Welcome to Wrestling With Words’ official primer for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s biggest show since the Tokyo Dome, Invasion Attack. This looks like a Show of the Year type of card on paper, but it’s up to the top three matches, as well as a debut, and the overall booking and pacing of this nine match card if it will deliver or not. Storylines will culminate, new titles could be won, and the face of New Japan could change in a blink of an eye. Without further ado, let’s get into the preview.
NJPW Invasion Attack
April 10 – 12:00 AM PT/3:00 AM ET – NJPWWorld.com (with an English commentary option, Kevin Kelly & Steve Corino will be calling the show live)
The undercard of NJPW’s shows, more so this opener, speaks for itself on paper. You have Juice Robinson, who’s been on and off, more so on in bright spots throughout the last few months, working with great opposition and parners … teaming with YEAOH~! placeholder and hilarious (at least to me) Ryusuke Taguchi. Both are goofy wrestlers, who so happen to be facing the Bullet Club D-team in Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi. Fale’s had a solid year more than a downer, because he’s doing his thing and it’s not offensive. A lot of you will know about Yujiro by now and by show time, he’s a mound of trash turned wrestler; occasionally saved by Mao, an all-time great valet. The match will be short, a typical opener, and may be a little fun as Robinson and Taguchi are a perfectly fun goofy tag team to put on first. Bullet Club gets the win.
There are only two real undercard matches on this show. The next is a stacked match before we get to title matches, and this is another typical type of matchup. Liger, Nagata, and Kojima are a spectacular team, and will continue to prove that the ‘past generation’ can hang with new folk, although the other squadren isn’t really young lions nor current champions. We have geek (you may like him though) YOSHI-HASHI, always fun to watch MMA veteran Kazushi Sakuraba, and the funniest man in pro-wrestling today, Toru Yano. This makes for a fun combination, and with a great trio, and a decent trio comes solid wrestling. I always enjoy #TheLads of New Japan in these multi-mans since they pushed them into this direction, and CHAOS ain’t the worst thing in the world – especially when Yano and Sakuraba are apart of the match. Liger, Nagata, and Kojima pick up the win (Cozy lariat on YOSHI-HASHI).
It still is surreal, and strikes me insane, that this match is on third on a big show! THIRD! Goto has been mostly a natural fit in CHAOS, adjusting to the stable and these constant tags very quickly, and with Ishii/EVIL interactions guaranteed to occur, plus BUSHI wrestling with the heavyweights, this will make either A) an all out war, B) a helluva time, or C) all of the above. I look forward to seeing who EVIL will do the home-run chair smash on, who BUSHI may mist, and who may pick up the win. Because of Los Ingobernables coming out on top aplenty times thus far, and with my idea that Naito wins in the main event of the evening; I have someone from CHAOS pinning BUSHI for the win.
As brought up quite a lot by our staff and myself alike, I’m just glad this IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship match is a 2 vs. 2 match, and not yet another multi-man tag. Anyone who is getting into the product will learn that, yes, at first, for the first bit of your viewing experience with New Japan; junior tag title matches are freaking AWESOME. As you move along in your viewing timeline, they start to wear you out, and become eerily similar to each other, with no switch ups in booking teams against each other to help the case either. In this case, we have a unique scenario besides the fact there’s finally another 2 vs. 2 title match. Ricochet isn’t taking independent wrestling dates past June, and has been (SPOILERS) in (SPOILERS), which means he is very likely WWE bound. Dave Meltzer and other luminaries expect Ricochet and Sydal to drop the titles because of such, and anyways, I’d love Roppongi Vice to hold the titles anyway. They don’t matter much however, and I’m sure New Japan and company will always pretend they mean a lot more than they do. 2 vs. 2 and new champs that may hold the belts for at least a bit is a step in the right direction.
This match is going to be next level ridiculousness. Will Ospreay makes his New Japan debut in perhaps the best way possible considering weight limitations, challenging (using the term lightly), ace of the junior division, for his championship. For those are live under a rock, or aren’t as familiar with the product, Ospreay is debuting, and is already known as a member of CHAOS, under the likes of Okada, Ishii, Goto, Yano, Roppongi Vice, etc. I expect nothing but good things as this can also be considered a dream match. Two of the best junior heavyweight workers in the world collide in front of Sumo Hall, with Ospreay as fired up as ever to make his debut, and KUSHIDA as fired up as ever to keep his belt from shiny new additions to the roster – which triggers bad memories for him I’m sure. I can see both sides, but in reality, I can’t see Ospreay losing his debut match, especially since he’s being pushed very hard already. It sucks so much for KUSHIDA, who’s been crowned “ace” on more than one occasion, but it isn’t very true when you drop it to new guys; I see the trend continuing. KUSHIDA will need another crowning some other time. Will Ospreay is coming in hot and heavy (cruiserweight weight, actually), and will defeat KUSHIDA to win the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship in his debut.
The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega have kept a stranglehold on the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Championships for a solid amount of time now, literally defending them on other sides of the world. They always have great matches, and this should be no exception, except the fact that I see their belts finally be taken away from them. Tanahashi and Elgin have tried to win those belts on the tour, teaming with Juice Robinson, but it just hasn’t worked out the way they’ve wanted to. “Bullet Club hunter” (more like ELITE, now), Yoshitatsu after over a year finally makes his return to the ring. I see that being the main factor in the Unbreakable Aces and himself going over the ELITE. They’ve built up being tricked and struggling to win gold, but I see this victory as the perfect way to re-debut Tatsu to the audience, give Michael Elgin his first NJPW championship, and give Tanahashi a slight cruise control option until the G1 Climax. The ELITE will be fine, they’ll still have the Intercontinental Championship to keep as their baby. Yoshitatsu, Elgin, and Tanahashi pin one of The Young Bucks for the gold. Expect some mega-fun Omega and Elgin interactions as well, like what we’ve gotten in the past.
As slightly mentioned at the top of the primer, I am ridiculously excited for anything to do with the new “old Generation” storyline coming into full effect. Katsuyori Shibata has already ran through Satoshi Kojima, in arugably a Match of the Year candidate, and is looking to clean sweep TenKoji to retain his belt. The NEVER Openweight Championship has always been the workhorse kind of belt in New Japan, where you expect great matches, and whether or not the title is booked properly doesn’t matter much, but now it’s changing. This title is in a tug of war between new and old, with Shibata looking to propel himself into a long reign; but the Generation placing the numbers game card on Shibata’s table in reply to such. Tenzan’s pre-match comments, as you can come across in translations on Twitter from guys such as Chris Charlton and E. Key Oide, have been tremendous and have me even more excited than seeing the last match and then this on paper. I can tell Tenzan’s going to try and go all out to not only equate to the last Generation match, but to show he’s still got it. He explained he doesn’t have the same movement he used to have, but he’s going to bring it. I am so ready for this match, am objectively excited, and see Shibata continue to run through #TheLads by pinning Tenzan after a Penalty Kick.
There are question marks in the match title for a reason. I have no idea what’s going to happen in this match. Great Bash Heel have had a solid run with the belts since the Tokyo Dome, with Honma finally getting gold, but Guerillas of Destiny in Tama Tonga and fresh off TNA Tanga Roa prove to be the biggest test yet. The Road to tour has been an interesting one, with Roa jumping Makabe to cause a rare no-contest on a show, leading to them standing tall. Then, on the Elimination Match on the go-home NJPW World aired Korakuen card, the teams essentially equalized each other, with Roa and Makabe continuing their beef; eliminating themselves at the same time from the match. This could either under deliver, or be the sleeper match of the night. I am a bigger fan of Roa than most, but am not crazy about him. You’d have to think that in his first big match he’d love to deliver in a grand way along with constantly great performer no matter where on the card, Tonga. This may break into brawl portions that have the potential to be great, and I expect some wild sequences. That’s the key-word for the match: potential. As for the result, it’s still mostly unpredictable, but I see yet another title change happening on the show; with Guerillas of Destiny debuting on a big show in a big way, taking Great Bash Heel’s tag belts.
After all the craziness that’s been predicted, and lots of things likely to happen to occur, this is the peak of Invasion Attack. It’s a huge IWGP Heavyweight Championship match, and is without a doubt the most unpredictable match of NJPW so far in 2016. Kazuchika Okada has just been crowned on 1/4 in the Tokyo Dome, but Tetsuya Naito and his Ingobernables have been wrecking havoc all over the roster for the past few months specifically, and it’s time to pull the trigger on Tetsuya Naito while he’s hot. We’ve seen ridiculous floods of Ingobernables merchandise at shows, we’ve heard the exact dueling chants; yet, I’m still OK if Okada retains. My theory goes like this. Hirooki Goto has been putting on an act. The ‘sad’ Tweets were B.S., and he’s been enlisted as a rogue member of the Los Ingobernables de Japon. I see Hirooki Goto costing Kazuchika Okada, the man who’s beaten him numerous times, and most recently decimated his hopes at a top run, that very top title. A freshly heel Goto in Ingobernables thrown into the mix with Naito as champion would make the stable even more money than it already is. However, as that’s only one possible result, I can also see Okada going over clean, Naito winning without Goto, and maybe even Goto trying to help but costing Naito the gold, slipping into CHAOS limbo and flakback. Who knows what the main event will bring for a result, but I know it will deliver in the ring. It will most likely get 20-30 minutes and rock the house. These two have great chemistry, their exchanges in the build-up have been electric, and massive match Okada/Naito will both deliver the goods to make for a wondrous spectacle of a main event in Sumo Hall. Hirooki Goto costs current stablemate Okada the gold, leading to a final Destino being hit. Tetsuya Naito is now the face of New Japan, with the fans on his side this time, with a helluva stable for backup.
That is your primer for Invasion Attack 2016. As aforementioned, I think it has massive potential to be a fantastic show, with the top three matches (NEVER, tag, and IWGP Heavyweight) all looking to deliver in a big way, as well as the HUGE Ospreay debut match. Combine that with a bunch of other fun combinations, and a potential Ricochet hurrah, and you’ve got another post-‘Mania madness show to look forward to. Be sure to check out my live coverage of the event, like the WrestleMania live review. For all New Japan Pro Wrestling coverage, you’re already in the right place, Wrestling With Words.