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  January 4, 2000



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

New Japan Pro Wrestling's Annual Tokyo Dome Spectacular
New Japan Pro Wrestling's Annual Tokyo Dome Spectacular

Tokyo Egg Dome, Tokyo Japan
Tuesday, January 4, 2000.

 

As part of SLAM! Wrestling's growing commitment to provide in depth coverage of international wrestling, we are pleased to provide a preview of New Japan Pro Wrestling's annual January 4th Tokyo Egg Dome Spectacular. This year's event is very special as WCW stars Chris Benoit, Rick Steiner and Randy Savage will be wrestling on the card. We're tagging up with the good folks at Live Audio Wrestling, as "Gentleman" Jeff Marek & Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski, two noted observers of Japanese wrestling, along with John Molinaro, SLAM's resident international wrestling expert, offer their full predictions for the show. We'll have a full report on the show Tuesday evening.


IWGP World Heavyweight Title Match


Genichiro Tenryu - Champion

Best Move: Power Bomb.
Major titles held: IWGP Heavyweight, All Japan Triple Crown, IWGP Tag, WAR World 6-man Tag.
Major tournament victories: All Japan Real World League '84, '86, '89.
Outlook for 2000: Likely drop the title and will be phased down with a reduced schedule.


VS


Kensuke Sasaki

Best Move: Lariat clothesline, Northern Lights Bomb.
Major titles held: IWGP Heavyweight, 7 IWGP Tag w/ 5 partners, .
Major tournament victories: G1 Climax '97, Top of the Super Junior Tag '98
Outlook for 2000: Likely another run as tag champion. Outside chance of a Heavyweight title run


SLAM! Predictions

  • John Molinaro: Tenryu, at age 49, has been wrestling his best matches in years. It was a bit of a surprise that booker Riki Choshu decided to put the title on him last month, which leads me to believe he's just being used as a transitional champion before they put the title on somebody else. But the somebody isn't Sasaki. Pick Tenryu.

  • "Gentleman" Jeff Marek: Putting the strap on Tenryu to begin with was a shock but it looks like he's going to be a transition champ. For right or wrong I see Sasaki getting the nod here.

  • Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski:I predict that Tenryu would win this one, especially since they had a match right before Tenryu became champ that Tenryu won. Unless, this is the transistion and they put the belt on Sasaki who quickly loses it to Muto or Hashimoto.


    Grudge Match


    Keiji Muto

    Best Move: Moonsault, Figure Four Leg Lock.
    Major titles held: IWGP Heavyweight (3), IWGP Tag (2), NWA TV
    Major tournament victories: G1 Climax '95, Super Grade Tag League '93, '94, '97, '98; G-1 Climax Tag '99
    Outlook for 2000: Due to nagging injuries likely be bumped down in the roster, making way for someone else to lead the promotion.


    VS


    Masa Chono

    Best Move: Yakuza Kick, STF.
    Major titles held: IWGP Heavyweight, All Japan Triple Crown.
    Major tournament victories: G1 Climax '91, 92 & 94; Super Grade Tag League '95, '97; Young Lions Cup '87
    Outlook for 2000: Chono is hurting and surgery hasn't helped to relieve the pain. Look for Chono to be phased out and come back with a push if he gets healthy.


    SLAM! Predictions

  • John Molinaro: Muto's knees are hurting him and he's banged up physically. I think New Japan will be phasing him down this year and will likely start with this match. Chono is hurting too, but not as much as Muto. Pick Chono.

  • "Gentleman" Jeff Marek: Well, let's see, what's worse: Muto's knees or Chono's neck? Chono's neck..pick Muto. This will be a painful bout for both men.

  • Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski: I would have to go with Muto here, because he's still a more valuable commodity than Chono and I suspect that they would want to keep him strong in the title picture.


    IWGP World Junior Heavyweight title Match


    Jushin Liger - Champion

    Best Move: Liger Bomb, La Majistral.
    Major titles held: IWGP Heavyweight, All Japan Triple Crown.
    Major tournament victories: Top of the Super Junior '92, '94; Young Lions Cup '86.
    Outlook for 2000: Liger will remain one of the top junior heavyweights in the world. Look for him to work more in Mexico for EMLL and in the States for WCW.


    VS


    Koji Kanemoto - Challenger

    Best Move: Moonsault, Shoda (palm blow).
    Major titles held: IWGP Heavyweight, All Japan Triple Crown.
    Major tournament victories: Top of the Super Junior '98.
    Outlook for 2000: With Liger taking himself out of the picture, Kanemoto will be elevated from the #2 to the #1 spot and will carry the junior heavyweight division for years to come.


    SLAM! Predictions

  • John Molinaro: As booker of the junior heavyweight division, Liger has never been averse to putting other people over. I suspect that'll be the case here as Kanemoto is due a lengthy title run.

  • "Gentleman" Jeff Marek: Liger is a smart booker and the right decision here is to put the gold on Kanemoto so go Koji go. Pick Tiger Mask version 3.0.

  • Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski: This one is tough. Certainly Kanemoto deserves it, as he, along with Otani, are the hottest and best of the jr heavyweights right now. And if Liger wants to do more wrestling in Mexico, this would be a perfect way to drop the belt and move on.



    WCW vs New Japan


    Chris Benoit

    Best Move: The Swan Dive, The Crippler Crossface.
    Major titles held: IWGP Heavyweight, All Japan Triple Crown.
    Major tournament victories: Super J Cup '94: Top of the Super Junior '93, '95; Junior Super Grade Tag League '94.
    Outlook for 2000: Continued to be pushed strong by the Russo regime in WCW. If he returns to Japan on a semi-regular basis, he'll be kept strong.


    VS


    Hiroyoshi Tenzan

    Best Move: Diving Headbut.
    Major titles held: IWGP Heavyweight, All Japan Triple Crown.
    Major tournament victories: Super Grade Tag League '95.
    Outlook for 2000: With Chono and Muto hurting, Tenzan will likely be elevated. Look for him to be put over some of the top heavyweights in the promotion.


    SLAM! Predictions

  • John Molinaro: Hard to say. It would be a good will gesture on New Japan's part in securing their tenuous relationship with WCW by having Benoit go over. Still, a win by Benoit would really hurt Tenzan and with Muto and several other top guys injured, they might want to elevate Tenzan. Pick Tenzan.

  • "Gentleman" Jeff Marek: New Japan protected Benoit the last time he was there and will probably do the same this time around. Look for this to be the best match on the card as Tenzan is one of the easiest guys to work with and Benoit is..well..Benoit. Go with the Crippler.

  • Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski:The obvious choice is to pick the home town boy over the foreigner, but Benoit's win over Liger in November throws a kink into that. Perhaps they want to elevate Benoit into the upper level guys here too. I still think I have to go with Tenzan.


    Battle of WCW


    Randy 'Macho Man' Savage

    Best Move: Top Rope Flying Elbow Smash, finding Gorgeous George.
    Fav saying: Oh yeah! Dig it!
    Best Moment: Won the WWF world title twice and the WCW world title three times. His WrestleMania 3 match against Ricky Steamboat.
    Advantage: Gorgeous George, a cagey veteran, releasing the "madness".
    Disadvantage: Releasing the "madness" (his bad temper) has cost him many important matches.


    VS


    Rick Steiner

    Best Move: Top Rope Bulldog.
    Fav saying: Ruff. Ruff. Ruff.
    Best Moment: Any number of World Tag title wins.
    Advantage: His big brother.
    Disadvantage: More suited towards tag team wrestling. Never broke out as a singles wrestler.


    SLAM! Predictions

  • John Molinaro: At least if Goldberg worked this match it would be kept short. With Savage in there it'll be just as bad and it'll last longer. In the history of New Japan Tokyo Dome shows, there hasn't been a match I've been less interested in. Pick Steiner, only because he worked full time for the promotion and has name value in Japan.

  • "Gentleman" Jeff Marek: The man who won't job versus the man who won't sell. Why the hell is this match on a New Japan card!! I still can't believe it's going to happen. I know that Steiner has being trying to get out of doing this match since it was announced. Randy is nowhere close to being a name in Japan ( his last appearance was in July of '96) while Rick still has a cache overseas. I see this one being a double countout or DQ.

  • Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski: Who cares??!! It was gonna be bad enough with Goldberg, but since he lost his battle with the limo, we get Savage instead. If this is some kind of punishment for Savage, expect Steiner to win. And even if it isn't, Steiner has a much more stronger presence in Japan than Savage.



    Under card matches

    Match John Molinaro "Gentleman" Jeff Marek Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski
    Shinya Hashimoto & Takashi Iizuka vs Naoya Ogawa & Kazunari Murakami Ogawa & Murakami Ogawa and Murakami Hashimoto & Iizuka
    Scott Norton vs Don Frye Norton Frye Frye
    Kazuyuki Fujita vs Kimo Kimo Kimo Kimo
    Kazuo Yamazaki vs Yuji Nagata Nagata Nagata Nagata
    Manabu Nakanishi vs Kenzo Suzuki Nakanishi Nakanishi Nakanishi
    Shiro Koshinaka vs Satoshi Kojima Kojima Koshinaka Kojima
    Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs Kendo Ka Shin & Minoru Tanaka Otani & Takaiwa Otani & Takaiwa Otani & Takaiwa



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