Preview: NJPW 47th Anniversary (3/6/19)

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Photo: NJPW

A special champion vs champion match will headline the NJPW 47th Anniversary and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship along with the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships will be on the line. It’s an annual tradition for New Japan Pro Wrestling to present an anniversary event every March but what’s so interesting about this year is that it’s the second year in a row that foreigner, Will Ospreay, will main event the Anniversary show. The aerial sensation from the United Kingdom has risen from being the Junior Heavyweight to watch to becoming the NEVER Openweight champion after a victory over Kota Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom 13. Will Ospreay battled Kazuchika Okada in the main event of the Anniversary last year and Don Callis mentioned on commentary that it was a fairly easy win for Okada, catching the Os-Cutter to counter to a Tombstone Piledriver and following up with The Rainmaker for the victory. Ospreay has become a whole new wrestler since that main event just one year ago, armed with a Decapitator Elbow strike that knocked out Ibushi, the new IWGP heavyweight champion is going to have his hands full. All eyes will be on “Switchblade” Jay White after shockingly pinning Hiroshi Tanahashi clean for the IWGP heavyweight championship just one month prior to this event. The stacked and stable roster of NJPW will be ready to perform at their very best but can Jay White silence his critics once and for all to close the show?

Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Ayato Yoshida, Shots Umino & Ren Narita vs Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Chase Owens & Hikuleo)

Togi Makabe and Toru Yano will captain a team of Young Lions, which makes sense considering there is so much these young athletes could learn from the ultra-intense “Unchained Gorilla” in both attitude and work-ethic. Makabe has been at the very top of NJPW in the past but that doesn’t mean his future is downhill, the great teacher can also be a great asset in the ring still. This team of the Bullet Club has to have the win here barring any upset, Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi have re-joined the rule-breaking faction after a brief alliance with The Golden Elite (Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, and The Young Bucks) in 2018. This can only mean big things for Bullet Club once again with Pieter by their side as the stunning valet and the heavy hitters like Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale leading the pack.
Prediction: Bullet Club wins.

Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs Yuji Nagata & Toa Henare

On paper, Tomohiro Ishii really deserves a better spot on the card but it’s obvious Ishii is always waiting in the wings for a big opportunity and he could easily be a dark horse to win the New Japan Cup tournament to challenge Jay White for the IWGP heavyweight championship. Ishii and Nagata have had matches in the past in the G1 Climax tournament where strike exchanges induced cringes from the live audience, expect the same here. If anyone needs a win at this event, it’s YOSHI-HASHI. The CHAOS member already has to compete with men like Okada, Ishii and Hirooki Goto in the CHAOS faction but he has trouble sticking out on his own as a great talent. A return from injury and brand new drive would do wonders for YOSHI-HASHI and maybe the Butterfly Lock finally earns him a submission victory against Young Lion, Henare.
Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI win.

Satoshi Kojima, Tomoaki Honma, Tiger Mask lV, Dragon Lee & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku

Satoshi Kojima returned from a ruptured left ACL a couple months ago and he has really had trouble picking up momentum in NJPW, Kojima however earned a big a victory over WALTER at Rev Pro Uprising just recently. The former IWGP heavyweight champion has accomplished more in his career than Minoru Suzuki and that will lead to a heated brawl between the two as Suzuki-Gun battles a wild array of talent. Tomoaki Honma also hasn’t picked up many major wins since his return from a near career-ending broken neck so the Kokeshi’s should be coming quickly and often. Dragon Lee could easily ignite a rivalry with El Desperado in this match, Desperado is in need of a singles run and Dragon Lee has to be preparing for another exciting Best Of The Super Juniors tournament. Taichi should be pinned by Kojima’s deadly Lariat after some fun comedy from Taguchi and brawling around the building.
Prediction: Satoshi Kojima, Tomoaki Honma, Tiger Mask lV, Dragon Lee and Ryusuke Taguchi win.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Taiji Ishimori (c) vs Jushin “Thunder” Liger 

Photo: NJPW

Ryusuke Taguchi did his best to unseat the dangerous Bullet Club wild man from the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship but Ishimori was far too much for “The Funky Weapon” to handle. Taiji Ishimori summoned up the confidence of a man years ahead of a man with his first reign as the IWGP heavyweight champion, by calling out Jushin “Thunder” Liger. Even at the age of fifty-four, Liger is in incredible shape and can do a lot more than just commentary and tag team matches for NJPW. The masked icon could explode with a Liger Bomb at any time but could that be enough to stop the new head honcho of the Juniors Division? If Ishimori can survive thirty minutes with Hiromu Takahashi in the Best Of The Super Juniors finals and years in Pro Wrestling NOAH and Impact Wrestling, the champion should be able to finish a legend and put that on his resume for the rest of his career.
Prediction: Taiji Ishimori retains the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.

IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships: Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo & BUSHI) (c) vs Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh)

Photo: NJPW

Shingo Takagi arrived in NJPW less than one year ago and the powerhouse became a champion with BUSHI at the biggest event of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 13. Shingo is really the difference maker in this Los Ingobernobles De Japon team, BUSHI has all of the high-risk offense while Shingo just hits as hard as he possibly can. Sho and Yoh were robbed of their big Wrestle Kingdom moment after winning the Super Junior Tag League tournament, this is another chance for Roppongi 3K to show their teamwork is superior to a fairly new tag team. The Suplexes will be coming early and often in this match, Sho and Yoh can take as much punishment as any young athletes but there comes a limit. Shingo should hit Made In Japan for the three-count.
Prediction: Shingo and BUSHI retain the IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships.

Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Hirooki Goto vs Los Ingobernobles De Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA)

Photo: NJPW

“The Rainmaker” gets the best of both worlds for his tag team partners in this match, former rival turned friend Hiroshi Tanahashi and CHAOS faction member Hirooki Goto. It’s no surprise these three NJPW stalwarts are teaming together, they are all at a crossroads and without gold around their waists. Los Ingobernobles De Japon on the other hand, hold the majority of the championships in NJPW, with Tetsuya Naito holding the IWGP Intercontinental championship and BUSHI and Shingo holding the IWGP Junior tag team championships. EVIL and SANADA lost the IWGP tag team championships to The Guerillas Of Destiny (Bullet Club’s Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) so Los Ingobernobles De Japon should have an extra chip on their shoulder – like they need it. Naito and Okada mixing it up will be the most interesting scenario considering their past main events. Naito really does not need the victory here, Okada, however, could benefit from a pinfall to get back in the IWGP heavyweight title chase.
Prediction: Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Hirooki Goto win.

Champion vs. Champion Showcase: IWGP Heavyweight Champion “Switchblade” Jay White vs NEVER Openweight Champion Will Ospreay

Photo: NJPW

It’s hard to say what’s more impressive: the fact that Jay White is the IWGP heavyweight champion as a twenty-six-year-old Gaijin from New Zealand or that White pinned Tanahashi to become the champion. “The Ace” went down in his shortest reign ever as the IWGP heavyweight champion after only five weeks as champion, that’s saying a lot considering Tanahashi was once the flag bearer for the company and he still is in a lot of ways. “Switchblade” ushers in a whole new era in NJPW with the current absence of Kenny Omega and the re-establishing of Bullet Club. Will Ospreay get a Non-Title match with the champion in a rematch from Ring Of Honor Wrestling (ROH) last year, Ospreay is the perfect opponent for White considering the aggression added to Ospreay’s move-set lately. Will Ospreay is known as one of the worlds best high-flyers but a more well-rounded athlete is being developed in NJPW, Ospreay is now armed with two new match-enders with the Stormbreaker and the Decapitator Elbow. This should be more of an intense match than the Japanese audience is expecting, both will come out looking like major stars with White coming out as the victor by just a hair. Ospreay comes into this match as the NEVER Openweight champion and he could receive an IWGP Heavyweight championship match based off of a win over the champion here but Jay White should not be losing any main events any time soon as we head towards the New Japan Cup.
Prediction: Jay White wins.

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