NJPW Sengoku Lord Preview: The Time Bomb Explodes

We like to believe that the hero wins and the villain gets their comeuppance.

Credit: NJPW World

At Dominion, EVIL entirely blackened the bright lights of New Japan, but one flame is still burning strong and fighting for a now sullied dream. Current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi will clash with EVIL for the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championship. It is a match with far greater importance than the titles hanging in the balance; it’s a chance for the hero to ensure the villain pays for their monstrous actions.

Unrelenting in giving up his gold, the dragon Shingo Takagi will defend his NEVER Openweight Championship against Suzuki-Gun’s El Desperado. Meanwhile Kazuchika Okada will confront Yujiro Takahashi after the Bullet Club man’s interference caused Okada to lose the New Japan Cup final.

The Sengoku Lord card is overflowing with personal conflict and is topped with a main event unlike any other in modern day New Japan.

The Time Bomb is set to explode.

Credit: NJPW

IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental Championship
EVIL (C) vs Hiromu Takahashi

Hiromu has dreamed of being IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, the largest possible platform to prove the unabating strength of the junior division looked at as second best to the heavyweights. A perverse twist, that dream now comes true in the disheartening reality of a nightmare.

At the New Japan Cup final, EVIL aligned himself with Bullet Club to win the tournament, shattering his history and relationship with his Los Ingobernables de Japon brothers in the chase for championship gold. The next night at Dominion, EVIL uncrowned his former LIJ comrade Tetsuya Naito to win the double championships. Wholly deserving of his name, EVIL burned his LIJ bridges whilst his former friends still stood on them.

Furious. Enraged. Damn right pissed off beyond comprehension. Hiromu has always brought an unrivalled intensity to the ring. It’s alarming to think about what the Time Bomb may be willing to do to pull answers from EVIL’s dark heart. His body has always been one of his best weapons; his wild disposition constantly seeing him hurtling from heights and recklessly using his body at thrilling speeds.

Worryingly, EVIL has already set his target for the match. “Hey Hiromu, you 100% yet? Can your neck survive my offence?” A career threatening neck injury in July 2018 caused Hiromu to be out of action for almost 18 months. It’s a weakness that EVIL is clearly ready to exploit, apparently not finding enough satisfaction in the emotional turmoil he has already inflicted upon Hiromu.

It was more than 7 years ago that EVIL and Hiromu stood as opponents in the ring, the pair of them still Young Lions. They spent more than two years facing each other as Young Lions (2011-2013). The last for years have seen them develop a close bond within Los Ingobernables de Japon.

At New Japan Road, EVIL’s newest ally Dick Togo was paramount in Bullet Club getting victory in their tag match. Identical to EVIL’s win at Dominion, Togo strangled BUSHI with steel wires which gave EVIL free reign to hit his finisher and pick up the win. Post-match Togo strangled Hiromu and when EVIL was primed to hit Everything Is Evil, he simply dropped Hiromu to the mat. The disrespect unceasingly evident. “Hiromu, in Nagoya I’m sending you to hell.”

Hiromu has the chance to make history unlike any before him. He is the first junior heavyweight to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship since Prince Devitt challenged Okada in July 2013 and only the third in all of New Japan history. Whether Hiromu even cares is a different matter, his fractured mind clouded solely by revenge.

For an in depth look at EVIL’s betrayal and the intricate LIJ history between Hiromu, EVIL and Naito, please see Los Ingobernables de Japon: When Dreams Turn EVIL

Credit: NJPW

NEVER Openweight Championship
Shingo Takagi (C) vs El Desperado

El Desperado enters this match with a grudge to settle. Shortly after last year’s Best of the Super Juniors, Shingo Takagi made the jump from junior heavyweight to full-fledged heavyweight. In Desperado’s mind, Shingo made BOSJ “look like it was just a stepping stone” and Shingo “can eat shit”. Desperado can now give weight to his words and prove that the junior heavyweights are not merely a “stepping stone.”

Following Shingo’s successful defence against SHO at Dominion, Desperado made his intentions clear by attacking Shingo from behind and leaving with the NEVER Openweight Championship.

This first ever singles meeting will be Shingo’s third defence of his championship, originally claiming the title from Hirooki Goto 5 months prior. However there is plenty of history between Shingo and Despy; they have met in 16 tag matches, with two of those being for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships.

Primarily competing in tag team matches, El Desperado finds himself in an opportune position to earn his first ever singles championship. In the first round of the New Japan Cup Despy proved himself comfortably capable of taking on heavyweights during his battle with Tomohiro Ishii. Albeit he succumbed to Ishii but it was a proving ground for his ability and strength.

Shingo has been a frighteningly dominant champion. Of the 29 reigns the title has seen, only 7 men have accumulated 3 or more defenses. A victory over El Desperado would put Shingo on course to potentially be the greatest NEVER Openweight Champion in the belts 8 year history (no holder has ever surpassed 4 defenses).

A tag match between LIJ and Suzuki-Gun at New Japan Road saw Despy focusing on destroying Shingo’s leg, aiming to weaken it in preparation for Numeros Dos, a stretch muffler submission. Shingo left the ring hobbling with a clearly blunted leg that Desperado will surely take advantage of at Sengoku Lord.

El Desperado has been stacking wins as of late. A stern right hand punch behind the referee’s back has been the set up for Pinche Loco, a combination that could even knock out the dragon.

The physical advantages stand firmly in Shingo’s corner. The lightning speed of a junior heavyweight and the raw power of a cinder block heavyweight. To Shingo, “It’s not gonna’ be a fight, just a beat-down.” That’s not to say El Desperado’s own strength should be overlooked, but his true ability lies in his strategy and cunning. Being in Suzuki-Gun has its benefits, notably the willingness to bend rules.

Credit: NJPW

Special Single Match
Kazuchika Okada vs Yujiro Takahashi

The Tokyo Pimp ruined Okada’s chances of winning the New Japan Cup. Yujiro’s interference led to Okada’s downfall and EVIL’s rise at the New Japan Cup final, another chapter to Okada’s never ending conflict with Bullet Club.

The following night Okada teamed with Hirooki Goto to take on Yujiro and Taiji Ishimori and once again found himself on the losing end. To add extra flavour to the defeat, Yujiro laid out Okada with Pimp Juice post-match. Okada remained silent, Yujiro was anything but. “You’re not a superman.”

In 2014 Okada suffered a similar fate. On that occasion Yujiro’s interference led to AJ Styles defeating Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

Yujiro and Okada have only met in singles matches twice (2014 and 2015) and Okada holds a 100% victory rate, yet Yujiro seems to be an itch that Okada can just not scratch. Yujiro is acutely aware he’s not on the same playing field as the greatest IWGP Heavyweight Champion in history, saying instead that he’ll “drag you down to my level.”

It’s almost certain that Okada will not simply be facing Yujiro in this match, but the full force of Bullet Club. Okada knows better than most how Bullet Club like to play and he’s challenged Yujiro to be better, “You say that you’ll drag me down to your level? Why don’t you try come up to mine.”

Full Card

Yuya Uemura vs Taiji Ishimori

Ryusuke Taguchi, Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Satoshi Kojima vs Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, Yota Tsuji & Gabriel Kidd

CHAOS (SHO, YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto) vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI)

Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Master Wato, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Yuji Nagata vs Suzuki-Gun (Zack Sabre Junior, Taichi, Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI

Kazuchika Okada vs Yujiro Takahashi

NEVER Openweight Championship: Shingo Takagi (C) vs El Desperado

IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championship: EVIL (C) vs Hiromu Takahashi

Show Details
When: Saturday 25th July @ 6pm JST (10am BST, 5am EST, 2am PDT)
How to watch:
Available on New Japan World for only 999¥ per month (roughly £7.50/$9.30)
Only Japanese commentary will be available for the live stream. English commentary will be added within a few days of the event finishing. Do not let this stop you watching live, the Japanese commentators’ passion transcends language barriers!