Tuesday, August 31, 2021

NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam at MetLife Dome Preview & Predictions

NJPW is back with another stadium show that in the time of COVID can't possibly sell out, Wrestle Grand Slam!

This weekend it's back-to-back nights at the MetLife Dome in Tokozawa, and we've got a slew of title matches on tap.  Night 1 especially looks very promising, with the long-awaited return of Kota Ibushi in the main event, plus a big first-time collision of former RPG3K members Sho and Yoh.  Night 2 on the other hand has Hiromu Takahashi returning to try and reclaim the belt he never lost.  Both nights will feature a Stardom exhibition match on the pre-show, which should be fun.  I've never actually seen a Stardom match but I've been meaning to.  Regardless both shows feature some potential classics.  Let's take a look.....

Night 1

Flying Tiger vs. Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi

The warmup tag match will see Takahashi getting his feet wet before his big title match on Night 2.  I don't expect this to go very long and I think Tiger Mask IV is there to eat the pin.

Pick: LIJ

Sho vs. Yoh

This should be pretty great.  Sho in particular is awesome and I'm excited to see what he can do as a new heel.  It's almost a Shawn vs. Marty dynamic.  I see some singles championships in Sho's future and maybe Yoh's as well.

Pick: Sho needs to win the first contest

KOPW Championship I Quit Match: Chase Owens vs. Toru Yano

This one I don't care about.  Maybe since it's an I Quit match it'll be taken more seriously, but Yano doesn't really have an arc and I just don't see much of a ceiling for Chase Owens.  I guess I'll pick Yano to win back his title.

Pick: Yano

Kazuchika Okada vs. Jeff Cobb

This will be fantastic like their last match was.  I picked Cobb to win that so he could challenge Shingo for the belt, but alas I was wrong.  But I think he'll win the rematch, as two consecutive losses to the same guy would tend to hurt his credibility.

Pick: Cobb

IWGP US Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi

Anyone know what the win-loss record is between these two?  The last two big matches I remember of theirs were the G1 final in 2018 and an Intercontinental Title match in 2017, both of which Tanahashi won.  I think Ibushi beat Tana in the 2019 G1?  Either way I think Tana is in the lead against Ibushi.  I would say it doesn't make much sense for Ibushi to lose his first match back but it also doesn't make much sense for Tana to lose the US Title already.  It went from 18 months on Moxley to a week or two on Lance Archer to a few weeks on Tanahashi so far.  It seemed like AEW and NJPW were building to a Moxley-Tana match so it makes sense for Tana to retain here.  This should be amazing.

Pick: I guess Tana keeps it?

Night 2

Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jeff Cobb & The Great O-Khan

This is the other prelim tag match and should be very good with the talent involved.  I have Cobb beating Okada the previous night so I'll pick Okada to get a little payback here, probably pinning O-Khan.

Pick: Chaos

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo vs. El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Sigh, now that Sho and Yoh are broken up we're back to two teams fighting each other over and over for these belts.  Can we retire the Jr. Tag Title temporarily at least?  Anyway this match should be very good.  I like Ishimori and ELP as champs and I hope they keep them until the company can rebuild this division.

Pick: Champs retain

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Dangerous Tekkers vs. Tetsuya Naito & Sanada vs. Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi

I think they should've kept these titles on Naito and Sanada for a while.  It was a mistake to me to only give them a couple weeks with the straps; they could've helped raise the prestige of these titles.  Anyway, now it's a three-way, which should be solid, but Goto and YH are easily the low men on the pole.  In WWE world that would mean they're winning here.  But I think the champs will retain.

Pick: ZSJ and Taichi

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Robbie Eagles vs. Hiromu Takahashi

Yes, the man is back!  And with him, the division.  Takahashi fortunately didn't have to miss that much ring time with his recent injury, and now hopefully he'll pick up where he left off, in the middle of a dominant title reign.  This should be excellent.

Pick: Hiromu has to win back the belt, right?

IWGP World Championship: Shingo Takagi vs. Evil

This could be hit or miss.  Shingo is supernatural but Evil is really inconsistent.  Depends on how much Bullet Club nonsense they do.  On paper these two should put together a helluva fight, so hopefully that happens here.  Shingo obviously keeps the title and goes into the G1 as the top dog.

Pick: Shingo retains

Both of these shows have pretty great potential, Night 1 especially.  These five-match PPVs lack the epic quality of their pre-COVID shows but on the plus side there's little to no fat on them.  Between these two shows and AEW All Out it's gonna be another big weekend of wrestling.

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