G5: NJPW, Mixed Match Challenge, Braun Strowman, more

How is NJPW looking as it continues its international expansion into the United States? Which team will take out the WWE Mixed Match Challenge? And, who should Braun Strowman select to challenge Cesaro and Sheamus for the Raw Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania 34?

All that and more in this week’s Gimme Five. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @NZPWI.

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1. NJPW Strong Style Evolved sold-out the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California on Monday, and the promotion is returning to America with an event at San Francisco’s Cow Palace in July. What’s your assessment of NJPW’s international expansion?

Mike Kilpatrick (@mikekilpatrick):
I think it’s fascinating and much needed. We all know about NJPW because we hang out with other wrestling fans all the time, in person and online. Ask someone who’s only ever seen WWE who Kenny Omega or The Young Bucks are and they wouldn’t have any idea. We saw this in New Zealand a couple of years back – WWE sold out the former Vector Arena and the very best wrestlers in the world couldn’t make a dent in a much smaller venue in West Auckland. Yet it’s clear to me which one was better. The more NJPW stars that can be seen by an international audience the better. Bring it on.

Richard Butler:
New Japan’s expansion is slow and steady. Taking things one show at a time and being very cautious not to overcommit or oversaturate their product in the US. That said, their presence (or lack of) over WrestleMania weekend seems to be an oversight in my opinion.

Grady Hooker (@GradyHooker):
It seems to be going well for NJPW. They might not be competing with the big boys like WWE yet, but the international exposure cannot be hurting their business. I’d love to see a breakdown of their NJPW World subscribers by country.

David Dunn (@david_dunn):
I like NJPW’s strategy of giving everywhere a little taste. In the past couple of years they’ve held shows in the Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It’s a great way to keep everyone interested, and not risk oversaturating any one audience outside of Japan. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

 

2. Asuka and The Miz will meet Bobby Roode and Charlotte Flair in the finals of the WWE Mixed Match Challenge next week. What have you made of the tournament over the past 11 weeks, and who’s your pick to win?

Mike:
Asuka and The Miz for me. It’s not a tournament I’ve spent much time watching and I like the idea, even if I’d appreciate some real intergender wrestling as part of it. But Asuka and The Miz are both at the very top of their games at the moment and have nothing to lose. And they feel like a more cohesive team to me, despite the obviously amazing gowns of the Roode/Flair combo.

Richard:
I haven’t really watched much of this. I was behind Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman from the beginning, so now I guess I’d take The Miz and Asuka.

Grady:
Asuka’s streak isn’t going to be broken in the Mixed Match Challenge, so The Miz is gonna get an easy win. I’ve liked the tournament as a whole and it was a good chance to see some pairings that we never would have seen before like Big E and Carmella, or Goldust and Mandy Rose.

David:
The WWE Mixed Match Challenge is an interesting concept, and one that’s been made to mean something with the involvement of every Superstar’s chosen charities. It’s very interesting that things have come down to an Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair showdown days before WrestleMania, too. I think this might be the place for the Robe Warriors to pick up somewhat of an upset, and give Asuka (and the WWE Universe) some doubts days before New Orleans…

 

3. Braun Strowman will challenge Cesaro and Sheamus at WrestleMania 34 for the Raw Tag Team Championship. Who would you pick as his partner?

Mike:
Elias. No question, 100 percent. I’m so into Elias at the moment it’s not funny. He was one of those weird call-ups from NXT and I couldn’t see how he could possibly succeed. And yet he’s made everything work, he has the crowd in the palm of his hand and he can put on entertaining matches. And who wouldn’t want a tag team theme with Elias playing guitar and Braun playing piano? I hope they win the belts and rule the tag team division for a while because I…. WALK WITH ELIAS!

Richard:
For me, the best partner for Braun would be Big Show. Two of the biggest guys on the roster just going out and kicking ass. I think that team would pose a lot of problems for any other team in WWE.

Grady:
Curt Hawkins. Next question.

David:
I’d like to see Elias given the opportunity. Their battles earlier in the year must have led to some mutual respect, right? Or maybe Strowman could ask John Cena, seeing as The Undertaker doesn’t want to play ball.

 

4. WWE recently published a list of the “10 Best Women’s Matches in WWE History”. What would you place in the number one spot?

Mike:
Looking through that list and there are so many great matches – and so many from NXT in the last few years are simply stunning. I’d have to go for Lita versus Trish Stratus, however, just because I’m a huge Lita fan. I think her part in establishing women as a key part of WWE’s wrestling program and not just being used as glamour support for male wrestlers is massive. That moonsault from the top rope gets me every time. Two legends of the ring who deserve their spot at the very top.

Richard:
The best women’s match would have to be the first 30-Woman Royal Rumble – all the talent from today and the past in a really good match. If it wasn’t the Rumble, I’d vote for Sasha vs. Bayley in the Iron Man Match.

Grady:
I suck at picking favorites – you can ask me 100 times and get 100 different answers. But I find it hard to disagree with WWE’s choice of Banks vs. Bayley at Brooklyn.

David:
There have been some absolute classics over the years – with most of them coming in more recent memory. I’m quite partial to Emma vs. Paige from TakeOver: Arrival, but could also agree with Banks vs. Bayley in Brooklyn.

 

5. A ticketing issue forced PWG out of its iconic Reseda venue and into Los Angeles’ Globe Theater for its latest event, Time Is a Flat Circle. Which venues do you most closely associate with pro-wrestling?

Mike:
There are two. Madison Square Garden is my number one because it always sounded like the most magical place on earth. It’s where wrestlers put on the biggest and best shows. It’s where I wanted to go when I grew up. And the other? A little closer to home. Mt Eden War Memorial Hall, where the best IPW matches I’ve seen took place. And those wrestlers who put their body on the line in Mt Eden are every bit as professional as the ones at MSG!

Richard:
Wrestling venues are almost as much a part of some promotions as the talent. For me, it’s Madison Square Garden in WWE just for the history of the company in that building. There is the ECW Arena for ECW. (I believe this is now called the 5100 Arena.) Again, just due to all the historic moments for that promotion in that building. The original Impact Zone with the two entrance ramps. The Electric Ballroom for Progress. Full Sail University for NXT. Reseda’s American Legion Hall for PWG. Korakuen Hall for NJPW. I think with any of those venues if you just set up chairs and put a blank/non-branded ring in the middle you would be able to guess the promotion just based on the venue alone.

Grady:
Madison Square Garden is probably the most famous, to the point of people pushing for it to be in the Hall of Fame.

David:
I think it might be the Hammerstein Ballroom, oddly enough. I can picture other iconic venues playing host to different events, but every time I see the Hammerstein Ballroom I’ll always think of pro-wrestling – which is weird because it’s so unlike almost any other venue.