The Week that Was in NJPW World History (August 30- September 6)

This week, the Road to Detsruction finally kicked off. The Young Lion Cup is giving us a glimpse at NJPW’s future, but in this weekly column, we’re looking to its past, with some of the classic action available on NJPW World.


August 30, 1982: The Dragon goes heavyweight

Shingo Takagi isn’t the only Dragon to move from junior heavyweight to heavyweight in the autumn months. In 1981, Tatsumi Fujinami had done the same, relinquishing the WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship to move to heavyweight comeptition. It had been the crowning glory of Fujinami’s career to date to win the junior heavyweight title in Madison Square Garden; on August 30 1982 history repeated as the Dragon again had a title opportunity in the world’s most famous arena. 

His opponent, Gino Brito was a Canadian veteran of nearly 25 years, who had seized the WWF International Heavyweight Championship from former partner Tony Parisi mere weeks earlier. Fujinami would invoke Antonio Inoki with an enzuigiri before a brainbuster scored the win; for the next few years, the International Heavyweight Championship would become the top prize for heavyweights in NJPW.

Relive the match here!

September 1, 1987: All UWF for the IWGP

September 1987 kicked off in Fukuoka, with the Sengoku Battle Series. A highlight was an IWGP Tag Team Championship match with some interesting alliances at play as Nobuhiko Takada and Akira Maeda defended their titles against Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Kazuo Yamazaki. 

Maeda and Takada had won the titles back in March, to the chagrin of many fans. They’d beaten Keiji Muto and Shiro Koshinaka to do so, two who had stayed loyal to New Japan when Maeda, Takada and others had walked out to form the upstart UWF organization in 1984. 

As the promotion crumbled, the UWF U-Turn had seen its members back in New Japan, and seeking to make a violent statement. Yoshiaki Fujiwara would be making many of those statements at the expense of New Japan’s established heroes, and made an effective team with the younger Maeda. 

In 1987 though, allegiances would shift somewhat. Inoki’s victory in the IWGP League to become inaugural IWGP Heavyweight Champion would be the genesis of a generational rift in New Japan, one that caused shockwaves even in the UWF camp. Maeda and Takada would find themselves on the side of Tatsumi Fujinami and Riki Choshu’s NEW Leader faction, while Yoshiaki Fujiwara would be with Antonio Inoki in the NOW Leader group. 

Just days before this tag team match, a singles preview between Fujiwara and Maeda was a brutally violent affair in Korakuen Hall, Fujiwara eventually able to submit his former student. Now, Fujiwara would team with another young UWF prospect in Yamazaki to take on Maeda and Takada for the titles.

Relive the match here!

September 4 2015: An Ungovernable, Uneasy, Untenable Alliance

Tetsuya Naito goes into the Destruction tour with his eyes set on Kobe and September 22. There, he will face the challenge of Switchblade Jay White for his IWGP Intercontinental Championship. The white belt is one half of Naito’s ultimate goal to become a double champion; Ibushi shares that goal but has a very different mentality.

In September 2015, Ibushi and Naito shared a ring with very different mentalities. Naito was at somewhat of a loose end at this stage; he had returned from Mexican excursion earlier in the year with a very different attitude, having joined Los Ingobernables. Yet Los Ingobernables De Japon was still an idea brewing in El Ingobernable’s mind. It wasn’t until Ryogoku and King of Pro Wrestling in October that EVIL would emerge as Naito’s first ‘pareja’, and in the meantime, Naito was put in tag matches on the road to his match with Katsuyori Shibata in Kobe with hontai members. 

In Korakuen Hall that meant teaming with a Kota Ibushi he already recognised as a major rival, and Juice Robinson, who had just joined the New Japan system. ‘Non-plussed’ would be a charitable way to describe Naito’s mentality going into this particular bout, while Ibushi was more focused, with sights set on Togi Makabe’s NEVER Openweight Championship. 

Relive the match here!