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This Week in NJPW: Champion vs. Champion

WWE shuffles dates in Japan to avoid going head-to-head, UFC does go head-to-head, NJPW gets English-language TV in Canada, Champion vs. Champion matches abound, Anniversary Show card is set

Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura gets his hair did.
Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura gets his hair did.

A newb-friendly guide to some of the biggest stories in New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) for the week of February 13 2013 through February 19 2013. Thanks as always to enuhito and his bilingual blog for covering the sports pages in Japan.


Courtesy NJPW's official YouTube page

Tanahashi vs. Devitt is official, but will be non-title

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Prince Devitt has the match he's been requesting and will face off against IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi. But, to Devitt's chagrin, it won't be for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

However, Tanahashi told Tokyo Sports last Tuesday (Feb. 12) that if he loses to Devitt, he would no longer consider himself a worthy champion and vacate the Heavyweight title, and subsequently enter the New Japan Cup, which runs from March 11 through March 23. The New Japan Cup has traditionally crowned the number one contender to the Heavyweight title.

It has been suggested that if Tanahashi were to lose and vacate the title, the finals of the New Japan Cup would be a Heavyweight title match. If Devitt were to win, it's not yet clear how he might fit into the Heavyweight title picture.

Prince Devitt pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi on the Road to The New Beginning tour on February 3 in a tag team match after hitting Tanahashi with his Bloody Sunday (lifting single underhook DDT), which was his opening for initially requesting the match. Tanahashi got his revenge on February 11 in a tag team match, pinning Devitt after delivering his High Fly Flow (frog splash).

Devitt told NJPW's official site he wants to wrestle Tanahashi one-on-one to prove that he is the "best wrestler on the planet".

NJPW has released their 2010 match for free on their official YouTube channel, which you can see above.

41st Anniversary Show card set

The full card for the 41st Anniversary Show on March 3 at Korakuen Hall has been announced. Unfortunately for us, the show will not be available on iPPV, but in Japan it will be broadcast live on Samurai TV. (Just between you and me (and everyone else reading this) non-iPPV shows have a way of showing up somewhere online.)

Since this is a major show, we'll have the results up the day after, along with any major developments stemming from the results. Also, expect a more in-depth preview the week before the show... once everything is in place.

Coming off splitting their matches at The New Beginning, the CHAOS vs. Suzukigun feud continues with two high profile matches. After his loss to Suzukigun boss Minoru Suzuki, Kazuchika Okada has vowed vengeance and requested to face off against as many Suzukigun members as possible during the New Japan Cup:

1. "Anniversary Opening Match"

Hiromu Takahashi & Takaaki Watanabe vs.

Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu

2. Eight-Man Tag Team Match

Yuji Nagata, Wataru Inoue, Super Strong Machine & Captain New Japan vs.

Hirooki Goto, Karl Anderson, Tama Tonga & Ryusuke Taguchi

3. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship

Time Splitters (C) (KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley) vs.

Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask

4. Eight-Man Tag Team Match

Togi Makabe, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Manabu Nakanishi vs.

Toru Yano, Takashi Iizuka, Yujiro Takahashi & YOSHI-HASHI

5. CHAOS vs. Suzukigun: Eight-Man Elimination Match

Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Jado & Gedo vs.

Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Kengo Mashimo & TAKA Michinoku

6. CHAOS vs. Suzukigun: IWGP Intercontinental Championship

Shinsuke Nakamura (C) vs. Lance Archer

7. "Anniversary Special Singles Match"

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Prince Devitt

Canada's The Fight Network airing NJPW, with English commentary

The Fight Network--a combat sports network available on most major cable providers in Canada--began airing Fighting Spirit Wrestling on Sunday (Feb. 17). Fighting Spirit Wrestling is a one hour program that shows months-old matches from NJPW and CMLL in Mexico, with English commentary from Stewart Allen and John Atkins.

The Wrestling Observer subscription only newsletter is reporting that a French company purchased the international distribution rights from NJPW and CMLL for these matches, and after contracting an English production company to add English commentary, began shopping it around. Sixty episodes of the program have already been completed.

For Canadian readers, The Fight Network schedule can be found here. The show premiered on Sunday, but next Sunday (Feb. 24) does not currently have a new episode listed.

While any exposure for NJPW is a good thing, there is a big difference between NJPW itself showing current shows with an eye towards building to iPPV and major events, and an outside company showing months-old matches who are going to have more incentive to keep you watching their programming. That being said, I haven't been able to see the show yet and I am eager to get a chance to check it out.

WWE changes its Japan dates to avoid going head-to-head with NJPW, Kidani sees UFC as the real threat

WWE is set for a two day shot in Japan this summer on July 4 & 5 at Ryogoku Sumo Hall. Wrestling Observer reports that WWE changed its dates from last year when they visited Japan in August instead. One of NJPW's biggest events, the G-1 Climax tournament, is held every year in August and last year WWE received less press and lower attendance than NJPW did. Dave Meltzer stated,

"It invites a direct comparison with New Japan... and WWE didn't come across as the strongest wrestling company."

In speaking with Nikkan Sports, the CEO of NJPW's parent company, Bushiroad, Takaaki Kidani stated he sees UFC as their biggest competition, and doesn't consider WWE a threat. NJPW and UFC will be running major events head-to-head on March 3 as UFC comes to Japan with Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann at Saitama Super Arena. That same day NJPW's Anniversary Show at Korakuen Hall featuring Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Prince Devitt is taking place just about 15 miles away.

Minoru Suzuki looking for new blood to join his Suzukigun

The title says it all, and there's not much more to this; not yet. Suzuki announced he wants a new member for Suzukigun. There are vague rumblings that they may come from outside NJPW's current signed roster, but I almost feel bad writing this, because it's far from something I'd put money on.

Sakuraba & Shibata announced for the second night of the New Japan Cup

The outsider shooter team of Laughter7, Kazushi Sakuraba & Katsuyori Shibata, have been announced for the second night of the New Japan Cup; March 17 in the city of Amagasaki.

It's yet to be announced who they'll wrestle against, but Hirooki Goto has continued his obsession with wanting to get Shibata in a singles match, going so far as to tell Tokyo Sports that if he wins the New Japan Cup, he'll request a match with Shibata instead of challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight title. Since the cup was introduced in 2005, Goto has won it three times, including winning last year's tournament.

Nakamura wants Champion vs. Champion match

IWGP Intercontinental Champion and CHAOS leader Shinsuke Nakamura is facing off against Suzukigun rival Lance Archer on March 3, but in a public interview he stated he wants continue his quest to make the Intercontinental Championship the most important championship in NJPW by having a match against the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. This comes on the heels of his claim that he plans to defend that title all across the globe.

Yano having some fun with the GHC Tag Team belts he stole

As reported last week, Toru Yano & Takayuki lizuka stole Pro Wrestling NOAH's GHC Tag Team belts at NOAH's February 9 show and are set to challenge for the tag championships in NOAH. In the mean time, Yano has been displaying the GHC Tag Team belts at his bar in Tokyo.


That's it for this week. If you feel we missed a story let us know in the comments section. In the mean time, check out the free Tanahashi vs. Devitt match from NJPW posted above.

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