NJPW Power Struggle 2017

November 5th, 17:00 from Edion Arena, Osaka

Today’s show sees Hiroshi Tanahashi defend his Intercontinental title against Kota Ibushi, Ospreay vs. Scurll for the Junior title, Omega vs. Beretta for the US title and Suzuki vs. Yano for the NEVER title. Oh, and the final of the Super Jr. Tag Tournament. It’s stacked, so let’s get to it.

Here we go…

Pre-show match: David Finlay vs. Katsuya Kitamura

Finlay fought back after receiving a big shoulder block and kept Kitamura at bay with a chinlock and avalanche splash, but the not-so-young lion reversed a suplex and landed a series of chops. Finlay spiked a DDT for a two-count, only for Kitamura to nail a spear in reply, then Finlay flipped out of a suplex to land the Irish Curse backbreaker and followed with a Stunner for the win. Just a match. **

Dragón Lee & Titán vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson)

Dragón Lee and Nick started out with a swift and slick exchange, then Titán blocked the Indytaker and the CMLL boys hit stereo tope con hilos. Stereo corner dropkicks followed, but Nick hit back with a slingshot facebuster and a moonsault from the apron, enabling the tag to his brother. Matt blocked Dragón Lee’s ‘rana and both Bucks applied sharpshooters before punishing Titán with a rope-hung swanton. The Indytaker was blocked once again when Dragón Lee scored a leaping ‘rana to the floor, then Nick tornado DDT’d him onto the apron (ouch) before Titán wiped out the Bucks with a springboard moonsault. The advantage didn’t last, though, and back in the ring the Bucks applied a sharpshooter/crossface combo, forcing Titán to tap. The Bucks, who were not involved in the Super Jr. Tag Tournament and making their first NJPW appearance since August, looked strong and I suspect this won’t be their last involvement today. This was a fun, spot-heavy opener. ***1/4

Hirai Kawato, KUSHIDA, Tiger Mask IV, Jushin Thunder Liger & Juice Robinson vs. Suzuki-gun (TAKA Michinoku, El Desperado, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Zack Sabre Jr.)

Suzuki-gun targeted the masked men first, but Liger fought free to lock Desperado in the Romero Special then tagged in Juice, who was quickly caught in Sabre’s Octopus Hold only to power into a gutbuster. Kushida was in next to score a handspring elbow, but Taka blocked the jumping DDT and Suzuki-gun swarmed. Kushida applied the double-wristlock, but so did Sabre until Kawato flew in with a springboard dropkick. Cue a ring-clearing run of offence, culminating in Kawato’s tope con hilo to Sabre and Kushida earned the tap-out win over Taka with the double-wristlock. Breathless stuff, most enjoyable. ***

Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Togi Makabe vs. Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi & Cody)

Tenzan refused to kiss Cody’s literal Ring of Honor, instead targeting Owens with some signature TenCozy offence, but Bullet Club combined effectively to wear down the veteran. Owens landed some offensively bad Mongolian Chops, but the Mountain Bomb brought in Makabe to run wild with a trio of powerslams and corner clotheslines. Cody blocked a Northern Lights suplex and nailed the Disaster kick, then a lariat put both men down. Kojima and Owens were tagged, and the machine gun chops were flying until Yujiro interjected. Kojima blocked the package piledriver, setting off a parade of signature offence which came to an end when Kojima nailed Owens with a lariat for the three-count. A serviceable match and I was surprised not to see Cody get the win. **1/4

Up next, the final of the Super Jr. Tag Tournament that’s been running at the Road to Power Struggle events. The three Korakuen Hall shows at which these matches took place all drew strongly and the quality was a marked step up from last year. Here’s a breakdown of the brackets:

Quarter Finals 

  • Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) defeated KUSHIDA & Hirai Kawato (***3/4)
  • Los Ingobernables de Japón (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) defeated Dragón Lee & Titán (****1/4)
  • Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defeated Tiger Mask IV & Jushin Thunder Liger (***1/4)
  • Super 69 (ACH & Ryusuke Taguchi) defeated Suzuki-gun (Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) (***)

Semi Finals

  • Super 69 (ACH and Ryusuke Taguchi) defeated Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (***3/4)
  • Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japón (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) (****1/4)

2017 Super Jr. Tag Tournament Final

Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH w/ Rocky Romero) vs. Super 69 (ACH and Ryusuke Taguchi)

ACH, who teamed with Taiji Ishimori in 2016, reaches the final for the second year in a row. He and Taguchi battled through two incarnations of Suzuki-gun to get here. Junior tag champions SHO and YOH, meanwhile, continue their impressive return to the company and their manager, Rocky Romero, will be especially pleased to see the Roppongi name once again represented in the final.

Super 69 struck first, with ACH directing traffic as Taguchi wore himself out hitting corner elbows, but the Roppongi boys got it together, both nailing a tope con hilo to take control. ACH was was isolated, with Yoh then Sho targeting his taped midriff with shots and stretches and the punishment continued for several minutes. A nice wristlock Abdominal Stretch was applied, but a frustrated Taguchi’s interference paid off, because finally the hot tag was made. Taguchi ran wild, scoring a tope of him own as well as a springboard hip attack, then he rolled-through into an ankle lock on Sho. The third of Three Amigos was blocked, allowing Sho to apply a guillotine choke, then Yoh was back in only to be cut off by the newly-tagged ACH. The frog splash missed the mark, but ACH scored some big chops until a double knee from Roppongi stopped the rot. Yoh’s out-and-in superkick looked to set up the 3K, but Taguchi ran in to turn the match back in Super 69’s favour. Dodon followed by ACH’s 450 Splash! One, two, pin broken up. They looked for their facebuster finisher, but ACH was German suplexed out of mid-air by Sho, who delivered three more to Taguchi. 3K to Taguchi! ACH initially blocked another, but a lungblower and superkick allowed the second to be delivered. One, two, three!

Roppongi 3K are the 2017 Super Jr. Tag Tournament winners, becoming the first incumber Jr. tag title holders to do so. As expected, the Young Bucks appeared, challenging for the titles, and Rocky Romero accepted on his team’s behalf. The match was good – not the best of the tournament or anything, but another good showcase for the winners who have be a real boon for the division since their arrival. ***1/2

CHAOS (Gedo, YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, SANADA, EVIL & Tetsuya Naito)

Ishii and Evil faced off in aggressive fashion, then Hiromu and Yoshi-Hashi went at it at speed, both delivering nasty chops. The match spilled to the floor, with Naito receiving boos for slamming Okada on the ramp – fair to say he and Osaka have a unique relationship. Back in, Sanada and Evil combined to isolate Yoshi, who eventually scored a neckbreaker and made the tag to Goto. Goto ran wild, earning a two-count from a backdrop and blocking Sanada’s Paradise Lock, but he couldn’t avoid the springboard dropkick. Okada and Naito tagged! Okada brushed off elbows and nailed a DDT, but Naito landed a neckbreaker, slingshot corner dropkick and the super frankensteiner for two. Rainmaker blocked, Destino blocked, then Okada’s reverse neckbreaker connected. Bushi was in to hit a missile dropkick and LIJ combined to good effect, but Okada ducked MX setting off a run of signature offence all round. The Dropkick from Okada! Diving elbow, Rainmaker signalled, tombstone to Naito, Rainmaker to Bushi, and Okada mocked Naito’s pose as he covered for the academic win.

This had plenty going on between Naito/Okada and planting seeds for the World Tag League later this month. Fast-paced, lots of crowd heat, great stuff. ***3/4

A video announced that NJPW would return to the USA next year. Strong Style Evolved will take place at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach on March 25th.

***INTERMISSION***

NEVER Openweight Championship Bull Rope Match

Minoru Suzuki (c) (w/ El Deperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Toru Yano

Yano has twice defeated Suzuki by count-out in recent months; one-on-one during the G1 tournament and in a tag match at King of Pro-Wrestling in October. Needless to say, Minoru Suzuki wasn’t best pleased on either occasion and has spent the last few weeks choking whichever Young Lions are nearby with the bull rope which will feature here. Good luck, Yano.

Yano tried to avoid having his arm attached to the rope, but Suzuki ensured it was firmly in place before dragging him to the ramp. The piledriver was blocked, so Suzuki targeted Yano’s arm instead and choked him as he dragged him back to the ring. He hung Yano over the top-rope, allowing his cronies to attack, but here was Goto to help out his mate and drag the seconds to the back. Suzuki continued to punish Yano’s arm with a nasty double-wristlock and cross armbreaker until Yano made the ropes and was finally able to remove a turnbuckle pad. He scored a hair pull to send Suzuki into the exposed buckle then hung him over the top-rope, but Iizuka lumbered down the ramp, with the distraction providing an opening for Suzuki to jab Yano with a chair. Yano landed some chair shots of his own, however, and delivered a powerbomb(!), but Iizuka pulled out the referee and here was Taichi (sigh). More nonsense, as Yano hit a low blow for a near-fall, then Suzuki finally decided to end the match with a sleeper and delayed Gotch-Style Piledriver. Awful. Let us never speak of this again. *

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

Will Ospreay (c) vs. Marty Scurll

Since Will Ospreay is the first-ever British IWGP Junior champion, that would make this the first-ever all-British title match. Making History™. Ospreay finally beat KUSHIDA last month and Scurll came out to challenge after the match, a title shot he’s earned by virtue of beating Ospreay in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament way back in May.

An accomplished exchange of wristlocks led to a beautiful counter sequence, culminating in a dive fake-out from Ospreay. Outside, Scurll kicked the guardrail as Ospreay attempted a springboard then threw the champion into the chairs. Back in, Scurll began to target the arm, but Ospreay hit back with a handspring kick and jawbreaker, nailing a corner dropkick and standing corkscrew senton for two. Scurll blocked the Destroyer, leading to a back-and-forth of pinball attempts and the Just Kidding superkick only for Ospreay to nail the rebound Spanish Fly. They let fly with slaps, then a couple of nasty chops and Ospreay’s Cheeky Nandos kick connected. A counter Stunner from Ospreay sent Scurll to the floor, but he avoided the Sasuke Special and landed a tornado DDT on the floor and suplex onto the apron for two. More throat chops from Scurll had Ospreay retching, but a sequence of counters saw him nail a high-angle reverse DDT for a near-fall. Standing SSP, but the top-rope version hit the knees for two and Scurll’s modified Go To Sleep earned another two-count. Scurll snapped Ospreay’s fingers before stamping on them, then Ospreay showed crazy athleticism to avoid various moves before eventually being downed with a lariat. Essex Destroyer by Scurll! One, two, no. The Chickenwing was elbowed out of and Scurll was hung over the top-rope then hit with a Shooting Star Press! Two-count only. Corkscrew roundhouse, OsCutter countered, roll-up countered back into a victory roll by Scurll – one, two, three! New champion! What?!

That was completely unexpected. Post-match, Kushida was out to challenge (“motherfucker”), then Ospreay jumped in for a rematch, then Hiromu appeared in a hockey goalie’s mask and gloves! Very wise, Hiromu. He got on the mic too and Scurll agreed to a fatal four-way for Wrestle Kingdom! Happy with that. The content and layout of the match was top-notch, but it was undoubtedly lacking in crowd investment. Still, I feel like the quality shone through and therefore I’m going: ****

IWGP United States Championship

Kenny Omega (c) (w/ The Young Bucks) vs. Beretta

Not much history to report – this one is a last-minute addition to the card that came about because of some tag match confrontations in the weeks leading up to this show. A few months ago, Beretta split amicably from his team with Rocky Romero and declared his intention to wrestle as a heavyweight, while Omega has recently defended the US title against Juice Robinson and YOSHI-HASHI (in Ring of Honor).

Beretta slapped Omega after an arm-wringer exchange, then sent him to the floor where he connected with a suicide dive. Omega recovered, though, pulling a table from underneath the ring and suplexing Beretta onto it! He then laid the table over Beretta and stamped through it from the apron! (Cue a “Here’s Kenny!” moment through the hole in the table.) A huge tope con hilo and the leapfrog bulldog kept Omega on top, then he worked over the challenger’s back. Back body drop for two. The Finlay Roll/moonsault combo hit the knees, giving Beretta an opening, but Omega landed a German suplex. Tornado DDT from Beretta out of the corner and a sliding rope-hung German impressed the crowd. Omega blocked an apron piledriver with a back body drop, however, and the cross-legged Ushigoroshi earned two, then he was crotched on the top-rope, but managed to drop Beretta face-first onto the buckle before hitting a double-underhook piledriver for a near-fall.

Omega headed up for a moonsault, but Beretta caught him with a German suplex from the top-rope! Single-leg dropkick, spiked piledriver, two-count only! Out on the apron again and this time the piledriver connected! Ouch. A tope con hilo didn’t work out, though, and Beretta smashed through the table propped against the guardrail. He just broke the 20-count, but was subject to a trio of Snapdragon suplexes. Folding powerbomb, knee strike, deadlift Doctor Bomb – one, two, no! V-Trigger knee strike, but Beretta blocked the One-Winged Angel and nailed a desperation lariat. Somehow he dumped Omega with the Dudebuster at the second time of asking, but Omega kicked out! Elbows now, and Omega kicked at Beretta’s back before nailing a knee strike and inverted frankensteiner for two. A roll-up from Beretta got a very close two-count, so a pissed off Omega planted him with the One-Winged Angel. One, two, three!

Felt like a classic Omega-style title match without the fluff. You could argue it was rather spot-heavy, but I totally bought into it and thought they did a solid making Beretta feel credible. Great match. ****1/4

Post-match, Omega asked for a challenger but no-one appeared. He then delivered an entirely Japanese promo before saying “goodbye and goodnight” BUT THEN CHRIS JERICHO APPEARED ONSCREEN and challenged Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom! Holy shit! HO. LY. SHIT. That’s insane.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship

Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Kota Ibushi

Ibushi beat Tanahashi during the G1 Climax tournament, using an arm-trapped knee strike that he would christen Kamigoye (“to overcome God”) to finish the match. Tanahashi, having defended his title against Zack Sabre Jr. at Destruction in Kobe, issued a challenge to Ibushi which was accepted and has spent the time since claiming his opponent is immature and lacks hunger. Will Tanahashi’s arrogance get the better of him once more or will his determination to prove a point bring him victory? For those keeping records, this is the fourth year in a row an Intercontinental title match has headlined Power Struggle.

A lively back-and-forth led to a stand off, after which they traded arm control. Tanahashi used a gut punch on a rope-break, then brought Ibushi to the mat with a headscissors and kept on top with a side headlock. Ibushi twice kipped up from a shoulder block and dropkicked Tanahashi to the floor, but the champion avoided the moonsault and clipped Ibushi’s leg on the apron. Back in, the leg work commenced and Tanahashi kept his challenger grounded with a Dragon Screw before yanking the leg over the edge of the apron. Ibushi rolled out of the ring for some respite, but Tanahashi casually continued the punishment then avoided a standing moonsault which caused Ibushi to jam his knee. They exchanged elbows and finally Ibushi caught a break, stomping Tanahashi out of the air on a dropkick. Strike flurry and a standing SSP for two, then a frankensteiner sent Tanahashi outside. Golden Triangle moonsault! Beautiful, as always.

Tanahashi scored a Dragon Screw over the middle-rope on the way back in, then hammered at Ibushi’s legs, brushing off kicks for another Dragon Screw. Cloverleaf applied! Tanahashi sat deep, but Ibushi stretched and reached the ropes. He caught Tanahashi and laid him over the top-tope to deliver a Nakamura-style knee lift! Tanahashi blocked the outside-in German, however, and yet another Dragon Screw put Ibushi on the floor. High Fly Flow crossbody from the top-rope to the outside! Back in, Ibushi was hit with the Sling Blade after flipping out of a German suplex, but he used an overhead kick to block the High Fly Flow and scored a springboard super frankensteiner for a two-count of his own. Tanahashi blocked Kamigoye smartly by crossing his arms, but Ibushi nailed him with a jumping knee then picked him up and lawn-darted him into the turnbuckle! Brutal. He lifted Tanahashi from the apron, dumping him back into the ring with an elevated German suplex! One, two, no! Good lord. Up top, the Phoenix Splash missed the mark, the High Fly Flow missed the mark and both men were down.

Ibushi tried to throw elbows, Tanahashi slapped the shit out of him, then Ibushi smashed him with palm strikes! More slaps back-and-forth and Ibushi punched Tanahashi in the corner with closed fists! Ibushi grabbed referee Red Shoes’ hand as he continued to stomp Tanahashi, but the champion fired up and slapped Ibushi until Ibushi threw a huge lariat! Amazing. Golden Star powerbomb! Two-count only! He attempted – but couldn’t hit – the Phoenix-plex and Tanahashi hit three neckbreakers only to be kicked in the head. Kamigoye ducked, Sling Blade, Dragon suplex – one, two, no! High Fly Flow to Ibushi’s back! High Fly Flow! One, two, three!

What an amazing main event, perhaps even better than the G1 match. Every time I suspect Tanahashi has lost a step he delivers a performance like this. The strike sequence towards the end was absolutely sensational and the whole thing escalated with such precision it was a pleasure to watch. ****3/4

Post-match, the two men hugged and Ibushi bowed to Tanahashi and the crowd before leaving. In his promo, Tanahashi thanked Ibushi and the crowd then pretended to leave, before returning to do his guitar schtick.

The confetti falls and we’re out. Or not…

Mysterious “Switchblade” vignettes have been appearing since August and we got one more here. Finally, he was revealed to be… JAY WHITE! Yes! He walked to the ring, challenged Tanahashi then left him laying with a swinging reverse STO! He placed his switchblade necklace on Tanahashi’s prone body then sauntered to the back. Wow.

Final thoughts: Well, that was certainly eventful. Now I’ve had time catch my breath I’m here to tell you that provided you (for the love of God) skip Yano/Suzuki this was a fantastic show. A couple of good tag matches, a couple of great title matches and a spectacular main event make this an easy recommendation. The reveals and announcements were genuinely thrilling and Wrestle Kingdom is shaping up very nicely indeed. 

Up next is the World Tag League which begins on November 18th. I’ll be back to review the Finals, although I may try and cover some of the tournament matches too. See you then.