Editorials NJPW

Who is New Japan’s “X”?

With the news of IWGP Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura packing his bags and leaving for the WWE, New Japan’s office was put into a predicament of either stripping Nakamura or rushing a singles match with Kenny Omega where he would drop the belt. He inevitably vacated the title and on the 25th of January, Nakamura officially vacated the title. Nakamura’s final match with the company will take place on the 1/31/16 in a 6 man tag teaming with Tomohiro Ishii and Kazuchika Okada to face Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata in what should be a great match. Move ahead 15 days at “New Beginning In Niigata”, Kenny Omega will be in the main event wrestling a mystery opponent for the vacant IC title. Among puroresu fans this has been the top discussion point because this is a semi-important show with an unknown main event, which is very rare in Japan. Talking and listening to other NJPW fans I have heard just about every name under the sun be mentioned, some ridiculous and some very logical. In this article I want to go over some of the possible opponents for Omega on the 14th and choose who I believe will be “X”.

Hiroshi Tanahashi
After talking to many of people who follow the NJPW product, most believed that Tanahashi will be the mystery guy to face Omega. Personally I never would have seen Tanahashi in this match for numerous reasons. For starters, do you really think he is going to do 2 main event jobs in the span of 40 days? Tanahashi was going to rest up by teaming with Michael Elgin who I will also talk about later on. It looks like Elgin is going to be working much more NJPW dates in 2016, and for 6 months before the G1 tournament it was almost inevitable Tana and Elgin were going to be a dominant force in the very depleted heavyweight tag scene in New Japan. With the recent news coming out regarding Tanahashi’s dislocated shoulder, there is no 0% chance he is going to be “X”. I unfortunately see Tana continue to wrestle while injured but I don’t see him being put in the main event. Even though he will sell tickets, he won’t be able to perform at his best.

Possibility of being “X”: 10%

Kota Ibushi
This is a super interesting one because in late October, Meltzer said that he could be out for 6 months with cervical disc herniation in his neck. Now, just over 3 months later there is speculation that he could be back already. I honestly could see NJPW calling up Ibushi and asking him to wrestle this match even though he’s still messed up. Not much news has came out regarding his condition and for all I know he could have had a Cena-like recovery and is feeling great. I think he’s still not ready to go and Ibushi for his health should really not come back until he’s 100% or close to 100%. I also believe an Omega vs. Ibushi match could sell out a much larger building and you wouldn’t want to waste it on a small show like this. With that said, I don’t see Ibushi returning anytime soon especially for this match.

Possibility of being “X”: 20%

Michael Elgin
Logically, Elgin is my #1 pick to be “X” and wrestle Omega at “New Beginning In Niigata’. People I have spoken to don’t believe Elgin will be the mystery guy because he’s not a big enough star in Japan and he couldn’t sell tickets. Both are stupid arguments because “X” is a goddamn mystery man and the “X” is going to sell tickets alone because it’s a surprise and people love surprises. The argument could be made that he is not a big enough star, but this will be Elgin’s 4th tour and for just 4 tours he is insanely popular with the fan base. The building this event is being held in only holds 3000 people at full capacity and with a strong undercard the event should sell itself, and there is no problem putting Elgin in the match because the man is over! On the ‘Road To New Beginning’ house shows Elgin faces Omega on every night of the tour in tags and people will say “but why Elgin and not the other guys in the tag matches?” Because goddamn JUICE ROBINSON is not going to be put in the match with Omega, same with Honma and Makabe. They are going to successfully defend there tag belts at “New Beginning In Niigata”. Let’s be honest people, you’re nuts if you don’t want to see Big Mike vs. Kenny Omega. With a hot crowd and given time, the bout could be incredible. I would hope to see Elgin in this position and I honestly believe he is going to be “X”.

Possibility of being “X”: 60%

Minoru Suzuki
I recently had a fruition that Suzuki is going to be “X” and I will tell you why. On the big 1/31 NOAH show Minoru Suzuki is wrestling Go Shiozaki, also on that show in the main event is Naomichi Marufuji defending his GHC heavyweight title against Takashi Sugiura with the stipulation of if Sugiura loses, Suzuki-Gun will be forced to leave NOAH. In the scenario that Sugiura loses and Suzuki and friends have to leave NOAH, it would work out perfectly that 15 days later Suzuki returns to NJPW as “X”. The flaws to this option are that Suzuki is a heel and a Suzuki vs. Omega match would be heel vs. heel which isn’t something you want to do, but in this situation Suzuki would be the babyface because he is making his return and would be loudly cheered. Suzuki is my number 2 pick to show up and I have heard rumblings that Suzuki-Gun are due back in New Japan very soon.

Possibility of being “X”: 40%

Tetsuya Naito
As much as I love Naito I can’t see him being “X”, 2016 is Naito’s year but he isn’t going to be facing Omega in Niigata. This Los Ingobernables thing is just beginning to gain a ton of steam in Japan and by July, Naito will be in the main event and a champion. The whole “X” gimmick is that it’s meant to be a big deal and if Naito shows up to be the mystery guy it’s not that dramatic even though it would be a fun match.

Possibility of being “X”: 5%

Jun Akiyama
If this happened I think I would react as loudly as I did when AJ Styles entered the rumble. In all actuality I can’t see this happening at all even though I wish it could. Akiyama is my dark horse to be “X” but a he is a very dark horse. I honestly believe Akiyama is showing up in New Japan in 2016 because All Japan needs all the help in the world, and having a relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling would help their business immensely. If Akiyama is “X” I promise to write a 2000 word article on K-Dojo and no one wants to read that.

Possibility of being “X”: 1%

Masakatsu Funaki
In a perfect world Masakatsu Funaki would be the NEVER champion and wrestling Ishii, Shibata and Honma on a monthly basis. Ever since Mr. Funaki left Wrestle-1, puro fans have speculated about Funaki having one last run in the biggest company in Japan. Not many people know but Funaki started his career with New Japan in 1985! He wrestled Benoit in 1986! I would love that after 31 years in the sport he returns home and has one last run… but he isn’t going to be “X”. I would love it and the older Japanese fans would love it but in 2016, Gedo isn’t putting Masakatsu M’fn Funaki in the main event of a NJPW show.

Possibility of being “X”: 0%

At the end of the day I could honestly see an injured Hiroshi Tanahashi being “X” sadly, not because I dislike Tanahashi at all just because his health right now isn’t the best. The names I mentioned towards the end of the list got a little wacky but you’re lying to me if you don’t want to see JUN AKIYAMA vs. KENNY OMEGA in a battle of former DDT extreme champions. I am anxiously anticipating the “New Beginning In Niigata’ show solely because of not knowing who is going to be “X”. Stuff like that always intrigues me in wrestling and gets me FIRED UP. I will be reviewing a ton of NJPW shows in the near future so keep your eyes peeled for that and have a lovely day.

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