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NJPW: Wrestle Kingdom Night 2 Roundtable

This is the official Fight Game Media NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Roundtable, where we’ve gathered our writers and asked their thoughts about the matches set for New Japan’s marquee event. Our panel members include Fight Game’s own Steven Conway, Scott Edwards, Jeremy Finestone, Jeremy Peeples, C.J. Tappin, plus NJPW English broadcast statistician and founder of Sport of Pro Wrestling, Chris Samsa.

1)  IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Championship Three-Way: Robbie Eagles & Tiger Mask [c] vs. Rocky Romero & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori

Scott Edwards: I don’t think so. Robbie Eagles and Tiger Mask have done their best to be seen as the new great junior division tag team but they will have to find something deep down that I am not sure they have to walk out with the titles. Bullet Club’s Cutest Tag Team in El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori were in competition for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at last year’s event. This year they both walk out with gold.

Jeremy Peeples: This should be an all-action affair and the biggest match Tiger Mask has been a part of in many years. ELP and Phantasmo feel like the biggest stars in this and would benefit from a major card win – so they seem to be the most likely winners here. Romero should do quite well in this match and Taguchi should have his working shoes on and one would expect the best performance he’s had at Wrestle Kingdom since WK 9.

Chris Samsa, Sport of Pro Wrestling: Robbie Eagles and Tiger Mask enter as the 68th IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champions and if you know anything about Ryusuke Taguchi, you know that he is very motivated to become the 69th IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. I’m very glad this is the opener and I think this will be the energetic opener that we need as we dive into another night of wrestling in the Tokyo Dome.

2) Stardom Special Match: Mayu Iwatani and Starlight Kid vs. Saya Kamitani and Tam Nakano

SE: Stardom has put together a match that should leave people wanting to see more. The teaming of Mayu Iwatani and Starlight Kid against Tam Nakano and Saya Kamitani guarantees great tag team action and a stunning finish. Iwatani and Kid are former partners turned rivals, but they know what is at stake in this one and that should make for greatness. Kamitani winning it, however, with her Phoenix Splash is the reason she is in this match. She can do things few others can and that makes her the perfect showcase wrestler. They will win over fans in this one, no doubt.

JP: Starlight Kid is one of STARDOM’s most memorable acts, while Iwatani is one of the world’s best women wrestlers and can be counted on to deliver when needed. This should be a great gateway match for NJPW fans who may not have had a chance to check out STARDOM without giving away a massive match for the company itself. In that regard, it is a bit disappointing to not have a higher-stakes match, but it should be an excellent match overall.

3) KOPW 2022 four-way match (entrants to be determined on Night 1)

Steven Conway: Chase seems to be the most likely for Bullet Club. DOUKI doesn’t have a spot on the show yet either. It might be interesting to see what someone such as Togi Makabe would do with the KOPW trophy, but NJPW rarely includes anyone they take too seriously in these.

CT: I predict we’ll see Owens and Yujiro in the four-way, maybe Kanemaru. I’m not sure about the fourth. Hopefully, Suzuki is the fourth to have a serious killer in there. Pick: Toru Yano.

4): NEVER Six Man Tag Championship Match: Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & YOH vs. EVIL, SHO & Yujiro Takahashi [c]

SC: The result will likely be telegraphed by the tag team title match the night before. I can’t see Goto and HOSHI-HASHI walking out as double champions. I could see them regaining the Six-Man titles with YOH as a consolation prize, however.

CS: It was a sad day when EVIL, SHO & Yujiro Takahashi defeated the Kings of Korakuen Hall for the NEVER Six Man Championships and replacing Tomohiro Ishii with YOH likely doesn’t give the CHAOS team a better chance of overcoming the House Of Torture trio.

CT: After YOH gets the big legacy-ranking win on night one, I think Bullet Club will get their win back in this match. SHO should be the one to get the pin, maybe even over YOH. Pick: Bullet Club.

5) SANADA vs. The Great-O-Khan

SE: SANADA has been waiting in the wings for his chance at a true main event run for two years now. He’s watched his former tag team partner EVIL surpass him and didn’t live up to expectations in the G1. While he needs this win much more than Great-O-Khan, it’s clear that this is Great-O-Khan’s time to shine and should kick off the night with a big United Empire win. SANADA might get the win back in the New Japan Cup.

CS: Great-O-Khan matches up well with SANADA. The United Empire went winless at last year’s Wrestle Kingdom, and I think this year will look a little different for the unit. 

CT: New Japan fans are well aware of SANADA’s technical prowess, and this recent G1 has given O-Khan a chance to show how proficient he is with the more scientific side of wrestling. I look forward to this as a huge SANADA fan, especially in technical bouts. I believe SANADA, as the better wrestler will avoid the Iron Claw. Pick: SANADA.

6) Tetsuya Naito vs. Jeff Cobb

SC: Like the main event, this one depends a lot on Cobb. If he can spend significant time in Japan in 2022, then this seems like a win to set him up as a top contender. But if he won’t be staying for long periods, Naito is always a believable title challenger. He’d also be the choice if Ospreay wins, since Cobb is a fellow United Empire member. I’m leaning toward Naito in this.

SE: Jeff Cobb is winning this match, right? It feels like the direction for NJPW should see Cobb pick up the win and become the next challenger for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, no matter who wins the main event. The story is there to run it back against Okada, a rematch from last year’s Wrestle Kingdom between Takagi and Cobb makes sense, and a battle between the two main event titans of The United Empire would be beyond intriguing.

CS: This match is probably more important to Jeff Cobb’s trajectory than Tetsuya Naito’s. After a record-breaking G1 Climax Tournament, a Wrestle Kingdom victory over one of NJPW’s biggest stars would give Cobb just the push he needs to get into the main event scene of NJPW to begin 2022.

7) IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship, No DQ Match: KENTA [c] vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

SC: While the No-DQ stipulation would seem to favor KENTA doing something dastardly to Tanahashi. Plus, Tanahashi tends to win these blow-off matches. His losses in big events like WrestleKingdom are often saved for people higher on the totem pole.

Jeremy Finestone: KENTA hasn’t really had the run so far that should elevate the title that he’s holding. Since taking the title from Tanahashi in November, KENTA has escalated his bloodlust towards Tanahashi culminating in this NO DQ match. The idea that KENTA is on the NOAH side of a matchup on Night 3 seems like a tell to me that he retains in a match not designed for Tanahashi’s strengths.

CS: The last time the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship was slotted in the semi-main event spot on a Wrestle Kingdom card was in 2018 when Kenny Omega defeated Chris Jericho in the match that changed professional wrestling forever. Now, that is not to say that KENTA vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi will be groundbreaking like that, but it does show where the company currently slots the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship and Hiroshi Tanahashi’s involvement with the title only elevates it further. This match could go either way; Hiroshi Tanahashi is always a valid champion and KENTA could carry the title with him back to the United States when necessary.

8) IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Shingo Takagi or Kazuchika Okada [c] vs. Will Ospreay

JF: Things never seemed to go according to plan this year, but the endgame always seemed to be Ospreay as the ‘final boss’ in New Japan. Okada has plenty of motivation to put the boots to his former stablemate and protégé, but Takagi has been an unstoppable force holding the IWGP title for the majority of the year In Japan. My feeling is that there could be more mileage in Ospreay on top in Japan to open the year, but the momentum of ‘The Rainmaker’ seems to suggest that he’ll stop “The Kingpin” in his tracks.

CS: I think the likely scenario here is Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay and I think Kazuchika Okada will end January 5th holding up whichever championship belt he chooses as the top champion in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Will Ospreay has beaten Okada in the past, but only with the help of Great-O-Khan and Bea Priestley. He’s never done it clean; he’s never done it in a main event, and he’s never done it in the Tokyo Dome. Defeating Okada in the big moment will continue to be Will Ospreay’s white whale. 

CT: While I’m not the biggest fan of Will Ospreay, his talent can’t be disputed. As much as I want Okada to stand tall at the end of it all, with the previous IWGP strap, I can’t help but feel that it’ll be Will Ospreay being crowned on January 5. On the last Wrestle Kingdom, Ospreay lost to Okada in a singles match and I just can’t see a repeat of that happening.

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