NJPW King of Pro Wrestling Preview and Predictions: EVIL Rising

After last week’s brief diversion into McMahonland, it’s relieving to be diving back into a company that I genuinely enjoy from top to bottom, and for one of their bigger shows of the year, no less! I’m going to take a moment to get my one big gripe out of the way now, however: no defenses of the Intercontinental, U.S., or NEVER Openweight titles?!

In fairness, I know each of them got defended at one of the recent string of Destruction shows, but Kushida defended his Junior Heavyweight title against El Desperado at Hiroshima, and he’s already defending it again! And hell, every single night of Destruction had a tag title defense, and here we are getting yet another one.

This is a tiny complaint in the grand scheme of things. The rest of the card looks solid, Omega and Tanahashi could really use a lighter load given their ongoing injury situations, and I appreciate that New Japan generally takes time to build to title matches instead of just slapping them together WWE-style…with a few exceptions (looking at you again, tag title picture). Still wish we were getting at least a Suzuki title defense, though…

But enough of all that, this show should still be excellent. Let’s see what Gedo’s cooked up for us this time:

Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi, & Leo Tonga (Bullet Club) vs. SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi, & BUSHI (LIJ)

The standard opening multi-man tag match. As much as I love LIJ (and really, who doesn’t?), this doesn’t seem like it’ll advance much storylinewise. Mainly strikes me as a way to continue to develop the big green Samoan, as Tonga is still decidedly a glorified Young Lion at this point. Given that, I’ll assume that this one goes the same way every previous Leo Tonga match has.

Prediction: Tonga gets isolated and laid out by a BUSHI MX and SANADA immediately locks in the Skull End for the submission.

Toru Yano & Hirooki Goto (CHAOS) vs. Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr. (Suzuki-Gun)

Really strange to me that Suzuki and Sabre end up getting the comedy match slot against Yano, but maybe the hilarity will revolve around the sadist and the technician shutting down all of the cheeky showman’s shenanigans. But given that the next obvious challenger to the NEVER title is Goto, it likely won’t play into the finish.

Prediction: Goto puts Zack Sabre down with the GTR for the 1-2-3.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Title Match

Funky Future (c.) vs. Roppongi 3000 (Rocky Romero & ???)

Finally, the big reveal! We were all wondering what Rocky Romero’s next step was after he disbanded Roppongi Vice so Baretta could go hang with the heavyweights, and even though he’s announced the name of his new tag team and promised us greatness, the sly son-of-a-gun is still holding us all in suspense. So who is this new tag team partner? I’ve heard rumors of it possibly being Sami Callihan, but I’m going with my gut on this one: I think it’s Jay White, back from his American excursion. Regardless, as surprisingly good as Taguchi and Ricochet have been as thrown-together champions since upsetting the Young Bucks for the belts, they still feel like transitional champs. Combine that with the fact that Roppongi 3K need a big win for their big debut, and…

Prediction: Roppongi 3K demolish Funky Future with some crazy double-team finisher (tandem top rope Canadian Destroyers?) to become the new IWGP Junior Tag Team champions.

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Title Elimination Match

Killer Elite Squad (c.) vs. War Machine vs. Guerillas of Destiny

I feel so bad for GoD. Just a few months ago, they were the tag champs and one of the cornerstones of the division. Not that they aren’t still, considering they’ve still been in damn near every tag title match this year, but ever since KES returned, they’ve decidedly been third-wheeled. All the interview time for this match has been devoted to the beef between KES and War Machine, and that tells me that the elimination stip has been added specifically so we can get down to those two teams for the home stretch. So why not just book a regular tag title match between those teams? Your guess is as good as mine. Anyway, we were reminded that Archer and Davey Boy are still aligned with Suzuki-Gun when they ran in during Suzuki vs. Elgin a few weeks back, so given that?

Prediction: War Machine fights valiantly, but is overwhelmed by Suzuki-Gun interference after the Guerrillas are eliminated. Killer Elite Squad retains.

YOSHI-HASHI, Beretta, & Jado (CHAOS) vs. Cody, Kenny Omega, & Marty Scurll (Bullet Club)

Pumped to see Cody and Marty back in action, super annoyed that YOSHI-HASHI is next in line for a U.S. title shot. Why? His matches were the dregs of the G1 this year, and he didn’t pick up a win over Omega leading up to this, nor anyone of note. He just seems like a guy whom NJPW was willing to loan out to Ring of Honor for upcoming shows and was shoehorned in as a title contender for convenience’s sake. I’m so tired of this guy! Sigh…

(/rant)

My complaints about the plans for Kenny’s title aside, I’m really hoping to see some direction for Beretta coming out of this. His match with Yujiro at Kobe was surprisingly strong, and a brief feud with Cody or the Villain could potentially set him up for a U.S. title shot. The one that I wish he was getting instead of his tag partner for this match, but whatever…

Prediction: Beretta catches Scurll with the Dudebuster to set up his next NJPW singles program.

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Togi Makabe vs. Kota Ibushi & Juice Robinson

Yet another “set up a future title shot bout”, this is the one match under that banner that I’m actually looking forward to. Juice is on fire right now, and my love for one-half of the former Golden Lovers can’t be overstated. Ibushi already took out Tanahashi in the G1, and I’m hoping for more of the same tonight to cast further doubt on whether an ailing Tanahashi will be able to hang with one of the brightest stars in the world in their upcoming Intercontinental title bout.

Prediction: Ibushi levels Tanahashi with the Kamigoe knee yet again for the pinfall victory.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match

KUSHIDA (c.) vs. Will Ospreay

The story here is that poor Will just can’t seem to beat KUSHIDA, no matter how hard he tries. Not much of a sob story, mate; most everyone not named Kenny King can’t beat the guy as of late. The intrigue here, to me, really lies in the fact that Hiromu Takahashi also inserted himself into Ospreay and KUSHIDA’s business, and is also the only member of Los Ingobernables who’s nowhere to be seen on the rest of the card. Hmm…

Prediction: the Aerial Assassin lights up the champ with his usual insane offense, but Hiromu interferes to stop him in his tracks yet again. KUSHIDA submits Ospreay with the Hoverboard Lock.

G1 Climax Briefcase Defense

Tetsuya Naito (2017 G1 Climax Winner) vs. Tomohiro Ishii

I love Ishii. I repeat: I fucking LOVE the Stone Pitbull. But if you think he has an ice cube’s chance in hell of beating Naito and main-eventing the Tokyo Dome, well…you’re right, aren’t you? An ice cube has no chance in hell. That saying never made any sense to me.

*ahem*

This match is going to be fantastic. Ishii and Naito are going to beat the everloving piss out of each other, and I’m going to love every second of it. But for as great as Ishii is, he has already hit his ceiling as NJPW’s main event gatekeeper. He is a crucial part of the company, and great at his job, but Naito is finally getting his headlining match at Wrestle Kingdom, and you’re a fool if you think he’s going to lose it this time.

Prediction: Naito plants Ishii with DESTINOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! to break his losing streak against the Stone Pitbull and take one step closer to his destiny (sorry not sorry).

IWGP Heavyweight Title Match

Kazuchika Okada (c.) vs. EVIL

EVIL’s ascent in this year’s G1 Climax was astounding. Impressing in multiple bouts and picking up a MASSIVE upset victory over Okada (giving him his first pinfall loss in nearly a year, no less), one might begin to think that 2017 could maybe, just maybe, be the year that everything really is EVIL.

But it’s not to be. As great as EVIL has been in this program, Okada is the man. The first ever Japanese competitor to come in 1st in the PWI 500. Just days away from breaking Shinya Hashimoto’s record for longest IWGP Heavyweight Title reign. The undisputed top guy in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Okada and Naito not only should main event the Tokyo Dome in January, they MUST main event the Tokyo Dome in January. And so…

Prediction: Okada makes it rain on EVIL to become the longest reigning IWGP champion in history.

A couple of nothing matches here and there, but overall, KOPW looks like it should be a banger. Disagree with any of my calls? Leave a comment, let me know I’m the dumbest mark in history, etc. I’ll be back next week with the KOPW recap next week, so until then, enjoy!