New Japan Pro Wrestling
Road to Power Struggle 2018
October 17, 2018
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Tomoaki Honma, Shota Umino & Ren Narita def. Ayato Yoshida, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura

After stealing the show the night prior, the young lion (plus Honma) opener once again shined bright. This match had it all: crowd investment, work rate, speed, hatred… it was just about everything you could want out of a match in a perfectly consumable package. Each participant had their time to shine with individuals facing off. It’s hard to pick one standout from the match but Yoshida looked real good here after some uneven performances over the last few months. Umino ultimately got the win tapping Tsuji with the Boston Crab. Honma hit a Kokeshi. This was great, again. ***½

Kota Ibushi, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi def. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe & Toa Henare

A meandering match that bored me until Ibushi and Tanahashi squared off. The micro-feud between these two has been a ton of fun as Tanahashi is actively recruiting Ibushi to the face side while Ibushi still floats around unsure of where his allegiance lies. Throughout the match Ibushi’s teammates (Owens and Yujiro) tried to get Kota to “Too Sweet” them, he responded with a high-five. When Owens wanted Ibushi to help him cheat, Ibushi showed conviction and refused. In the end, Owens got the pinfall beating Henare. Ibushi was happy his team won but left it simply at that. It’s a fun story going on right now and I’m intrigued if and when it pays off. **1/2

Jay White, Bad Luck Fale & Guerillas of Destiny def. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & Best Friends (Chuckie T. & Beretta)

This was a well-worked but ultimately meaningless multi-man tag match that broke down in the final minutes when Gedo ran into the ring and clocked Okada with brass knuckles. White then grabbed Okada and tried to hit the Switchblade on him but Tanahashi came in for the save to a massive pop. Okada didn’t immediately acknowledge Tanahashi’s help but gave a glancing nod. This budding friendship is going to be something special when they finally make it happen.

The match, I don’t know, everyone played their hits, Yano screamed break a lot. Fale was big. GOD brawled. There wasn’t a ton to sink your teeth into it. You won’t miss much by skipping it entirely but definitely check out the end to see Tanahashi’s save. **

NJPW Super Junior Tag League 2018 Preview & Predictions

Super Junior Tag League 2018
Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask def. Volador Jr. and Soberano Jr.

Ahhh man, I was really disappointed in this one. I came in with very high hopes given the names in the match but overall it was slow and basic. Neither Volador or Soberano got to show their full palette of moves and Liger/Tiger kept things grounded throughout. While that’s a wise strategy from some cagey vets against a young high-flying team, it didn’t make for a particularly engaging match. There was some targeted legwork on Liger building off the prior night with Robbie Eagles so that was nice to see but again, it was undeniably smart, logical work but not particularly entertaining work. **¾

Super Junior Tag League 2018
Taiji Ishimori & Robbie Eagles def. Ryusuke Taguchi & ACH

Where yesterday’s Super Junior Tag League opener was all about teams showing what they were capable of and guys trying to impress their first night in, today’s show seemed more geared towards establishing stories that will play through the remainder of the tournament. The prior match I talked about Liger selling his knee and how that will likely play a role moving forward. This match seemed focused almost entirely on the injured ribs of ACH. Ishimori and Eagles were methodical in their targeting of the rib area. Again, smart, logical work but not all that entertaining. As a result, we barely got to see much of what makes ACH so special and both Eagles and Ishimori spent less time doing what they do best and more focusing on plodding moves attacking a body part.

This one ended up being much more entertaining than the prior match but left a lot on the table, particularly given that three of these men are among the best junior heavyweight in the world (sorry, Taguchi). Disappointing lack of speed and flying in this match, an unfortunate theme on this show. ***

Super Junior Tag League 2018
Shingo Takagi & BUSHI def. KUSHIDA & Chris Sabin

Now, this is what I’m talking about! Whereas the other two matches seemed to leave a lot on the table, these guys put together a real banger. What’s funny though is where the high-flier matches left me underwhelmed, this had me really excited because of power. More specifically, Shingo’s power. Shingo’s move set is so different from anyone in the company and has such a distinct feel for a company that is guilty of having a lot of “samey”-type workers. Shingo reminds me of Hirooki Goto with even a little bit more polish, a little more oompf on everything. That’s not meant as a slight on Goto, who I’m a huge fan of, but rather a credit to Shingo who is fitting in like a glove in NJPW so far.

The “Power Junior” strategy with Shingo gives us a different flavor throughout this tournament and has me very hyped for future matchups. The closing stretch saw Shingo going nuts on Sabin hitting a beautiful looking pop-up Death Valley Driver, an inverted facebuster, a Pumping Bomber and finally a Last of the Dragon for the win. This was far from a great match but the best of the tournament matches so far today as Shingo continues to impress. ***1/2

Super Junior Tag League 2018
Roppongi 3k def. El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

This one started ominously as the Suzuki-gun team jumped Roppongi 3k during their entrance and the teams began brawling throughout the crowd. Just as I was settling in for a “Suzuki-gun bullshit” match, things turned around. Once in the ring, Roppongi 3k became the aggressors controlling the action with some innovating double-teams and fast offense. Really, this was all the Roppongi 3k show as they were clearly positioned as the better of the two teams with the intention of them getting this win and receiving an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Title match down the line.

The finish was clunky but worked for the larger story as YOH picked up what felt like a cheap-ish win with a bridging roll-up. I like the finish though as again, you’re building for that next match between these two teams. Roppongi 3k shows themselves as a worthy challenger but don’t look too dominant and instead of winning clear and definitively, there is some doubt about just how they won and if they merely got lucky. This was maybe a slight step below the prior match but still worth your time. ***½

Final Thoughts:

After a stellar opening night of the Super Junior Tag League tournament, things ground to a halt. The young lions once again impressed but tournament matches left a lot to be desired.