New Year Dash: NJPW’s “Raw After Mania”

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Photo: NJPW

Today New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) fans new and old alike were bear witness to one of the grandest professional wrestling cards of all time, Wrestle Kingdom 12, that saw some incredible match ups from top to bottom. The highly anticipated Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho delivered above expectations, The Young Bucks continued to make history, Cody stayed on pace with Ibushi, the Junior Heavyweights dazzled, and Okada and Naito put on another instant classic (albeit controversial), and the rest all told tales worthy of watching as well. But while Wrestle Kingdom 12 was a culmination of 2017’s trials and tribulations in within the King of Sports, it’s at New Year Dash that we’ll get a better understanding of the tone that 2018 NJPW will bring.

For those who are still a-buzz at watching their first Wrestle Kingdom, whose minds and hearts are still a flutter with the spectacles devoured, New Year Dash is a special event that occurs the very next day, on January 5. A live event with no build-up except for the knowledge that every match will be announced on the show itself and that it follows directly in the aftermath of the company’s grand finale of the previous year. It is in every way the very same thing as the highly touted “Raw After ‘Mania”, the episode of Monday Night Raw (or Smackdown Live since the Draft last year), where big storylines surprises occur that come from results from the previous night’s events or to set in place motion the narratives for the coming calendar year. It can be a time of sinister returns, shocking debuts, or heartbreaking goodbyes.

At 2016’s New Year Dash, we were witness to AJ Styles getting kicked out of Bullet Club when his own tag partner Kenny Omega turned on him following their victory over CHAOSShinsuke Nakamura (who would leave weeks later) and YOSHI-HASHI. Omega would abandon the Junior Heavyweight division he’d been relegated to the previous year, claim leadership of the Bullet Club and win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, all on the rise to becoming 2017’s most exciting performer.

Last year saw the shocking return of Suzuki-Gun following a year long self-imposed exile where the invaded – and dominated – Pro Wrestling NOAH, who returned to make sure everyone remembered just how cold and calculated and ruthless Minoru Suzuki and his “army” could be (in case anyone had forgotten).

NEW YEAR DASH 2018

Here’s some thoughts from our staff on what we could be in store for tomorrow, either moments or seeds planted, at New Year Dash 2018 (airing at 4:30am EST) LIVE on NJPW World for FREE!

IBUSHI vs. OMEGA?

“Kota Ibushi defeated Cody at Wrestle Kingdom and even if it wasn’t for the ROH world championship as previously announced, Dalton Castle won the ROH World championship at Final Battle, Ibushi is set up for something much bigger now. “The Golden Star” could challenge “The Rainmaker” since Okada has put every challenger away. It would make more sense if the fans got what they wanted at New Year Dash. Kenny Omega pinned Chris Jericho in a wild Wrestle Kingdom IWGP United States title match, so now he can set his sights on his former Golden Lovers tag team partner. It’s a rematch years in the making and would be a main event on any major NJPW show this year.” Dan Niles

NAITO vs. JERICHO?

“Ever since the media and NJPW themselves declared Omega vs. Jericho as the co-main event for WK12, Tetsuya Naito has taken offence to it. To add spice to intrigue, Jericho took to his favourite weapon of late, Social Media, to name call and instigate Naito, seemingly baiting him in similar fashion to how he goaded Omega out. Since both men lost their ‘Big Match’, could this be a grudge match to settle their beef?’ Jamie Greer

OSPREAY vs. HIROMU?

“Will Ospreay broke the curse at Wrestle Kingdom but can he live up to big expectations or have a lengthy Junior Heavyweight Championship run? Hiromu Takahashi was the man to beat last year in the Junior division and making a serious threat to Ospreay would put him back in that spotlight. Hiromu can drop the gloves and Daryl and trade that in for the Ticking Time Bomb gimmick he excels at by beating down Ospreay. BUSHI of Los Ingobernables De Japon doesn’t have to be involved because Hiromu Takahashi vs Will Ospreay in Best Of The Super Juniors is a rematch waiting to happen.” Dan Niles

YOUNG BUCKS VACATE AND MOVE UP?

“The Young Bucks have broken their own record of six IWGP Junior Tag titles with seven. What is there left to conquer? What if they vacate the titles the very next night and declare themselves for a new set of titles in NJPW, the IWGP Tag Team titles around the waist of the monsters Killer Elite Squad? With a potential Bullet Club Civil War on the horizon, the could face Guerrillas of Destiny. Japan fans love underdogs and they’re a couple of Davids in a sea of Goliaths” Jamie Greer

…OR BIGGER – DO THE BUCKS UNIFY?

“The Young Bucks became seven time IWGP JR Heavyweight tag team champions, a record, beating Roppongi 3K in a match The Young Bucks weren’t favoured to win at Wrestle Kingdom. NJPW is reluctant to unify the heavyweight and Junior tag team divisions but could The Young Bucks do just that at New Year’s Dash? Signs point to yes. Matt and Nick Jackson have done it all in the Junior tag team division and matches in 2017 against War Machine proved there should be no weight limits in tag teams. The Young Bucks can hang with anybody and so can Roppongi 3K so it’s time to put both divisions together and put all teams in the title mix and World Tag League.” Dan Niles

SUZUKI-DONE?

“Suzuki-Gun ends at New Year Dash is the big prediction – it had a big run in not just NJPW but NOAH as well, but Wrestle Kingdom seemed like a turning point for Minoru Suzuki. After beating down Hirooki Goto, Suzuki eventually lost and had to shave his head…so he did it himself as a result. Goto earned respect and Suzuki knew it. A big moment like this would be unforgettable: Killer Elite Squad, the former IWGP Heavyweight tag team champions after tonight, along with Zack Sabre Jr, El Desperado, Taichi and Taka all have had enough of helping Suzuki and beat him down. Would this make Suzuki face? Is the faction over?” Dan Niles

What do you think will happen? Let us know in the comments below!

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