Sunday, November 5, 2017
NJPW Power Struggle Review
It’s your Kickoff match, presented by Mountain Dew Kickstart! I’m all for getting the chance to see a Young Lion in singles action, especially Kitamura. Finlay came in with a shoulder injury, which caused him to miss some of the tour. Like a moron, he went for a shoulder block and it backfired. He grounded Kitamura in an attempt to combat his huge size disadvantage. Kitamura chopped him into oblivion on several occasions, but Finlay survived. He scored with a Stunner to win in 5:32. It says something about Kitamura that when I see him, I expect him to win, even though Lions never do. This was a solid pre-show match. Nothing special, though I know they’d have done better with a healthy Finlay.
Post-match, former Young Lion Finlay helped Kitamura up and shook his hand.
Hey, it’s a truly fun junior tag team! Oh, and the Young Bucks were here too. The “Superkick” Tag Titles were always a dumb idea, but at least it worked when they had the ROH, IWGP and PWG Tag Titles. Now, they just have the ROH Six Man Titles and “Superkick” titles, so it looks lame. This got off to the quick start you’d suspect. Lee and Titan got to showcase some fine tandem offense. The Bucks worked the Sharpshooter for no real rhyme or reason again. Not surprising. Lee hit a rana on Nick to the outside, followed by Titan hitting an Asai moonsault onto everyone. Inside, another Titan moonsault was caught and then he got planted with the Indytaker. Nick applied the Sharpshooter and Matt added a Crossface to win with a move called the Cease and Desist in 7:18. Boy, everyone wearing a Bullet Club shirt out there must think that’s the coolest name for a finish ever. WAY TO STICK IT TO NEW YORK. The match was fine. It featured good exchanges and was fun outside of the usual antics.
We got the typical Suzuki-Gun pre-match attack. They went after Liger and Tiger’s masks, while Sabre seemed focused on Juice’s dreads. I’m sure he’s jealous of the hair. Liger got worked over a bit until tagging Juice. He came in hot and battled Sabre. For those who forgot, they had a fun match in the G1 Special in USA. KUSHIDA locked TAKA in a Hoverboard Lock that Sabre broke by putting him in a submission. Things broke down, with KUSHIDA and Juice sending Kawato out to deliver a huge tope. KUSHIDA then made TAKA tap with the Hoverboard Lock in 5:19. I like that they kept the Suzuki-Gun bullshit to a minimum and gave us some fun moments involving Juice, Sabre, KUSHIDA and Kawato. With the Bucks and KUSHIDA picking up wins, it’s safe to say they’ll be back later to build WK12.
Hi, Mao. Tenzan refused to kiss Cody’s ring, setting up a Bullet Club jumping. How original. Tenzan took the heat segment for most of the match. He made the hot tag to Makabe, who was in “no bumps” mode. He got his shit in, laughed to the crowd, delivered ten corner punches and laughed some more. Chase mocked Kojima’s chops, so Kojima showed him how it’s done. You gotta love Kojima. Bread Club > Bullet Club. Chase continued to mock Makabe and Kojima, leading to Kojima beating him with a lariat in 8:11. TenKoji is always fun. That’s about it. Everyone else was lifeless and this screamed filler.
Apparently, Taguchi and ACH are known as Super 69 because Super represents ACH, while Taguchi was the 69th Jr. Heavyweight Champion. I’ve seen mixed reviews on Roppongi 3K, which confuses me. Sure, they don’t look very comfortable in the gimmick yet, but they can go in the ring and, most importantly, they’re fresh in a division that is BEYOND STALE. There were some fun moments in the early stages, thanks to Taguchi’s usual brand of comedy. It didn’t last too long, because things picked up when the champs targeted ACH’s taped ribs. That lasted a bit before Taguchi got the hot tag. It’s not a spot I usually see him in, but he made it work. One of his dives outside nearly wiped out a cameraman. At least he got a good angle out of it. ACH got involved again and missed a frog splash, which just wrecked his already injured ribs. High risk, brother. Shortly after, Taguchi hit Dodon and ACH removed his rib tape before hitting Midnight Star. However, the damage was too much for him to cover instantly, and the pin was broken up. From there, Roppongi 3K went on quite the run. ACH fought valiantly, but they kicked his ass and hit their finish to become the first champions to ever win the tournament in 15:51. ACH sold the hell out of the ribs, which was the highlight. Roppongi 3K continue to look great, as well. This was laid out very well.
As expected, the Young Bucks came out after the match and issued a challenge for “their” titles. Rocky Romero accepted on behalf of his guys. So, that’s why the Bucks were left out of the tournament. In the end, they just HAVE to be in the title match in the Dome. I’d rather they team with a BC members and join the NEVER Six Man match at WK12, because at least it would be different. Like the WK11 Bucks/RPG Vice match, this doesn’t sound exciting in the least.
Knowing that Naito’s going to the US in February doesn’t give me hope for WK12. Ishii and EVIL started this with some hoss fighting. I’ll never not love that. LIDJ assaulted Chaos outside while Hiromu worked over Tacos in the ring. Naito slammed Okada on the aisle a few times. Things settled down a bit once the match got back to the ring. SANADA and Goto went at it in a battle of a guy who is the future and someone who feels way past his usefulness at this point. Okada’s hair is dyed black again, by the way. He and Naito got the tags to preview the Dome, but Naito just spat at him. They finally went at it, with the crowd eating it up. LIDJ eventually got involved to help Naito. BUSHI ended up as the legal man and was left alone with Okada. Bad move guys. We all know Gedo and BUSHI are in this match to eat the pins. Poor BUSHI. Everyone got some shine during a short moves buffet, before it came down to Okada and BUSHI again. I laugh at how Okada MUST get all his shit in. He can’t just win, he had to hit the Tombstone, elbow, Rainmaker pose, Tombstone on Naito and Rainmaker on BUSHI. At least he didn’t do the wrist hold spot. This went 12:07. It’s LIDJ/Chaos. It’s never bad. Lots of action, though not up to the level we’re used to from these units.
An announcement was made about NJPW returning to the US in March for a show called Strong Style Evolved. It’ll take place in the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, which is a bigger venue than their first US run. If the place is called Walter Pyramid, they need to book WALTER to squash the entire roster.
I’ve never liked their feuds, but the cartoon themed video package for this was hella cool. Speaking of hair changes, Yano’s was back to his old blonder look from a few years back. The stipulation means that Yano can’t run away. Yano got in some cheap offense before being tied together. Once it became official, Minoru beat his ass outside, with some help from Desperado and Kanemaru. Can’t have a straight singles match involving Suzuki-Gun. At least one Chaos guy is a buddy, when Hirooki Goto ran out to fight off the ringside goons. With all that settled, Yano got in a bit of offense. Out came Takashi Iizuka for a distraction, turning the tide. For some reason, the interference was fine, but a chair shot wasn’t, so Suzuki just threw the referee aside. Iizuka missed the iron glove shot, leading to a Yano near fall. Suzuki eventually hit a Gotch piledriver to win in a LONG 15:21. In what world did giving them fifteen minutes sound like a good idea? It went too long, featured too much bullshit and felt like a big waste of time.
This rivalry has been quite great. I’ve seen them wrestle in PROGRESS (****½), Rev Pro (****¼), and the BOTSJ this year (***½), to name a few. Scurll has taken the ROH TV Title and PROGRESS Title from Ospreay in the past, so commentary hammered home how much he owns Will. They worked the opening exchanges at the expected wild pace we know from them. Scurll took a more deliberate pace and threw Ospreay into a bunch of chairs. Their history was evident when a slap exchange had smack talk peppered in. Ospreay countered Scurll’s “just kidding” spot, which might’ve been only the first or second time I’ve seen him do that. Scurll’s finger break spot will never not be cool. Ospreay had the Chicken Wing well scouted, until Scurll countered the Oscutter into it. That’s how things usually go between them, but Ospreay rolled through into a cradle. Scurll rolled into his own and stole the title in 17:28. Great That improved on their BOTSJ stuff. It was the best I’ve seen from Ospreay since that tournament final. Their counter wrestling was great and Scurll always having an answer for Will was spot on. The title change was surprising and got a great reaction.
Out came KUSHIDA. He told Marty, “I wanna challenge you, mother fucker.” Ospreay told him to take his DeLorean and go to the back of the line. He also cursed, because that’s apparently cool. Hiromu joined up, but wore a helmet and put on gloves to avoid getting knocked out or having his finger snapped, which stopped him from challenging at two previous shows. Hiromu Takahashi is a treasure. He’s the best thing to happen to this division in so long. He issued his challenge Scurll got tired of this and agreed to face all three at the same time. Looks like another Tokyo Dome match is set.
Look at Trent moving up in the world. I know he worked Yujiro at a recent show, but this is the big test for him. Omega treated him like he didn’t belong, slapping his head and talking trash. The action spilled outside, where Baretta was suplexed onto the back of a table. It looked painful as hell. Kenny added a double stomp onto the table, complete with a The Shining like “HERE’S KENNY” through the broken part of the table. Kenny was more vicious and aggressive than usual here. Baretta fought back with a sweet sliding German, but his apron piledriver got countered into a wild backdrop spot. He got it to work on his second attempt, but he follow-up dive saw him crash through the remains on the table used earlier. It was cool of them to bring it back into play. Baretta continued to show heart, beating the countout just before 20. Baretta survived more punishment and nailed the Dudebuster, but was too hurt to cover instantly and Kenny kicked out. Omega hit the reverse rana and used a lackadaisical pin that Baretta turned into his own pin, causing a near fall that harkened back to the previous match. A pissed Omega hit a V-Trigger and One Winged Angel to retain in 21:23. One hell of a match. Omega was the overconfident champ who underestimated his opponent, which is a story that almost always works with the right talents. Baretta showed a ton of fire and played the underdog so well. Kenny is on quite the roll right now and he helped solidify Baretta tonight.
Don Callis gushed over how there was nobody left for Kenny to beat. Kenny got on the microphone and put over Baretta, welcoming him to the heavyweight division. He said this is the time of the show when whoever is challenging him for the Tokyo Dome makes it known. He called out anyone, but got no takers. Kenny spoke in Japanese and signed off, before the lights went out. A countdown appeared on the screen and “Judas” began playing. IT’S CHRIS JERICHO! On the screen, he held a phot of Kenny Omega and ripped it up, before saying he’s the best in the world, not Kenny. He said people claimed others were the best, like Edge, Shawn Michaels and CM Punk, but he’s the alpha of the business. He wants to prove it against the Omega. Jericho challenged Kenny to a match at Wrestle Kingdom 12. The crowd went nuts and Kenny accepted. I must give Gedo, a typically predictable booker, credit for this curveball. We all expected Ibushi/Omega in the Dome. To be fair, I’d prefer Ibushi/Omega there because of their history and think Omega/Jericho would’ve been a fantastic main event for their next US show, but I’m all for this match.
Tanahashi beat Ibushi in the G1 25, while Ibushi beat him in this year’s G1 27 (both ****¼). Tanahashi worked this at a deliberately slow pace. It was smart, as it helped he crowd calm down a bit from the Jericho video. Tanahashi went after the leg, taking out some of Ibushi’s best offense, while also attacking the neck, which Ibushi injured a while back. Ibushi shrugged off the leg work to hit he Golden Triangle moonsault and a double stomp. Tanahashi refused to let that go, coming back with more dragon screws. He applied the Cloverleaf that won him the title back in June. Kota survived, but each time he got something going, Tanahashi went back to the dragon screw. Tanahashi hit High Fly Flow to the outside, taking his first risk of the night. Ibushi began his comeback and nearly murdered Tanahashi with the lawn dart. The slow motion replay is gruesome. Both guys missed their top rope finishers, leading to a brutal slap exchange. It got way more physical than you’d expect. In one of my favorite moments, Ibushi kicked the shit out of Tana in the corner and Red Shoes was giving him the five count, so Ibushi held his arm up, stopping him from counting to five, all while continuing to kick the fuck out of the champ. When the Last Ride wasn’t enough, Ibushi wanted the Kamigoya knee that won their G1 match. Tana countered into a slingblade, before getting two on a dragon suplex. Two High Fly Flows kept Ibushi down at 29:26. Excellent match and the best NJPW has put on since the G1. Tanahashi came in with a masterful game plan. Ibushi was awesome for the most part, though he could’ve sold the leg better. Still, he’s one of the best on the planet. I love how, in a world with Okada breaking records and Omega getting loads of praise, Tanahashi can still go out and remind you of how great he is. Tremendous intensity and the right amount of heel moments from both. It never felt like it went long and was expertly laid out.
Tanahashi and Ibushi embraced after the match. Tanahashi was left alone for the show closing promo and air guitar solo. The lights went out and we got the reveal of “switchblade.” Thank god it wasn’t Sami Callihan. Instead, we were treated to the returning Jay White, back from excursion. I’m so happy he’s done with ROH. He told Tanahashi he would take his “kingdom” at Wrestle Kingdom and they went at it. White laid him out and left his knife necklace on Tanahashi’s body. This is huge for White, who was a Young Lion about two years ago and is now slated to face Hiroshi Freaking Tanahashi in the Tokyo Dome.
Overall: I didn’t expect much from Power Struggle, but it was a strong show. The undercard stuff was nothing special, as usual, though it setup victories for the guys who needed it. Nothing on the undercard was flat out bad either. The Super Jr. Tag Tournament Finals were very good and LIDJ/Chaos always delivers. The NEVER Title match was total shit and is an easy skip. The last three matches delivered in spades, with the last two being some of the best work from those four this year. Most importantly, it set the stage for Wrestle Kingdom and opened doors for some very interesting matches, mostly due to the Jericho and White segments.