NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
POWER STRUGGLE 2017
NOVEMBER 5, 2017
OSAKA, JAPAN – EDION ARENA OSAKA
New Japan Pro Wrestling wrapped up its entertaining fall tour with its last big Osaka show of the year. Expectations were high with the continuation of a world-renowned feud, a top-tier main event, and a mystery debut.
DAVID FINLAY DEF. KATSUYA KITAMURA
Throughout most of the Road to Power Struggle series, David Finlay appeared in the mid-card paired with Juice Robinson. However, tonight he found himself in the familiar spot of an opening singles match (although this was technically dark). Finlay is great at selling, he made Kitamura’s power offense look crisp.
Finlay’s high-velocity attack of European uppercuts and backbreakers looked great, as always. Commentary noted that Kitamura is borrowing from Nakanishi and Goldberg as he develops. Finlay won with the Prima Nocta in 5:32. There wasn’t much to this, but it was solid. The most noteworthy occurrence was the post-match curveball of the two apparently forming a World Tag League team. **¼
THE YOUNG BUCKS DEF. DRAGON LEE & TITAN
It’s been so long since the Young Bucks have appeared in New Japan, that I didn’t recognize their theme music. As you would expect, this was full of flips and dives. Titan was a highlight of the tour for me and didn’t disappoint here. This match did a great job of getting the crowd warmed up, thanks in part to Dragon Lee taking a nasty apron DDT, and Titan hitting an insanely high Quebrada. There wasn’t much meat to this, but it was very fun. The Bucks won in 7:18 with an Indytaker into a Sharpshooter/Crossface combo. **3/4
JUICE ROBINSON, JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER, TIGER MASK, KUSHIDA & HIRAI KAWATO DEF. ZACK SABRE JR, TAICHI, TAKA MICHINOKU, YOSHINOBU KANEMARU & EL DESPERADO
This was short, but it accomplished quite a bit. There was limited heel schtick from Suzuki-gun. There was a short, but awesome Juice/Zack exchange. Toward the end, Kawato flew in with a swan-dive missile kick and, as he did earlier in the tour, flew out with a beautiful tope con giro. KUSHIDA beat TAKA in 5:19 with the Hoverboard Lock. A feel good win for the babyfaces to close out the tour. **½
TENKOJI & TOGI MAKABE DEF. CODY, YUJIRO TAKAHASHI & CHASE OWENS
Tenzan spent a lot this match on defense, which was effective in keeping the crowd energy relatively high. Chase mimicking the babyfaces was the highlight here. Kojima beat Owens with a lariat at 8:11. **½
SUPER JR. TAG TEAM TOURNAMENT FINAL
ROPPONGI 3K DEF. SUPER 69
YOH and ACH are both bearing the scars of the tournament. YOH has his slap-blistered chest taped, while ACH has his ribs taped after he airballed a dive at Korakuen. After some opening comedy spots by Super 69, Roppongi 3K focused their attack on ACH’s taped ribs. Taguchi got the hot tag and hit three consecutive flying moves, including a corner dive over the floor cameraman.
SHO continues to implement new kicks into his offense, including a counter middle kick, and a cool new combo that was reversed by Taguchi. ACH’s multi-show selling on his ribs has been a pleasure to watch. He missed a huge frog splash, but fought back to target YOH’s taped chest with chops.
A dodon/firebird combo got a huge reaction, but was broken up by SHO. YOH continues to sprinkle in cool new offense, like an Asai DDT and John Woo. Roppongi hit a 3K on ACH to win at 15:51 and capture the tournament as current champions of the division.
As expected the Young Bucks emerged to challenge the champs afterwards. This was a great end to the tournament that built on the previous rounds, and further developed Roppongi 3K, establishing them as the current leaders of the division. They are still working on figuring our their in-ring personas, but are progressing with each match. ****
KAZUCHIKA OKADA, TOMOHIRO ISHII, HIROOKI GOTO, YOSHI-HASHI & GEDO DEF. TETSUYA NAITO, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & HIROMU TAKAHASHI
Well, Osaka still boos Naito. Also, Naito is not above spitting into the crowd. Everyone looked sharp here and we got a good amount of Okada/Naito interactions. There’s not much at stake in these matches anymore, but it’s pretty amazing that they are able to make all ten guys come out looking good. The important thing here is that the crowd stayed hot. Okada beat BUSHI with the Rainmaker at 12:07. ***
After the match, a video ran to announce New Japan’s return to the US. Strong Style Evolved will take place on March 25th, 2018 on the campus of Long Beach State University in the 5,000-seat basketball arena, the Walter Pyramid.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE: MINORU SUZUKI (C) DEF. TORU YANO
Minoru’s attack was ruthless as you would expect. Goto game out to get rid of the Suzuki-gun members at ringside, but interference still ended up playing a big role in this match with Iizuka and Taichi appearing towards the end. They teased an Iizuka face-turn, but that didn’t end up happening. Maybe I’m a grump, but I didn’t really enjoy this. The crowd seemed engaged, though, and that’s all that really matters. Minoru retained with a Gotch-style piledriver at 15:21. **½
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE: MARTY SCURLL DEF. WILL OSPREAY (C) TO BECOME THE NEW CHAMPION
I thought these two did a pretty forgettable job of building to this match through to the tour. Scurll briefly targeted Ospreay’s arm, but this was quickly abandoned. The pace of the match became more frantic with lots of big moves and reversals. Scurll and Ospreay have excellent timing and obviously know each other very well.
Ospreay did some amazingly athletic things in this match. Scurll turned his attention back to the arm intermittently throughout the match and Ospreay’s selling was very good. Shockingly, Scurll won at 17:28 with a flash pin, Ospreay failing in his first defense. Overall, they worked really hard and the crowd was completely stunned by the finish. The match was very good, but it could have been more meaningful with a better build. ***½
KUSHIDA came out to challenge Scurll, but Ospreay stopped him. Hiromu came out well-prepared and protected to propose a 4-way for Wrestle Kingdom. I still hope we get that big Hiromu/Ospreay singles match at some point next year.
IWGP US HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE: KENNY OMEGA (C) DEF. BERETTA
Coming off a few high-impact table spots on the outside, Kenny focused his attack on Trent’s back. This match had an excellent, yet simple dynamic. Trent played a great underdog and took a lot of damage from Kenny. Beretta’s top rope German had the crowd buzzing and the bump Kenny took on Trent’s knee was incredible.
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— njpwworld (@njpwworld) November 5, 2017
Kenny unleashed a brutal offensive flurry: four dragon suplexes, a crazy high-speed powerbomb and three effective knees. Kenny tucked his head at the last split-second for a great Dudebuster near-fall. Beretta got another great near-fall with a crucifix, but a V-trigger and One-Winged Angel got Kenny the win. One of Trent’s best singles matches that I’ve seen and probably his best in New Japan. The crowd was into this, but it started to show signs of fatigue. ****¼
Kenny cut a great English/Japanese promo that was followed up by something even greater…
#NJPW #njpst https://t.co/4ULitIni5Z ? pic.twitter.com/66nmHYQxh9
— LARIATOOOO!!!! (@MrLARIATO) November 5, 2017
Chris Jericho now has two of the most memorable debuts in the history of wrestling. This was an incredible surprise and one of the coolest post-match moments in recent NJPW history. Rather than his long-time parter Kota Ibushi, Kenny Omega will face Jericho at Wrestle Kingdom. Beyond their upcoming Dome match, I’m excited to see what happens with Jericho in New Japan. We’ll get the Omega/Ibushi match eventually.
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE: HIROSHI TANAHASHI (C) DEF. KOTA IBUSHI
Ibushi went for his Golden Triangle moonsault, but Tanahashi had him scouted and hit a low dropkick to start his attack on Ibushi’s leg. Ibushi’s selling was great: pain, panic, frustration. Tanahashi confidently stalked his prey. Ibushi was also great at working the selling into his normal spots like the standing moonsault and kick combos.
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— njpwworld (@njpwworld) November 5, 2017
Ibushi acknowledged their shared history with Nakamura by using the King of Strong Style’s corner knee, and trying for the same swan-dive German suplex that he used on Nakamura. Ibushi lawn-darted Tana into the corner pad and connected on the swandive German, but missed a Phoenix splash.
Like his bouts with Nakamura, Ibushi recklessly slapped, kicked and stomped his opponent. Tana fired back with equally intense palm strikes. Tanahashi got a near fall with a dragon suplex hold, then followed it up with two High Fly Flows for the win at 29:26. ****½
Tanahashi and Ibushi embraced after the battle before Tanahashi cut a promo and played some air guitar. A leather-clad “Switchblade” Jay White came out, post-confetti, to challenge Tanahashi to an IC title match at Wrestle Kingdom. Before he could accept, Tanahashi was attacked and laid out by the returning former young lion. A small detail, White hit Tana with one of his own strike combos. Jay has been alluding to wanting to face Tanahashi in interviews throughout his excursion, so this seems like it’s been in the works for a while. For now it seems like Jay is unaligned, but we will see.
#NJPW #njpst @JayWhiteNZ pic.twitter.com/ZLtvE5Rhqe
— LARIATOOOO!!!! (@MrLARIATO) November 5, 2017
The angle came off a little weird. The fans were expecting Jay to speak on the mic, but he never did. He spoke in English/Japanese to Tanahashi, so I’m not sure why it unfolded the way it did. Anyway, I’m a big fan of White and I’m glad to see that he is “Switchblade.”
The crowd was decent, but they never quite reached the level of the best Osaka crowds. Despite the somewhat disappointing crowd, this was a very eventful show with three excellent matches and two epic debuts/returns. Highly recommended.