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Jingu Stadium preview

August 29, 2020
By: Lou Pickney

In some ways, Kevin Kelly has been more valuable to New Japan Pro-Wrestling than ever despite him being unable to travel to Japan in person for these pandemic-era shows on NJPW World. Tremendous work on those solo studio calls.

Here's a preview of tonight's matches, live on World at 4 a.m. EDT.

1. Master Wato vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Kanemaru will turn 44 next month. This should definitely be a win for Wato. As distractingly silly as the gimmick is, the fire is there from Wato. And the guy is young, nearly a full year younger than MJF.

2. KOPW: Kazuchika Okada vs. Toru Yano vs. Sanada vs. El Desperado
You could make an argument for any of the four winning. It's Okada's idea and it's a title he can lose at some point in a stip match without having to burn a pin/submission. Sanada winning after seemingly not understanding the match stip voting rule concept would be something.

I don't know if any pro wrestling company has ever been as calculating with keeping a gimmick fresh long-term as what NJPW has done with the Rainmaker gimmick for Okada. The first time around it really worked, especially getting his proper music back. This has taken an entirely different path.

3. NEVER Openweight: Shingo Takagi (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki
This is a first-time ever dream match, which I think has been an underplayed element in the build. There are only so many first-time ever singles match meetings you can have with previous participants in a Wrestling Observer Newsletter Match of the Year award, which is what this will be.

If Shingo loses, it would seem to free him up for a G1 win and a Wrestle Kingdom main event.

4. IWGP Jr: Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. Taiji Ishimori
There's the case to be made for Ishimori winning if the plan is Wato chasing, since that would make for a better contrast. But then what would you do with Hiromu? They could team up Hiromu & BUSHI for an IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title run, though I'd prefer they not do that.

5. IWGP Heavy Tag: Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi
Feels like here's where the story ends. Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi & Sabre) vs. Golden Ace (Tanahashi & Ibushi) has been my favorite storyline of 2020. This warrants its own stand-alone write-up, which I hope to provide later.

Absent-minded Ibushi. Existential crisis Tanahashi. Translated Taichi is as hilarious as ever, ditto for Sabre in the prick heel role that he plays so well. Added value of Tenzan as the unlikely mentor for Master Wato and DOUKI have an almost sympathetic Stevie Richards with Raven in ECW vibe.

Wato has a ridiculous gimmick, but he is showing great fire and he's really good. And he's still quite young, which makes the Grand Master name confusing to me in some ways.

6. Double Championship: EVIL (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito
EVIL has one defense under his belt, so they could switch it back here without it feeling like a hot-shot. You'd figure the winner will be defending at Wrestle Kingdom, which makes Naito seem like the better choice.

They've kept Naito and Ibushi apart for awhile. Their last match (2019 G1) was so dangerous that Dave Meltzer refused to give it a rating in the Wrestling Observer newsletter. Ibushi leads the series 5-3.

But with Okada refreshing for 2021, Switchblade stuck in America, Ospreay stuck in the UK, and Tanahashi turning 44 in November... there are only so many options for the top of the card at Tokyo Dome.

Shingo vs. Naito would be my preference, particularly with Shingo quietly having been kept away from so many top heavyweights to this point. But that might not be the idea at all.

Good luck to Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton on the live call, Kevin somewhere in the United States and Chris at Tokyo's Jingu Stadium in person. If Fumi Hikodayo and Jim Valley can make an international podcast work with Pacific Rim, you'd figure Kevin and Chris and the NJPW World staff should be able to make it work as well.

4 a.m. EDT start time on World. Enjoy!

See any mistakes, omissions, or needed corrections? Please let me know: @LouPickney