New Japan Pro Wrestling has returned, folks ! At Dominion in Osaka-Jo Hall, the 2020 New Japan Cup Winner, and newest Bullet Club member EVIL faced Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental championships. After betraying the man who welcomed him as Los Ingobernables de Japon’s first Pareja following his tournament win, EVIL went further and became the second double IWGP champion, dethroning Naito.
With that said, let’s cut straight to the chase and discuss what just happened. There is a lot to dive into.
So…we have a new IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental champion. Also, Dick Togo is now in New Japan, but right now we won’t be focusing on that. EVIL defeated Tetsuya Naito, not in the cleanest fashion ever as you would expect from the man who had this mean streak throughout the New Japan Cup, and who is now part of Bullet Club.
Speaking of the faction EVIL joined; let’s start the conversation there.
As most of you realized by now, Bullet Club had none of their potential top Heavyweights available for the tournament. Jay White, KENTA, even the G.O.D brothers weren’t in Japan and therefore couldn’t compete. The solution our favourite short-sized bearded booker found was to take the most heelish member of L.I.J and put him in Bullet Club instead, in order to keep some kind of strong BC presence while the actual top guys in that group aren’t there. That part makes some sense, in more ways than just that, actually. A full-fledged heel EVIL, who overcame Okada and won his first singles tournament absolutely set him up as a relatively credible threat to his former leader and comrade.
Now, as you may have guessed, where it all becomes weird is once you take that same EVIL who, remember, has not been a prominent figure within the Heavyweight division until the last few days, and have him beat Naito. After only being used as an opponent to vanquish for champions and G1 briefcase holders alike before heading to the Tokyo Dome (Okada, Jericho, Ibushi). His only singles championship win happened in November 2016, where he defeated Katsuyori Shibata to win the NEVER Openweight title, which he only held for 10 days before that same Shibata won the belt back. Facing, and sometimes beating top names helps elevate the wrestler facing these top names, but you have to give something tangible to this wrestler, in order for him, in the long run, to be credible once the big win happens.
Therefore, I have one question to ask : Even after winning the New Japan Cup, is this same wrestler truly feeling like someone who should be holding the main two titles in the promotion ?
Ask yourself that question. EVIL isn’t a bad wrestler by any means, the point is that in terms of build, and not just his own, this decision does not make sense. I just gave you a quick resume of EVIL’s singles career in New Japan, but then, think about the double champion concept, think about Naito.
The double champion concept was meant to be historical, it was meant to elevate Tetsuya Naito to a sphere of his own, which only the best of the best within New Japan could have hoped to reach as well, in a similar fashion to how the Heavyweight title itself is so hard to reach. The likes of Okada, Ibushi, White, who all took part in January’s Double Gold Dash. The point here is, this was and technically still is a very big deal for anyone to accomplish add his name to the list of double IWGP champions.
EVIL is nowhere near the three guys’ level I mentioned, even though he does have one G1 Climax win over all of them, and a NJC win over Okada. He doesn’t come close in terms of status within the company. Yet, he is the one getting the huge rub of ending Naito’s historical reign. We all know pretty well than winning the top titles in any company is supposed to elevate the wrestler who does it. The thing is, how much will this elevate EVIL, given his poor performances against the two January 5th main eventers ?
Speaking of Wrestle Kingdom main eventers, let’s look at Naito himself, the now former champion. Do I have to remind you the whole story here ? As satisfying as his win at the Dome was, this and the following title defence against KENTA were not the end of the road.
The idea that your most popular wrestler, in what possibly was his last chance at getting the title run to solidify his status once and for all as the current top guy, isn’t getting that run is… Weird, to say the least. Truly unexplainable. Now, thankfully, there still is a possibility to give Naito the Heavyweight title back between now and January, which in reality, is the only title he really needs. His run as double champion wasn’t meant to last, but don’t think his run as Heavyweight champion also was. At the very least, it shouldn’t have been, but it’s close to impossible to guess any of the upcoming plans now. Also, leaving EVIL as the Intercontinental champion sounds like a rather good compromise. EVIL gets to have a run with a highly valued championship, without receiving the same exact kind of exposition and need to perform as the Heavyweight champion does.
One last thing. You could even push the idea that Naito should have been the only New Japan wrestler to add the double IWGP champion accomplishment to his resume, in order to make him stand out once we look at New Japan’s history books in 20 years, with or without a good title run at the end of the day.
Now, before ending this piece, let me say that, of course, until this story featuring EVIL unfolds, nobody is in a good spot to say it was a bad decision just yet. Keep in mind though, that me saying such thing is in regard to the geist of the story : EVIL leaving L.I.J for Bullet Club after winning the New Japan Cup, and thus being elevated as a credible threat to Naito.
As this article shows, what followed is something different, and while we also need to see what comes out of this EVIL title run, this does not look like a good decision, as interesting and intriguing as the story is.
At the end of the day, this story with EVIL has been captivating the New Japan audience. At this instant, everything works, everyone is intrigued and has various levels of curiosity regarding what will come up next.
Now, what do you think of all of this ? Do you think EVIL being a double champion is something good ?
Mitchell’s Wednesday Night War Review! The End!
The Wednesday Night War… is DONE!
Thank you, Wednesday Night War! It was fun while it lasted!
With NXT moving to Tuesdays, the wrestling war on Wednesday nights is no more! But let’s see where both sides stand now that the dust settles!
Let’s recap Year Two’s first phase.
Year Two, Phase One Final Scores: NXT – 9.13; AEW – 9.16
The margin was close as ever, but AEW inched out the win to continue their dominance from Year One! Don’t worry, NXT went past 12/9/20, it’s just that they and AEW tied those last three weeks. And you’ll notice that I left 12/30/20, the last Wednesday of the year, off because of the circumstances. Jon Huber, aka Brodie Lee aka Luke Harper, past away just days before that night, and AEW changed their plans to give us a “Celebration of Life” tribute episode. It did not feel right trying to give that show a score, because it wasn’t supposed to be about AEW but about Jon Huber. And to be fair to AEW’s score, I left off NXT’s episode for that night, even though NXT did have great action on their Year-End Award episode.
Now, for Year Two’s Phase Two, the WNW FINALE!
Year Two, Phase Two Final Scores: NXT – 9.44; AEW – 9.50
Year Two, Overall: NXT – 9.31; AEW – 9.36
Much stronger numbers from both sides this time, but these two companies started hard and kept going hard from New Year’s Evil VS New Year’s Smash all the way to TakeOver: Stand & Deliver and… Well, the AEW Dynamite put up against it. Just looking at it, that string in February for AEW made all the difference. They were just on fire right there, building towards AEW Revolution 2021, which itself was an awesome PPV (even with the pyro mishap at the end).
The margins were still close, but bigger than last phase’s, and even with TakeOver: Stand & Deliver Night One bringing NXT up to a high level, it was not enough! AEW wins again! They win two phases to zero, and are therefore the overall winner of the Wednesday Night War!
The Wednesday Night War may not have been as epic as the Monday Night War, or as long, but it was a lot of fun. NXT and AEW were giving us great wrestling every week, not just in-ring action but the promos and segments. The wrestlers on these shows are now stars because they got to be on cable network television, and literally kept me up late at night because I could not let either show wait until Thursday morning. But now, #NXTuesday is going to be how it is going forward, and we can all argue one way or another why the move happened but it doesn’t really matter, I’m still going to be watching both anyway.
Cook’s WrestleMania 37 Night One Gambling Picks
Who’s trying make money on guessing the predetermined scripts? If that’s you, Cook gots all the lines you need. This isn’t Breaking Bad; we only do betting lines!
This is one of those columns that needs no real intro or explanation. Its WrestleMania! What else do you need me to tell you? Today we’re talking Night One, tomorrow it’ll be Night Two. Easy peezy lemon breezy.
I know that some of you prefer a 12 hour WrestleMania event, but to me, two nights is definitely the way to go. Think of it this way: instead of one night to watch the biggest show of the year, you get two. What’s the downside?
Also, you can get two days to make money, if you’re into the kind of thing we’re talking about here. Though, I am contractually obligated to mention that my look at these matchups, with odds provided by BetOnline, is for entertainment purposes only.
Tag Team Turmoil
Lana & Naomi vs. Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose vs. The Riott Squad vs. Natalya & Tamina
— Nattie (@NatbyNature) April 7, 2021
We’ve got a match setting up a Night 2 match here, as Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler will face the winners for the Women’s Tag Team Championship. They’ve had some amount of issues with each team, so we can’t really use that as an indicator of who will win. We also can’t base it off of who will have the best match with Nia & Shayna, as that seems like a push.
We also don’t have odds on this match as I write this. If some do get posted, my guess would be that Natalya & Tamina will have long odds and could be a good pick as a team WWE might want to give a little reward for their service over the years.
Bad Bunny & Damian Priest (-950) vs. The Miz & John Morrison (+500)
— WWE (@WWE) April 6, 2021
We all know how this one is going, right? Bunny & Priest are the easiest pick on this two day extravaganza. I’m sure an outside celebrity lost a WrestleMania match at some point, but one isn’t immediately coming to mind. I assume some are still complaining about Bad Bunny getting a WM match, I choose to be good with it since it gets Damian Priest a match too. Hopefully this all works out well for him.
Braun Strowman (-500) vs. Shane McMahon (+300)
— Braun Strowman (@BraunStrowman) April 6, 2021
Braun is the natural pick here for obvious reasons (he’s actually a wrestler), but one can easily make an argument for Shane. The usage of a steel cage rarely keeps interested outside parties out of a match, and surely Shane will have a few allies looking to make an impact on WrestleMania. We’ll see Elias & Jaxson Ryker, and we’ll likely see somebody else. Any big stiffs in the Performance Center not otherwise occupied could be an option for Shane here.
The thing about gambling picks: we’re not always going to pick what we think will happen. I think Braun will destroy whoever gets put in his path here. But the object of this game is to make some money, and I think Shane McMahon at +300 is a good bet. Especially since I don’t think this feud will be ending at WrestleMania. Still some more heat to get on this issue.
Cesaro (-300) vs. Seth Rollins (+200)
— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) April 7, 2021
Speaking of feuds that I think will extend beyond WrestleMania and will likely have the evildoer squeaking out a victory by nefarious means. I can easily talk myself into Cesaro getting a big win here, one which will lead to declarations that he’s a made man and finally on the level he deserves to be at. I certainly wouldn’t have a problem with that.
I think it’s far more likely that Seth Rollins gets the win, and the issue between these two continues. Cesaro’s big win is coming, but not at WrestleMania.
Raw Tag Team Championship Match
The New Day (+250) vs. AJ Styles & Omos (-400)
AJ Styles vs. Xavier Woods – straight out of 2008 TNA. A reminder WWE is a TNA nostalgia company. pic.twitter.com/VNU9VULZ7N
— Garrett Kidney (@garrettkidney) April 6, 2021
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been burnt by picking against Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston. They have a knack for overcoming all obstacles at these major events and coming out on top. Its a good idea to keep these men featured on television, as they’re positive role models for the community and I can only think of one time that one of them did something a bit embarrassing for the company.
I mean….that Jamaican accent. What were they thinking? Never mind, we got more accent stuff to talk about for Night 2, let’s move on.
It is tempting to pick AJ & Omos, as there’s an obvious story there hopefully leading to Omos’ breakout as a singles star. That can easily be drug out though, and we don’t pick against The New Day here. Their victory will be a good way to pop the crowd early in the evening.
SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Sasha Banks (+250) vs. Bianca Belair (-400)
IMPOSSIBLE, THINGS ARE HAPPENING EVERY DAY. pic.twitter.com/7iXlEA4gAe
— Mercedes Varnado (@SashaBanksWWE) April 8, 2021
This is a huge moment for Bianca, and for the Women’s division in general, as the significance of two women of color fighting for a championship on the biggest show of the wrestling year can’t be overlooked. Its a big f’n deal, as politicians would say.
A win here would put Bianca Belair over the top as a star in this company, and I think that’s what happens here. Sasha doesn’t need the championship to retain her relevancy, and it’s not like any losses have hurt her standing with the people yet. She’ll do whatever she can on this evening to make Bianca a star.
WWE Championship Match
Bobby Lashley (+150) vs. Drew McIntyre (-200)
— WWE (@WWE) April 7, 2021
People seemed legit shook when it was mentioned on Raw that this would be the main event of Night 1. Like…that wasn’t obvious? As much as I like Sasha & Bianca & think they will have a fantastic match, the build of their match hasn’t exactly gotten me any more excited than I was the moment after the women’s Royal Rumble Match ended. Maybe y’all are more into TAG TEAM PARTNERS THAT SECRETLY HATE EACH OTHER than I am, but zero part of that whole thing seemed inspired to me. To be fair, it seemed even less inspired when Asuka & Rhea Ripley did it.
Meanwhile, this is the WWE Championship, dating back to the days of Bruno Sammartino & Buddy Rogers. Drew & Bobby’s issue has been building since the Royal Rumble, and now is the time for Drew McIntyre to get the WrestleMania coronation they wanted to give him last year. Will it work?
Well, the mystery is one of the reasons we’ll be paying attention.
Thanks for reading! Join me next time for Night Two!
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The Wednesday Night War... is DONE!
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