Tuesday, May 8, 2018

WWE vs. NJPW Supercard IV

Welcome to the Fourth Annual WWE vs. NJPW Supercard, here at Enuffa.com!  Back in 2015 I pondered what would happen if the two biggest wrestling companies in the world went head-to-head, and the following year I decided to turn it into an annual event.  Both promotions currently boast their most stacked rosters in ages, and it's gotten to the point that just picking who should be included here is becoming a challenge.  I think I've risen to said challenge, but you be the judge.  Let's see which company is superior these days, shall we?

Take a look at the three previous editions here: 2015  2016  2017

The Bar vs. The Young Bucks

Sheamus & Cesaro have become one of WWE's most accomplished tag teams over the past two years, winning numerous championships and cementing their place as one of the RAW tag division's cornerstones.  That such an unlikely duo was able to find lasting success is a testament to the versatility and staying power of both stars.  It's possible we'll eventually see prime singles runs for Sheamus and Cesaro, but for now they've carved out a helluva niche as RAW's most durable team.

What can be said about The Young Bucks?  They're the most innovative tandem in wrestling, having eschewed the WWE machine for years to become major drawing cards just about everywhere else.  Their grassroots success has served as the prototype for making it outside WWE, and they continue to produce countless in-ring classics year after year.  I'd like to see them move up to the IWGP Heavyweight Tag division since they've won the Jr. Tag belts so many times; it would create a ton of first-time matchups and really solidify their legacy as one of the all-time great teams.

This opening match would be fast and furious, pitting the Bucks' blazing aerial assault against The Bar's gritty, pummeling offense.  After 12 minutes of nonstop action, look for The Bar's power to be the difference maker, as the bulky Sheamus slips out of a More Bang For Your Buck attempt and drops on all fours for Cesaro to launch himself off Sheamus's back and level Nick Jackson with a European Uppercut.  Sheamus then spikes Matt with a Brogue Kick for the sudden win.

Winner: The Bar

Finn Balor vs. Will Ospreay

Finn has struggled to win WWE gold since his 2016 shoulder injury forced him to relinquish his newly won Universal Championship, but he's gotten very close many times.  He's been featured in numerous high profile #1 contender matches, bested Bray Wyatt in their feud, defeated AJ Styles in a RAW vs. Smackdown dream match, and been the long man in the 2018 men's Royal Rumble.  Balor remains a threat to both major RAW championships, and is also one of RAW's most popular and consistent upper-card stars.

It's a testament to NJPW's Jr. Heavyweight division that WWE has no Cruiserweight equivalent to the impossibly gifted Will Opsreay (or Kushida, or Takahashi, or Marty Scurll).  The current Jr. Heavyweight Champion has had a hugely successful year, nearly repeating his 2016 Super Juniors tournament win in a bona fide MOTY candidate against Kushida in 2017 before finally unseating him later that year for the title.  He dropped the belt to longtime rival Marty Scurll only a month later but regained it at the Tokyo Dome and defeated Scurll one-on-one in a rematch this spring, following that up with another win over Kushida.  Ospreay is pound-for-pound one of the absolute best in the world and continues to push the envelope, always delivering ****+ classics that showcase his unparalleled athleticism.

This showdown would be an aerial masterwork.  No stranger to Jr. Heavyweight bouts, Balor would be well within his element, attempting to temper Ospreay's high flying and bring the match down to a moderate pace.  After several minutes of Balor controlling the tempo, Ospreay breaks free and scores a flurry of high-risk offense, culminating in a match-ending OsCutter at the 14-minute mark.

Winner: Will Ospreay

Samoa Joe vs. Kota Ibushi

Joe's WWE main roster run thus far has been met with ups and downs.  He's been a featured player since he debuted on RAW a year ago, but has yet to capture main roster gold.  Still he's had strong showings against Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, and has just been moved to Smackdown where he'll presumably get to mix it up with Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles (for the first time in over a decade), and really get a chance to shine.  Joe is one of the most dependable "badass" characters in the company and his mix of brawling and submission holds always presents a threat.

Kota Ibushi returned to NJPW last year after a brief stint in WWE's Cruiserweight Classic tournament in 2016.  First under the Tiger Mask W persona and later as himself, Ibushi picked up right where he left off in 2015, delivering repeated spectacular performances and stealing the show more often than not.  Kota's aerial moveset has been supplemented with a more rugged striking game as well, making him a more well-rounded competitor and an excellent foil for some of his ground-based opponents.

Joe vs. Ibushi would be a classic big man-little man contest, with Joe employing a ground-and-pound game and trying to bully Ibushi.  Ibushi of course would stand up to Joe's tactics and likely attempt to trade strikes while keeping the match fast-paced.  After a stellar fifteen minutes Joe pops up to his feet to counter a Phoenix Splash with an STO, followed by a Muscle Buster/Coquina Clutch combo for the win.

Winner: Samoa Joe

Braun Strowman vs. Hirooki Goto

Braun Strowman has had close to a career year in 2017-18, going from midcard monster to semi-main eventer.  While he hasn't yet been able to win the big match, Strowman has grown considerably in a short time, with memorable bouts against Roman Reigns, plus big multi-man showings at SummerSlam, Survivor Series, Elimination Chamber (where he eliminated all but one of his six opponents), and finally with a big win at the Greatest Royal Rumble.  Strowman is on the cusp of breaking through the glass ceiling and could just be the one to finally dethrone Brock Lesnar.

Hirooki Goto has been the main draw of the NEVER Openweight division for the last year, holding the championship twice and waging brutal wars of attrition against Katsuyori Shibata, Juice Robinson, Zack Sabre and Minoru Suzuki.  Goto's style is hard-hitting and powerful, with a well-rounded attack based on both striking and innovative impact moves.  He's not the biggest or strongest in the world, but he's one of the most rugged and tenacious.  Anyone who faces Goto knows he's in for a battle.

This match wouldn't last long, but it would be stiff and intense.  Goto would target Strowman's legs, hoping to bring the near-seven-footer down to his level and assault him with forearm strikes and headbutts.  After eight minutes of hard-hitting action, Goto hits the GTR but Strowman kicks out.  Frustrated, Goto then attempts the Shouten, but Strowman counters with a game-ending powerslam.

Winner: Braun Strowman

Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. Evil & Sanada

Owens & Zayn are in an unusual spot in WWE these days.  Owens spent much of 2017 feuding with Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon, culminating in a Hell in a Cell match that saw Zayn turn heel and help Owens win.  From then Shane went out of his way to shut both men out of important matches with GM Daniel Bryan serving as their unlikely advocate.  Finally they attacked Shane on a Smackdown episode and were fired by Bryan, only to get one last chance at keeping their jobs in a WrestleMania tag match against Bryan and Shane.  Owens and Zayn lost and were traded to RAW, where they have a chance at a fresh start.  Neither man has won gold in a while, but both have enough credibility and charisma that their feuds are automatically must-see.

The heavyweight henchmen of Los Ingobernables' have both had a successful year, with strong showings in the 2017 G1 (Evil defeated Okada late in the tournament to earn a title match at King of Pro-Wrestling), and a huge win at World Tag League, earning them a Tag Title shot at WrestleKingdom 12.  They overcame the vicious onslaught of Killer Elite Squad to capture the titles and also won the rematch at Wrestling Hinokuni, likely taking their rightful place as the division's new centerpiece team.  Still, like Owens and Zayn, both men are very accomplished singles competitiors with multiple big wins under their respective belts.

This would be a fantastic big-time tag match, with all four men bending the rules to deliver unremitting damage.  Owens and Evil would match up perfectly in the power brawling department, while Zayn and Sanada would deliver the speed attack.  Thirteen minutes in look for Sanada to keep Owens tied up as Zayn's Helluva kick is countered by an Evil STO for the win.

Winner: Evil & Sanada 

Daniel Bryan vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

Two years after being told he would never wrestle again, Daniel Bryan has miraculously made his in-ring return, working diligently with doctors to treat his previous concussions and passing new tests with flying colors.  It's an exciting time to be a Daniel Bryan fan, and he's already added to his amazing resume, breaking the Royal Rumble longevity record with a staggering 76-minute performance in Saudi Arabia.  Bryan is being positioned again as one of Smackdown's top stars, and with guys like AJ, Nakamura and Samoa Joe to potentially work with, the future looks very bright for The Yes Man and his legions of fans.

NJPW has been on a star-making tear the past two years, and their latest made man is the British grappling wizard Zack Sabre Jr.  Fresh off one of the most amazing New Japan Cup performances ever (where he soundly defeated Naito, Ibushi, Sanada, and Tanahashi), Sabre challenged IWGP Champ Okada, taking the Rainmaker to the limit in a 35-minute war.  Sabre's unique submission style makes him one of the most dangerous wrestlers on the planet, as he can counter virtually any attack thrown at him and twist an opponent in knots.  Okada may have escaped with his championship, but IWGP gold is almost certainly in Sabre's future.

Two of the greatest mat grapplers of all time would deliver an absolute clinic, coming up with more innovative tendon-bending holds and counters than any of us have ever seen.  They'd both be so clever and slippery it would be difficult for either to gain a lasting advantage.  After twenty minutes of flawless technical wrestling, Bryan's striking makes the difference as he breaks free of an Octopus Hold just long enough to bounce off the ropes and hit the flying knee for the quick pin.

Winner: Daniel Bryan

Roman Reigns vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

WWE's handpicked successor to John Cena has had an unexpectedly rough time closing the deal of late.  After defeating the Undertaker at WrestleMania 33, Reigns has had multiple #1 contender chances and Universal Title matches, but has thus far failed to win the elusive red strap.  Roman reunited with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose last fall for a brief Shield reunion but Ambrose's tricep injury forced him to the sidelines and Roman found himself on his own again.  He outlasted Braun Strowman in the Elimination Chamber to earn another crack at Brock Lesnar, but found himself on the losing end at 'Mania 34, and again at Greatest Royal Rumble (after spearing Brock through the cage).  Roman's title hopes are in doubt for the moment and a heel turn may be in order, to regain his killer instinct and refocus on the prize.

NJPW's former Ace, despite working through a nagging bicep injury, has still managed to gut out some excellent performances and until this past February had a stranglehold on the company's second most important title.  He unseated Tetsuya Naito at Dominion 2017 and subsequently turned back the challenges of Zack Sabre Jr., Kota Ibushi, and Jay White when everyone was sure he needed time off to heal.  Only the sadistic Minoru Suzuki was finally able to wrest the championship away, and Tanahashi set his sights on the big belt again, nearly unseating Okada and preventing him from breaking Tanahashi's record for successful title defenses.  Tanahashi may no longer be the company's top guy, but the man can still deliver at superhuman levels.

It's power vs. stamina, as WWE's juggernaut takes on NJPW's veteran.  Reigns' simple but effective arsenal would give him an early advantage and he'd try to end the match quickly, pummeling Tanahashi with clotheslines, shoulderblocks, and his Splash Mountain powerbomb.  After taking a Superman punch, Tanahashi evades a spear with a dropkick to Reigns' knee, then goes to work, wearing him down with dragon screws and the Texas cloverleaf.  17 minutes in, Reigns misses another spear, Tanahashi hits a straitjacket suplex and ascends the ropes for a Hi-Fly Flow, but Reigns cuts him off in midair with a spear for the shocking win.

Winner: Roman Reigns

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tetsuya Naito

Nakamura's main roster year has been met with mixed reviews.  After an underwhelming but successful debut against Dolph Ziggler, Nak almost immediately moved on to a WWE Title feud with Jinder Mahal.  Unfortunately that series of matches was as limited as Jinder's moveset, and Nak failed to capture the title or steal the show.  His fall season was pretty nondescript, but he bounced back in January 2018 to win the men's Royal Rumble and challenge AJ Styles at WrestleMania.  Their match was very good but not on the level of their 2016 meeting.  What's more, Nak was foiled in his championship aspirations and lashed out against AJ, hitting him with a low blow after the match.  Two rematches produced an indecisive result, but Nak, now a scornful heel, is still on the hunt for the illustrious gold.

Tetsuya Naito seemed a mortal lock to dethrone Okada for the IWGP Title this past January.  It was the culmination of a four-year journey starting the last time the two collided in the Tokyo Dome, when Naito was so marginalized as a challenger the fans voted the match out of the main event slot.  Alas, it was not his night; Okada retained in a 33-minute classic.  Still Naito is one of NJPW's biggest draws and a perennial main event player - a two-time IWGP Intercontinental Champion, one-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and two-time G1 winner - who delivers big match performances like few in the business.

These two haven't wrestled each other since before Naito's anti-hero turn in 2015, and now their characters are strikingly similar.  Both men are out of fucks to give, and would toy with each other extensively before lighting each other up with strikes and cheapshots.  The mind games on display would be fascinating and unprecedented.  Naito would try to frustrate Nak by stalling, while Nak would bat Naito around like a cat toy, hoping to make him lose his cool.  22 minutes in, Nak lands a reverse exploder and goes for the Kinshasa, but Naito catches the knee, reaches his feet, spins Nak around, and stuns the multi-time champion with a lightning-fast Destino for the victory.

Winner: Tetsuya Naito

Seth Rollins vs. Kenny Omega

It's been a strange year for Seth Rollins.  Formerly a mainstay in the WWE Title/Universal Title picture, Seth has been focusing on collecting other championships of late, enjoying a Tag Team Title run with Dean Ambrose (and another brief one with Jason Jordan), a short-lived Shield reunion, and currently a stint with the Intercontinental Title which has served to help elevate the belt to its former glory.  Seth is now a Grand-Slam Champion in WWE, having held every available active title except the Universal, and no matter where he is on the card, Seth's match is nearly always a highlight.  With stellar in-ring acumen and loads of relatable charisma, Seth Rollins is one of a select few who could truly be The Guy whenever they wanted him to.

And perhaps his counterpart in NJPW is Kenny Omega, who spent much of 2017 dazzling audiences with transcendent in-ring performances despite never winning the big one.  A ****** trilogy against Okada took Kenny to another level as a main event talent, while his run as the inaugural US Champion made that title just as important as the Intercontinental.  Indeed, his WrestleKingdom 12 match against Chris Jericho (another spectacular showing) was considered the show's co-main event.  Kenny Omega is a truly fearless worker, seemingly defying gravity and danger in every big match, while still displaying some of the best storytelling fundamentals in the business.  Whenever Kenny's on the card there's a very good chance his match steals the show and then some.

Kenny vs. Seth would likely be the match of the night, with both men displaying unfathomable athleticism and engaging in breathtaking wrestling exchanges.  Anytime Seth or Kenny is involved, you're going to see something unexpected.  After 24 staggering minutes of action, Seth hits the Curb Stomp, Kenny kicks out, Seth goes for his Ripcord Knee, and Kenny blocks it, simultaneously slipping under Seth's legs for the One-Winged Angel.  Game, set, and match.

Winner: Kenny Omega

Brock Lesnar vs. Minoru Suzuki

The Beast Incarnate remains one of the industry's biggest box office attractions, and while his matches have somewhat devolved into a certain formula the past few years, there's no denying that any Brock Lesnar match is a spectacle.  With dominant wins over Randy Orton, Goldberg, Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman, plus an excellent back-and-forth match against AJ Styles and an all-out WrestleMania war with Roman Reigns, Brock continues to build a resume of explosive car wrecks that showcase his incomparable presence.  He's also held the Universal Title for over a year, with no end in sight.

Minoru Suzuki is NJPW's answer to Hannibal Lecter, a grizzled, sadistic outlaw who toys with opponents as a housecat does with a wounded bird.  Suzuki returned to NJPW in early 2017 and delivered a slew of memorable performances, taking Okada to the limit (twice), defeating Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Title, and unseating Hiroshi Tanahashi for the Intercontinental belt.  His MMA-esque submission and striking game is one of the deadliest in the industry, and win or lose, opponents are never the same after a war with Suzuki.

This match would be short and to the point.  Lesnar and Suzuki, both experienced cage fighters, would tear into each other with brutal strikes and submission attempts.  Suzuki would target Brock's powerful legs, while Brock would try to neutralize Suzuki with suplexes.  After ten brutal minutes of an all-out fight, look for Brock to counter a Gotch Piledriver with a lightning-fast F5 for the win.

Winner: Brock Lesnar

AJ Styles vs. Kazuchika Okada

Two-plus years into his WWE tenure, AJ Styles continues to be a company MVP, having carried the Smackdown brand for most of the current roster split while producing some of WWE's best main roster matches in recent memory.  After stealing the show with Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 33, AJ spent several months feuding with Kevin Owens for the US Title, winning that belt twice before eventually regaining the WWE Title from Jinder Mahal and giving Brock Lesnar one of his best matches in years.  AJ bested Owens and Sami Zayn, escaped a six-pack challenge at Fastlane, and has thrice retained his title against Shinsuke Nakamura (albeit by way of a draw twice).  AJ remains one of Smackdown's cornerstones with or without the WWE Title, and routinely defies his age between the ropes.  There isn't a better all-around WWE star right now than AJ Styles.

Okada.  The new Ace of New Japan.  The longest-reigning IWGP Champion of all time (and still going).  Kazuchika Okada is, in my estimation (and I'm not alone) the best damn pro wrestler in the world today.  He is the complete package.  Great look, oodles of charisma, a diverse, exciting moveset, and the man can work a main event match like no one else.  He's currently in the midst of one of the greatest championship runs of all time, racking up ***** classic after ***** classic, against a variety of opponents.  His trilogy with Kenny Omega last year was Flair-Steamboat awesome, plus he's delivered incredible bouts against Shibata, Ibushi, Sabre, Suzuki, Naito, etc.  Everyone was certain he'd drop the belt to Naito at WrestleKingdom 12, and he managed to retain.  Who can possibly stop Okada?  More importantly, who even wants to see that happen?

Yes, these two have faced each other multiple times.  But Okada has grown so much since late 2015 and AJ has proved he can deliver a spectacular main event in any company that it's time to revisit this matchup.  These two artists would weave a 31-minute masterpiece of drama and athleticism, building on each of their previous encounters.  AJ would slip out of a Tombstone attempt and counter with a Styles Suplex Special.  Okada would reverse a Phenomenal Forearm into a Death Valley Driver.  The counterwrestling on display would be dazzling, and each would kick out of the other's respective finishers.  After converting the second Styles Clash attempt into a reverse neckbreaker, Okada would level AJ with two successive Rainmaker clotheslines to end an instant classic.

Winner: Kazuchika Okada

And that's your 4th Annual WWE-NJPW Supercard folks!  Hope you enjoyed this little fantasy booking.  Don't forget to check out the previous editions, 2015  2016  2017

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