Section 1- Results
All Japan: Taka managed to defend the junior triple crown in his home K-Dojo promotion. He’ll be defending it in All Japan this month.
New Japan: The Tokyo Dome show had upsets and title changes. Kanemoto and Wataru Inoue had their junior tag title reign ended rather abruptly by Minoru Tanaka and Hirooki Goto, extending Goto’s big push (he pinned Kanemoto). Tiger Mask 4 retained the junior title as expected. Nakamura and Tanahashi also retained, over Nakanishi and Kashin. Mutoh pinned Ron Waterman, which could lead to Waterman appearing in All Japan. Nagata pinned Kosaka, getting back his loss. The Misawa/Fujinami team beat Chono and Liger, with Liger dropping the fall as expected. In the main event, Tenzan won the IWGP title for the 4th time by beating Kojima in under 20 minutes. Oddly enough Hashimoto and Maeda weren’t there, though several BIG MOUTH people were there to stir up trouble.
NOAH: Kanemaru defended the juniors title against Kotaro Suzuki on Tuesday. I know, I was on the edge of my seat too for that one.
Section 2- News
New Japan: Among the things rumored from the Dome show are a Tenzan vs Kaz Fujita IWGP match, Nagata vs Yamamoto (a Maeda-connected fighter), and Fujinami at NOAH’s Dome show (trade for Misawa at New Japan I’d wager). Announced officially for the next tour is a six-man round robin tournament for the U-30 title, with Tanahashi as the big star and returning young-ish wrestlers Blue Wolf and Toru Yano as other potential winners.
Section 3- Tenzan’s fourth reign
The first three reigns were a bust. Big time. Lasting a combined four months with just one title defense between them, it was a mix of politics and timing which led to the underwhelming nature of Tenzan’s initial title runs. Well, more like stumbles. Now there’s a legitimate chance to build something, unless Inoki sticks his chin out due to another upcoming shootfight. Tenzan has several contenders already lined up, and with just three or four defenses over six to eight months he’ll have a title reign better than any since Nagata’s in ’02-’03 and Sasaki’s in ’00.
Tanahashi earned a shot by winning the tournament in April, Kaz Fujita lost the title in a fluke last year, and Nagata is overdue for a shot considering his long reign and many big wins afterwards. There are other possibilities for opponents as well. Regulars like Nakanishi and Nishimura have a lot of history with Tenzan and could be used in mid-sized venues. The upcoming feud with BIG MOUTH should provide a couple potential candidates. A resurgent Fujinami could even be decent- after all he’s 6-0 in title challenges!
That’s not to say they should go to the lengths they did with Nagata and exhaust virtually all options for over a year (or in Kobashi’s case two years). However, now’s the time to reward Tenzan, give him a ‘legacy’ reign so he’ll have a main-event aura for years to come, and make the next title switch really meaningful. It seems likely that Tanahashi or Nakamura will win the G-1 this year, and given the good matches both had with Tenzan last year, that would be a good way to pass the title and elevate one of the young superstars in a slightly better way than earlier slapdash attempts. Of course New Japan might job Tenzan out to Fujita in his first defense, and in that case I think Tenzan’s chances of being a proper ‘ace’ would be dead and buried. Thankfully it’s in the best interests of New Japan from a business standpoint to reward Tenzan properly for his hard work and cease the constant hot-shotting.
Next Week: Japanese companies using the Tokyo Dome… not so bad after all?