While many hoped the second half of the New Japan Cup could be salvaged, the remainder of the tournament has been canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Japan. The first half of the tournament was canceled last month, with the second half scheduled to occur between 3/16 and conclude on 3/21. Continue reading “Coronavirus Slams Pro Wrestling”

NJPW Returns to MSG in August

New Japan Pro Wrestling is returning to Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday, August 22, for an event called Wrestle Dynasty. New Japan’s official website wrote “stay tuned” for ticket information. Continue reading “NJPW Returns to MSG in August”

Favorite Matches #2: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega III

Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada have engaged in what many have called the greatest in-ring rivalry of all-time. Four bouts with 25 ¼ stars ratings between them have changed the conversation on what makes for a stellar wrestling match. You can’t go wrong with picking one match over another. However, one encounter tickles my fancy more than most due to its simple and compelling story.

The third bout between Omega and Okada occurred in the B Block finals of New Japan’s 2017 G-1 Climax tournament. It took Okada forty-six minutes to beat Omega in their first encounter, and they wrestled to a sixty-minute draw in their second outing. This time, under G-1 rules, there was a thirty-minute time limit. How was Omega going to beat Okada in thirty minutes, never mind at all?

To add fuel to the fire, Okada could advance to the finals with a win or a draw due to a one-point differential in his favor. Okada was vulnerable due to a neck injury he suffered in a previous bout. However, Okada stated he wanted to win and not coast to the finals since their last match ended in a draw. For Omega, winning was the only option.

Both men wrestled a high action sprint from the jump. Omega found his target and attacked Okada’s neck. Okada fought him off with everything he has had. Early on, both missed their signature moves and Okada gained control by sending Omega to the floor. Okada sold his taped up neck, only for Omega to light it up with a barrage of chops.

All of Omega’s offense battered Okada’s neck. Reverse hurricanranas in and out the ring, V triggers knees, snapdragon suplexes on the apron and missile dropkicks. Okada’s manager, Gedo, considered throwing in the towel after Omega delivered a pair of V triggers to the back of Okada’s neck.

Okada came back, and reversed two One-Winged Angel attempts from Omega and delivered a tombstone piledriver and a German suplex. Okada went for his finishing move, the Rainmaker, Omega ducked, went a third One-Winged Angel, Okada slipped out and hit the Rainmaker for a near fall.

In the closing moments, Okada went for another Rainmaker, Omega ducked, delivered two V triggers and a Jay Driller. Then, after countless attempts throughout three hard-fought matches, Omega finally produced his pièce de résistance; the One-Winged Angel. 1-2-3, Kenny Omega pins Kazuchika Okada and wins the B Block.

Okada vs. Omega III was the best of both worlds. Okada wanted to win as badly as Omega needed to succeed. It was comic book action come to life inside of Sumo Hall. A masterwork of storytelling that delivered an excess of greatness that stands in a class of its own.

 

My Favorite Matches

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

Revisiting A Night of Thunder

Jushin Thunder Liger announced last Wednesday at a press conference that he will retire in January. Liger, 54, said he wants to wrestle all over the world until the next Tokyo Dome event and hopes to get on the G1 Supercard event next month at Madison Square Garden.

Born Keiichi Yamada, had his debut match in 1984. However, it wasn’t until 1987 when Yamada adopted the popular character he is known for today. Liger was an innovator of the high flying style of wrestling and created the shooting star press.

Despite his age, Liger put on a stellar match where he was denied a 12th IWGP jr. heavyweight title in a losing effort to Taiji Ishimori at New Japan’s Anniversary show. During his near 40 year career, Liger captured numerous championships, won many tournaments and match of the year accolades.

It’s fitting I was working on this blog amid Liger’s retirement announcement. He’s been one of my favorite wrestlers ever since his WCW debut in 1991. I hope you enjoy my love letter for a moment. I never thought I would see.

 

-Jushin “Thunder” Liger vs. Bryan Danielson: Ring of Honor – Weekend of Thunder – Revere, Massachusetts – Greater Boston Indoor Sports Center. May 11, 2004.

WWE acquiring WCW in 2001 meant the end of seeing talent from New Japan Pro Wrestling appear in the United States. That all changed when ROH unexpectedly announced Jushin “Thunder” Liger was coming back to the U.S. for two nights only. One of those nights was in my home state of Massachusetts. Nothing was going to stop me from seeing this show!

For the uninitiated, Yamada Keiichi aka Jushin Liger, revolutionized junior heavyweight wrestling. While known for his death-defying highflying ability, Liger also mixed up his work with mat wrestling and martial arts to make for an exciting all around style.

While Liger was tearing it up in Japan, he made is American debut in 1991 for WCW when he feuded with Brian Pillman for the promotion’s light heavyweight championship. Liger appeared spasmodically over the years as fans were entranced by the red-clad anime-inspired character.

Third-row seats and the purchase of an authentic Liger action figure was all I needed to enjoy the show. The fans came unglued when the first notes of Liger’s entrance music hit the airwaves. Multicolored streamers cascaded the ring to provide the Japanese legend with a little taste of home.

Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) was the perfect opponent for Liger. A five-star match was expected; however, what we got was a five-star show. It was a well-worked competitive match that exhibited how both wrestlers superbly apply their craft. As the match unfolded, things became clear. The goal wasn’t to convince the audience Danielson could win. It was to let Liger shine in all his glory.

Every single person in the building paid to see the masked lion/tiger hybrid. Everyone in the building paid to see Jushin Liger. It was a best of compilation unleashed before our very eyes. We held our figurative lighters in the air as Liger performed all of his signature hits.

Liger’s surfboard submission got things off to a nice start, and he followed up with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. After some time on the defensive, Liger nailed a bald heel Danielson with a thunderous shotei palm strike. Liger would follow up with another shotei in the corner and hit a top rope hurricanrana.

The audience popped as Liger unleashed his rolling koppu kick and delivered his patented running Liger bomb for a shocking nearfall. There was only one move left to make. One hit left to play on the set list. Danielson was propped up top, lifted up, and drilled with an avalanche brainbuster to close the show.

Not only was it a privilege to see Jushin Liger in the ring, but from an insider perspective, it was nice to see a promotion use a legitimate draw the right way. No shenanigans, no convoluted plot. Liger was the reason why we were all there, and once we got him, Ring of Honor produced a marquee performance.

ROH & NJPW Announce ‘G1 Supercard’ at MSG

The days of WWE having exclusive rights to Madison Square Garden are over. Four weeks after ROH was denied entry into MSG, it was announced last Thursday ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling would hold a joint show at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” on Friday, April 6, 2019. The show is titled G-1 Supercard, which is a combination of each promotion’s marquee events.

G-1 Supercard will be the first non-WWE pro wrestling event ever to be held at MSG. The timing of this show is even more intriguing because it takes place the day before WrestleMania 35  at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The ROH/New Japan show will also run directly against the NXT TakeOver show at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

ROH CEO Joe Koff claimed MSG had canceled their original date after they received “communication from WWE.” Koff stated the lawyers were handling it from there and the show announcement came unexpectedly with a surprise addition of New Japan added to the mix.

Vince McMahon cannot be happy, as 58 years of exclusivity is now a thing of the past. McMahon was able to block WCW from holding a show in the Garden during the height of the nWo era. The closest WCW came was holding two shows at the Paramount Theater (now known as the Hulu Theater) in April 1993 and June 1996.

MSG has become a costly place to hold events. James Dolan (owner of the New York Knicks and MSG) has consistently raised the fee. WWE hasn’t held a televised show at the Garden since 2011. Former WWE announcer Jim Ross addressed the expensive cost of running the Garden on his podcast stating

“the cost of the TV would far exceed the cost of the gate. We (WWE) did million dollar shows there several times there – that are Raws – but you lose money more likely than not. If you’re lucky, you might break even.”

Reportedly, the combined influence of ROH’s parent company Sinclair Broadcasting and the new president of New Japan, Harold Meij is what opened the doors for the two promotions on April 6.

Tickets for the event will go on sale on Wednesday, August 8th at 10:00 AM ET for members of ROH’s HonorClub streaming service and Friday, August 10th to the general public.

New Japan’s Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Tetsuya Naito along with “all of the top ROH stars” are confirmed for the show. You know who is not confirmed for the show. Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks as their contracts are reportedly set to expire in January 2019.

ROH/New Japan running a show in the Garden during WrestleMania weekend in the same city is the most significant promotional blow WWE has taken since the demise of WCW. If McMahon wants to play hardball, he can offer Omega and the Bucks an exorbitant amount of money, as their absence would hurt the MSG show. WWE was probably going to make them an offer anyways, but now they have more incentive to do so.

Tickets for this show are not going to be cheap. Every show held at MSG is considerably more expensive than events held in other venues. No matter which way the cookie crumbles, April 6 will be a historic evening. The most important event in the history of ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling could signal the start of another wrestling war.

 

-ROH & NJPW press release

Baltimore, MD [07/12/18] – For 16 years, Ring of Honor Wrestling has created some of the top stars in professional wrestling, and for nearly 50 years, New Japan Pro-Wrestling has brought Japanese Strong Style to the world. Together, these two companies have delivered world class shows such as “War of the Worlds,” “Strong Style Evolved,” “Global Wars,” “Honor Rising,” and the “G1 Special,” which NJPW has launched as a special kickoff in the United States to their annual “G1 Climax,” known as one of the most elite tournaments in professional wrestling.

ROH and NJPW are proud to announce that on April 6th, 2019, the companies will join forces to present the ultimate wrestling event, “G1 Supercard,” to fans from around the world, LIVE from Madison Square Garden in New York City!

“Three years ago, one of our best fans told me in confidence that Supercard of Honor just didn’t feel “super” anymore, said Greg Gilleland, ROH General Manager. “He was right and we took that to heart with the huge events we delivered in Lakeland, FL in 2017, and New Orleans, LA just a few months ago. With consecutive record breaking attendances, the question became, how can we top that in 2019? More importantly, how can we give the fans more of what they want and what they deserve? The G1 Supercard is an event that can only represent the absolute best possible matches with both NJPW and ROH stars, and Madison Square Garden is the perfect venue for them.”

“This is a historic initiative for ROH and New Japan Pro-Wrestling,” Harold Meij, President of NJPW proudly commented. “This gives us a great chance to expose fans to NJPW in the building which housed so many memorable and compelling matches.”

Already confirmed for this show from NJPW are Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Tetsuya Naito, in addition to all of the top ROH Stars. This show is set to be massive in magnitude including many matches to be announced with championships from both companies defended. Fans will not want to miss this marquee event at a venue with such an amazing storied history of wrestling.

“We are thrilled to welcome Ring of Honor Wrestling and New Japan Pro-Wrestling to Madison Square Garden for the much anticipated G1 Supercard,” said Joel Fisher, Executive Vice President, MSG Marquee Events. “We expect April 6th to be another memorable night of wrestling at The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

ROH Chief Operating Officer Joe Koff is equally proud. “This is destined to join a long list of historical wrestling moments and where better to hold it than at Madison Square Garden. I am extremely proud of what we have been able to achieve as a company and am very appreciative of how great our relationship with New Japan Pro-Wrestling has become. However, none of this would be possible without our fans, who are truly the best in the world. Madison Square Garden would not be possible without them and for that I am most grateful.”

G1 Supercard is sure to be a historical event in New York City that promises to exceed all expectations.

Tickets will go on-sale on Wednesday, August 8th at 10:00 AM ET for HonorClub members and Friday, August 10th for the General Public.

Stay tuned to ROHWrestling.com for more information on G1 Supercard and other important Ring of Honor Wrestling news. Visit NJPW1972.com to follow your favorite NJPW wrestlers and for any other NJPW news or event information.

Examining Okada vs. Omega 2 with Eyes on Chapter III

The unprecedented six-star praise of the first match between Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega on January 4th had many fans calling it “the greatest professional wrestling match of all time”. Their highly anticipated rematch occurred on June 11th in front of a capacity crowd at Osaka-jo Hall. Expectations were too high. How could Okada and Omega top their last outing?

Being that wrestling is subjective, I have a different perspective on what’s good and what’s bad than someone else may have. Instead of judging what was better, the question to ask is did Okada and Omega simply add to something great or improve upon the original design?

Continue reading “Examining Okada vs. Omega 2 with Eyes on Chapter III”

KUSHIDA Tops Ospreay Best of the Super Juniors Final

Image by: tapla.deviantart.com

It’s events like the New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Best of the Super Juniors that makes me proud to be a professional wrestling fan. The finals consisted of various tag team matches. however, the main event is what brought the fans to Yoyogi 2nd Gymnasium in Tokyo as they saw one of the best jr. heavyweight matches of the year.
Continue reading “KUSHIDA Tops Ospreay Best of the Super Juniors Final”

NJPW’s Best of the Super Juniors Finals Determined

The finals of NJPW’s Best of the Super Juniors 24 has been determined.

Will Ospreay emerged as the Block A winner when he pinned Hiromu Takahashi on Tuesday in Osaka. KUSHIDA cemented his place on top of Block B by defeating Volador Jr. last night, thus punching his ticket to the finals.

Continue reading “NJPW’s Best of the Super Juniors Finals Determined”