NJPW INVASION ATTACK 2016
April 10th, 2016
Ryogoku Sumo Hall – Tokyo, Japan
With the New Japan Cup done, NJPW is gearing up for a hot summer. This summer will bring multiple tournaments including the Super J Cup, Best of the Super Juniors, the World Tag League, and the G1 Climax, all of which will decide the number one contenders for all the Japanese titles going into Wrestle Kingdom season.
Before the mercury starts increasing, however, New Japan participants have to gain title matches the old fashioned way: by beating up the champion and making their claim in a promo. This Saturday (3:00 AM this Saturday, if you’re an American fan watching live), a whole new hosts of heels will attempt to jump-start their careers, while the biggest heel in the company is cashing in his hard-fought trophy to redeem his career and to become top dog. Let’s look at the card below, before the big event.
The whole card revolves around the main event: Okada vs. Naito. Naito, a former generic, white-meat babyface, has a new attitude since he’s returned from Mexico. His new-found grittiness and henchmen of Los Ingobernables garnered him the New Japan Cup back in March, which he can then use for a title match against the three top singles titles in the company (NEVER, Intercontinental, and Heavyweight Championships).
Directly after his win, he called Kazuchika Okada out, signalling his attempt to head straight for the top. Naito’s new attitude and level of performance will make this an amazing, athletic main event. However, there’s more to the match than just the competition. Naito had a match against Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 8 for the Heavyweight title. However, due to the lack of popularity of Naito, what should have been the last match was relegated to the penultimate match below the Intercontinental title match at New Japan’s biggest show of the year.
Naito is not only looking to get his first IWGP Heavyweight title reign, but has to be looking forward to proving to himself, Okada, the fans, and the IWGP booking team that he is capable of being the company’s poster boy. This will lead to an emotionally fueled contest.
The undercard will include a couple of brand new debuts, and some exciting tag team action. Let’s take a look!
Juice Robinson & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale (Bullet Club)
As per tradition, Invasion Attack will start with Young Lions and the lower card veterans teaming up in a medium-length match.
With The Elite slowly splitting from Bullet Club, rumors of WWE using their rights to the Bullet Club soon, and the Sons of Tonga splitting from BC, the Bullet Club may not be around in New Japan for much longer. Juice Robinson, however, seems to be getting a small push in his young Japanese career.
Takahashi & Fale seem to just be the lowest guys on the Bullet Club ladder, especially with the former Camacho being introduced to Japanese audiences, pulling Tonga up with him to face GBH for the titles. With a possibility that the Tongan brothers may when the belts later in the night, expect Bullet Club to lose in this contest to maintain the face/heel dynamic. Bullet Club can take a loss and still look good, especially if it’s to raise the profile of a new star in Juice (and not the guy who knocks people out with his ass).
There’s always the chance that Bad Luck Fale will start an angle in order to complete the Bullet Club split, but it will most likely be a competitive, short match that will end with the babyfaces going over.
WINNERS: Juice Robinson & Ryusuke Taguchi
Jushin Thunder Liger, Yuji Nagata & Satoshi Kojima vs. YOSHI-HASHI, Kazushi Sakuraba & Toru Yano
This is truly a hodge-podge of a match. MMA legends will team with comedy characters, and one of the light heavyweight greats will team with near jobbers. The positive is that New Japan can do what WWE often can’t: make comedy characters still look tough.
I know Kojima will do his drum roll knife-edge chops, and I know Yano will do that shrug thing he loves to do. Other than that, this match could go either way.
Let’s go with Liger’s team, as Liger is a real-life Power Ranger and is chasing Light Heavyweight belts over in NWA Japan.
WINNERS: Jushin Thunder Liger, Yuji Nagata & Satoshi Kojima
Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii vs. BUSHI & EVIL (Los Ingobernables de Japon)
This match turned interesting during the New Japan Cup finals. Naito is currently chasing Okada and looking to take his title. Last month, though, saw Naito beating his old nemesis Goto for a title shot. This wound is still fresh, so Goto is looking to get his hands on Naito’s henchmen, BUSHI & EVIL, waiting until Naito falls back down into his hands from the main event.
EVIL also had help from BUSHI’s mist in order to steal a win from Ishii at the NJC Finals. EVIL figuratively cut the throat of Ishii and his ROH TV title reign. Look for Ishii, who will be looking to protect his title (even though he’s admitted in interviews that he doesn’t understand what it means) and to prove that he is what he claims he is: a stone, wrecking machine who takes out whoever he sets his sights on.
I have a feeling that BUSHI will use his mist, perhaps on Goto, since he already hit Ishii with it last month. This will raise the profile of EVIL when he pins the mist-sprayed opponent, and give a reason for Ishii to attack his new rivals and protect his brand.
WINNERS: BUSHI & EVIL (Los Ingobernables de Japon)
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Matt Sydal & Ricochet vs. Beretta & Rocky Romero (Roppongi Vice)
Former champs Roppongi Vice will be looking to regain their place on the throne against the newly-crowned champs, Sydal & Ricochet. This will be a fun match, showing the athleticism of the champs with a LOT of “flippy stuff”.
Beretta (Trent?) & Romero are great wrestlers, but Matt Sydal and Ricochet are some of the tops stars of the Junior Heavyweight division, and just started heating up. With the newly revived Super J Cup coming up, Sydal and Ricochet are bound to be the stars of the tournament. Sydal and Ricochet may lose the tag belts soon and start pursuing the singles Juniors title this summer. Before that, tensions may wise, but for right now, expect the two young champs to keep the tag titles hot before they shoot off into their singles run.
WINNERS: Matt Sydal & Ricochet
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
KUSHIDA vs. Will Ospreay (Chaos)
This will be an exciting match. Will Ospreay is one of the hottest stars in the UK, and is someone that a lot of fans consider the best high-flyer on Earth. Hopes were high for Ospreay signing to WWE for the Global Series this summer, but shortly after the rumor started, Ospreay announced he was going to Japan, in a video that also announced that he was joining Chaos (not that this matters all that much), and that he wanted to target KUSHIDA for his belt.
Ospreay is dazzling to watch, but he may be too young and fresh to be considered a champion in Japan. It is known that Gajin (aside from Bullet Club) rarely get a main event push right away. They often have to get the appeal from the hometown audience, which will then signal that they are worthy of holding the prestigious title.
Ospreay will wow the crowd, but KUSHIDA’s veteran status in the division will lead him to a victory in a hard-fought match.
NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship
YOSHI TATSU, Michael Elgin & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Nick & Matt Jackson (The Young Bucks) & Kenny Omega (The Elite)
The cream of the Bullet Club crop rival New Day for the most entertaining trios in wrestling. This match pits them against the most popular face gajin in Michael Elgin, the returning YOSHI TATSU and the #1 star in New Japan: Tanahashi.
The Elite are having a huge push in the NEVER 6-man division, and can handle the match much better than the thrown-together team of babyfaces. It’s exciting to see Yoshi be put in such a high-profile match with high-profile stars, especially after his run in WWE. The Young Bucks and The Cleaner, however, will tag team experience to win.
The story, however, rests in the fact that Omega also holds the IWGP Intercontinental title. As long as he holds the belt during the Elite push, that prestigious belt won’t be defended on PPV. Therefore, there needs to be a big threat to Omega’s title, otherwise it’ll start collecting dust, which is never good for a title’s lineage and prestige.
With a darker, heel-centric main event, Tanahashi has fallen down the card a bit. This is like if WWE fans wanted grittier, three-dimensional ‘wrestlers’ over cheesy ‘superstars’…
Tanahashi will no doubt move down into the Intercontinental division and raise it’s prestige back to the level of the Heavyweight Championship, like it was on the waist of guys like Nakamura. Look for Omega to cut a promo and gain a little hear, which will allow Tanahashi fill the John Cena role in New Japan and defend the honor of the belt.
WINNERS: Nick & Matt Jackson (The Young Bucks) & Kenny Omega (The Elite)
NEVER Openweight Championship
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
It seemed like Shibata’s next opponent was going to be the other half of Tencozy, Satoshi Kojima. After a tag match involving Tenzan, Kojima and Shibata at the NJC Cup finals, Kojima kicked Shibata down and staked his claim to the man’s belt.
However, on March 19th, Kojima lost his title shot against Shibata. This then caused Tenzan to come into the ring to protect his partner’s honor, and to try his might against the young champion. Tenzan wants to prove that the “Third Generation” or the old guys, can still go. The Openweight division is usually a STIFF division, and if anyone can have a good ol’ slugfest, it’s Tenzan.
I’m expecting, with the quick title changes that NJPW goes through sometimes, for this match to end in an upset. Tenzan hasn’t competed for a title since 2006, and at this point, isn’t believable in any other division (other than the tag team card, maybe). This could be his babyface triumph of sorts, even though he’s a heel (I think?). Think of it more like Mark Henry’s fake retirement kind of thing, I guess.
WINNER: Hiroyoshi Tenzan
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe (Great Bash Heel) vs. Tanga Roa & Tama Tonga (Guerrillas of Destiny)
At the New Japan Cup finals, the Bullet Club decimated Tanahashi and Great Bash Heel, after which Tama announced that he and his real-life brother would challenge for the belts. Fale and Takahashi must be feeling left out at this point.
As insider fans know, Tama Tonga is Haku’s son, and his brother Tanga Roa, used to play Hunico’s (now Sin Cara) bodyguard, Camacho. The two bros are defended their family legacy and showed their tenacity with their new name: Guerrillas of Destiny. That’s why Tama has been walking out in flack vests recently: because he’s a guerrilla agent, or something.
Honma and Makabe were a feel-good story about two older veterans seeking a second wind and making it to the top with friendship and tenacity. They beat Anderson and Gallows of the Bullet Club at Wrestle Kingdom 10. But now it’s time for the babyface tale to end.
The former Camacho is looking to solidify his spot on the Japanese roster, and it seems like New Japan is trying to create a number of tough heel splinter teams. Don’t be surprise if the two children of the toughest man in wrestling pick GBH apart, eventually picking the belts off of their fallen foes.
WINNER: Tanga Roa & Tama Tonga (Guerrillas of Destiny)
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada (Chaos) vs. Tetsuya Naito (Los Ingobernables de Japon)
Okada has had a long time on top. With Nakamura and AJ Styles in WWE, Okada is by himself at the top of the card, carrying the company. Until Tanahashi fights his way back up to the card, Okada is the lone babyface of the Heavyweight division. Naito is his foil.
Naito couldn’t convince fans to believe in him two years ago at WK 8, but now he has gotten himself over and is the perfect, cheating heel to rest at the top. He can have a great match with Okada now, with Tanahashi later, and against any new hero that is built over the next couple of years (Ospreay maybe?).
This match may very well be a five-star match, and it may feature an ending that turns the company to a darker side. On one hand, Naito will be a crowd favorite due to his antics and character work, but in a worked sense, he will be stealing the most prestigious prize in the company and working his ass off to keep his hard-earned spot on the throne.
WINNER: Tetsuya Naito