Mike Reviews – NJPW Summer Struggle In Jingu (29/08/2020)

Hello You!

Rick’s been doing a fine job handling the New Japan shows on here so I had decided to focus on other things, but then Rick asked me to help out with G1 this year and I’ve been covering A Block (Which you can see read in my archives). I actually hand wrote this back when the show actually happened because I was intrigued by the stadium setting, but then decided not to post it. Seeing as I’ve dipped a toe back in the New Japan well, I decided to just stick this up as well. It’s over a month out of date, but hopefully no less interesting to read.

This was New Japan’s big event of the summer, featuring a rematch between Tetsuya Naito and EVIL for the IC and IWGP Titles. I’m all for them trying new guys and I’ve enjoyed EVIL’s work ever since he got that big win over Okada in the G1 a few years back, so I’m glad he got a shot and I was interested to see how this match went.

So without further ado, let’s watch some chuffing wrestling!

The event is emanating from Jingu Stadium

Calling the action are Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton

Opening Match
Yoshinobu Kanemaru Vs Master Wato

Kanemaru is apparently annoyed that the younger Wato has the nerve to refer to himself as a “master” at the tender age of 23, which does strike me as a very un-Japan thing for a younger guy to do actually. Hiroyoshi Tenzan is cornering Wato and gees him up when Kanemaru leg drops him over the railings outside the ring. Kanemaru plays a decent vicious heel and Wato sells his stuff well, so this is an okay opener. Wato fights back after selling for a bit, getting a nice dive to the floor and then following up with a monkey flip of all things back inside for two.

I’m enjoying this actually, they’ve not done anything crazy but have had a solid match and the work has been sound. Kanemaru heels things up a bit by pulling the ref in the way to momentarily stun him and goes for his bottle of booze. Wato ducks the bottle shot and gets Trouble in Paradise, followed by a weird crucifix slam style move for two. They seem to botch a Tori Bomb and Kanemaru gets a cheeky roll up for the win.

WINNER: YOSHINOBU KANEMARU
RATING: **1/2

Aside from the botch at the end, this was a “perfectly cromulent” opener to steal a phrase

That was my first exposure to the Wato gimmick, and he seems like he has some promise but it probably won’t be achieved in this particular gimmick. Still, he’s practically an embryo at this stage and could still improve.

Match Two
King of Pro Wrestling Trophy
El Desperado Vs SANADA Vs Toru Yano Vs Kazuchika Okada

The story for this one is that everyone won wacky gimmick matches to earn themselves a place in this match for the trophy. Yano does the old Eric Young “afraid of the pyro” spot during his entrance. This is a one fall match and the trophy will then be defended by the winner going forwards. Yano quickly gets the “everyman for himself” aspect of the bout over by trying to roll up Okada. Okada is rocking the gold trunks and white boots here, which always reminds be a bit of Billy Gunn’s “The One” attire from the Attitude Era.

Stablemates Yano and Okada do work together a bit, but soon turn on one another again, with Yano being the star of the match for me with his comedy antics. The Okada Vs SANADA bits are clearly the best actual wrestling in the bout, as their budding rivalry continues to grow. I’m a fan of both, so it’s like fresh muck for my sty when they go at it. SANADA goes to Skull End, but Desperado breaks it up with a frog splash. Part of me thinks he’ll steal it, but Okada fights off his finisher attempt and gets a lovely dropkick before going to his Cobra Clutch style hold. Yano sees his chance however, and gets the dreaded low blow assisted roll up on Okada for the three count before apologising.

WINNER: TORU YANO
RATING: ***

Good match with a nice mix of styles. I don’t care much for Desperado, but I like the other three

Yano has a hilarious celebration, as Okada is almost impressed that Yano had the guts to win the way he did. I’m cool with Yano having fun trophy matches to be honest.

Match Three
NEVER Openweight Title
Champ: Shingo Takagi Vs Minoru Suzuki

This should be a good fight between two tough lads who enjoy themselves a slug fest. It’s a fight from the off, and a darn good one too. I know some don’t like the snug style, but in a lot of ways it’s safer to hit someone hard in a safe place that it is to go nuts with high flying and suplexes. The crowd digs the action and enjoys watching the strikes, clapping along as they aren’t really allowed to cheer/boo. Suzuki openly laughs at Shingo’s attacks at one stage, like the psychotic crazy old man he is, as both men continue to welly one another.

Both men do some click counters and it ends up with Suzuki going to the choke. However, Suzuki just HAS to go for the Gotch Piledriver and Shingo counters it into a Spicolli Driver for the double down. Pumping Bomber lariat gets two for Shingo following that, as does his Made in Japan pumphandle powerbomb styled move. Suzuki slips out of a fireman’s carry and head butts Shingo down before teeing off with strikes. Shingo fights back, as this has been a real war, and the good finishing stretch continues with Suzuki even pulling out a dropkick!

Both men are drenched in sweat by the end, and the selling from both is exactly what it needs to be. Eventually Suzuki points up to the sky to give a shout out to Gotch before managing to successfully deliver the piledriver to pick up the pin and the Title.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: MINORU SUZUKI
RATING: ****

“What a War” says Kelly, and I agree!

Suzuki doesn’t wait around and stomps to the back with his new belt, only stopping briefly to demand a kid in the crowd clap for him, in what was probably one of the scariest moments of that young man’s life!

Kelly and Charlton kill some time whilst the crew disinfects the ring, and they have some fun banter with one another. I think Michael Cole’s robot brain might shut down if he had to do something like that during a WWE broadcast.

Match Four
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Champ: Hiromu Takahashi Vs Taiji Ishimori

Takahashi has a shoulder injury and that should be Ishimori’s way to bringing the belt back to Bullet Club. This is good action from the off, with Hiromu selling the appendage big and Ishimori working it over mercilessly. I do enjoy a good “work the injured body part” match, especially with two good workers performing it, so I’m all for this. One of the few gripes I could have with Steamboat Vs Savage at WrestleMania III is that Savage doesn’t target the throat area enough for my liking. Hiromu spends a lot of the match on the defensive, as it’s clear they are trying to make Ishimori look strong, either to protect him in defeat or to make him look deserving if he wins.

Hiromu does manage to get a flurry in here and there, but Ishimori always seems to have a way of getting back on top. They’ve told a good story and the work has been really strong from both men. The crowd shows they are digging it by clapping along and both men up the ante with bigger and bigger moves. Eventually Ishimori goes to the LaBelle Lock, and we get a good submission tease until Hiromu is able to make the ropes. Hiromu replies with the Time Bomb, but Ishimori kicks out at two and then counters the Time Bomb 2 into Alex Shelley’s Border Stretch submission to pick up the win.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: TAIJI ISHIMORI
RATING: ****1/4

Excellent match, with strong work and good storytelling

Both men again get out of there ASAP, which I’m guessing is part of the COVID regulations?

Match Five
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Champs: Zack Sabre Jr and Taichi Vs Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi

The story here is that the challengers lost the belts and almost split up, but got it together and earned themselves a rematch. Ibushi is now the clear captain of the team though, which makes you think they have some plans for him when Wrestle Kingdom comes around. The faces get to shine on the Champs in the early going, but the heels fight back and we get a brawl followed by some heat on Tana. Tana sells that well and the crowd get behind him. Selling and making the hot tag to Ibushi is a good role for Tana these days actually, because it’s something that plays to his strengths and also helps cover for his physical issues.

Ibushi also does a really good hot tag, as he runs through both heels with some cool looking moves and dives. Taichi and Zack work well as unlikable heels and the end result is a solid tag effort where the formula is executed how it needs to be. In a nice touch, Tana gets tagged back in once Ibushi and Taichi fight to a stalemate and gets the chance to run wild for a but until the heels double up on him. Ibushi evens the odds and the faces get some revenge on the heels by dishing out some tandem offence of their own. It looks like Tana is going to pick up the win with the High-Fly-Flow on Zack, but he dodges it and the heels get the assisted Black Mephisto to pick up the win.

WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: SABRE JR & TAICHI
RATING: ***1/4

Good tag action

Ibushi helps Tana to the back, so their team still appears to be going for now.

Main Event
Double Title Dash
IWGP and Intercontinental Champion: EVIL w/ Dick Togo Vs Tetsuya Naito

Naito was actually in attendance for NJPW’s last show at Jingu and they did a good video package showing him with the ticket. EVIL of course turned his back on LIJ to join Bullet Club, and then beat Naito the next day to win the belts. Lots of people didn’t like it, but then lots of people didn’t like it when Okada beat Tanahashi the first time, or when AJ Styles won the belt, or when Kenny Omega started getting pushed as a heavyweight, but they all turned out alright. Ultimately, Gedo normally has a plan and the plan here was clearly to give EVIL the Title to establish him as a guy who was capable of winning it so that they could put him back in the mix after some more time cooking.

Naito attacks Togo to start, but turns into an EVIL belt shot and we’re off to the races! It’s all a brawl in the early going, with EVIL cheating and using weapon shots. Sadly the crowd isn’t allowed to boo, which hurts the heat a bit as normally they’d be chanting for Naito and giving EVIL pelters. The only downside here is that Naito is historically a very unsympathetic character, although part of me thinks the whole point of this EVIL turn has been so that they could soften Naito’s rough edges a little bit in an effort to make him more of a traditional babyface that you could actually feel sympathy for and want to get behind.

Naito does end up making a good comeback and the crowd claps its support for him, which leads to Togo getting involved again in an effort to buy EVIL some time. I like EVIL’s heel mannerisms and he’s doing well as an unlikable jerk who you want to see get beaten down. It’s just a shame the current no booing or chanting rules work against this sort of gimmick, as he really seems to get what the role entails and I think he has the capability to draw some serious heat once crowds are allowed to do that stuff again.

We get a great looking superplex from EVIL at one stage, but the days of that being a finisher are gone and it only gets two. We get some near falls, as they’ve built this one well and both men have sold consistently, with Naito in particular entering one of his better efforts as a gutsy babyface fighting from underneath. We of course get more heel chicanery from EVIL and Togo, with the commentators at least explaining that LIJ kind of beat to their own drum with this stuff whilst Bullet Club are under strict orders, which is why LIJ don’t always show up when Naito is in trouble.

We actually get some canned boos over the sound system (which is better than nothing I guess) and the ref gets bumped, leading to the two heels doubling on Naito. This time though LIJ decide that they will help out Naito and the combined forces of BUSHI and SANADA send the Bullet Club scattering to grateful applause from the crowd. It’s now one on one and both men go into a good closing stretch. It looks like something gets botched, but they are smart enough to sell it as a double down and that leads to the Emerald Frosion and Destino from Naito to give him the two belts back.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPIONS: TETSUYA NAITO
RATING: ***1/4

Good match that would have worked better in front of a crowd who were allowed to boo, cheer and do more than just clap

Naito gives his victory speech and we get the cool visual of some fireworks going off in the night sky to close us out.

In Conclusion

Two bangers and nothing bad on a six match show make this one an easy thumbs up!