Puroresu Pulse, issue 187: Main Event Outlooks for NJPW, NOAH, Dragon Gate, AJPW

Section 1- Results

All Japan: Minoru Tanaka finally wrested the junior title from Hayashi on the 2nd. Both sets of tag titles were defended the next night. Suwama retained over Kea. Kenzo Suzuki broke up with Voodoo Murders.

Dragon Gate: Mochizuki & Fujii beat Doi & Gamma for the tag titles. Tanizaki won a 4-man tournament to get a lightweight title shot. Warriors (CIMA, Dragon Kid, Saito, Horiguchi, Ricochet & Brodie Lee) have joined Doi’s heel group.

New Japan: Tanahashi beat Kojima for the IWGP title. Devitt and Bernard & Anderson both retained, as did Jeff Hardy. Nagata beat Suzuki, Makabe beat Masato Tanaka, and Nakamura beat Shiozaki.

Section 2- News

Dragon Gate: Fujii will challenge Yoshino on the 18th at Korakuen. Tanizaki’s title shot will be on the 6th. Shingo is out with a shoulder injury. They will run Sumo Hall on March 20th. The new heel mega-stable will be named soon.

Misc: Tadao Yasuda is retiring on the 4th. Truly, a dark day. Yasuda’s career went into a tailspin after he left New Japan and became mired in gambling debts.

New Japan: Bernard & Anderson defend the tag titles on the 22nd against Atlantis and Shiego Okumura. Ibushi & Omega defend the junior tag straps the next night against Devitt & Taguchi. Makabe vs Kojima in a #1 contenders match is set for the 30th, with the winner getting Tanahashi on 2/20 in Sendai.

NOAH: They will run shows in Germany on the 13th and 14th of May. Interesting timing.

Zero-One: Announced so far for the March 2nd Sumo Hall show are Chono vs Daichi Hashimoto (Shinya’s son), Hidaka vs Takafumi Ito (MMA fighter who beat Hidaka in a shoot), and Ohtani vs Takayama. There should be a title defense by Sekimoto, with the likely challengers being Masato Tanaka or Sai.

Section 2a- Meltzer News

Dragon Gate: They drew 7300 for the year-end show. All Japan and NOAH would be lucky to do half that number at the same venue.

New Japan: The Dome show drew 18,000, tied for the worst January 4th attendance but ahead of some other mid-year Dome shows from years past.

Section 3- Memoirs of a Roadshill

If you are able to get Fighting Spirit Magazine in your area (mostly if you’re in the UK), pick up the December issue for an article by yours truly. I hope to appear there semi-regularly.

Roundtable!

Jae, he of the extensive Dragon Gate coverage, has a new site.

NJ in the USA! And they’re bringing most of the roster, which isn’t what was initially speculated. If you’re anywhere in the northeast and are the least bit interested, GO, because if this loses a lot of money they might not return.

Section 4- Media Corner

2010

DDT October 24th, part two.

A three-match set featuring very serious and very un-serious matches. Ibushi vs Sato (the middle bout) has a breakout performance.

Takayama, Nakajima & Inoue vs Shiozaki, Saito & KENTA, NOAH December 24th.

Some huuuuge exchanges between Takayama and KENTA to set up their match this weekend.

I Love the ‘90s Part 13: I Love July 26th, 1991 and ‘Internet’ Video Quality

Three promotions, three shows, all on one night: 7/26/91.

Taue vs Kobashi, All Japan.

This and the following match were only shown in clipped form on TV. Both were put up in full online by NTV, but at a low-ish bitrate. I think they’re perfectly watchable. As for the match, we have Kobashi trying to show up Taue, who at this point was 4-0 against him. Kobashi at this point in his career had done nothing but lost to anyone of the least significance, and avoiding defeat even against Taue would be an accomplishment. But defeat would be unthinkable for Taue…

Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi vs Jumbo, Fuchi & Ogawa, All Japan.

One of my favorite Jumbo vs Misawa 6-mans. It’s methodical at times, but there’s a nice flow from section to section and a big-time finish. There’s also a neat bit of storytelling between Jumbo and Kawada that plays into the finish.

Minoru Suzuki vs Sano, PWFG.

‘Long’ shoot-style matches tend not to be favorites of mine. This is an exception, thanks to the skill these two have, and some nasty strikes.

Tenryu & Fuyuki vs Yatsu & Nakano, SWS.

Ah, SWS. Such a failure. I won’t be posting much from there, owing to its reliance on the problematic early ‘90s WWF roster. This match hints at the style we would get when the promotion morphed into WAR: chunky heavyweights hating on each other and everything around them.

Section 5- Five Titles, Five Possible Destinies

All Japan: Suwama beat Kea, adding him to the scalps of Suzuki and Funaki. Mutoh just came off failing to win the junior title, so I doubt he’ll get a shot. Kenzo Suzuki isn’t being especially protected so I doubt it’ll be him. They already did Suwama vs Nishimura a couple years ago. That pretty much narrows it down to three possibilities: Kono, Akebono, or an outsider. There hasn’t been a proper from-another-company challenger to the Triple Crown on an AJ show since 2004, so that seems unlikely. They have a Sumo Hall show coming up on March 21st, and that’s likely to be the next title match. Akebono has been too devalued to headline a show that important. So we’re left with Kono, which would fit in exactly as I speculated in issue 181. On one hand, I’m not sure Kono has enough going for him to be the champion. On the other hand, if Suwama retains then he has very little left to do as champion. A tough match to predict, which is probably for the best business-wise.

Big Japan: Turns out I was wrong to expect a Jun Kasai reign as deathmatch champion. I’ve been informed that Kasai isn’t very friendly with BJPW management, despite being on every show. Both sides of the equation need each other and are willing to do business, but Kasai doesn’t want to be the company’s standard bearer. There’s speculation that Ito’s next challenger will come from a tournament, and it seems likely to be his big rival Takashi Sasaki. Sasaki hasn’t held the title since 2007, so he’s due. On the other hand, he won the last match between them, and nobody has beaten Ito twice in a row in a long time, perhaps not since 2003 when he became the company’s deathmatch ace. Depending on how the hypothetical tournament is laid out, the title match might not happen until the big Yokohama show in May. Whoever the challenger is there, he’ll have an excellent chance given how often the title changes hands on those shows.

Dragon Gate: Yoshino over Fujii seems like a mortal lock. Fujii actually isn’t that bad a challenger, seeing as he hasn’t had a shot since losing the belt in early 2007. But no way will Fujii win and defend it at a big show. The Sumo Hall show in March will have the first ‘real’ title match of the year. Since I’m expecting to see a BB Hulk title win this year, I’m anticipating a heel transition champion to bridge between Yoshino and Hulk. Those two are much too similar to have a compelling match, while Hulk chasing a heel champ would be an easy storyline leading to Kobe World Hall in the summer. One possibility is a big name outsider showing up, in which case he would instantly be my pick for the next champ. The other would be someone from the new CIMA/Doi stable, although Yoshino already beat both of them and nobody else in the stable is Sumo Hall caliber. I suppose that since CIMA’s title shot was in November, a heel CIMA getting a shot in March wouldn’t be too bad… so that’s probably what we’ll get. Plus, CIMA vs Hulk would be a fresh feud. Things should become clear soon enough.

New Japan: So much depends on who wins the title shot. If Makabe wins, then Tanahashi would be close to a mortal lock to retain. If Kojima wins, I think there’s a good chance he would regain the belt. Since Jado & Gedo took over as bookers, there has only been one time where the same IWGP heavyweight title match happened twice in a row: 2009, when Nakanishi upset Tanahashi in May and then lost it back to him in June. Kojima getting another title shot and losing would seem anticlimactic, whereas having him regain the title would offer another chance at some fresh matchups. As opposed to Tanahashi, who has faced every major New Japan name in big matches multiple times over the last few years. If Kojima regains the title, I will return to my prediction that Goto will knock him off. Regardless of who leaves Sendai with the gold, the next challenger would probably be the NJ Cup winner in April. There’s no way to guess who that will be. I expect Nagata to get a title shot after that (assuming he isn’t the NJ Cup guy). That should get us through to July, and if you think I can see six months ahead you’re crazy.

NOAH: I would bet a substantial amount that Sugiura will retain over Bison Smith. The title has only changed hands once in Osaka, and that was back when they could draw reasonably well there. Sugiura vs Bison will be lucky to draw 3000. The real question is, who’s left? The obvious answer is Kensuke Sasaki. If Sasaki has the next title shot, which will be March 5th at Ariake Colosseum, he would be the favorite to end Sugiura’s reign. But there’s one name I keep coming back to: Nakamura. He has outstanding wins over Sugiura from 2009, he just beat Shiozaki, he’s a stylistic fit for Sugiura, and he could be very compelling as a first-ever outside holder of the GHC heavyweight title. Either way, I fully expect Sugiura to go down in March, setting up the rest of the year.

Next Time: Something special!

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