Thursday, July 2, 2015

Japan takes over the wrestling world this weekend!

That isn't a headline I thought I would be writing on this site anytime soon and I'm a New Japan and Dragon Gate fan. But nonetheless, WWE and NJPW are both putting on huge shows over this weekend, back to back on July 4th and 5th, and both frightfully early in the morning for us Westerners. Of course, I work nights already, so a 4:30 a.m. bell time shouldn't bother me too much. And both companies have streaming services more than nice enough to offer replays if I should miss them.


WWE's Beast In the East comes first early on the 4th of July. The WWE Network airing of what was just a Japanese house show has upped the impact of an already interesting card. Most interesting is the inclusion of a NXT championship match between Kevin Owens and his number one contender Finn Balor. With Owens on the main roster and Balor in the country that made him an international star, this has the biggest fight feel of any NXT title match ever. I suspect Balor to walk out with the belt, but not until after an epic match... and a new round of face paint.

In a perfect world, it would also inspire WWE to start calling it the NXT World title. But I won't hold my breath for that.

The card gets its name from Brock Lesnar's in-ring return as he faces Kofi Kingston. A lot has been made of this odd choice of opponents, but I love it. I think Lesnar and Kingston are a great fit for one another with their contrasting styles and ability to sell anything. Plus with the rest of The New Day in his corner, Kofi should have a nice little army to help him against Brock. Not that it will matter, I suspect, as this sounds like a solid setup to show that Lesnar can overcome even 3 on 1 odds.

The other matches aren't too shabby with a first time meeting between Chris Jericho and another former star in Japan, Neville. John Cena and Dolph Ziggler will team up to take on King Barrett and Kane in the show's oddest match. The Divas title will be on the line as Nikki defends against Paige and Naomi. The Lucha Dragons will take on the other two members of the New Day while Cesaro gets an intriguing singles match with Diego.

It should be a lot of fun, but it won't be as amazing as New Japan's Dominion 7.5, a stacked card from top to bottom coming out of the world's second biggest wrestling promotion. All six New Japan titles will be on the line.

The show kicks off with an all-gaijin battle for the Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles. Redragon and Roppongi Vice both challenge the Young Bucks in what will be a spot fest. The Young Bucks have been strong in New Japan, but I could see the fast rising team of Rocky Romero and Trent unseat them on July 5th.

Jr. Heavyweight champion Kenny Omega will also put his title on the line against the Best of the Super Juniors winner KUSHIDA in what may be the match of the night. These two men are both at their very best right now. Given fifteen or twenty minutes they could show up one of the best rosters of wrestlers in the world.

One incorporates Street Fighter II moves into his repertoire and the other thinks he's Marty McFly. How could this match ever be bad? 
The IWGP Tag Team match also features only gaijin in action as the ongoing war between the Kingdom of Taven and Bennett and the Bullet Club's Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows continues. This seems like the time for the feud to end, but it is anyone's guess how much longer these four men can destroy one another.

It's rare to see a New Japan card this big without Hiroshi Tanahashi in one of the top two matches, but New Japan's answer to John Cena didn't make it into either. Instead he takes on Toru Yano in an interesting clash of styles.

Shinsuke Nakamura lost the IGWP Intercontinental belt back in May to Hirooki Goto in what many saw as an upset. Over the course of the last three years, Nakamura has elevated the title nearly to that of the IWGP Heavyweight title, but now seems like the time to possibly move him past it. Every American fan of New Japan has been itching for an ongoing Nakamura and Styles feud, but that can only happen if Nakamura moves past trading the titles with his contenders.

Goto and Nakamura should also have a coolest coat competition.
The main event features the aforementioned AJ Styles as he defends the IWGP Heavyweight title against Kazuchika Okada. This is far from the two men's first encounter as Styles began his first run with the belt by pinning Okada. Styles would drop the belt in order to set up a bigger main event for Wrestle Kingdom 9. But NJPW seems firmly behind Styles now and there's a good chance he may hold the belt to next year's January Tokyo Dome mega-event. Though some suspect this might be the comeuppance for the former Okato over a TNA original, I expect Styles to pull out the win.

Fans can watch the broadcast live on New Japan's own streaming service NJPW World.

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