Kobe sees live English coverage return to NJPW World
The Burning Spirit series reaches its conclusion on September 25, as Kobe World Hall will bring three championship matches on top of a stacked card of action. Who will carry their titles into the autumn, as Declaration of Power in Ryogoku, and Royal Quest in London approach?
Main event: IWGP United States Championship: Will Ospreay vs David Finlay
Singles record: 2-1 Ospreay
The main event in Kobe will see the IWGP United States Championship on the line as Will Ospreay defends against David Finlay. Mired in controversy all the way through 2022, the US title was the center of conversation in D Block through the G1 Climax. Ospreay headed into the tournament as the champion, but the title was in the hands of Juice Robinson at tournament start.
While it seemed like Ospreay would have to wait until the end of the tournament to fight Juice and get his possession back, the belt found its way to him earlier than anticipated. In Korakuen Hall, David Finlay defeated his former partner Robinson, and took the belt for himself, saying that it represented a chance to ‘rent space in Ospreay’s head’. The plan worked as Finlay defeated Ospreay to cap off an impressive three match hot streak for the Rebel; Finlay returned the title belt to its rightful owner, but the message was clear that Finlay wanted his title shot.
Ospreay was suitably incensed, and declared that he would make Finlay’s face as red as the belt, refusing to wear it around his waist until that day came. In the meantime, Ospreay would find his way to the G1 Climax final, and after narrow defeat in a classic bout in the Budokan last week, Finlay was not about to let Ospreay forget. Giving the Briton no time to let his disappointment sink in, Finlay demanded Ospreay refocus for Kobe. Knowing that he can defeat the Commonwealth Kingpin, Finlay is on the verge of finally capturing the IWGP US gold that has eluded him through his career, but with Wrestle Kingdom season looming, will it be Ospreay reasserting his place near the top of the food chain?
8th Match: NEVER Openweight Championship: Karl Anderson vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
Singles record: 4-2 Tanahashi
Hiroshi Tanahashi will challenge Karl Anderson for the NEVER Openweight Championship in Kobe. Anderson returned to Japanese NJPW rings at Dominion, and immediately won the NEVER title from Tama Tonga in Osaka Jo Hall. It was a full circle for Tama’s mentor in the business and for BULLET CLUB history, and there will be further callbacks when the Machine Gun faces the Ace.
What was a friendly rivalry full of mutual respect between Anderson and Tanahashi turned ugly at Dontaku in 2013 when a post match Gunstun saw Anderson align with Prince Devitt and Bad Luck Fale to form BULLET CLUB alongside Tama. Nine years on and Anderson was wearing NEVER gold, crudely rebranded as the ‘BULLET CLUB Championship’ into tag team action at the Budokan this past week; thanks to Toru Yano getting involved with a distraction to Gallows, Tanahashi would land a Slingblade and High Fly Flow to pin the NEVER champ and stake a claim.
Tanahashi seeks his second NEVER Openweight reign in Kobe. His first run with the title in 2021, defeating Shingo Takagi for the title only to be relieved of the gold by Jay White three months later, was crucial for this stage of the Ace’s career. Initially regarding the NEVER gold as a stepping stone back into IWGP World Heavyweight Championship prominence, Tanahashi instead would learn just how important the title was on its own merits through his war with then title holder Takagi. That’s a significance the Ace seeks to bring with him into his challenge of an old familiar rival.
7th Match: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships: United Empire (TJP & Francesco Akira) vs Six or Nine (Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato)
Tag record: 1-0 United Empire
The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships will also be on the line in Kobe. On June 20, the United Empire team of Francesco Akira and TJP captured the titles from Master Wato and Ryusuke Taguchi, ending Six or Nine’s quest to rack up 69 title defences. The outgoing champions want their gold back though, and after an inspirational speech from Wato to his mentor and partner at the G1 Special in Roppongi after the G1 Climax, the Coach was convinced. Ever since, Taguchi has been tapping into the black charisma of Masahiro Chono. It’s not an entirely bizarre connection for Taguchi; Chono was a seven time IWGP Tag Team Champion with different partners as Taguchi is in the junior heavyweight stakes. Numerology fans will also be excited to know that the 69th junior tag champions are challenging in the very same building that Taguchi became the 69th IWGP Junior Heavyweight singles champion back in 2014 when he defeated KUSHIDA. Do the stars all align in Kobe World Hall September 25?
6th Match: KUSHIDA & Tama Tonga vs BULLET CLUB (Jay White & Taiji Ishimori)
Just two weeks before Tama Tonga faces Jay White for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship on October 10 at Declaration of Power, this tag team preview should be a heated one indeed. Though the main event in Ryogoku is confirmed, KUSHIDA and Taiji Ishimori aren’t listed on the card. Their singles confrontation for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight gold is surely all but guaranteed, but while the Bone Soldier still refuses to grant the Timeplistter’s challenge, KUSHIDA will want to authoritatively take the choice out of the champion’s hands here in Kobe.
5th Match: Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Kazuchika Okada vs TMDK (Bad Dude Tito, Shane Haste & JONAH)
Six man action will see Kazuchika Okada and JONAH square off once more before both head to the UK for Royal Quest, and then on to Ryogoku for Declaration of Power. Kobe is just a short hop from the Osaka site of JONAH’s monumentl victory over Okada in the G1 Climax; what might Kobe World Hall see between the two on September 25?
4th Match: Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA) vs Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi)
Tag record: 2-1 Dangerous Tekkers
While SANADA and Taichi’s relationship has long been one of relatively amicable competition and gamesmanship, a fact evidenced by cheering crowds in Korakuen Hall only egging on their desire to come out on top of pec popping sessions and impromptu press up contests, Tetsuya Naito and Zack Sabre Jr.’s connections are rather more frayed and potentially flammable.
Veering wildly between good natured banter and vicious hatred, Naito and ZSJ landed firmly in the latter when El Ingobernable put ZSJ away in under two minutes to knock him out of the G1 Climax. All the more galling for Sabre was the fact that Naito was subsequently knocked out of the G1 running by WIll Ospreay in the semifinals, meaning the Briton’s loss was for naught.
Ever since, Naito has not entirely given up on his hopes to main event in the Tokyo Dome on January 4 2023, despite the spot seemingly being completely out of reach. Meanwhile Sabre has talked about wanting to find some singles gold somewhere before the year is out. Perhaps the answer for both can be found in this tag team confrontation…Or more likely a bitter struggle will see bad blood continue to boil.
3rd Match: United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb) vs BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens)
Tag record: 2-0 O-Khan & Cobb
After three long months, FTR’s first defence of the IWGP Tag Team Championship is finally set for October 1 in London, but these two teams are fighting to take on either the current champions or Aussie Open in the weeks tocome. Certainly Jeff Cobb and Great-O-Khan won’t be afraid to take on their stablemates in Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis, but would rather face the team that took away their IWGP tag titles without directly beating them. Back on May 1 Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens ended O-Khan and Cobb’s first reign with the tag titles in exactly the same way in a three ay environment, and now the BULLET CLUB duo want their first direct tag team win over the United Empire pair in order to secure a future title shot in arguably a de facto number one contender’s match.
2nd Match: Toru Yano vs Doc Gallows
Singles record: 1-1
Like a moth to the flame, Toru Yano has been simultaneously terrified of, and obsessed with, Doc Gallows since the big LG’s return to Japanese action this past May. Seemingly unable to resist poking the bear, Yano immediately set out to humiliate Gallows, leading to a Dominion matchup that saw Yano head into action with deep trepidation, but head out just four minutes later, victorious.
As Gallows headed back fuming to America, it seemed the issue was in the books. Yet when Gallows came back in the final days of the G1 Climax, his issues with Yano came to the fore again, a low blow from Yano deciding one tag match, and a squirt with a water bottle being enough of a distraction to lead Hiroshi Tanahashi to pinfall victory over Karl Anderson the next. Does the moth lie to fight another day after Kobe?
1st Match: Los Ingobernables De Japon (BUSHI, Shingo Takagi & Hiromu Takahashi) vs BULLET CLUB (KENTA, Hikuleo & El Phantasmo)
The night kicks off with Shingo Takagi leading LIJ compatriots to battle against KENTA, Hikuleo and El Phantasmo. As ELP continues to declare himself Shingo’s ‘daddy’, and the KOPW 2022 trophy holder continues to vow singles revenge, might someone’s hand be forced in our opener tonight?