Section 1- Results
New Japan: Their last Tokyo Dome show did better business than the October one with Lesnar’s debut, though still didn’t have enough tickets sold (as opposed to given away) to fill the Budokan. Among the night’s results were Team Choshu over Team Fujinami, Otani over Kanemoto, Nagata over Murakami, Akebono & Yoshie winning (with a tag title challenge issued), Shibata over Tanahashi, Albert over Nakanishi, Chono & Tenzan over Omori & Koshinaka, and last but not least Lesnar over Nakamura. Currently the main person challenging Lesnar as a result of the show is Albert. A rather bad indicator for New Japan’s new direction is that the Choshu-run ‘Riki Pro’ show a day later with most of the same wrestlers (including New Japan guy) only half-filled Korakuen.
Section 2- News
Kensuke Office: They announced part of the card for their February debut, and the main event is a doozy as Tenryu & Nakajima form an old/young alliance to go against Sasaki & Kobashi.
New Japan: The company continues to iron things out with Lesnar. WWE dropped the restraining order, Lesnar retained the title, and now New Japan is trying to lure him into living in Tokyo so that he can do full tours.
Section 3- 2005 title movement summary & 2006 predictions
All Japan: The Triple Crown began in Kawada’s hands and moved to Kojima, whose reign was the center of the promotion. Taka Michinoku formed his own junior triple crown after taking Kaz Hayashi’s title, and eventually lost said title to Shuji Kondo. The tag titles started the year vacant, were won by Kea & Jamal, and end the year vacant again due to Jamal having left. The All Asia tag titles bounced around a bit but wound up with Sasaki & Nakajima. Finally, Kensuke Sasaki won the Champions Carnival.
I’m at a loss to predict where many things will go. The All Asia belts move around very suddenly. The tag titles might go to the Dudleys, but are they reliable with TNA obligations? The junior title tends to have long reigns, but I suspect that Kondo will be derailed by young Nakajima. Champions Carnival could go in a number of directions, but I think the likely winners are Kea, Suwama and Kojima. A non-Kojima tournament winner has the best shot of taking the title, followed by an outsider currently off the radar. There’s a good chance Kojima will defend sparingly (4 or 5 times) and ride out the year with the belt.
Dragon Gate: Mochizuki held the main Dream Gate title until Magnitude arrived on scene to knock him off. Doi won the Brave Gate tournament and did well until the second defense against Dragon Kid stopped him. Italian Connection held the 6-man belts until Milano Collection AT left the promotion, at which point a flurry of title matches and changes took place with Blood Generation at the center. Currently the BG grouping of CIMA, Magnitude and Yoshino hold the belts. Ryo Saito ended the year by winning the King of Gate tournament.
I expect Ryo to topple Magnitude and control the belt this year, possibly losing it to Susumu Yokosuka. 6-man titles might jump around but should remain focused on some combination of Blood Generation members. Dragon Kid would need a miracle to survive the year with his title, and I’d anticipate him being knocked off by Doi or Yoshino. As for the next King of Gate tournament, I sense a win for a young wrestler like Shingo Takagi or BxB Hulk.
New Japan: Tenzan started with the IWGP title, lost it, regained it, and lost it again. Kaz Fujita ‘lost’ the belt to Lesnar in a three-way, and now Lesnar appears to be a New Japan semi-regular. Nakamura & Tanahashi controlled the tag division until October when they fell to Chono & Tenzan. Minoru Tanaka entered as junior champ but was unseated by Tiger Mask 4, who dominated everything until his second match with Black Tiger Romero. Jado & Gedo had the junior tag titles a year ago, but lost them to Kanemoto & Wataru in a good match. They lost to Minoru & Hirooki Goto in an upset, and that team still reigns. Nakamura won the U-30 title, retired it, and ignored it when New Japan brought it back to put it on Tanahashi again. Chono won the G-1 Climax in an emotional final over Kaz Fujita.
Who can beat Lesnar? Beats me. I can’t imagine an upper-midcarder like Iizuka, Tanahashi, Yoshie, Nakanishi or Nishimura doing it. Tenzan is damaged goods. Nagata is a good hand but has no buzz. Chono might have had his last big singles win against Fujita. Nakamura has already had five title shots in the last 25 months. Albert certainly won’t be getting the strap. Based on past precedence I predict Nakamura or Tanahashi to win the G-1, and whoever does has as good a chance as any. Lesnar might only defend a couple times even if he becomes a full-time New Japan guy. All the other belts are a crap shoot. I predict no more Dome shows and several non-sellout Sumo Hall cards.
NOAH: Kobashi’s epic reign found its demise at the feet of Takeshi Rikio. When Rikio was unable to fully take the mantle of company ace he was dethroned by Akira Taue. Tag titles went from Misawa & Ogawa to a non-reign by Williams & Scorpio, followed by Minoru Suzuki & Marufuji, and finally current champs Morishima & Yone. The openweight title moved from Marufuji to Yone to Scorpio. Junior champ Kanemaru made it to his first anniversary and promptly fell to KENTA. Definitive junior tag title holders KENTA & Marufuji were knocked off by Kanemaru & Sugiura.
I have a feeling that Taue’s reign will be a short one ended by Jun Akiyama. Akiyama will defend against Kobashi, perhaps Sasaki and Tenryu, and ride out the year as champion. If it isn’t Akiyama who brings down Taue then we might see multiple title switches. Tag titles are next to impossible to predict (both of them), and I doubt that even Misawa knows where the openweight title is going. KENTA as junior champ should be put over Marufuji for the sake of elevating the title, and perhaps a defense against Ricky Marvin before Sugiura or Hashi wins it. I predict that without Kawada, NOAH’s Dome show won’t sell anything above 30,000 tickets.
Keep your eye out for the InsidePulse 2005 Puroresu awards!