NJPW King of Pro-Wrestling 2017

October 9th, 17:00 from Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo

We’re in Sumo Hall for one of the biggest shows of the year. Let’s get to it.

Here we go…

Bullet Club (Leo Tonga, Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI & SANADA)

Fale murdered Hiromu’s toy cat/best friend Daryl during the G1 tour and this is Hiromu’s chance at revenge. It’s a lowly spot for the LIJ boys, although their stablemates are in the top two matches on the show. On the other side of the ring it seems that Leo Tonga did enough on the Destruction tour to warrant a continued presence on the main roster.

Hiromu, of course, went straight after that bastard Fale, and had some success before being stopped in his tracks, after which he was a subject to a beatdown from all three opponents. The tag was eventually made to Sanada, who impressively nailed his double-leapfrog dropkick on the massive Tonga, then followed up with a leaping tope to Bullet Club on the floor. Back in the ring, Bushi made his entrance and was isolated by Fale, but just as he was about to hit the Bad Luck Fall a resurrected Daryl provided a distraction! Bushi blinded Fale with the mist then rolled him up for the three-count! This was a very entertaining and satisfying opener, and however it was achieved a junior of Bushi’s status beating Fale is a big upset. **3/4

CHAOS (Toru Yano & Hirooki Goto) vs. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Minoru Suzuki) (w/ El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku)

Yano scored yet another G1 win over Suzuki this year, so Suzuki wasted no time in trying to kill him here. After battering him outside for a few minutes, he returned to the ring to wrench a double-wristlock, then he and Sabre applied stereo armbars! Sabre continued the punishment with a bridging death lock, but Yano finally escaped by hitting an inverted atomic drop, bringing Goto in to run through his signature offence. Sabre countered the diving elbow drop to an armbar, then transitioned to a hammerlocked armbar until Goto made the ropes. Sabre was able to reverse Goto’s attempts at escape until finally the Ushigoroshi connected and tags meant we were back to Suzuki and Yano. They had a fun exchange in which Suzuki bested Yano, scoring a two-count with a Penalty Kick, then on the floor Suzuki retrieved some rope(!) from under the ring and wrapped it around Yano’s body and throat, but Yano nailed a low blow and rolled back in the ring before the 20-count to win the match!

Post-match, Yano ran off with the NEVER title! Oh yeah, I’m on board with that. Naturally, Suzuki and Sabre pummelled any young boys who were nearby. This was another fun and heated tag match. **1/2

At Destruction in Hiroshima, Rocky Romero announced that he would soon unveil Roppongi 3K. Today, Roppongi 3K was revealed to be… Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu! The former young lions had been on an excursion to CMLL and Ring of Honor and they return to the company having exchanged plain black trunks for silver and gold tights.

IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship

Funky Future (Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi) (c) vs. Roppongi 3K (Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu) (w/ Rocky Romero)

Sho and Yoh started strong, wiping out their opponents with stereo topes, but Funky Future soon got their act together and scored a series of nice double-team moves. Komatsu was able to counter eventually, scoring a double stomp on Taguchi before Tanaka entered to deliver more punishment. 3K continued to isolate Taguchi with good continuity, earning two-counts, until Taguchi beautifully escaped danger to make the hot tag to Ricochet. The flyer ran wild, dropkicking Tanaka out of mid-air and nailing Komatsu with the suplex combo and standing SSP for a near-fall. Komatsu replied with a roll-up and crossface, but Ricochet managed to make the tag to Taguchi, who scored two out of the three amigos to Tanaka before before caught in the guillotine choke. The package piledriver was blocked and Ricochet tried to interject, but a series of strikes left everyone lying. Jumping knees from 3K connected and a double-team Dominator was broken up by Ricochet, who then scored a dive to the outside before receiving the tag. Benadryller to Komatsu! One, two, no. Shooting Star Press! The pin was broken up by Tanaka, who proceeded to hit a trio on deadlift Germans on Ricochet, then the same to Taguchi! Most impressive. 3K nailed Ricochet with a superkick and Busaiku Knee, then followed with their finisher (a flapjack into reverse STO double-team) – one, two, three! New champions!

Post-match, Romero hyped the crowd and had them chanting “Roppongi.” Well, that’s quite the re-debut by the former young lions. This was a good match, with Sho and Yoh portrayed as the superior team throughout. I’m sad to see Ricochet and Taguchi lose the belts, but having the titles on a young, native team will likely be a boon for the division. ***1/2

IWGP Tag Team Championship Tornado Rules Elimination Match

Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) (c) vs. War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)

Take 4 of this match (for goodness sake). The last one, fought under tornado tag rules, was surprisingly great, so here’s hoping this one is more like that one than the first two.

GOD and War Machine targeted the champions, and we got a few minutes of brawling out on the floor until the aforementioned teams faced-off in the ring. War Machine lawn-darted Tama and Loa into each other, then Hanson was slammed onto Loa and the fight returned to the floor. Chaos ensued, Rowe wiped out KES with a suicide dive, but Hanson was smashed with a trash can lid and subject to a double-team Tongan Twist for two, then Archer stole Hanson’s corner clotheslines, but was then punished with an assisted German. A sharpshooter from Davey Boy on Tama was broken up and followed by a parade of signature offence from everyone in the match. Killer Bomb to Rowe – two-count only! Guerrilla Warfare to Archer – two-count only! GOD survived Hanson’s clotheslines, but then War Machine nailed Loa with Fallout! One, two, no! All three team’s finishers kicked out of. Time to break out the tables. Everyone went crazy with weapons and Loa ran headfirst into a chair before being hit with the Killer Bomb for the three-count. The Guerrillas are eliminated. Tama was a bad sport and smashed Rowe with a trash can, then KES nailed the Killer Bomb once more, only for Hanson to break it up with a dive from the top. Hanson laid Archer on a table and looked for the moonsault, but Davey blocked it and he and Archer nailed the Killer Bomb through the table to retain the titles.

Post-match, Killer Elite Squad battered young lions and War Machine left to applause. This was decent enough. It was overlong and the crowd’s interest seemed to wane between the big spots, but the teams kept up the intensity and worked hard throughout. ***

CHAOS (Jado, Beretta & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Bullet Club (Marty Scurll, Cody & Kenny Omega)

Quite the line-up from Bullet Club and the “Luxury Trio” (as they’ve named themselves) each had a full entrance. Yoshi-Hashi faces Omega for the US title as part of the upcoming Ring of Honor tour. I was surprised Jado didn’t have a nose bleed from being in a match this high up the card.

Yoshi-Hashi started strongly against Omega, and once the match spilled to the floor he bested Bullet Club until Beretta helped out with a dive from the top-rope onto everyone. Beretta, however, was isolated in the ring, and Cody then Scurll beat him down before Omega re-entered the match with a double axe handle and backbreaker. Cody nailed the springboard kick and despite Beretta’s best efforts he remained under the control of Bullet Club until finally countering the boots-in-the-corner routine and nailing Omega with a tornado DDT. In came Yoshi-Hashi, whose neckbreaker earned two before he was caught with Omega’s Finlay Roll/moonsault combo. Scurll was in for the Just Kidding superkick, but Yoshi’s mule kick allowed a hot tag to Jado (yes, I know). He chopped Scurll, but the Englishman snapped his fingers in reply. Jado managed to score the rope-hung DDT, and this set off a series of signature moves from all concerned before Jado cinched in the crossface. Scurll countered into the Chickenwing, though, and Jado tapped out to give Bullet Club the win.

Not much more than a house show-style tag match which, truth be told, fell a bit flat. If not for the names on the Bullet Club side this would’ve been opening match fodder. **1/4

***INTERMISSION***

We once again got a teaser for a new/returning wrestler, whose character nickname was revealed to be Switchblade.

Togi Makabe & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Juice Robinson & Kota Ibushi

Ibushi will be facing Tanahashi for the Intercontinental title in the near future, presumably at Power Struggle in November, and it was those two that started us off. They largely shared the spoils of the opening exchange before Juice and Makabe entered, with Juice flooring Makabe at the second time of asking. A powerslam from Makabe was followed with Juice getting whipped hard into the guardrail outside and, back in, Tanahashi continued the beatdown. He peppered the American with shots to the gut, but Juice scored a spinebuster and Ibushi returned to flatten Tanahashi with a series of kicks. A strike flurry and standing moonsault earned two, then Tanahashi recovered momentarily only to receive a snap German. Dragon Screw from Tanahashi, and Makabe and Juice were tagged. Makabe scored the mounted corner punches, then Juice almost hit Pulp Friction and all hell broke loose, culminating in Tanahashi spiking Ibushi with the Sling Blade. Makabe’s left-handed lariat flattened Juice and a kneeling powerbomb followed for a two-count, but Juice avoided the diving knee drop. He cracked Makabe with a huge haymaker and followed with Pulp Friction! One, two, three!

Hell of result for Juice! He’s picking up big wins these days and looks comfortable doing so. Two years ago he was announced as a full-time member of the roster and at the time I said “they clearly see something in him that I’m yet to.” I’m happy to eat my words on that one, because by now it’s crystal clear what they saw in him. This was a fun match, with plenty of heat and rip-roaring closing stretch. ***1/4

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

KUSHIDA (c) vs. Will Ospreay

Ospreay has been unable to beat Kushida in the three times they’ve met in New Japan, most recently in the Best of the Super Juniors final (a five-star match in my opinion), and he’s requested this one last opportunity against the champ. This match, in this venue, was how Ospreay debuted in New Japan at Invasion Attack last year.

Handshake to start, then both men charged at the other. Ospreay missed a dive, scored a kick, but was smashed into the guardrail then kicked over it. Kushida went for a running dropkick, but Ospreay used the barrier as a springboard and kicked him out of mid-air. Sasuke Special… countered into an armbar on the floor by Kushida! Back in, Kushida applied a figure-four until Ospreay made the ropes, then he went back to attacking Ospreay’s left arm to good effect. A double chickenwing kept the Englishman grounded and was transitioned to the Cattle Mutilation, but Ospreay fought back and scored a handspring kick. A Jawbreaker and a big corner dropkick were followed with a standing corkscrew splash for two, but Kushida blocked the Cheeky Nandos kick. Springboard forearm strike from Ospreay for two. Rolling elbow from Kushida, followed by a jumping DDT, and the double-wristlock was… blocked. Rebound Spanish Fly from Ospreay and both men were down.

Ospreay peppered Kushida with kicks then laid him over the top-rope, but Kushida recovered and pulled Ospreay into to the ring from the top-rope with an armbar! The rope-break was made, but Kushida snapped a huge shoulderbreaker (like, I heard a snap) then smashed Ospreay’s face with arm-trapped stomps. Ospreay countered a roll-up into an inverted Codebreaker, however, and followed by spiking Kushida with the Essex Destroyer! Two-count only. Kushida looked to have blocked Ospreay’s dive, but the Cheeky Nandos connected instead, then the attempted super Back to the Future was countered by Ospreay into a cutter! Imploding 450! One, two, no! OsCutter… countered to the double-wristlock! Kushida looked for Back to the Future, settled for a counter-stunner, but the Hoverboard Lock was reversed into an inverted STO. OsCutter! One, two, three! Will Ospreay is your new junior heavyweight champion.

Post-match, Hiromu came to the ring, but he was interrupted again, this time by Marty Scurll, who snapped his finger then challenged Ospreay for the title! Woah. Hiromu threw a tantrum as everyone left the ring. This was another great match between these two – their chemistry is off the charts. The second half of the match, in particular, was crazy and pleasingly violent, and this was a hell of a payoff to Ospreay’s time in the company so far. ****1/4

Tokyo Dome Right to Challenge Match

Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii

Naito goes into this as the holder of the literal briefcase which signifies his right to challenge for the IWGP title at Wrestle Kingdom, a shot he earned by winning the G1 Climax tournament in August. Ishii has beaten his twice in tournament matches this year, though, so he knows he can get the job done.

Naito took a shortcut with an eye rake, but Ishii was having none of the dive fake-out and leapt on top of him, following with chops and a headbutt. An inverted atomic drop and low dropkick from Naito stopped the rot and outside he repeating the combo against the guardrail, then he pummelled Ishii’s right leg over the apron and took a moment to relax in the ring as the Stone Pitbull struggled back in. Naito baited Ishii as more punishment to the leg followed, but Ishii found a way back with a low dropkick of his own and a series of brutal chops to the throat in the corner were capped with a big suplex. Headbutts almost set-up a powerbomb – Naito slipped out to land the over-the-knee drop and seated dropkick – but Ishii then ducked several of Naito’s attempts at offence to score a backdrop. Up top, Naito blocked a superplex and kicked out Ishii’s leg, and he capitalised with a rope-hung over-the-knee drop and his signature slingshot corner dropkick.

Naito gave Ishii a big slap across the head, which proved an unwise decision, as did the spitwad, and Ishii smashed him with an elbow before German suplexing him into the turnbuckle. Last Ride powerbomb – two-count only. Up top once more, and this time a huge top-rope superplex connected! One, two, no! The sliding lariat missed and Naito nailed the tornado DDT to put both men down. They traded elbows, a battle which was won by Ishii, but Naito scored a Koppu kick and dumped his opponent with a German suplex, followed by a super frankensteiner for a near-fall. Missile dropkick to the back of Ishii’s head, then a Dragon suplex, but Ishii fired up and smashed Naito with a sliding lariat for another near-fall! Naito countered a charge into the scissored kneebar, then scored a leaping forearm after the rope-break and spiked Ishii with Gloria! One, two, no! Destino countered into a brainbuster which was countered back into Destino! Two-count only! Another attempted Destino was countered into sheer-drop brainbuster by Ishii! One, two, NO! Ishii psyched himself up, headbutted Naito and dumped him with a lariat for a near-fall. Brainbuster countered into Destino and again Ishii kicked out, before Naito finally scored the definitive standing Destino and picked up the win.

This was a very good match, but like their other two matches this year I find myself somewhat numb to the excesses of the kick-outs. Neither man’s legwork ultimately meant much, but the whole thing was carried along on a wave of intensity and bravado. ****

We got an appropriately horror movie vibes hype video for the main event. Good job, production crew!

IWGP Heavyweight Championship

Kazuchika Okada (c) (w/ Gedo) vs. EVIL

Evil beat Okada in the G1, the first man to do so in 364 days, and rightly receives a title shot here. Nevertheless, it’s a big step up for the Los Ingobernables de Japón man, who has only briefly held the NEVER title up until now, despite some impressive wins over the past year. He made his entrance on a throne, flanked by cloaked druids.

Evil scored some hard chops and a shoulder block early on, only for Okada to reply with armdrags, then both men missed premature finisher attempts. Okada then dominated for a few minutes before sending Evil to the floor, where the LIJ man launched Okada into the guardrail with a drop toe hold, then twice damaged his neck with the creative application of a steel chair. A cravat chinlock was applied in the ring, then the self-proclaimed King of Darkness confidently continued the beatdown with a spinning back chop and senton for two. Okada powered out of a chinlock, then built up a head of steam to nail a back elbow, and a series of them followed, capped by a flapjack for two. Evil was lifted to the turnbuckle and dropkicked to the floor, where Okada kicked him over the guardrail and ducked a flying chair to score a leaping crossbody! That’s a cool payoff to previous matches. Okada didn’t learn his lesson, however, and returned to the floor, giving Evil the opportunity to gain the upper hand. Back in, a sidewalk slam earned two, but Okada blocked the fisherman buster to hit the reverse neckbreaker and both men were down.

Evil slipped out of the tombstone and dumped Okada right on his head with a German suplex. He followed with a discus lariat, then avoided Okada’s missile dropkick and applied the Banshee Muzzle! Okada struggled, but eventually reached the ropes with his toe. Evil invited a reply and got it as the two men traded elbows, but Okada scored The Dropkick. Diving elbow drop, Rainmaker signalled. Referee Red Shoes received an accidental back elbow and Evil capitalised with a fisherman buster into the turnbuckle, then piled up chairs in the middle of the ring. Darkness Falls… countered to a hurricanrana which spiked Evil onto the chairs! Tombstone piledriver from Okada, Rainmaker countered to Darkness Falls by Evil! They elbowed each other up from the knees, with Okada flooring Evil with European uppercuts before stomping his prone opponent to boos. Evil fired up, and nailed Okada with a half-and-half suplex and lariat before replying in kind with stomps. Up top, and the fisherman superplex connected! Two-count only. The STO was signalled, but Okada countered to a German, then the Rainmaker was blocked and Evil hit Gloria for a near-fall! STO countered to the Rainmaker! Okada crawled to Evil, picked him up and smashed him with a second, opting not to go for the cover. A third was blocked, but Okada recovered to land a jumping tombstone, and the definitive final Rainmaker smashed Evil to the mat for the three-count.

Okada retains and is less than two weeks away from officially surpassing Shinya Hashimoto’s 489-day record for a single IWGP title reign. This was a good match, although they didn’t improve on the effort in the G1 and it wasn’t quite at the standard of most big IWGP title bouts. Still, it built effectively and Evil looked good in there with the champ, even if the result was never in doubt. ***3/4

Post-match, Naito was invited to the ring by Gedo and the Wrestle Kingdom main event is confirmed. Okada interrupted Naito’s catchphrase to a big and very mixed reaction and they went face-to-face before Naito left the ring. The confetti falls and we’re out.

Final thoughts: Two great matches and one very good match to cap an otherwise solid show – an easy thumbs up. The return of Tanaka and Komatsu was a highlight, as were Ibushi and Tanahashi’s interactions, and Fale’s comeuppance in the opener was especially pleasing. Good stuff.

I’ll be back for Power Struggle on November 5th, although I plan to cover the Young Lion Cup in some fashion. See you soon.