Tuesday, March 30, 2021

NJPW Sakura Genesis 2021 Preview & Predictions, Thoughts on the New IWGP Title Belt

This Sunday is NJPW Sakura Genesis, the first edition in three years, and, well.....it's a show.

What we've got here is, failure to stack a PPV.  Aside from what should be a fabulous main event and a pretty excellent tag title match, the rest of this lineup looks entirely skippable, which is pretty inexcusable for the company's third-biggest show of the year.  What are you doing, New Japan?  Sadly, the combination of lackluster booking and COVID fallout has taken a big toll on NJPW's attendance figures; apparently the Korakuen Hall show on this current tour only drew 388 fans.  Ouch.  Compounding the issues with this company is their decision to merge the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Titles into a brand new IWGP World Championship with a new lineage.  Ummm, why?  Why are you a) scrapping 49 years of your top belt's history, b) scrapping the second-most important championship that was so prestigious it could main event a PPV, and c) replacing the absolutely gorgeous Heavyweight belt with something that looks like the old WWE Divas belt?  Have you seen this thing?  Who barfed up this monstrosity?  

Actually "monstrosity" implies that it's a giant, unwieldy title.  It's not, it's friggin' tiny like the original WWE Undisputed belt was before they enlarged it, or like when they merged the spinner belt and the Big Gold belt into the glorified MLB ring design.  What is the deal with wrestling companies merging their two biggest championships and replacing them with a belt that's smaller than either one?  Dude, this belt sucks.  NJPW should've hired whoever designs Ring of Honor's belts - that designer is fucking FIRE, and should basically be designing every wrestling belt on the planet.  It's pretty sad that a company in such cosmic shambles as ROH now has the best-looking championships in the industry.

There are few things in wrestling as frustrating as a company proven capable of true greatness making illogically bad decisions.  Why do you think I'm so hard on WWE all the time?

But this is neither here nor there - let's look at Sunday's lineup....

Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi & Douki vs. Guerrillas of Destiny & Jado

This is obviously just to set up another GoD vs. Dangerous Tekkers match.  Not much else to this.  I guess Zack and friends win?

Pick: SZGN

Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Evil, Kenta, Taiji Ishimori, Yujiro Takahashi & Dick Togo

Ten-man tags can be fun and this one has a crapload of talent.  But it's also on second out of six and thus probably won't get a ton of time.  Okada needs some direction, it just seems wrong that the greatest wrestler in the world is treading water.

Pick: Bullet Club I guess?

Tetsuya Naito, Sanada & Shingo Takagi vs. Jeff Cobb, Great O-Khan & TBA

This match is of interest because The United Empire will be debuting a new member.  I'm guessing it's a former Young Lion returning from excursion.  Perhaps Shota Umino, who's been, um, excursing(?) in Rev Pro.  That would make sense given that UE's leader is British.  If he's the guy I like that call - I was really impressed with Umino as a Young Lion.  Regardless, the heels obviously have to win here to get over the new fella.

Pick: UE

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Satoshi Kojima vs. Jay White & Bad Luck Fale

This match is all about setting up Tanahashi vs. White for the NEVER belt, which is now the company's #2 title.  Which makes so little sense.  Look, the NEVER belt is great, and I've loved its role as the title for beefy, strong-style badasses, which is why I don't like the idea of it becoming the de facto Intercontinental Title.  We already had a very prestigious secondary belt, and it was said I-C belt.  What sense does it make to get rid of the established #2 belt just to build up another title in its place?  This is WWE-level logic defiance.  Anywho, White and Fale should win here to build to the title match.

Pick: Bullet Club

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Roppongi 3K 

Alright, here's the first really important match of the show.  I'm really glad to see RPG3K reunited, as the Jr. Tag division was basically nonexistent without them (Christ, if you're gonna merge two titles in this company it should be the Heavyweight and Jr. Tag belts since there are barely enough teams for ONE division).  This match should be quite good, and now that Desperado is the singles Jr. champ, it makes sense for him to drop this set of belts so Sho and Yoh can be the faces of the division again.

Pick: RPG3K

IWGP World Championship: Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay

And this match should make the whole night worthwhile.  This was exactly the matchup I was hoping to see headline this show, so I was very happy Ospreay won the Cup (and damn, did he have some hella good matches on the way).  Ibushi vs. Ospreay is always a treat, and with the title on the line both guys will want to blow the roof off the dump.  If this isn't a top MOTY candidate I'll be shocked.

Pick: Ibushi will retain

Well, that's what we have on Sunday.  Not much of a show outside of the two title bouts unfortunately.  I know they're booked for Yokohama and the Dome in May, which I find baffling at a time when they're only drawing 388 fans to Korakuen.  This company needs to find their footing again; how'd they go from selling out the Dome pre-pandemic to struggling to half-fill a small venue?

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