Saturday, November 5, 2016

NJPW Power Struggle Review

NJPW Power Struggle
November 5th, 2016 | Edion Arena in Osaka, Japan

It’s the least interesting NJPW card since I started watching them consistently. Outside of the Super Jr. Tag Tournament Finals, the big bouts are all rematches and while most should be good, it just doesn’t feel exciting. Either way, here goes nothing.

Juice Robinson and TenKoji def. Manabu Nakanishi, Teruaki Kanemitsu and Yuji Nagata in 5:49
Though this aired, it was basically a dark match since it came before the intro video and things like that. I wasn’t planning on reviewing it but I have the time today and I love the New Japan dads. Kanemitsu was clearly here to take the loss. Still, he showed fire and looked to be enjoying working with the legends around him. And Juice. Speaking of Juice, I don’t think he’s great, but he’s a guy who always works hard. His strange small rivalry with Nakanishi continued. We got treated to AIR MANABU! Juice got the win for his team with an Unprettier on Kanemitsu. As expected, this was nothing special. A rather enjoyable match that the fans enjoyed. **½

David Finlay, Jushin Thunder Liger, Ricochet and Tiger Mask IV def. Angel de Oro, Fuego, Ryusuke Taguchi and Titan in 5:28
Nothing on this show will top the entrance of the CMLL guys and Taguchi. Nothing. Please keep Fuego around. He makes Taguchi tolerable. This followed the typical multi-man tag formula in NJPW. Everyone got a chance to get their shit in basically. However, the CMLL guys continued to work their asses off. They, along with Ricochet, Finlay and Liger brought energy to this. Taguchi and Tiger Mask were kind of just there. Ricochet hit the shooting star press and Finlay got the pin in a match that went a bit too short to be really good. Still fun though. Bring back the CMLL guys for sure. ***

BONE SOLDIER, Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi def. Great Bash Heel and Yoshitatsu in 7:36
This need to capitalize every letter in your name is annoying. You don’t deserve it Bone Solider so I’m not doing it again here. This rivalry has been all sorts of awful. The Bullet Club D- minus team attacked before the bell and most of the match was brawling. Togi Makabe didn’t seem to care much, the rest of the guys are pretty bad and only Honma brought anything interesting to this. The BC blocked a Yoshi Pedigree and he ate some finishers, capped by a DDT from our resident pimp to end things. This sucked and yet, it was the best match of their series so far. *

IWGP Tag Team Championship: The Guerillas of Destiny (c) def. Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI in 14:32
If it wasn’t for their theme, you’d be able to hear a pin drop when G.O.D. came out. Absolute silence. Rightfully so since they’ve been dreadful in their time as a time. I mostly blame Tanga Roa. After some basic back and forth to start, YOSHI ended up taking the heat. G.O.D. worked smoother than ever and looked impressive. Ishii got a relatively hot tag and did his thing. YOSHI showed just as much fire before racking up several near falls that the live crowd bit on. They actually made people believe the title would change hands when most, including myself, knew they wouldn’t. It came down to YOSHI and Tama Tonga. YOSHI blocked the Gun Stun and picked up another near fall. Then, in one of the best counters all year, Tonga smoothly turned Karma into the Gun Stun. The champs retained after hitting Guerilla Warfare. That blew away my expectations. Finally a really good match from G.O.D. Ishii and YOSHI brought the energy that we get from them in Chaos tags and it helped immensely. Everyone worked hard to deliver a match that the fans ate up. I expect Ishii and Goto to win the WTL and face G.O.D. at Wrestle Kingdom. This is the highest score I’ve given a IWGP Tag Title match since WK9. ***¾

Super Jr. Tag Team Tournament Finals: Roppongi Vice def. ACH and Taiji Ishimori in 18:49
ACH and Taiji Ishimori are the most interesting, fun and exciting thing to happen to this division since reDRagon. Roppongi Vice have been arguing non-stop for months but reached the finals. Rocky got bested by Ishimori early on and went to hug Beretta in the corner like they do but got aggressively shoved back. They patched things up soon after but quickly found themselves in trouble. Rocky got a pretty hot tag and picked up a near fall. RPG Vice avoided the stereo 450 splashes so ACH kicked the hell out of Beretta and Ishimori took out Rocky outside with a moonsault. Rocky looked dead but fired up with a FUCK YOU and RPG Vice rallied. ACH and Ishimori had some left in them, surviving big double team offense and ACH nailed an awesome fosbury flop. RPG Vice got their knees up on double 450s, continued to go at it and eventually won with the Dudebuster/dropkick combo. Good match, bad booking. ***½

That’s typical Gedo for you. The fresh, exciting team loses in favor of the same old, same old. RPG Vice challenged the Young Bucks for a match at the Tokyo Dome. Matt joked about no four way this year but they accepted. Oh cool. So instead of ACH & Ishimori (who had the best Young Bucks in recent NJPW memory) we get RPG Vice/Bucks again. The only excuse for this is if the NOAH sale means the partnership with NJPW is in trouble. Still, Bucks/RPG Vice sounds pitiful.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA def. BUSHI (c) in 15:11
This is the fourth match between these two this year. The first (New Beginning) was great, second was really good (BOTSJ) and the third was good (Destruction). They’re getting progressively worse but still not bad at all. Right from the opening bell, KUSHIDA charged and attacked BUSHI, leading to him getting booed a lot. BUSHI weathered the storm but also got booed when he choked KUSHIDA with his shirt. Does the crowd just not like cheating? The stuff they did in the match was mostly good but it really just felt like it was all about KUSHIDA getting revenge. I get the angle but it doesn’t make for the best of matches. KUSHIDA won with a wrenched back version of the Hoverboard Lock. Their downward trend continues. This was good but never even sniffed great. The booking was off again because BUSHI felt like a bump in the road for KUSHIDA, rather than a guy they have faith in. ***

After the match, the Time Bomb finally went off. Out came the former Kamaitachi, now known as Hiromu Takahashi. Takahashi challenged KUSHIDA to a title match at the Tokyo Dome (he even licked the belt while it was around KUSHIDA’s waist). KUSHIDA seemingly accepted. I’ve only seen Takahashi have great matches with Dragon Lee but him against KUSHIDA should be miles better than the last two Dome Jr. Title matches (KUSHIDA/Omega and Omega/Taguchi), which both severely lacked.

The Bullet Club (ROH World Champion Adam Cole, Kenny Omega & IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions The Young Bucks) def. Chaos (Gedo, Hirooki Goto, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay) in 14:01
The Bullet Club team is pretty much the IWC wet dream and my nightmare. I don’t think Omega is great but he’s far and away the best guy on that team. We got standard Young Bucks shenanigans, Gedo being Gedo, Ospreay doing athletic shit and a preview of Okada/Omega. An interesting change was that Omega was serious. He shouted at Cole for doing his stupid “ADAM COLE BAYBAY” stuff. Like, shut up dude, we got business to handle. Cole ignored it and did it again shortly after, leading to Gedo kicking him and giving us the gift of “GEDO BAYBAY”. The match progressed as expected and Omega surprisingly pinned Okada with the One Winged Angel. About what I thought I’d get here. Some wackiness and a WK11 preview. My interested in Okada/Omega is still at a 2/10 or so. This match itself was fun though. ***

NEVER Openweight Championship: EVIL def. Katsuyori Shibata (c) in 16:15
EVIL defeated Shibata in the G1 Climax (in a disappointing outing) and then attacked him at King of Pro Wrestling. Unlike the KUSHIDA match, the crowd really liked the non-LIDJ member here. Shibata held serve early until they went outside. There, EVIL wrapped a chair around Shibata’s arm and drove it into the ring post. That put the focus on Shibata’s heavily taped shoulder. EVIL kept the pressure on Shibata for the next few minutes. After Shibata’s made a comeback, this broke down into a good old fashioned hard hitting battle. Some of the shots in this were just vicious. This was going along wonderfully and then we got a ref bump. EVIL used the title and then two chairs before a fisherman buster and STO got him the win. They worked the match I hoped for. It was hard hitting and had the crowd way into it. The title change was surprising. I wasn’t a huge fan of the finish but it was still a damn good title match. ***¾

Hiroshi Tanahashi def. SANADA in 21:33
Their match on the first night of the G1 Climax was pretty awesome. On that night, SANADA went after Tanahashi’s injured shoulder. Here, Tanahashi frustrated him early by being one step ahead. SANADA showcased his athleticism advantage with his awesome leap frogs and a dive outside. They fought up the ramp where SANADA nailed a rana and we got the NJPW countout tease special. Back inside, things went back and forth, with SANADA continuing to use his youth and athleticism to his benefit. Tanahashi went to the dragon screws and a sling blade on the apron. After several failed attempts, SANADA got the dragon sleeper on. Tanahashi wasn’t about to tap out again. SANADA missed the moonsault, Tanahashi missed High Fly Flow and when SANADA missed a second moonsault, he landed on his feet but it hurt thanks to Tanahashi working the leg. SANADA survived a cloverleaf and then got his knees up on High Fly Flow. Tanahashi then countered the dragon sleeper FIVE STRAIGHT TIMES. He hit sling blade, a dragon suplex and two High Fly Flows to win. Slightly better than their G1 match. Tanahashi learned from his mistakes and had the dragon sleeper expertly scouted. In two matches with SANADA, Tanahashi succeeded where Okada failed and made him look like a million bucks. ****¼

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuya Naito (c) def. Jay Lethal in 24:29
Back at a recent ROH show, Jay Lethal pinned Tetsuya Naito, earning his spot as the replacement for the injured Michael Elgin. These two got along at the start of the year back when Lethal was a heel. There was one glaring issue with this right off the bat. Lethal isn’t well known in Japan and the crowd didn’t really seem to care about him. They traded stuff early and Lethal stole Naito’s taunt. Again though, the crowd mostly sat on their hands. The match wasn’t that bad but it was completely heatless, which is just not something I’m used to from Naito over the past year and a half. We knew coming in that Naito would retain and at no point did they make us believe otherwise. That’s where the Tag Title match succeeded and where this failed. Naito won a match that went too long with Destino. Like I said, not enough heat or believability with a lackluster crowd. I like Lethal, but don’t bring him back. It isn’t working in Japan. **½

After the match, Hiroshi Tanahashi came out to challenge Tetsuya Naito for the Tokyo Dome. It seemed like Naito accepted. If there is any justice in the world, they’ll do a fan vote or something and find a way to get Tanahashi and Naito to main event the Tokyo Dome. Naito deserves the main event after the year he’s had and it would bring everything full circle after he lost out on a Tokyo Dome main event because of a fan vote in 2014. Tanahashi/Naito >>>> Omega/Okada.

Overall: 7.5/10. A show that turned out to be better than I expected. Like I said, the card wasn’t interesting, but most of the matches delivered. The main event severely lacked, the BONE SOLDIER matches continue to suck major ass and the Jr. Title match also disappointed. However, the Tag Title match blew me away and the Super Jr. Tag Finals were really solid. The BC/Chaos tag and opener were both good. The NEVER Title match ruled and SANADA vs. Tanahashi was the show stealer. A strong show with a few skippable parts that set up Wrestle Kingdom rather well.