November 7th, 17:00 from Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, Osaka
Power Struggle 2015 sees Shinsuke Nakamura defend his Intercontinental title against Karl Anderson and Tomoaki Honma try to defeat his long-time rival Tomohiro Ishii for the NEVER Openweight belt. Elsewhere, the Super Jr. Tag Tournament winners will be crowned and the card of Wrestle Kingdom 10 should become clearer.
Here we go…
Jushin Thunder Liger, Máscara Dorada, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask vs. David Finlay, Jay White, Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu
Your usual solid work from the young lions, a couple of whom will be heading out on their excursions before long. Máscara Dorada, meanwhile, is coming to the end of his New Japan tenure and they’ve done next to nothing with him despite his obvious talent. Ah well. I’ll give you a clue who won this: it wasn’t the kids. **1/2
Cody Hall, Doc Gallows & Tama Tonga vs. Captain New Japan, Juice Robinson & Togi Makabe
Stuff happened. Some of it was okay. *1/2
Evil (aka The Artist Formerly Known As Takaaki Watanabe) vs. Hirooki Goto
Takaaki Watanabe last month revealed himself to be Tetsuya Naito’s masked accomplice, returning to New Japan after an unproductive excursion to Ring of Honor. Since then he has rebranded himself ‘Evil’ and here walked out to the ring dressed like the Grim Reaper with a scythe and lasers in his hands. I shit you not. Early on, Evil hid under the ring before attacking Goto with a chair. He then locked in a chickenwing and bit Goto in the neck (he’s evil, you see). Not much happened until Naito interfered, hitting Destino and drawing the disqualification at 7 minutes. A nothing match, presumably leading to Naito & Evil vs. Goto & Shibata at the Dome. Evil is good, ironically (in a knowing(?) so bad it’s good kind of way). *1/2
Time Splitters & reDRagon vs. The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega & Chase Owens
The losers in the Super Jr. tournament face off to decide who is a little bit less of a loser! This was quite fun, with unusual combinations of guys doing double team moves and limited opportunity for Chase Owens to bore everyone. The good guys won. **3/4
Post-match KUSHIDA challenged Omega to a rematch for the Junior Heavyweight title.
Up next, the finals of the Super Jr. Tag Tournament that’s been running at the ‘Road to Power Struggle’ events. Here’s a breakdown of the brackets:
- reDRagon defeated Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask
- Roppongi Vice defeated Kenny Omega & Chase Owens
- The Young Bucks defeated Máscara Dorada and Ryusuke Taguchi
- Matt Sydal & Ricochet defeated Time Splitters
- Roppongi Vice defeated reDRagon (***1/2)
- Matt Sydal & Ricochet defeated The Young Bucks (***3/4)
Super Jr. Tag Tournament Finals
Matt Sydal & Ricochet vs. Roppongi Vice
As is typical for a junior tag match, we began with some compulsory tagging and limb work. In this case, Baretta’s knee was the target in the early going, as it had been in the semi-final against reDRagon. In short order the match broke down, the rules were not observed, and somewhere in Oklahoma Jim Ross got up on his soapbox. Ricochet got two with his combination northern lights/brainbuster and a dual standing SSP/moonsault from Team Flip Flop earned another near-fall. Baretta, being an idiot, used his battered knee to hit a Busaiku Knee on Sydal for two before Ricochet nailed an absolutely nuts step-up springboard Shooting Star Press to the floor. In the lead up to the finish Sydal and Baretta messed up a reverse hurricanrana, but whatever, because stereo Shooting Star Presses from Sydal and Ricochet claimed the win, though I have idea who the legal men were. Can’t complain about the in-ring action; this was a spotfest in the most shameless way and Sydal and Ricochet can bring it in that regard. I’m still not a fan of the structure (or lack thereof) of these junior tags, but this was a decent example of the genre with good work from all involved. ***3/4
Post-match, Sydal & Ricochet, Roppongi Vice and the Young Bucks all claim the next title shot should be theirs before reDRagon say “any place, any time”. A four-way at Wrestle Kingdom, then.
A.J. Styles & Bad Luck Fale vs. Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi
Yano has his natural hair colour. It’s weird. Yano started with his ‘Break!’ schtick before tagging in a surprisingly over Yoshi-Hashi. Heel tactics put the Bullet Club representatives on top and a beautiful dropkick from Styles quelled any hint of a comeback. Yoshi-Hashi hit a codebreaker and tagged in Yano! The Sublime Master Thief went after Fale’s ears – the sadistic bastard – and lured the big lug into the exposed turnbuckles. A exchange between Styles and Yoshi-Hashi ended with a Bloody Sunday and Styles Clash, which were more than enough for the win. **1/4
Up next, Ishii vs. Honma. In the pre-match video we see a history of the feud and Honma painting wooden dolls. I’m serious.
NEVER Openweight Championship
Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Tomoaki Honma
An intense elbow battle thirty seconds in led to the first attempt at a Kokeshi… which missed. Ishii laid in the elbows, but Honma came back with chops and a Kokeshi(!) for two. A Blockbuster got two before a hard elbow put Honma down. A delayed superplex from Ishii got a two-count, then Honma reversed a charge and spiked Ishii with a DDT. With Ishii laid out on the outside, Honma went for a Kokeshi from the top rope… which hit! Crazy. Lariatooo – two-count only. Honma no-sold a backdrop and hit Kokeshis of the rocket and seated variety for a near-fall. Then, the Headbutt Battle was on! Absolutely sick shots from both guys. Sliding lariat from Ishii for two. Second-rope rocket Kokeshi from Honma for two! Honma up top… no-one home. Ishii with another sliding lariat for two, then Honma with a roll-up for two. Ishii turned Honma inside-out with a lariat, Honma kicked out, but a brainbuster was enough to put him down for the three-count at 17 minutes. As always with these two, this was a hard-hitting match with excellent heat. The fact that this didn’t happen at Wrestle Kingdom rather gave away the result, but as the match went on I was second guessing that, and it was only when the top rope Kokeshi missed that I was awaiting the inevitable outcome. Still, great match and, oh boy, those headbutts… ****1/2
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kazuchika Okada & Kazushi Sakuraba
Ibushi was supposed to be partnering Tanahashi, but a back injury has put him out for quite a while. We began with a preview of WK10’s main event before Shibata and Sakuraba played shoot fighters. A triangle choke had Shibata close to tapping, but he just made the ropes. Okada came in to finish the job, but his piss-weak elbows revived Shibata. The comeback was cut short, however, and the double-teaming continued. Tanahashi eventually got the hot tag and went to work on Okada, knocking him down with an elbow, but missing the flip senton. DDT and a kip up from Okada. The Dropkick hit on both Tanahashi and Shibata! Elbow drop, Rainmaker pose, Rainmaker… missed. Shibata and Sakuraba back in, the guillotine choke was escaped, so Sakuraba grabbed a Sleeper instead! Shibata rolled-through to hit a corner dropkick, a hatch suplex set up the High Fly Flow from Tanahashi, and a nasty Go 2 Sleep (for the first time in ages) was good for the win at 12 minutes. This was better than expected, with good exchanges all round. ***1/4
Post-match, Tanahashi called out Okada and we got a rarely sighted pull-apart brawl, with the young boys failing on several occasions to contain them. I like the story they’re telling: the ageing hero Tanahashi heeling it up to keep his spot. Good stuff.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Karl Anderson
Anderson’s in the main event, so he’s gone out and bought some new gear. Good for him. They started respectfully, exploding into an intricate sequence of missed kicks, before Nakamura took control with a front facelock. Naturally, the Bullet Club got involved, with Gallows throwing Nakamura sternum-first into the barrier, and an apron powerbomb putting Anderson in control. Clubs to the chest followed, along with a mocking cry of “YeaOh!”. A corner charge was blocked, and Nakamura connected with a diving front kick followed by an enziguri. A knee lift got a two-count, then a neckbreaker from Anderson stemmed the tide. A jumping kick and a running powerbomb got two. An inverted powerslam gave way to spinebuster, then the Main Event Elbow Battle was on. With Anderson down, the sliding Boma Ye hit for two. Nakamura went to the second rope, but was met with a Gun Stun! Spinning Gun Stun from the top for a near-fall, then a Landslide outta nowhere and both men were down. A huge lariat from Anderson got two and a Fire Thunder Driver followed for an even closer near-fall! A Gun Stun was countered to a jujigatame armbar, Anderson rolled-through but was met with a Boma Ye to the face for three! Good effort and solid chemistry, but it paled next to the NEVER title match. ***3/4
Post-match, Styles and Nakamura go head-to-head. A.J. does the gun signal and Nakamura mimes catching the bullet!
Final thoughts: Bit of a mixed bag, but the matches that counted were all good. Ishii vs. Honma is the one to watch. Wrestle Kingdom is shaping up nicely.
The 2015 edition of the World Tag League is running November 21st through December 9th, so I’ll be back to review the finals.