As always at the end of a New Japan tour cycle, we’ve got a fresh batch of cards for the next big show, piping hot out of the oven! Without further ado, let’s list ‘em out and break ‘em down, shall we?
Castle Attack Night One (Feb. 27, 2AM Eastern, 11PM Pacific)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi & TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) vs. the Empire (Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb, & Will Ospreay)
- YOSHI-HASHI vs. Tanga Loa
- Hirooki Goto vs. Tama Tonga
- Chase Owens vs. Toru Yano (c) (KOPW 2021 Provisional Championship)
- “Switchblade” Jay White vs. Tomohiro Ishii
- EVIL vs. Kazuchika Okada
Castle Attack Night Two (Feb. 28, 12AM Eastern, 9PM Pacific)
- TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) vs. the Empire (Jeff Cobb & Will Ospreay)
- Bullet Club (Chase Owens, EVIL, & “Switchblade” Jay White) vs. Chaos (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, & Toru Yano)
- Chaos (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c) (IWGP Tag Team Championship)
- Great-O-Khan vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) (NEVER Openweight Championship)
- El Phantasmo vs. Hiromu Takahashi (c) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship)
- Kota Ibushi (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito (IWGP Intercontinental Championship)
So the big interesting angle here is that Naito has taken it on himself to stop Ibushi from unifying the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships, and he’s doing so by challenging Kota for just the IC belt. He’s come a long way from the days of disrespecting the title by throwing it around with abandon, and I’m really into the character dynamics of this story.
I have a few more thoughts about the merits of unification, but let’s stick a pin in that for a moment.
EVIL vs. Okada on the other hand, has been spawned by a rather, ah... sports entertainment angle on the last New Beginning show, where EVIL forced a double count-out ending to a tag match they were in, Okada issued an immediate challenge, and then Dick Togo tripped a disqualification win for the Rainmaker, leading to this match.
Now I don’t want to dump on this match just because New Japan took an unusual route to get here compared to their usual stories— NJPW has always been set in its ways, and that’s a double-edged sword in that it makes them one of the most consistent wrestling promotions in the world, but it also means things get stale sometimes, and I’m all for shaking things up now and again.
No, my problem here is... why isn’t this match a no disqualification match? Okay, NJ refs always give main events a wide latitude to break the rules and are reticent to just throw a big match out, so maybe we don’t need to go that far, but shouldn’t we be doing something to keep Bullet Club from just getting the match thrown out again? Threats of fines or suspensions or something? Or even make the interference part of the match by doing one of New Japan’s faction-based lumberjack matches?
And now to my other big thought here— why do we need two shows? Yes, pandemic restrictions in Japan have lead New Japan to cut down on their traditional slew of undercard matches in favor of nice tight six-match shows. Clearly it must be working out for them financially or they would have cut back by now, but it is overwhelming as a viewer. But if they were putting on two cards worth of essential matches it could be worth it, so let’s take a look at what we’ve got.
Obviously our two headliners are important, and we have two defenses of midcard titles— Hiromu defending the junior title against Phantasmo should be quite good, while I have less faith in Tanahashi vs. O-Khan for the NEVER to deliver— and that’s all well and good, as is Guerrillas of Destiny defending the heavyweight tags against a Chaos team of Goto and Tacos.
But do we really need singles matches to build up to the tag title bout to be taking up time on a pay-per-view-level show like this? Or a defense of the KOPW 2021 Provisional Championship? Don’t those seem more the speed of one of the big Road to... shows at Korakuen Hall? I don’t usually break those cards down here, but there are six of those on this tour, and between all of them the only notable matches are a ten-man Chaos/BC eliminator on the first night of the tour and an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship defense on the last night.
New Japan has had a bloat problem for a long time now, as tours that once ended with two big shows now end with three, and now they’ve slipped two nights of Castle Attack between New Beginning and the anniversary show? That’s six major shows in as many weeks!
Which brings me back to that pin... Do we want to split the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships? On one hand, if we have to live in a world where we have this many shows, we need more titles to tentpole these shows, and Naito is the perfect choice to be the man that defines the IWGP Intercontinental Championship and holds it with pride.
On the other, dealing Kota Ibushi a major loss in what is effectively his second defense after winning the titles at Wrestle Kingdom 15 feels premature, and Ibushi trying to keep the titles together while challengers try to pick them apart feels like a pretty good story that could carry him through the entire year.
There you have it, folks
Excited for these cards, Cagesiders?