New Japan Pro Wrestling
“Power Struggle”
November 8, 2014
Bodymaker Colosseum – Osaka, Japan
NicoNico (Ordering Details – thanks Alan4L!)

On paper, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Power Struggle looks like one of the best “b-shows” NJPW has produced in quite some time. Sure, it could be the result of stacking a lot of matches that could’ve been spread out over the next few months leading to WrestleKingdom. My theory and one we discussed on last night’s Voices of Wrestling podcast is that NJPW has developed a number of top-tier talents in the past year, making what would’ve been mid-card matches feel as important as ever.

More than that, Power Struggle has a feel of new-ness that’s been lacking in New Japan over the past year. Fresh matchups, fresh guys near the top of the card and a number of different paths and angles on the road to WrestleKingdom.

It would’ve been unheard of a few years ago not only for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship to headline a show but for it to be one of the most anticipated NJPW matches of the year. And yet, Power Struggle will end Saturday morning with either Katsuyori Shibata or Shinsuke Nakamura holding the IC Title in glory.

Other than the main event, Power Struggle is loaded. Even more so if you’re a fan of American independent wrestling as Ring of Honor’s reDRagon, fresh off their Super Jr. Tag Tournament victory, vie for the Jr. Tag Titles against the TimeSplitters. The former Yoshi Tatsu and current, well, Yoshitatsu battles A.J. Styles in his return to New Japan Pro Wrestling. Styles will be accompanied by Global Force Wrestling’s Jeff Jarrett so there’s sure to be shenanigans and guitar shavings everywhere.

Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii will literally attempt to kill one another in a NEVER Openweight Title match and Jushin Thunder Liger steps up to the plate to take on NWA Jr. Heavyweight Champion Chase Owens who will, of course, be joined by the greatest living person in the world, Bruce Tharpe.

Let’s get to our staff’s predictions!

Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov and Rocky Romero) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Taka Michinoku) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson)

Rich Kraetsch: Look, what more needs to be said about this match? It’s the opener and like always it will go 10-13 minutes, be pretty good, the Bucks will throw some superkicks, Koslov will probably die trying a high spot and well, El Desperado will probably kill someone trying a basic move. This will be fun and sprinty and the perfect way to kick off this show.
Prediction: The Young Bucks

Joe Lanza: One of the few matches on the card that feels repetitive, but as a short opener i’m OK with that. It should have a fun closing stretch. The Bucks lost the junior titles a few months back, and then lost to reDRagon (three times in a row, if we’re counting ROH, one of which was a joint show with New Japan), so they need to “get their heat back”, as they say in the biz, so that’s my pick.
Prediction: The Young Bucks

Bryan Rose: I feel like I’ve seen this before. A lot. This division has zero depth, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as most of the teams are pretty good, sometimes even great. I’m feeling like the Bucks win, because they lost the tournament maybe they need a win to rebound. Really, it’s anyone’s game here, but that’s just my line of thinking.
Prediction: The Young Bucks

Fujiwara Armbar: I missed most of the Power Struggle tour and as such I don’t know how these teams are jockeying for position. Only a Suzuki-gun win takes us to a situation that feels somewhat fresh, though not particularly edifying (presumably facing the reDRagon/Splitters winner down the line). Should be a pretty cool match though!
Prediction: Suzuki-gun

Rob Barry: This has been done before right? Anyone besides the Young Bucks makes zero sense to me. I don’t care about either Forever Hooligans or TAKA & Desperado and neither does the front office apparently. It will be a fun sprint full of flips and heavy handed tactics that some will enjoy more than me.
Prediction: The Young Bucks

Kazushi Sakuraba and Toru Yano vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki and Takashi Iizuka)

Rich Kraetsch: Nope, I’m not doing it. Read the last 12 months of New Japan previews for my thought on this match. Not doing it, sorry.
Prediction: Couldn’t possibly care less

Joe Lanza:
Prediction: Iizuka will romp through the crowd. Yano will remove the turnbuckle pad. Sakuraba will sarcastically play pretend pro wrestler like it’s all so beneath him. Nobody will care about any of it.

Bryan Rose: END THIS.
Prediction: AHH

Fujiwara Armbar: The feud of the century that needs no introduction. Men will be men and the only winner is the worldwide audience.
Prediction: you (or Suzuki/Iizuka)

Rob Barry: In the blue corner: Rob and his eternal suffering. In the red corner: THIS FEUD. I’m with Bryan, end this permanently and now. Even if it leads to Sakuraba vs. Suzuki, anything is better than Yano vs. Suzuki at this point. This feels like New Japan’s version of Usos and a midcard talent vs. Dust Brothers and a midcard talent. I don’t care.
Prediction: DEATH BY SAKA OTOSHI!!!

NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship
Chase Owens (c) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger

Rich Kraetsch: THARPE! Let’s hope Chase is a little less nervous this time around and can really shine because he was quite disappointing in his first match with the company. Either way, the crowd will be hot for Liger, Tharpe will be Tharpe and I think we could have a huge upset here with Liger touring the United States, which would be incredible for us Americans.
Prediction: Jushin Thunder Liger

Joe Lanza: With Tharpe calling out Liger so aggressively, and Liger hinting at one last title run before he hangs up the horns, this all adds up to a feel good win, and hopefully a nice farewell U.S. tour of grimy southern NWA territories this winter for the legend.
Prediction: Jushin Thunder Liger

Bryan Rose: I liked what I saw of Owens last month, and Liger is still pretty decent. Not expecting the best match of all time, but should be pretty decent. I’m guessing they brought Owens over to lose to Liger, so I’m guessing we’ll see a new NWA Jr. heavyweight champion crowned at this event. Denny Brown will shed a tear.
Prediction: Jushin Thunder Liger

Fujiwara Armbar: Is this the beginning of Liger-san’s last stand? He alluded to it in the press materials after the KOPW event. I enjoyed Owens at the last event though not many shared my love. Tharpe-desu will be Tharpe-desu. Liger will take the title.
Prediction: Jushin Thunder Liger

Rob Barry: This is Liger’s last stand, I’m calling it right now. Owens is solid and Tharpe is the best part of the NWA invasion. Liger wins the title and makes one final run before riding off into the sunset.
Prediction: Jushin Thunder Liger

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson and Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Captain New Japan, Tetsuya Naito, Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma

Rich Kraetsch: You’d like to think Bullet Club gets back on track with a win here but is this a stable that will EVER get back on track? It makes sense that they win here and someone like Honma or Captain takes the fall, but wouldn’t it also be cool to see Naito or Makabe win? I don’t know, it’s hard to get a read on the future of the Bullet Club. I say Naito wins and the BC continues their fall.
Prediction: Captain New Japan, Tetsuya Naito, Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma

Joe Lanza: Could the new BC member Anderson has promised come from a turn in this match? Not likely, but Makabe would be most likely, even though I love the idea of The Cap’n turning his back on New Japan to be the BC comic relief.
Prediction: Bullet Club

Bryan Rose: This one is interesting because of the variables in it. Bullet Club needs to rebound after their big loss at the last PPV. Karl Anderson has also been openly saying that the next member of the Bullet Club will be revealed at this event, so maaaybe it’ll happen during this match. As for who…I don’t know! Could be anyone. But if they do appear, this will probably be it, and it will cost the babyfaces the match.
Prediction: Bullet Club

Fujiwara Armbar: Karl Anderson announced that there will be a new Bullet Club member debut at this show. I don’t care who wins this match, just PLEASE, not Kenny Omega. PLEASE. God. I am on my knees. As a sidenote I am a little disappointed with Honma’s post-G1 placement.
Prediction: Bullet Club

Rob Barry: It’s the return of everyone’s favorite New Japan classic, The 8 Man Tag! I’m in agreement with others that Kenny Omega should not and I repeat should not be in Bullet Club. Y’know screw it I’m calling for Honma to win it here (Plus even hit a Kokeshi but I’m getting my hopes up) and then the Bullet Club beat down after the match introducing the new member.
Prediction: Captain New Japan, Tetsuya Naito, Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and Kushida) (c) vs. reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly)

Rich Kraetsch: Oh man, oh man am I looking forward to this. I’ve made my feelings well known about Shelley and Kushida, Kushida in particular as well as Kyle O’Reilly so to see these two in the ring again? Can’t wait. If it gets more time than their G1 match (which was still good) we could be looking at a sleeper match of the night. Or, at the very least, MY match of the night. I really am looking forward to this match if you can’t tell. The big story is if New Japan lets the issues with ROH and WrestleKingdom affect their booking. To me, the story is reDRagon winning and I’ll stick with it here.
Prediction: reDRagon

Joe Lanza: I always like to remind people that I was the one and only Bobby Fish fan back when he was working small Northeast indies and jobbing on ROH preshows. It’s been so fun watching him slowly move up the indie pecking order, while quietly having good matches on NOAH tours for nearly a decade. KOR is having a real breakout year himself, and these guys are serious Tag Team of the Year contenders. Their excellent year will continue here with a high profile title win, and a spot on the WrestleKingdom card defending those belts.
Prediction: reDRagon

Bryan Rose: I think their match at the G1 was extremely underrated. That was such a fantastically worked match. I don’t watch a ton of ROH but reDragon, despite the silly name, are pretty awesome and are a highlight of the promotion. They’re getting a big push here and I wouldn’t be shocked if they were to win the titles here tonight. But I also wouldn’t be surprised either if the Timesplitters retained either. But if I had to choose, the new team on the block cinches it. You set up a variety of new, fresh matches with the win and that’s always nice.
Prediction: reDragon

Fujiwara Armbar: Very much looking forward to this G1 Finals rematch in the cauldron of Osaka rather than the echoing expanse of Seibu. Two really imaginative and well-matched teams and contenders for Tag Team of the Year (though not as good as Dangan Yankees!). Unlike my sarcasm in match two, you, the wrestling fan, will likely come out of this a big winner.
Prediction: reDRagon

Rob Barry: We are all the winners in this match. reDRagon has given the Jr. Tag division a much needed boost and they create tons of fresh matchups. reDRagon will continue their hot streak in New Japan culminating with their win here and getting revenge for the Seibu Dome.
Prediction: reDRagon

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Ryusuke Taguchi © vs. Taichi

Rich Kraetsch: Hmm, this is quite the contrast to the previous match in that I really have no deesire whatsoever (seriously 0%) in seeing this match. It’s not that either is awful (Taichi is close) it’s just they are so god damn boring. Taguchi is perfectly average but he’s so average it’s boring. Nothing he does stands out, nothing about him stands out. Bleh.
Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi

Joe Lanza: I have a soft spot for Taichi, and over time I’m hoping he morphs into aging dirty veteran sleazy guy, which is one of my favorite puro gimmicks (see: Gedo, Kenichiro Arai, KAZMA SAKAMOTO, Yoshinari Ogawa). Taguchi doesn’t do a thing for me. This isn’t the right time for a title change, at least not one that involves Taichi. I would think Kenny Omega will be rocket packed to a title shot, and Taguchi is a much better potential matchup from a style perspective.
Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi

Bryan Rose: Ew. I’ve never been like the biggest fan of Taguchi as a singles. His work isn’t terrible by any means. But he’s missing something that makes him a great singles wrestler. I don’t even know what it is. Natural charisma, I guess? He has a wacky entrance, but there’s no real frills with him. I just think there are better guys on the roster in the end, I guess. Taichi is terrible and I have no idea why he’d get a shot other than just to fill time between now and the Tokyo Dome. Not expecting much, but Taguchi wins. At least, I hope he does!
Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi

Fujiwara Armbar: Historically my reviews and previews have always tried to take on the mantle of being ‘the optimistic guy’ but I must admit that this match doesn’t press any real buttons. There’s a good story here of Taguchi getting his own ankle lock flavoured medicine from the heel faction, but I just don’t see the in-ring living up to the standards set by juniors in NJPW and elsewhere in Japan.
Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi

Rob Barry: I said this to a few friends some days ago but I don’t care about this match. At all. Doesn’t even register a blip on my radar and this a coming from a guy who tolerates both of these gentlemen. I don’t see Taichi winning here and Taguchi will be dropping the belt to Omega. It’s only a matter of time kids, just you wait and see.
Prediction: Ryusuke Taguchi

A.J. Styles (with Jeff Jarrett) vs. Yoshitatsu

Rich Kraetsch: All you need to know about this match is the (with Jeff Jarrett) part. That means you aren’t getting good, clean, classic New Japan Pro Wrestling. You’re getting a guitar shot, you’re getting some craziness with J-E-DOUBLE-F. I’m curious if we start planting the seeds of an A.J. Styles face turn here. We’re the only people really saying that’s the long term plan for him and we have no evidence to back that up but, hey, I want to get in on the ground level so I can tell all you guys we knew it was going to happen. Either way, I expect this to be pretty solid but I won’t be able to focus knowing Double J shenanigans are coming.
Prediction: Yoshitatsu

Joe Lanza: Double turn & big SWERVE, with Yoshitatsu as the new BC member? Nah, probably not, although that would be fun. Expect shenanigans from Double J.
Prediction: A.J. Styles

Bryan Rose: Should be a very interesting match. Yoshitatsu, when actually on WWE TV and had a long match (which hasn’t happened since like 2010) is pretty good. But I wonder how much of the WWE style he’s retained. It’s more familiar with NJPW’s style than one would think, so we’ll see what happens. I think in the end they’ll have a better match than most people will think. Jarrett interfering is a given, so I expect maybe A.J. will squeak by with a victory.
Prediction: A.J. Styles

Fujiwara Armbar: How will age and WWE have withered Yoshitatsu? Is the ‘Bullet Club hunter’ thing the beginning of something or just a private vendetta? Will Jarrett actually affect the outcome of a match? It is possible that the fripperies of this match are more interesting than the match. No doubt about Styles’ ability, of course. Given a warm reception and no palpable loss of skill for his opponent, a potential banger.
Prediction: Styles

Rob Barry: This could be a sleeper match of the show, meaning it could actually be sneaky good. Yoshitatsu in a New Japan ring for the 1st time in years should be interesting but A.J. will bounce back from his IWGP Heavyweight loss to Tanahashi and get back in the title picture.
Prediction: A.J. Styles

NEVER Openweight Championship
Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Hirooki Goto

Rich Kraetsch: Someone may die here. I’m, of course, joking but this is going to be a stiff, stiff match and we’re all going to be better for having watched it. I don’t even know if I can predict a winner as I’m not sure it really matters in the long run. Ishii probably SHOULD win but I wouldn’t shed tears if Goto ends up with it. This is going to be a lot of fun.
Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii

Joe Lanza: This will feature men beating the sht out of each other in violent fashion, with stiff strikes, big throws, and prideful no selling. In other words, right up the Lanza alley. This is my kind of puro. I don’t care who wins. I just want to see FIGHT.
Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii

Bryan Rose: This is gonna hurt. Goto was exceptionally stiff with his recent series against Togi Makabe and and Katsuyori Shibata, so this is going to a world of hurt for Ishii. But the guy has had his fair share of stiff matches, in fact I’m betting that separated shoulder he suffered at the G1 (which he took off zero time for, I should add) hasn’t fully healed yet. Ishii just won the title so I don’t see him losing. I don’t mind at all seeing the title becoming the best brawler belt, though!
Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii

Fujiwara Armbar: God I just feel sick in anticipation of this match. Two of my favourites just trying to take each other’s heads off. Does it get any better than this? Working out the winner is difficult; Ishii just got the title, but Goto powerfully announced a new anti-factions outlook that might look a bit hot air if he can’t pop the bubble of CHAOS’ #3 guy. I’ll take any clean outcome that comes attached to a good match.
Prediction: Hirooki Goto

Rob Barry: Brutal, stiff and incredibly violent will describe both of these men’s matches. Goto does have the anti-factions unit but Ishii wouldn’t lose the title in his 1st defense, would he? Either way this will be hard to watch for us but even more painful for the men involved in this war of attrition.
Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii

Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi vs. Chaos (Kazuchika Okada and Yoshi-Hashi)

Rich Kraetsch: My focus is going to be on YOSHI-HASHI and how he’s portrayed and how he handles himself in this big spot. We were pretty shocked when he got the rocket attached to him and this is the match to show Gedo and Jado were right. This won’t be his true breakout moment, that will come in a big singles win, but an impressive performance here can go a long way.
Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi

Joe Lanza: We all know the purpose of this bout, but with the positioning I think they’re obligated to work hard and deliver a New Japan PPV semi-main event caliber match. This is a big match for YOSHI-HASHI, who will need to look good and show some business end of the card level fire before inevitably taking the fall, as the promotion continues to dip their toes in his pool.
Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi

Bryan Rose: The team of Tanahashi and Ibushi is very interesting, but the bigger story here I suppose is Okada and Tanahashi facing each other before their big match on 1/4. I’m guessing Tanahashi and Ibushi pick up the win here, because I think Okada is winning the title at the Tokyo Dome. Now, they can do a bunch of tags that will air on Samurai TV or on the December iPPV (if there is one, I forget) but I think Tanahashi is going to sink it in here.
Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi

Fujiwara Armbar: The long churn to the Tokyo Dome continues here with a match that has a lot of good ingredients to provide a complete barnburner, but is likely to be positioned as a gentle star-filled lead-in to tonight’s main course. The result could be guessed by nearly any sentient being.
Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi

Rob Barry: Sorry YOSHI-HASHI but you are taking the loss here but I’m sure you will show great fire as New Japan continues to push you and who knows you may be a big thing in 2015? This is another match that has tons of sizzle and substance and I’m saying Ibushi gets another big win here in the semi-main and puts himself in title contention.
Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Katsuyori Shibata

Rich Kraetsch: People want a big push to come to Shibata and I don’t blame them, he’s one of the biggest and best bad asses in wrestling. Consider this main event spot and his recent work with Tanahashi a push because that’s as far as it’s going to go right now. I’d be stunned if he won here. Regardless, this should be incredible with a lot of hard-hitting and great counters. I said Time Splitters vs. reDRagon could be a sleeper Match of the Night and that’s only if this disappoints. If it does, we’re look at a Match of the Year contender here.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Joe Lanza: The semi annual big match that Shibata won’t win. For once, I think we all expect him to lose, so maybe this is where they surprise us. I just don’t think it makes much sense to do it right before Dome, especially with seeds planted elsewhere for his potential match. The bar is set very high for this. Anything less than a MOTY contender will be considered a disappointment. I say they deliver.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Bryan Rose: This one is going to be very interesting. They’ve been bullish on Shibata getting any title runs here, which sucks because he’s totally worthy of one at this point. But he’s back to doing normal tours with the promotion, so maybe that’s a sign of something. In the end though, I think Nakamura is going to get by with the win. Whatever his plans may be at the Tokyo Dome, they will probably involve the IC title. As for the match itself…it’s probably going to be very good.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Fujiwara Armbar: Oh my stars. Their G1 Climax match was both storytelling and wrestling heaven and I fully expect this one to delve a couple of fathoms deeper. Shibata this year has reined in his more outlandish stiffnesses and incorporated a wider moveset and yet has lost none of his vibrancy and believability. Nakamura is a perfect foil; big, back-row projecting charisma against real sport insularity. I see Nakamura taking the win back for the G1, but all three results feel viable.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Rob Barry: The King Of Strong Style vs. The Dark Prince Of Strong Style. Their G1 match was brilliant and I have a feeling they will build off of that fantastic encounter and deliver an even better match here. This is a total toss up as to who wins this will be anyone’s guess but I’m going for Nakamura. Only one thing can be said about that: YEAOH!!!
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura.

We will have a review of Power Struggle immediately following the show right here on Voices of Wrestling and we’ll be live tweeting the event on Twitter @VoicesWrestling. We’re also discussing Power Struggle right now at the new Voices of Wrestling forums, check out the thread at http://www.voicesofwrestling.com/forums/topic/new-japan-power-struggle-118/