NJPW New Japan Cup 2023 Report: SANADA vs. David Finlay

SANADA & David Finlay square off in the finals of the 2023 New Japan Cup in Nagaoka. Hiromu Takahashi defends against Lio Rush. TMDK gains a new member.

Photo Courtesy: NJPW

Shortly after the opening day of the New Japan Cup, the company held its 51st Anniversary Show (3/6) as well as the public wake for Antonio Inoki (3/7; video available on NJPW World for free). After a busy March with a rotating rogues’ gallery of English commentary guests, Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton meet up in Aore Nagaoka (Niigata-Prefecture) for the Finals of the New Japan Cup. With 3,384 guests in attendance, the NJC Finals was held in front of a sold-out crowd.

Road to the NJC23 Finals

NJC 2023 (3/8) Fukushima Big Palette

  • Semi-Main: NJC23 Round One (1/NTL): Mark Davis defeated Toru Yano (12:33) – with a Waterslider/Pin combo
  • Main Event: NJC23 Round One (1/NTL): EVIL defeated Ren Narita (18:44) – with Everything is EVIL/Pin combo

NJC 2023 (3/10) Aimesse Yamanashi

  • Semi-Main: NJC23 Round One (1/NTL): Kyle Fletcher defeated YOSHI-HASHI (20:06) – Grimstone/Pin combo
  • Main Event: NJC23 Round One (1/NTL): Aaron Henare defeated Shingo Takagi (20:46) – Streets of Rage/Pin combo 

NJC 2023 (3/11) Aichi Dolphin’s Arena; Full Card TBA

  • SpecialTag Match (1/30): LOVE & RAIN (Hiroshi Tanahashi) defeated Brilliant Future (Ren Narita & Shota Umino) (1332) – Okada pinned Narita after a Rainmaker
  • NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): Tetsuya Naito defeated  Chase Owens (18:07) – High Angel Pin
  • NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): SANADA defeated  KENTA (29:12) – New Unnamed Finisher (DDT)

NJC 2023 (3/12) Shiga Prefectural Industrial Community House

  • NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): Tama Tonga defeated Aaron Henare (16:34) – Gun Stun/Pin Combo
  • NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): Hirooki Goto defeated Kyle Fletcher (20:43) – GTR/Pin Combo

NJC 2023 (3/13) Item Ehime

  • NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): EVIL defeated Jeff Cobb (17:42) – with assistance from SHO, Yujiro Takahashi, and Dick Togo… Everything is EVIL/Pin Combo  
  • NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): Will Ospreay defeated Mark Davis (20:01) – Hidden Blade/Pin Combo 

UPDATE: Prior to the opening of the event in Okayama, NJPW announced that Will Ospreay sustained a shoulder injury, needed to undergo proper medical evaluation and would not be cleared to participate in the show. It was followed up with the announcement that Mark Davis would replace Ospreay in the tournament as Ospreay would need to withdraw. While it certainly was a heartbreaking disappointment for Ospreay, it also provided an exceptional opportunity for Davis. On March 18th, Kevin disclosed on commentary that Ospreay is in a rest and recovery situation and will not require surgery, but the time table is not solid at this time. The leader of the UE returned to England for the duration of the tournament. 

NJC 2023 (3/15) ZIP Arena Okayama

  • NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): David Finlay defeated Great O’Khan (1307) – Trash Panda/Pin Combo
  • NJC23 Round Two (1/NTL): Shota Umino defeated Zack Sabre, Jr. (26:17)– Deathrider/Pin Combo

NJC 2023 (3/17) Korakuen Hall

  • Semi-Main: NJC23 Quarter Finals (1/NTL): Mark Davis defeated EVIL (15:30) – Water Slide/Pin Combo
  • Main Event: NJC23 Quarter Finals (1/NTL): SANADA defeated Tetsuya Naito (24:41) – New Unnamed Modified DDT/Pin Combo

UPDATE: SANADA debuted in NJPW at Invasion Attack at Ryogoku Kokugikan on April 10, 2016, joining Naito and BUSHI in Los Ingobernables de Japon. However, and nearly seven years in the faction, The Cold Skull made not only a career-changing decision but potentially a game-changing move altogether. After defeating Naito, he announced that he was leaving LIJ and aligning himself with Taichi and Just 4 Guys. Honestly, I love this choice because it’s high time that SANADA makes a play for the throne, and he simply won’t do it in Naito’s shadow. 

NJC 2023 (3/18) ACT City Hamamatsu, Shizuoka

  • Semi-Main: NJC23 Quarter Finals (1/NTL): David Finlay defeated Shota Umino (17:50) – Trash Panda/Pin Combo 
  • Main Event: NJC23 Quarter Finals (1/NTL): Tama Tonga defeated Hirooki Goto (16:38) – Gun Stun/Pin Combo

NJC 2023 (3/19) G-Messe, Gunma

  • Semi-Main: NJC23 Semi-Finals (1/NTL): David Finlay defeated Tama Tonga (18:47) – Trash Panda/Pin Combo
  • Main Event: NJC23 Semi-Finals (1/NTL): SANADA defeated Mark Davis (13:20) – New Unnamed Modified DDT/Pin Combo

Pre-NJC23 Finals Verdict: I loved that both SANADA and David Finlay made their way to the finals. SANADA shocked the world by leaving LIJ after nearly seven years (and left it all behind on the barbershop floor with a shave and a haircut), and did Finlay, with his own couples BC makeover with Gedo as The Rebel and The Man with Bloody Hands. What stood out to me was that neither needed any assistance to make their way to the finals, which I was honestly concerned about when it came to Gedo hitching his cart to Finlay as his new cash cow. Both are ones who are long overdue for tournament wins and solid singles pushes.

While Gedo claims that he needs David Finlay, Bullet Club needs David Finlay and the NJPW World needs David Finlay… it does seem that the rest of BC may not necessarily be on the same page with Bloody Hands’ new pet project. 

Spoiler-Free Synopsis

  • Tag Match: The Young Lion, The Ace & Just a Couple of Guys – Worth a Watch
  • Tag Match: TMDK vs. Hontai  – Worth a Watch
  • 6-Man Tag Match: Bullet Club vs. Hontai/CHAOS – Worth a Watch
  • 8-Man Tag Match: House of Torture vs. STRONG STYLE feat. Yano/Taguchi – Worth a Watch
  • Tag Match: LIJ vs. United Empire – Recommended
  • 6-Man Tag Match: CHAOS vs. United Empire – Recommended
  • IWGP Jr. HW Championship (1/60): The Man of the Hour vs. The Ticking Time Bomb – Highly Recommended
  • New Japan Cup 2023 Finals (1/NTL): Cold Skull vs. The Rebel – Highly Recommended

Matches one and two were streamed for free on the NJPW World YouTube Channel.

Tag Match (1/20): Taichi & DOUKI defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi & Yuto Nakashima (10:03) – Dangerous Backdrop/Pin Combo from Taichi to Nakashima

This was a nice warm-up and show opener, largely keeping the spotlight on Taichi’s new faction, even with the latest Just Number of Guys acquisition, SANADA. In recent months, DOUKI has been given a bigger platform which is great with the recent announcement of the 30th Anniversary of BEST of the SUPER Jrs. in May. Tanahashi had a light NJC tour but was packed with plenty of obligations outside the ring as the company’s senior statesman. Nakashima is growing stronger every day. 

What’s Next?

  • Taichi & DOUKI will be heading to the war room to devise plans for the upcoming tournaments: Best of the Super Juniors (in May) and eventually the G1 Climax (summer), but in the meantime, they’ll just keep on with the rest of their Guys.
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi has volunteered to replace Will Ospreay in his slated match with Speedball Mike Bailey at IMPACT x NJPW: Multiverse United at month’s end. No official update has been provided yet, but anticipate the post-NJC presser to have heaps of updates. 
  • Yuto Nakashima continues his Young Lion journey.

Tag Match (1/20): Shota Umino & Ryohei Oiwa defeated Zack Sabre Jr. & Kosei Fujita (9:44) – Deathrider/Pin Combo from Umino to Fujita

After Umino defeated Zack in the NJC, they were put on a collision course over the NJPW World Television Championship. Like many other outcomes of this year’s NJC, many pots have been put on the stove to boil, and this one is heating up quickly. The rift between Fujita and Oiwa continues to grow as Fujita’s getting extra special coaching from TMDK’s frontman, and Oiwa, being the one left behind (despite also being one of Zack’s previous stunt doubles), seems to have a rapidly growing chip on his shoulder about the entire situation as well. 

What has made this potential match-up feel extra special is that both Zack and Shota are making concerted efforts to speak in their non-native languages with increased frequency. Shota is giving sound bytes to the English commentary, and Zack’s mixing more Japanese into his promos both inside and outside of the ring. Shota formally challenged Zack Sabre after their match, and ZSJ quipped, “you’ll have 15 minutes,” but the question remains as to the when and where of ZSJ’s next defense. The table is set, and they’re ready to feast.

What’s Next?

  • Shota Umino & Zack Sabre, Jr are aching to set the date for their showdown of 15 minutes or less of delectably outrageous tekkers, but we’ll have to wait to see how long before we can enjoy their next course.  
  • Ryohei Oiwa and Kosei Fujita will continue their Young Lion journeys, but will Fujita’s foray into TMDK lead to a breaking point in the dojo?

Tag Match (1/20): KENTA, Chase Owens & El Phantasmo defeated Tama Tonga, Tomohiro Ishii & Tomoaki Honma (8:14) -CR II/Pin Combo from ELP to Honma

In another bookend match for the NJC tour, Bullet Club takes on a rather heady combination of Hontai, CHAOS & GBH as KENTA, Chase, & ELP faced off with former friend turned foe in Tama Tonga who had really hit his groove with Hontai, and by extension working with CHAOS. This match helped keep the high-energy atmosphere light and fun. Even Ishii looked like he was enjoying himself. 

Interestingly enough, without Bullet Club’s latest member in their corner, KENTA, Chase, and ELP work rather well together. In most tours and tournaments, they tend to be some of the lighter, less angsty fares that Bullet Club tends to serve, and as of late, they’ve been rather popular in the fan service department. While they tend to lean to the more comedic sides at times, they have an interesting combination of striking, power, and speed. Interestingly, they also weren’t the ones to unceremoniously dump Tama out of Bullet Club, nor are they seemingly entirely onboard with Finlay at the BC helm either. 

I don’t see Tama rejoining them, even though he did help bring most of the current members in, but they simply didn’t feel as aggressive toward him as they have in the past. Their attentions seem to be split in different ways, KENTA has Suzuki on the brain (even though The King was absent today), Chase is caught up with Ishii, and ELP –as always– is here to be the mood maker and have a good time. 

What’s Next?

  • Minoru Suzuki may not have been on today’s show, but he did score a pin over KENTA earlier in the tour. With the updates to the Multiverse United and Sakura Genesis cards coming tomorrow, their singles match for Multiverse could quickly become KENTA’s first defense of the STRONG Openweight Championship.  
  • Chase Owens & El Phantasmo might need to ring up Fale, Taiji Ishimori, and the rest of Bullet Club because they have less than two months to the tenth anniversary of Bullet Club at Wrestling Dontaku (in May), and they seemingly haven’t figured out who is in charge now that Jay White is gone. It seems like not everyone is on board with Gedo’s choice of David Finlay because the last time we all checked, Jay didn’t leave Gedo in charge of BC upon his departure from the company last month.
  • Tama Tonga may need to reconcile his loss to David Finlay for the NEVER Openweight Championship due to his NJC Semi-Finals loss. With as packed as Multiverse United is, it is likely a potential match for Sakura Genesis. 
  • Tomohiro Ishii will head to the US for IMPACT x NJPW Multiverse United in a massive 10-person tag match. There is a potential for Ishii vs. Chase in the future, but how far out are the plans? That remains to be seen.
  • We’ll have to see where Tomoaki Honma crops up next, but there aren’t any visible plans just yet.

Tag Match (1/30): EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, SHO & Dick Togo defeated El Desperado, Ren Narita, Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi (2:45) – BIG JUICE/Pin Combo from Yujiro to Taguchi

This match involved House of Torture getting the jump on their opponents and was a relatively short match in itself. Unlike other wrap-up matches, this one is likely the final setup for the HOUSE OF TORTURE/STRONGSTYLE rematch for the NEVR 6-Man Championships. The post-match included SHO stripping Desperado’s mask off, while the others held Narita in place, slashed off his t-shirt, and gave him a little body graffiti courtesy of the House of Torture. They got booed out of the building in Nagaoka, and while Desperado charged after them once more, they beat him down and took his mask again. 

What’s Next?

  • House of Torture challenges STRONG STYLE once more in an attempt to reclaim the NEVER 6-Man Championships. I hope SS can retain and escape the gravity that is the HoT Death Spiral.
  • Desperado will be on the hunt for SHO, after having his mask stripped off not once but twice. I wonder if they’ll be kept apart in BOSJ or if Despy will get his hands on The Murder Machine sooner rather than later, by being in the same block. Desperado is also announced for Capital Collision in April. 
  • Ryusuke Taguchi will likely be in BOSJ.
  • Toru Yano will be back to all his wonderful magic, promoting all the things and working at his bar in no time. 

After the fourth match, a COMING SOON vignette was played on the screen. At first, I thought it was NJPW announcing a proper cinema release film because the opening with the Lion Mark and twinkling background, is a direct call to one of the big filmmakers in Japan with that retro splash opening. Think old-school Japanese monster movies (tokusatsu; think the original Godzilla franchise) with this special trailer. A mysterious object is on a collision course from outer space, with its OBJECTIVE being locked on as JAPAN.

Is it a Meteor? A Space Dragon? Something entirely otherworldly? Could it be a return from excursion? The autumn saw the returns of Narita and Umino, so could the spring bring the returns of Yuya Uemura and/or Yota Tsuji? We’ll have to see Big Monsters this April shower brings…

Tag Match (1/30): Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito defeated Great O-Khan & Aaron Henare (12:43) – with Naito pinning O’Khan

In a more serious conclusion to the NJC23, Naito, and Takagi teamed up against O’Khan and Henare. With a KOPW challenge tucked into the tiny pockets of his Muay Thai shorts, Henare was no-nonsense when it came to locking up with Shingo once more. I am so curious to see what the stipulation for their match will be as The Ultimate Weapon had a barrage of ideas including bare-knuckle boxing, Muay Thai, and a Street Fight… but he might have narrowed it down to Pinfall, Knock Out, or Standing Ten Count. We got a tiny preview here, but we’ll have to see if Takagi can rebalance the scales and reconcile this loss to Henare and remain the provisional KOPW2023 champion.

With his loss to SANADA (and soon after LIJ’s complete loss of SANADA), many wondered what would be next for Naito as the last time he’d lost a member of LIJ– it was EVIL winning the New Japan Cup in 2020, and turning on Naito to join Bullet Club. Unlike the previous departure, SANADA’s choice was surprising, but ultimately cordial as he just decided to change groups without choosing violence in the process. Naito’s had some spicy commentary as always now that SANADA’s aligned himself with Taichi, Kanemaru, DOUKI & TAKA, when he should be focusing on what is next for Naito. Suddenly the clear path to the Main Event of the Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2024, isn’t so clear once more. Surprisingly, Naito isn’t one to be kept down too long and closed this match with a shocking win over RevPro UK’s British Heavyweight Champion, The Great O’Khan.  

I need to know the name of the tag team finisher O’Khan and Henare use because that could become a regular sight moving forward, especially when World Tag League rolls around again.

What’s Next?

  • Tetsuya Naito challenged Great O’Khan to the RPUK British Heavyweight Championship. We’ll just have to see if the defense will take place in Japan, or if the pair are packing up and heading to England for their match. 
  • Aaron Henare previously challenged Shingo Takagi for a KOPW match after his win over The Dragon in the earlier stages of the NJC.

Tag Match (1/30): Jeff Cobb & Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) defeated Kazuchika Okada & Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) (11:13) – with Davis pinning YOSHI-HASHI after Corealis

While Jeff Cobb and Kazuchika Okada seemingly picked up where they left off, at the center of this match was the undeniable receipts Aussie Open has prepared with their accountant to cash in on Bishamon, especially after their outstanding debut run in last year’s World Tag League, recent appearance on AEW and Kyle Fletcher upsetting YOSHI-HASHI in the first round of NJC23. While they may have missed out on this year’s Tokyo Dome, time and luck are clearly running out on Bishamon’s ability to dodge Davis and Fletcher. 

It was great to see Okada back as reigning champion now that the tournament is winding down, but I liked the focus of the match keenly focused on Goto, YH, Davis, and Fletcher, as they’re the ones in need of just a couple of concrete embellishments to make that IWGP Tag Team Championship match a reality. Of course, Okada’s attention is elsewhere, as he waits to find out who he’ll be facing on April 8th at Ryogoku, but Jeff Cobb certainly wasn’t going to let the Rainmaker forget that he was standing right in front of him.

What’s Next?

  • Kazuchika Okada faces the winner of tonight’s New Japan Cup Final at Sakura Genesis. He’s also been announced for Capital Collision in Washington DC in mid-April. 
  • Aussie Open now has two wins over Bishamon with Fletcher (NJC Round 1) and Davis both pinning YOSHI-HASHI; once in a singles’ match and now in a tag team setting. There is no way that Goto and YH can prolong a title defense against AO.  
  • Jeff Cobb will certainly regain a busy schedule in NJPW once Mania week is over. Alongside his singles match against Moose at IMPACT x NJPW, he’s got a big boy fight against TMDK’s Bad Dude Tito at Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport (3/30).

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship (1/60): Hiromu Takahashi © defeated Lio Rush (21:27) – Time Bomb II/Pin

As a fan of the Juniors, I am so happy this match was not only given high billing on the show card but was also given time to have a dizzying pacing for just over twenty minutes. Knowing how hard and fast both Hiromu and Lio can go, I was curious to know how much of the sixty minutes they would actually be allowed to consume. Despite the seemingly short time, they fought all over the place and packed so much into the match, including entirely too many near falls and breathtaking moves for 7 AM on a Tuesday (US East Coast Time). 

Lio didn’t make any changes to his gear, but someone helped The Bad Child out with a little face paint, including the Chinese character (kanji) for “bad” (warui; aku). I’m curious to know if the calligrapher was Lio himself or if his tag partner YOH lent a hand. I had reservations about YOH and Lio being back-to-back challengers for Hiromu as I didn’t want either of them to be padding for Hiromu’s record or one to be a placeholder for the other (especially YOH who filled in for Lio after his injuries at the Tokyo Dome). However, seeing that Lio not only included YOH in the match as his second but also used YOH’s Direct Drive in the finishing sprint really made my heart happy. It was at that moment that I became fairly certain Lio wasn’t going to win the championship just yet, but after the match they had Lio certainly punched his ticket into the BOSJ 2023 conversation as well as a highly anticipated rematch down the line.  

The comparisons of Lio to Dragon Lee were definitely spot on, and now with Lee in NXT, it seems Hiromu may have found another kindred spirit in Rush. Their final series in particular reminded me of the ridiculous, almost supernatural chemistry that Lee/Kamitachi (later Hiromu) had. It gave me chills, honestly. Naturally, I can’t say enough good things about Hiromu because he is the five-time IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion, and unless someone dethrones him soon, he’ll be walking into BOSJ in May as Champion. Unless…

Robbie Eagles Vetoes Queue Jumping! The last time we saw him in a Lion Mark ring was the NJPW Tamashii tour in early February, where he wrestled Kyle Fletcher (in Melbourne) and Aaron Solo (in Sydney) on back-to-back nights. The last time we saw him in Japan… was Super Junior Tag League last year with Tiger Mask as Flying Tiger! Has it been that long? After jokes were made about Lio Rush jumping the queue for a shot at Hiromu and the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship, Robbie Eagles has been forced to watch everything from the sidelines all the way over in Australia the last few months.

While he’s been out of sight, he certainly has kept NJPW on his mind. So as to put a further stop on people pushing their way to the front of the line while he’s in a different hemisphere, Robbie sent a message to NJPW with a rather unlikely messenger… in TMDK’s Zack Sabre, Jr! It seems that CHAOS has become too cramped with Junior talent, and this bird needed to spread his wings once more, now perching himself alongside ZSJ, Mikey & Shane and Fujita. Hiromu joked that it seemed anyone could just send a video into the office instead of challenging in person, but he wouldn’t be a fighting champion if he dodged Robbie and accepted immediately without any hesitation. 

For everyone wondering where the Sniper of the Skies went, Robbie Eagles has been busy packing up his little nest and has flown the CHAOS coop… to set up shop in TMDK!! Here I thought he was going to be United Empire bound after his match against WSW Australian Champion and IWGP Jr Tag Champion, TJP, last week in World Series Wrestling in Sydney Australia! (highlights) Is there such as an Australian goodbye? Unlike his very public defection from Bullet Club to CHAOS, this seems to be a more cordial, simply a business move on Eagles’ part, without kicking Okada/CHAOS in the face on his way out the door like Jay, Ospreay, and SHO before him. 

What’s Next?

  • Hiromu Takahashi intends to defend the belt as much as possible, including shattering the longest consecutive defense record, with a goal of 50 defenses!
  • Lio Rush is likely a lock for BEST of the SUPER Jrs. 30, especially after this match tonight. Capital Collision in Washington DC is in his backyard, so I am certain he’ll get a hero’s homecoming there. He’s likely going to have a packed Mania Weekend dance card as well.

New Japan Cup 2023 Finals (1/TL): SANADA defeated David Finlay (19:56) – With the Still Unnamed Mysterious DDT

For seven years, SANADA fans worldwide waited. Sometimes patiently, other times, incredibly impatiently for the pay-off for all the time Cold Skull had invested in LIJ. He’s been there before, both in the New Japan Cup and in the G1, but he always came up a smidge short. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. With the Bullet Club All Punk Everything Makeover complete with the Gedo Starter pack that David Finlay rolled up with at the beginning of the series, in my heart of hearts I wanted to believe this was going to be SANADA’s year. However, with Ospreay… and Zack (twice)… and EVIL…and Okada…  in recent years, there’s always someone there to rain on SANADA’s parade.

With that being said, it wasn’t until SANADA defeated Naito on Sunday, that I truly felt a shift in the direction for him. SANADA choosing to step away from the wildly popular and beloved faction that is LIJ to align himself with a long-time rival in Taichi finally made that first crack in his ceiling splinter wide open. He arrived to the semi-finals against Mark Davis clean-shaven and with his hair cropped short and after their outstanding bout, that fissure above opened just that bit more. When he stepped out of the curtain, he didn’t linger off to the side and hold up the wall, but he stood front and center with his new comrades flanking him. This was a surprisingly stark contrast to his opponent.

Bullet Club has been known for its numbers game, especially when it comes to securing big tournament wins and championships “for the club.” In recent years, we’ve become accustomed to BC and UE almost crowding the corners with as many numbers as possible when it comes to big matches, but oddly enough, David Finlay’s corner was uncharacteristically empty, save for Gedo as a second. KENTA, Owens, ELP, and House of Torture… were all nowhere to be seen, which was both unexpected, but equally refreshing at the same time. They’ll have been on the same page when it came to deposing Tama and Loa last year, as well as not fighting the departure of Jay White, but the one thing they were all on the same page about with regard to The Rebel… is that everyone was very much not in agreement with how things were now playing out. The old adage now applies to Finlay: If you have to stand there and say, “I’m the leader,” you’re very much not in charge at all.

This resulted in a rather fair fight between SANADA and Finlay because even Gedo, seemed to mind his business, aside from just yelling constantly throughout the match. There were no brass knuckles, no run-ins, and no unsolicited or pre-planned ‘assistance’ from the rest of BC. Finlay was forced to fend for himself, but was it for himself or “for the Club” because at the moment, it felt like a complete test by the rest of BC– to throw him in the deep end by himself and see if he would sink or swim. With the pool being SANADA’s backyard of Niigata, he was truly left to his own devices as the audience was staunchly and firmly behind their hometown hero. Finlay did use the outside of the ring to his advantage, but by and large, he fought valiantly (for a bad guy) all by himself. 

SANADA and Finlay tend to have more technical matches, but SANADA’s pep in his step offsets Finlay’s angsty rocker attitude perfectly. SANADA also employing his mentor, Keiji Mutoh’s Shining Wizard into his arsenal was a pleasant surprise, especially after the failed moonsault presses. Finlay may want to distance himself from his heritage and lineage as a fourth-generation wrestler, but hotdog did he really put the boots to SANADA. This was one of the things he needed to go it alone and prove to the BC that he could fight his own battles, and while he didn’t win, this was one of the best matches of his that I’ve ever seen. SANADA pinned David clean after that new DDT that he’s been using throughout the tournament. 

Afterward, SANADA politely requested that Okada join him in the ring. Okada did come out to remind SANADA who he would be facing at Sakura Genesis and that SANADA’s kept him waiting far too long. Okada’s recent cocky, mean streak paired with this invigorated, glowing SANADA could make sure of unadulterated fireworks at Sakura Genesis. The Cold Skull is promising to usher in a new brighter, wrestling landscape, and that will start by razing the mountain that is his forever rival in Kazuchika Okada first. 

What’s Next?

  • SANADA locks in the main event of Sakura Genesis against Kazuchika Okada on April 8th. He was previously advertised along with Naito & Hiromu for Capital Collision as a member of LIJ, but we’ll have to see if he will remain on that tour. I do wish that he would name his new DDT “The Gift” or start calling himself “The Gift” (and lay Cold Skull to rest with his LIJ threads).
  • David Finlay will need to have a sit down with the rest of Bullet Club and sort out what the post-Jay White Era is going to look like. The running anthem was a half-hearted “for The Club,” yet Finlay’s corner was strangely empty save for Gedo.

The first official win for Just Five Guys, and just look how refreshed and happy SANADA is. No Cold Skull demeanor. All Smiles and he’s earned it… along with Taichi pouring his beer over SANADA’s head in celebration

Meanwhile Over in AJPW…

The Ultimate X Arrives! With All Japan’s Champion’s Carnival on the horizon, there were not one but two X’s listed in the tournament bracket. Today at Ota Ward Gym, Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan showed up! Kojima won the Champion’s Carnival in 2003. It’s been thirteen years since he’s participated and this will be his tenth entry into the tournament. He will participate in A Block with matches against T-Hawk (STRONGHEARTS), Jun Saito, Cyrus, Ryuki Honda, YOSHITATSU, Yuma Aoyagi, and Kento Miyahara. 

Both Aoyagi and Miyahara are former Champion’s Carnival Winners and Miyahara is a multi-time Triple Crown Champion. Currently, NJPW’s Yuji Nagata is AJPW’s Triple Crown Champion, and one of the handfuls of Japanese Grand Slam Champions, of which Kojima joined the club last summer at CyberFight Festival 2022 before his extended residency at Pro-Wrestling NOAH, which recently concluded. NOAH’s Manabu Soya took up the other mantle of X, declaring himself for the B Block; joining Suwama, Shuji Ishikawa, Shotaro Ashino, Naoya Nomura, Rei Saito, Hokuto Ohmori & Yuma Anzai. Nagata successfully defended the Triple Crown against Shuji Ishikawa and declared “Whoever wins the Champion’s Carnival, meet me in the ring,” indicating that he is sitting the CC out as the reigning champion.

What’s Next?

On today’s show, Chris Charlton mentioned updates to Sakura Genesis and Multiverse United will come out tomorrow, so keep POSTED for all updates! A full event report (and a very late night here on the east coast) will be coming your way for Multiverse!

INTERNATIONAL: IMPACT x NJPW: Multiverse United (3/30) Globe Theatre, Los Angeles, CA – streaming on Fite+ at 8PM US Pacific Time; Full Card TBA; Event Report Scheduled!

  • Singles Match: KENTA vs. Minoru Suzuki – potentially a STRONG Openweight Championship defense for KENTA  
  • Singles Match: Speedball Mike Bailey (Impact) vs. TBA (NJPW) – Hiroshi Tanahashi has volunteered to replace Will Ospreay who is out with injury; no official word yet 
  • Singles Match: Moose (Impact) vs. Jeff Cobb (NJPW)
  • 8-Man Tag Match: PCO, Sami Callihan, Alex Coughlin & Fred Rosser vs. Joe Hendry, Eddie Edwards, Tom Lawlor & JR Kratos
  • X-Division Scramble Match: Trey Miguel ©  vs. Frankie Kazarian vs. Rich Swann vs. Kevin Knight vs. Clark Connors vs. Rocky Romero 
  • IMPACT Tag Team Championship 4-Way: Bullet Club (Ace Austin & Chris Bey) © vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) vs. TMDK (Shane Haste & Big Dude Tito) vs. MCMG (Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley)
  • IMPACT Knockouts Championship 4-Way: Mickie James © vs. Deonna Purrazzo vs. Gisele Shaw vs. Miyu Yamashita (TJPW)
  • IMPACT World Championship: Josh Alexander © vs. KUSHIDA

Shinnichi Champion UPDATE! Tsumugi Mitani, TV Asahi Announcer and host of  NJPW TV “Shinnichi Champion” Since the show’s inception, she’s campaigned twice yearly with the promise of a special program (and not getting the show canceled), should they secure the number one spot. On their fifth attempt, the fans pushed NJPW TV to the top! On a recent episode of Shinnichi Champion, she interviewed NJPW President Takami Ohbari. In celebration of the show winning the semi-annual variety show popularity vote (season 3 episode 16) and it is the 50th Anniversary of TV Asahi broadcasting NJPW programming, he asked what her dream was as a fan, and she mentioned a variety of things including being a diva, referee, a Young Lion, and a ring announcer. 

Mr. Ohbari turns it back on her and asks if NJPW TV will produce one of the matches at Sakura Genesis (4/8)! She submitted her proposal for a dream match packed with her favorites (watch the episode and find out who) for review NJPW. Her dream is to produce a match that fans normally wouldn’t see, like a mixed tag with people from multiple factions, and not just CHAOS/Hontai vs. everyone else. We’ll have to see what the final result is, but I am very excited for Mitani especially as she only became a fan of wrestling when she got assigned to cover NJPW!   

DOMESTIC: Sakura Genesis 2023 (4/8) Ryogoku Kokugikan; Full Card TBA; Event Report Scheduled!

  • Shinnichi Champion (NJPW TV) Special Match – produced by Tsumugi Mitani
  • IWGP Women’s Championship (1/60): Mercedes Moné © vs. TBA*
  • IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship (1/60): Hiromu Takahashi © (LIJ) vs. Robbie Eagles (TMDK)
  • IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (1/60): Kazuchika Okada © vs. SANADA (2023 New Japan Cup Winner) 

*STARDOM vs. IWGP Women’s Championship: While there has yet to be a formal announcement as to who will face Mercedes Moné at Sakura Genesis, AZM has answered The CEO’s Tokyo Dome Love Call, accepting the offer. However, with a first-round Cinderella Tournament matches against Hazuki on March 26th, Hazuki has proposed a three-way stipulation. It is unclear if the participant(s) will hinge on the outcome of their match this coming Sunday (3/26) or not. On top of that at her Homecoming show in Yamaguchi over the weekend, Mayu Iwatani called next on whoever walks out of Sakura Genesis as Champion as her opponent of STARDOM’s All-Star Grand Queendom at Yokohama Arena on April 23rd. However, no formal match announcement from NJPW has been made yet. 

Capital Collision (4/15) Washington, DC

  • Singles Match (1/30): Fred Rosser vs. Juice Robinson
  • 10-Man Tag Match (1/20): Tomohiro Ishii, Rocky Romero, Clark Connors, The DKC & Lio Rush vs. KUSHIDA, Volador Jr (CMLL), Mike Bailey (IMPACT), Gabe Kidd & Kevin Knight
  • Tag Match (1/20): TMDK (Shane Haste & Bad Dude Tito) vs. WCWC (Royce Isaacs & Jorel Nelson)
  • Announced Participants: Kazuchika Okada, El Desperado, Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi
  • Advertised Talent: Hiroshi Tanahashi, SANADA (Ospreay will likely be removed due to injury)

2023 Domestic Schedule

  • Road to Sakura Genesis 2023 (multiple venues 4/1-7)
  • Sakura Genesis 2023 (4/8) Ryogoku Sumo Hall; Event Report!
  • 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
  • NEW! Best of the Super Juniors 30 (multiple venues 5/12-5/28) – Finals on 5/28 at Ota Ward Gymnasium; Participants/Format TBA

2023 NJPW STRONG Live/International Schedule

  • Capital Collison (4/15) Entertainment & Sports Arena, Washington, DC
  • Collision in Philadelphia (4/16) 2300 Arena, Philadelphia, PA
  • NEW! Resurgence (5/21) Walter Pyramid, Long Beach, CA
  • NEW! Forbidden Door II (6/25) Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Canada

We’ll keep you POSTed on all the upcoming ongoings in NJPW and STARDOM! So keep an eye for Dream Slam Monthly and other coverage soon!

About Karen Peterson 103 Articles
Occasionally drops by wrestling podcasts, but remains rather elusive. Joined the Japanese wrestling fan scene in summer 2017, and continues to work on bridging the language gap between fans. Outside of wrestling, she’s a dog mom, perpetual Japanese learner, and when conditions permit, world traveler. Never skips dessert.