With a newly signed NJPW contract in his pocket, New Japan may trust him more. What does the future hold for Kota Ibushi?
Kota Ibushi, New Japan’s Golden Star, made his return in Osaka last February after having to take some time off following Wrestle Kingdom. Ibushi announced he would now be a New Japan performer full time, and he threw himself in the field of the New Japan Cup. With the first round of the tournament now being done with and with Ibushi advancing, let’s look at what might be in store for him from now on.
Since returning in New Japan for the G1 Climax 27 in what will be two years ago this summer, Kota Ibushi, while being as good and popular as ever, has known quite the rocky road so far. From losing the championship matches he was involved in until last December, to being forced into the storm that was the Bullet Club’s civil war, Ibushi has had a hard time shining in New Japan’s landscape. It wasn’t helping that in that same time period, both Tetsuya Naito and Kenny Omega were rising as both tried to dethrone Kazuchika Okada during his tremendous IWGP Heavyweight championship reign. However, defeating Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight championship during the World Tag League finals may have been what Ibushi was looking for.
While he lost the championship to Will Ospreay at Wrestle Kingdom 13 a month later, this win against Goto represents the first heavyweight championship Ibushi won in New Japan, his biggest accomplishment since winning the New Japan Cup in 2015. Therefore, this is only a starting point for the Golden Star.
Then, with the announcement of the New Japan Cup bracket, the road for Kota Ibushi was clearly shown to be a very, very hard one. Not only Ibushi had to face Tetsuya Naito in the first round and defeated him, which I will come back to later, but the rest of his side of the bracket isn’t easy either. Who is Ibushi’s second round opponent ? Oh, just the defending New Japan Cup winner, Zack Sabre Jr. Not to mention that, if Ibushi manages to defeat ZSJ, another face-off with Tanahashi may await him, in another very storied match. You can’t forget about both Minoru Suzuki and SANADA, who will be facing off in the second round. The winner of this match will also be a potential tough match-up for Ibushi.
This heavily competitive bracket where Ibushi is in, is no coincidence. Going back to him having quite the hard time since returning in new Japan, Ibushi is someone who still needs a strong build-up to be contending for the top titles in the company. If Ibushi can go to the New Japan Cup finals, which means he would have defeated several top New Japan talents in a row, making him a credible threat for any champion he may have crossed path with.
Speaking of, let’s bring up Ibushi’s first round opponent, the IWGP Intercontinental champion, Tetsuya Naito. Since Ibushi has eliminated him, it is fair to expect that the current champion will defend the IC title against Ibushi in the near future. Will it be in Madison Square Garden ? That now depends on Ibushi himself, but let’s focus back to the two individuals, as well as the title Naito holds. The first thing you need to know is that Ibushi and Naito have had an evolving relationship throughout the years, from being quite friendly in their younger days to now considering each other as a foe, since Naito returned from Mexico in 2015.
The other big subject surrounding these two men is the Intercontinental championship, of course. We already know all of the history Naito has with the belt, but what about Ibushi ? Well, there is some symbolic with him going after that championship. Back in 2015, Ibushi challenged then IC champion Shinsuke Nakamura for the belt at Wrestle Kingdom 9, in what was Ibushi’s first high profile championship match as a heavyweight in New Japan. While he lost, this match confirmed Ibushi’s transition, as well as this was setting new goals for him. In that regard, fighting for and claiming the IC title is, in a way, the test Ibushi needs to pass. He needs to win this title, as it represents his first big goal as a heavyweight. It would definitely push Ibushi as the star New Japan always wanted him to be, so, do not be surprised if Kota Ibushi is your next IWGP Intercontinental champion, and don’t be surprised if he holds it for a good while, too.
The last thing I wanted to cover is pretty symbolic as well, as it also relies on Ibushi having the chance to become one of New Japan’s top stars. Ibushi has a very special relationship with Hiroshi Tanahashi, as they have fought several times in the past, as Ibushi was trying to reach to “God”, in Tanahashi. The Ace has always seen Ibushi as the future, and now more than ever seems to be on Ibushi’s side, as noth more than hinted at a pairing or alliance after the Anniversary show.
What does this mean for Ibushi ? Ultimately, no one can say with certainty, but I’d bet on some kind of torch passing between the Ace and the Golden Star, as it would be the current theme in New Japan, which new faces coming in and putting themselves at the top of the promotion.
You can already bet Ibushi will be a major part of this process.
Elisa: Women Are Headlining WWE WrestleMania, And Will Deliver
The women are headlining, will they deliver?
Elisa Maria shares in the joy that women are headlining WrestleMania, and why the women will deliver.
Even though wrestling fans kind of heard the rumors a few months ago, it became reality today when WWE announced that the main event of WrestleMania will be the triple threat match between Charlotte Flair, Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch. For me as a fan growing up, I would have never thought this would be even remotely possible. It was a long time coming but this women’s evolution, these group of women deserve it. They fought and proved that women can wrestle with the men, put on a show just like the men but have been doing it better than all the main roster combined. On a personal note, I am even more excited that I will be there to witness this spectacle. It’s exciting!
There have been many things that have influenced me to open up my blog, but I must say a good chunk of it has been watching the whole women’s revolution develop and flourish to become such a necessity that even ratings depend on it. If we were to look at this from the outside, WWE has survived the past year due to what the women on the roster has brought to the table not necessary the men. The chances and risks that these women have taken, it is unbelievable. They are taking chair shots, kendo stick shots, elimination chambers, and iron man matches, I mean – what haven’t they done? Even their promos are way more interesting than what they men have put out there in recent months. One name to prove this is – Becky Lynch. She is just constantly dominating the promo and “talking shit” game that it reminds me of legends such as the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin during the attitude era, where “talking shit” was at it’s finest. In the past, where it was damn near impossible to believe that a woman in wrestling can take the same force of a chair shot straight to her back like a male wrestler can – these group of women are doing it like nothing and I am proud.
Can these three extremely talented and gifted women put on a show worthy of a main event to close out this year’s WrestleMania in the biggest city of them all, New York? Hell yeah they can! Let me explain why…
Let’s get the stats going shall we. Ronda Rousey, the current WWE Raw women’s champion, joined WWE in January 2018 after a groundbreaking career in the UFC, where she was the first UFC women’s bantamweight champion. Not only was Rousey the first women’s champion in UFC history, she also main-evented two of the top 10 UFC pay-per-view events (by buy rate) in that company’s history. Next, Charlotte Flair, a seven-time WWE women’s champion, and Lynch, a two-time SmackDown women’s champion, helped foster dramatic changes in the WWE’s women’s division over the past six years. As part of a group that called itself the “Four Horsewomen” — a callback to Flair’s father, Ric Flair, and his rotating quartet of industry-defining compatriots in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s -Charlotte Flair and Lynch, along with Bayley and Sasha Banks, promoted a more physical style of performance.
The Four Horsewomen reshaped and built up NXT, WWE’s training ground for upcoming superstars that has become a global brand of its own, through a series of “TakeOver” specials that redefined the style of women’s wrestling on display in WWE. At WrestleMania 32, the women’s championship belt was created to replace the existing Divas championship belt that was a huge symbolism for the direction of women’s wrestling in the company.
If that is not proof enough that these women can outright perform, then re-watch last year’s first women’s pay per view Evolution and Survivor Series. For the Evolution pay per view, Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair, considered as a brutal, violent and nearly perfect match performance. It was a memorable feud between two of WWE’s most important members of its current “women’s revolution,” former best friends Lynch and Flair took things to an entirely new level. The duo set new standards in terms of high spots, physicality and outright carnage for a main roster women’s match in what is undoubtedly in the conversation for best WWE match of 2018, regardless of gender.
Survivor Series saw Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair in another grade A+ match that had a great heel turn and one of the most brutal post-match beat downs I have ever seen. Flair looked like a woman possessed as she unleashed on Rousey, pummeling her with weapons and assaulting her on a level unlike anything she has ever experienced before. In the process, she set in motion the storyline in which Rousey, Flair and Lynch would clash in the biggest show in wrestling’s history.
What Can We Expect During The Main Event At WrestleMania in MetLife Stadium?
I’ll tell you what I expect: I expect that these three amazing women will go all out to not only entertain the fans but to show that women’s wrestling is the REAL DEAL on the same stage and in the same building last occupied by The Rock and John Cena–think about that! This match will be a match to remember and probably in contention to be the match of the year for 2019. Whether you’re a wrestling fan or not, you have to admit this is intriguing and exciting. Non- wrestling fans will probably tune into WrestleMania just to view this match and I would not blame them. I personally am appreciative of what all women in the WWE roster has brought to the table and for all women of sports. This could be the main event to rival all main events. In short, I am proud to be a woman, in a generation where we have Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair.
Until then Fans, farewell.
Follow Elisa Maria:
Chairshot Classics: The Streak Part 13 – Riding Into The Sunset (2017-2018)
The end of The Deadman’s run at WrestleMania…?
Tiffany takes a look back at The Undertaker competing at the last two WrestleMania events, against Roman Reigns and John Cena.
As 2017 dawned, it became clear to many WWE fans that the Undertaker’s 30 year ride in the WWE seemed to be coming to a close. The Deadman was visibly slowing down, but his drive to remain the Big Dog in the Yard was as strong as ever. However, there were new and older dogs in the Deadman’s yard now and they each wanted to stake their own claims on the Yard…and the WrestleMania Streak.
Roman Reigns, the controversial Guy of WWE, staked his claim when he eliminated the Undertaker at the 2017 Royal Rumble and refused to back down, even spearing the dreaded Deadman, vowing to be only the second man in history to beat the Undertaker at WrestleMania.
In 2018, John Cena, the long-time face of WWE, found himself on the Road to WrestleMania without an opponent after failing to capture the WWE Championship from AJ Styles. Determined to NOT miss the Show of Shows, he set his sights on getting the match that had always eluded him: The Streak.
WrestleMania 33 – Battle of the Big Dogs
The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns
This battle for the yard started at the 2017 Royal Rumble. Taker and Reigns were entered when Reigns eliminated the Deadman, mouthing to the stunned Phenom that ‘It’s my yard now’. That seemed to be the end of until Taker attacked Roman a month later. The stage was set for a National Geographic level fight to see who would run the yard, Undertaker or Roman Reigns.
As a special surprise, this match was called by Good Ol’ JR! Jim Ross hadn’t been part of WrestleMania for a few years and it’s great to see him back, especially since he’d just lost his beloved wife, Jan, a few weeks before. Ross got such a huge pop, you almost couldn’t hear Jojo’s announcing. JR was greeted by Cole and JBL with hugs and a good wishes from the the crowd.
Reigns came out to a LOUD chorus of boos, but didn’t seem that concerned about it. He punched the ground and flames shot down the ramp and ignited the fireworks set up for him. It was announced that the match would be No Holds Barred. Reigns was the picture of cool confidence, seemingly unaffected by the huge match or the reaction of the crowd. However, as his music ends and we wait, the nerves began to set in.
The Deadman Cometh. There’s been a little dispute about where Taker appeared from in his entrance, but it LOOKED to me like he rose from about halfway down the ramp, but didn’t really matter, the entrance was still all the Undertaker in his creepy glory. Reigns had his ‘Oh shit, here he comes moment’ but was still stoic in the ring. It was time to decide who really owns this yard.
I’m going to be honest, this was the hardest match of the Streak for me, as a life-long Taker fan, to watch. WWE had been able to really disguise how limited Taker was becoming in the last couple of WrestleMania matches, especially the one with Shane, but there was no hiding it in this match. Taker could barely move, none of his signature moves, outside of a few moves were in this match. This was a fight, pure and simple. It was a fight straight out of a National Geographic documentary about lions fighting for dominance.
Roman Reigns took a LOT of heat from smarks about his performance, but watching it back after two years’ time, it’s clear that Roman was doing everything he possibly could to hide Taker’s limited ability, but there’s only so much you can do with a 52 year old man who needs a hip replacement.
Roman really got into this match after he speared Taker through the Spanish announce table. After Taker sat up, Reigns got MAD and just beat the shit out of Taker. Taker would turn it around with a Last Ride, but Reigns kicked out.
One of the things the smarks most complained about was a botched spot where Reigns tried to Tombstone the Undertaker, the ultimate act of disrespect that has been performed by almost every major rival of Taker’s since Kane in 1998. However, watching that spot back a few times, I think I’ve figured out what went wrong: Reigns was exhausted and had taken quite a beating from Taker and couldn’t quite get a grip on Taker and Taker couldn’t help him as much as he normally would have.
Towards the end, Reigns begged Taker to stay down, but the old lion refused, forcing Reigns to beat Taker into submission with a steel chair and countless Superman Punches before finishing the match with a spear and becoming only the second man in WWE history to defeat the Undertaker at WrestleMania.
Roman Reigns vacated the ring, and the significance of what had just happened began to hit the audience. Undertaker was seemingly done. It took several minutes, but Taker got to his feet and put on his coat and hat, then slowly took them off, folding his coat and leaving it in the middle of the ring, along with his iconic hat and his gloves. The crowd chanted ‘Thank you, Taker’ as the Deadman made what seemed to be his final walk away from a WWE ring, pausing to kiss his wife, Michelle McCool, and taking one last look at the crowd that he’d entertained for nearly thirty years before disappearing in a wave of smoke.
Rating: 8/10 This match wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but it told a great story.
Hightlight: Taker sitting up. Reigns begging Taker to stay down. Taker’s final farewell.
WrestleMania 34 – Be Careful What You Wish For
The Undertaker vs. John Cena
As the Road to WrestleMania 34 got underway, John Cena, the once untouchable face of WWE found himself sitting on the sidelines after failing to capture the WWE title from rival AJ Styles. Determined to not miss WrestleMania, Cena set his eyes on the one WrestleMania opponent that had always eluded him: The Undertaker. When Taker seemed deaf to Cena’s pleading, the leader of Cenation resorted to taunting Taker like a petulant child who wasn’t getting his way.
Finally frustrated that he didn’t seem to be getting his way, Cena ‘bought’ a ticket to WrestleMania and sat in the audience, oohing and awing over the superstars of WWE pulling out all the stops. As Charlotte vs Asuka was finishing, one of the WWE refs approached and told Cena something and Cena went into the back. Mr. Cena was about to learn why it is always wise to be careful what you wish for, especially when dealing with the Undertaker.
Cena comes back to the ring later in the show, and unlike most people in the Streak, Cena seemed extremely excited by the prospect of facing the Undertaker. Then another ref comes and says something like Taker’s NOT there or he changed his mind. Poor Cena is dejected, but the crowd isn’t giving up. As Cena leaves, the lights go out.
The Deadman Cometh. Wait, that’s Elias. The crowd is FURIOUS over the trick, but Elias doesn’t care, claiming that he’s better than the person everyone wanted to see. The crowd gets even angrier and I can’t repeats some of what they seemed to be saying. Enraged, Cena leaves while Elias mocks him in song. Finally sick of this, Cena beat Elias like he owed him money. Kudos to the kid smack talking Elias.
The crowd won’t give up, even when Cena’s music hits again. Frustrated, Cena prepares to take his leave, but then…the music stops and it takes Cena a moment to realize it and now…
The Deadman FINALLY Cometh. A spotlight hits the ring, revealing the folded hat and coat Taker left in the ring the year before and lightning strikes and the items are gone. It finally, FINALLY hits Cena just what he’s getting himself into and it’s too late to change his mind.
Out of the gates of Hell comes the Undertaker. Back to the arena where the Streak ended four years before. Cena’s ‘Oh Shit!’ hits and it is time.
For all the anticipation, the years of waiting, and having to sit through Elias, this match was kind of an ‘eh’. It was the shortest match of the Streak and I can’t say it was a shining moment for either man. To give Cena his due, he sold the return of Undertaker like he should have. He LEGIT looked scared out of his wits to FINALLY be getting this match.
As if to exorcise the previous loss in New Orleans, and pay Cena back for his remarks, Taker dominated the match from the start. Taker did hit most of the greatest hits of his arsenal, almost like he’d never had a bad hip, including Old School. Still, this wasn’t a great match by any stretch of the imagination, sadly. Though Cena tripping and falling when Taker sat up was hilarious. One tombstone later, and it was over. The dream match finally happened, but it could’ve been so much more.
Rating: 6/10 This match could’ve been so much more if it had happened a few years earlier, but it was an okay match for what it was.
Highlight: Elias getting cussed out by the crowd. Taker’s entrance. Cena falling on his ass when Taker sat up.
Post-Script: As of 10pm, March 25, 2019, while I’m writing this final part to the Streak rewatch, Undertaker has not been scheduled for a match of any kind at WrestleMania. As of now, the match against Cena was the final match of the Streak and the Deadman walked off with his head held high. Thanks for the memories, Taker.
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