NJPW Power Struggle Results
Original Article Posted on and by November 4, 2018 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
It’s the final NJPW show worth caring about in the year. Let’s be honest, the World Tag League is a joke. Anyway, NJPW usually does this thing where they have a lot of great matches up until the G1. Last year, the post-G1 run was pretty rough. I’ve found it hard to get into the company since this year’s G1 wrapped, but this card has some fun rematches set (Ishii/Suzuki, Naito/Sabre) and an intriguing first time ever match (Jericho/EVIL).
ACH, Chris Sabin, Ryusuke Taguchi & Toa Henare vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Soberano Jr., Tiger Mask IV & Volador Jr. Taguchi’s team came out doing the rugby stuff. It was funny to see Henare get in on the act. I don’t think the Japanese crowd is really getting it, though. This was exactly what you’ve come to expect from a multi-man NJPW opener, especially one involving Taguchi. His team was into the wacky antics, while the New Japan Dads brought their typical brand of veteran savviness. Taguchi sent his guys into a barrage of ass attacks and isolated Soberano. ACH and Taguchi bested him with a wheelbarrow X-Factor in 6:10. A fine little opener, but one that ultimately means nothing. Just a way to get guys on the card and extend the show to near four hour territory. [**¼]
IWGP Tag Team Champions The Guerrillas of Destiny and Robbie Eagles w/ Jado and Taiji Ishimori vs. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion KUSHIDA, Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma Remember when Tama Tonga consistently shit the bed in the G1 Climax and got rewarded by now being a double champion? Thanks, Gedo. Taiji Ishimori, who is now just another junior, was on crutches as he recently got injured. Almost instantly, Jado used a kendo stick to cheat. Commentary flat out mentioned how you could hear it, yet was also like, “The referee was distracted and couldn’t see.” I mean, he should’ve heard it but acted like he didn’t. He did it again later and then distracted the referee to allow an Ishimori kendo stick shot. From there, Tama used the Gun Stun to beat KUSHIDA in 7:38. The babyface team tried, but everything the OGs do is just so bad. Lifeless and filled with shenanigans. [*¾]
At least something good came from this, as Ishimori’s attack led to him posing with the Jr. Heavyweight Title. Ishimori/KUSHIDA is a relatively fresh matchup for a stale division. Are we sure Gedo booked this?
Bad Luck Fale and Jay White w/ Gedo vs. Beretta and Kazuchika Okada It’s awesome to see Okada this far down in the card. Not because of any personal feelings about him, but because he needs to hit the bottom hard to make his title loss feel like it matters. In the G1, he just came out with a balloon but was still mostly the same Okada. Similar match style and always main eventing. Anyway, I shit on the OGs, but like these two. Fale is a good monster and White is FAR AND AWAY the most interesting thing in NJPW in 2018. Aggressive Okada went right after White and they brawled outside. The match was short and Beretta won by rolling up Fale in 4:32. Good little spring. [**¾]
The real story came after the match. Fale beat up Beretta and Jay White battled Okada into the crowd. When things got broken up, Okada beat up Young Lions. Yes! This is the kind of stuff they needed to do with Okada. Give him some real character. Not just, “I wrestle the same style except I like balloons.” True character work. Jay White challenged Okada to a match at any time. Okada wanted it now but Jay was like, “Well, I didn’t right now you dick.”
David Finlay and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. The Golden Lovers Kenny Omega’s been Lesnaring some of his title run so far. I know people love Kenny, but I’m 100% behind Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom. I know it’s like being 100% behind Naito last year, where I still know he’ll obviously lose. This was wrestled like it was much later on the card. There was an intensity that you’d hope for considering the WK main event. Tanahashi and Omega went right after one another. Meanwhile, Finlay and Ibushi were game to give us a few fun exchanges. I liked the late tease where Tanahashi cut off the Golden Trigger. Of course, he just got taken out with stereo kicks and then Finlay fell to the Golden Trigger in 9:47. A good tag with some nice intensity. [***¼]
Super Jr. Tag League Finals: BUSHI & Shingo Takagi vs. IWGP Tag Team Champions El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Roppongi 3K w/ Rocky Romero Suzuki-Gun have been champions for over 230 days, but have done nothing with the gold. BUSHI & Shingo/Roppongi 3K sounds like the best bet for a strong title program. The champs attacked before the bell because that’s just what they do. That set the tone for a fast paced match. This used the tag format rather than everyone involved at once. It’s a good idea because it makes the “some guys outside doing nothing” trope of these kinds of matches sensible. They’re not supposed to be doing anything. Of course, the pace got even quicker down the stretch and all three teams began throwing their best at each other. Except Kanemaru, because he’s lame. There was a great false finish as Shingo ate 3K, only for the referee to get pulled out of the ring. In the end, SHO bested Desperado with the Shock Arrow in 15:55. Better than I expected. Everything moved at a great pace and I’m glad SHO got the win after his awesome BOTSJ showing. RPG 3K have now pinned the champions twice in a row and this leaves the LIJ group open for a title shot down the line since they didn’t lose. Good stuff. [***½]
NEVER Openweight Championship: Taichi [c] w/ Miho Abe vs. Hirooki Goto If you can believe it, this was honestly originally supposed to be Taichi vs. Will Ospreay. That sounds like the absolute dirt worst. Hirooki Goto as a replacement isn’t exciting, either. Taichi hit a backdrop driver before the bell. Goto was out cold. Instead of taking the win, Taichi picked him up from a pin and toyed with him. Why couldn’t you just end it there, Taichi? Instead, we had to watch 15:02 of these two. That is not how I want to spend my Saturday. If you want to know how far Goto has fallen, there were several loud “Let’s go Taichi” chants. The fans actually wanted Taichi to win something. Anyway, there went on too long, had several boring points, and then Goto won the title back with the GTR. It sucked like most stuff involving this title since the Shibata days. It won’t be Goto, Ospreay, or anyone seemingly in line to save it, either. [*¼]
Man, every title but the IWGP Heavyweight is booked like total shit.
RevPro British Heavyweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii [c] vs. Minoru Suzuki I never got to watch their Strong Style Evolved UK match because the stream on NJPW World messed up on all three attempts. You just know what you’re going to get from these two. A true fight. And they always manage to make it work. They beat the hell out of each other for most of the match with some of the stiffest shots you’ll see anywhere. I loved the story of Tomohiro Ishii refusing to show signs of weakness. Suzuki would hit him and he’d struggle to remain on his feet, but wouldn’t go down. When he finally did, it meant a lot. The last third of this match was more of your traditional wrestling style than a straight up fight, but it made sense. It was time to try and secure the win, rather than show your toughness. They avoided the overly long Suzuki submission special and that was a good idea. Ishii won via Brainbuster in 19:22 of the most badass wrestling you’ll see this year. Sometimes, you just need to do something basic. Put two legit tough guys in there and let them do their thing without any nonsense. [****¼]
Tetsuya Naito vs. Zack Sabre Jr. w/ TAKA Michinoku This is why a lack of submissions was even better for the last match. Sabre followed and that’s his specialty. Sabre beat Naito in both the New Japan Cup (****) and the G1 Climax (****¼). The laid back attitude of Naito is a good foil for Sabre’s serious asshole mentality. I loved the simple idea of Naito attacking the arm and Sabre working the leg. It forced both to try something new. Naito’s speed and athleticism were taken away, while Sabre couldn’t fully lock in any of his submissions. The frustration was clear on the face of both men, but more with Sabre. His entire game is based off his ability to twist people in weird ways. Without it, he struggled. Naito also went after the neck, giving himself a plan B. Not only did it set up Destino, but it also meant that Sabre’s neck gave out when he bridged for the European Clutch. A bit later, Naito won via Destino in 20:12. A great change of pace for the show, especially after the previous match. It lacked some drama due to nobody believing Sabre would go 3-0 against Naito this year. However, they managed to work in some masterful counter wrestling that allowed this to stand out a bit. [***¾]
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Chris Jericho [c] vs. EVIL Jericho has certainly been “Lesnaring” the title. EVIL attacked before the bell, looking to give Jericho a taste of his own medicine after what he did to Naito at Dominion. That set the stage for a brawl that reminded me of the Dominion outing. There’s honestly not too much to say about it other than the fact that it was a brawl. It felt like EVIL threw everything he had at Jericho and while good, he’s not quite in Jericho’s league. It suffered from two similar problems that the EVIL/Okada KOPW match last year did. You never believed EVIL was going to win and it went a bit too long. 21:40 isn’t that long, but for this kind of brawl it may have been. It lagged in the middle and threatened to pick up with Everything is EVIL through a table, only that spot never worked the way it probably should have. The Codebreaker near fall was solid, before Jericho retained with the Liontamer. A good match, just never one that truly felt like a main event. [***½]
Post-match, Tetsuya Naito saved EVIL from an extended Liontamer and challenged Jericho for the IC Title. As expected, Wrestle Kingdom looks like it will have Tanahashi/Omega, Naito/Jericho, and White/Okada at the top of the card.