Tuesday, April 23, 2019

WWE vs. NJPW Supercard V

Welcome to the 5th annual WWE vs. NJPW Supercard here at Enuffa.com, where I take the best and brightest talent from the two biggest wrestling companies in the world and pit them head-to-head.  And the results, more often than not, are EXPLOSIVE!!!

This year I was worried I might have trouble putting together a compelling lineup because of the AEW departures, but in assembling this card I was reminded that New Japan's talent depth is going to be just fine with or without The Elite.  And of course WWE has no shortage of talent on their roster, regardless of Creative's perpetual incompetence in booking them.  I daresay this is one of the strongest lineups of the five I've put together.

Note: One regret I have about this series is that I'm not able to include female wrestlers on the card.  New Japan seriously needs to add a women's division or start up a "sister" promotion (no pun intended) like ROH has.  They're way behind the curve on this one.

You can check out the first four editions here: 2015 2016 2017 2018

Braun Strowman vs. Tomohiro Ishii

Braun is consistently one of WWE's most misused talents over the past couple years, red-hot one month, left with no one to feud with the next.  A year ago he was so over many suggested he, and not Roman Reigns, should be the company's chosen one.  But somehow every WrestleMania season he ends up left out in the cold, more or less.  This year he at least got to win the Andre Battle Royal, joining such luminaries as Cesaro, Big Show, Baron Corbin, Mojo Rawley, and Matt Hardy.  Yeesh, that trophy does nothing for anyone, does it?  Regardless, Strowman can always be plugged into a major feud and have credibility as a superhuman monster.

Ishii is similarly almost never presented as a top contender despite being hugely over in his own right, and one of the best in-ring talents in the entire world.  The Stone Pitbull can always be counted on to deliver insanely good, rugged fights that often steal the show.  Why Ishii isn't given more big singles matches throughout the year is beyond me; the man is an artist.

This would be an unusual battle of bulls with a significant size mismatch.  Strowman would have a huge power advantage but Ishii would hit and run, recalling his numerous battles with Bad Luck Fale.  Ishii would have to set aside his usual machismo about hitting his signature brainbuster, as lifting the 380-pound Strowman for that move would be nothing short of miraculous.  Ishii would spend much of the bout trying to chop down his much larger opponent, but in the end Strowman's monstrous size would prove too much.  Strowman counters an ill-advised brainbuster attempt with his powerslam for the win at 9 minutes.

Winner: Braun Strowman

Kevin Owens vs. Jeff Cobb

Owens' recent return to action has been fairly bizarre to say the least.  Originally slated to face Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania, Owens was shown in vignettes as an average Joe and family man, no doubt to contrast with Bryan's holier-than-thou environmentalist persona.  But when that feud was more or less nixed, Owens was left with nothing to do at 'Mania and has lately been hanging out with The New Day in Big E's absence.  Owens as a babyface feels like a sarcastic gimmick and I'm wondering if he'll pull a Sami Zayn-type heel turn soon.

Jeff Cobb is fresh off defeating Will Ospreay to become a double champion; the ROH TV/NEVER Openweight champ has all the momentum in the world heading into this match.  I'm curious how often we'll see him on NJPW shows and how long he'll keep the title.  He certainly fits the NEVER Openweight style to a tee.  For a man his size Cobb has scary agility.

This would be a stiff, rugged fight with two big heavyweights pulling out spectacular moves that defy their size.  We'd see a great mix of strong style brawling and unexpected aerial moves.  12 minutes in Owens hits a swanton and sets up Cobb for a Stunner, but Cobb holds on, reverse-suplexes Owens, and hits Tour of the Islands for the win.

Winner: Jeff Cobb

Finn Balor vs. Minoru Suzuki

After two-plus frustrating years following his one-day Universal Title run, Finn finally captured the Intercontinental Title at Elimination Chamber and again at WrestleMania.  Balor continues to be one of the company's best and most underutilized talents, whose stop-start pushes are vexing to say the least.  Hopefully a change of scenery following his move to Smackdown will give him more chances to steal the show, leading to a long, successful I-C title run.

Minoru Suzuki, at 50 years old, still shows no signs of slowing down.  He's one of the few wrestlers who can lose a match and still come off as one of the most dangerous men in the world.  Suzuki has held the IWGP, Intercontinental, and NEVER Titles in New Japan and is a credible challenger to everyone of them whenever he's given a shot.  Sadism is the name of the game for Minoru.

Finn would try to keep this match fast-paced and create lots of space between him and Suzuki.  Minoru would want to keep it deliberate and get in close.  The outcome would depend on whose strategy was more successful.  After 12 minutes Finn falls victim to a rear naked choke, but counters a Gotch piledriver with an X-Factor, followed by a corner dropkick/Coup de Grace combo for the win.

Winner: Finn Balor

Rey Mysterio vs. Will Ospreay

Mysterio returned to WWE for good late last year and while he hasn't been used to his full potential (the guy is 46 years old and moves like he's 30), Rey has had some strong moments in that time.  His feud with Andrade yielded some excellent matches and he's been a consistent US Title contender.  His move to RAW will hopefully give him some new opponents to tear it up with - Ricochet I'm looking in your general direction....

Will Ospreay is coming off a NEVER Openweight Title loss, but is still one of the company's most prominent rising stars.  He's already established himself well against heavyweights with a strong showing in the New Japan Cup tournament, and I anticipate him throwing his hat in for this year's G1 Climax to fully transition to the heavyweight division.  Ospreay is only 25 but has already demonstrated incredible natural talent well beyond his years.  As long as he stays healthy he should become one of NJPW's top stars over the next five years or so.

This match would be a spectacular showcase of aerial tactics, with Ospreay uncharacteristically attempting to slow the match down and use his size advantage.  Rey would do his usual stick-and-move stuff, frustrating Ospreay early on.  But eventually Ospreay would employ his newly perfected ground game to turn the tide.  After 14 minutes Ospreay dodges a top-rope splash and hits an OsCutter followed by the Stormbreaker for the pinfall.

Winner: Will Ospreay

Samoa Joe vs. Juice Robinson

Samoa Joe is finally on the board with a main roster championship, having dethroned R-Truth a couple months ago for the US Title.  He made short work of Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania and is apparently moving to the RAW roster.  There's potential there for US Title feuds against Miz, Ricochet, and Rey himself.  Like Finn Balor, Joe deserves a long, significant run with this title.

Joe's NJPW counterpart is IWGP US Champion Juice Robinson, who continues to grow as a likable babyface that always delivers top-notch matches.  Coming off a pair of solid bouts against Chase Owens and a successful defense against Bad Luck Fale, Juice will hopefully be moving on to stronger challengers throughout the summer months.

The battle of US champs would start out fast, as Juice would employ his explosive offense to try to put Joe away early.  Joe would attempt to slow the pace down and use his hybrid submission/ground-and-pound strategy to chip away at Juice's resiliency.  After 13 minutes Juice goes for Pulp Friction, and Joe counters with the Coquina Clutch.  Juice tries to wriggle free and reach the ropes, but Joe rolls him away and locks his legs around Juice, who passes out.

Winner: Samoa Joe

Roman Reigns vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

Having recently defeated a second bout of leukemia, Roman returned to the ring in March, first teaming with his Shield pals for one last PPV match and then in a forgettable but successful singles match at WrestleMania.  Most recently Roman was moved to Smackdown to be one of the blue brand's top faces ahead of their Fox debut in the fall.  With no singles heel champions to go after at the moment, perhaps a feud with Daniel Bryan would be just the thing to rejuvenate Roman's career and get the fans solidly behind him again.

Zack Sabre Jr. is the current Rev Pro Champion but also one of the top contenders for the IWGP Intercontinental Title, recently coming up short against Kota Ibushi.  Nonetheless Sabre keeps adding to his great match resume and perennially turns in strong G1 Climax showings.  I have to think an I-C or US Title run is in his future, perhaps by year's end.  Sabre is head and shoulders above everyone else in the business in terms of pure technical ability, always inventing mindbending new submissions and counters.

This is quite the clash of styles - Roman's explosive brute strength vs. Sabre's methodical game of human chess.  Sabre would have Roman's signature offense well-scouted and it would be a matter of Roman needing to catch Sabre off-guard and create space to avoid being twisted into a pretzel.  At the 11-minute mark Roman hits a Superman punch and goes for a spear but Sabre turns it into an airtight guillotine choke.  Roman powers to his feet and delivers a brutal overhead suplex, bounces off the ropes and levels Sabre with a match-ending spear.

Winner: Roman Reigns

The Usos vs. Guerrillas of Destiny

Having conquered the Smackdown tag division, former multi-time champs Jimmy and Jey Uso are now on the RAW brand, where they'll no doubt prove themselves MVPs of that division as well.  Normally I'd put current WWE Tag Champs against the IWGP titleholders, but this matchup was too compelling to leave on the table.  So The Usos get this spot instead of the Hardys or Ryder & Hawkins.  Jimmy and Jey have been among the company's best tandems for the last six or seven years, and thus they deserve this spot.

Another set of Polynesian brothers, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa have grown leaps and bounds over the last three years.  In 2016 they seemed to just be filling the void left by Gallows & Anderson, and now they find themselves the true centerpiece of New Japan's tag division.  Their penchant for ruthless rulebreaking and Tama's take-no-prisoners attitude have made them a fascinating act that is likely to dominate the tag team scene for years to come.

This would be a wild, out-of-control brawl, with loads of double-teaming and quick tags.  Jimmy and Jey would have the speed advantage but their Tongan opponents would take every shortcut available to swing the momentum.  After 12 unruly minutes of non-stop action and loads of near-falls, Jado distracts the referee after an Usos double-splash on Loa, while Tama smashes Jimmy with a chair, tosses Jey over the ropes to the floor, and rolls Tanga on top of Jimmy for the pin.

Winners: Guerillas of Destiny

Randy Orton vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Another top talent who could use some career rejuvenating is Randy Orton.  One of the most naturally gifted stars on the entire roster, Orton often reminds me of a Barry Windham, who could've been one of the all-time greats had his innate aptitude for wrestling not made him complacent at times.  Orton needs a great feud to lift him out of apathy, like for example the one he had with John Cena in 2009.  It's been a long time since he's had a career-defining match or moment.

NJPW's former Ace has seemingly been wrestling on borrowed time for the last three years, somehow overcoming numerous nagging injuries to defy his age and deliver new career highlights seemingly every few months.  After his miraculous 2018-2019 climb back to the top of NJPW, Tana dropped the IWGP Title to upstart Jay White and hasn't been able to get back on track since.  With constant knee problems much of his high-impact offense has been rendered unworkable, so he's had to adopt more of a ground-based style.

This match would be methodical and cerebral, with both men relying on wear-down holds in the early going.  Tana would target Orton's knees to soften him up for a Texas Cloverleaf, while Orton would go after the neck and head in anticipation of an RKO.  At the 15-minute mark Tana hits Twist & Shout and attempts to resurrect the Hi-Fly Flow, leaping squarely into a waiting RKO Outta Nowhere for the pin.

Winner: Randy Orton

AJ Styles vs. Jay White

AJ Styles did all there was to do on the Smackdown brand, and after the Superstar Shakeup is now poised to become one of RAW's top stars.  Seth Rollins may be the current Universal Champion, but I can't help thinking we'll see Rollins-Styles for the belt within the next year, and it'll be glorious.  Still one of the top talents in the business, AJ continues to demonstrate why WWE values him so highly, and will likely remain one of the company's fixtures until he decides to hang it up. 

At 26 years old, Jay White is already a former IWGP Heavyweight and US Champion and after Kenny Omega's departure became the top gaijin in New Japan.  He's taken up the mantles of not only AJ and Kenny as the new Bullet Club leader, but Kazuchika Okada as the company's "next big thing."  His rise to the top title mirrored that of Okada's, parlaying a decisive WrestleKingdom win into an abrupt title victory only a month later, and a loss to the company Ace only two months after that.  Though his initial main event success was fleeting, White has earned his spot as one of the company's Big Five and will almost certainly regain the title at some point.

The former Bullet Club leader would dominate the current one in the early minutes, his experience and speed serving as tangible assets.  White would need to stall and outmaneuver AJ to gain an advantage, eventually taking the fight out to the floor and ramming AJ into the railings.  AJ's resiliency keeps him in the match long enough to go for a Phenomenal Forearm at the 17-minute mark, which White counters into a Blade Runner attempt, which AJ converts into a roll-up, into a Styles Clash for the sudden win.

Winner: AJ Styles

Kofi Kingston vs. Kota Ibushi

One of the unlikeliest WWE Champions of all time, Kofi stumbled into his title shot essentially by accident.  An untimely injury put Daniel Bryan's intended pre-WrestleMania opponent Mustafa Ali on the shelf, and when Kofi was announced as his replacement at Elimination Chamber, the WWE faithful fell in love with him all over again.  In a rare case of WWE actually listening to its audience, the Fastlane and WrestleMania lineups were switched around to give Kofi his moment on the biggest possible stage, and Kofi-Bryan stole the show.  Kofi's next major challenger hasn't been named yet, but Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton seem like the most probable candidates at the moment.  Whether he holds the title long-term or not, Kofi is the hottest male star in the company right now.

After refusing for years to sign a New Japan contract the mercurial Kota Ibushi has finally put his name to paper and agreed to call the company his permanent home, and he's already been rewarded with their second-most important championship.  A blistering G1 Supercard win over Tetsuya Naito and a stellar defense against ZSJ have already made Ibushi's first I-C run memorable, and I'm hoping he keeps the belt for a significant length of time to take up Nakamura's old mantle.  It's also imperative we eventually get an Ibushi-Omega rematch down the line.  Ibushi continues to be one of the most fun wrestlers to watch (despite perhaps too many high-risk spots), and I'm glad he's finally settled down in NJPW.

This would likely be the most purely fun match of the night, as both champions love crowd-pleasing moves and fast-paced action.  The aerial battle would be fantastic, while Ibushi's striking would give him a ground advantage over Kofi.  After 21 breathtaking minutes, Ibushi goes for an outside-in German suplex, Kofi lands on his feet and goes for Trouble in Paradise, but Ibushi catches Kofi's leg and drops him, followed by a Boma Ye and a Kamagoye knee for the win.

Winner: Kota Ibushi

Daniel Bryan vs. Tetsuya Naito

The New Daniel Bryan is a very different persona than his "YES Man" character.  Gone is Bryan's ultimate underdog persona, a man who defies the odds and leaves everything in the ring for his fans.  In his place is a judgmental, sadistic technician who takes pleasure in pissing off the crowd and reminding them how fickle they can be.  Bryan's heel persona is perhaps the best character in the entire company right now; his promos generate that classic "love to hate him" heat that a great top heel needs.  I'm hoping to see him regain the WWE Title at some point in 2019, as his five-month run with the environmentally-friendly belt was great.

Like Bryan, Tetsuya Naito has no fucks to give about his audience, but they actually love him for it.  Naito is the most effortlessly charismatic star on the NJPW roster, and manages to be a top draw whether he wins or loses.  He doesn't need to hold championships for a long time because his character simply doesn't much care about them.  Naito had another short I-C Title run in 2019 but now has a second run with the IWGP Title in mind.  We may see another Naito G1 win leading to a WrestleKingdom 12 rematch next January.

The mind games would be front and center here, with Naito's usual match stalling meeting its equal in Bryan's.  Both men would troll the crowd for the first few minutes, before launching into a stiff, shrewd display of great mechanical wrestling.  At 25 minutes look for Naito to hit Gloria and follow up with a Destino attempt, which Bryan counters into a LeBell Lock.  Naito fights it but can't reach the ropes and is forced to tap.

Winner: Daniel Bryan

Seth Rollins vs. Kazuchika Okada

Finally, after roughly three years of being passed over as the face of the company, Seth Rollins has gotten another chance to run with the ball, defeating Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania to become the Universal Champion.  If you'd asked me in 2014 which of the three Shield members had the best chance at being a singles main eventer, Seth would've been my third choice, not because I didn't see his talent, but because he seemed the least charismatic at the time.  One year later he'd proved everyone wrong, becoming the best heel in the company, and by 2016 he'd become one of the best babyface stars.  But it was still Roman Reigns the company wanted at the top, and Seth had to bide his time until Roman's illness opened up a main event slot.  Seth capitalized like always, and now he's the top male star on RAW.  He just needs some good challengers to make his title reign count.

The same weekend Seth finally got his due, the best wrestler in the world today regained the championship with which he broke records in 2018, defeating Jay White in yet another classic Kazuchika Okada match.  At 31 years old, Okada's best years could still be ahead of him, which is scary given how extraordinary he already is.  Okada has the perfect blend of effortless charisma, prodigious storytelling, top-notch athleticism, and unparalleled economy of moveset where everything he does in a match means something.  There are more "exciting" wrestlers, more athletic wrestlers, and more magnetic wrestlers, but there is no more complete a package in the business right now than the IWGP Champion.

This would be a classic, epic match, along the lines of Okada-Omega.  Seth's offense would be flashy and crowd-pleasing, while Okada's would be strategic and targeted.  The two champions would start off carefully and systematically and build to a dazzling finishing sequence roughly thirty minutes into the match.  Okada hits a Tombstone and sets up Seth for a Rainmaker, Seth ducks, hits a Ripcord knee.  Okada doubles over, Seth bounces off the ropes and goes for the Curb Stomp, Okada stands up and catches Seth midair for a spinning Tombstone, followed by two consecutive Rainmakers for the historic win.

Winner: Kazuchika Okada

Thus concludes the 5th Annual WWE vs. NJPW Supercard, here at Enuffa.com!  Comment below with your thoughts, and don't forget to check out the previous editions - 2015 2016 2017 2018

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