On Sunday March 25, New Japan Pro Wrestling returns to the United States of America for their Strong Style Evolved show in Long Beach, California. Unfortunately, their arrival comes hand in hand with some sad news.
During the March 21 press conference, the company announced that Rey Mysterio will no longer be able to make the date due to an injury. Originally scheduled to face Jushin Thunder Liger in somewhat of a dream outing for hardcore devotees, Mysterio suffered a nasty grade one partial tear to his left bicep during an indie event for Northeast Wrestling in early March and has not been cleared to compete. The former World Heavyweight Champion will be replaced by the magnificent Will Ospreay.
Whilst the absence of Mysterio will be a heavy blow to viewing numbers thanks to his reputation in the country, Ospreay is a more than adequate substitution and will be able to have a show stealing match with the ageing Liger who has been getting noticeably slower as the years roll on. That however is just one match on a card which promises much, much more.
The Golden Lovers, aka Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi, will battle The Young Bucks in what promises to be the highlight of the night. This rivalry began back on January 28 at the promotion’s The New Beginning in Sapporo event after Omega dropped the IWGP United States Championship to Jay White.
Confronted by his Bullet Club cohorts, Kenny was set upon by the terrific Cody and subsequently ejected from the group. The ensuing attack was halted by Kota Ibushi, who saved his former tag team partner and the pair reformed their previous partnership from DDT Pro-Wrestling.
Together, the double act teamed at the Honor Rising: Japan events in February, downing Cody, Marty Scurll, and Hangman Page with the help of Chase Owens on night one and just Cody and Scurll on the second evening. Following the latter, the pair was confronted by Omega’s former allies The Young Bucks, who announced they were moving up to the New Japan’s heavyweight tag team division. This match is the result.
At this stage in their careers, a loss won’t hurt either team – Omega and Ibushi and well established, whilst the Bucks are one of the greatest teams in the game today – but Matt and Nick Jackson could profit more from what would be considered an upset. They’ve just been promoted to the heavyweight doubles ranks, a loss to two of New Japan’s biggest stars would make them look incapable of thriving against the division’s top teams.
‘Switchblade’ Jay White will defend the IWGP United States Championship against Adam ‘Hangman’ Page in an all Bullet Club clash. It was somewhat of a shock when White dethroned Omega on January 28, most expected the title to be put on Cody after he dropped the ROH World Heavyweight Championship to Dalton Castle. Such a shocking outcome immediately propelled the youngster to stardom and following the bout he was challenged by stable-mate Page.
The Sakura Genesis IWGP Heavyweight Championship bout will get an early outing at Strong Style Evolved when Kazuchika Okada teams with Tomohiro Ishii to battle New Japan Cup winner Zack Sabre Jr. and IWGP Intercontinental Champion, Minoru Suzuki. This will be the first taste of what’s to come on April 1 and if the promotion is clever, which they are, they’ll only tease us with a fleeting confrontation between champion and challenger. Too much and it will ruin the entire thing.
Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA, Dragon Lee, and Rysuke Taguchi) face Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, and Hiromu Takahashi) in what promise to be a cracking 8-man tag team bout.
Cody and Marty Scurll represent the Bullet Club when they battle two thirds of the Never Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions, Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa).
Chaos (Chuckie T and Toru Yano) take on The Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer)
More faction war will transpire when Juice Robinson and David Finlay, representing Taguchi Japan, throw down with a further two members of Chaos in Gedo and Hirooki Goto.
Roppongi 3K (Rocky Romero, Sho, and Yoh) step into 6-man tag team action against SoCal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Scorpio Sky).
New Japan Pro Wrestling Strong Style Evolved can be seen on AXS TV in America at 8pm EST on March 25 and the rest of us can watch it on the New Japan World streaming service.
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