Preview: NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed (9/30/18)
There are a lot of moving parts in New Japan Pro Wrestling right now after the NJPWDestruction Tour in September. Tetsuya Naito defeated Minoru Suzuki, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship tournament started with KUSHIDA getting a victory over BUSHI, Kenny Omega retained the IWGP heavyweight championship against Tomohiro Ishii and Gedo turned his back on Kazuchika Okada after singing the praises of “The Rainmaker” in his corner for much of the past decade. Hiroshi Tanahashi also kept hold of the Wrestle Kingdom 13 briefcase against Kazuchika Okada at NJPW New Beginning In Kobe.
This will be NJPW’s return to the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California after an attendance of 4,372 fans for NJPW Strong Style Evolved. The NJPW events in America have already provided some classic matches during the recent North American expansion of NJPW such as The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega and KotaIbushi) vs The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega vs Tomohiro Ishii for the inaugural IWGP United States Championship.
NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed on September 30 provides many multi-man team matches but they all further consistent stories and give us a taste of matches to come. Let’s dive into the top stories going into NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed with a preview of the card. This event will not be aired live on AXIS TV but it will be on NJPW World.
Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi & ACH vs. Roppongi 3k (Rocky Romero, YOH & SHO)
“Super” ACH makes his return to NJPW after his great showing in this year’s Best Of TheSuper Juniors tournament, in what will be ACH’s first NJPW US event. The team of Ryusuke Taguchi, Jushin “Thunder” Liger and ACH are about as fun as it gets, as there is always lots of comedy and high-flying from the Taguchi Japan faction. Roppongi 3K have been going through lots of growing pains in 2018, most of which involving hostile CHAOS member “Switchblade” Jay White getting in between them.
This match will show us if SHO and YOH are still a well-oiled Junior machine or if they really want to go their separate ways in the future. Liger has the most fun in these multi-man matches and his years in the wrestling business should allow him to win the match for his team.
Prediction: Jushin “Thunder” Liger, ACH and Ryusuke Taguchi win.
SoCal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) vs. Bullet Club (Hangman Page & Chase Owens)
Christopher Daniels wrestled for NJPW over ten years ago, in 2004, and now he’s an established tag team wrestler on top of of being one of the most respected wrestlers in all of America and “Hangman” Adam Page is the perfect opponent in this tag team match. Daniels has done almost all there is to be accomplished in pro wrestling, while Page is just starting his rise to the top after pinning Minoru Suzuki in the G1 Climax 28 tournament.
Kazarian and Daniels could easily be in consideration for the NJPW World Tag League this Winter with a victory against these Golden Elite faction members, SoCal Uncensored member, Scorpio Sky, is already a trainer at the NJPW Los Angeles dojo . “The Crown Jewel” Chase Owens has the most to gain from a pinfall or submission victory as one of NJPW’s most underrated Gaijin competitors.
Prediction: Christopher Daniels and Kazarian win.
Jeff Cobb, Chris Sabin & Flip Gordon vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Trent Baretta & Chuck Taylor)
Jeff Cobb has just debuted for ROH after dismantling the Top Prospect Tournament competition, and the 2018 Pro WrestlingGuerilla (PWG) Battle Of Los Angeles winner has to have Hirooki Goto in his sights in this tag team match. Goto defeated Jeff Cobb when the NEVER Openweight Championship was on the line the last time NJPW was in America at the NJPW G1 Special In San Francisco. Chris Sabin and Flip Gordon were standouts in the Best Of The Super Juniors tournament and could build a superb tag team since Alex Shelley has retired from being Sabin’s tag team partner in The Motor City Machine Guns.
Chuck Taylor and Trent are members of CHAOS with Goto and make for a very interesting mix of slapstick Best Friends and a smash-mouth solo competitor. Jeff Cobb would be the ideal victor to put a stamp on his arrival and get him in contention for another title match.
Prediction: Jeff Cobb picks up the win for his team
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA) vs. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.)
Tetsuya Naito is always able to pin Minoru Suzuki with Destino, but it’s a different story altogether every time Naito attempts that on Suzuki-Gun member, Zack Sabre Jr. Naito has lost to Naito twice this year, both in big tournament matches, the first being the New Japan Cup by submission and the second when Naito suffered the Zack Driver. Naito has backup to battle the big and nasty Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr, because he is going to need it.
EVIL and SANADA beat Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr earlier this year for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team championships, so Killer Elite Squad will be looking for another Killer Bomb as revenge. Tetsuya Naito finally pins Zack Sabre Jr but he is attacked by Chris Jericho after calling Jericho out after the match would be the outcome almost everyone wants to see, after Naito lost the IWGP Intercontinental championship to Jericho at NJPW Dominion.
Prediction: Los Ingobernobles De Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA and EVIL) win.
Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA vs. “Switchblade” Jay White & Gedo
Hiroshi Tanahashi and KUSHIDA are a near perfect team, the respective “Ace” of the Heavyweight and Junior division. They are also not aligned with any faction except Taguchi Japan tag team matches. Tanahashi pinned his rival Okada to retain the briefcase that ensures his Wrestle Kingdom 13 main event for the IWGP heavyweight championship but the ultimate reveal was Jay White destroying both Okada and Tanahashi after the match.
Gedo assisted and threw his allegiance to “The Rainmaker” out the window forever, by calling “Switchblade” the new era. Despite facing a dream team, this is a must-win scenario for the New Zealand sensation and White must throw Tanahashi to the mat with Blade Runner once again. White wants the next shot at Tanahashi’s title shot and this is how he gets it.
Prediction: “Switchblade” Jay White and Gedo win.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship tournament: Marty Scurll vs Will Ospreay
Hiromu Takahashi was forced to vacate the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship he worked his career to earn this Summer at the previous NJPW event in America, The NJPWG1 Climax Special In San Francisco, after one of Los Ingobernobles De Japon’s most popular members suffered a broken neck from a Pheonix-Plex gone wrong from DragonLee. Incredibly, Takahashi finished that match with a broken neck but the 2018 Best OfThe Super Juniors winner was forced to vacate the title after the conclusion of the G1Climax 28 tournament, leaving the door open for this four-man tournament. KUSHIDA already defeated BUSHI, even with the fan vote majority in the favor of BUSHI winning that match.
Old rivals from the United Kingdom, Will Ospreay and Marty Scurll will undoubtedly have the best match of this event and the more time they are given the better. The last match they had at NJPW Sakura Genesis in April had the memorable Spanish Fly off the apron that caused Ospreay to crash and burn on his neck. Both are former IWGP Junior Heavyweight champions looking to have the best match and dominate the opponent in convincing fashion, it’s a recipe for magic chemistry. Ospreay has battles KUSHIDA many times in the past and “The Villain” wants to get the edge on his side in this feud once again, all signs point to a Chickenwing ending and a Scurll vs KUSHIDA final.
Prediction: Marty Scurll advances.
IWGP Tag Team Championships: The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) (c) vs The Guerillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
The war between the Bullet Club Originals and The Golden Elite rages on and the collision course looks to conclude at Wrestle Kingdom 13 on January 4. This is the very first time The Young Bucks have ever faced The Guerillas Of Destiny as Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson look to make the IWGP tag team titles their personal property much like they did with the IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team championships. It will be a test of styles, the fast pace of the champions trying to keep the match from leaning towards the power game of Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa.
There is so much in the arsenal of The Young Bucks, it’s up to the Originals to pepper in moves like the Gunstun and Guerilla Warfare to stop the high flying and Superkick Party before it even begins. The longer this title match goes, the more it favors the Challengers – Matt Jackson may have his bad back put through torture and then The Guerillas Of Destiny can just isolate one man from there. Bad Luck Fale of The Firing Squad could be the deciding factor if he is ringside or interferes, and even The Young Bucks’ friends in Kota Ibushi and Yujiro Takahashi can’t stop Fale on a rampage.
Prediction: The Guerillas Of Destiny become the new IWGP tag team champions.
IWGP United States championship: Juice Robinson (c) vs Cody Rhodes
The grandson of a plumber is a true student of the game – Cody may not have much experience in the ring with Juice Robinson, but Cody can scout the offense of the champion and turn Pulp Friction right into a Crossrhodes counter. Cody spends most of his time in Ring Of Honor Wrestling (ROH), but Cody achieved a lifelong goal at his very own show, All In, on September 1, by winning the same National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Championship that his father Dusty Rhodes held. Cody can walk away with two championships as his NWA World Championship is not on the line.
Juice Robinson can have the peace of mind of having his left hand out of a cast after the gruelling G1 Climax tournament, the pressure however will either mold Robinson into a respectable champion or a flash in the pan. If Juice can focus on what brought him to championship glory and use his fighting spirit and knockout left hand, then the IWGP United States title stays with Juice Robinson. Cody as IWGP United States Champion sounds ideal for NJPW with the more frequent NJPW events in North American, but Juice Robinson establishing a stronghold on the title for now looks more important. Cody will have his sights on this championship in the future. Win or lose, this could be the beginning of a much bigger feud down the road.
Prediction: Juice Robinson retains the IWGP United States championship.
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) vs. The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi)
NJPW has revealed a major show-stealer with this main event, pitting the top talents in CHAOS against The Golden Lovers in a first time tag team match. Omega and Ibushi defeated Will Ospreay and Tomohiro Ishii last month in one of the most exciting tag team matches all year, and expect much of the same from Fighting Spirit Unleashed. “The Stone Pitbull” Ishii and “The Best Bout Machine” Omega have faced each other in wars the past couple months with both picking up wins, only Omega remained the IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
The reality in this main event is if Okada or Ishii pins Omega, they have a big chance of getting a future title shot against Omega. The live audience in California will be on fire and on their feet when Omega and Okada lock horns after the classics in the past that lasted for an hour. The Golden Lovers hit the V-Trigger on Ishii looks like the ending, although the four men in this match will ensure we don’t forget this match any time soon no matter what the ending is.
Prediction: The Golden Lovers win.