After a successful title defense against American Karl Anderson, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi is being challenged by another top foreigner. Title matches are set, a NOAH crossover is brewing, more shooters join the mix.
A newb-friendly guide to some of the biggest stories in New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) for the week of February 6 2013 through February 12 2013. Thanks as always to enuhito and his bilingual blog for covering the sports pages in Tokyo.
The New Beginning round-up
A full listing of the results with finishes was posted for you right here at Cageside Seats this weekend (Feb. 10), just a few hours after the event was over. This will be standard operating procedure for the time being for NJPW internet pay-per-views (iPPV).
From top to bottom, WrestleKingdom was a better event, but just slightly preferable to the main event of The New Beginning.
There were no major upsets in terms of winners and losers, and no title changes. The Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Karl Anderson match is definitely something to go out of your way to see, and nearly every other match was entertaining. The video-on-demand of the event is still available on their Ustream. Where NJPW goes from here, is detailed for you below:
Lance Archer challenges Intercontinental Champion
After CHAOS leader and Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Suzukigun member Kengo Mashimo at The New Beginning, Lance Archer came to the ring to challenge Nakamura for his title at the next major event. Archer is one half of the Tag Team Champions with Davey Boy Smith Jr. Both are members of Suzukigun, who are in the midst of a stable war against CHAOS.
Archer hasn't competed in a singles match in NJPW since the G-1 Climax in August 2012, but has had much success since teaming with Davey Boy Smith Jr. and within the hierarchy of Suzukigun is certainly a step up from newcomer Mashimo. This is a logical progression for the leader of CHAOS, Nakamura, to an eventual showdown with Suzuki.
Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask challenge Jr. Tag Team Champions
Two of the mainstays of NJPW's junior heavyweight division, Jushin Liger and Tiger Mask, challenged current Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA (known as Time Splitters) to a title match at the March 3rd show at Korakuen Hall. Liger and Tiger Mask recently held the titles over the summer in 2012.
Devitt set to challenge for the Heavyweight Championship
The unwritten rule in NJPW is that if you pin the champ, you get a shot at the Championship. Jr. Heavyweight Champion Prince Devitt pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi in a six-man tag match on the Road to The New Beginning tour last week. So after successfully defending his Jr. Heavyweight title at The New Beginning, on February 11th Devitt formally requested his rightful shot at the Heavyweight title.
Devitt's retention of the Jr. title indicates it's likely the move up to the Heavyweight division is for just one event, but ever since Okada won the Heavyweight Championship last February in a match everyone wrote off as an easy win for Tanahashi, I wouldn't dismiss any contender. Devitt has been the ace of the juniors division and popular with fans, and with the heavyweight division as stacked as it is compared to the juniors, it’d certainly be a blow for the juniors if it was permanent.
CHAOS steals Pro Wrestling NOAH's GHC Championship belts
For those wondering how Pro Wrestling NOAH would survive the mass exodus of talent to All Japan that occurred recently, it may be with a little help from NJPW. At the February 9 NOAH show, NJPW CHAOS members Toru Yano & Takayuki lizuka wrestled to a double disqualification against MAYBACH Taniguchi & MAYBACH Taniguchi, Jr.--both members of GHC Heavyweight Champion KENTA's "NO MERCY" stable.
After KENTA's main event match, Yano & Iizuka attacked KENTA, and MAYBACH came out. Instead of saving his stablemate, MAYBACH instead attacked KENTA. All three stole both the GHC Tag Team Championship and Heavyweight Championship belts.
Yano & Iizuka are now set to challenge for the Tag Team Championships in NOAH. Whether this will spill over into NJPW remains to be seen, especially with the CHAOS vs. Suzukigun feud going on.
Okada isn't being buried
Okay, this isn't so much news, just a friendly f.y.i. for some. The young, rising star Okada has had two high profile losses in row, first against Tanahashi and now Suzuki. His loss against Suzuki came in the midst of the stable war against CHAOS and Suzukigun that's just getting started. This is long-term storytelling. Okada is not being buried. Alan Counihan puts it more eloquently than I could:
Suzuki needed to win because Japanese fans don't want to see a rising young star like Okada handily beat a veteran like Suzuki on his first try. Kobashi got his ass handed to him by Stan Hansen time after time before he beat him. Okada getting an ass kicking and coming back from it will be faaaaaar better for him than just beating Suzuki with no build.
WWE attempts to sign Karl Anderson
Coming off the heels of WWE attempting to get Okada to defect, Karl Anderson told Tokyo Sports the WWE had contacted him four times throughout 2012 in an attempt to sign him. It was reported in the past that Tensai (Giant Bernard in NJPW) contacted Anderson in an attempt to convince him to join him in WWE, possibly for a reformation of their popular NJPW tag team Bad Intentions.
Tensai as a legitimate monster has flopped in WWE and ultimately been relegated to a comedy character at this point, so it’s not a surprise that Anderson might not be too keen on switching sides. Anderson described WWE as more entertainment to Tokyo Sports, stating that NJPW is the number one pro-wrestling promotion in the world right now and expressing his desire to become Heavyweight Champion.
Kazunari Murakami to wrestle for NJPW
Journeyman professional wrestler and mixed martial artist Kazunari Murakami will reportedly be wrestling with NJPW. At 39, Murakami started his pro wrestling career in 1998 with NJPW after mixed success in MMA. Murakami was once a member of a stable with Laughter7 outsider Katsuyori Shibata in Makai Club in the early 2000s--a stable of shooters like Laughter7.
Shibata is slated for a singles match against Hirooki Goto in March, and with Kazushi Sakuraba’s body in the banged-up condition it is, it’s likely they’ll continue to want to use him in tag matches leading up to major singles matches. This is just speculation, but Murakami may end up Sakuraba's tag partner and the third member of Laughter7.
NJPW business on the upswing
Wrestling Observer is reporting that The New Beginning iPPV has roughly 89,000 buys as of February 11, on top of their standard traditional television PPV buys (which usually hover around 20,000, due in part to low penetration of homes that have access to TV PPV), and expect a few thousand late buys to bring the total to 91,000. A vast majority of those buys are coming from inside Japan. Their biggest show of the year, WrestleKingdom, did somewhere over 100,000 iPPV buys so to come back from that to 91,000 is a great indicator that iPPV is gaining steam.
That's it for this week. If you feel we missed a story let us know in the comments section.