Saturday, October 24, 2015
Earlier this morning, New Japan Pro Wrestling held a “Road to Power Struggle” show. There was also one the prior day that I didn’t have time to review. This works mostly as a house show like event to hype the upcoming Power Struggle event, with the addition of the Super Juniors Tag Team Tournament beginning.
Once again, the Young Lions impressed me. They have been a pretty enjoyable part of recent New Japan shows for me, more so than things like the Juniors divisions and heavyweight Tag division. I liked seeing them work with guys like Goto and Makabe, who I don’t believe I’ve seen them work with before. The Young Lions seemed to be doing their best to impress once again, while Shibata’s team just took joy in kicking their ass. At one point, Goto absolutely slapped the hell out of Tanaka. Just a fun opener that finished when Shibata made White submit to a Boston crab.
This was here to build the Nakamura/Anderson Intercontinental Title match coming up at Power Struggle. With that being the goal, I’d say this accomplished the task. Anderson attacked Nakamura during his introduction taunt and kept going after him. The brawl went through the crowd and saw Anderson steal Nakamura’s jacket and mock him. Anderson was doing a very good job of being the dick heel that you just want to hate. Nakamura would get the win for Chaos with a Boma Ye on Tama Tonga.
It was pretty surprising to see Juice Robinson get shine with guys like Tanahashi and Okada. I loved how, right from the start, Tanahashi and Okada insisted on starting things off, giving fans a preview Wrestle Kingdom. This match built to that, while also focusing on the upcoming NEVER Title match between Ishii and Honma. Those four men work incredibly well against their respective upcoming opponents. There were some funny moments between Gedo and Robinson as well, playing off the old man/young guy dynamic. As expected, one of them was there to eat the pin and it was Robinson after a Rainmaker. Decent enough but felt longer than the actual 15 minutes.
The crowd pretty much loves Liger and Tiger Mask, but they also like reDRagon. That helped the match out as they were hot, which they wouldn’t be for the next contest. reDRagon actually dominated most of this match, which worked for the better. They are the champions and should come across as legit threats. They focused on the arm of Liger, taking him out and leaving Tiger Mask to the wolves so to speak. He would fall victim to Chasing the Dragon. After the match, all four men shook hands and embraced. A good start to the tournament.
This is where I would have done things differently in the tournament. The crowd was dead for this since Roppongi Vice aren’t among the most popular guys and the crowd didn’t care enough about Omega and especially Owens to really get involved. I would have swapped the Time Splitters with Roppongi Vice here. Anyway, Baretta played the face in peril and that lasted far too long. Owens is incredibly bland and generic, which is kind of the opposite of the overly campy Omega. Owens took the pin of course in a match that was kind of just there.
Right off the bat, there are three guys in this match that are among my four least favorite wrestlers in New Japan. Dorada, the one guy I don’t hate, was certainly the star here, busting out some impressive offense. They worked some comedy spots but none of it clicked with me. I enjoy my comedy wrestling when done right (a lot of Toru Yano stuff, some of Santino’s old work, etc.) but when comedy in wrestling is done wrong, it’s pretty awful. That was the case here. None of what they did made me chuckle and I found myself groaning more often than not. They also repeated some spots from the day before that weren't really worth doing again. The Young Bucks advanced with the Meltzer Driver.
Since KUSHIDA dropped the Jr. Heavyweight belt in an absolutely baffling decision and the Time Splitters failed to dethrone reDRagon at Destruction, I felt that they could have used a win in the tournament. Roppongi Vice didn’t and that’s why I would have switched them. The duo of Sydal and Ricochet aren’t my favorite, but they worked very well together and showed off some of their breathtaking aerial skills. The Time Splitters held serve for the most part, which made sense given their regularity as a team. Sydal and Ricochet advanced with stereo shooting star presses in a good match that did feel a bit long near the end. I do think that Sydal and Ricochet are the best choices to win this thing since it would give us something different instead of reDRagon against either RPG Vice or the Bucks for the 100th time.
The Semi-Finals of this tournament take place on November 1st. Sydal and Ricochet meet the Young Bucks, while reDRagon faces Roppongi Vice again.
Overall: About what I’d expect from a show like this. I thought that the opener and main event were the two best things on the card, while reDRagon had a good showing. The other two multi-man tags accomplished their goals of building towards future shows. Despite being under three hours, the show seemed longer, especially during the two bad Jr. tag tournament matches.