New Japan Pro Wrestling
Road to Power Struggle 2016
October 30, 2016
Korakuen Hall – Tokyo, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Teruaki Kanemitsu def. Hirai Kawato

While this match between two of NJPW’s young lions had bursts of excitement, both are a far cry from the high standard set by the previous young lion generation of Yohei Komatsu, Sho Tanaka, Jay White and David Finlay.

Face it, we’ve been spoiled. This is what what young lions are, particularly lions that are 23 (Kanemitsu) and 19 (Kawato) years old respectively. Kanemitsu was clearly the superior worker here as at the more advanced aged he’s starting to grow into his body and seems to have a much more natural feel of things. Kawato is as raw as they come and looks like a child…mostly because, well, he is one. The good news is these guys are finally starting to appear on more shows. After being kept under wraps, only emerging every so often for a Lion’s Gate show, these young lions have obviously reached a level where New Japan feels they can handle the opening match slot. Keep an eye on both of these guys as they progress over the next few years. Kanemitsu looks good but right now I don’t see “star” potential in either of them. **½

Yoshitatsu & Juice Robinson def. Yujiro Takahashi & BONE SOLDIER

This was a disgrace and a complete waste of everyone’s time. Shame on New Japan Pro Wrestling for putting this match on.

I’ll give all the credit in the world to Juice Robinson, who was so much better than any of these other four that he may as well dressed as Mitsuharu Misawa for Halloween. He generated every morsel of crowd heat this joke of match produced. Without him, this may have been my worst match of the year.

BONE SOLDIER’s ring gear is an absolute joke and would look out of place on a CZW show in 2002 or your friend’s backyard wrestling federation in 1998. In a global wrestling company in the year 2016, it’s flat-out unacceptable.
I won’t pick on Yoshitatsu anymore than I already do but him having a spot in this company when hundreds of talented workers would kill for the same opportunity is hard to stomach. This ended in the shittiest way possible, as after seven minutes, BONE SOLDIER low-blowed Tatsu for the DQ. A shitty way to end a horrendously shitty match. You’re better than this, New Japan. DUD

Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask IV def. Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Angel de Oro & Titan

Because I go the extra mile for you, our readers, I can officially confirm via extensive research that this is the first time Yuji Nagata and Angel de Oro appeared in the same tag team. The VOW difference, you guys.

This was as welcomed a cleanse as I could have received. Everything that was wrong with the prior match was rectified here and then some. The juxtaposition of Angel de Oro and Titan flying across the ring with style and grace to the reverberation of Kojima’s machine gun chops and Nakanishi’s grunts, made this match something to behold. While nothing of note happened, this was a solid, straight-forward tag match and a great showcase for the two departing CMLL talents and New Japan’s current legends. ***

I’m still on record as saying Kojima doesn’t belong with the dads and should be in bigger spots. He can still go with the best of them.

Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto def.Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Chase Owens

Bullet Club was in the Halloween mood as each member (including Chase Owens) had orange and black facepaint. Chase even went the extra mile to get some orange and black Bullet Club ring gear. They don’t call him the Crown Jewel for nothing.

This, like the match before it, was another solid tag match that showcased some of the amazing depth the New Japan roster has right now. Even the Guerillas of Destiny were serviceable here. Sure, it was mostly Tama Tonga and all he was doing was selling but hey, it’s the little things.

Ishii and Goto were the clear stars of this match as they gear up for a potential run in the World Tag League. Ishii in particular was made to look especially strong, picking up the win via Brainbuster on Owens. ***

Post-match, Tonga riled up Ishii and they brawled through the crowd eventually ending up backstage. This was to build for Power Struggle where Ishii will team with YOSHI-HASHI to take on Guerillas of Destiny for the tag belts.

Between matches, NJPW & CMLL announced FantasticaMania 2017 would take place January 13 through the 22, with the last three shows taking place at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall. Among the names announced for the shows: Atlantis, Mistico, Volador Jr., Ultimo Guerrero, Euforia, Ephesto, Maximo Sexy, Dragon Lee, Titan, Stuka Jr., Blue Panther Jr., Soberano Jr., Hechicero, Raziel and OKUMURA.

Kenny Omega, Matt & Nick Jackson def. Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay & Gedo

The Elite got in the Halloween spirit themselves dressing up as the Ghostbusters including Nick Jackson dressing as a ghost. This was fun until you realized they would be WRESTLING in these costumes, at which point then it turned amazing. For those wondering, Will Ospreay’s hair is back to normal after his brief but memorable Brian Bosworth cosplay phase.

Now onto the match, as this was a show-stealer and the perfect storm of guys who excel in six-man situations (Okada), grizzled vets who know how to do just enough to get by (Gedo), dazzling high-flying stars (The Young Bucks and Ospreay) and perhaps the strongest character worker in the business right now (Omega).

The result was pure magic as this was one of the better six-mans you’ll see all year. It’s almost criminal it was tucked third from the top. The Bucks are on absolute fire the last half of this year and when combined with Ospreay, it is almost always going to deliver big. Those three were the clear stars of this match, dazzling the crowd not only with their high-flying moves but also their in-ring banter.

The crowd was electric throughout this contest and the more I see Omega and Okada square off in the ring, the more I expect their Wrestle Kingdom main event to be legendary. Great work by everyone involved tonight, the blend of comedy, smart/paced work, insane high-flying, character work and in-ring banter created an unbelievably enjoyable match. ****

Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI def. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Katsuyori Shibata & Tomoaki Honma

The contrast between this multi-man and the one that preceded it were night and day. Where the prior match was filled with dynamic moves, a hot crowd, and 16 minutes that flew by, this one only clocked in at 11 minutes and felt like an hour. With so many members of the match using it as a vacation, it was hard to get the same level of excitement or intrigue. A majority of the match saw Honma and Naito square off in a match that would be highly anticipated a few years prior but now just seems below Naito’s level.

Unfortunately, that’s about all I have for this match. It was very mundane and average and certainly made the prior match look like an absolute gem in comparison. Even the usually reliable Shibata seemed to take a backseat, likely to rest his body after a grueling match with Go Shiozaki for a few days prior. **

Super Jr. Tag Tournament 2016 Semifinal
Roppongi Vice def. Ryusuke Taguchi & Fuego

Say what you will about Ryusuke Taguchi, but there is nothing quite like watching him and Fuego enter the ring. Part of me wishes Fuego was a full-time New Japan roster member just so I could see it each time I turn on my New Japan World. On today’s show, Liger, who was at the announce table doing commentary, got in on the action dancing up a storm with Taguchi & Fuego. This was the best and anyone who has a different opinion is flat out wrong. I won’t hear it. Taguchi capped off his dancing by sucking air out of a canister. No, seriously.

The story of this match was Roppongi Vice and their continued struggles to get along. The most notable sequence saw Romero in the ring for what seemed like forever getting beaten down. Finally having enough, Beretta dragged him to the corner and extended his hand yelling “Tag Me!” Romero finally got up, reached his hand out to tag Beretta before pulling it back and screaming “FUCK YOU!” The crowd gasped and wondered if this would finally be the death knell for RPG Vice, but they somehow, someway pulled it out and advanced to the finals. Some have predicted the finals as the final explosion of the tag team, we’ll find out in a few short days.

Short of the Roppongi Vice breakup story, this match was simply there, with no real memorable spots or sequences. Taguchi excels in big-time singles match but often disappoints in tag matches of the same stature. That was evident here as neither he nor Fuego seemed to be on the same page and failed the generate much intrigue from the crowd. **

Super Jr. Tag Tournament 2016 Semifinal
Taiji Ishimori & ACH def. Ricochet & David Finlay

A rare match that I both enjoyed (as evidenced by my rating at the end) but also came away from tremendously disappointed. These two teams should have stole the show, should have made magic and should’ve had a match for the ages. Instead, it was just fine. That’s going to sound overly negative, as match was good, bordering on great even, but there was a certain something missing. This played more like a showcase match than the chance to reach the finals of a junior tag tournament, as the bout didn’t generate the type of heat you would have expected. The work itself, in a vacuum, was solid. Ishimori and ACH continue to be one of the best tag teams of the year as their chemistry seems to grow each and every time out. More and more you see the two understanding where the other is going to be and getting closer to that perfect timing we come to expect from elite tag teams.

Kudos to Finlay for stepping in for Sydal and having a great tournament but he definitely seemed a step slow in this match. Again, it was nothing bad and he didn’t drag the match down but you could imagine the man he replaced (Matt Sydal) fitting in much better. Don’t let my nitpicking dissuade you, this was very good and worth your time. ***3/4

The Super Jr. Tag Tournament finals are now set for NJPW Power Struggle, as the warring Roppongi Vice does battle with Taiji Ishimori & ACH.

Final Thoughts:

NJPW Road to Power Struggle 2016 was an easy-to-watch show with matches ranging from solid to great. Beware, there is a DUD of epic proportions though!