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    Sunday, January 3, 2021

    #CafePuro: Wrestle Kingdom 15 Predictions

    A cloud of uncertainty looms before the start of New Japan Pro-Wrestling's biggest show of the year. We're supposed to be excited for Wrestle Kingdom 15, but the rising number of COVID cases in Tokyo could see the event being postponed or even cancelled. 

    Barring any changes, here are Smark Henry's predictions for Wrestle Kingdom 15:

    Night 1


    New Japan Rumble/Ranbo: The New Japan Rumble, or ranbo, is essentially a match that's used to get the crowd warmed up. Many greats of NJPW appear in the match to rev up the audience for the main show, like Haku and Scott Norton. Think of the match as a Royal Rumble match without any real stipulations. This year's rumble will be different, however, as we are getting a stipulation. The last four participants remaining in the ring will contend for the KOPW Trophy in a four-way match on the second night on January 5. I have a good feeling we'll see someone like Yano or Fale take the trophy for 2021 and everyone is going to have fun with the crazy stipulations that come from the KOPW matches for the rest of the year.

    Final Four: I can only see Fale and Yano making it to the final four to continue their feud. I don't know who else to add to fill up the last two slots.

    Main Show

    Hiromu Takashi (Best of The Super Jr. 27 Winner) vs. El Phantasmo (Super J-Cup 2020 Winner)

    I don't see any way that ELP wins this one. Hiromu and Ishimori have some baggage to clean up and I just can't see the Head Banger facing his stablemate in a match for the Junior title. Hiromu is on the path to redemption and winning another Junior title will solidify his position as the Ace of the Juniors.

    Winner: Hiromu Takahashi

    Dangerous Tekkers (IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (World Tag League 2020 Winners)

    Dangerous Tekkers have conquered the heavyweight tag team division and actually brought the division back to prominence. There hasn't been a team as good as the Tekkers in a while. I just feel like ZSJ and TAICHI are too good to be just a tag team. Either wrestler should be Intercontinental Champion right now.

    Yes. G.O.D. are brothers and you can't take that chemistry away from them. I just think that the Guerrillas will have a lot on their plate in this match. G.O.D.'s desperation to prove everyone wrong is what will get them the win and conquer their demons. Bear in mind that G.O.D. has never won a match in Tokyo Dome; their fellow Bullet Club tag teams have won already and I think it's time for the Guerrillas to reclaim their position as New Japan's franchise tag team.

    Winner: Guerrillas of Destiny

    KENTA vs. Satoshi Kojima (IWGP US Championship Right to Challenge Contract)

    The match was originally meant to feature KENTA defending his belt against Juice Robinson. However, Robinson had to back out due to an injury. Satoshi Kojima stepped up to the plate and will now face KENTA in the match. 

    Kojima has not had a major match at Wrestle Kingdom in years. Sure, he has had a few tag team championship matches, but he hasn't participated in a match of this scale in a while. The last big singles match Kojima had was facing Hiroshi Tanahashi in a passing of the torch years ago in Wrestle Kingdom V.

    I have a feeling Kojima will give his all in the match, but I just don't see KENTA losing to the veteran.

    Winner: KENTA

    Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Great-O-Khan (Special Singles Match)

    Damn. Talk about the next generation. I honestly don't see Hiroshi Tanahashi conquering the Great-O-Khan. The former O-Kharn had targeted Tanahashi's bad knees ever since he returned in last year's G1.

    Tanahashi defeated a similar upstart opponent in Jay White at Wrestle Kingdom 12, but I can't imagine the Once in a Century Talent being able to defeat O-Khan this time. A cocky Switchblade was one thing, but O-Khan is a monster who can't be defeated easily. 

    Let's face it. Tanahashi is inching closer and closer to NJPW Uncle status. We have to face the reality that he's no longer The Ace that he once was. Great-O-Khan needs a push because The Empire is being pushed as a major threat now. 

    Winner: Great-O-Khan

    Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay (Special Singles Match)

    Sigh. I have to admit it. Will Ospreay is so easy to hate. Excluding his activities outside the ring, there's just something about him that you want to boo the guy. It's not like Jay White whose actions make you hate him. Ospreay is just a person who you want to boo. 

    Prior to Ospreay turning heel, I thought an Okada vs. Ospreay match would be boring. Now that Ospreay is leading his own faction in The Empire, I am much more interested in the match now. I have a good feeling that Ospreay won't be his usual flashy, high-flying self. Ospreay will be more like the killer that we saw at the end of his match against Okada in the G1. 

    Okada is honestly just biding his time before he becomes heavyweight champion again. The Rainmaker is challenging himself by doing different things, such as creating the KOPW trophy, and using the Money Clip submission. 

    I think Okada will be too distracted by trying to challenge himself that Ospreay will cheat to win against The Rainmaker and this will set up a future main event match between the two.

    Winner: Will Ospreay

    Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi (IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Double Title Match)

    My friends from The Geeky Juans and Wrestling After Work all agree that this match should be called Neck-O-Mania. There is no other word to describe this match. Get ready for some literal breakneck moves between the Shuyaku and the Golden Star.

    There is no other way to describe the contest. Never mind the convoluted manner of how we got to this match; we're getting the chance to see two wrestlers in their prime beat the crap out of each other and we will all watch in awe.

    Naito and Ibushi have faced each other several times before, but not in a match of this scale. The closest comparison I can make is their match in Madison Square Garden, where the wrestling history of the venue and the history between the two wrestlers comprised the formula for an excellent match.

    I'm going to decide on this match with my heart and say Naito will win because Ibushi's road to redemption will be a long one. The path won't be as long as Naito's seven-year wait, but I think it will be a while before we see Kota Ibushi become God.

    Winner: Tetsuya Naito

    Night 2


    Stardom Special Exhibition Matches
    New Japan's sister company, Stardom, will hold the opening matches for the pre-show of Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night 2. Due to licensing and broadcasting issues, fans online will not be able to see this match broadcasted anywhere.

    Long story short: NJPW and Stardom are broadcast by rival networks so they can't air the match. SO STOP COMPLAINING, WESTERNERS WHO DON'T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING ABOUT JAPANESE BROADCASTING RIGHTS!

    Anyway, let's move on.

    Queen's Quest (Saya Kamitani, AZM aka Azumi and World of Stardom Champion Utami Hayashishita) vs. Donna Del Mondo (Maika, Natsupoi and Himeka)

    This special six-woman tag features two of Stardom's biggest stables. Queen's Quest was a stable founded by Io Shirai, now of NXT fame. The current iteration of the stable is currently led by Momo Watanabe while Utami is the ace of the stable. 

    Donna Del Mondo is led by Giulia and the stable is mostly comprised of half-Japanese wrestlers: Giulia is half-Italian, Syuri is half-Filipino, Maika, Himeka, and Natsupoi. As of this writing, Natsupoi is pretty much the pin-taker for their matches and taking a role similar to Chase Owens in Bullet Club or YOSHI-HASHI in CHAOS. Their job is to take pins.

    This match will be an easy win for Queen's Quest.

    Winner: Queen's Quest

    Mayu Iwatani and Tam Nakano vs. Donna Del Mondo (Giulia and Syuri)

    Giulia and Mayu are two of the wrestlers who competed in Wrestle Kingdom 14. Joining them were Hana Kimura and Arisa Hoshiki. Sadly, Hana Kimura died last May due to online bullying and Arisa Hoshiki retired due to injuries. 

    I would add the team name of Stars to Mayu and Tam's tag team, but Tam decided to leave Stars recently. Tam Nakano recently started teaming with former TJPW wrestlers Mina Shirakawa and Unagi Sayaka to form Cosmic Angels. The Cosmic Angels were originally a part of Stars, one of Stardom's longest-running stables.

    However, a feud between Mayu Iwatani and Tam Nakano would cause Cosmic Angels to split from Stars and become their own stable.

    Before I continue, here's a brief introduction to Mayu Iwatani. She's possibly the craziest wrestler next to Kota Ibushi. You want to talk about breaking necks? Check out this clip of former Oedo-Tai leader Kagetsu hanging Mayu by her neck in Korakuen Hall.

    As for Donna Del Mondo, their team is comprised of Giulia and Syuri. Giulia is a half-Japanese and half-Italian wrestler who joined Stardom after a controversial departure from Ice Ribbon. Syuri is a half-Japanese and half-Filipino wrestler who was freelancing before joining Stardom full-time.

    What makes this match interesting is the fact that it features Stardom's Ace in Mayu Iwatani and Tokyo Sports Female Wrestler of The Year in Giulia. That doesn't mean Tam and Syuri can't carry the match on their own though. Syuri has MMA experience while Tam has a martial arts background. 

    I have a feeling that Giulia and Syuri will win the match simply because Giulia is pretty much the chosen one in Stardom at the moment.

    Winner: Giulia and Syuri

    Main Show:

    KOPW Four-Way Match

    The four remaining wrestlers from the previous night's NJ Rumble will compete in a four-way match to determine the winner of the KOPW trophy for 2021. I don't really care for this match because it's just another way to add some comedy to the night.

    Winner: I don't really care because we're going to have our hearts destroyed by what comes out for the rest of the night.

    Suzuki-Gun: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. One or Eight: Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship)

    The team of Taguchi and Wato are called One or Eight because of their eighteen-year age gap. I don't know how to describe Taguchi and Wato's team so I'll just call them the Butt Masters. Desperado and Kanemaru have been Jr. Tag Champions for a while now. I think it's time to freshen things up. 

    Master Wato is a great wrestler. He just needs some more work on the mic. I can see Wato scoring an upset victory in the match for his first taste of NJPW gold.

    Winner: One or Eight aka Butt Masters

    Shingo Takagi vs. Jeff Cobb (NEVER Openweight Championship)

    Shingo Takagi is another case of a champion holding his belt for far too long. Jeff Cobb gained a mean streak after joining The Empire, and he's the perfect wrestler to take over what is essentially the Strong Style belt of New Japan. I can't wait to see Jeff Cobb become NEVER Openweight Champion once again.

    Winner: Jeff Cobb

    SANADA vs. EVIL (Special Singles Match)

    This match is going to hurt. I hated the fact that EVIL betrayed LIJ. The only reason I'm excited for this match is because SANADA will finally break out of his shell and speak more than just a few sentences this time. The former tag team partners, now bitter enemies, will do everything in their power to destroy each other. I have a feeling SANADA will win the match after getting rid of Dick Togo first.

    Winner: SANADA...and he can finally move on to singles gold.

    Taiji Ishimori vs. ELP/Hiromu Takahashi (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship)

    Like I mentioned previously, I think Hiromu will solidify his role as Ace of the Juniors with a win over the Bone Soldier. Ishimori has already held the belt longer than his first run and has delivered in match quality as the champion. 

    In the end, I think Hiromu will reclaim his throne.

    Winner: Hiromu Takahashi

    IWGP Double Champion vs. Jay White (IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championship)

    Here's the match that made no sense. The whole situation was so convoluted just so Jay White can main event Night 2 of Wrestle Kingdom. I didn't really see the point of Jay stealing the G1 Briefcase from Ibushi when Ibushi still got the match he wanted. 

    The winner of the Night 1 main event faces Jay White on Night 2. Whoever wins the previous night will be at a clear disadvantage on the following night. Jay White will be able to take advantage of an exhausted Naito or Ibushi and could steal the win. However, I really want the LIJ roll call even if fans won't be able to chant it out loud. 

    I think the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental belts need to be split up already. I have had enough of this whole double title situation. The NJPW midcard has gone stale with the lack of a 1B option.

    Let's get this over with. Naito will pin Jay White and we'll finally get the LIJ roll call we have been waiting for years to happen.

    Winner: Tetsuya Naito

    Who do you think will leave Tokyo Dome with the IWGP Championships? Do you think New Japan will push through with their shows after Wrestle Kingdom? Share your thoughts below!

    Image from NJPW


    Steven Tan (@steviesaidyup) works for an e-commerce company by day and operates The Geeky Juans podcast and blog by night. He's a fan of the Anaheim Ducks hockey team, comic books, and the Moomin franchise. You can find more of his geeky thoughts on Twitter.

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    Item Reviewed: #CafePuro: Wrestle Kingdom 15 Predictions Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Steven Maxwell Tan
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