Power Struggle is our last big stop before Wrestle Kingdom (no-one counts Tag League), and I expect to come out the back of this show with more of an idea of what to expect on January 4th and 5th. The big question? Is BUSHI challenging Will a sign that Hiromu is returning? Or is my heart going to be hurt once more?
TJP, Volador Jr, Titan and Clark Connors defeated Jushin Thunder Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask and Yuya Uemura
Clark Connors made the mistake of slapping Jushin Thunder Liger, as he continues his quest to piss everyone off. The Thunder God might be a couple of months from retirement, but that didn’t stop him from giving it back twice as hard, making sure young Clark will be eating soft food for the next few days.
Outside of that, this was mainly an opportunity for the Junior Tag League participants to celebrate a tournament well-wrestled. Uemura single-handedly taking on all four men was cool while TJP getting the fall might be a hint he’s going to stick around.
Whatever the plan, it was a fun little opener in which everyone looked good. Interestingly, post-match the six veterans paid respect to Uemura while Connors vanished to the back despite being on the winning team.
Verdict: Three Stars
The Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo) defeated CHAOS (Rocky Romero and Robbie Eagles)
I was about to ponder that Rocky and Eagles were a random pairing, completely forgetting that Robbie is now a member of CHAOS. The face turn has worked for him, but the fractured nature of that group means he still doesn’t feel like he’s part of it.
As stupid as Phantasmo’s rope walking is, I will admit that him doing it while carrying Rocky on his shoulders was impressive. Still stupid, but also impressive.
That aside, this was a pretty straightforward victory for the champs who were given a bit of shine after not winning the tournament. It was fun while it lasted, the CHAOS team showed some nice chemistry while Robbie is one of my tournament MVPs, but it’s nothing you need to go out of your way to see.
Verdict: Three Stars
Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, EVIL and Shingo Takagi) defeated Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr and Lance Archer)
The exciting part of this match was not the wrestling, but the various pairings. Both Archer and Sabre hold titles that could be defended over Wrestle Kingdom weekend, so them pairing off with SANADA and EVIL has to be seen as relevant.
As fantastic as those two match-ups could, and will, be, what was even better was Suzuki deciding to bury Shingo in furniture. Those two only had eyes for each other, and if MiSu is on the way out, leaving on his back with Shingo standing victorious would be the perfect way to do it. Judging by the way they were slapping the shit out of each other, it would also make me very happy.
That aside, the other highlight was SANADA stealing away with the victory after a flash pin exchange with Sabre, as the rest of the match followed the Suzuki-gun formula. Then, post-match, as Zack tapped everyone who stood near him out, Archer challenged David Finlay (who ran him off at KOPW) to a match in San Jose. Wow, that was an information overload.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada and YOSHI-HASHI)
One of these men is not like the others. Poor YOSHI-HASHI might as well have worn a JOB Squad t-shirt for all the impact he was going to have on this match. Even Double K was putting poor YOSHI down, telling Gino to settle down when he suggested he could face Tana at the Dome.
Of course, Tanahashi was also kind of irrelevant. It’s not often he’s in the ring with Okada and people are more interested in something else, but Ibushi vs Kazu was the focus here. A situation that Kota seemed jubilant about, doing a backflip when he sent Okada to the outside early on.
It would be hints rather than anything concrete that we got between the two of them. Kota had a speed advantage and teased hitting the Lawn Dart into the corner (with an assist from Tana) only for Okada to escape at the last moment. For the most part, though, Tanahashi and YOSHI carried this match, with YOSHI getting one big near fall before Tana put him away with a High Fly Flow. At least they let him play a little bit.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
For our first ‘surprise’ of the day Tanahashi and Ibushi’s celebration was interrupted by a video of a bunch of people dressed in bad wigs rocking out to Tana’s music while being beaten-up. Guess who? Chris Jericho laid out the challenge for Painmaker vs Ace on January 5th at the Tokyo Dome. Tanahashi responded by saying that he didn’t have any plans that day, so it sounds like that’s official.
Tetsuya Naito defeated Taichi
Naito has had a rough time since losing to Jay White in the G1, and it’s safe to say he lost his Tranquilo in the build to this match. He even took his gear off before getting into the ring, foregoing his usual mind games to go straight at Taichi.
That rough patch would become the story of the action as Naito, try as he might, could not get a foothold in this match. They brawled into the crowd where Tetsuya was sent flying through the chairs before returning to the ring to be dominated by Taichi. Even when it looked like he was finding momentum, that famous grin spreading across his face, Taichi had an answer, popping up after the Running Destino.
In the end, Naito found his mojo by stealing a bit of Taichi’s, hitting him with a Black Mephisto to set-up the Destino. I’m not sure you could call this a great match, but it was the one that Naito needed. It felt like therapy through violence as he took his beating, before coming back to get the win. He’s now got a clear path to Jay White, the Intercontinental Title and a date at the Dome.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Roppongi 3K (SHO and YOH) defeated Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) to win the Super Junior Tag League
In a shocking turn of events, Despy and Uncle Nobu attacked Roppongi 3K during their entrance, Despy Back Dropping SHO onto the stage to take advantage of his injured back. That gave them a chance to go to work on YOH, ripping him apart like a pack of wild dogs. Even when SHO made his way back to ringside, they were lying in wait, introducing him to the barricade to make sure he wasn’t able to get involved.
It was a situation that played perfectly into the long feud these two teams have had. From day one, Despy and Kanemaru have been a step ahead of Roppongi 3K. Sure, 3K have had their moments, but Suzuki-gun always gets their pound of flesh, and they’ve probably taken more than that by this point. They are experts at ripping their opponents apart, bending the rules to make sure they get what they want.
SHO and YOH’s only option to counter that is with heart. It might sound cliched, but those two annoyingly handsome men got the shit beat out of them in this match but refused to die. SHO could barely hit most of his moves, his back giving out on him time after time, but he kept trying, he kept trying and eventually, with a grimace of pain, brought Despy over with a Deadlift German. It was a moment that seemed to ignite SHO’s fire, and from there, Roppongi 3K found their way into the fight. A fantastic final stretch between SHO and Despy culminated in a 3K and, once again, Roppongi 3K winning the Junior Tag League.
Verdict: Four Stars
As Roppongi 3K celebrated ELP and Ishimori attacked from behind, bashing YOH with a title, low-blowing SHO and then hitting a belt-assisted Doomsday Advice before stealing the Tag League trophies. That will be our Wrestle Kingdom match, and the build has already started.
KENTA defeated Tomohiro Ishii to retain the NEVER Openweight Title
The build-up to this match has been genius as KENTA decided that ‘TOMO’ is adorable and has only got ahead because of his boy band good looks. Honestly, take fifteen minutes out of your day to watch the promos if you haven’t, they’re brilliant. Sadly, Ishii doesn’t feel the same way and was planning on to removing KENTA’s head in response.
I might as well be honest about this from the start; I was always going to love KENTA vs Ishii. If you bottled up my taste in wrestling, it would taste like KENTA and Ishii’s sweat. Yes, I know that was a weird image, but I’ve written it, so it stays. In their last match, KENTA got knocked out, and I still gave it four stars, so how much do you reckon I loved a fight where they both stayed healthy (ish, those moves have to hurt) throughout?
If you guessed a lot, then you were right, as this was two hard as nails men beating the shite out of each other. Stiff blows, sharp suplexes and grunting, it’s the perfect Sunday night and when you throw in the blood slowly staining KENTA’s teeth, AAH! I love it. Although not in the sexual way that this article is accidentally suggesting.
It was also the perfect example of why Tomohiro Ishii is one of the best in-ring workers on the planet. He sold his ass off for KENTA, flopping around for him before growling his way back to his feet to continue the fight. Ishii is a fucking badass, so when he’s staggering, dazed from KENTA’s blows, it tells you that KENTA is a badass too.
The best moment of the match summed it all up for me, Ishii rising to his feet with a dead look on his face before walking into KENTA’s blows, not even flinching as they came thudding in. As he came forward, panic spread across the champ’s face, the realisation that there was nothing he could do that was going to hurt this bastard coming with it. Instead, he had to stand there and let Ishii damn near knock him out with one of the hardest forearms you will ever see. There was nothing complicated about it, but the fact KENTA got up from that and won the match, hitting two Go To Sleeps to slay the Stone Pitbull, told you everything you needed to know.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Will Ospreay defeated BUSHI to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Ospreay stealing the mist out of BUSHI’s mouth with a ‘kiss’ is either the coolest spot I’ve ever seen or the silliest. At the moment, I’m trending towards cool, but it could veer back to ridiculous at any moment.
I’ve been down on BUSHI as a singles wrestler in the past, but he was great here. Early on he dropped Ospreay’s neck across the barricade before hitting a Draping DDT onto the apron. Will’s neck issues are well established so that set-up a natural story which Will ignored by not bothering to sell it at critical moments (him popping up out of a ‘Rana that dropped him on his head particularly annoyed me), but at least BUSHI tried.
Despite that oversight, they managed to get the fans firmly in their pocket come the final stretch, as BUSHI hitting an MX got a thunderous reaction only for Will to kick out at two. We all knew BUSHI wasn’t winning this, and Will put him away quite comfortably in the end, but for a second BUSHI had people believing, and he deserves credit for that.
Final aside, there is a decent chance Red Shoes is dead. Refs go down for twenty minutes when they get a slap in the face, and Red Shoes ate an Oscutter, who knows when we’ll see him again?
Verdict: Four Stars
I had genuine butterflies in my stomach as the commentary team suggested that there was no-one left for Will to face. Then, when Will got on the microphone and called for someone to challenge, I was simultaneously terrified and excited. So, when nothing happened and they played Will’s music, I genuinely thought that was it, and I was gutted. Thankfully, the lights went out, that message appeared on the screen, and I popped like I have never popped before. He’s back, that beautiful boy is back, and I’m not even slightly ashamed to say I shed a tear or two. Welcome home, Hiromu, welcome home.
Jay White defeated Hirooki Goto to retain the Intercontinental Title
White and Goto were always going to struggle to follow Hiromu, especially when they’ve failed to ignite as a pairing previously. The opening of the match was built around White’s shenanigans, as he was able to get the upper hand on Goto, outsmarting him at every turn. He turned his focus towards Hirooki’s back and seemed to have everything under control.
Where this was going to sink or swim, was in Goto’s comeback. There are two Gotos, the one who sleepwalks through feuds never finding that spark, and the warrior who brings everything to the fight. Sadly, this version was closer to the former. For whatever reason, these two don’t have it, and they never managed to draw me into the match. Maybe the high of Hiromu’s return was too strong, but I was struggling to concentrate, as it felt like two guys going through the motions.
Then there was the finish, where a whole lot of stuff happened. Firstly, Gedo dragged the ref out of the ring, ruining Goto’s chance to win. That brought Shibata off of commentary to take out Gedo, but KENTA then appeared to take out him, leaving White to get the win. The interesting thing? Shibata took a couple of bumps that did not look like the kind of bumps a man who isn’t cleared to wrestle should be taking. So sure, the match wasn’t great (it wasn’t shit either, by the way, it was fine), but that at least threw some intrigue into the air.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
I’m not going to write about everything that happened in the post-match because it will be far too many words. The long and short of it was that Naito, Okada, White and Ibushi ended up in the ring. Okada then brought up the infamous vote to decide who main evented the Tokyo Dome before suggesting they put it to a vote again, to see what the people want to see. And, well, that was it? I’m not quite sure what the fuck they were going for there, but White told Naito to fuck off, he left, and he was announced as the champion. What a weird ending that resolved absolutely nothing.
That ending kind of sucked, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this was a fantastic show. Ishii and KENTA beating the shit out of each other, HIROMU RETURNING, a strong Super Junior Tag League Final and a great Junior Heavyweight Title match added up to a shitload of fun. Throw in another Shibata tease and all New Japan needs to do is sort out what the fuck is going on in the main event (I mean, I think I know, but how are we getting there?) and I will be more than happy.
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/