After the two mid-week War of the Worlds shows in Philly (which I previewed a few days ago), Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling take Thursday off to truck up to Toronto for Global Wars. On balance, these two shows seem to be where the main action is, and part of that is definitely that night 1 is going out on iPPV and night 2 is being taped for ROH TV. Just looking down the match list, though, I feel that the Global Wars cards are just a bit stronger. Both nights will probably be capped off by the Bullet Club mega tag matches. Night 1 they’ll test the mettle of a crew of ROH fan favorites, “led” by the Briscoe Brothers. Night 2, Bullet Club squares off with New Japan rival faction CHAOS. Interesting that they booked the ROH showcase on the New Japan broadcast and vice versa; it could be a hint that they’re intending to keep pushing this relationship forward and want to introduce more of the ROH product to New Japan.
This is also set to have the scheduled ROH debut of Chris Sabin. He’s been in ROH before but it has been several years since he even poked his head in with the Motor City Machine Guns (still probably one of the best tag teams to never have a real limelight run). Since then, he’s become a singles guy again, won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, and gone insane over Velvet Sky (as many men would). Like I said in my WotW preview, I’m expecting Sabin to be A.J. Styles‘s mystery opponent, but since that’s not confirmed we’ll assume for convenience that his first match will be on Friday the 15th. His alliance with The Addiction and, more importantly, his role in screwing over reDRagon to steal the ROH World Tag Team Championship is going to make him one of the key guys to watch for me, especially as a follower of the TV product. That said, he’ll have a lot of competition from everybody else doing their damndest to come off their best.
- THE KINGDOM (Michael Bennett & Matt Taven) vs MATT SYDAL & JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER: The sometimes tag team of Matt Sydal and ACH won’t be in action as you might expect since ACH has other obligations on night 1. That leaves Sydal to team with New Japan’s own international sensation Jushin Thunder Liger to take on the ROH villains. At this moment, The Kingdom is riding very high as a tag team after having secured the IWGP Tag Team Championship from Bullet Club’s Anderson & Gallows. With Adam Cole on the mend, they might be coming to their strongest point yet and I’m sure they’re eager to keep the momentum flowing. Sydal and Liger are both very accomplished wrestlers, but inexperience as a team is going to hurt them against a squad that’s getting more cohesive every day. At the same time, Sydal is a good boy and Liger is an… alien guy, so The Kingdom’s tactic of using Maria’s ass and legs and everything as a distraction is not as likely to work. Sydal and Liger have an uphill battle ahead of them but if The Kingdom are resting on their laurels they’ll be rudely awakened.
- CHRIS SABIN vs KUSHIDA: Here, officially, Chris Sabin makes his return to a Ring of Honor ring against a livewire in New Japan’s KUSHIDA. This is definitely an interesting matchup if only for both of their relationship with Alex Shelley (and, of course, Shelley’s absence). It is possible on the outside that Sabin will use this match to send a messsage over to Shelley, or even just to the ROH locker room that he doesn’t care about old alliances. If he expects to find a pushover, though, he’ll have to look elsewhere. KUSHIDA is always high on octane and he’s routinely given guys on both sides of the water problems handling him. Sabin has a reputation as being a speedster from his time in the MCMGs, but out of the two Guns I always saw Sabin as the more grounded one. As TNA World champion he displayed a lot more of that game and I think that’s more of the side we’re going to see from Sabin in Toronto. If he really wants to control KUSHIDA, though, he’ll have to know when to put the boosters on.
- GEDO & MOOSE vs WATANABE & SILAS YOUNG: This is probably the match that makes the least sense if they’re not taking ROH guys over to New Japan and the most sense if they are. Moose would probably be over like crazy in Japan and Silas Young is good enough that he can take his act wherever. As a minor introduction to these guys the match could work great. In the ring? I’m really not expecting too much. As I’ve said in an earlier piece, Gedo is past his prime, not engaged in much ring-wise these days, and probably won’t be amazing. Moose is green as hell. He can carry his end but he’s not going to be in a classic without a lot of direction. Watanabe’s not bad but he’s not great, either. It’s just Young who I’d really like to see from this one. I would assume this will mostly be comedy as I don’t see anybody but Young taking it too seriously. Guessing we’ll see a lot of action from Veda & Stokely here.
- SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs ACH: Yet another in the “ACH big match series.” It can be argued — as Adam Page has made a point of doing — that ACH doesn’t deserve to keep getting big opportunities, considering he always loses. However, I don’t think he is booked in these matches because he’ll win but because he’s an exciting wrestler who’s good enough to give these guys a run for their money. It’s not just about wins and losses, it’s also about performance, and if ACH was instead ACHP that’s what the P would stand for. With Nakamura across the ring I can’t help but think this match will be completely explosive. I haven’t seen Nakamura against flyers too often so I’m not sure how he’ll do and ACH is one who loves the air, even if he doesn’t protect it as much as some. One of ACH’s big weaknesses is his playfulness. I’m sure we’ll see him imitating Nakamura at some point and Nakamura will put his boot right down ACH’s throat. If that happens too often this match might be shorter than we thought. As always, ACH has an opportunity to seal a big win here, but he’s got a challenge ahead of him that he’s not really ready for yet. He’ll need more than attitude, charisma, and heart to deal with Nakamura.
- KAZUCHIKA OKADA vs CEDRIC ALEXANDER: We were supposed to get this last year but Cedric got injured. I’m very glad we’re getting it here and on the iPPV show as well. Alexander has needed nothing more than a really landmark performance in ROH. If he brings it all against Okada and accomplishes something special it could mean a hell of a lot for him. Okada, on the other hand, is not really looking for a showcase. He’s over with the ROH fans, he’s way over in Japan, he’s already in contention for the IWGP Heavyweight strap. What he needs out of this match is momentum. I would not be surprised if we see Okada trying to close this one up quickly so as not to jeopardize his future prospects. He has a very strong, solid style that in a lot of ways reminds me of Tanahashi’s: he’s not an immovable monster but he’s definitely out to hurt you straight-up. Not a whole lot of trickery to his attack. He’s also fought most of his top-flight career against heavyweights. If Alexander can give Okada a different sort of challenge he’ll have his best shot at success. Though a comparison with Roderick Strong is often drawn, Cedric is a much more effective flyer and he’s more creative with what he does when he’s on the move. I think those aspects are what’s going to stand out as he tries to conquer the former IWGP champion.
- Four Corner Tag Survival – THE ADDICTION (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) vs RPG VICE (Rocky Romero & Baretta) vs REDRAGON (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) vs THE DECADE (B.J. Whitmer & Adam Page): From the standpoint of title aspirations this is the most interesting match of the night and perhaps of the whole week. Both the ROH World Tag and the IWGP Jr. Tag champions are in this match, along with reDRagon who are the immediately previous holders of both with overwhelmingly legitimate arguments that they should still be. That makes three extremely desirable targets for The Decade to knock off, which means they will probably be bringing their all, especially Adam Page who’s likely in the biggest match of his ROH career thus far. Style-wise this will likely be dominated by the electricity of RPG Vice and reDRagon. I’m not sure what The Addiction’s outlook on this match will be; as it’s non-title (as announced), there’s nothing for them to protect, and we haven’t had much chance to see what their attitude as villains is. Given all the bodies already involved there’s a high probability that we’ll see Colby Corino as the young boy for The Decade, and if that happens with Steve Corino at ringside The Decade’s chances at winning skyrocket. Personally, I don’t know how much I’ll enjoy this match (general opposition to multi-sided matches) but I will be checking to see how it plays out.
- HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs MICHAEL ELGIN: I have heard a lot about Michael Elgin’s desire to wrestle in Japan. Up to this point he’ll have faced two of New Japan’s rising stars but now, on the biggest show of the week, he’ll stand toe to toe with the long-recognized ace of New Japan. Of the two, I think Tanahashi may have to adapt his style the most because Elgin’s style of power is several shades more tactical than most guys with his strength. I see Elgin simply doing what he can to apply all the pressure he can for as long as he can while Tanahashi tries to find a way around him. On the other hand, if Elgin believes he’ll be able to bully Tanahashi around the ring he will quickly be undeceived. Tanahashi may not be quite as strong as Elgin but he isn’t far behind. Another of Tanahashi’s strengths is his on the move creativity, enough of a flying element to his style that it helps him defy the powerhouses. Elgin has faced that sort of thing before but it doesn’t mean he’s always prepared to fight it, especially since he’s facing a guy the size of Tanahashi and not someone he can snatch out of the air. Out of all the matches on this night this is my favorite one on paper, definitely looking forward to it.
- ROH World Television Championship – JAY LETHAL© vs TETSUYA NAITO: If Jay Lethal wants to be seen as a champion on the level of Jay Briscoe, he has to put down better competition. Thankfully, New Japan has brought one of their own golden boys over here to face him. This will be a real test for both guys as Naito seeks to continue bolstering his singles reputation and Lethal gets a taste of the Japanese scene in a way he hasn’t really been exposed to yet. Despite winning 2013’s G1 Climax, Naito’s only been able to convert that into a NEVER Openweight Championship reign; the young title’s had some good spotlight, especially with Tomohiro Ishii as its champion, but it’s undoubtedly the lowest title in the New Japan hierarchy that has three other singles belts. One great performance, anywhere in the world, can turn you right around and there’s nobody better for it than Jay Lethal. Problem for Naito is he’ll have to work hard in there if he wants a win. Lethal can certainly match Naito’s pace every step of the way, he can fly as much as Naito wants, and he can grind the pace to paste. That said, I believe Naito does have the edge as a flyer, and I expect we’ll see him do what he can to emphasize that. Truth Martini will probably end up earning his pay this night, as they say.
- ROH ALL-STARS (Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe, Roderick Strong, Hanson, & Rowe) vs BULLET CLUB (A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, Matt Jackson, & Nick Jackson): If we’ve got to have more than four people in a match I much prefer it in this type of setting: a big war between two sides. Here we’ve got two sides who are certainly going to prove ultra-popular, Bullet Club as a group and the ROH team as three of the hottest acts from a company full of hot acts. The absence of a real junior heavyweight team for the ROH side makes it tough to see what this match is going to set up, if anything. Whatever combat we get between Jay Briscoe and Styles is going to be very interesting. Both guys are definitely going to want to prove something here, especially since the only contact they’ve had since Styles’s return has been in a four-way match. As opposing captains I’m guessing we’re going to see a good deal of tension between them. A lot of outside factors make this one very tough for me to call: relative positions of Bullet Club and the All-Stars, fact that it’ll be on New Japan iPPV, whether or not ROH will be sending guys to New Japan in the future and who. Inside, though, I’m expecting nothing but a battle. The Bullet Club brings a more varied, specialist kind of attack, with their heavy tag team in Anderson/Gallows, their harrier team in the Young Bucks, and the jewel in the crown Styles to bring it all together. ROH’s side is a lot more rounded, with three of them able to keep pace with the Bucks, War Machine (and probably also the Briscoes) able to match Anderson/Gallows for power, and two guys who are as close as anyone in ROH to challenging for Styles’s IWGP belt (Strong and Jay Briscoe). I don’t expect Briscoe’s unbeaten streak to be broken here but I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a real scare.
ROH/NJPW Global Wars, Night 2
16 May 2015 • Toronto, ON
- KUSHIDA vs WILL FERRARA: One thing the ROH Dojo excels at is turning out rookies. What I mean is that Will Ferrara, Pelle Primeau, and Rhett Titus come to mind as having a very basic-seeming approach. Very capable all-rounders, I suppose is a good way to put it. Ferrara is good, there’s no doubt, but he’s certainly still looking for those elements that are going to push him into being great. KUSHIDA is, I think, going to give Ferrara a different sort of test than he would usually get in Ring of Honor. This may just be my perception but I feel that Japanese flyers tend to have a more intense style of air attack as opposed to the acrobatics-focused American style. So while Ferrara has certainly faced accomplished flyers in the past, KUSHIDA’s rip-roaring attack may be a little more than Ferrara was planning on getting. I feel as though KUSHIDA will see this as more of a showcase match. If he underestimates Ferrara too far, he’ll find himself in trouble. For Ferrara’s part, a win against a New Japan import would do a lot for his standing in ROH.
- MICHAEL ELGIN vs GEDO: On paper this match makes very little sense. Gedo has not been in serious contention for any titles in over ten years. At the moment he is mainly Okada’s mouthpiece and sideman. Elgin is somewhat knocked back in the ROH standings after his loss in the four-way title match at the 13th Anniversary Show but he is still one of the top contenders and still undoubtedly hunting that championship. So why this match? Well, one thing that’s true is that there’s not many in New Japan with more pull than Gedo. If there are ideas about having Elgin go to Japan, it’s possible that Gedo wants to get a look himself. If there aren’t, a good showing against Gedo himself might put such ideas in his head. Regardless, this will be an interesting match for Elgin. I believe he’ll be inclined to see this as somewhat of a gimme. I’m sure Gedo is double-tough or he wouldn’t think about stepping in the ring against Elgin but that may not be enough. For Elgin’s part, the question really is how to handle this match. If he’s trying to curry favor, does he go for it full-tilt? Does he play it cool, showing off his skills without trying to drive Gedo through the mat? And remember, this will be at the end of the week, after Elgin’s already endured three tough matches and likely been traveling most of his “off” day. If he plays it with kid gloves there’s every chance that Gedo could surprise him and take the victory. Whatever happens, Gedo is not going to make things easy for Michael Elgin.
- THE KINGDOM (Michael Bennett & Matt Taven) vs DOC GALLOWS & KARL ANDERSON: Despite there being animosity between these two teams as The Kingdom very recently stole the IWGP Tag Team Championship from Gallows & Anderson, and despite Gallows & Anderson not yet having received a rematch, this match is (currently) not set as a title defense. Lots of reasons can be speculated on but what is true for sure is that a lot of pressure is off of The Kingdom’s shoulders. The worst they have to fear is injury, losing Maria to Karl Anderson, and giving up a future title shot to Gallows & Anderson. Speaking of Maria, she provides another focal point in this match as the major distraction which allowed The Kingdom to seize the belts in the first place. The atmosphere in Japan and North America is a bit different on this point — guys on both sides ogle her, but it seems in America everyone’s able to pull their attention away a bit easier — and that means that what worked in Japan may not work in Toronto. Gallows and Anderson are likely to be hot at the chance to get some revenge and, of course, to earn an actual title match in the future. For both of those reasons Anderson will probably be a bit more focused, but you can never tell with the Machine Gun. In my view, if The Kingdom are concerned about increasing their stock in ROH, they stick it out and fight. They will have to be craftier than usual — while this is The Kingdom’s main strength, I think they rely too much on old & established strategies rather than continuing to evolve (one guy who was amazing at this was Mike Mondo) — especially against two bruisers from the Bullet Club. The Kingdom are faster than Gallows & Anderson but not enough to make that the key part of their strategy. A win here for The Kingdom, in front of an ROH crowd, would do a lot to solidify them as a strong tag team stateside. However as I said, this all depends on them being interested in upping their profile. Somehow I think they’ll be more interested in saving their own hides.
- JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER vs DALTON CASTLE: When I first heard about this match I exploded with pleasure. For a new guy in Dalton Castle’s position this is one of the best matches he could have drawn, especially as this is his only booked appearance this week. Jushin Liger is a larger-than-life character in the most exact sense; when you see him you can’t believe that there is a person like that around. Dalton Castle, well, it is quite hard to believe that a man like him exists, too. I think this one was worth booking just for the entrances. In the ring I don’t really see this as a test, more an exhibition. Liger is not in peak condition these days and though he’s recently been a champion, it was for the much-deprecated NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship. He’s not been in real contention for a title in a long while. At the same time, he has always remained dangerous and recently gave Jay Lethal a decent run for the World Television title. Dalton Castle doesn’t come in at the top of the card, having fallen to Ashley Sixx in the first round of the 2015 Top Prospect Tournament and again against Jay Lethal in his proper ROH debut. However, he’s already proven himself to be a tremendous grappler, deceptively powerful, and crafty enough to send even Truth Martini into conniptions. If Dalton Castle loses he shouldn’t be ashamed, but if he wins, he’ll have a hell of a lot to brag about.
- HIROSHI TANAHASHI & TETSUYA NAITO vs ACH & MATT SYDAL: Right here we have a battle of the golden boys, fan favorites all, and all able to light the crowd up. There is really no more backstory than that. ACH and Sydal I’m sure would love to pull out what’s got to be considered a king kong upset against Tanahashi and Naito (who I could be convinced are father and son). However, they stand across from two G1 Climax winners, one of whom is New Japan’s most well-known wrestler and the other being desperate for a big win. The Japanese pair are likely to try and slow down the Americans and ground them, prevent them from using their strong aerial assault. Naito can probably keep pace with ACH and Sydal singly but with both across from, trying to beat them at their own game might prove unfeasible. On paper the best strategy for ACH & Sydal would be to isolate Naito who, being lighter, will probably be easier to put down. That said, if Matt Sydal is really looking for a win here I fear that ACH may hold him back. This is a match where ACH’s inexperience can really damage him as not only has he got two veteran opponents to contend with, he has to manage having a tag partner as well. I think Sydal’s aware of this and wants to commit to building a strong team, but until ACH’s sensibilities develop, they’re going to hit very tough matches like this one without a lot of options available.
- SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs RODERICK STRONG: Right here we have a match that means two hugely different things to both guys and yet where neither one can slouch. Shinsuke Nakamura is a big deal player. Not only is he a former 3-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and the man who has established the Intercontinental Championship as one to win, he is perhaps the most popular wrestler on the New Japan roster. Roderick Strong is, in ROH, one of the few that can call himself The Man. Never unrespected, always competitive, always increasing his level. For Roderick, a win here over the IWGP Intercontinental Champion would not only raise his stock in ROH massively, it would almost certainly net him an Intercontinental title shot at some point in the future. For Nakamura, simply being who he is would probably see him into any title match that he desired in ROH and even beating someone as established as Roddy isn’t likely to increase Nakamura’s already huge popularity. But if Nakamura thinks this is an occasion to slouch at the end of a long weekend, he might find that he’ll lose quite a lot in three seconds. As I’ve said, Roddy is always looking for that next level, that next challenge, and I cannot imagine that he’ll be passing up a chance to impress and reach success against a name like Nakamura. As for Nakamura, if he’s smart he’ll put Roddy down; you never want to face Roderick Strong twice if you don’t have to. For once, the crafty guy is coming from New Japan as we get a chance to see if Nakamura’s flash is enough to dull the razor that is Roderick Strong.
- BULLET CLUB (A.J. Styles, Matt Jackson, & Nick Jackson) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Rocky Romero, & Baretta): I’m aware of the rivalry between Bullet Club and CHAOS but I can’t really say what’s going on with it now. I’ve always found it tough to follow Japanese wrestling storylines and, even with the huge Anglophone push in New Japan these days, I don’t make enough time to watch New Japan stuff. Mostly what I know is that Bullet Club under Prince Devitt made its name coming up against and battling with CHAOS, eventually supplanting them as the top villainous stable in New Japan. It was only after Devitt left and was replaced with Styles that the Bullet Club cleared its final hurdle and captured the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Styles is now in his 2nd reign, more established, and still the incumbent with a livid Okada on his heels. In the transformation from young boy in America to “Rainmaker” and two time IWGP champion, it might be forgotten that at 27 Okada is actually the second youngest person in this match (ahead of only Nick Jackson). Styles has played upon that, and their history together in TNA, quite a lot in what I’ve seen and I don’t expect that to change here. Bullet Club has the edge in longevity and cohesion, both as a trio and, of course, with the superstar Young Bucks. That said, CHAOS is very well-decorated, as Romero is a multi-time Jr. Tag champion and currently holds those belts with Baretta. Their team is very, very fresh, though, and that could pose problems against the Bucks who definitely want to get those straps back. With two powerful rivalries going into this match I can see this one breaking down very quickly. Todd Sinclair (or whoever draws the match) had better be on his toes.
- Other Appearances: Not too much that I can really say here. I’m guessing, despite the lack of Sabin’s announcement, that we’re going to see more of the KRD angle developing on this taping. Jay Lethal not being listed as well does surprise me, but Donovan Dijak’s involvement makes me think there’ll still be movement on the Briscoe vs Lethal front. If there is to be some impromptu match I’d guess it’ll involve either Chris Sabin or Donovan Dijak. Also guessing we’ll see more movement with The Decade/Corinos angle though I’m not sure what form that’ll take.
GLOBAL WARS MATCH PREDICTIONS
- ROH All-Stars vs Bullet Club: This one is pretty tough to call but home field advantage is going to be the deciding factor. Winners: ROH All-Stars.
- Jay Lethal© vs Tetsuya Naito [ROH World Television Championship]: Naito is good, he’s on the rise, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be stopping Jay Lethal’s roll. Winner: Jay Lethal.
- The Kingdom vs Matt Sydal & Jushin Thunder Liger: Sydal and Liger are two great junior heavyweights but they’re not a team. The Kingdom is united and they’re hungry to keep adding to their resume. Winners: The Kingdom.
- Chris Sabin vs. KUSHIDA: This being Chris Sabin’s re-debut in ROH, I can’t see he’ll want anything more than a victory here. Beating his former partner’s current partner is just icing. Winner: Chris Sabin.
- Gedo & Moose vs Watanabe & Silas Young: Gedo is a ring general and Moose just needs to be directed. I feel like Young will get frustrated with Watanabe before long. Winners: Gedo & Moose.
- Shinsuke Nakamura vs ACH: This one will be electric for sure. But, as usual with ACH, he’s in over his head here. Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura.
- The Addiction vs RPG Vice vs reDRagon vs The Decade [Four Corner Tag Survival]: Each team has a burning interest in winning this match but there can be only one. Tough to call but I have a sneaking feeling RPG Vice will be extra motivated. Winners: RPG Vice.
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Michael Elgin: Elgin is going to throw almost all he’s got in this one, but Tanahashi will surprise him and take it away. Predicting at least 3 Sling Blades in this one. Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi.
- Bullet Club vs CHAOS: Right now Okada’s got Styles right in his sights and he wants nothing better than to beat him at every chance. However, stateside? Fan support will sway things a lot. Winners: Bullet Club.
- KUSHIDA vs Will Ferrara: This’ll be a spirited match, but if KUSHIDA stays focused I don’t see much chance for Ferrara. Winner: KUSHIDA.
- Michael Elgin vs Gedo: In this one I’m not quite sure of what to expect excpt the result. Winner: Michael Elgin.
- The Kingdom vs Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson: Gallows and Anderson have 1000 times more reason to want to win this than The Kingdom, who’ve got every reason to scatter. Winners: Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson.
- Jushin Thunder Liger vs Dalton Castle: This is a real chance for Dalton Castle to prove himself but he’s got a steep mountain against the legendary flyer. Winner: Jushin Thunder Liger.
- Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tetsuya Naito vs ACH & Matt Sydal: As much as I know ACH would love to score a win this weekend, I think he’s gonna come up short again here. Maybe if he’d drawn Watanabe or KUSHIDA. Winners: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tetsuya Naito.
- Shinsuke Nakamura vs Roderick Strong: Out of this whole week this match is the toughest one to call. There could very well be an upset here, but I’m gonna stick with my gut. Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura.