It’s rare that a single Professional Wrestling show can signify a change in direction for a promotion, but on the 8th of April that may just be the reality for New Japan Pro Wrestling. The landscape of the company hasn’t been truly altered for some time but with some of the upcoming bouts for Sakura Genesis and potential outcomes, a new dawn could be falling upon us. You may have already considered this a possibility due to the recent events occurring in the New Japan Cup, but it runs deeper than that. The three following matches support this notion best, so let’s further delve into this theory.
KAZUCHIKA OKADA vs. SANADA (IWGP World Heavyweight Title)
A constant criticism lobbied towards NJPW over the years has been their unwillingness to put the spotlight upon a fresh face. Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi are some notable faces that have been seen as reliable options to carry the top championship. That’s not to say the promotion hasn’t experimented, but their choices are questionable at the best of times. EVIL wasn’t a distinguished main event talent which made for refreshing viewing, but he was famously hindered by horrendous booking. And as faith would have it, Tetsuya Naito would soon take the title off EVIL. The process of not just creating a fresh talent at the top of the card, but a successful one that can have a positive long-term effect within the company has always been tricky for New Japan. But it just feels different with SANADA. He seems rejuvenated after winning the New Japan Cup and becoming the face of Just 5 Guys and he’s got some serious momentum. The ovation he received after earning this opportunity suggested that the fans would be more than open to SANADA defeating Okada. It still seems far fetched to suggest such an outcome occurring, but NJPW has seemingly taken a different direction booking wise lately so perhaps there’s still some magic in the air.
BISHAMON (HIROOKI GOTO & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. AUSSIE OPEN (KYLE FLETCHER & MARK DAVIS) (IWGP Tag Team Titles)
Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis have done everything in their power recently to let the world know who they are and their endeavor has been a success. With appearances spanning across AEW, Ring of Honor, Impact and even the terrific couple of bouts with FTR, they’re now recognised worldwide as an obscenely talented pairing that have unlimited potential. This particular match came to fruition after Kyle Fletcher was victorious against one of the current IWGP Tag Team Champions, YOSHI-HASHI in the New Japan Cup. Bishamon are the most established active duo in NJPW with a legacy many could only dream of. Very recently they miraculously overcame the team of Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi, so that gives you an indication as to how highly they’re valued. With that being said though, Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis both had very respectable stints in the New Japan Cup which surely implies the promotion sees them as the future of the tag division, or perhaps even as singles competitors. Could the future be now? Only time will tell.
HIROMU TAKAHASHI vs. ROBBIE EAGLES (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title)
After being introduced as the newest addition to TMDK by Zack Sabre Jr. following Hiromu Takahashi’s victory over Lio Rush, Robbie Eagles finds himself in a favourable position as he will be challenging for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title at Sakura Genesis. The Sniper of the Skies has held the championship before but hasn’t been a vocal figure in the division as of late, mainly shifting his focus on PWA in Australia. But he’s a beloved figure in Japan, and this new demeanor might result in another reign for him. It’s also worthwhile to take into consideration the Best of the Super Juniors tournament which is beginning in just a month. New Japan have shown at various points in their history that they’re definitely not afraid of having a fresh champion heading into the critically acclaimed competition. For years Hiromu has been recognised as the pinnacle of the division but you can never write out Robbie Eagles. Zack Sabre Jr. is the face of this TMDK revolution and they could very well establish more dominance on April 8th.