New Japan dominates the summer weeks, with a stacked schedule of live events on NJPW World. What to do on the rare off days? Why, check out the huge archives of course! Every week at NJPW1972.com, we give you the background to some of the best matches and moments in New Japan history.
July 13, 1989: Liger’s Legendary Rival
Of the thousands of matches and hundreds of opponents of Jyushin Thunder Liger’s 30 plus year career, few stand out more than Naoki Sano. Sano had debuted in 1984, and after his time as a Young Lion, went to Mexico for excursion in 1987. On his return, he would become part of the Young Tokyo Dome Cup in early 1989. The single elimination tournament for wrestlers under 30 had as its prize the distinction of wrestling on the first ever Tokyo Dome card in the final; a final Sano not only reached to be the first to wrestle in the building, but won, as he defeated Hiro Saito.
On that very April 24 night, a masked man by the name of Jyushin Liger made his auspicious debut. As both men grew in stature into the early summer, it seemed like a collision was inevitable. Liger would capture the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship by defeating Hiroshi Hase that May, and instantly proved himself a fighting champion in July’s Summer Fight Series. The night before this Ryogoku clash, Liger withstood the challenge of Black Tiger in Osaka, before heading right back to Tokyo to face Sano.
This match would be the first of four electric bouts through 1989 and into 1990; though Sano would take a separate career path in early ’90, eventually landing in UWF International, they would meet once more in the Tokyo Dome in 1995. Every time Sano and Liger shared the ring, the results were electric.
July 14, 2018: Cut Throat Start to the Summer
Jay White might have had a tough start to G1 Climax 29, but the Switchblade can turn any situation on its head in a heartbeat. That’s a situation we’re well adjusted to these days, but just one year ago, White’s actions were a good deal more shocking.
On January 6, 2018, White joined CHAOS, not with an expression of gratitude, but a word of warning to Okada. Some time, he advised, I will be coming for you, to take the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. While White was impressive, many doubted just how credible a threat he would be during the G1.
The Switchblade instantly proved an important point: never doubt a word that comes from his mouth. Jay White would defeat Kazuchika Okada in his G1 debut, albeit in decidedly underhanded fashion. As Kazuchika Okada continued to reel from his IWGP Heavyweight Championship loss, White instantly scored a lot of credibility, not just in the eyes of spectators and competitors, but perhaps some future allies.
July 17, 2006: Public Display of Affection
Catchphrases are part and parcel of a wrestler’s presentation. Whether a simple, curt, Shibata like ‘that’s all’, or something more verbose, many a wrestler has spoken of first seeing their name at the top of a bill and thinking about what they might say should they find themselves victorious. What is the last statement that will ring in a fan’s ears? What image will they leave with, hopefully eager to see you win again, sending audiences home happy around the world?
For Hiroshi Tanahashi, it wasn’t his first main event in Sapporo on July 17, 2006, but it was his first taste of IWGP Heavyweight Championship glory. The title, held up days earlier, was at stake in a single elimination tournament, with Tanahashi facing the imposing Giant Bernard in the final. It hadn’t been an easy path for either man; Bernard had defeated another colossus in Akebono earlier in the evening, while Tanahashi had a tough match with Yuji Nagata to claim his spot.
Nonetheless, Bernard had the clear advantage in the final when it came to size and power. Tanahashi had an uphill battle opposite Bernard, who had the added benefit of his CTU stablemates at ringside. Persevering through some brutally hard slams from the American, however, Tanahashi would land a series of Slingblades to seize victory.
His post match comment to the fans would become iconic, but was initially met with confusion. ‘To the people who came here today: aishitemasu (I love you!)’ It’s rare, even for married couples, to express their love with such strong wording in Japan, but Tanahashi did to the entire audience. This was a love he gained as they gave him strength through thick and thin, and would persevere not just with the Ace during his career, but with New Japan at large as the company came once again to prominence. When it comes to word choice, Tanahashi did pretty well that summer night in Sapporo.
July 18, 2011: Suzuki out-Guns Kojima
Satoshi Kojima celebrated his 28th career anniversary this week. One of NJPW’s most beloved Third Genration members, it’s hard to imagine Kojima as a rule breaking antagonist, much less the leader and iron fist ruler of professional wrestling’s most brutal faction.
Yet once upon a time, Suzuki-Gun was the Provisional Kojima-Gun. Satoshi Kojima, somewhat out of place in the seas of New Japan Pro Wrestling, having returned to the promotion after a lengthy spell in All Japan, would team up with a pair of other figures who were trying to find a spiritual home. Taichi and TAKA Michinoku however had different plans to Kojima. Their methods involved bending rules as far as humanly possible before they broke, and gaining victory by any means possible.
That just wasn’t the Kojima way, and as Kojima butted heads with stable mates for weeks, it all came to a head in May. Michinoku and Taichi would turn on Kojima after his match with Togi Makabe, shockingly combining forces with Minoru Suzuki. Kojima-gun was now Suzuki-gun, and Kojima was the group’s first target. The result was a vicious battle in Hokkaido.
July 19, 2010: Unchained CHAOS
A year before Kojima faced Suzuki in Hokkaido, the Tsukisamu Dome saw another personal feud that followed the events of May’s Dontaku.
A year earlier, Shinsuke Nakamura formed CHAOS, most of its members betraying Makabe’s GBH group. A series of vicious encounters between Makabe and the new CHAOS members would follow through the year, with Makabe’s biggest victory in dark times coming in the G1 Climax final, when bloodied and battered, he nonetheless managed to defeat Nakamura.
In 2009, a G1 Climax win didn’t lead to an IWGP Championship match at Wrestle Kingdom, but Makabe did get his opportunity earlier. When Tanahahashi had to vacate the title in the autumn of 2009, a repeat of the G1 final would decide the new champion, and Nakamura came out on top. At Dontaku in May 2010, however, Makabe would face and defeat Nakamura to become IWGP Heavyweight Champion for the first time. Two months later, Nakamura once again set out to even the score in their fourth singles match in the space of a year.