NJPW Power Struggle
November 5 2017
Jushin Liger, Juice Robinson, KUSHIDA, Tiger Mask & Hirai Kawato vs. Zack Sabre Jr, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku
So, I woke up late and as I turned the stream on this is what met me. Apparently I’ve missed two matches. Does anyone even read about the first couple of matches on a NJPW show? Probably not. Highlights here include Zack torturing juniors and Juice telling Kawato to “wake the fuck up” before he hits a wacky dive. KUSHIDA submits TAKA and that’s your opener done (well, it’s my opener done).
Final Rating: **1/2
Togi Makabe, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. Cody Rhodes, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi
Kevin Kelly, woke as fuck, highlights Don Callis’ sexism. Maybe someone complained because not only does Don keep his sexist views to himself but also the NJPW cameraman doesn’t disappear up one of Yujiro’s girls butts. This is not the good version of Bullet Club (if such a thing exists). I quite like Chase as a means to stop Yujiro from stinking the joint up, by focusing him on traditional tag teaming but throw Cody into that mix and who cares? The match is very straightforward with bags off heel heat until Chase tries to mock Kojima and gets battered with a lariat. Cody yells about all these women out here being a distraction.
Final Rating: **1/2
Super 69 (Ryusuke Taguchi & ACH) vs. Roppongi 3K
This is the final of the junior tag tournament. Roppongi 3K come in as champions.
There is a definite air of comedy at the start with ACH making Taguchi run the ropes for ages as a rib. Speaking of ribs, ACH has bad ones. They’re taped up and his torn cartilage in there. This becomes the target for the champs. Taguchi being the hot tag is weird but he hits a dive so wacky it clears one of the cameramen, causing sensational images. From another angle the cameraman actually backed up and nearly got himself wiped out. Luckily Taguchi is a super athlete and cleared him anyway. R3K have some fine double teams, even though they never stick to the five second rule. Grumble, grumble, modern wrestling, grumble. ACH has a great moment when he pulls his rib tape off before hitting Midnight Star. He spends most of the match selling the ribs like agony and the manning up process is all about the fighting spirit. Eventually ACH’s injuries are too much for him and the champs double team to win it. They’re the first champions to ever win the junior tag tournament. ACH was excellent here. It’s great to see selling that means something and goes somewhere.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Post Match: The Young Bucks stroll out to make a challenge.
Los Ingobernables de Japon vs. CHAOS
This is part of the Okada/Naito hype train.
There’s a tender moment pre-match where Hiromu applies lip balm to Naito. It shows how close they are as a unit and defines how in tune Naito is with his guys. Meanwhile Okada just stands over his boys wearing far more expensive gear while they stand there being supportive. EVIL and Ishii beat the crap out of each other from the bell and that’s wonderful. Naito endears himself to Osaka, who traditionally hate him, by slamming Okada on the ramp and stepping on his face. SANADA looks in terrific shape here. My only complaints about his game is the odd slap on the thigh that doesn’t need to happen. Okada/Naito do some good sequences in an attempt to sell tickets to the Dome. There’s nothing blowaway in there but Naito’s attitude is what will sell more tickets. The real effort in the match comes from the likes of EVIL, who takes a stunning backflip bump to sell YOSHI-HASHI’s running lariat. EVIL has had a seriously good year. Okada unfortunately treats Naito like an afterthought and shrugs him off while finishing BUSHI.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Promo Time: We get clips of NJPW in Los Angeles, or “Los Angels” as the VT states. March 25 2018 – NJPW in Long Beach.
NEVER Openweight Championship
Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Toru Yano
Yano has bleached his hair out, giving us his old gingery style from a few years back. A throwback to the last Suzuki/Yano feud before MiSu escaped to NOAH. This is a bullrope match to stop Yano from running away. Normally it’s the champion who’s put at a disadvantage by a stipulation. MiSu grinds away at this, torturing Yano. It reminds me that the whole feud has been MiSu killing Yano and Yano occasionally getting a fluke pin. The match is a drag with Yano getting destroyed.
Yano briefly gets back into it but Iizuka turns up to allow MiSu to take back over. Yano has the pin but Taichi runs in. It seems CHAOS don’t give a fuck about Yano like Suzuki-gun care about their boss. Suzuki wraps the rope around Yano’s neck and hits the Gotch Piledriver to hopefully put this feud to bed forever. Best part of the match is Suzuki kicking the fuck out of the referee afterwards.
Final Rating: *
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay (c) vs. Marty Scurll
Scurll has a strong record against Ospreay, which Kevin Kelly brings up. It’s pretty cool to see this take place in New Japan. It’s easy to forget that British Wrestling is currently enjoying an all-time great run of quality and producing wrestlers that can compete on the world stage.
They have great chemistry from previous matches and demonstrate quickly how well they work together. It’s not them at their very best together with Ospreay missing a flipping kick by some considerable distance. He’s also a wee bit off on a corkscrew, landing on Scurll’s legs. It’s only the odd moment and the rest of their work is tidy. The near falls sequence, for example, is very tidy. “Come on bitch, you wanna throw” says Will ahead of a slapfest. Some of the counters are down to Ospreay’s recklessness. Like his desire to be smacked out of the air by Marty. All Scurll has to do is nail the poor bastard in mid-air. Scurll takes his licks too. At one point getting back handed across the ear without seeing it coming. Will does an assortment of verbal selling in this. Sometimes coughing from being chopped in the neck. Sometimes screaming because of Scurll abusing his fingers. I love that Ospreay finally counters the ‘superkick, just kidding’ spot. It’s long overdue. As with at Rev Pro and the ROH TV title switch Scurll catches Will going for the Oscutter. It doesn’t get the win here but Marty cradles Will to yet again beat him! Ospreay isn’t happy about the pinfall and KUSHIDA runs out here to chastise him. “I want to challenge you, motherfucker” – KUSHIDA “Take your fucking Delorean and get to the back of the line” – Ospreay. Hiromu Takahashi, who’s continually been stopped getting a rematch, comes out in a helmet and boxing gloves to stop a KO/finger snap, and finally gets his challenge in. Four way for WK then!
Final Rating: ****
IWGP United States Championship
Kenny Omega (c) vs. Beretta
Big opportunity for Beretta in this all-American semi-final match up. I like that they’ve lined up a fresh opponent for Kenny here, even if it’s only Beretta. It’s a chance for Kenny to show what he can do. The match starts out slowly but then Kenny double stomps a table onto Beretta!
It would be fair to say that Omega takes Beretta lightly. And rightly so. He was in a junior tag team a few months ago. Who did Beretta ever beat? He does manage to lift the Super Panda slide under the ropes German suplex that I saw in Bar Wrestling recently. When something cool happens in wrestling it doesn’t take long for someone to steal it. Nobody buys Beretta standing a chance so they go into some big bombs (top rope German suplex for example) to get over his chances. While Omega dominates the early going they try and convince the crowd that Beretta can win. Piledriver on the apron connects but Beretta tries for a dive and crashes through the remains of that table from earlier. I love that the table came back into play and wasn’t just discarded. Beretta has never struck me as being a big talent but he proves me wrong here. Or Kenny Omega is the fucking best right now. One or the other. Both guys have such explosive offence. It gets to the point where the crowd think Beretta has done it. Dudebuster…gets 2! The fight Beretta shows toward the conclusion is sensational stuff. He’s been made by this match. One Winged Angel puts Beretta away but he’s been made by hanging with Kenny. Sensational stuff.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Post Match: Kenny says he’s beaten everyone but Chris Jericho is here! Jericho challenges Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom! Kenny accepts. It’s on! They’ve been working the marks on Twitter for a couple of weeks but this was not expected. I honestly thought Jericho was under WWE contract.
NJPW Intercontinental Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Kota Ibushi
Tanahashi and his new haircut are here to close the show. He’s healthier than he was during G1.
Which should be good for the match up although he takes it very slowly and is methodical. Tana makes a point of taking out Ibushi’s leg and stopping all that high flying nonsense. It doesn’t work, obviously, and Kota hits the Golden Triangle at the first available opportunity, gives his knee a little slap and that’s the limb work portion done. Only Tanahashi refuses to let his limb work die and he dragon screws the shit out of it. Kota promptly ignores it, again. Tana, besides himself with perfect hair rage, decides to hit the High Fly Flow to the floor. Even though he keeps saying he won’t do it anymore because of his broken body parts. Fuck your lack of selling! I’m not selling all my legitimate injuries in response to it! Kota’s response is a flying rana off the top where Tana’s leg gets caught and Tanahashi’s various hairstyles flash before my eyes. Then Kota hits the Javelin into the buckles and nearly breaks Tana’s neck. Hey, it’s ok to be dangerous as long as you’re only endangering yourself. When you’re trying to end the career of Tanahashi that’s not cool. Even if he’s agreed to it. You shouldn’t be doing that to him, he doesn’t know any better and he’s an old man with a bad neck. The intense danger makes the match more exciting but it shouldn’t. I’m genuinely worried about Tanahashi. Kota gets even worse by driving palm strikes in the corner, in response to being slapped. It’s so intense. There’s a great bit where Ibushi stops Red Shoes count and continues to stomp Tana while he’s holding the hand. It’s so great. My selling concerns are long forgotten as they just beat the everloving shit out of each other. These guys are both desperate to win. Tana gets a pair of High Fly Flows to retain. This had some wonky selling issues but kept getting better and better after that. Stunning down the stretch.
Final Rating: ****3/4
Post Match: Tanahashi puts over Ibushi and then plays some air guitar. But then…”Switchblade” occurs.
It’s Jay White back from excursion!
The top end of this show was fucking amazing. The last three matches and the subsequent storytelling and surprises that were attached to it. All superb. You could, if you were so inclined, just skip the bulk of the show but watch from Ospreay/Scurll onwards and you will not be disappointed. A show that left me feeling emotionally drained. Returns, debuts, great matches. What’s not to love?