What Will 2017 Bring For New Japan?
Updated: Apr 3
Two days after Wrestle Kingdom (Jan. 6th), Omega tweeted that he’ll be taking a sabbatical to scout his future: :
I will be stepping away from Japan to reassess my future. The path of my journey may change, but my goals will not. pic.twitter.com/E4vDiGgAwe — Kenny Omega (@KennyOmegamanX) January 6, 2017
The curiosity also piqued when WWE ace John Cena sent cryptic posts on his Instagram subliminally referencing Kenny Omega. It can all be just a coincidence, but it leaves the door open for a number of questions. New Japan has already announced the field for March’s New Japan Cup and Omega is included in it. However, WWE’s Royal Rumble is in two weeks and just like with AJ Styles last year, there’s a chance that Omega can be featured as a surprise entrant. The thing is though is Omega is a pathological troll since stepping foot in New Japan.
When he signed to the company two years ago, Omega stated that he would never join Bullet Club. On his debut though, he joined Bullet Club and eventually became the leader. He’s also been known to goad the members of New Day on Twitter and featured frequently on Xavier Wood’s Up Up Down Down YouTube Series, teasing a showdown between New Day and Omega’s Elite Trio with The Young Bucks. So to see his tweets as just an extension of a storyline of redemption is pretty possible. Hopefully it is the latter as I would love to see him complete his journey winning the IWGP Title at Dominion.
As far as the rest of the company goes, they received a well-needed shot in the arm with the retun of Suzuki-gun, bolstering the Main, Junior, and Tag Divisions immediately. Minoru Suzuki is slotted as the foil for Okada for the next few months before Dominion in June, challenging him for the IWGP at New Beginning in Sapporo next month. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised at the slightest if Suzuki wins it his first big match back to make it clear that he wants to tear apart anything and everything affiliated with New Japan. Okada taking a L wouldn’t hurt him that much as he can always win it back at Invasion Attack and Gedo is hell-bent on making him the ace, but Suzuki needs to be reestablished as a killer in Bushiroad.
The addition of Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi, and TAKA Michinoku brings depth into a Juniors Division that is shaping up to be the best it has looks since the 1990s. Along with its champion in Hiromu Takahashi and KUSHIDA, wrestlers such as Ricochet, David Finlay, Will Opsreay, Jushin Liger, BUSHI will also partake as singles competitors. The Jr. Tag Champions in RPG Vice (Trent Baretta & Rocky Romero) have additional challengers to compete with aside from The Young Bucks and Adam Cole and Hangman Page could also get involved when the time calls for it. The only drawback is Kyle O’Reilly’s absence as he’s set to sign to WWE soon. Only time will tell, as the Junior Division is looking its absolute best.
Another refreshing part of the year will be the rise of Los Ingobernables de Japon and decline of Bullet Club. Wrestle Kingdom 11 was a prime example of how LIJ are now the wave with merchandise selling out of the ass and all their members winning titles in their matches. While the trio of EVIL, SANADA, and BUSHI has lost the titles on New Year’s DASH! the next day, they’re surely regaining the belts in Osaka against the Teacher-Pupil unit Hiroshi Tanahashi, Manabu Nakanishi, and Ryusuke Taguchi. Hiromu Takahashi is slated to face his blood rival Dragon Lee on that same show while Tetsuya Naito have a grudge match with Michael Elgin for the IWGP Intercontinental Title. All signs point to the stable having a big win in both crowd reception and match quality, extending their momentum past the absent Bullet Club.
With Omega’s sabbatical brings the question on what happens to the once popular group, leaving leadership open to the likes of Tama Tonga or even worse, Cody Rhodes (who will only be there sparingly). Currently they are out of the New Beginning tour to play into Omega’s disappearance and could add a shift in direction for the stable. As the mystique of Bullet Club continues to wane, it would be better for them to disperse or rename the group with focus on Tama Tonga. As G1 Climax approaches in the Summer and the likes of YOSHI-HASHI, Juice Robinson, and Tonga rapidly improving, we may get some new faces at the top of the card going into the year.
A lot is in the air right now, but one thing is for certain is New Japan is not one to be counted out.