NJPW Power Struggle 2016
Edion Arena – Osaka, Japan
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Juice Robinson def. Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi & Teruaki Kanemitsuok
Kanemitsu did the grapple warm-up with the dads pre-match. It was adorable. Kanemitsu did really well in the son role. The match was surprisingly fast paced with all things considered. Nagata took a lot of offense which was fun. The da’s managed to take each other out which led to Robinson and Kanemitsu fending for their teams. A huge ass Kojima like lariat to Kanemitsu flipped him over, then pulp fiction was hit as Juice wins for TenKoji. This was the “zero” match as we got more intermission before the show started. It was good for what it was, and was only five minutes.
Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask, David Finlay & Ricochet def. Fuego, Ryusuke Taguchi, Angel de Oro & Titanok
Fuego went off during his entrance, god bless. These teams are perfect for an undercard tag; even if it is a “loser” match. Really quick but effective sprint to showcase everyone. Everything was fun and simple with lots of offense being thrown in. Fuego got tons of the spotlight after not being utilized the best like it. He managed to be in the ring a lot. We got a dream matchup of Ricochet and De Oro but it was cut VERY short. The finish saw a Finlay Roll/moonsault combo that wouldn’t be a bad idea as a regular finish for them as a team. Undercard matches like this are a good time and help the card pass by well.
BONE SOLDIER, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens def. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) & Yoshitatsubelow average
Recently Tatsu managed to overcome Bone Soldier on a Road to show, in which he would have become the new Captain New Japan if he were to lose. God help us in these situations. All reviewers across the land of our pro-wres websites have buried the BONE SOLDIER vs. Yoshitatsu feud, but none did it so elequintly nor wonderfully as Voices of Wrestling’s Andrew Rich. Now that I can’t match that, I digress. The thing is: this wasn’t even a DUD, which is very impressive considering a certain subset of participants. It’s another tip in the cap of this show: not only did the next match deliver, but BONE SOLDIER technically delivered! It was a solid tag with Chase Owens/GBH working well with Makabe putting effort into things. It came down to SOLDIER, Yujiro and Yoshi, then it was mildly awful. Bone hit a uranagi and Yujiro hit the finish on Yoshi for the win. Sigh of relief we didn’t get another DUD.
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa) (c) def. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI)very good
What started out as an inoffensive handwave turned into a really good match! I’m as surprised as you are that G.O.D. broke through the “meh” barrier, but with Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI in there with them, they basically HAD to turn it up. The match remained slow for a good bit with HASHI playing in peril getting decimated. Ishii finally got in for a hot tag which turned around the entire match. From then on it turned into a near elite tag match (not NJPW’s stable) with tons of great offense and near falls. The match kept you on your tippy toes wondering what the finish was going to be. All four men were down at one point in a surprisingly great “rid of their energy” moment. The finish came and boy was it ever awesome. YOSHI got hit with multiple double teams but Ishii was there to save the day. HASHI was saved by Ishii. He kicked out. But finally Ishii was gotten rid of for good. A GUN STUN COUNTER TO MADE IN JAPAN and the double Implant DDT was hit as GOD retain in their best effort ever. Yet another tip in the cap of this show. Excellent pro wrestling down the stretch that further legitimizes both teams, and G.O.D. (for now…).
Super Junior Tag Team Tournament Final: Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) def. ACH & Taiji Ishimorivery good
This began to feel obnoxiously dragged out while reaching its peak, but that’s what it’s supposed to be, as it’s a tournament conclusion chasing an “epic” match workload. The work was very good all around. It was just dragged out with no real pacing or subject but maintained a high-paced junior tag match flow. Rocky Romero was the one that managed to survive everything. Early on working through their comedic teamwork troubles, RPG got ddominated for a good majority of the match. ACH and Ishimori served well as the cool, cocky team that thought they’d had this in the bag. There’s so much innovation every time they step into the ring. There’s a move I’ve never seen pulled out every time they work togather. With that came the drawn out match, but it never dipped below solid. It remained fun. So many things pulled out of both team’s hats such as: a stunner facebuster combo, a backflip press slam off top rope, a torture rack/knee to the face from the top rope, top rope German’s, dives, and more. ACH and Ishimori hit their stereo shooting star presses onto RPG’s knees which led to a good near fall. Eventually the finish came seeing ACH take the Strong Zero for the win. Very good tournament final that sets up RPG for The Bucks well.
We got a brief segment post match with RPG Vice vs. The Young Bucks being set up for Wrestle Kingdom 11. They laid the challenge down as Nick and Matt accepted. Thank goodness it’s not a multi man this time around. The streak…is over.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA def. BUSHI (c)great
The lackluster feud comes to an end. What wasn’t lackluster though was this match. This is everything I’ve wanted from these two since they began their feud. This was a GREAT match, bordering fantastic. From the jump it was miles better than the Destruction “match” which was filled with obsurce work and run ins. KUSHIDA channeled his inner Jerry Lawler at the start of the match, hitting a piledriver on the outside on BUSHI. BUSHI was so enraged his enemy got the better of him that he dragged out his offense, continually dominating one of the better face in perils in the world, KUSHIDA. It went by so fast, at 14 minutes, but was worked so well. BUSHI hit an MX but KUSHIDA kicked out. He got even more pissed, trying everything, inlcluding a Canadian Destroyer, and multiple MX attempts but KUSHIDA provided why he’s the ace of the division by countering an MX into a hoverboard lock, — after kicking out of anything thrown at him. KUSHIDA kept trying for the hoverboard lock, closer to victory than ever. Eventually all the domination and hits of signatures and finishers proved to not matter, as KUSHIDA completed the comeback to tap out BUSHI with the hoverboard lock to win back his title. What he didn’t know, though, was that the time bomb was about to explode.
After weeks upon weeks of speculation, the timebomb was unveiled to be the easiest pick of them all: Hiromu Takahashi, previously known as Kamaitachi from whereever you’ve seen him. It was such a spectacular unveil with pyro for the time bomb complete with an abstract video explaining that the person was about to, essentially, bloom. Takahashi walked out with his trademark red dye, copping a punk rock jacket with the Misfits on the back among other legendary acts. He possessed such an odd swagger, one that ante up’d old Kamaitachi’s. He got in the ring, as this was looking like a Tokyo Dome battle in the making. He randown KUSHIDA, avoiding a handshake or contact, only to lick his title! Talk about making yourself different. As Takahashi walked off, the timebomb’s fallout is evident, as KUSHIDA got to say a few last words. We all know what’s going down on January 4.
Bullet Club (Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) & Adam Cole) def. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Gedo, Will Ospreay & Hirooki Goto)great
This was yet another great multi man in the Bullet Club vs. CHAOS saga. Everything was put together so masterfully to create an environment where anyone was a threat at any given time, even the always fantastic Gedo (coughs, in my WDKW100), who tried to stand up to the four Club boys, only to be superkicked into oblivion. Gedo provides the perfect comedy sidekick vibe in these tags and it’s never put over enough. He always pops me and the fellow fans. To keep explaining why everyone was made to look like a threat, look no further than Bullet Club dominating everyone as a pack, the way it should be. Ospreay came off more of a star than ever, continually saving his team from near falls and hitting ridiculous spots and dives such as a triple handspring kick, Sasuke special, stundog millionaire on Cole plus more. Goto got misted with the hairspray but that proved to be ineffective, as in the most effective Goto spot in a while, he hit a Buck with an Ushigoroshi while still being sprayed. Okada still ran through folk, but was eventually pinned by Omega in a wonderful booking decision. Everything was and remains great about these tags. They’re my favorite match on every show. Omega now has a clean win over Okada headed into the last few laps of the build to the Tokyo Dome. This has been labelled as a Dragon Gate-like match (in a great way) by other watchers, and I whole-heartedly agree.
NEVER Openweight Championship: EVIL def. Katsuyori Shibata (c)great
This hit everything right on the head and was a passing of the torch. Both men went above and beyond to put on a hell of a brawl-like encounter. Everything made sense and was hyper-realistic, something you’d expect from these two. Early on EVIL decimated Shibata’s shoulder. He already gets how to be an annoying dominant big man heel, an example being grinding his foot against the shoulder tape of Shibata keeping him in peril. Shibata fought back though, turning the match in his favour. This led to a ridiculous sleeper spot that saw him hit an inverted suplex on EVIL, dumping him on his head after choking him for well over a minute. Everything was overly executed to a degree in which the opponent was looked to be knocked out or temporarily hurt. Well, duh, because they’re feuding and hate each other. The match spilled to the outside where the ref was killed by EVIL “on accident” which led to a home run chair shot x2, with the last being on Shibata’s face in the middle of the ring. EVIL hit the STO and while staring down the camera in a picture perfect scene, he pinned Shibata to win the NEVER title. He had to cheat not only to inflict maximum damage, but to win. The layout, offense, roles, and finish were all awesome and complimentary to the story that was told via two fantastic wrestlers. A huge win with all things considered. Now please bump up Shibata to the main event scene. Thanks.
Hiroshi Tanahashi def. SANADAvery good
The match kicked off with a Tanahashi special: an extremely methodical feeling out process for the first 5 minutes until Tanahashi hit a sling blade on the apron as well as a top rope high fly flow to the outside. 0-100 real quick. Though it didn’t touch the G1 match, the pace kept stuttering but provided us with quality moments. It was back and forth with tons of counters and solid wrestling; it never fully connected with me but I knew this was always going to be baseline good. SANADA went for a moonsault but landed on his leg which led to very good work over with a sharpshooter and dragon screws. In an even better bit, SANADA got his knee up for the high fly flow but immediately sold his leg like it killed him to do so. The counters were unreal as the match kept both on an equal wavelength. Skull end attempts on roll-ups on elbows, plus way more. Sanada did a moonsault skull end transition but it wasn’t enough. Tanahashi stayed with the momentum hitting another dragon dcrew. High fly flow to the back, and in a callback to the G1, NO sandy cutter (for those unfamiliar with that joke name, an RKO) is hit and Tanahashi wins this time. It never went that extra mile past this. A very good match but not as magical as the past encounter. Tanahashi gets a win as he’s primed for Naito in the Dome. Speaking of…
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Jay Lethaleh
Bad. The one word that can be used to describe the position these two were put in. Bad. The one word that can be used to describe the connection between NJPW, native Japan fans, and the ROH talent shoved down their throat in “big matches”. This was another instance, where the work was fine, the crowd was dead sans the portions where Naito was being cheered on or popped for via moves. There was never a reason given for this “huge” main event and why it should matter to those fans. Lethal does not matter a single bit to them. To make things worse, the match was 24 minutes. You could feel all 24. Even though we got some cool things like the Koji clutch, an inverted Kamikaze Clash turned into a crossface, good counter wrestling, the usual trademark offense from both — it didn’t matter. The crowd didn’t care, I tuned out early on, and the rest was history. I wish I could do a better job covering this match, but it just didn’t do it for me. You could watch GIF highlights and be good. There’s nothing worse than when you get a great, top flight show, only for the main event to pull the plug early as all the excitement goes down the drain for your “premier” attraction. This was it. The match wasn’t worked bad at all times, as down the stretch it could easily be considered good in theory. It was the pacing also. The brutal elongated stretch that just had to be placed in the booking sheet for this match, because it was a title match and the main event. Chop 10 minutes off and I wouldn’t be so harsh. That isn’t the case here, as after 24 minutes, Naito finally hit Destino on Lethal to retain the title. This was one of the worst main events of 2016, not from an in ring sense, but the fact that it was annoyingly long and the crowd had no reason to care, (which means they subsequently) didn’t care one bit aside from the aforementioned Naito buzz that’s always existent. And this is Osaka, the place that Los Ingobernables de Japon were put over the top on multiple occasions. Because they love Naito. Biggest match of Lethal’s career my behind. This was a failure.
After the match Hiroshi Tanahashi was out to challenge for the Tokyo Dome. He explained that facing Naito would be his last shot to be at the center of the card, and that they are in reversed positions this year. Naito eventually accepted with ease, surprisingly. Tanahashi will have to bring it to the Dome. With that, three matches were setup this show on top of the star-studded clash in the main event. January 4 now looks like: The Young Bucks will defend vs. Roppongi Vice, KUSHIDA will defend against Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito will defend vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Kazuchika Okada will defend against G1 Climax winner Kenny Omega. It’ll be another show for the ages, but the build hasn’t stopped — and neither has New Japan being (for the most part) totally awesome this year. Stay tuned for more NJPW in-depth coverage as the Road to the Tokyo Dome develops.
NJPW POWER STRUGGLE 2016
Excellent - 8.5/10
Even though we got the abysmal main event to finish off the show, Power Struggle was more than an amazing show. It was pro wrestling magic barring a few five minute matches and the aforementioned main event. I recommend SIX matches to watch on the show, from very good-great which is quite mind-blowing in that this is supposed to be a B-show. Three more matches were setup for January 4 in unique ways. To add onto the match quality, we also got those segments and the epic return of Hiromu Takahashi. NJPW is still my promotion of the year, and they're still cranking out wonderful shows when at their peak, aka the few biggest shows a year. With G.O.D. and BONE SOLIDER somehow providing non-DUDS, that's another thing to think about. When at its peaks, New Japan really can't go wrong right now. See you on the rest of the Road to the Dome.