Saturday, November 7, 2015
NJPW Power Struggle Review
This morning, the last big New Japan show before their biggest show, Wrestle Kingdom, aired. Power Struggle was headlined by an Intercontinental Title match, while also featuring a NEVER Title match and the finals of the Super Jr. Tag Team Tournament.
Lately, the Young Lions have certainly been a highlight of New Japan shows, opening things with some really solid matches. This was more basic than those. It was a step below their usual work though I’m not exactly sure why. It just seemed to be missing something. It was acceptable stuff but very skippable. I felt like the finish was rather abrupt. The most important piece of information from this was that it seemed like Jushin Thunder Liger challenged Tiger Mask for the NWA Junior Heavyweight Title and it seemingly was accepted.
This might have been the most random of six man tags I’ve seen in New Japan, and I’ve seen some random ones. Togi Makabe, Juice Robinson and Capt. New Japan are just strange bedfellows for sure. Despite this being weird, the work in the match was pretty good. Juice still seems to be trying to find his groove and seemingly got hurt during the match. He couldn’t even really put weight on his leg so maybe it was legit. Tama Tonga did well again, and he’s probably my third favorite member of the Bullet Club behind AJ and Anderson. He pinned the Captain after a double arm DDT.
For those that missed it, EVIL is Watanabe, having his first match in New Japan in about two years from what I’m reading. He is now part of Los Ingobernables and has a completely revamped character. It’s actually really way over the top and comes off as campy at times. He came out in a grim reaper robe which was pretty ridiculous but not overly terrible. Goto has had a pretty good year even though he fell some after dropping the Intercontinental Title, so I was curious about how this would end. Tetsuya Naito, who hadn’t been on the current tour, came out and caused the rare New Japan disqualification. They continued the attack on Goto until Shibata ran out for the save. The DQ worked here since it’s not done often here and the match itself was pretty physical. Solid stuff here.
Four of the teams that didn’t make the finals of the Super Jr. Tag Team Tournament compete in an eight man tag. Now, the Bullet Club team featured four of my five least favorite performers in New Japan so I didn’t go in with confidence. They ended up doing okay with what I kind of expected from them. The Time Splitters and reDRagon are both great teams and did well, though I had to sit through the Bullet Club guys just being themselves. I don’t enjoy the Bucks, Omega overdoes the campiness and Owens is devoid of charisma. If you must see this, enjoy the face teams and that’s all. It seemed like KUSHIDA is looking for an IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title match soon as well.
I’ve voiced my opinions on the Junior divisions in New Japan but I found myself actually really enjoying this. Of all of the teams involved in the tournament, I think Roppongi Vice has had the best matches. Both teams busted out some very impressive spots. Roppongi Vice showed great chemistry while Sydal and Ricochet got to show off how athletic they are. Baretta was selling the leg, which reDRagon targeted heavily and I truly appreciate that. He didn’t magically heal or act like it, which I loved. It didn’t play into the finish or anything like that, but still. Sydal and Ricochet hit stereo shooting star presses to win. Their celebration was cut short as reDRagon and the Young Bucks appeared. This set up a four way for the Tokyo Dome, making the tournament pretty worthless. Yes, I get that the Bucks have a rematch and Roppongi Vice beat reDRagon but it came off as the usual lazy booking for the division. The match itself was still better than I expected and a lot of fun.
Following intermission, we got this tag match between the Bullet Club and Chaos. It was here to get AJ Styles back into the mix after his recent back injury. He did more than I thought he would here and looked impressive. YOSHI-HASHI was kind of just there, while Toru Yano was his comedic self. I always enjoy him. Bad Luck Fale played the big man role about as well as he could. Styles won with Bloody Sunday followed by the Styles Clash. This was fine.
Much like the Juniors division, the NEVER division has featured a lot of matches that I’ve seen multiple times. This is another one. They faced for the vacant title back in February in a match that a lot of people called the Match of the Year. I preferred their match in the G1 Climax when HONMAMANIA ran wild. This was pretty much their other matches and that was perfectly fine. They go to war every single time out and did so here again. The crowd just absolutely loves Honma and the Osaka crowd is always hot. They completely bought into the possibility of Honma winning but it was not to be. As usual with Honma, the Kokeshi was his downfall as he missed and it led to the Ishii victory.
I really liked this tag team match. The interactions between Tanahashi and Okada were fantastic as always. What really stuck out to me though was seeing Okada and Shibata go at it. It made me want to see a match between the two at some point next year, even if it’s just in the G1. Back to the Wrestle Kingdom main event though, both guys acted like total dicks throughout, which is not something you see often. Tanahashi hit Sakuraba with the High Fly Flow and Shibata finished it off with the GTS. After the match, Okada and Tanahashi came face to face and Okada kicked away the G1 briefcase. This led to a pull apart brawl that was cool to see. Okada used the briefcase as a weapon and this came off rather well.
These two had a really solid match in the G1 Climax and I expected this to be about as good as that. Instead, it proved to be an improvement. I’m not always a fan of matches that feature Bullet Club interference but I think it worked well here. It wasn’t overdone and really only used to give Anderson the upper hand. Nakamura made his rally and they ended up going back and forth with some big time counters, including a second rope Gun Stun. Props to Anderson, who not only did a good job in his performance but he also didn’t outshine Nakamura, knowing that he had to come off as the bigger star. Nakamura won with what I believe was his second Boma Ye. Post match, AJ Styles got in Nakamura’s face. The crowd’s reaction to this was pretty great and it seems like we’re getting Styles/Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom, which is the match I want more than any other right now.
Overall: A very good show from New Japan here. I wasn’t excited about the card but it over delivered. The first half of the show is decent but once it reached the Jr. Tag Title Finals, it kicked into another gear and everything after that was between good and great. The two title matches were the best of the night, while the Okada/Tanahashi tag and tournament finals were damn good