Preview: NJPW 46th Anniversary (3/6/18)

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Photo: NJPW

Last year New Japan Pro Wrestling presented a memorable 45th Anniversary show with IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada against Tiger Mask W (Kota Ibushi under the mask) in a spectacular main event. This year NJPW has been consistently putting forth great events and putting rising Young Lions on the card. There will be two championship matches at the Ota Ward Gymnasium in Toyko. Roppongi 3K looks to establish themselves in a Three-Way dance for the Junior Heavyweight tag team championships. Minoru Suzuki takes on fellow veteran Togi Makabe in a battle of the bulls for the IWGP Intercontinental championship. The main event is the most intriguing of this 46th Anniversary because Will Ospreay matches up well with any style and he gets the IWGP heavyweight champion, Kazuchika Okada, in the main event in a champion vs. champion match. Let’s take a look at early predictions for the full card for March 6th.

Kitamura Seven Match Trial Series Final: Kitamura vs. Manabu Nakanishi

Photo: NJPW

Nakanishi is no longer in his prime but the former IWGP Heavyweight champion can still apply the Argentine Backbreaker to anyone. This is another great test for Kitamura and the end of the Seven Match Kitamura Trial Series. While Kitamura came out on the losing side of many of these matches, fans were treated to a new possible mega-star against the likes of “Switchblade” Jay White. Yuji Nagata gave Kitamura his best match to date at NJPW New Beginning In Osaka, but now “The Wrestling Monster” must gain a victory and earn respect from established legends. Nakanishi competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics to show how far back his legacy goes and Kitamura winning with a Jackhammer would see a passing of the torch. Before we see Kitamura go on an excursion from NJPW to hone his skills, we may witness the Young Lion pin a 25 year veteran.

SANADA vs. YOSHI-HASHI

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This match was originally scheduled to be a non- title tag team bout between IWGP heavyweight tag team champions EVIL and SANADA against the NEVER Openweight champion Hirooki Goto and YOSHIHASHI, but EVIL has been sidelined for the next three months due to a broken orbital bone. EVIL and SANADA just captured the IWGP Heavyweight tag team championships at Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4, but they wanted to pursue singles action at the same time. Now YOSHI-HASHI has another opportunity to show what he can do. His career has been filled with singles losses but Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito have seen the best from YOSHI-HASHI the past few months. This is a very good showcase of the hungry talent in NJPW, although SANADA has the momentum on his side and a brighter future. Kazuchika Okada was taken to the limit in defense of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at New Beginning In Osaka in the main event against SANADA and Okada was even hit with his own finisher, the Rainmaker. Look for SANADA to shine in singles matches until EVIL comes back from injury. YOSHI-HASHI will fall victim to the Skull End attempting the Butterfly Lock in a great back-and-forth rematch where SANADA is 1-0.

Taichi vs. Tetsuya Naito

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Taichi is moving his way up to the Heavyweight Division and what bigger way than challenging one of the main event stars of NJPW. This time last year, Taichi was the Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion with Yoshinobu Kanemaru for SuzukiGun. There isn’t much of a size difference here but the live crowd will be firmly behind Naito with chants. After Wrestle Kingdom 12, Tetsuya Naito has still been on the top of cards but rebuilding with wins after he feels everything was taken away by Kazuchika Okada. It was a loss that has Naito on the path to the New Japan Cup and an even bigger 2018. Despite the carefree attitude, Naito has earned respect after many years in NJPW and he has only gotten more popular by every event. Dirty tactics will be used by both parties but hopefully Suzuki-Gun and Los Ingobernobles De Japon are left backstage for the main portion of the match. Lately it has taken not one but two Destinos to put opponents away, the “Stardust Genius” should return for an instant to hit the Stardust Press for the victory.

Yuji Nagata, Ren Narita, Tomoyuki Oka, Shota Umino and Tetsuhiro Yagi vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask, KUSHIDA and Hiroyoshi Tenzan

A ten-man tag team match putting the icons of NJPW with the best young athletes, the Young Lions are in the mix with ring veteran “Blue Justice” Yuji Nagata leading the charge. KUSHIDA seems to be the odd man out – after a spectacular 2017 winning the Best Of The Super Juniors and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship run, he has gotten lost in multiple man tag team matches. Jushin “Thunder” Liger has been announced for NJPW Strong Style Evolved against Rey Mysterio on March 25 and that will aired live on AXS TV. It would be fitting if Liger got the win to make sure Mysterio is watching. Tenzan will be all the backup the Juniors need on team Liger and Taguchi is always so fun to watch. Henare is going up the ranks and really improving, a slug-fest and win over Tenzan is unlikely though. Liger picks up the win on the way to the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach for a rematch with Mysterio twenty years after their match at Starrcade.

CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano and “Switchblade” Jay White) Vs. Juice Robinson, David Finlay and Toa Henare

“The Stone Pitbull” and friends clash with the future of NJPW in six-man tag team match that favors CHAOS. The IWGP United States champion Jay White being on team CHAOS will be interesting – will he build chemistry with his teammates or go out for himself? David Finlay is just coming off a renewed series of matches with “Switchblade” Jay White, where White dominated the son of Fit Finlay. David Finlay and Juice Robinson are the future of NJPW if they play their cards right and have great matches. Juice always puts on a great performance and gets the crowd involved, but he may run into a Lariat attempting to get too flashy. Yano will bring the fun but Goto and Ishii will bring the pain and the win for CHAOS. Juice really keeping up with White in the finish, only to take the Sling Blade or even pinning White, would set up a singles match nicely between the two.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Roppongi 3K (c) vs. Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado) Vs. Los Ingobernobles De Japon (Hiromu Takahashi and BUSHI)

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Sho and Yoh defeated The Young Bucks for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles at New Beginning In Sapporo in a great rematch from Wrestle Kingdom 12. The Junior Heavyweight Tag Team division needs Roppongi 3K because Sho and Yoh are not only fresh faces but amazing athletes that blend power with speed. Now NJPW has decided to bring the Three-Way Dance back into the mix, which was a staple of tag team booking just a couple years ago. Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado have a real chance at becoming the new champions and ending another Roppongi 3K short title reign. El Desperado stands out more as a singles competitor and is Suzuki-Gun’s best Junior Heavyweight, he was sidelined with a knee injury for the remainder of the New Beginning tour. Hiromu Takahashi failed to take the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship from Will Ospreay in a fantastic match at New Beginning In Osaka but now he gets a Junior Heavyweight Tag Team title shot with BUSHI. This will be one of the show’s best matches and Roppongi 3K should retain to further their path to becoming like their idols of NJPW.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Togi Makabe

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The first step for both Suzuki and Makabe will be to go straight ahead and bash the other in the jaw. The next step for Suzuki will have to be to employ his Pancrase background to take down and subdue Makabe for submission holds like the kneebar that won Suzuki the IWGP Intercontinental championship from Hiroshi Tanahashi. There are not many better brawlers in all of wrestling than “The Unchained Gorilla” and Suzuki knows that all too well from past meetings. Both men are reaching the age of 50 (Makabe is 45 while Suzuki is 49 years old) but not slowing down at all – Makabe still annually competes in the grueling 27-day G1 Climax tournament every summer along with Suzuki, now that he has left Pro Wrestling NOAH. Don’t expect anything less than hard-hitting – referee Tiger Hattori will have his hands full with this co-main-event. Makabe has never received a shot at the IWGP Intercontinental championship in the eight years of the championship’s history, so he’s going to bring the fight of his life. Suzuki escapes from the King Kong Kneedrop and takes out Makabe’s leg with heel hook or a kneebar is what looks will happen and Suzuki retains the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.

Non-Title Champion vs. Champion: IWGP Heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada vs. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay

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“The Aerial Assassin” faced Kazuchika Okada at RevPro Global Wars 2015 and Kazuchika Okada was so impressed by Ospreay’s performance that Will Ospreay was recommended to NJPW officials and he is now the IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion just three years later. Nobody in the world can do the things that Will Ospreay can off the ropes (other than Ricochet) and Ospreay has only gotten better since mixing it up with international stars such as Dragon Lee and Hiromu Takahashi. Kazuchika Okada has made this IWGP Heavyweight title reign a landmark in pro wrestling at over 600 days as champion and counting, but this is a non-title match putting Champion vs Champion. It may seem like a lock that Okada wins this match but that doesn’t mean it won’t be one of the most competitive matches we will see all year. Ospreay has retained a Rainmaker Lariat of his own and has a new Decapitator elbow to the back of the head that usually sets up the Os-Cutter. There will be some innovation from Okada since he is extremely adept at any wrestling style and maybe Okada will do more off the top rope than just his trademark Elbow Drop. There will surely be memorable sequences like the Sasuke Special and the inverted 450 Splash but if Okada’s timing is what has brought him to the dance. Ospreay will have a big move scouted and countered into a Tombstone or Rainmaker at just the right time and the 46th Anniversary will end with money flowing from the rafters for “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada.

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