Junior Heavyweights take center stage in Sendai
February 11 sees night nine of the New Year’s Golden Series, and the first championship action of the tour, as Sendai will see the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship defended atop a card that is dominated by junior heavyweight action.
Main event: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: El Desperado vs Master Wato
Singles record: 1-1
The Xebio Arena will be headlined by what is without doubt the biggest match in Master Wato’s young career. Placed opposite an El Desperado less than 24 hours removed from a war opposite rival Hiromu Takahashi in the Tokyo Dome, Wato made the absolute most of the situation, navigating his new Vendeval submission and garnering a tapout victory- and the championship opportunity that came with it.
The tapout victory, and the 1-1 record against the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion that Wato possesses belies the face that Desperado has been constantly critical of the blue haired prodigy since he returned from excursion in the spring of 2020. His criticism, of not honing his abilities and not seeming confident and comfortable in his own skin, comes from experience; Desperado himself struggled out of the gates in NJPW before undergoing a seven year journey to get to the top of the division. Nor has Desperado’s criticism been completely without warrant, as results have not been instantly forthcoming for the would be Grand Master in the early stages of his NJPW career.
Yet the improvements that Wato has made over the last several months have been undeniable, and his threat to the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion is indeed credible. As Wato has been keen to remind his opponent, Desperado would be making a grave mistake if he thinks he can look past his defence in Sendai toward Heat’s all time defence record, and matches against outside challengers from the likes of STRONGHEARTS and NOAH. Could Wato take a huge step toward Grand Master status tonight? Or will the Desperado era continue?
7th Match: YOH vs SHO
Singles record: 20-11-22 YOH
For the fourth time in the last six months, YOH and SHO collide in the semi main event in Sendai. When SHO turned his back on Roppongi 3K last summer, he rode a wave of anger at his former partner, as well as YOH’s struggles in ring, to score an emphatic and violent victory at Wrestle Grand Slam in the MetLife Dome. Yet in both Best of the Super Jr, and at Wrestle Kingdom 16, YOH recovered to wins over his one time friend that saw him defuse the Murder Machine, and stay a step ahead of SHO’s devious tactics.
As SHO stayed with the HOUSE OF TORTURE gameplan of dirty tactics and weapon use through the early stage of the tour, the switch flipped in YOH in Korakuen on February 7. After being blasted with a chair by SHO, YOH grabbed his former partner’s now trademark wrench and corked SHO with it, before having to be pulled away from a violent post match beating.
Now with thsi match gaining another and more violent dimension, should YOH pick up another victory in his home prefecture of Miyagi, he can finally put SHO in his rear view mirror. Not only that, he may take a step closer to the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title. That’s a spot SHO wants for himself and HOUSE OF TORTURE, and YOH will have to keep his head on a swivel tonight as his opposition will stop at nothing in the pursuit of victory.
6th Match: Tiger Mask vs Gedo
Singles record: 6-1 Tiger Mask
One week before Flying Tigers are scheduled to defend the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships against BULLET CLUB’s Cutest Tag Team in Sapporo, Tiger Mask had hoped for a singles preview against Taiji Ishimori tonight. Instead, as fever protocols keep Ishimori in isolation until Sunday in Osaka, he must face another familiar nemesis in Gedo.
The early part of the tour has seen Tiger Mask show his submission prowess on Gedo in tag team matches, but February 7 saw Gedo take brass knuckle revenge. The Blacksmith then promised to step up should Ishimori be absent; now that is indeed the case, Gedo seeks to score only his second career win over his 2005 Best of the Super Jr. finals opponent, while the masked master will seek to extend that 6-1 win:loss record.
5th Match: Kazuchika Okada, Shingo Takagi & Yuji Nagata vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & Shingo Takagi)
In a rematch from the first main event on the New Year’s Golden Series, six man action sees Yuji Nagata join the Dream team of IWGP United States and World Heavyweight Champions, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada, as they face the Los Ingobernables De Japon side of Tetsuya Naito, SANADA and Shingo Takagi. The tour kicked off with Naito landing Destino on Nagata and picking up the victory, all while shooting a meaningful gaze at Okada, who he faces February 20 in Sapporo. With championship implications looming large, who comes out on top in Sendai?
4th Match: Satoshi Kojima vs Great-O-Khan
Singles record: 1-0 O-Khan
As Jeff Cobb continues to recover from leg injuries sustained at Wrestle Kingdom, Great-O-Khan will face Satoshi Kojima one on one in Sendai. The two did battle in Yokohama during the G1 Climax 31 tour with the Dominator coming out on top; after O-Khan has been humbled somewhat by engaging with Young Lion competitors through the early part of the tour, he wants to re-establish United Empire’s dominance against the strongest arm in professional wrestling.
3rd Match: Toru Yano, Togi Makabe & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku)
Toru Yano and Minoru Suzuki’s long held issues will continue in Sendai, as Suzuki-Gun battle a team of Yano, Togi Makabe and Ryusuke Taguchi. With KOPW rules now proposed by both participants, it’s quite possible that both Suzuki’s handcuffs and Toru Yano’s dog cage may make an appearance tonight in Sendai. The question is, after TAKA Michinoku was locked inside that cage Monday in Korakuen, has he found a way out yet?
2nd Match: Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs HOUSE OF TORTURE (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & Dick Togo)
Six man action will see Hiroyoshi Tenzan fill an absent YOSHI-HASHI’s spot to take on HOUSE OF TORTURE. Sunday in Osaka, Ishii will face EVIL for the NEVER Openweight Championship in a Lumberjack Match, where HOUSE OF TORTURE interference will be nullified at last. EVIL’s gang of thieves have not fared well through the first part of the tour. Will that make for ominous plans hatched in Sendai?
1st Match: Los Ingobernables De Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI)
Suzuki-Gun and LIJ collide in tag action in the first official match of the night. On an evening dominated by junior heavyweight action, four of the very best competitors currently have no singles themes, but will be seeking to remind the fans in Sendai, and around the world that they could very comfortably be contenders to whomever walks out of tonight’s main event with the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
1st Match: Tomoaki Honma vs Ryohei Oiwa
Tomoaki Honma will be giving a veteran glance at Young Lion competition in the opening match of the evening as he faces Ryohei Oiwa. Young Oiwa managed to combine with Kosei Fujita to get a 10,000 Yen payoff out of Hiromu Takahashi in Korakuen this week, removing Hiromu’s mask to grab some new year’s cash, albeit losing the match itself. Will this small win pave the way to a big one against Honma?