New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Power Struggle 2014 is here! The last iPPV/special event before the Tokyo Dome is upon us, and it will be here where we get an idea of who is going to challenge who at the big event. In the meantime, titles will be defended: Shinsuke Nakamura defends the Intercontinental championship against Katsuyori Shibata, who beat him at this year’s G1 show. Hirooki Goto finally looks to face Tomohiro Ishii for the NEVER championship. Chase Owens will defend the NWA Jr. heavyweight title against Jushin Liger, and the IWGP Jr. tag titles are on the line as well as the Timesplitters face this year’s Super Junior Tag Leauge winners reDragon for the titles. Man, I never realized how many titles are recognized in New Japan until right this moment. Anyway, a lot of uncertainty is in the air as we kick off this event with a triple threat tag team match!
The Young Bucks vs. Forever Hooligans vs. Desperado and TAKA Michinoku: Kozlov still has his shoulder taped up. This has been brought up somewhere recently, but it seems like a very long recovery period for it. Ishii’s shoulder was still bandaged too from the G1 finals. Wish guys would take a little time off to heal that up. Kozlov and Romero do their new spot where they argue and act like they’re going to fight, but then they hug. It’d be funny if I didn’t see it in like their last three matches, though. What was new was that the Young Bucks ran in and did their double superkick. Lots of creative spots, but it kind of felt choreographed. Ended abruptly when the Bucks hit their finish on TAKA. Way shorter than I expected this to be. ***
Minoru Suzuki and Takashi Iizuka vs. Toru Yano and Kazushi Sakuraba: Do I really need to recap this match, again? It’s the same one the last 4 times they’ve done it. Iizuka and Yano did all their comedy spots. Sakuraba and Suzuki did all of their shoot MMA stuff that was pretty cool, but I’ve been waiting for a singles forever and it hasn’t happened. Sakuraba then gets the win out of nowhere with a cradle. I’d rather review another three-hour Raw than watch this match again. *1/2
Suzuki cut a promo after the match. He kept talking about the UWF. So I’m assuming he challenged Sakuraba to a UWF rules match. They could have a exploding barbed wire rules match and I wouldn’t care as long as I never have to see these four have a match ever again.
NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship: Chase Owens (c) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger: This was a pretty decent match. I kept feeling something was off though, I dunno what. Both were fine, though. Owens tried the package piledriver a couple of times, but Liger was able to thwart them and hit two brainbusters for the victory and the championship. **1/2
Bruce Tharpe had a meltdown after the match as Liger was awarded the title.The announcers were saying “GOODBYE BRUCE THARPE” as he made his exit. Hell no, I want this NWA storyline to last forever. Liger cut a promo, but I have no idea what he said.
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson and Bad Luck Fale) vs. Togi Makabe, Captain New Japan, Tomoaki Honma and Tetsuya Naito. Things start off hot as Honma immediately misses the headbutt and Anderson starts working over him. It’s your usual pretty good eight-man tag team match you see all the time on New Japan shows. CNJ comes in and makes a comeback for his team but is unable to take Fale down. Fale was setting up for the grenade but Naito made the comeback and the rest of the faces join in as well. CNJ actually hit a uranage on Fale but he kicked out. Fale then comes back with the grenade and the Bad Luck Fall for the victory. ***1/4
IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship: Timesplitters (c) vs. reDragon: O’Riley and KUSHIDA started off with some slick mat wrestling that KUSHIDA looked great at. reDragon isolated Shelley and worked him over. KUSHIDA tags in and soon everyone else is on the outside, and he hits a HUGE senton off the top rope to the floor. Back in the ring, KUSHIDA starts applying kimuras but both are able to escape. They manage to hit their double team move on O’Riley but he kicks out. Shelley makes a brief comeback, but reDragon is able to regain momentum. Huge Michinoku driver from the top rope by Fish. They hit Chasing the Dragon and they win the titles. Turned into a really great match in the last five minutes. Really good stuff. ****1/4
The Young Bucks came in after and stared them down. But then the Forever Hooligans came out as well, and the former champions are up and soon all four teams are staring each other down. Looks like another four-way is coming at the Tokyo Dome. I dunno why the Hooligans are here though, they just lost. The other three have justifiable reasons, they don’t.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs. Taichi: Taichi wants to shake hands before the bell rings. Taguchi doesn’t buy it. Taichi and the referee shaks hands, so he eventually obliges. Then TAKA wants one, so they shake. Then Desperado comes in, and THAT’S where they assault him. Taichi takes him outside and bang up his foot that he injured earlier this year, including taking the hammer used to ring the bell and strikes Taguchi in the foot. Fun times. Taguchi eventually makes a comeback and does the eagle pose, much like Devitt used to do. This is where Desperado comes out with a table and throws it right at Taguchi. Taguchi tried to hit a tiger driver on the apron to counter, but Taichi grabs him and gives him a CRADLE PILEDRIVER on top of a TABLE. Well I didn’t see that coming. Taguchi rolls in at 19 and Taichi powerbombs him for a nearfall. Taguchi is somehow able to quickly transition into an ankle lock. That doesn’t make any sense. Taichi gets the heat back by using the referee, but soon Taguchi is back to using the ankle lock. Ref bump. Desperado comes in and tries to hit in finish, and Taka runs in as well, but Taguchi lays them both out. Taichi comes back and tries to use his cane/microphone but Taguchi thwarts him. He lifts Taichi on his shoulders then slams him face first in a new finish twice for the pinfall. There was some pretty cool stuff here, but I said it on Twitter and it needs saying again: if I were piledriven on top of a table, I wouldn’t be getting up at the 19 second mark and ready to do transitions a minute later. But maybe it’s just that fighting spirit that picked him right up. Otherwise pretty alright. ***
Uh oh. Bullet Club arrives with their NEW MEMBER. He is shrouded in their flag. Anderson presents him. It’s none other than “The Cleaner” Kenny Omega. He has a new jacket and a toothpick like Razor Ramon. He cuts a promo in English saying he wanted to join and be a part of the lion mark team, but HE LIED. He’s here for the money. And he’s also here for the Jr. Heavyweight championship. Taguchi says he doesn’t understand English, but he accepts his challenge. Omega had good presence in the role already. I know some people were hoping otherwise, but I think we should see where this one goes. Could be something great.
AJ Styles vs. Yoshitatsu: Back and forth match to start. Jarrett got involved early by shoving Tatsu off the barricade. AJ works him over. Yoshi starts making his comeback, including doing the Muta elbow. He goes for a superplex, but AJ slides under and pushes him into the turnbuckle. Yoshi comes back and goes to the top rope, shoves off Jarrett and hits a spinning heel kick for a nearfall. I believe Jarrett distracts Yoshi allowing AJ to hit the bloody sunday DDT and the Styles Clash (and it looks like Yoshi landed right on his head, fun) for the pinfall. This was fine, but nothing really special. ***1/4
Jarrett comes out after the match and starts attacking Yoshitatsu, and eventually hits him over the head with the guitar. A number of babyfaces, including Tanahashi and Honma, come in to make the save. Natio also came out, and his primary focus was on AJ Styles. The two had a staredown, leading you to believe they’ll be involved with one another at the Tokyo Dome. Also seems like Jarrett/Yoshitatsu is going to be a thing, but that wasn’t established as much.
NEVER Championship: Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Hirooki Goto: This is gonna hurt. Back and forth forearm shots. Ishii with chops in the corner but Goto drills him with a big boot. More back and forth. Ishii hits a huge superplex for a nearfall. They exchanged lariat spots and neither would fall down. It was awesome. Ishii falls down but gets right back up and a double clothesline spot sends them both down. Ishii actually hits Goto’s neckbreaker move and hits a powerbomb for a nearfall. Another big superplex spot by Ishii but he kicks out. This crowd is going crazy. Goto finally counters Ishii and lays him out with his neckbreaker. Ishii is back up and starts exchanging strikes, but one headbutt by Goto sends him back down. Goto gets a lariat but Isihi kicks out at one . Goto with two neckbreakers on the knee. Shouten kai attempt but Ishii counters and headbutts him twice. Lariat attempt by Ishii but Goto takes him down. HUGE lariat but Ishii but Goto kicks out. And another lariat by Ishii but, nope. Brainbuster by Ishii clinches it. Friggin phenomenal match that needs to be seen. Everyone needs to see this. If you want to see two men destroy each other for eighteen minutes, this is your match. *****
Togi Makabe comes out after the match and stares down Ishii. He seems to be making the challenge for the belt at the Tokyo Dome. I’m all for it!
Kazuchika Okada and Yoshi-Hashi vs. Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi: I don’t see how the rest of this card can top THAT. But we’ll see. Tanahashi and Okada started things off as a prelude to their match at the Tokyo Dome. I’m still in a daze over how great that last match was. But this was pretty good, too. YH and Okada got the heat by doing a lot of outside shenanigans, mostly barricade shots and the sort. Ibush tags in Tanahashi who starts doing his comeback but YH lays him out. Okada is tagged in and they have a fierce back and forth. Tanahashi lays him out and goes for the high fly flow but YH takes him out. Ibushi tagged back in and does his comeback until Okada gets the knees up on a moonsault attempt. YH is tagged back in and lays it into Ibushi, getting several near falls. Ibushi comes back out of nowhere, hitting several near falls (including a standing Phoenix splash) until getting the win with a Phoenix splash. Really good stuff. ****
Okada, holding the briefcase has a staredown with Tanahashi before exiting, making his case known for the Tokyo Dome.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Katsuyori Shibata: Some back and forth to start. They eventually make it to the outside where Shibata kicks Nakamura into the announce table. They get back to the ring and start exchanging blows. Shibata eventually levels him with forearms that send him down to the corner and hits two running dropkicks to the corner. Nakamura gets up quickly and start exchanging forearms again. Reverse suplex by Nakamura, but Shibata gets up quickly and lays him out with a German! Shibata wears him down with kicks and hits the GTS but Nakamura kicks out and counters with two boma yes. A third one clinches it. This was pretty good, but couldn’t live up to the NEVER title match. Also just felt like something was off overall but can’t put my finger on what exactly. ***3/4
After the match, fancy music played as Nakamura was awarded the title. He started to talk when all of a sudden Kota Ibushi runs into the ring and german suplexes Nakamura. He then, and maybe I’m wrong here so someone correct me if I am, politely challenges for the Intercontinental championship. Nakamura answers, most likely positively. Then confetti fell from the sky and everyone was happy. Okay?
A very good show. The Jr. tag title match and the last two matches were really good stuff. The NEVER title match, however, was just simply phenomenal. In fact, I think this was even better than the Ishii/Shibata series, if you can believe that. If anyone remembers one thing on this show, it’s going to be that match. People might not like the style as after all, you’re supposed to make it look real while not actually hurting people (as opposed to doing the opposite, like this match) but at the end of the day, this was a vicious war that needs to be seen. Maybe not for the weak of heart, but it’s worth checking out, even if you aren’t into New Japan. The main goal of the show was to set up matches for the Tokyo Dome on 1/4, and it did a great job of doing that. With Tanahashi/Okada, Makabe/Ishii, Ibushi/Nakamura, AJ/Naito and so much more, this Tokyo Dome looks to outdo the rest. Tough thing to accomplish, but if any card can do it, it’ll probably be this one!