Coming up in mid-May, Ring of Honor will be hosting New Japan Pro Wrestling all-stars in a series of four shows. The first two are branded War of the Worlds and take place in Philly, the second pair are the Global Wars shows in Toronto. If you’re a fan of pro wrestling with your eye outside the WWE Universe, these shows are where all the attention is right now. NJPW’s product has never been hotter stateside and ROH has never had as big an audience as it does now. Not to mention, in my eyes, both companies have been producing A+ wrestling for the past several years. We’ve had ROH/NJPW shows in the past but I think this is the first time where we’re really getting extended interplay between the two rosters. New Japan has not skimped on the names, as the wildly popular IC champ Shinsuke Nakamura, “Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada, and Hiroshi Tanahashi — probably NJPW’s three biggest draws — are all coming to face the best that ROH has to offer.
These matches provide a lot of interesting pairings, especially since for a lot of these wrestlers these will be fresh meetings. On the one hand, that means a lot of them are going to be rather cold story-wise, at best being high-level exhibitions. On the other, they won’t have worn out all their weaponry and we’ll probably see some great new chemistry developing. Ring of Honor will certainly be lacking somewhat in the size department, though NJPW’s roster has been slimming down recently and they haven’t brought any of their bigger guys over. More than anything this will be a chance for Ring of Honor to prove that its guys can hang not just one-on-one with the world-renowned, as they’ve done when guys like Alberto del Rio or Kenta Kobashi or the late Eddie Guerrero appeared alone on their shows, but that their roster is of a caliber that can keep up with the exceptional New Japan quality.
The link here will be Bullet Club. Over with both audiences, not unstoppable but still dominant, opposition to them is going to be the main way that ROH and NJPW relate match-wise. They’re the ones who are most going to be able to engage the US audience, and their rivalry with the NJPW factions means that they already bring that heat with them into these events. And among their number is the IWGP Heavyweight Champion A.J. Styles.
So far, the full War of the Worlds cards have been released, as has Global Wars night 1. Global Wars night 2 has several matches announced for it, but since I haven’t seen a confirmed main event, I’ll leave that open. I’ve picked up my scattered thoughts about the matches for War of the World and put them together into something that’s hopefully coherent. Once Global Wars night 2 is finalized, I’ll post my thoughts about those matches as well.
ROH TV storyline spoilers ahead!
ROH/NJPW War of the Worlds, Night 1
12 May 2015 • Philadelphia, PA
- DELIRIOUS vs. GEDO: Expecting to see a fun exhibition here. Neither one of them is really gunning for a title right now, more occupied with back office stuff. Not as familiar with Gedo as an in-ring guy so I can’t make too many comments on his work. Mildly interested in this one but it’s mostly a topping.
- JAY LETHAL vs. WATANABE: Watanabe came over from New Japan to work an American excursion, but he really only spent the first few weeks in Ring of Honor. He’s got a nice style, somewhat basic but definitely serviceable, and certainly tough. That said, he’s coming back in against Jay Lethal who has been eating absolutely everybody up. His claims of overall dominance are a bit undercut by the fact that he hasn’t defended the belt against the caliber of challengers that Briscoe has, but Watanabe would have to be in that class for him to start posing Lethal a problem. I think we’ll have a spirited effort from Watanabe here but this’ll mostly be a Lethal showcase.
- RODERICK STRONG vs. KUSHIDA: This one will probably be right in the classic Ring of Honor style: fast-paced, hard-hitting, stop-me-if-you-can action. Kushida’s had a fair few showings in ROH so far and the crowd seems to like him. He’s not quite my style of guy but he can certainly perform in the ring. Roderick Strong is one of the reasons I got hooked on ROH to begin with and I think he always brings a good fight. There are times he needs a good foil and I’m not sure how Kushida will play in that role. This one feels like the pace-setter of the evening.
- THE ADDICTION (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) vs. THE KINGDOM (Michael Bennett & Matt Taven) vs. THE YOUNG BUCKS (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson): This is one I’m not looking forward to, and the main reason for that is that it’s a triple tag. I really don’t go for multi-side matches in the first place, multi-team matches are hell to follow. That said, the Young Bucks’ electric style certainly plays best in these kinds of matches, and the Addiction have the charisma chops to fill in the gaps. The Kingdom I’m always gonna be a bit down on, I feel. Both capable guys, they can get the job done, but that’s about it. I’m not sure what I want to see out of them to make me change my opinion on them. Style-wise I can see this one being a little lopsided. Usually I’d expect total fireworks but that’s not what The Kingdom bring to the table. No idea what’ll happen, either. Both The Addiction and The Kingdom are coming off of title wins and could certainly keep that rolling, but the Bucks are always popular and always hard to bet against.
- MICHAEL ELGIN vs. TETSUYA NAITO: Right now I think Elgin is one of the best acts going in Ring of Honor. Naito I’m less glowing about. I find him a bit annoying, never really bought into his schtick. However, he is highly regarded by New Japan and lots of fans, and this match will certainly be a tough one. If I’m remembering correctly Naito has a sort of heavy junior style, very fast but relying more on impact than on aerial superiority (Kota Ibushi’s a good example of an “air superiority” guy, always interested in protecting and utilizing his platforms). That might make for a more straightforward type of match than you’d get from the typical strongman/flyguy pairing. Could be one to watch for sure.
- REDRAGON (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) vs. HIROSHI TANAHASHI & JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER: On paper this is an underwhelming match for me, especially considering that reDRagon presumably has a title hunt to get back in, but it’s also somewhat tough to call. I’m assuming that reDRagon aren’t getting the belts right back, so they’re not necessarily going to need to retain all their heat. Tanahashi could certainly use a win (sort of guy you can always feed a win to) and the KRD might stick their noses in. Work-wise, I’m sure it’ll be fine but, again, it doesn’t light me up. I like Tanahashi but he’s nowhere near my favorite, and I don’t know if Liger is up to the pace that reDRagon would keep against, say, the Young Bucks. A win here doesn’t do much for either side’s title aspirations, unless perhaps Tanahashi & Liger have the NWA Tag Team Championship in their sights for some reason. So to sum it up I can see this one being entertaining but I’m not expecting the world out of it.
- A.J. STYLES vs. ????: If I had to guess, this will be Chris Sabin. However, the mystery may be someone like Moose. Not a lot of options I can see, unless New Japan has brought over someone secret that they haven’t booked on any other shows. No one else at the facing-A.J.-Styles level is unbooked at War of the Worlds but Sabin. Moose is a long, long shot, but let’s face it: sometimes mystery opponents are used so people’s hopes don’t get too high. I’m not saying it’d be a bad match, but the reason to bring Moose out would be “he’s a phenom look at this guy can he beat AJ Styles?” not because you want a match that fans are gonna talk about. Either way, there’s no chance that Styles drops this one. More than that is imposible to say.
- THE BRISCOES (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe) vs. KAZUCHIKA OKADA & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA: This one should be a lot of fun. Set-up wise it’s very similar to the reDRagon match, but the ROH tag icons standing across the ring from two of New Japan’s aces should add a lot of tension to the match. On top of that, Nakamura is the IWGP Intercontinental Champion — a young title with a hell of a lot of regard, most of it conferred by Nakamura’s four reigns — and Okada wants every shred of momentum for his next challenge against the IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles. Plus, for me, the match has three of my favorite wrestlers in Jay Briscoe, Okada, and Nakamura. These guys have a lot to live up for and a lot to prove in this one, I think they’ll go all out to do it.
ROH/NJPW War of the Worlds, Night 2
13 May 2015 • Philadelphia, PA
- ADAM PAGE vs. WATANABE: After all the degradation, the wars within The Decade, the suffering at the hands of everyone who had a problem with them, Adam Page is now about to break out and catch some big wins. Standing in his way is Watanabe who also wants a big Ring of Honor win. More than anything, though, Page wants to put in a good showing here to keep building his star, especially if he wants to get over the Chance Getter himself, ACH. This one will probably be a bit messy, I think, as neither guy has a wealth of experience. However, Page has had a lot of fun matches and this could be a surprise.
- MICHAEL ELGIN vs. KUSHIDA: The script for this match is probably going to be your standard Elgin vs. Pilot, with Elgin playing a rock trying to grind down his nimble opponent. This will probably be less competitive than the Naito match, especially as I feel each has less on the line here; a loss against a heavyweight isn’t really going to damage Kushida and Kushida’s not on enough of a roll that this would be a major feather in Elgin’s cap, while on the other hand Elgin’s presence in Japan isn’t great so Kushida getting the win doesn’t boost him too much. Could be fun, I expect we’ll see a good number of nearfalls as they try and protect their pride, but not expecting a standout.
- KYLE O’REILLY vs. TETSUYA NAITO: Style-wise, I think this is one of the best matches Naito could have drawn in ROH. O’Reilly is sort of heavy junior from the other side; whereas Naito feels like he’s weighted down a flying style, O’Reilly is more a ground guy who adopted a lot of flying assault. So while they’ve got a similar pace, I think the style clash could be interesting. Plus, both guys are in a similar enough position and are known enough to both audiences that a win for either is meaningful. Maybe this’ll be where my opinion on Naito finally changes (but I doubt it).
- THE ADDICTION (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) vs. KAZUCHIKA OKADA & GEDO: Again, I’m seeing a bit of a gimme in this match. I don’t really see a situation where Gedo doesn’t take the fall. Seeing as this one doesn’t have a ton of implications in it, I’m a bit disappointed with it on paper, though I’m sure it will turn out fine. I think we’ll see Okada clean house and keep control a lot throughout this match, but the Addiction have proven they’re not above playing the sneaky game, so I’m guessing they’ll steal it from under Okada’s nose.
- Four Corner Survival – SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs. MARK BRISCOE vs. JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER vs. JAY LETHAL: Ultimately I think this one comes down to the two champions, Nakamura and Lethal. Mark Briscoe and Liger are going to serve a similar purpose, well-known dressing to help spots a long, but I can’t see anyone really securing the win but the titleholders. That said, I feel like we’re going to see a comedy match here for the most part, with Lethal playing straight man for all the rest. I’m not sure about the pace in this one as none of them are your typical fireworks guys, so hopefully they work out enough interesting spots beforehand that take advantage of the extra bodies.
- RODERICK STRONG vs. HIROSHI TANAHASHI: Here’s a bout between two guys who I think are trying to be pitched as in equivalent roles. Tanahashi is your standard-bearer babyface, known as a champion, associated with the NJPW. Roderick Strong has been around forever and won all the titles there are in ROH. Tanahashi’s your fading ace and Roddy’s a staple top player. Basically, this should be a match that really pits the character of both companies against one another. I think certainly Roddy’s going to want to show that he can get it done against Tanahashi and, if nothing else, that’s going to make Tanahashi work to keep up. It’ll be nice to see Roddy working from underneath for a change as well, as against Tanahashi’s power I can’t see him taking charge. This will most likely be he-can-change-gears-just-like-that Roddy against the stronger and steadier Japanese superstar.
- THE KINGDOM (Adam Cole, Michael Bennett, & Matt Taven) vs. BULLET CLUB (A.J. Styles, Matt Jackson, & Nick Jackson): Much like Strong vs. Tanahashi, this one is setting up two roughly equivalent groups to do battle. This time, it’s the rogue factions. The Kingdom have not had the success that Bullet Club has, and unlike Bullet Club, their popularity isn’t in the group but entirely in Adam Cole. The Young Bucks are one of the most well-known and well-regarded tag teams in the industry. Bennett and Taven have secured the IWGP Tag Team titles but they have a lot to do in order to reach the Bucks’ position. Styles is a bonafide legend in the sport and Adam Cole is a madly rising star who certainly wants to avenge past losses against Styles and, more than that, get a return win with both ROH and New Japan officials watching. I’m not predicting anything excellent here, both because of Bennett & Taven’s involvement and because the fact that Cole isn’t booked for any of the other NJPW week shows makes me think he’s not completely healthy yet. Could definitely be a fun match, though.
- ROH World Championship – JAY BRISCOE© vs. BOBBY FISH: The outcome of this one I feel like can be seen a mile away, but the match itself should be pretty fun. Fish has a great ground game which should be interesting if he employs it against Briscoe here. Thing is that Briscoe does love to brawl and a lot of his matches become that, probably because he’s taking control. I think the story of this one will be how well Bobby Fish makes Briscoe play his game; or, more likely, how well Bobby Fish can avoid playing Briscoe’s game. Should have an electric finishing stretch here and I think both guys will come out looking great.
WAR OF THE WORLDS MATCH PREDICTIONS
- Delirious vs. Gedo: Exhibition comedy match here. I think Delirious will be a good host. Winner: Gedo.
- Roderick Strong vs. Kushida: Likely fast paced and tough but Roddy’s momentum is hard to beat. Winner: Roderick Strong.
- Jay Lethal vs. Watanabe: Lethal is absolutely dominant these days. Winner: Jay Lethal.
- The Addiction vs. The Kingdom vs. The Young Bucks: Tough to call, but given that The Addiction have just taken the belts I think their roll’s gonna keep going. Winners: The Addiction.
- Michael Elgin vs. Tetsuya Naito: I can sense a very hard-fought match here but I think the power of Elgin’s going to prove decisive. Winner: Michael Elgin.
- reDRagon vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Jushin Thunder Liger: Tough to call because of the New Japan team, but I feel reDRagon’s really going to want to get back on the path here. Winners: reDRagon.
- The Briscoes vs. Kazuchika Okada & Shinsuke Nakamura: Another very tough one to call, but I think home field advantage and experience as a team will tip the scales towards Dem Boys. Winners: The Briscoes.
- AJ Styles vs. ????: Will probably be Chris Sabin. Regardless, no one mystery is gonna cut Styles’s roll. Winner: AJ Styles.
- Jay Briscoe© vs. Bobby Fish [ROH World Championship]: Just coming off of a tag title loss, I don’t think Fish is in any shape for a full-on challenge here. Winner: Jay Briscoe.
- Adam Page vs. Watanabe: Watanabe has a lot to prove but Adam Page has a lot more to prove and big words to back up. Don’t think he wants to be shut down here. Winner: Adam Page.
- Michael Elgin vs. Kushida: I bet that Kushida will give it a good run but Elgin’s going to put him in the ground. Winner: Michael Elgin.
- Kyle O’Reilly vs. Tetsuya Naito: For similar reasons as Fish I think that O’Reilly will drop it here, especially against an aspirational guy like Naito. Winner: Tetsuya Naito.
- Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Mark Briscoe vs. Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Jay Lethal [Four Corner Survival]: This’ll be a bit hectic but I think Nakamura’s going to get the last word in this one. Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura.
- Roderick Strong vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi: When it’s all said and done I think this is going to come down to an exchange of bombs. Don’t think Roddy will handle the whole assault. Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi.
- The Addiction vs. Kazuchika Okada & Gedo: Okada is a big name and a great talent, which is all the more reason that The Addiction are going to want to steal that win. Winners: The Addiction.
- The Kingdom vs. Bullet Club: I think all told, The Kingdom is fielding a weaker team than Bullet Club and doesn’t have enough of a grudge to make up the gap. Winners: Bullet Club.