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Opinion

The New Japan Cup: Breaking Down The Field

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Sanada New Japan Cup
Image Credit: GramUnion

The annual New Japan Cup begins March 9th. Culminating on March 21st, the winner of the tournament will get an opportunity to fight for either the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, IWGP Intercontinental Championship, NEVER Openweight Championship, or now the newly added IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship. Anyway, I will be breaking down my top five picks for the tournament along with my two dark horses, and the rest I’ll explain why I don’t like their chances of winning. Time to break this down.

5. Kota Ibushi

Kota won the tournament in 2015 defeating Hirooki Goto where he would challenge the IWGP Heavyweight Champion at the time, AJ Styles and if you haven’t watched that match yet, I highly recommend it despite him coming up short. I put him low on the list because of the fact that while he has a chance of winning the cup again, I don’t see him winning any major championship until the day he finally decides to sign a full-time contract with the company. Slim chance, but don’t be surprised if they give him the win.

4. Tetsuya Naito

Not only Naito won the cup in 2016, he also defeated Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship as well even though his reign was very short lived as he only successfully retained it once against Ishii. While I do like his chances for winning the cup, I think it’s too soon for Okada and Naito to fight each other again after putting on a classic at Wrestle Kingdom 12. Plus with Naito having a feud with Chris Jericho soon, being in the title hunt this soon might not be the best plan while I do believe Naito will have his chance to shine again finally maybe at Wrestle Kingdom 13.

3. SANADA

SANADA has finally been starting to come out of his shell lately showing more of himself and in his matches while still keeping that cold and calculating personality. He is someone who I think will be a big key player in New Japan in the upcoming years and just needs to break that glass ceiling fully to show more as to why he can be one of the greatest. SANADA has been getting closer and closer to making Okada tap out each time they step foot in the ring together and wouldn’t be surprised if he gets another crack at him and maybe able to finally make the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion tap out.

2. Tomohiro Ishii

He is honestly my pick to win the New Japan Cup, but I will get to my number one in a moment. Ishii has a win over Okada from G1 climax despite never getting a title match due to the fact that they’re allies and they don’t fight each other for championship and just friendly non-title competition. This is where we will see if he breaks that code when he wins or he follows that and challenges the only non CHAOS member that has a title meaning the IWGP Intercontinental Champion, Minoru Suzuki which I wouldn’t mind seeing and I think that would be a phenomenal match..

Before I get to my number one pick, I’m gonna quickly talk about my two dark horses of the tournament that while I think they won’t win the tournament, I wouldn’t count them out.

 

Dark Horse 1: Juice Robinson

He said he has plans to challenge IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Jay White if he does somehow win the New Japan Cup. Juice is someone that has been growing on me every time he’s booked in a big match despite coming up short, he shows why he’s one of my favorite underdogs and have no issues with him winning.

Dark Horse 2: Bad Luck Fale

The New Japan Cup is one of the times that you will see him shine in the company and has constantly been giving the top stars a run of their money and even defeating them a few times. So we could possibly see him run through the competition once more, especially after finish runner-up last year.

Now onto my number one pick.

1. Hiroshi Tanahashi

I’m gonna be honest, I was really hoping it was a typo when the bracket was announced thinking it was Tama Tonga (since it just said Tana on the bracket). Tanahashi has been wrestling with a bad knee and a torn bicep and he still refuses to take his much needed rest to heal up, but he loves the fans so much that he can’t leave them and while I admire that and respect the guy completely, I would like to see a healthy Tanahashi and not damage himself even more than he already is.

What made him be my number one pick was during his press conference he said he would either fight Minoru Suzuki to get revenge and reclaim the IWGP Intercontinental Championship or he could fight IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada to make sure that Okada doesn’t break his streak of most successful retains with the title, so the story with whoever he fights makes sense with a legitimate claim to having a high chance.

Will he win the title? It depends on who he fights, I don’t see him defeating Okada since I do believe his days of being IWGP Heavyweight Champion are over. As for Suzuki, it’s a split 50/50 if he decides to heal up once he loses or win the belt and hurt himself more. Either way, we’ll be sure to get a classic match, regardless of who he decides to fight if he wins.

So those are my top five picks of winning the New Japan Cup and I’ll do a quick list of the others and why I don’t think they’ll win.

  • YOSHI-HASHI: I don’t see him getting a big win, sometimes he showcases how talented he is, but that’s a rare thing.
  • Taichi: Because he’s Taichi, can’t really say more than that.
  • Michael Elgin: Due to the allegations towards him right now, it wouldn’t be a good idea, plus we have better options to win the cup.
  • Yujiro Takahashi: Just a guy there to maybe get one win or just take the pinfall.
  • Chuckie T: Surprised he’s even on here and don’t see him making pass the first round.
  • Toru Yano: Same reason for Taichi, but you never know anymore with Toru because he’s Toru.
  • Lance Archer: Might have a strong start, but I don’t see him defeating Fale in the first round and just stick to the tag team division.
  • Zack Sabre Jr: I’ll be surprised he even defeats Naito in the first round. I just don’t see him winning the whole thing despite giving us good technical action.
  • Davey Boy Smith Jr: Same reason for Lance Archer, just two tag team guys just there to take the pinfall.

So who do you think will win the New Japan Cup and what title do you think they would go for? I hope you’ve enjoyed this read and hope your predictions come true as we dive in to the New Japan Cup which kicks off March 9th, don’t miss it.


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Opinion

AJ’s Controversial? Wrestling Opinions 10.12.21

AJ feels like spouting off about a few wrestling topics that bug him. How controversial are they though?

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As Eric Bischoff, President of WCW once said, Controversy Creates Cash…no I’m serious; it’s even the title of a book that he did. Everyone has their hot takes on professional wrestling and some are always wide eyed and kind of shocking to some. There are some of us that will have same opinions or chastise me on a show or an article maybe but hey, don’t hate the player, hate The Game.

Maybe there are some that the readers at home agree with or you want to also be the one to chastise me, @PhenomenalAJB on Twitter. This one is going to be fun!

#1- There are more things than just WWE/AEW and are better majority of the time

There are many people that will rant, rave and complain that the mainstream product is so bland and boring and the classic, “Who even watches this trash?” Whether you love the flippy dippy do’s like I don’t or long drawn out storylines that peter out very quickly because fans aren’t invested in a story or character. To those people, I will say something very bold, very confusing and very… very controversial…

THERE ARE OTHER COMPANIES YOU CAN WATCH ON VARIOUS PLATFORMS IN VARIOUS MEANS ON YOUR OWN TIME!

I don’t know how and I don’t know why that this is even a topic. “TNA has been dead for years” No it hasn’t. Pay $1 USD for Impact Plus on YouTube so you can watch it without commercials at 8:30 Eastern. “Two hours is too long!” NWA and MLW both go for an hour on their respective YouTube Channels as well and if you want to watch, you can hop in at any time. Everyone has something for everyone and you might find your new favorite wrestler in a matter of minutes into an episode. I would never have known who Eli Drake (now LA Knight on SmackDown Live), Alexander Hammerstone or even in the early stages of TNA Impact, AJ Styles, was! You can watch more than what is broadcasted on your TV. Is it easier? Of course but, there is so much more than just the popular option.


#2- Belt Collecting now is just redundant and moronic

Back in 1996, Ultimo Dragon famously has a picture of him holding TEN championships looking like an amazing superstar with amazing defenses. What people don’t know is, that was because eight championship belts were united in a tournament called “The J-Crown Championship” with the adage of ‘All or Nothing’. He lost them one by one but, it was to show that he was the best Junior Heavyweight (or Cruiserweight/Light Heavyweight) out of everyone in various promotions.

People after that really haven’t belt collected other than unifying championships to a grand caliber… then Austin Aries showed up. Aries kind of revised the gimmick and brought it back to light. Newer fans might have thought this was cool but older fans kind of groaned and grumbled. I was one of them but, nothing is original in anything anymore so it’s a fresher concept at the time back in 2018. He did surpass Ultimo with ELEVEN championships but it seemed everyone started doing it to an extent after. Matt Cardona, after being released from WWE, started doing it, getting up to six championships before dropping them. As of right now, not necessarily solo belt collecting, The Bloodline has a stranglehold of the World Championships for both Singles and Tag Teams, we had Becky Two Belts, Bayley wanted Dos Straps but nothing makes this worse than Kenny Omega’s stint as a belt collector.

I am not and will never be a Kenny Omega fan. I don’t see the appeal, I don’t see the amazement or anything like that out of him. I’m impressed he did three 35+ Minute IWGP Championship matches against Okada because that takes a lot of stamina to do so but, that’s about it. When he won the AEW Championship, alright. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that since he helped build the company up. The Triple A Megas Championship… nothing too wrong here. I hate that he had five defenses in two years but he vacated it due to his injuries. It wasn’t until Don Callis and Omega popped into Impact and made the Hogan Era of TNA look like a dream… okay ALMOST but still. Kenny defeats Rich Swann and Moose in two different matches and has everyone else carry the belts while holding the AEW Championship. I understand heel tactics and mentality but at one point in an interview about going for the Impact Championship, he compared it to a common Comic Book and the AEW Championship as Superman Issue #1. I understand trying to be a heel in this story but you boost your clout, not rain on what you are going after. Heel or Face, belt collecting has just been a cluster within itself in the past four years and it honestly needs to stop.

#3- Overuse of Certain Moves

This one is a more recent problem that I have seen and no, I wish EC3 paid me to say this but it is true and very annoying to even bring up but here I am, wishing for Carter money and a fifth Rum & Coke…

Stop. Overusing. Moves. Because you think. They were cool.

If I had a shot for every time a Canadian Destroyer, Superkick, Suicide Dive, Avalanche (Insert High Spot here), Dual Dropkick spots where they cancel each other out or opposing members do back to back high spots on the prone partner spot… I would not have written this article due to death… even if it was water, I would have died due to drowning. They don’t look cool anymore when everyone does it. It’s bland. When Petey Williams wrestled in his last return to Impact, the Destroyer looked very… stale. Superkicks are the new DDT apparently (another Finisher turned common everyday move) and most people that do dives mess it up in some way shape or form whether it’s their feet get caught in the ropes, they didn’t get a full launch or they overshoot it. Having your own move special to you is difficult now but different wrestlers do their own styles or the pay homage to a family member or a wrestler that they interact with or ask permission… or asked to stop.

How’d you feel if you watched WCW and WWF in 1997 and saw DDP do the Diamond Cutter and HHH did the Pedigree Pandemonium and say they do the same move? That is exactly what happened too if Dallas didn’t ask Hunter to stop using it. We might not have the RKO out of nowhere or an iconic move that seldom bigger names use today.


That’s my list. I said before if you agree with my list and if you don’t and want to throw hate my way… @PCTunney is the hate mail account so enjoy!


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Opinion

AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns

With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

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With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.

With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.

1. Johnny Gargano

Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?

WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen  the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.

2. James Storm

This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.

Watch your Money and your Alcohol.

Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”

3. Big Cass



Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.

Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.

4. Bronson Reed



The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.

Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?

5. Bray Wyatt

And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.

To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.

– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!


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