The end of the year is approaching and as a change of pace, the present will be the theme this month. Don’t get me wrong, it’s more of a subtle theme as we do make our usual predictions/wants for the future, but we do it while looking at the present situations of titles in certain promotions and certain promotions period. Not to mention our thoughts on a bit of charity from The E.
D.D.: Dave Ditch
M.C.: Mike Campbell
1. Jun Akiyama just won the triple crown at All Japan’s anniversary show. Where is this title reign heading?
D.D.: With how dreadfully thin All Japan’s heavyweight roster is, they need to milk every meaningful reign for all it’s worth. Akiyama vs Kea is happening in NOAH so there’s no way Akiyama drops it there. After that, probably at least one successful defense in All Japan before we get to their next show at Sumo Hall (likely in March). I can see them using Omori as the second defense, which would leave Masakatsu Funaki or Sanada as the first real challenge. Perhaps they have Akiyama retain there and finally drop it to the winner of the Champion’s Carnival. Sanada is the one who most needs the rub, but I doubt he’s ready.
M.C.: It’s too soon to really tell. Hopefully it leads to Akiyama defending against All Japan wrestlers on major AJ and NOAH shows (the next big NOAH show will be Akiyama vs. Kea), and ends with Akiyama putting over another AJPW young gun like Kono, Senada, or Soya, to help elevate them. Worst case is that it goes nowhere interesting and Jun quietly drops them to someone who doesn’t really need the rub, like Muta or Funaki.
P.C.: I’d like to think that it’s going somewhere like Ditch is thinking with Akiyama giving the rub to one of All Japan’s younger guys. However, the triple crown has been one of the worst booked titles (as far as title changes are concerned) in the last five and a half years. So having a former star and now outsider win the belts almost seems like a trap to me. I’m hoping that both All Japan and NOAH can get some mileage out of Akiyama with the belts, I’m hoping Akiyama can get some mileage with the belts, and I’m hoping that when Akiyama loses the belts that it’s been properly set up and is at Sumo Hall. I’m aware that I tend to ask for the moon out of some wrestling promotions, but in this case the scenario that I’m hoping takes place isn’t that far out of the question and can be easily done by All Japan. Here’s to hoping this title reign goes well.
2. What are your thoughts on how TNA has been booking their world title from Bound for Glory to the Roode/A.J. Turning Point main-event?
D.D.: I try to avoid thinking about TNA, but this mess has been the kind of in-your-face bad you can’t ignore. Hogan uses twitter to bash Roode outside kayfabe, while praising Storm. Then TNA books Angle to beat Roode and lose to Storm, and it’s quickly leaked that Hogan is the reason. Total amateur hour. THEN, they put the belt on Roode anyway, but do so with a heel turn in a company where big heel turns happen every other week. A dumpster fire of a wrestling promotion.
M.C.: This is a storyline that could have played over the course of months upon months, and TNA did it in two weeks. It’s not rocket science. Storm wins the title and beats Roode in a match between two friends. Roode becomes jealous over time and finally turns on him and wins the title. In the meantime, Styles can be built back up as a title contender, leading to a match between them. Instead TNA wasted the great moment of Storm’s title win and celebration. Styles hasn’t been in the title picture for a long while, but he got thrown back into it with no real build.
P.C.: It’s good to know that despite not even watching it regularly that Ditch seems to have siphoned my TNA frustration from me. Thanks Ditch. With that out there, I’m pretty numb to most stupid things TNA these days. And while the booking of this title has been all over the place over the last month or so, it’s hard for me to outright condemn it because this is a title chase that actually doesn’t involve Jarrett, Sting, Hardy, or Kennedy/Anderson. Not only that, but this three-man â€œchaseâ€ involves good wrestlers and more importantly new wrestlers to the main-event. Yeah, A.J.’s been there and done that as far as main-events go, but he keeps getting dropped right back to the mid-card fairly quickly after he’s been elevated to the main-event. So I’m hoping that guys like Styles and Roode and Storm get more time at the top of the card. Yeah the booking hasn’t been great, but I’m never asking for the moon when it comes to TNA.
3. It’s a little early, but what are some of your guesses for what New Japan is going to do with their January 4 Tokyo Dome show, specifically with Tanahashi and the IWGP title?
D.D.: I have zero clue. No way is he losing it to Yano. I can’t see Tanahashi dropping it in December, so I’ll say he probably stays the champion. Hirooki Goto is going for the IC title in a few days, so win or lose he won’t be involved. They just used Nakamura and Naito. Kojima was in last year’s main event. I doubt that they trust Tenzan to do a Tokyo Dome main event. Makabe is never going to headline the Dome. Minoru Suzuki? Tanahashi vs Suzuki does not strike me as a big ticket-seller. Which pretty much leaves an outsider… at a time when they haven’t been teasing one. Granted, Takayama came out of nowhere for the 2010 show, so maybe they’ll bring in someone like Suwama or Sugiura. They were in the All Together main event, for whatever that’s worth. I’ll say… Sugiura.
M.C.: Anyone’s guess is a good one. Tanahashi has had a death grip on the title, and I don’t really see anyone who could knock him off the pedestal right now? Nakamura? Been there done that, and it didn’t really make a huge difference. Goto? He’s never been terribly impressive, to me, and at this point I don’t think anyone would care if he did finally win the title, since he’s had quite a few cracks at it. Giant Bernard? He’s got the push, but I don’t think they’re really going to headline the Dome. The only name I can think of is Masato Tanaka, which would probably be very good, but I don’t think Tanaka is in the position right now.
P.C.: I’m picking Kensuke Sasaki for Tanahashi’s title defense. Some might be scratching their heads, but it’s all about symbolism and historical significance. New Japan has set it up where Tanahashi’s defense at The Dome will be to set the IWGP defenses record. Proof of it being about symbolism and historical significance: the defense that will tie the record for Tanahashi is going to come against Nagataâ€”the man who holds the defense recordâ€”at the beginning of December. And despite holding the belt for just over ten months, Tanahashi hasn’t had a single defense come against a NOAH wrestler. That alone tells me that New Japan could be going for a bigger match (or at least a match with a bigger feel) for their biggest show. And of all the NOAH wrestlers, I do believe Sasaki makes the most sense. Sugiura has already had a shot at Tanahashi when Tanahashi had the IWGP title and I just don’t see that match drawing as a main-event of this particular big show. Shiozaki and Tanahashi had their Dome match last year and Shiozaki is GHC champ, so that’s out. And then there’s the Global League, NOAH’s attempted answer to the G-1 and Champion’s Carnival tournaments. Right now, with just a few days left, KENTA, Morishima, Sasaki, Akiyama, Trevor Murdoch, and Yoshihiro Takayama are within striking distance of taking the tourney. If there is going to be a NOAH wrestler in the January 4 main-event, it will likely be the winner of this tourney. And if you look at the ones remaining, even then Sasaki makes the most sense as Akiyama is triple crown champ, Takayama already lost to Tanahashi in the G-1 this year, Murdoch is…no, and KENTA wouldn’t even be an option for this show (a Sumo Hall show would be a different story). So that leaves Sasaki and Morishima, and I’m not 100% ruling out that Morishima wins this tourney because it could signal the beginning of a renewed push for him by NOAH. But at the end, Sasaki is my pick because he’s one of the few elder statesmen NOAH has that can still really go when he wants to and because of his experience in New Japan as a wrestler, turncoat, returning patriot, and his multiple IWGP title reigns during the 90’s and the 00’s.
4. Would an inter-promotional feud (done in both promotions) of some kind be possible right now involving New Japan and CMLL?
D.D.: It could happen, but on a limited scale since it wouldn’t draw as a headliner in Japan. Add in the amount of money it would cost if you were doing a significant number of wrestlers and I have my doubts.
M.C.: I don’t think so. Not that it couldn’t be a lot of fun, but it wouldn’t really work out too well. They key to a good inter promotional feud is fans being familiar with everyone involved and, New Japan and CMLL don’t exactly run the same places and their TV isn’t in the same markets. I’d mark out like crazy if Ultimo Guerrero and Dragon Rojo, Jr. showed up in Sumo Hall and attacked Tanahashi, or if Yujiro Takahashi, Gedo, and Jado jumped the rail in Arena Mexico and attacked Averno, Mephisto, and Ephesto. But I think there’s too many logic issues for it to happen.
P.C.: It may have been a bit of wishful thinking, but since I called for something like this last fall, combined with CMLL wrestlers being used here and there by New Japan this year, and I couldn’t resist. That and I’ve come to notice, thanks to having Galavision, that CMLL puts on some damn fine wrestling. A strictly juniors feud would be the easiest route to go, but with the popularity of either brand not that high in the other’s country, it would only end up being a feud that satisfied the fans’ want of quality wrestling, but not the promoter’s want of making money with the feud. If the popularity somehow expands in Mexico and Japan for the other or a star from either somehow becomes big in the other’s promotion (Taichi turned into a bit of a draw pretty quick in CMLL last year), then we may have to revisit this question.
5. When (if ever) do you think The E is going to pull the plug on paying for former wrestler’s rehab?
D.D.: No, the publicity would be too bad, and it helps them stem the drip-drip-drip of wrestler deaths that has done so much to tarnish them over the years.
M.C.: Until it starts becoming too expensive for them or until there’s not really a big demand for it. The Matt Hardy situation is a perfect example of why it’s a good thing that the WWE offers this, especially with how public Matt was, and obvious it was he needed help. I don’t think it’ll be going away anytime soon though.
P.C.: I agree more with Mike than Ditch in this case because horrible publicity has never really done anything to really effect the way The E does business. And I believe this will be no exception. I think Scott Hall’s tab may have at least made them think about this policy (their spending at least), but for right now they’re not going to stop. Now if the business can go six or seven months without a legend or someone under thirty not dying, then you may see the well dry up for former E wrestlers in need of help. Until then the payments will be paid.
SEVEN MATCHES UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
Triple Crown: Suwama (c.) Vs. Seiya Senada, AJPW, 7/31/2011
A Suwama title defense from this past summer. Senada impressed everyone in the Champions Carnival tourney with his performance and with no other specific contenders out there, he was given the shot. Does the young lion make the most of his first world title match? Watch and see.
CMLL Universal Final: La Sombra Vs. Averno, CMLL, 9/16/2011
I’ve already seen this match and can attest to its greatness. Great crowd (typical in Mexico) does add to it, as does Averno being a great heel. But the action is consistent and good and the match was very compelling, but to go along with that I should mention that these two also have had one of the better feuds in wrestling this year and this seemed to be the culmination of it. And then at the next taping we found out that this match was a really good match in the continuing Sombra/Averno feud. I really, really hope Averno doesn’t end up in The E, but I’ll understand if he does.
A.J. Styles Vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, NJPW, 2/17/2008
These two met at a TNA PPV two years before, so now it’s time to pay back the favor. New Japan and TNA were sort of in a work agreement at the time that would send TNA people to major New Japan shows and vice versa (sort of). Anyway, the match was good between the two in ’06 and I believe the match is good here between the two.
Keiji Mutoh, Masahiro Chono, & Masakatsu Funaki Vs. KENSO, Rene Dupree, & Joe Doering, AJPW, 11/6/2010
I know I talk about old versus young matches a lot, but this is ridiculous. With one team being the above 40 club and the other being the Voodoo Murderers, it’s not hard to figure out which team is which and what role each team will be playing in the match. Also note that this is a match from All Japan’s yearly trip to Taiwan so the crowd and camera work are a bit different.
Triple Crown: Suwama (c.) Vs. Masakatsu Funaki, AJPW, 10/24/2010
In my research this seems to be either the best match of Suwama’s title reign, or just another one of his title matches that went far too long. More people think it goes too long, but you be the judge. C’mon, take a chance.
Yuji Nagata & Jun Akiyama Vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Toru Yano, NJPW/Yuji Nagata, 8/30/2011
Main-event of Nagata’s show. It’s nice to see the Nagata/Akiyama team together once again, even if it is for nostalgia purposes. Plenty of fun in this match, especially if you’re a Nagata fan. If you’re not, don’t bother.
GHC Title: Jun Akiyama (c.) Vs. Vader, NOAH, 12/9/2001
A title defense from Akiyama’s first reign. This was one of the matches that NOAH didn’t botch during this reign and it’s Akiyama’s only title defense in NOAH during this reign against someone with a legit shot of winning the belt. The match isn’t the best of either man’s career, but it’s still good.
Tags: A.J. Styles, all japan pro wrestling, Bobby Roode, cmll, hiroshi tanahashi, James Storm, new japan pro wrestling, Pro Wrestling NOAH, TNA, World Wrestling Entertainment