NJPW Summer Struggle in Jingu – August 29th, 2020

Howdy!

Well, we’re here! The end of the Summer Struggle tour is nigh, as we’re in Jingu Stadium in Tokyo. Tonight, title matches abound as EVIL defends the IWGP Heavyweight & IC titles against Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi defends the NEVER openweight title against Minoru Suzuki, Hiromu Takahashi defends the Junior Heavyweight title against Taiji Ishimori, and Suzuki-Gun defends the tag titles against the Golden Aces! It’s a stacked show, so it’s time to get to work!

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

Your hosts are Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton.

 

Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Master Wato

WATO TIME~!!!

Wato takes the early offense with a flurry of kicks and strikes, but comes off the top and gets caught with a Kanemaru dropkick. I dunno, I really liked Wato as a Young Lion back when he was Kawato, but this gimmick is death. Like, Yoshi-Hashi level death. Kanemaru sends him to the barricade and legdrops him over the top of it. Kanemaru isn’t ever going to set the world on fire, but he’s the absolute definition of a good hand – his stuff is going to look good and you can put him out there with guys like Wato to ensure that they’ll look good. 

Back in for a camel clutch from Kanemaru. Wato escapes, Kanemaru cuts off his comeback a few times with some eye rakes, but he comes off the ropes and Wato catches him with a leg lariat. Dropkick to the floor and a corkscrew plancha follow from Wato. Back in and Kanemaru comes back with a dropkick, they trade a few shots and Kanemaru drops him with a Scorpion Deathdrop. He goes for the whiskey bottle, but misses and Wato gets a crucifix slam for two. Wato goes for…..something (looked kind of like an overhead slam from a power bomb position), but that goes badly and Kanemaru ends up rolling him up for three. Awkward ending. (Yoshinobu Kanemaru over Master Wato, pinfall, 7:32)

THOUGHTS: **1/2. Paint by the numbers junior match here, with Kanemaru being his usual solid self, with Wato looking like he had some nerves going out there. The biggest issue is that Wato just didn’t really stand out to me all that much, and also I don’t totally understand him doing another job to Kanemaru here. My initial supposition was that Wato will probably get him in next year’s BOSJ or something, but Wato is the new guy they want to push – he’s lost twice in a row to Kanemaru. 

El Desperado vs SANADA vs Toru Yano vs Kazuchika Okada – King of Pro Wrestling Final

I get the feeling this is going to be a mess, but hopefully it’ll be an entertaining one. SANADA tries his best, but his mask just isn’t in the league of Desperado’s. Now, with Yano and Okada in the same faction, you would normally expect that there will be some cooperation, but that isn’t always a thing in NJPW, where faction mates beat each other up all the time. Regardless, SANADA and Despy have the same line of thinking I do, as they double team Yano during Okada’s entrance and then go work on Okada himself. Yano recovers but pleads his case and attacks Okada to prove his brief fealty, but has the temerity to roll him up right after and poor Toru gets double-teamed again.

From there, we get a pretty standard 4-way breaking out, with Yano even almost busting out a tope, which, I mean, LUCHA YANO~! I would have lost my damn mind. Later, Yano gets trapped in a Paradise Lock for what felt like a really long time while everyone wrestled around him, which struck me as rather funny. He finally gets free after Okada dropkicks SANADA into him, for which Kevin Kelly thanks God. Okada finally gets Desperado in the Money Clip, but Desperado grabs the ref to try to escape, that allows Yano to come up from behind and hit Okada with a low blow, then roll him up to get the 3-count and become the 2020 King of Pro Wrestling. Yes, Yano pins Okada. I swear that is correct. (Toru Yano over Kazuchika Okada, El Desperado, & SANADA, pinfall, 7:02)

THOUGHTS: ***. I saw a lot of hate online for this match (Meltzer savaged it on WOR), and while I suppose I can understand that to a certain degree (THIS is what you’re doing with Okada? seemed to be a lot of the sentiment), but I gotta say that I thought they went for a certain vibe here and they nailed it. I mean, c’mon – no one gets hurt from losing here and Toru Yano doing anything that will result in a bunch of goofy gimmick matches seems exactly right, especially right now when people need to just kind of have fun. And the match itself was fast and less than 10 minutes, which is exactly what I want from comedy-style matches. Overall, it’s not a great match or anything, but I don’t think that was what they were trying for here. 

Unfortunately, Yano immediately went to the locker room and shouted “I’m the King of Pro-Wrestling!” and was choked to death by Minrou Suzuki. 

Naw, not really. But the real king is out next!

Shingo Takagi (C) vs Minoru Suzuki – IWGP NEVER Openweight Championship match

Time to mainline the GOOD SHIT. Forearms to start and Suzuki cinches a front facelock that Takagi suplexes out of. Out to the floor where Shingo stands Suzuki against the ringpost and alternates chops and rights, but gets caught coming back in with Suzuki’s armbar over the top rope; Suzuki releases at 5 to hit the running big boot to send Takagi to the barricade on the floor, and now we’re back outside with advantage Suzuki. Barricade to barricade goes Shingo, then Suzuki just straight-up punches him in the throat. Fabulous. 

Back in and Suzuki fires the open palms, then snapmares Shingo and hits a kick…..which may have woken up the dragon. Now we get a chop/palm strike battle but Suzuki catches one of the chops and hits Shingo with a knee to the face. He comes off the ropes, but Shingo puts a stop to him with a lariat. Now it’s Takagi with the advantage and he hits a Saito suplex for two. He plays with Suzuki with slight kicks to the head, and Suzuki proves that to be foolish by getting to his feet and destroying Shingo with forearms and a penalty kick, the latter of which leads to a Suzuki ARROGANT COVER~! for one. 

They trade forearms with smiles on their faces, then they come off the ropes and trade moves before Suzuki ducks a lariat and gets the rear naked choke. Takagi is wrestling Suzuki’s match here. Suzuki goes for the Gotch, Takagi escapes, Suzuki ducks the sliding lariat and reverses a Pumping Bomber into the choke again. Arm drops one, arm drops twice…..but not thrice! Minoru goes for the Gotch again, but Shingo escapes with a desperation Death Valley Driver! Takagi off the ropes, Pumping Bomber! 1, 2, no! 

Suzuki grabs the arm and fires kicks to the face, but Takagi goes underneath one of them, Made in Japan! 1, 2, NO! Last of the Dragon attempt, Suzuki escapes, headbutt to the back of the head! Suzuki comes around front, headbutt! Another one and Shingo goes down! You know, I’ve never heard of Suzuki hurting anyone and I’d probably trust him to do whatever move he wanted, but I really don’t need to see pseudo-shoot headbutts at all since Shibata. It’s such a low margin for error on a move that really doesn’t do much visually, at least to me. A flurry of Suzuki strikes is met with a right and a headbutt of his own from Shingo, but Takagi comes off the ropes and gets caught in the choke again. 

Takagi escapes and throws lariats, but comes off the ropes and gets dropkicked in the face by Suzuki. They bump heads on the mat, then throw strikes from their knees, then back up to slug it out. They trade strikes and THEN Suzuki throws a headbutt that makes me wince. I mean, seriously. Regardless, they go back to strikes but Takagi is the one that misses and Suzuki gets the choke, and this time there’s not going to be an escape. Gotch-Style Piledriver (with Suzuki pointing upward before getting Shingo up) hits and kills Shingo dead, clean as a sheet in the middle of the ring. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a NEW NEVER openweight champion! (Minoru Suzuki over Shingo Takagi, pinfall, 14:56)

THOUGHTS: ****1/4. Yeah, I went deep on the transcription, because this was AWESOME. Suzuki won the small battles over the course of the match to lead to him winning because he was the tougher, better wrestler on this night. Shingo doesn’t lose anything here, because Suzuki has an aura about him that even a clean loss to him doesn’t harm a wrestler. Meanwhile, Suzuki is always a good choice to hold a belt, because beating him means something when a wrestler does, and the NEVER title is a good title for that purpose. I fully expect that Shingo is going very deep in the G-1 this year, and Suzuki could in fact be one of his victims when he does. 

Also, and I’m just going to leave this here, but as far as his NJPW singles matches in 2020 go, Minoru Suzuki may, in fact, be the best wrestler in the company with, by my calculation, not one match under ****.  Now granted, he’s only had 4 of those singles matches, but take a look – 

Suzuki/Moxley – ****1/2
Suzuki/Nagata 1 – ****3/4
Suzuki/Nagata 2 – ****
Suzuki/Shingo – ****1/4

Your mileage may vary, sure. But he’s still been putting on arguably the best singles performances of the year for New Japan so far. 

Intermission! Time to clean that ring! 

Hiromu Takahashi (C) vs Taiji Ishimori – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match

As usual, Hiromu looks like he committed a massacre on Sesame Street to fashion his ring attire. Kelly mentions something interesting, that this is the first time that Hiromu will be facing a junior heavyweight since February, having been facing the big boys in the New Japan Cup. One would think that this will make him a bit more vulnerable to a speedy wrestler like Ishimori. And, as one would expect, they go a million miles an hour with holds and reversals before Hiromu ends up on the outside and Ishimori moonsaults him from the second rope there. 

Back in and Ishimori does a 450 to the shoulder of Hiromu, which was awesome, then rolls him over into a hammerlock crossface. Sweet. Takahashi makes the ropes to break that. Ishimori tortures the arm more, including wrapping it around the top rope and cranking it good. Hiromu tries to escape, but goes for a sunset bomb that Ishimori just does a backflip out of, with Taiji hammerlocking Takahashi and sending him shoulder-first to the post. That was cool. Hiromu tries a comeback with a headscissors, then a seated dropkick. Dropkick from the apron to the floor by Takahashi and back in, it’s a Falcon Arrow from Hiromu for two. 

Hiromu tries again with a throw on a charging Taiji, but Ishimori manages to land on the buckles instead of going in to them. Hiromu tries a Death Valley Driver, but Ishimori reverses that into a Poison ‘rana. He’s got all the answers. Well, almost, as he charges again and this time, Hiromu tosses him to the buckles for reals. Dynamite Plunger from Hiromu gets two. The match was going along far too safely, so they then take turns hitting German suplexes on each other’s heads. Good lord. 

Giant lariat by Hiromu drops Ishimori, but he can’t cover. Facebuster by Hiromu, but a Time Bomb attempt is countered into the double knees off a Tombstone. I gotta say, Hiromu’s selling is just A-1 across the board here. Halting between moves, letting the shoulder sag into counters, he’s just off the chain great. Taiji hooks the crossface now, and Hiromu barely makes the ropes. Ishimori powerbombs Hiromu into the corner and you can feel it slipping away for Takahashi. Last gasp for Hiromu as he reverses a Bloody Cross into the Death Valley Driver to the buckles, then hits the Time Bomb. 1, 2, NO! He tries another but that turns into an inverted Bloody Cross for Ishimori, and the crossface finishes things clean as can be. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a NEW IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion! (Taiji Ishimori over Hiromu Takahashi, submission, 13:31)

THOUGHTS: ****. Tremendous match here, with the story literally being that Ishimori was, quite simply, the better wrestler on this night. He punished Takahashi’s shoulder and countered his moves left and right, and the takeaway was that Hiromu was just beaten because his opponent was prepared to beat him. It’s not the usual way that we think of things, particularly the heel outwrestling but also outsmarting the face while not cheating a single time, but it worked here. Takahashi sold his ass off in this one and Ishimori was more than up to the task of keeping up with him in there. I actually thought that GEDO was going to wait this whole thing out and El Phantasmo was going to end up with the strap eventually, but who knows when those guys will be back at this point? 

Suzuki-Gun (Zack Sabre Jr/Taichi) (C) vs The Golden Aces (Hiroshi Tanahashi/Kota Ibushi) – IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match

Ibushi and Tanahashi have a new, remixed combo of their theme songs! They’re so fucked. Kota Ibushi being the heir apparent to Tanahashi has been pushed SO hard during this storyline that I’m going to be shocked if they don’t meet in the G-1 at some point to put Ibushi over and drive it home. 2 straight matches of heels not cheating is probably going to come to an end here, methinks, or what is Taichi going to do with himself? 

Taichi and Ibushi start, with Tana alerting Kota after ZSJ tries a sneak attack with Ibushi’s back turned. No matter, as the Aces toss Zack and then beat the hell out of Taichi to get us going. Tag to Tana, who promptly gets caught with a Saito suplex from Taichi and almost pinned as ZSJ takes Ibushi to the floor. Taichi sends Hiroshi out and drops him throat-first on the barricade. Charlton tells an interesting story about WHY Taichi hates Ibushi so much; not just that Ibushi rebuffed Suzuki-Gun’s offer to join up, but that Taichi is at his core jealous of the mentor/mentee relationship of love and respect that Tanahashi and Ibushi have, something that Taichi never did with Kawada, his mentor, who just beat the hell out of him. That…..makes sense, actually, and is one of the reasons that I like to have Charlton on the broadcasts, because that type of backstory is good to drop in there. 

So they roll Tanahashi back in and continue to destroy him, cutting the ring in half as Tana plays Ricky Morton. A virtuoso interpretation of him, if I do say so myself. Screaming, facial expressions, letting his body go limp in spots…..this man is just incredible. You’re not seeing much of what makes ZSJ a great wrestler, but that’s because the match dictates a style that isn’t conducive to him showing off holds and chain work, instead focusing more on cheating and cheap moves, so that’s what Zack is doing. You’re not seeing much of what makes Taichi a great wrestler, but that’s because he isn’t one. 

Tanahashi tries to fight back, but Taichi stops that by choking him into the corner. Cross-corner whip is reversed by Tana, who comes out with a bodypress onto Taichi and the crowd wants a TAG right now…..and they get one! Ibushi’s in and he’s wreaking havoc! Powerslam on Taichi! Plancha to ZSJ on the floor! Standing Shooting Star press onto Taichi! 1, 2, no! Time for a kick battle between Ibushi and Taichi, and since kicks are the things that Taichi does well, it’s excellent, Taichi’s selling especially. Taichi wins that as ZSJ takes Tana to the floor, and we’re back to kicks as both Ibushi and Taichi take each other out. 

Tags on both sides and Tanahashi goes after the injured leg of ZSJ, hitting him with repeated Dragon Screw legwhips. They end up fighting like hell over a backslide, with Sabre not able to get him over because his leg isn’t able to hold the weight. Taichi comes in for the assisted Dragon Screw, but Ibushi flies in with a dropkick to take out ZSJ and the Aces hit it on Taichi. I’ll be honest, I really thought they were going to win here. They hit one on ZSJ, but he suckers Tana into a Sling Blade attempt, ducks it, and puts him into the double armlock while pointedly not using his hurt leg to trap Tana’s arm. Because he’s awesome. 

In a great shot as Zack ties up the leg and Tana is screaming in pain, we see Ibushi stand up and slowly walk towards ZSJ, who can see Kota coming and tries to tie up Tana harder and harder to get him to quit before Ibushi the Terminator gets there. Kamigoye, but Taichi comes back in with the iron fingers to force Ibushi to release and kick them off Taichi’s hand. The Aces double-team the heels and Tanahashi comes off with a High Fly Flow onto ZSJ. He goes up again to finish, but a second High Fly Flow misses as ZSJ rolls out of the way, and that allows Taichi to hit a spiked Black Mephisto on Tana. Ibushi tries to save, but Taichi blocks him and the champs retain. (Suzuki-Gun over the Golden Aces, pinfall, 16:00)

THOUGHTS: ***3/4. This was two matches, the first half being the Hiroshi Tanahashi show, the second one being the Kota Ibushi kills everyone show, with Suzuki-Gun being there to play their parts in both cases. I didn’t go gaga for it, but it was extremely well-worked, especially on the face side, and Taichi didn’t annoy me as much as he usually does. Tanahashi taking the pin here was the right call as Kota has been extremely protected on this tour, to the point that I’m expecting he’s going to be the favorite of whatever block of the G-1 he’s in. Keeping the tag titles on Suzuki-Gun is the right call at this point, so I certainly can’t be mad about it, even if I did expect the Aces to win it at a few points in this one. This puts a cap on the feud for good, as there’s no reason to have any further matches with Suzuki-Gun winning twice with the straps on the line. 

One to go…..

EVIL (C) (w/Dick Togo) vs Tetsuya Naito – IWGP Heavyweight/IC Double Championship match

Naito has the white suit on tonight, so you know he means BUSINESS. GODDAMNIT, Dick Togo has his own Bullet Club shirt now. Guess the kid doesn’t really need to go to college (Rick says while whipping out his credit card). Togo attacks Naito before the bell and is easily disposed of…..allowing EVIL to attack from behind and smash Naito with the belt to send him to the floor. He beats on Naito out there for a few minutes after the bell rings, because Red Shoes isn’t gonna count! Come on! He wraps a chair around Naito’s neck and smashes it off with another chair, even stopping to admire his handiwork like he just hit a home run. 

Finally, EVIL rolls back in and we get a count, with Naito coming back in at 15. Methodical beatdown follows by EVIL, which…..I just don’t have much to say, really. It’s a heel beatdown on a very pedestrian level. Naito sells and sells and finally hits a single-leg dropkick to try to turn it around, pace starts to quicken and Naito hits the combination kick in the corner. Neckbreaker gets two and Naito goes to a submission hold, with Togo jumping on the apron with a chair. Naito breaks the hold to stop that, and EVIL makes his comeback now. 

They end up on the apron and EVIL goes for Darkness Falls, but Naito escapes and sweeps the leg, then hits a neckbreaker from the apron to the floor. Back in and Naito puts EVIL on the top and ‘ranas him off for two. EVIL reverses and sends Naito in the exposed buckle now, then hits a superplex for two. Darkness Falls gets two. Everything is Evil is blocked and Naito gets the tornado DDT off the ropes to get some space. Naito with a kick and Gloria to EVIL. He sets EVIL up on the top rope, off the top with an inverted DDT! 1, 2, no! Destino is blocked as EVIL goes to the eyes, so Naito hammers on the elbow. 

Off the ropes and Naito sends EVIL into Dick Togo on the apron, but EVIL pulls Red Shoes in front of him on the subsequent whip and Naito…..doesn’t wipe him out? Looked like he was supposed to nail the ref there. So EVIL just literally throws him into the exposed corner because he had to be bumped for the rest of the match to take place, even though there’s NO WAY that you can ignore that bump in particular. Seriously, that looked really dumb when you consider that people CAN get DQ’d in this company (even though they never do), but whatever. Anyway, CUE THE BULLSHIT.

Togo runs in to beat on Naito, now he and EVIL hit Naito with a Magic Killer. BUSHI runs in now and takes out the heels, but here comes GEDO to take out BUSHI. Red Shoes is still dead on the outside of the ring. EVIL gets a chair, Naito kicks him in the gut and takes the chair, but here comes Togo again with garrote to choke Naito out. They set up Naito for a chair shot, but SANADA runs in and dropkicks Togo and EVIL, then takes out Togo with a cutter. GEDO back in to attack, but he gets taken out by BUSHI with a Codebreaker. SANADA and BUSHI remove Togo and GEDO from ringside, so we’re back down to EVIL and Naito. Everyone got all that? It’s the goddamn nWo at this point.

Everyone back to their feet and Red Shoes is back in, and now Naito turns on the gas. Enzuigiri into the flying clothesline, Destino! 1, 2, no! Naito goes for another one, but EVIL hits him low with a mule kick and a lariat for two. Everything is Evil gets reversed about a million times until they kind of just go down (looked like a botched modified Destino), but Naito blocks another EVIL low blow attempt and the end is now here. Valentia leads to a second Destino, and the grand IWGP reign of EVIL has come to an end. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a NEW IWGP and Intercontinental champion! (Tetsuya Naito over EVIL, pinfall, 26:21)

THOUGHTS: ***. This was by far the best match these two have had, and I may be feeling too generous here. But this was a perfectly acceptable wrestling match, albeit not a particularly great one. But Naito worked his ass off to sell the match, and I’ll certainly give EVIL credit for doing the same; at the end of the day, the masters that these matches have served have not resonated particularly strongly with me, and my hope is that GEDO did it because he had the window to try it and now he’s got it out of his system, because this whole EVIL thing just did not work for me at all. I’ll never come down TOO hard for trying someone new in the main event, but I don’t think EVIL is the guy.

Naito cuts his promo and we’re done.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This one has to be considered for the best big show post-pandemic, and in fact I think it probably was. 6 matches with 2 of them **** or better, two others that were very good, and nothing outright sucked. Overall, New Japan built to this one and then the wrestlers went out there and killed it, so I gotta give them their due. This was an excellent show, made even moreso by the lack of Yujiro Takahashi in any type of role, main event or otherwise. 

Alright, it’s time; as always, my comments are in bold. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Scrum:

Master Wato: His journey is just beginning, this is just a bump in the road. But he’s on his way!

Tenzan: Ref, you’ve gotta be kidding. His shoulder was up! (Don’t do this. Even in wrestling, which is a fake sport, no one likes the guy who whines about balls and strikes. It only hurts the babyface in the long run.) Wato will avenge this, and Tenzan will be there too.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru: The little green-haired punk is already done! Someone making their return isn’t a reason to be excited – he needs to work on his technique, start all over. Back to the black trunks, same for Tenzan!

El Desperado: Doesn’t think he deserves to sit back here. Even though he didn’t win this one, there’s still a chance to win the title before 2020 is over. Yano doesn’t hold it forever, right? He does have to defend it? Everyone is nodding, so he must be correct about that. He was this close to the trophy, this close to Okada for a brief moment, but he thought that the dropkick took off his nose a bit! And to top it off, SANADA might actually be able to talk! Yano, the match is over and Desperado is humiliated, so he challenges Mr. Yano to defend the title against him, with the fans picking the stips again. (This was tremendous. I love our evil mariachi luchador!)

Kazuchika Okada: Well, we have our first KOPW title holder. He couldn’t have imagined that the match would end with a low blow (DUDE. Yano is in your stable, for fuck’s sake. Watch even one of his matches.) Okada thinks that 4-ways are tricky, and that in a singles match, it would have gone differently. But he let his guard down, and the match didn’t even go 10 minutes. Okada lost in 10 minutes? That’s a first for the Rainmaker. Even though Okada proposed the title, it’s up to Yano from here. As for Okada now, it’s time to focus on the G-1. After that, who knows – he could go for any title. And he wants to get Yano back. This was New Japan’s first time in Jingu Stadium in 21 years, and it felt good to be under the sky, even if they couldn’t pack the house. But the people here did support them, and he wants to be back and in the main event. (This felt very much like Okada was acknowledging that the last few months have been a distraction and that he’s ready to put all that behind him and move back to the upper echelon of New Japan.)

Toru Yano: Okada, thank you! Okada, I’m sorry! This was his idea, but I’m the first KOPW champion! A title a guy like me can win in an instant! He plans to do whatever he wants with the title, but there is another fan vote? Why? Let him do what he wants! He’s the man at the top! And he heard that at the end of the year, he gets an even bigger trophy, so he’s going to get that one too! (Yano might actually pull this off. A comedy title can work if it’s done well.)

Shingo Takagi: (Shingo collapses to his knees by the chair) He doesn’t know what to day. Doesn’t matter how the match went, only matters that he lost. Suzuki is probably talking about how he cut Shingo down, but the war isn’t over, is it? Didn’t you say this only ends when one of us goes to the hospital? Suzuki won, Suzuki pinned Shingo. But Shingo is still moving, and he won’t let this be the end of their war. He’s not going to the hospital, and he’s too frustrated to sleep, so he’s going to the gym! Shingo won’t let this go! (Great babyface fire from Shingo here. Really good.)

Minoru Suzuki: Hey, Takagi – Suzuki thought that LIJ was only about looking cool, but it turns out that one of them can actually fight! But he’s still just a young punk. They”re on different roads, Takagi is a commoner, more like a slug who can’t look Suzuki in the eye. Anyway, he has some business to take care of, because the King of pro wrestling is a busy man. (He gets up to leave and notices a reporter staring at him) Hey, you don’t like what Suzuki does? You bastard, Suzuki is talking to you! (RUN, DUDE, RUN.) Suzuki won, everyone else can have fun wrestling tonight. But in the end, everything is Suzuki’s. 

Hiromu Takahashi: Thank you for setting a chair for a loser. (Hiromu kicks the chair away) Hiromu has no excuse – Ishimori beat him, badly. His shoulder is in bad shape, maybe his neck, but any wrestler would target a weak point. That’s the name of the game. It was a fair fight, and he won, no excuses. Going after weak spots is paramount, it’s the first thing you learn. And Hiromu did tap out, of his own will. Ishimori is stronger, the strongest in New Japan, so show Hiromu that he’s going to have a title reign to light up New Japan until Hiromu returns to take his belt back. He won’t give up, he’ll take that title back, but in the meantime, show that you’re worthy as the champion! (This was AWESOME. Transcription doesn’t do this justice, as Hiromu looked gutted, resigned, defiant – he sold all the emotion that was needed here. You don’t need subtitles to figure out what he says in this interview just due to his facial expressions and body language. Great.)

Taiji Ishimori: Finally, he beat Hiromu. Now he has his title back. He was surprised by how much Hiromu cared, he thrashed Hiromu’s neck and Hiromu still wouldn’t quit. He knows that Hiromu’s shoulder is hurt, but pro wrestling isn’t about what you dream would happen, it’s about actually having a fight. Time to face reality, Hiromu. This title isn’t Ishimori’s end goal, as this title over time will be reborn! It’s reborn! 

The Golden Aces: (Ibushi helps Tanahashi to the interview chairs) Tanahashi can’t believe they lost. Ibushi thought they had them – what happened? Tanahashi says that Ibushi waited for him, they got their rematch….he’s so ashamed, so sorry. (Damn, I’m almost choking up a bit) Tana wants the Golden Aces to continue, but he’s not sure that’s for the best. Tana asks Ibushi to tag again when Tana is at his best. Is that okay? Ibushi says that if Tanahashi can come up to his level, he can tag with him any time. But for now, they’re done. Tanahashi acknowledges that the G-1 is kicking off soon, but he hates that their tag team has to end like this – this is one of the lowest points of his career. He needs to rectify this someday. Ibushi agrees, but the G-1 is coming soon, and Ibushi has to focus on his singles career, and Ibushi guarantees he’ll win the G-1, then they’ll tag again. Tana says that he has to win the G-1 as well, Ibushi says that if they’re in the same block, Tana isn’t beating him. Tana points out that they don’t know what the blocks are yet; Ibushi says that if they’re in separate blocks, they’ll meet in the Finals (YES YES YES YES YES!) Tana says that then, he can be fully back, with Ibushi agreeing that if Tana beats Ibushi, then he is fully back. So, Tana asks, they can’t be tag partners if he doesn’t win the G-1? Ibushi confirms, so Tana slams the table and says that he WILL win the G-1, then! (MAKE THIS HAPPEN. Like, seriously, they’ve already been laying the groundwork and now they’ve made it explicit, with Tana and Ibushi doing a split without violence and Ibushi admitting that he’s lost confidence in one of his Gods in Tanahashi. Tana and Ibushi is the only G-1 Final that even makes sense right now. DO IT, GEDO.)

ZSJ/Taichi: They cackle like supervillains about how well their plan went today. Taichi offers ZSJ a cool, refreshing Zima because Taichi is driving today, so ZSJ drinks up. Taichi mocks Tanahashi’s comeback, calling him a fool, all it was was a small series of wins. But that was part of their plan, to lull you into a false sense of security. They let Tanahashi get carried away, so how do you like that, Golden Balls? (BURN!) No more chances, and even their ugly fans can’t complain, just a bunch of hopeless women that dream about them. Shouldn’t Tanahashi take the blame this time? Even Ibushi can’t excuse him. That’s why the titles stayed with them. ZSJ says that this team is unstoppable, the Aces didn’t even deserve a return match, they were just kind and generous. The Ace is dead, long live Dangerous Tekkers! No one in New Japan can stop them! Taichi says that he and Zack will be leading the tag division from here on in, and the belts are worthless but they can salvage them. (The fire alarm goes off out of nowhere.) ZSJ wonders if they’re trying to set the Tekkers alight? Why isn’t everyone panicking? Taichi wants to know if that’s their cue to stop. Are they being told to leave? Taichi asks if they’re assassins from Golden Balls, and says they can talk for 20 more minutes if they want to! Taichi guesses that no one is coming after their titles, because they’re all too scared, since the Tekkers have both the brains and the skills. They wrap it up with more shots at the Aces and leave with their titles (ZSJ also steals the bowl of Zima in a funny moment). (This was really long and they said the same thing over and over again. I wasn’t too fond of it and I think it would have been better in about half the time. They’re arrogant shitheels, that’s all you need, and you only need small doses of it.)

Back to the ring for Naito’s promo. He asks if everyone enjoyed themselves, then thanks everyone watching on TV and New Japan World, and especially those who braved the heat to come out to the stadium. He talks about the current situation, knowing that there’s a lot to endure but believing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s get through this together! He wants to close out the night as he normally does, but since they can’t all yell out, he asks that they yell out with their hearts. He does the roll call and fireworks fill the sky to the delight of the commentary team. In his backstage interview, Naito talks about being a fan for all these years, coming to the stadium 21 years ago, and how he wishes he could have told that Naito that someday he’d be back in the main event, winning. He says that the September tour will be a short one, but he’ll still get to do what he’s always wanted, to tour as the champion. He’ll see all of us then.

Well, we’re 6000 words in, but let’s do a bit on the G-1.

Obviously, the G-1 is going to be different this year. Here’s my list of the folks I think are guaranteed to be in so far:

EVIL, Hirooki Goto, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi, SANADA, Taichi, SHO, Tetsuya Naito, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI, Zack Sabre Jr. 

That’s 13 wrestlers that I’m pretty sure are going to make it in, regardless of anything else happening in Japan right now. 

On the bubble: Minoru Suzuki, Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, Togi Makabe, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Yujiro Takahashi. The first 5 are on the bubble for age reasons, as the G-1 can take a lot out of a wrestler, much less the fact that guys like Suzuki and Nagata are over 50 and probably shouldn’t be worked too hard in the midst of a pandemic. Yujiro is probably in, but I hope not. 

Fill-ins if they can’t get to 20: El Desperado, GEDO, Hiromu Takahashi, Yota Tsuji, Yuya Uemura, Ryusuke Taguchi. I would assume that Hiromu is going to take it easy to rehab, but I can see him in if he’s passable. The rest are all literal fill-ins if needed.

Now, what if folks can make it in from overseas? Well, in that case, you have the following guys to add into the mix: 

Jay White, Will Ospreay, KENTA, Jeff Cobb, David Finlay, Juice Robinson, Karl Fredericks, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Brody King. Plus whoever else they can get. Moxley would seemingly be out because he’s the AEW World champion, and I can’t imagine that AEW wants their champ disappearing for a month to not win the G-1. 

I would think that you want two blocks where if you’re not going to do the Ibushi/Tanahashi Final, you certainly don’t want them in separate blocks, you want them to face off at some point. 

It’s going to be an interesting September. I’m going to try to brush up on my sleep, because yes, I do plan to attempt to cover every day of the G-1 this year. God help me.

And with that, I’ll take my leave. Drop a comment below.

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote, 

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter
[email protected] for email