New Japan’s last large scale show before Wrestle Kingdom! What kind of surprises do we get? Let’s find out!
The last few years have given us interesting wrinkles at Power Struggle.
Marty Scurll defeated Will Ospreay for the Junior Heavyweight Championship in 2017, to set up the 4 way match at Wrestle Kingdom. 2017 also brought us the birth of The Switchblade and Jericho’s return to New Japan.
Goto beat Taichi for the NEVER Openweight Championship in 2018, which helped Taichi rise in the Heavyweight Division and build his current persona.
Those are just two quick examples from recent memory. So if anything, the show tends to be eventful.
Let’s see what we get this year!
- Volador Jr, Titan, TJP & Clark Connors vs Yuya Uemura, Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi & Jyushin Thunder Liger: TJP wins via Detonation Kick @5:45 – ** ¼
- Rocky Romero & Robbie Eagles vs ELP & Taiji Ishimori: ELP wins via CR2 @8:40 – ***
- Lance Archer, Zack Sabre Jr & Minoru Suzuki vs EVIL, SANADA & Shingo Takagi: SANADA wins via Rolling Double Leg Cradle @9:05 – ***
- Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi vs YOSHI-HASHI & Kazuchika Okada: Tanahashi wins via High Fly Flow @10:50 – ***
- Taichi w/Miho Abe vs Tetsuya Naito: Naito wins via Destino @12:55 – *** ¾
- Super Jr Tag League Finals: Roppongi 3k (SHO & YOH) vs El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru: SHO wins via 3k @14:15 – ****
- NEVER Openweight Championship: KENTA (c) vs Tomohiro Ishii: KENTA retains via Go 2 Sleep @20:10 – **** 1/4
- Junior Heavyweight Championship: BUSHI vs Will Ospreay (c): Ospreay retains via Stormbreaker @16:20 – *** ¾
- IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Jay White (c) vs Hirooki Goto: White retains via Blade Runner @27:40 – *** 1/2
Volador Jr, Titan, TJP & Clark Connors vs Yuya Uemura, Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi & Jyushin Thunder Liger – Two teams from the Super Jr Tag League on each side, and that’s about all the set up this has. A good mixture of Young Lions and Veterans creates a fun dynamic in the match. Aside from Connors going after Liger a bit, there was nothing to take from this match. Uemura was getting a bit of a spotlight during the tournament and this continued to showcase his heart, but still nothing surprising or better than average.
Rocky Romero & Robbie Eagles vs ELP & Taiji Ishimori – Bullet Club got screwed a little because of the points, and that’s the back story here. The Junior Tag champions are frustrated being an opener aside from being in the Finals. This was a fun match, but nothing within itself to further a story between the four men. Just a fun match for what it was.
Lance Archer, Zack Sabre Jr & Minoru Suzuki vs EVIL, SANADA & Shingo Takagi – LIJ and Suzuki-Gun has had a faction feud for the last 2 years. So the heat between the groups isn’t a surprise, and doesn’t always take a lot to get started. Archer and EVIL do big strong man things to kick the match off. Suzuki and Shingo have had a budding rivalry throughout the undercard Super Jr Tag league matches. Then we have SANADA and Sabre, they’ve had numerous great tournament matches, so we all know they are nearly equals. SANADA getting a pin over Sabre Jr, will probably set up a RevPro title shot for SANADA. Maybe at Wrestle Kingdom, maybe a little bit before that, but this could be a good spot for SANADA to get some singles gold while in New Japan.
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi vs YOSHI-HASHI & Kazuchika Okada – At this point we should all know why Ibushi and Okada are on opposite sides of the match. Tanahashi is the person Ibushi respects the most, and YOSHI-HASHI is around to eat the pin. Too on the nose? YOSHI-HASHI is awful, so hush.
Anyway, the match was…sloppy. The threads with Ibushi and Okada kept the action moving and the interactions fun, but this was really one of the worst matches I’ve seen Okada in, undercard tag or not. However, after the match, we see how this was setting up for something bigger.
-Lights go out, Chris Jericho has a video message for BAKAhashi. January 5th, Jericho challenges Tanahashi. This will be interesting to see if Jericho walks out with the AEW Championship (if he still has it) and if this is a Jericho special, or the beginning of a working relationship.
Taichi w/Miho Abe vs Tetsuya Naito – We get a serious version of Naito, which doesn’t show up much. No grinning, no slow Traquilo, they go after each other as soon as they’re both in the ring. Taichi showed great aggression and precision on his offense, Naito showed an edge that hasn’t been there in a long time. Naito’s one moment of cockiness, when he spat on Taichi, backfired…allowing Taichi to counter a Frankensteiner into an Avalanche Powerbomb. Great back and forth from both men, but Naito tapped into something different. He slipped out of Black Mephisto from Taichi, and even decided to steal the move from Taichi. Following that up immediately with Destino, and Naito gets a little momentum and finally puts Taichi in his rear view mirror.
Super Jr Tag League Finals: Roppongi 3k (SHO & YOH) vs El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru – Kanemaru and Desperado jump SHO and YOH during entrances, SHO was laid out on the ramp and YOH fought a handicap match for a good portion of this. The heel team pulled out chairshots and the Satori Mist, but the fan favorite Roppongi team, played great babyfaces in peril. SHO’s back was heavily taped up before the match, so that was an easy target. This was just a lot of resolve shown from SHO and YOH. SHO eventually got the hot tag, sold his ass off, and there were believable near falls on both sides. With the win, Roppongi 3k becomes the first team to win 3 years in a row. Really good, Rock ‘n’ Roll Express style match.
-After the match, Ishimori and ELP attack Roppongi 3k and leave with the Tag League trophies.
NEVER Openweight Championship: KENTA (c) vs Tomohiro Ishii – Both men have a pretty big dislike for one another. Ishii is still irritated at KENTA for his betrayal and the way he screwed him in the tag team championship match. KENTA however, is just reveling in being a smug prick for all of the fans to hate.
This match was probably KENTA’s best match since joining Bullet Club. Great hard hitting back and forth matchup, no Bullet Club interference, and no one can question his health or ability to take a hit. KENTA gave a few glimpses of old NOAH KENTA, with great striking, a cold demeanor and enjoying inflicting the pain. The fact that KENTA lowered the knee pad and hit a second Go 2 Sleep, just to make a point, says a lot without saying anything at all. Damn good match.
Junior Heavyweight Championship: BUSHI vs Will Ospreay (c) – BUSHI made his own destiny by costing the Birds of Prey the Tag League. Ospreay has had a stranglehold on the division, even moving up to challenge Heavyweights this year. We had a few interesting moments, like Ospreay sucking the mist out of BUSHI’s mouth, to mist BUSHI. BUSHI also pulled off a backslide, and then bridged his legs over, and it just looked awkward. Cool looking, but ineffective. The match was solid; just a few odd missteps here or there stopped it from being great. It should be noted that Ospreay managed to kick out of BUSHI’s finish, the MX, which I can’t remember the last time someone kicked out of the MX clean.
-Ospreay says he’s essentially lapped the Division and wants a challenger, then says “he’s not here”. Right when Ospreay is about to leave the ring, the tron starts playing a Ticking Time Bomb, and Hiromu Takahashi returns! Hiromu throws himself into the barricade, the corners; flat back bumps and finishes his promo in the wrestling neck press position to prove his health. Ospreay versus Hiromu, Wrestle Kingdom is set!
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Jay White (c) vs Hirooki Goto – This was a little odd, since the match went back and forth between style dictating who was in charge. Early on Jay hit some suplexes and used the outside to run down Goto, but once the strike exchanges started to pick up, Goto was easily in the driver’s seat.
Aside from the back and forth start, this match really went the way we’ve grown to expect. Once Jay starts to show signs of weakness, Gedo gets involved. The most egregious interference being after Goto hits GTR, goes for the cover and Gedo pulls the referee out. Shibata jumps the guardrail to take out Gedo, but KENTA comes out, hits a Yakuza Kick and Go 2 Sleep on Goto, throws the referee in and gets some free shots on Shibata. Jay wants to put a little flourish on the victory and hits the Blade Runner to retain the title. As a match it was alright, but the heel tactics and general finish just made the whole thing fall flat.
-Afterwards, Naito, Ibushi and Okada come out. Ibushi, Naito and White all want to be double champion. Okada thinks they’re all stupid since the Heavyweight Title is the top title and he doesn’t care about the others. But he takes a great dig at Naito by saying New Japan should put it to a vote, double title match or just Heavyweight. These four are a great way to start the main event picture of 2020.
Overall Score: 8.5/10
The match quality was solid to great and the surprises really helped the show feel like a huge event and keep the energy up. Jericho versus Tanahashi January 5th, Hiromu versus Ospreay and the whole Double Champion/Heavyweight Championship melodrama will be great to get us through the end of the year. Also, it can’t be understated that Shibata taking a few bumps and being actively involved in the main event really does lend to the speculation of KENTA vs Shibata for the NEVER at Wrestle Kingdom.
This was just a lot of great stories, hinting towards high level matches even for lower level belts. It’s a good thing Wrestle Kingdom is two days, since the whole drama with Sabre Jr and SANADA, as well as, Shingo and Suzuki, have high caliber potential, but take a heavy back seat to the larger stories.
Anyone who thinks that New Japan was having an off year might have to eat their hats. This was a great show, and even though no titles changed hands, there were plenty of other large surprises that happened.