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By Matthew Macklin on 2014-12-30 14:13:37

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship

Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly (ReDRagon ) vs Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA (Time Splitters) vs Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov (Forever Hoologans) vs Nick & Matt Jackson (The Young Bucks)

All four of these teams will be looking to steal the show as the opening of Wrestle Kingdom 9. The Hooligans, Time Splitters and The Bucks have traded the titles for the best part of two years and have had several classic matches in that time. Now with ROH world tag team champions added to the mix it adds a new element with the immense technical ability of both men, particularly O’Reilly. This will be fast paced, futuristic, innovative, mind blowing tag team wrestling at its very best. The junior tag title are somewhat of a hot potato in NJPW so even though ReDragon only won the titles in November, a title change wouldn’t shock me. With Time Splitters and KUSHIDA in particular having an incredible 2014, a win for them here wouldn’t be surprising as I expect an even bigger 2015 for them.

Tomoaki Honma, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. Jeff Jarrett, Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi (Bullet Club)

This odd Bullet Club team sees the NJPW in ring debut of Jeff Jarrett as he teams up with Yujiro and Fale who aren’t known for being two of NJPW’s best in ring performers. Honma has been NJPW’s ultimate underdog ever since his amazing G1 performances, so a win for him here would be sure to blow the roof off the Tokyo Dome. Kojima is an NJPW vet who is still as good as anyone on the roster. Between him, Honma and Jarrett looking to make an impact for the American GFW audience, I’m sure this one will at least be entertaining.

Toru Yano, Naomichi Marufuji & TMDK (Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls vs. Takashi Iizuka, Shelton Benjamin & KES (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith, Jr) (Suzuki-Gun)

The Yano vs Suzuki-Gun feud took an interesting turn on December 20th when Pro Wrestling NOAH stars Marufuji & TMDK revealed themselves to be Yano’s tag team partners. With NJPW & NOAH entering a relationship I’d expect this to allow TMDK to make a huge impact and set up a feud with KES, which in theory could be featured across both NJPW & NOAH. TMDK have unlimited potential so the addition of them to the NJPW tag division is full of possibilities.

Minoru Suzuki vs. Kazushi Sakuraba (Match ends by submission, KO or referee stoppage)

This will be one of the more unique attractions on the card and will be a match that you will either love or hate. Suzuki & Sakuraba who are both as legit as it gets when it comes to shoot fighting and MMA have been on a collision course for months. Suzuki has proven to be one of the most versatile performers in NJPW and can brawl, wrestle, grapple and be the most believable crazed lunatic you will ever see. This one will be spent mostly on the mat with lots of MMA influenced submissions and grappling. This will probably be one of the more realistic bouts you will see on the card. Sakuraba is the kind of guy that needs the right opponent to bring out his strength. Minoru Suzuki is that man. Suzuki’s “Kaze Ni Nare” entrance is usually one of the highlights of the Tokyo Dome show.

NEVER Openweight Championship

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Togi Makabe

This will be a brawl. It will be physical, it will be stiff and there is a very good chance that it will be one of the most talked about matches on the card. When Jim Ross says Slobber Knocker this is exactly the sort of thing he is referring to. Ishii in my opinion has been the NJPW wrestler of 2014. Nobody has had as many rip roaring classics as Ishii and most have involved his NEVER championship. I expect more of the same here against NJPW’s veteran “The Unchained Gorilla”. Makabe has proven to be a big match performer that always pulls out a few unexpected tricks on the big stage. The stiff lariat and suplex count should be high in this one. I expect Ishii to walk away with the gold. Well, I selfishly hope he does so we get more classic NEVER title matches from him throughout 2015.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kenny Omega

“The Cleaner” Kenny Omega is Bullet Clubs newest member and has his sights set on cleaning up the junior division starting by taking the gold from NJPW’s Funky Weapon. Omega as a heel is untested water in NJPW and I am excited to see how it plays out as he has yet to compete since signing a full time contract with NJPW. Thus far he has been great in his role and has embraced the obnoxious Bullet Club behaviour. Taguchi and Omega are no strangers to each other. They clashed in classic Apollo 55 (Taguchi & Devitt) vs Golden Lover (Omega & Ibushi) matches dating back to 2011. Taguchi has found his form again lately and has become somewhat of an impersonator. He has also added an ankle lock to his game and has found some unique ways to use the hold. Omega is one of the finest in the world and he will be looking to kick off his full time run in NJPW with a major impact. I say Omega takes the gold here and really does clean up the junior division.

IWGP Tag Team Championship

Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (Bullet Club) vs. Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata (Meiyu Tag)

Anderson & Gallows won the titles one year ago at Wrestle Kingdom 8 when they beat KES. On the same night Shibata & Goto concluded their rivalry and shook hands as the college classmates went on to form a tag team. One year later they are back at Wrestle Kingdom challenging for the gold. Meiyu Tag earned their shot by winning the World Tag League, beating Gallows and Anderson in the final. Shibata has been a guy that has looked to be on the verge of joining the upper tier in NJPW, so a win here and his first NJPW gold would be a huge step in the direction as the tag titles in NJPW are not an afterthought. The tag league final between these teams was an outstanding match and you can be sure they have saved plenty for the Dome. Meiyu Tag showed off a few new tricks on the Road to Tokyo Dome including a double team Go To Sleep. This one could go either way, but now is the time for Shibata and Goto.

AJ Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito

During the G1 while Styles was IWGP champion, Naito pinned Styles and never got a title shot. I can see this being somewhat of a number one contenders match with the winner getting a title shot in the near future. Styles blew people away with his G1 performances and Naito in my opinion put on performances this year that were missing in the previous year. Naito to many is one of the best in the world and Styles has proven in 2014 that with the chains off he is still better than most. I expect this one to be an absolute belter. With The Bullet Club and Styles somewhat of an attraction to Western viewers unfamiliar with NJPW, Styles will be wrestling this one like he is the main event. Bullet Club shenanigans are a possibility here, but I can’t see it taking away from an outstanding match.


IWGP Intercontinental Championship

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi

For my money this has every chance of surpassing Tanahashi/Okada and stealing the show. They collided at G1 23 in 2013 and had the match of the year. Nakamura as everyone should know at this stage is one of the absolute best on the planet and a performer that exudes more charisma, coolness, swagger and presence than just about anyone. Ibushi is the new kid in the NJPW heavyweight division and is about to enter the biggest match of his life after gaining weight and looks to prove he is deserving of such a spot. These two have given a taster of what to expect in tag collisions leading up to the show and have blown people away in the few minutes they were in there. Sometimes certain pro wrestlers have a chemistry with each other and this is one of those times. It is very hard to know if the title will change hands, but I can see this being one of those matches where Ibushi will come out looking like a mega star even in defeat. This is what I am personally looking forward to the most.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada

There is very little to say about this that hasn’t already been said. This, to me, is the pro wrestling feud of the decade. Steamboat/Flair, Kobashi/Misawa, Rock/Austin. Tanahashi vs Okada in many ways surpassed them all. This will be the seventh match between the two since February of 2012 where Okada shocked the world by taking the title from Tanahashi. The first match was a bona fide classic and with increasing expectations every match thereafter. Okada and Tanahashi always blew those expectations away and delivered something even more special than the last. It is possible that the expectations will be too high, but I can’t see either guy cracking under it. Okada has attacked Tanahashi several times over the last couple of months and has stated that he wants Tanahashi to show more fire and aggression. With the Dome crowd sure to be behind Okada, I expect Tanahashi to show that fire and heelish side as he has done in the past in big pressure situations. This will be one for the ages. It’s not even a question. Tanahashi vs. Okada is everything great about pro wrestling. I am predicting Okada walks away with the title.


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