New Japan celebrated its fifty-first anniversary at Ota Ward Gymnasium with 2,020 fans in attendance. As always, English commentary was led by Kevin Kelly (play-by-play) with Chris Charlton (color commentary). With the opening of the New Japan Cup in Korakuen Hall yesterday, the annual tournament to determine the Man of Spring was off to a curiously interesting start. Multiple wrestlers were absent from Fantastica Mania or busy around the world with other commitments.
For those newer to curious about NJPW, personally, I find the New Japan Cup season a bit easier to familiarize yourself with the company than the larger tournaments like Best of Super Juniors (BOSJ; usually in the spring) or the G1 CLIMAX (usually late summer/early autumn). The previous series, New Beginning, is like the annual fresh chapter, but it is also tying up some of the loose ends left over from the company’s biggest show of the year: Wrestle Kingdom.
If you want a window to climb through, now is the time. Don’t be like me and try to get started during the G1 later in the year, as you’ll be joining up just after the halfway point (which is usually Dominion in Osaka). With the G1, the final sprint toward the end of the year and securing berths at Wrestle Kingdom usually begins. If last year’s late autumn/early winter season repeats itself, World Tag League and Super Junior Tag League could also run concurrently once more, making everything even more hectic.
NEW JAPAN CUPdate (3/5) Korakuen Hall
- NJC23 Round One: Tetsuya Naito defeated El Phantasmo (17:32) – with Polvo de Estrella/Pin. He will face Chase Owens on 3/11.
- NJC23 Round One: SANADA defeated Taichi (24:27) – with a new Mysterious Finisher/Pin. He will face KENTA on 3/11.
- Tag Match: TMDK vs. BC NJC Preview – Worth a Watch
- 6-Man Tag Match: Hontai/Chaos vs. United Empire NJC Preview – Worth a Watch
- 6-Man Tag Match: STRONG STYLE vs. HOT NJC Preview – Worth a Watch
- 6-Man Tag Match: LIJ vs. United Empire NJC Preview – Worth a Watch
- Special Super Junior. Tag Match: IWGP Jr. HW Preview – Recommended
- NJC23 Round One: Roughneck vs. Tokyo Pimp – Recommended
- NJC23 Round One: The Rebel vs. The Stone Pitbull – Highly Recommended
- IWGP Tag Team Championship: Chaos within CHAOS?! – Highly Recommended
In addition to being streamed free on NJPW World, the first two matches were also made available live on YouTube.
Tag Match (1/20): Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & KENTA) defeated Kosei Fujita & Zack Sabre, Jr. (9:20) – via submission with GAME OVER
Much like the G1, the New Japan cup brings the big personalities out and between the shenanigans of ELP and KENTA and the bottomless well of glib that is ZSJ, I was wondering how they were going to spice up the opening of the Anniversary show. This was a great preview match to show on the free stream because it doubles as a teaser for shows later in the series as both KENTA and Zack have byes in the first round. ELP’s tournament was brief, but he also wrestled against Tetsuya Naito, so it’s not all bad. It was another hard class in Saberism for Fujita as he had to tangle with both ELP and KENTA, but I did like how Zack gave him tips on dressing up ELP with a cravat and (straight)jacket. Manner does maketh man.
After his thunderous Go 2 Sleep on Fred Rosser at Battle in the Valley, the new STRONG Openweight Champion opted for an eye-for-an-eye approach, but submitted Fujita with GAME OVER. This match was a great appetizer for those wishing to sample the New Japan Cup.
- KENTA will meet SANADA in the NJC23 in Aichi (3/11) after having a bye in the first round.
- Zack Sabre, Jr. also has a first-round bye. He will meet the Winner of Umino/Y. Takahashi, which will be determined later on the show. Their NJC23 match will be in Okayama (3/15).
- With his loss to Tetsuya Naito, El Phantasmo’s NJC23 is over. There is no shortage of tag matches for the next few weeks. Who knows? Maybe he’ll join Kevin on commentary while Chris is holding down the homestead in Tokyo.
- Kosei Fujita will continue under the TMDK learning tree with ZSJ. I am hoping that he will also get a proper excursion with TMDK either in the States at the LA Dojo, down in Australia/New Zealand, or over in the UK in the future.
6-Man Tag Match (1/20): United Empire (Will Ospreay, Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) defeated Satoshi Kojima, Toru Yano & Tama Tonga (8:31) – Fletcher pinned Kojima after Corealis
In previous years, the NJC tended to be very Bullet Club-heavy. This year, the United Empire has six of the twenty-four entries, claiming a quarter of all the potential berths, and at least one participant in three of the four branches in the entire bracket. It makes a very difficult case for just about anyone who isn’t in the UE to make it to the finals. Another great multi-man match that not only previews future tournament matches but also helps newer fans familiarize themselves with other members of the roster. I feel like the United Empire and Aussie Open’s most recent visits to AEW may be bringing more international eyes to NJPW. Glad Bread Club is back in full force. Nothing too fancy in this match, but I am curious to see how things will play out for the UE, should Mark Davis beat Yano once more. How will loyalty to the interests of UE factor in should he find himself across the ring from Will Ospreay.
Davis has past wins over Yano, but he had better watch out for the Master Thief’s magic… it’s usually innumerably strong during tournament seasons.
- Mark Davis and Toru Yano in the first round of NJC23 in Fukushima (3/8). The winner will face Will Ospreay in the second round of the NJC23 in Ehime (3/13). Ospreay has a first-round bye this year.
- Kyle Fletcher meets YOSHI-HASHI in the first round of NJC23 in Yamanashi (3/10).
- Tama Tonga has a first-round bye. He will meet the winner of Takagi/Henare in the second round of the NJC23 in Shiga (3/12).
- Satoshi Kojima finally returns to NJPW after nearly a year in Pro-Wrestling NOAH. He headed over starting in June last year at CyberFight Festival 2022 and won the GHC Championship as well as the GHC Tag Team Championships with Takashi Sugiura.
6-Man Tag Match (1/20): STRONG STYLE (Ren Narita, El Desperado & Minoru Suzuki) defeated House of Torture (EVIL, SHO & Dick Togo) (8:00) – Desperado pinned Togo after Pinche Loco
With Yujiro having his first-round match against Shota Umino later in the show, Dick Togo took his spot. While STRONG STYLE finally relieved House of Torture of the NEVER 6-Man Championships, they haven’t managed to escape HoT’s Gravitational Pull just yet. This match was entirely centered around Narita and EVIL who will have their first-round Cup match on Wednesday in Fukushima. House of Torture did what it did best which was avoiding wrestling as much as possible. It seems instead of ring announcer, Makoto Abe, bearing the brunt of EVIL’s railing bump, in honor of 51 years of NJPW, it seems Bushiroad Owner, Takaaki Kidani took him instead. Happy Anniversary Show, Y’all!
Suzuki, Desperado, SHO, and Togo are there to help simultaneously simplify and complicate the situation between them. Desperado pinned Togo, but the match didn’t end there. STRONG STYLE celebrated briefly in the ring with their NEVER 6-Man Championships. However, EVIL took umbrage with Narita hoisting his old championship over him. So, he stalked Narita with a chair, hit a home run, and put his food on Ren’s neck. As he walked away, Narita went after him only to see Minoru Suzuki retrain him! Never thought I’d see Suzuki being the one to try and calm down Narita from a fight, but here we are.
With that swish Kinnikuman collab tee, Ren has to defeat EVIL, right? RIGHT?!?!
- Ren Narita and EVIL will face off in the first round of the NJC23 in Fukushima (3/8), with Jeff Cobb waiting for them in Ehime (3/13).
- SHO and Dick Togo… well… I am certain they’ll do whatever they can to help the interests of House of Torture throughout the series.
- Minoru Suzuki and El Desperado are not in the NJC23, but they are throwing all of their energy and experience behind Narita. I hope they take HoT to task and even the odds.
6-Man Tag Match (1/30): United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Great O’Khan & Aaron Henare) defeated LIJ (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & Shingo Takagi) (10:01) – Henare pinned Takagi after Streets of Rage
This match features many of the fan favorites and key individuals who could make or break tournament brackets and hearts around the world.
SANADA’s new finisher? Still unnamed at the moment. According to commentary, he might poll the audience and ask for suggestions! We’ll see!
- Aaron Henare and Shingo Takagi will clash in the first round of the NJC23 in The Dragon’s home prefecture of Yamanashi (3/10).
- Tetsuya Naito will face Chase Owens and SANADA will square off with KENTA in the second round of the NJC23 in Aichi (3/11). This could get hairy for LIJ on March 17th, if Naito and SANADA win their respective matches as they would be on a collision course in Korakuen Hall!
- Jeff Cobb has a first-round bye. He will take on the winner of Narita/EVIL in the second round of the NJC23 in Ehime (3/13).
- The Great O’Khan has a first-round bye. He will face the winner of Finlay/Ishii in the second round of the NJC23 in Okayama (3/15).
Special Super Junior. Tag Match (1/30): LiYOH (Lio Rush & YOH) defeated LIJ (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) (12:55) – Rush pinned BUSHI after Final Hour
We hadn’t seen Lio Rush since his injury at the Tokyo Dome, and in his absence, YOH made a valiant attempt at relieving Hiromu of the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship. However, I wonder if the delay also meant that Lio could have been the one scheduled to challenge Takahashi first. The Bad Child and Mr. Direct Drive are reunited once more and even with time apart, they still have amazing chemistry. You wouldn’t think they’ve only been working with one another since November last year.
Much like most of the preview matches, this special tag served to remind everyone that like ships passing in the night, BUSHI and Hiromu have each held the Jr. singles championship, but they have yet to hold the Jr. Tag Championships together. BUSHI’s held it, but while Hiromu was out injured and Shingo Takagi was still a Junior Heavyweight (2019). Remember that? Good times. On the other hand, YOH’s held the tag championships five times with SHO (and won three Super Jr. Tag Leagues with him and a fourth with Lio). He also made his way to the finals of Best of the Super Juniors once and challenged for the Jr. Singles championship twice, only to come away empty-handed. So at the center of his hurricane of a match up, are all the opportunities that seemingly elude everyone involved. There is also the laundry list of injuries between everyone: BUSHI’s back, Hiromu’s neck, YOH’s knee, and Lio’s face (from the ramp at the Dome). However, none of this keeps anyone from doing less than their best.
For the next few weeks, I am certain will have plenty of preview tags as the Cup progresses, leading up to Lio vs. Hiromu in Nagaoka on March 21st. With the dwindling of winter and the arrival of spring, it’s my hope that one of my favorite seasons: Best of the Super Juniors returns in May, followed by whatever magical international Super Junior Festival that Rocky Romero is trying to convince Hiromu to throw.
- Lio Rush will challenge Hiromu Takahashi for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at the Finals of NJC23 in Nagaoka (3/21).
- BUSHI and YOH will likely spend the rest of the NJC23 tour supporting their tag partners throughout the series.
- Robbie Eagles has been keeping a close watch on everything unfolding in the Junior division from Australia, so it may be only a matter of time before he swoops in before someone else snipes from the front of the queue.
- Also curious when and where the IWGP Jr. Tag Champions, Catch 2/2 (TJP & Francesco Akira) will resurface. Perhaps the April showers will bring May Flowers and the Super Juniors back again.
NJC23 Round One (1/NTL): Shota Umino defeated Yujiro Takahashi (9:47) – with a Deathrider/Pin Combo
Pieter is back from her international excursion in Brazil for Carnival, just in time for Yujiro’s match in the 2023 New Japan Cup. I appreciate Big Bro Yujiro trying to assist Shota with his costume… until Yuj stripped off the over trousers and started beating Shota with his own pants as if he owed the Tokyo Pimp money. There were moments of actual wrestling in the match, but the bigger story is a post-excursion Umino realizing one of his childhood heroes has truly fallen. This match was decidedly slower-paced than Umino’s previous singles matches against Jay White, Will Ospreay, and Tetsuya Naito, but that is perfectly fine. I loved learning about the history between Yujiro and Shota, especially going back to Umino’s childhood and Takahashi’s Young Lion era.
It wouldn’t be a House of Torture Fête if at least one person didn’t show up unannounced and uninvited. As EVIL was trying to resurrect Dick Togo, it was SHO-time at Ota Ward Gymnasium. I worried that the numbers game meant that Yujiro would be the one to advance, however, I was pleasantly surprised that it resulted in Shota overcoming the odds and advancing. I also appreciated Red Shoes not officiating his match so they don’t go back to the father-son well too frequently. I love how even though on paper the match may not mean much to most, it certainly was steeped in personal history between the two competitors. Who knows, maybe Umino can be the one to make Yujiro finally see the error of his ways… since turning on Naito when they were in No Limit. It was also a great entry-level match for Umino to advance into the next round of the tournament. Umino was able to turn the tables and the audience in his favor as well.
- Shota Umino advances to meet SZJ in the second round of the NJC23 in Okayama (3/15). He’ll also tag with Ren Narita against Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada on March 11th. There may not be time for matching gear, but at least I hope they figure out a tag team name.
- Yujiro Takahashi will likely join SHO/TOGO to assist EVIL in ganging up on Ren Narita in their first-round match of the NJC23… and any other subsequent endeavors for the interests if House of Torture.
NJC23 Round One (1/NTL): David Finlay defeated Tomohiro Ishii (18:40) – with a Trash Panda/Pin Combo
At Windy City Riot last March, Juice Robinson seemingly abandoned Finlay and his Hontai post, only to resurface at Wrestling Dontaku as the latest Bullet Club bandwagon jumper. Much like the rest of us, Finlay was just as gobsmacked by it all but still had a solid G1 despite the betrayal. Having a moral compass and trying to hold true as a babyface seems to be one of the most difficult things in NJPW. At Battle in the Valley, David Finlay gave the promo of his life. Arguably one of my favorite wrestling promos of all time, largely due to having similar experiences as a foreigner working in Japan and living there for over five years. A lot of his anger and feelings in that promo, I felt in my bones, especially when it came to being called “a gaijin” (the slang term for gaikokujin or gaikoku no kata; foreigner/foreign person; often used in a derogatory or racist context – unwelcomed outside). However, it wasn’t the sort of thing I’d expect in a babyface promo, even a gritty, angry one. Paired with his attack on Jay White when he had already lost, the pieces weren’t fitting together and the math certainly wasn’t adding up. I loved this new attitude, but it most certainly was a stark departure from psychedelic tie-dye and Happy FinJuice Beers.
A new entrance video of The Rebel lost in thought with darker– almost sinister– music played, and then the big reveal. Much like KENTA, SHO, Will Ospreay, Jeff Cobb, Aaron Henare, Juice Robinson… the struggle to succeed at all costs finally consumed David Finlay as well. As the curtain fell on Jay White, it seems Bullet Club made him an offer that he simply couldn’t refuse. Much like those before him– he didn’t sell out, but made a choice to invest in himself albeit by exceptionally dubious means. Long gone is his beach blonde, freshly painted over in silver and black. The punk rock denim and bright colors gone and, he too, is consumed by BC Monochrome. I do like The Misfits twist on the Rebel Club logo. He could be The Misfit now.
Meanwhile, Tomohiro Ishii just strolls up in arguably one of his cutest shirts ever, unphased by all of it. Ishii might just have been the best first opponent for this reincarnation of David Finlay. Both a beloved veteran and one of the hardest-hitting wrestlers in the entire company, The Stone Pitbull could definitely take the loss without looking the least bit weak largely due to his strong history of outstanding singles matches, especially with the NEVER Openweight Championship and tournaments like the NJC and G1. He also dishes out just as much as he can take, and if they need someone to put over a newly minted heel, I’d pick Ishii, too. There were plenty of nearfalls in this match, and Ishii plugged on like the tiny tank that he is, taking hit after hit without showing any signs of stopping. The more Finlay fought, it felt like he was powering Ishii up! I never felt that there were any imbalances in this match.
If you have overlooked or easily written off David Finlay previously, I believe he now has the rapt attention of the classroom. While BC is known for their love of the numbers games and sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong, Finlay did this by himself. Yes, he guardrails assisted him, but by and large, Gedo let him ride the bicycle without any training wheels. Seeing Finlay beat Ishii C-L-E-A-N as spring fresh laundry on a sunny day is exactly what he needed. This is the credible launching pad he needed to dive into darkness, and suddenly, Finlay might be leading the conversation as potential Cup Contenders after only one match.
- David Finlay advances to meet GOK in the second round of the NJC23 in Okayama (3/15). The question remains as to what his role in Bullet Club with be and if he and Juice Robinson have plans to put the band together. Also, it looks like Gedo’s found a new prized thoroughbred to hitch his merch shill cart to.
- Tomohiro Ishii finishes his NJC 2023, but I am certain that he’ll find ways to keep busy with the tag matches during the rest of the tournament. I have a feeling that he isn’t done with Finlay either.
- Gedo looks lost without Jay White and his Switchblade merch. New Japan, call me. I’ll give him a makeover.
IWGP Tag Team Championship (1/60): Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) © defeated LOVE & RAIN (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada) (20:17) – with YOSHI-HASHI pinning Tanahashi after Naraku; 97th Champions’ second defense
Previously at Battle in the Valley, (San Jose, CA; 2/18), Kazuchika Okada defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to successfully retain the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. The Rainmaker dazzled the audience with a post-match promo in English where he made The Ace an exceptionally lucrative offer: reunite once more. This time they wouldn’t be battling Jay White and Bullet Club in a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation. Oh no. It’s a little spicier than that. Okada’s proposition to resurrect their working relationship would be to take on the IWGP Tag Team Champions… you know… CHAOS’ own Bishamon: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI. In the past, Okada has challenged for the IWGP Tag Team Championships, once in 2014 against Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows with YOSHI-HASHI and again in 2018 against LIJ’s EVIL and SANADA with Goto. While he achieved success with neither, Goto and YOSHI-HASHI have seen wild success as Bishamon, winning World Tag League twice (2021; 2022), which led to winning the IWGP Tag Team Championships in back-to-back Wrestle Kingdoms (2022; 2023). It seems like Okada is finally ready to pursue other projects, or at least try to clear out some potential career gaps.
Tanahashi’s single reign with the IWGP Tag Team Championships was with Kota Ibushi as Golden Aces in 2020 – February 21st through July 12th to be exact– the height of the pandemic, half of which was during lockdown. They took the belts off GoD, and then lost them back to God at Dominion, without any defenses in between. While he has held the championships, it is possible that the lack of defense opportunities could be a driving factor to loop back to the tag division once more, especially with all singles titles being seemingly tied up elsewhere. I was truly wondering why Tanahashi wasn’t included in the New Japan Cup as he tends to be a mainstay in the tournament, but things make more sense now. Especially with the caveat that so long as Okada is the champion, Tanahashi can’t challenge again after losing in San Jose. However, the biggest challenge that LOVE & RAIN face in their god-tier union is chemistry faced would be the same they had back in 2018 when they teamed up against Jay White in the wake of his defection from CHAOS to Bullet Club.
Goto and YOSHI-HASHI as the defending champions were in quite a pickle as given it is the BIG anniversary show, and Okada and Tanahashi have a little free time during this NJC, they could have lost the belts. The biggest question circulating around this match from the moment of The Rainmaker’s proposition to The Ace, would NJPW be brave enough to let two of the biggest stars potentially lose in the main event of their sapphire anniversary? As much as I am a fan of Bishamon, I admittedly had a crisis of faith knowing that their opponents were Okada and Tanahashi. What Goto and YH had working in their favor, besides it being one of the friendlier matchups they could have lined up, is their proven success over the last few years not only as a tag team, but that monster year-long run they had with Ishii and the NEVER 6-Man championships. Okada and Tanahashi are out of this world as singles wrestlers, but Bishamon run like a well-oiled machine as a tag team. The key element in tag team wrestling is knowing and trusting your partner to be there.
That is the one hiccup that Tanahashi and Okada haven’t sorted out. They’ve been singles wrestlers for so long, that even when they have multi-man tags, they haven’t worked together enough to where they are familiar enough, let alone harmonious with one another. After two years of BEBOP TAG LEAGUE as Toru & Hiroshi, Tanahashi has far more tag team fluidity with Yano than he does with Okada. However, if CHAOS and Hontai continue working together as they have been, it could be developed over time, especially once Okada drops the World Heavyweight Championship and needs a project. Much like the Finlay/Ishii match, there was no shortage of breathless moments, hard-hitting moves, and near fall after near fall after near fall. The audience was genuinely behind everyone in the match, which was so incredibly refreshing. I giggled when Okada did his elbow drop and then rolled YOSHI-HASHI to the opposite corner, so Tanahashi could hit him with an unsuccessful High Fly Flow. While an entertaining tag team move, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when it comes to tag team moves.
For most fighting, any combination of Okada and/or Tanahashi is akin to fighting for a championship. It became very clear in the match that Tanahashi was the odd man out as the only one not from CHAOS. I did love the historical layers between all four of them, which made for the perfect story on an occasion such as this one. No overly complicated build is necessary because a stable, long-term foundation is well in place. As satisfying as it would have been to see YOSHI-HASHI pin Okada after their exceptionally long journey together, his reaction after the match by pinning Tanahashi held just as much gravity. Conversely, I am relieved Okada wasn’t pinned, so he and the World Heavyweight Championship wouldn’t get tied into another whirlpool of double gold dashes.
Thank you, Bishamon and everyone in Ota Ward Gym for that massive CHAOS Zanmai to close the show. Happy Anniversary, NJPW!
- Bishamon may face some friendly fire if YOSHI-HASHI defeats Kyle Fletcher in their first-round NJC match in Yamanashi (3/10), as Hirooki Goto is slated to face the winner of their match two days later in Aichi (3/12).
- Kazuchika Okada is sitting the NJC out but is scheduled to defend the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship at Sakura Genesis (4/8) against the 2023 New Japan Cup Winner.
- Hiroshi Tanahashi is being used in the PR materials for the NJPW STRONG Live shows in April. Beyond that, The Ace’s dance card is surprisingly sparse at the moment.
- LOVE & RAIN will face Ren Narita & Shota Umino on March 11 in a special tag match. While the combo of The Son of Strong Style and The Roughneck don’t have a proper tag name. I’m just going to call them Brilliant Future because of all the emphasis and energy the company is throwing behind them since their respective returns from an excursion last year. As they are seemingly in different factions, but still friendly… for now… Narita and Umino could potentially shift the entire power balance in the company if they dethrone two of the names which are most synonymous with it.
NEW JAPAN CUP 2023 & SAKURA GENESIS
NJC 2023 (3/8) Fukushima Big Palette
- Tag Match (1/20): Shota Umino & Yuto Nakashima vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. & Kosei Fujita
- 8-Man Tag Match (1/20): Just 4 Guys (Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, DOUKI & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Bullet Club (KENTA, El Phantasmo, Chase Owens & Gedo)
- Tag Match (1/20): LIJ (BUSHI & Shingo Takagi) vs. United Empire (Aaron Henare & Great O’Khan)
- 6-Man Tag Match (1/30): Tama Tonga, David Finlay & Lio Rush vs. LIJ (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & Hiromu Takahashi)
- 6-Man Tag Match (1/30): CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & YOH) vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay, Jeff Cobb & Kyle Fletcher)
- Semi-Main: NJC23 Round One (1/NTL): Toru Yano vs. Mark Davis
- Main Event: NJC23 Round One (1/NTL): Ren Narita vs. EVIL
NJC 2023 (3/10) Aimesse Yamanashi
- Tag Match (1/20): Zack Sabre, Jr. & Kosei Fujita vs. Yujiro Takahashi & SHO
- Tag Match (1/20): Just 4 Guys (Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. House of Torture (EVIL & Dick Togo)
- 8-Man Tag Match (1/20): STRONG STYLE (Ren Narita, El Desperado & Minoru Suzuki) & David Finlay vs. Bullet Club (KENTA, Chase Owens, El Phantasmo & Gedo)
- 8-Man Tag Match (1/30): CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, & Toru Yano) & Tomoaki Honma vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay, Mark Davis, Jeff Cobb & Great O’Khan)
- 8-Man Tag Match (1/30): Tama Tonga, Shota Umino & LiYOH (YOH & Lio Rush) vs. LIJ (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi)
- Semi-Main: NJC23 Round One (1/NTL): YOSHI-HASHI vs. Kyle Fletcher
- Main Event: NJC23 Round One (1/NTL): Shingo Takagi vs. Aaron Henare
NJC 2023 (3/11) Aichi Dolphin’s Arena; Full Card TBA
- Special Tag Match (1/30): LOVE & RAIN (Hiroshi Tanahashi) vs. Brilliant Future (Ren Narita & Shota Umino)
- NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): SANADA vs. KENTA
- NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): Tetsuya Naito vs. Chase Owens
NJC 2023 (3/12) Shiga Prefectural Industrial Community House; Full Card TBA
- NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): Hirooki Goto vs. Winner of YOSHI-HASHI/Fletcher (3/10)
- NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): Tama Tonga vs. Winner of Takagi/Henare (3/10)
NJC 2023 (3/13) Item Ehime; Full Card TBA
- NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): Jeff Cobb vs. Winner of Narita/EVIL (3/8)
- NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): Will Ospreay vs. Winner of Yano/Davis (3/8)
NJC 2023 (3/15) ZIP Arena Okayama; Full Card TBA
- NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): Great O’Khan vs. David Finlay
- NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): Zack Sabre, Jr. vs. Shota Umino
NJC 2023 (3/17) Korakuen Hall; Full Card TBA
- Semi-Main: NJC23 Quarter Finals (1/NTL)
- Main Event: NJC23 Quarter Finals (1/NTL)
NJC 2023 (3/18) ACT City Hamamatsu, Shizuoka; Full Card TBA
- Semi-Main: NJC23 Quarter Finals (1/NTL)
- Main Event: NJC23 Quarter Finals (1/NTL)
NJC 2023 (3/19) G-Messe, Gunma; Full Card TBA
- Semi-Main: NJC23 Semi-Finals (1/NTL)
- Main Event: NJC23 Semi-Finals (1/NTL)
NJC 2023 (3/21) Aore Nagaoka, Niigata; Full Card TBA; Full Event Report
- IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship (1/60): Hiromu Takahashi © vs. Lio Rush – 93rd Champion’s second defense
- Main Event: NJC23 Finals (1/NTL)
Sakura Genesis 2023 (4/8) Ryogoku Kokugikan; Full Card TBA
- IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (1/60): Kazuchika Okada © vs. 2023 New Japan Cup Winner
- AZM Answers Mercedes Moné! At STARDOM’s press conference for Triangle Derby, The High Speed Bomb Girl finally commented on the name drop from The CEO’s debut backstage promo. She was flattered to hear her name and left it to the IWGP Committee to make the match a reality. At the Triangle Derby Finals, AZM (pronounced AH-zoo-mee for those unfamiliar with STARDOM; not A-Z-M) successfully retained the High-Speed Championship against Starlight Kid, finally shattering Mayu Iwatani’s long-standing record for consecutive defenses. There have not been any further updates from NJPW as to the time/date of the potential title defense for Moné. AZM will face Hazuki in the first round of the Cinderella Tournament on 3/26. The company will hold the tournament press conference later tonight.
- Mercedes Moné Accepts on TMZ?! The CEO heaps high praise for KAIRI and their match at Battle in the Valley. She stated her scheduled next date with New Japan is Sakura Genesis (4/8), and did drop that AZM did respond. The interview was recorded the night after the season three premiere of The Mandalorian, where she took the IWGP Women’s Championship as her date. Varnado joined the show’s cast as Koska Reeves. Note: I won’t add AZM/Moné for the Women’s Championship until NJPW makes it final.
2023 Domestic Schedule
- New Japan Cup 2023 (multiple venues 3/8-21)
- New Japan Cup Finals (3/21) Aore Niigata
- Road to Sakura Genesis 2023 (multiple venues 4/1-7)
- Sakura Genesis 2023 (4/8) Ryogoku Sumo Hall
- Road to Wrestling Dontaku 2023 (multiple venues 4/20-21; 23-27; 4/30-5/1)
- Hirooki Goto’s 20th Anniversary Show (4/22) Sports Center, Mie Prefecture
- Wrestling Satsuma no Kuni (4/29) Kagoshima
- Wrestling Dontaku 2023 (5/3) Fukuoka International Center
2023 NJPW STRONG Live/International Schedule
- IMPACT x NJPW: Multiverse United (3/30) Globe Theatre, Los Angeles, CA – streaming on Fite+ at 8PM US Pacific Time; Full Card TBA
- Singles Match: Josh Alexander (Impact) vs. KUSHIDA (NJPW)
- Singles Match: Speedball Mike Bailey (Impact) vs. Will Ospreay (NJPW)
- Singles Match: Moose (Impact) vs. Jeff Cobb (NJPW)
- Capital Collison (4/15) Entertainment & Sports Arena, Washington, DC
- Collision in Philadelphia (4/16) 2300 Arena, Philadelphia, PA
We’ll keep you POSTed on all the upcoming ongoings in NJPW, STARDOM, and all over Japan!