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Opinion

New Japan Cup 2019 First Round Preview & Predictions

With the winner of the New Japan Cup being awarded an IWGP Title Shot at G1 Supercard in MSG, it’s kind of a big deal. Let’s see how Jonathan sees the first round going!

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With the winner of the New Japan Cup being awarded an IWGP Title Shot at G1 Supercard in MSG, it’s kind of a big deal. Let’s see how Jonathan sees the first round going!

The New Japan Cup kicks off March 8th and is the largest in history with 32 wrestlers vying for the trophy! The winner of this year’s New Japan Cup will challenge Jay White for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event of the G1 Supercard PPV at Madison Square Garden. With seven wrestlers competing in their first ever NJ Cup and the prize being greater than ever, let’s take a look at what this stacked First Round has to offer.

 

Yuji Nagata vs Tomohiro Ishii

We’re finally being treated to Nagata vs Ishii which was originally scheduled to take place on the New Beginning USA tour. This feud has been cooking since New Year Dash and they’ve been at each other’s throats ever since. Whilst Nagata retired from G1 Climax competition two years ago, he can still go at a really high level when called upon. This could be one of the better matches of the entire First Round and looks set to be a brutally stiff contest. 

Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii

Tomoaki Honma vs Taichi

I’ve been watching Honma since his return to the ring and you can really see how badly the injury to his cervical vertebrae has impacted him. It’s quite frankly a miracle that he’s back in the ring and for that I’m grateful, however it’s quite clear to me his in-ring days are numbered. At the end of Takashi Iizuka’s retirement match, Taichi was seen picking up Iizuka’s iron fingers whilst sporting a dastardly smile. I’m fully expecting them to become a part of Taichi’s gimmick moving forward and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him pick up the win against Honma by using them. 

Prediction: Taichi

Manabu Nakanishi vs YOSHI-HASHI

Nakanishi surprised me during his recent New Japan tours by demonstrating he can still throw himself over the ropes to the outside. I pity the poor wrestlers who have had to cushion his fall though. YOSHI-HASHI is just a really odd one. Since he’s come back from his injury, it feels as though it’s more of the same. He’s sort of drifting without a purpose. The current speculation online by fans seems to be that he is the mole in CHAOS that Jay White has spoken about. There’s been no sign of this of course, but I do believe it could help freshen up his character. Who knows? That might be touched upon in this tournament, he is in Okada’s bracket after all. Anyway, based on Nakanishi’s usage in New Japan, I would assume YOSHI-HASHI is going over here. 

Prediction: Yoshi-Hashi

Juice Robinson vs Chase Owens

I think this is a deceptively tough one to call. I’ve been paying close attention to Chase Owens and he’s been picking up the pinfalls in the tag matches that he’s been involved in. That usually tells you that he’s being moved higher up the pecking order and I don’t think it is beyond the realm of possibility that he upsets Juice here and earns himself an IWGP U.S Champion Match. Despite my theory here however, I’m sticking with Juice on this one. 

Prediction: Juice Robinson 

Kazuchika Okada vs Michael Elgin

Elgin returns to New Japan for the first time since his injury that required surgery and forced him to miss Wrestle Kingdom 13. Okada/Elgin matches are always really entertaining so I’m expecting it to be one of the better matches of the First Round. Due to what Kenny Omega said in his interview with Dave Meltzer that the original plans for the MSG final were Kenny vs Okada, Okada is my pick to win the whole thing. Plans obviously do change in wrestling, but New Japan booking usually sticks to those plans, but changes the wrestlers in the positions. My guess is Jay White is in the position that Kenny was and Okada will still fulfill his original role. 

Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Mikey Nicholls vs HIKULEO

Mikey Nicholls was a surprise addition to the New Japan roster after leaving WWE to be closer to his family in Australia. According to Rocky Romero on Twitter, Mikey has joined CHAOS permanently as well. HIKULEO is also back into the fold after a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to injury. He returned during the Honor Rising tour supporting his two brothers. Due to HIKULEO’s position as a young lion (although having a bit more of a gimmick) I would say Mikey will be taking this one. 

Prediction: Mikey Nicholls

Will Ospreay vs Bad Luck Fale

This is a really tough one to call. Ospreay is no doubt receiving the biggest push of his career. After beating Ibushi at WK13, he has torn through all opposition including established heavyweights such as Davey Boy Smith Jr and Jeff Cobb. Gedo is clearly high on establishing Ospreay as a heavyweight and there’s no bigger heavyweight in New Japan than Bad Luck Fale. I’m expecting Ospreay to beat Fale, but I could just as easily see Fale winning and earning a NEVER Openweight Championship match in the future. 

Prediction: Will Ospreay

Toa Henare vs Lance Archer

An interesting match-up. Henare is usually the guy to take the fall if there isn’t a young lion in the match, but he’s been in that role now for over 12 months. I’m hopeful that this year’s New Japan Cup is where we really see him get elevated a bit. Lance Archer lost in the First Round of the New Japan Cup last year and due to his tag team partnership with Davey Boy Smith Jr, doesn’t usually get many singles opportunities. It’ll be interesting to see what the result will be with this match. I think Henare should get the win as I believe it’s time to push him further up the card, but Archer is an established heavyweight and I could see why him winning here could be on the cards.

Prediction: Lance Archer

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shota Umino

Shota Umino is currently at the top of the pecking order as far as young lions go. He recently had a very competitive match against Zack Sabre Jr during the Honor Rising tour and whilst tagging with fellow young lion Ayato Yoshida, has won matches against non-young lion New Japan talent. Tanahashi is coming off a tragic loss to Jay White, losing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but I don’t think that’ll affect the outcome of this match. I’m billing this match as ‘Ace vs Future Ace’ because I really rate Umino, I think he’s going to be a top star for New Japan. Despite that, Tanahashi is getting the win here, should be a good one though!

Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi

Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs TBD

Originally scheduled to be Tenzan vs David Finlay. My guess is Finlay will get replaced by a young lion (presumably Ayato Yoshida) and Tenzan gets the win. 

Prediction: Hiroyoshi Tenzan

Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito

The match we’re all excited to see. Ibushi or Naito could feasibly win the entire tournament, so it’s interesting to see them both facing off against each other so early. Both progressing would make sense. Ibushi has signed a multi-year exclusive contract to New Japan, something he’s never done before and has set his sights on winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and the G1. Naito has spoken about his desire to be the only person to hold both the IC and Heavyweight championships at the same time. I personally feel Ibushi winning would open more doors as it could lead to a future IWGP IC championship match, but the prospect of Naito potentially holding both belts could generate a lot of interest if he were to win the whole tournament. Tough call this one! I believe the winner of this match will be going to the final.

Prediction: Kota Ibushi

EVIL vs Zack Sabre Jr

EVIL and ZSJ had their first singles encounter last month during the New Beginning tour, which saw EVIL victorious. Considering ZSJ won the New Japan Cup last year, I see him getting the win, if nothing else but to even the score to 1-1 against EVIL. 

Prediction: Zack Sabre Jr

Togi Makabe vs Colt Cabana

Colt Cabana’s inclusion in the New Japan Cup is arguably the biggest surprise next to Mikey Nicholls. If New Japan were dipping into the ROH roster, I’m surprised they didn’t use Jeff Cobb. Regardless, Cabana is no stranger to Japan and the fan’s response to him during the Honor Rising tour was very positive. I think the quality of this match could surprise a few people as Cabana is able of working a variety of styles, he just typically leans toward the comedy routine.

Prediction: Colt Cabana

Toru Yano vs Davey Boy Smith Jr

This is a rematch from last year’s New Japan Cup where they both faced off in the First Round. Toru Yano beat Davey Boy Smith Jr via count out in embarrassing fashion. In my opinion, DBS Jr really needs the win here. If they want him to be taken seriously that is, plus he’s due the win back from last year. 

Prediction: Davey Boy Smith Jr

Satoshi Kojima vs Minoru Suzuki

Due to Kojima having not competed in the G1 Climax in 4 years, we don’t get many Satoshi Kojima singles matches, so I’m really looking forward to this one. Two veterans who I believe can still go at a really high level. Suzuki is as good as anyone in the business today as far as I’m concerned. I have Suzuki winning this one based on how both have been booked in recent years, but don’t sleep on this one. It should be a lot of fun.

Prediction: Minoru Suzuki

Hirooki Goto vs SANADA

The last match of the First Round and it should be a great one. Both wrestlers are returning to action after disappointing results. SANADA (with EVIL) recently lost the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Championships to G.O.D and Goto came up short against Jeff Cobb in his challenge for the ROH World Television Title. My gut is telling me that SANADA is winning this one as he has all the ability to be a top singles star and just needs to the right push. Perhaps now he’s free of the Tag Titles, this tournament could help him come into his own as a singles star.

Prediction: SANADA

New Japan Cup First Round Schedule

March 8th

Manabu Nakanishi vs YOSHI-HASHI

Tomoaki Honma vs Taichi

Juice Robinson vs Chase Owens

Yuji Nagata vs Tomohiro Ishii

March 9th

Mikey Nicholls vs HIKULEO

Kazuchika Okada vs Michael Elgin

Will Ospreay vs Bad Luck Fale

Toa Henare vs Lance Archer

March 10th

Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito

EVIL vs Zack Sabre Jr

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shota Umino

Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs TBD

March 11th

Toru Yano vs Davey Boy Smith Jr

Satoshi Kojima vs Minoru Suzuki

Hirooki Goto vs SANADA

Togi Makabe vs Colt Cabana

 

That’s all folks! Who do you think is going to win the New Japan Cup? Let us know in the comments section below or via our social media channels. Stay tuned for our New Japan Cup Round Two preview and predictions!


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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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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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