Previews

Previews for matches and upcoming events.

WrestleMania 33 Preview

I can’t think of a more perfect representation of what WrestleMania has become than this years card. A bunch of cluttered matches, title matches with terrible builds, and part-time old guys galore! It’s going to be great.

I’ve come around on Mania. There’s a thing that goes around every year that WrestleMania isn’t for the “hardcore” fans. That may be true, but  a 6 hour show filled with c-list celebrities and stars from the 90’s is not for casual fans either. Then who is it for? Well, the WWE tells us who it’s for in every promo. It’s for the “moments.” A decade ago, a WrestleMania moment was a storyline prop for Mick Foley vs Edge. Now, it’s a brand. The quality of the show doesn’t matter. Nothing matters except the WrestleMania Moments that can be put in a video package to make people think something important happened.

With that in mind, this preview will be about what moments the WWE is going to be telling us are important after the show. Winners and losers won’t be predicted unless part of the “moment,” because wins and losses don’t matter. This is proven over and over again. So here are my predictions for your upcoming WrestleMania moments.

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Money in the Bank & Dominion

There are two big shows this weekend, WWE’s Money in the Bank, and New Japan’s Dominion. It should make for an exciting weekend, as both shows are important, with several big time matches on each card. Both matches have 10 matches on the card, so I thought it would be kinda fun to look at each card, side by side, and evaluate which one I’m more excited for.

Match 1: WWE: The Lucha Dragons vs The Dudley Boys. NJPW: Third Generation vs Young Lions.

This is a pretty easy one. The WWE match was just announced a day or two ago, and means literally nothing. Meanwhile, in New Japan, this opener will be Jay White’s final match before going on excursion to Ring of Honor. Jay White has HUGE potential as a professional wrestling star in any country, so being able to watch him reach a new audience will be cool. And after a year, maybe he comes back to New Japan as a legitimate threat. In any case, the match should be full of emotion. Winner: New Japan.

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Royal Rumble Preview

I have a special relationship with the Royal Rumble event. Last year’s show made me so mad that I started this blog. It was so poorly done that I spent the next month bitching about it to anyone who would listen, and I knew I needed a new outlet before my girlfriend started actively avoiding me. I had been talking about a wrestling blog for a while, and the Royal Rumble match was the final impetus to get me started.

Last year’s match was bad. Really bad. It had one goal, and that was to make Roman Reigns look strong. It failed on that goal, and failed spectacularly. This year, they are doubling down, putting every odd possible against Reigns. Will Reigns go from #1 to win, only the third person to do so? Will Reigns break his own record of 12 eliminations? Will Reigns break the record for longest time in the Rumble? Will every record and award to to Roman Reigns in the bleak hope that we cheer for him? I hope, for the WWE’s sake, that the answer to all this is ‘No.’ (more…)

Wrestle Kingdom 10 Preview

The card for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 10 was announced this morning, and it’s has a lot of potentially great stuff on it. The show is still almost a month away, but by finalizing the matches now, New Japan has plenty of time to promote the show. Imagine that, making matches for big shows more then a week or two in advance… Anyways, let’s go over the upcoming matches and give some picks.

New Japan Rumble – To kick off the show, NJPW will have their version of the Royal Rumble. Last year, the un-aging wonder Yuji Nagata won and went on to challenge for the Intercontinental Title, and a similar thing could certainly happen this year. Out of all the old veterans in NJPW who aren’t elsewhere on the card, Satoshi Kojima has looked the best, and a win here would not be out of the question. Or we could get a younger winner to give someone like EVIL a push. Either way, the winner will just be a road bump for whatever champion they challenge. Prediction: Satoshi Kojima.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match: ReDragon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly)(champions) vs. Roppongi Vice (Trent Baretta & Rocky Romero vs. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs. Matt Sydal and Ricochet – This will be a huge spotfest to start the show proper. Expect a great many flips and dives and complicated double team moves. I would have rather have seen the titles defended in a simple 2 on 2 match, but oh well, this will still be fun to watch. The Jr Tag belts jump around so much it’s hard to predict who wins. ReDragon barely loses and have been champions for a couple months now, which is an eternity in the Jr Tag division. Sydal (formerly Evan Bourne of the WWE) and Ricochet (Prince Puma of Lucha Underground) won the Jr. Tag tournament last month, while RPG Vice beat the champs in said tournament. And the Bucks are the Bucks, and can never be counted out. Prediction: ReDragon. In the end, I think Sydal and Ricochet got their moment when they won the tournament, RPG Vice is entertaining but mostly non-essential, and while I could see the Bucks winning, I think New Japan will want to avoid too many repeat wins from last year’s Wrestle Kingdom.

Toru Yano, TBA & TBA vs. Tama Tonga, Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale – Toru Yano was involved in a similar match at last year’s Wrestle Kingdom, and he brought in wrestlers from Pro Wrestling Noah to help him out. Will he go a similar route here? Will be bring in a New Japan tag team like Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan? Or perhaps someone from Ring of Honor? Who Yano brings with him is more interesting then the match will be. I enjoy the antics of Yano a lot, but the Bullet Club B-Team is pretty hit or miss with me. Prediction: Toru Yano and friends.

Ring of Honor World Championship Match: Jay Lethal (champion) vs. Michael Elgin – This match is dependent on Jay Lethal staying champion. He defends the ROH belt against AJ Styles later this month, and assuming he wins, Lethal will defend the belt at Wrestle Kingdom. If not, I guess they just have a regular match. Lethal keeping the belt is not a foregone conclusion, New Japan event put on the card that Lethal might not be champion. While Lethal is a newcomer (I think) to New Japan, Michael Elgin has had a great year in NJPW, and is very over with the Japanese fans. A win here for him would not surprise me, though does he walk out as Ring of Honor champion? Prediction: Michael Elgin.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship Match: Kenny Omega (champion) vs. KUSHIDA – One of the weak points of New Japan this past year has been the booking of the Jr. division. Kenny Omega was a decent champion but was in many ways disappointing. KUSHIDA winning the Best of the Super Jr’s tournament and dethroning Omega was a good moment, but then he lost the belt right back to Omega and we’re back to where we started. Why give KUSHIDA his big win and the title just to undo it immediately? Hopefully sanity will prevail and KUSHIDA will get to carry around the belt he deserves, and Omega can move on to more varied competition. Prediction: KUSHIDA

IWGP Tag Team Championship Match: Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson (champions) vs. Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe – One one hand, this is one of the easiest matches to predict. The Bullet Club are lame duck champions, and the rise of Honma has been one of the best underdog stories told in wrestling in a long time. Unfortunately on the other hand, Honma has recently faced accusations of domestic violence, and while he disputes these claims, it still creates a shroud over what should be a happy and long-awaited occasion. I have to imagine that if New Japan thought there was any weight to these allegations, Honma would not be put in a match on their biggest show of the year. History has proven though that wrestling companies do not always make the right decisions in these cases though. Prediction: Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe. The story being told here is Honma finally winning a big one, and unless more unpleasantness comes up, I don’t think that will change

Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito – Naito has been feuding with the tag team of Goto and Shibata since Naito introduced his new attitude earlier this year. Naito’s “lazy” attitude is the exact opposite of the serious wrestlers like Shibata and Goto, and while the rest of Los Ingobernables is not officially involved in the match, it’s not a stretch to see them get involved to aid Naito. This is the first of the four(!) potentially great matches on the show, and the only one not for a title. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito. Naito has the potential for a HUGE 2016, and it would not surprise me to see him hold the IWGP belt before Wrestle Kingdom 11.

NEVER Openweight Championship Match: Tomohiro Ishii (champion) vs. Katsuyori Shibata – This promises to be a hard-hitting no-nonsense affair. Ishii is my favorite wrestler currently, but I’ve never seen him wrestle a guy like Shibata, a smaller guy who is just as tough as Ishii. While Ishii favors the forearms and headbutts, Shibata prefers the kicks and submissions. Unfortunately there has been zero build to this match. Shibata hasn’t really won any feud he’s been in since the summer, and has been involved in a rivalry against Naito lately. Ishii meanwhile has feuded with Honma and Makabe all year, and while I’m glad he’s fighting someone else, this match came out of nowhere. I’m still looking forward to it though, as I love the hard-hitting style these two bring. Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata. Ishii’s role is to carry the NEVER title until someone comes along who’s ready to win. Shibata is ready to win.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match: Shinsuke Nakamura (champion) vs. AJ Styles – One of the most anticipated matches of the year. Nakamura and Styles have never fought 1 on 1, and have rarely even been involved in the big CHAOS vs. Bullet Club tag matches that take up nearly every minor show. There are so many variables here. AJ is currently hurt with back pain and had to pull out of the tag tournament NJPW was running. How will his health be? Also, will AJ be Ring of Honor champion going into this match? He fights Jay Lethal later this month for the belt, so this has the potential to be Title vs. Title. If he is ROH champion, will that belt be on the line too? In my perfect world, Nakamura becomes the ROH champion and comes to America for a while to defend the belt, but is that actually practical? There’s just too many variables right now, but this should be one hell of a match in any case. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura. Assuming his health holds up, I think AJ becomes IC champion sooner rather then later, but I don’t think it happens at Wrestle Kingdom.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Kazuchika Okada (champion) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi: A rematch of last year’s five-star classic main event, but now the roles are reversed. Last year, Okada came in as the young, cocky, arrogant challenger and left a broken man. This year, Okada is champion, and Tanahashi is eager to prove he still has was it takes to lead New Japan as it’s “Ace.” Okada has beaten Tanahashi, but never at Wrestle Kingdom, and that is his last big hurdle to be considered the face of New Japan. These two have been at each other’s throats for the last couple months, brawling at every opportunity, so I’m hoping we something completely different from last year. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada. This is almost as certain as it comes. Okada cannot lose two years in a row to Tanahashi and still be taken seriously. He spent the entire year redeeming last year’s loss, and to lose again would be a huge hit to his credibility. With Tanahashi not getting any younger, Okada is ready to step up and be the face of New Japan as it continues to expand internationally.

Night of Champions Preview

Over at Grantland, I’ve seen the argument made that Night of Champions has replaced Survivor Series as one of the Big Four Pay Per Views. Because “every title is on the line” and titles are important, right? The WWE doesn’t seem to think so, which makes the whole gimmick of this show a little silly. It mattered a little more when there were more titles. The first Night of Champions in 2007 had nine title matches, including the defunct Cruiserweight, ECW, World Tag Team, and World Heavyweight Titles. Now, we are down to five, and while I much prefer five titles to nine, its hurts the idea of this PPV.

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Summerslam Preview

I’m going to be frank with you here: I am nearly completely uninterested in Summerslam this year. Just the thought of previewing it makes me bored. Summerslam is so unappealing that I’m not even very excited about the NXT Takeover show the night before. The residual disinterest from Summerslam is seeping over into other events! Truly they have created a monster.

I think I’ve found a way to preview Summerslam, explain my disinterest, and not fall asleep at my keyboard. For each of the matches on the card, I will preview it and provide the Worst Case Scenario. This will be at least a semi-plausible, realistic and unapologetically fatalistic possibility for the match, the show, the WWE, and maybe life itself.

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G1 Climax

IT’s almost here, the biggest wrestling tournament of the year. The G1 Climax starts in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow, and is going to go on for the next four weeks. Last year, the G1 Climax had over a dozen four star and better matches, and came down to two of the biggest names in New Japan, Okada and Nakamura, with Okada winning the tournament for the second time and going on to challenge for the IWGP Title at Wrestle Kingdom 9. Okada goes into the tournament as champion this year, but will that help him win the G1 two years in a row?

The tournament is a round robin tournament with two blocks with twenty wrestlers, ten per block. Everyone in A Block will fight everyone else in A Block, and the same with B Block. Winning earns points, and the wrestlers with the most points in each Block will fight to determine the G1 Champion. I’m just going to highlight a few of the major wrestlers and stories that will be prominent over the next month of wrestling.

The Potential Winners

In all likelihood, there are only four realistic winners of the G1 Climax. In the A Block, AJ Styles and Hiroshi Tanahashi are the favorites, and in B Block, IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada and stablemate Shinsuke Nakamura are the most likely winners. All four are former IWGP Champions, and with the winner of the G1 receiving main eventing Wrestle Kingdom 10, a former champion is the best bet. Each has their reasons for and against them. AJ Styles would be only the third foreigner to reach the finals, and no foreigner has ever won the G1. Tanahashi is perpetually hurt, and this G1 may be his last big run at the top. Okada is current champion, so winning the tournament to determine his challenger would be odd. The most reasonable winner is Nakamura. Nakamura is the most popular guy on the roster, and hasn’t been IWGP champion in five years. Common sense says Nakamura is winning by beating Styles in the finals, but I’m picking Tanahashi.

This is probably Tanahashi’s last run at glory on the top of the card, so I can absolutely see him being given one final main event push. Plus, Tanahashi challenging Okada for the title at Wrestle Kingdom 10 would bring Okada’s story and their rivalry in full circle. It just makes too much sense not to do. It’s not what I hope happens, but it is what I expect.

The Bullet Club

Three members of the Bullet Club are in A Block. AJ Styles, Bad Luck Fale, and Doc Gallows will all have to face each other at some point. Styles, as former champion, is obviously the Ace of the Bullet Club, but Bad Luck Fale is always made to look strong. It will be interesting to see if they are able to have a respectful match with each other, especially since Styles and Fale rarely interact. I’m predicting a second place finish in A Block for Styles, and a third place finish for Fale, with Styles winning their match on August 11th.

CHAOS

The other major faction in NJPW, CHAOS has always seemed like a loose coalition then a group working towards anything. With both Okada and Nakamura in the group, it’s inevitable they will butt heads from time to time. Okada and Nakamura fight on the last day of the round robin portion of the G1, and Block B will almost assuredly be decided by that match. There’s a third member of CHAOS in B Block. Tomohiro Ishii is one of my favorite wrestlers. His smash-mouth style is awesome to watch, and I feel there’s some strong upset potential with him.

NJPW Dominion Preview

The last couple months of New Japan have been relatively uneventful when it comes to big things happening. They had a tournament, then another tournament, and a whole lot of multi-man tag matches were nothing important happened. That’s about to change though, as July 5th will be Dominion, a chance for the existing storylines to wrap up before the start of the G1 Climax tournament.

But what’s been going on with New Japan lately? They toured with Ring of Honor for several shows, which is one reason most of their stories have been on hold. In place of any progress, we’ve mostly gotten CHAOS vs. Tanahashi and Friends in 10 man tag matches, and the Bullet Club vs. Other People. Fortunately, Dominion is bringing all these things to a head. The G1 Climax starts next month, and I’ll probably post a preview of that too once they release the blocks. (more…)