Tsuji joins LIJ as title contenders go face to face in Osaka

Public contract signing sees Yota Tsuji’s allegiances made clear

Saturday June 3 saw a public contract signing for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight and World Heavyweight Championship matches Sunday at Dominion. 

Watch Dominion live in English on NJPW World!

The junior heavyweight championship was first, Master Wato speaking as challenger and saying that ‘the time had finally come’ to make good on comments he had made years prior about beating Hiromu on fair and even footing. Wato promised a new start for Master Wato in the same building that his persona was born, drawing applause from his home town crowd before champion Hiromu Takahashi took the mic. 

Hiromu was characteristically more roundabout in his comments, but again brought up the tag team match in 2017 against Takahashi and Naito that inspired Wato to take the junior first. ‘I think that’s brilliant, I really do,’ Hiromu remarked, ‘as a pro-wrestler to have someone think that highly of you really is an honour’. Hiromu brought up Wato’s comments from after that match, quoting Wato as saying “‘I don’t care if it takes one year, or five or ten, I’m coming to break your neck…” actually a year after that I did break my neck, but that’s a different story’.  

Instead of telling that story, Hiromu told the story of preparing for his comeback from that neck injury, and being unable to train near his return because of flooding at the Noge Dojo. Takahashi said that since he couldn’t prepare in the Dojo he flew to Mexico, where he met and practiced with a Master Wato that was by then on excursion. Wato again repeated to Hiromu in private that he would beat him one day. ‘There was nobody even there, and you made a point of saying that to me. I really remember that. So it’s with all that thought and emotion in mind that I want to beat you tomorrow’.

In post match questions from the media, Wato talked about the importance of winning the match on home turf in Osaka, while Hiromu acknowledged Wato’s achievements in winning Best of the Super Jr. saying ‘I consider myself in a sense like a challenger, and that we’re both champions’. Wato once again pledged to create a new generation for the junior heavyweights as champion, and promised to defeat Taiji Ishimori and El Desperado as the previous standard bearers. Hiromu fired back that he was still young (‘I’m a year younger than YOH,’ he quipped) and that meant he was harder to replace than it may look, as both men signed to make the match official. 

Following up was the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship contract signing. In his first Japanese public appearance since his shocking return at Dontaku, tsuji stated ‘I will destroy all that came before. For NJPW to enter a brave new world, I must become its very emblem.’

 SANADA responded, first with a now regular quip that the junior heavyweights had gone on too long, before saying that with weather related travel delays ‘actually I only just got here ten minutes ago, so Hiromu really helped me out’. SANADA praised the impact Tsuji had made, and the visual changes he had undergone, while warning ‘I expect big changes from you in the ring as well. If not, the fans are going to go home unhappy after a short main event.’

In response to questions from media, Tsuji remained cagey, saying that it would be up to fans in the venue to see what had changed the most about him, but acknowledging his rapid challenge, stating ‘I thought from the start when I went away, the best way for me to have eyes on me coming back would be to challenge for the top belt. Now we have cheering crowds, we’re out of the pandemic and the timing is absolutely right.’

Another question from the press concerning Tsuji indicating that he would be part of Los Ingobernables De Japon would be batted away by the challenger, but when he and SANADA got ready for their photo session, Tetsuya Naito made a surprise appearance to huge cheers. When Naito asked Tsuji whether his chest bump in Fukuoka meant that he wanted to join LIJ, Tsuji responded in the affirmative. ‘I will be fighting in Japan from here on, and I want to do it in Los Ingobernables De Japon(… ) but are you ready? Because I plan on bringing LIJ and New Japan Pro-Wrestling to new heights.’

BUSHI would present Tsuji with his LIJ tee, and after Naito bid Osaka ‘adios’, Tsuji promised to ‘make things interesting around here in NJPW’.