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    Monday, October 19, 2015

    Cafe Puro (10/19/15): The Last Leg Before Wrestle Kingdom 10


    Following the events of New Japan's last major event, King of Pro Wrestling (the last of the company's top 4 events of the year), we now have a clear idea as to what lies in the company's future leading up to the tenth installment of pro wrestling's biggest event outside of the United States, Wrestle Kingdom 10.

    So what can we expect in the last remaining months of 2015, and what do we know so far about Wrestle Kingdom 10 come January 4, 2016, available for those who are subscribed to New Japan World?

    The Main Event

    In what is possibly no surprise to anyone who has been following New Japan for years, the guaranteed main event will be the rematch between the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada, and the G1 Climax 2015 winner and rightsholder, Hiroshi Tanahashi. Indeed, this will be the third time that they will meet in the main event of a Tokyo Dome show, with the Ace of the Universe having scored two wins against Okada in the big event. But this time around, the roles have been reversed: Okada's the man with the title and Tanahashi is the man challenging for the title.

    Interesting fact: ever since Okada and Gedo conceptualized the "Money in the Bank-like" concept of a Tokyo Dome title match for the G1 Climax winner, no challenger has ever won the title in the big event. As a matter of fact, since Wrestle Kingdom VI—when Suzuki challenged Tanahashi for the title—no challenger has actually successfully defeated the IWGP Heavyweight Champion in New Japan's biggest event. And considering how Okada wept all the way to the back after his loss at Wrestle Kingdom 9, the smart money would easily be on Okada avenging his loss against Tanahashi last year and end Tanahashi's winning streak at the event. That also means the title will most likely be retained.

    But while the conclusion may be easily predictable, expect the encounter to be full of drama and excitement, worthy of the main event spot. And hopefully, this will finally end the Tanahashi-Okada rivalry and give other guys a chance to shine in the top spot.

    Tag Leagues Galore

    But before Wrestle Kingdom, there are still some things to look forward to from the second biggest wrestling company in the world.

    First off will be the Super Junior Tag Tournament that lasts three nights, starting on November 1 and concluding at Power Struggle on November 7. This single elimination tournament will feature the following participants, as well as the first round matches, as follows:

    • Jushin "Thunder" Liger and Tiger Mask vs. reDRagon (ROH)

    • Roppongi Vice (CHAOS) vs. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega and Chase Owens (Bullet Club/NWA)

    • Ryusuke Taguchi and Mascara Dorada (NJPW/CMLL) vs. The Young Bucks (Bullet Club)

    • Time Splitters vs. Matt Sydal and Ricochet (ROH/Dragon Gate/Lucha Underground)

    The big money match of the first round is obviously the encounter between the Time Splitters and the dream team of Matt Sydal and Ricochet. The very idea of The Future of Flight and #Reborn teaming together against an established tag team like the Splitters will be a sight to behold. Expect a fast paced encounter filled with amazing moments to kick off the tournament.

    It is very possible to see the Bucks and the team of Omega and Owens in the finals, which would be pretty awkward considering they are members of the same faction. But you'll never know.

    Overall, the result of this tournament will give everyone a more concrete look at how the Junior division will be like leading to Wrestle Kingdom 10

    Interesting fact: since 2012, the winners of the Super Junior Tag Tournament have gone on to win the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Titles. The Splitters, the Bucks, and reDRagon have all benefitted from the wins, and have gone on to become staples in the championship scene in some form or another.

    And then you have another annual tradition, the World Tag League, which will take place from November 21 to December 9, 2015. This is the tag team edition of the G1 Climax, for those who are new. This is why this was formerly known as the G1 Tag League, but was since changed to "World Tag League" to emphasize the scope of the world. The winners, of course, will have the right to challenge the IWGP Tag Team Champions, Gallows and Gun, at Wrestle Kingdom 10.

    Another interesting fact: since 2013, the winners of the tournament (Gallows and Gun, Meiyu Tag) have won the title at NJPW's biggest event, so perhaps history will repeat itself for the third time?

    Power Struggle

    And then you have NJPW's upcoming event, Power Struggle, which will take place on November 7 at Osaka, Japan. While the IWGP Heavyweight Championship will not be defended at the event (reserved for Wrestle Kingdom 10), two major title matches will take place.

    The first is for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, with Shinsuke Nakamura defending against one-half of the IWGP Tag Team Champions, "The Machine Gun" Karl Anderson, the latter demanding the former when he won the title from Goto since he defeated both Nakamura and Goto during the G1 Climax. So yes, if there's anything NXT and NJPW have in common, it is their respect for continuity.

    The match is intriguing in itself since both men have history with one another since the days of the NJPW LA Dojo, as well as when Karl Anderson became a singles guy following the end of Bad Intentions and defeated Nakamura in the 2012 New Japan Cup. And if there's anything we have learned over the years, there is a distinct difference between Tag Team Anderson and Singles Anderson, and when given the chance, he will be able to rock the house down with the right opponent. Who else but Shinsuke, right?

    And the second title match will be the rubber match between Tomohiro Ishii and Tomoaki Honma for the NEVER Openweight Championship, a title that has been given a more distinct identity in recent years as the "tough man's title." When Ishii defeated Togi Makabe at King of Pro Wrestling for the title, he was immediately challenged by Honma for the title, which Ishii easily accepted. Now, the rubber match between the two will be decided at Power Struggle, with Ishii defeating Honma for the vacant title last February and Honma returning the favor at the G1 Climax tournament block match.

    You'd think this is a match they could have reserved for an event like Wrestle Kingdom, but New Japan seemingly set this match up as early as November. As for the match itself, this is expected to be as amazing as their previous encounters. If anything, this match is already worth the price of admission alone. But as for the future of the title after Power Struggle, who knows. Maybe they have another plan in mind come WK10.

    And while the title is not on the line, Okada and Tanahashi will face each other in tag action as Okada teams with Kazushi Sakuraba while Tanahashi teams with Kota Ibushi, a sneak preview of what's to come at WK10. While we don't know where this will lead Ibushi, it should be noted that he will have a KO-D Openweight Championship match this week against Yukio Sakaguchi in DDT Pro Wrestling following DDT's General Election and his subsequent position at #2 after fan voting, so at this point, who knows?

    And the recently returned Takaaki Watanabe will make his NJPW re-debut after his US excursion with ROH and being introduced as Tetsuya Naito's new pareja under his new name, EVIL (The King of Darkness. Seriously, I cannot make this shit up), as he takes on Hirooki Goto in the continuation of the ongoing sturggles between Naito and Shibata.

    As a bit of a side note, seriously, try not to say Watanabe's new name without trying to mimic Dr. Evil from Austin Powers. That's probably going to be difficult.

    And of course, the finals of the Super Junior Tag Tournament will take place at Power Struggle, and the Jr. Heavyweight scene will be much clearer after the event.

    Other Notes:

    - There is no word yet on any form of Suzuki-gun presence leading up to Wrestle Kingdom 10. By then, it would have been close to a year since Suzuki-gun invaded NOAH following Marufuji's assist to Toru Yano. Right now, NOAH has their annual Global League, which is NJPW's equivalent of the G1 Climax (which includes Chris Hero, CM Punk's BFF Colt Cabana, Satoshi Kojima, and Masato Tanaka), where Suzuki will attempt to be undefeated in the entire tournament. Definitely, the winner of the tournament will get a shot at Suzuki's title, and what happens after will be anyone's guess.

    - Speaking of Suzuki-gun, for those who haven't heard, one half of KES, Davey Boy Smith, Jr. (fka David Hart Smith) has finally claimed the rights to his dad's "British Bulldog" name. Thus, starting today, he will be known as "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith, Jr. So yeah, congrats are in order!

    - There is no word yet as to whether or not GFW will involve themselves again this year for the US broadcast of WK10. But since ROH has TV presence and will be able to promote their shows (case in point: Kevin Kelly's commentary style in King of Pro Wrestling and putting ROH front and center), don't be surprised if NJPW works out a deal with them in the future.

    - Right now, this is all speculation, but maybe you might wanna take this into consideration: Go Shiozaki's freelance status. A few weeks back, Shiozaki, former GHC Heavyweight Champ and Triple Crown Champ, as well as the former student of the legendary Kenta Kobashi, had his last match in AJPW. And effectively after the match, he is now a freelance wrestler, meaning he can work in any company he wants with the right price and deal, much like Minoru Suzuki and Katsuyori Shibata. With the kind of top tier talent he has, main event presence, looks, and marketability, it would be a waste if Shiozaki decides to take his talents anywhere than New Japan Pro Wrestling. So who knows, maybe he will suddenly show up in NJPW and revive his rivalries with Tanahashi and Nakamura? Only time will tell, but it would definitely be easier for Shiozaki to visit NJPW since he already competed with the company, which included Wrestle Kingdom. And if he does win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the future, he would be the third person in history to ever hold the IWGP Title, the GHC Heavyweight Title, and the Triple Crown Title, the top titles of the Big 3 wrestling companies in Japan (NJPW, AJPW, NOAH).

    Speaking of which, a special edition of Cafe Puro will be up on January 3, 2016, a Sunday, which will feature a preview of all the matches for this coming installment of Wrestle Kingdom. So stay tuned!

    How excited are you with NJPW's last leg of 2015? Anyone you want to see in this year's mega event? Sound off in the comments!

    (Images c/o NJPW)

    Lance Tan Ong has been a banking guy for the past few years but a wrestling guy for most of his life. And after checking out matches of Mitsuharu Misawa and Shinya Hashimoto at an early age, he's also pretty much a puro guy as well. Currently checking out WWE (mostly NXT), NJPW, DDT, and other promotions that catch and demand attention. He currently handles NJPW news and coverage for Smark Henry.
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    Item Reviewed: Cafe Puro (10/19/15): The Last Leg Before Wrestle Kingdom 10 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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