New Japan Pro Wrestling is gearing up for an exciting start to its 2019. We are currently on the Road to the annual New Japan Cup tournament. This year the Cup will have 32 competitors. The winner will be a part of the pre-WrestleMania show at Madison Square Garden and face the IWGP Champion Jay White.
But before we look forward, we need to honor the past. New Japan begun with its first show on March 6, 1972 in Tokyo. Every year New Japan honors that moment with its annual Anniversary Show. This show always does a good job of setting up New Japan’s spring and summer shows.
The 47th Anniversary Show will have seven matches, a few grudge matches and the traditional Champion versus Champion main event. With the upcoming major events, how will the Anniversary Show impact the landscape of the New Japan?
Ren Narita, Shota Umino, Ayato Yoshida, Toru Yano & Togi Makabe vs. Hikuleo, Chase Owens, Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga & Bad Luck Fale
It is Bullet Club time! It is an interesting opening match for sure with three Young Lions teaming with the always unique pairing of Yano and Makabe. It is strange to think they are two-thirds of the current Never Openweight Six Man Championship.
The Bullet Club has had an interesting year so far. They ended their Civil War and brought back the likes of Chase Owens into the faction. The Bullet Club might also want some revenge because they lost the Six Man title to Yano, Makabe and Taguchi. It should lead to an entertaining opener.
Toa Henare & Yuji Nagata vs. Yoshi-Hashi & Tomohiro Ishii
It is a tag match to set up the New Japan Cup! The new 32 man New Japan Cup certainly sets up some interesting first round match-ups. Few are more interesting then former two-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion Yuji Nagata versus Tomohiro Ishii on the first night of the New Japan Cup. This should be a wonderful preview of the hard hitting action we are bound to see on March 8th.
Toa Henare and Yoshi-Hashi are interesting wild cards as both have had been underachievers in the New Japan. Toa Henare has had limited success in tag matches. Yoshi has had many opportunities to move up the card but never has won the “big one”. Will this be the start of a good 2019 for Yoshi?
Dragon Lee, Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask, Tomoaki Honma & Satoshi Kojima vs. Taka Michinoku, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi & Minoru Suzuki
It is the Veterans (and Dragon Lee) versus Suzuki-gun. The biggest thing to watch will be the Kojima/Suzuki dynamic. Kojima will be having a first round match with Suzuki in the New Japan Cup. They have had a long time rivalry in New Japan and other promotions. Other then that I would expect a lot of traditional Suzuki-gun cheating.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Shingo Takagi & Bushi (c) vs. Sho & Yoh
It is the first title match of the night! These teams were two-thirds of the Three Way Junior tag team match at Wrestle Kingdom 13. At Wrestle Kingdom, Bushi and Takagi won this title for their very first title reign. They successfully defended them at New Beginning and are ready for the very quick second title defense attempt.
Sho and Yoh have been quite the successful part of the division since first winning the title in October 2017. Will Roppongi 3K win their titles back and become only the fifth tag team to become three time Junior Tag Team Champions?
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:
Taiji Ishimori (c) vs. Jyushin Thunder Liger
It is the new star of the Junior division against the greatest of all time. Jyushin Thunder Liger is the 11-time Junior Champion and it will be a real treat to see the legend go against Ishimori. Liger may, be 54 years old but he can still put on a great show.
Ishimori has clearly been built as the star of the Junior division since his return in late 2018. He defeated Kushida to win the title at Wrestle Kingdom 13. He defended it for the first time at New Beginning against Taguchi. With Super Juniors only a few months away, this should be a fun showcase of the past and future of the Juniors division.
Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Sanada, Evil & Tetsuya Naito
It is three of the most popular good guys in New Japan versus Los Ingobernables. You certainly think that Naito, Tanahashi and Okada would be among the favorites for the New Japan Cup. It will be interesting to see how they perform days before the tournament begins.
It will be the first real showcase of Tanahashi since his Heavyweight Championship loss at New Beginning. How will the Ace perform after his surprising title loss to Jay White? It should be interesting to watch how he acts against some of his biggest rivals.
Champion versus Champion:
Will Ospreay vs. Jay White
The Anniversary show traditionally ends with a champion versus champion match. This year is a bit different with the NEVER Openweight Champion Will Ospreay competing against the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion Jay White. It is the “Aerial Assassin” versus “The Switchblade”. It should be quite the clash of styles for sure.
Ospreay has been putting on some great matches in New Japan recently. He recently joined the Heavyweight division and finally won the NEVER title at Wrestle Kingdom 13. He successfully defended it against Dalton Castle at Honor Rising in February as well.
Jay White has quickly become the new top heel of New Japan. He is the new leader of Bullet Club. He defeated Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 13 clean. He defeated Tanahashi to win his first Heavyweight Champion. How will White deal with Ospreay on the road to G1 Supercard in New York? It will be fun to watch on Wednesday night.