After an amazing Strong Style Evolved show in California, New Japan returns to Tokyo and the Ryogoku Sumo Hall for Sakura Genesis this Sunday. (Start times: 0:00 PDT/3:00 EDT/8:00 BST)
The card is headlined by the incomparable Kazuchika Okada, but there is remarkable talent up and down this show, which is set to be another must-see from the hottest wrestling promotion in the world. Before we look into each match, let's take a look at the card in full:
|1||Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson)||None|
|2||Chaos (Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii) vs Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Takashi Iizuka)||None|
|3||Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa) (c) vs Taguchi Japan (Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin and Ryusuke Taguchi)||NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship|
|4||Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson & David Finlay) vs Chaos (Hirooki Goto, Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi)||None|
|5||Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Evil & Sanada) vs Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr)||None|
|6||Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c) vs Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi)||IWGP Juinor Heavyweight Tag Team Championship|
|7||Will Ospreay (c) vs Marty Scurll||IWGP Juinor Heavyweight Championship|
|8||Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) vs Bullet Club (Cody & Hangman Page) ||None|
|9||Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr||IWGP Heavyweight Championship|
Nine matches, 40 wrestlers, and more than few storylines to go over. Like I said, quite the card. Let's start at the top with the main event
Kazuchika Okada vs Zack Sabre Jr
Okada's title run has become the stuff of legend already. Two Tokyo Dome defenses, ten in total, including two against Kenny Omega, one against Naito, Suzuki, and Katsuyori Shibata to name just a few. Okada has been indestructible throughout his reign and is looking as strong as ever.
But Zack Sabre Jr is unlike any other opponent. The first ever British winner of the New Japan Cup, Sabre tapped out Naito, Ibushi, Sanada, and Tanahashi on his way to victory. A wiry submission master, ZSJ has been on fire and shown his ability to force everyone to wrestle his kind of match, full of inventive and painful holds dominant wins.
After tapping out Ishii at Strong Style Evolved while Okada watched on helplessly, he is a legitimate threat to take the title. Except for one thing.
This is defense number 11 for Okada's reign, which if successful would match the record set by Tanahashi. It seems crazy that his title run would end here. Then there is the fact that the only foreigner to hold the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the last decade was AJ Styles.
While there would be some fun storylines within Suzuki-gun were Zack Sabre Jr to win, it seems extremely improbable that he will. Still, the rainmaker reversals in this match should be a sight to behold.
Prediction: Kazuchika Okada retains
Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) vs Bullet Club (Cody & Hangman Page)
Oh boy. After their match of the year candidate at Strong Style Evolved, the pair of Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi are undoubtedly battered and bruised, but the animosity between Kenny and Cody cannot wait. This clash has been almost a year in the making, and after Cody stated that the classic Bullet Club logo would be retired and revamped, it seems like we are destined to see several knees to Cody's beautiful face.
The X-factor here is Hangman Page, who is coming off an extremely entertaining match with Jay White and has quietly been gathering steam around the world. He can hang with the best of them and should provide a lot of big moments here.
Prediction: Golden Lovers win, Bullet Club is not fine
Will Ospreay vs Marty Scurll
This isn't the first time these two have had a junior heavyweight title match, but two Brits battling over an IWGP title is still an incredibly novel thing.
These two have battled around the world for championships, from Progress, to Ring of Honor, and now New Japan, and it is always brilliant. Ospreay's speed and high-flying bounces off Marty's charisma and technical style extremely well.
Last year saw Scurll beat Ospreay for this title, in a continuation of their story. Ospreay wins a belt, Scurll beats him for it. Ospreay is seeking a way of getting the monkey off his back, and while he pinned Marty at Wrestle Kingdom for the title that was in a four-way.
It feels like this is the moment that Ospreay finally overcomes his rival. He is the quintessential junior right now and a fantastic draw in his own right. It makes too much sense for Ospreay to head into the Best of Super Juniors holding the title.
Prediction: Will Ospreay retains
Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi)
Junior tag matches are always fun, and this should be no different. Sho & Yoh are the class of the division now that The Young Bucks have moved up, but the LIJ pair of Hiromu and Bushi have been chasing El Desperado and Kanemaru recently and look like the hotter team.
As a former junior heavyweight champ, Hiromu enters as the most likely to take win the match, but Sho & Yoh are already multiple time champions. It should be explosive and wild.
Prediction: Los Ingobernables de Japon win
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Evil & Sanada) vs Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr)
A battle of title holders and challengers. Evil and Sanada beat Archer and Davey Boy for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship at Wrestle Kingdom, but since then Evil suffered a fractured orbital bone, pushing the rematch back. Meanwhile, Naito's tranquilo attitude has been getting under the skin of the sadistic Intercontinental champion Minoru Suzuki.
While the Suzuki-gun trio hold a considerable size and brutality advantage, the athleticism of LIJ and the chemistry they have could well overcome the bigger team.
Suzuki-gun has been in fine form this year, with both Suzuki and Sabre Jr torturing Tanahashi, but LIJ are wildly popular and to set up a future match between Suzuki and Naito don't be surprised if destino strikes on Sunday.
Prediction: Los Ingobernables de Japon win
Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson & David Finlay) vs Chaos (Hirooki Goto, Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi)
More challengers for more titles. Juice Robinson has taken aim squarely at Hirooki Goto and his NEVER Openweight championship. It's a big move up for Juice, but his popularity and talent more than merit it. Meanwhile former Young Lions Jay White and David Finlay are set to face off for the IWGP United States title after Finlay attacked White at Strong Style Evolved as well as after their tag match at Road to Sakura Genesis.
As an undercard match this is going to have to get the crowd ready for the rest of the show, so I expect Tanahashi to feature and pick up the win over Yoshi-Hashi while the title rivals are busy with each other.
Prediction: Taguchi Japan win
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa) vs Taguchi Japan (Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin and Ryusuke Taguchi)
The NEVER Openweight 6-man titles are the hot potatoes of New Japan, but Bullet Club's Tongan trio have held the belts basically since December, with only a 24-hour break after Wrestle Kingdom. They are my pick to retain simply as it is the only gold that Bullet Club currently hold and the issues regarding Michael Elgin right now. It is a surprise to still see him booked in New Japan.
Prediction: Bullet Club retains
Chaos (Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii) vs Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Takashi Iizuka)
Yano and Ishii are such an odd couple. Yano's comedic talents are well known, and they bounce well off Ishii's no nonsense seriousness. On the other side are two of the more odd members of Suzuki-gun, with the newest heavyweight Taichi and the uncontrollable Iizuka.
This match will likely be a short and quick one, with Ishii's status as a superior talent ensuring the win.
Prediction: Chaos win
Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson)
Opening a show with the Young Bucks is always a strong move, and even after the beating they took at Strong Style Evolved it should be an fast opening match. Owens and Takahashi are far from the Bucks level when it comes to in-ring performance and fan expectations, but with the beating they took and the Bullet Club story arc mean this could go either way.
Prediction: Bullet Club win, Bullet Club is not fine
What are you excited to see at Sakura Genesis? Let us know in the comments below!