For the first time in 13 years, women are going to compete in a NJPW ring. Maria Kanellis, Matt Taven, and Mike Bennett (the Kingdom) have been booked to wrestle Amber O’Neal Gallows, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson (the Bullet Club) at Wrestling Dontaku 2015 on May 3. This comes after the Bullet Club suffered the devastating loss of their IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships to the Kingdom, due in part to Karl Anderson’s obsession with Maria (same, Karl, same) and also Maria’s excellent distraction skills.
The last time a woman was featured in NJPW matches was in 2002, when Chyna competed against much of the roster in tag and singles matches.
Sunday’s match is described as a “six person tag team match” but I don’t know whether it’s mixed-tag (the women can only fight each other and a man must tag out to his woman partner if the opposing woman is tagged in) or intergender (men and women can fight each other) rules. We’ll find out for sure come Sunday, but as everyone saw at War of the Worlds last year, even NJPW’s good guy heartthrob ace once in a century talent and most decorated IWGP champion in history Hiroshi Tanahashi doesn’t hesitate to engage Maria in combat if she enters the ring.
This match could either be pretty good and a step toward getting women featured on NJPW programming in a capacity that is more than “look at all the beautiful parts of this very beautiful woman please” or it could be a bunch of Bullet Club shenanigans. I’ll check back in afterward and let you know! But I have to say, after all the talk about how the Kingdom’s accolades in NJPW are really due to Maria, it’s nice to see her getting a chance to compete for some herself.