New Japan Pro Wrestling
Power Struggle 2018
November 3, 2018
Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium

Watch: NJPW World

The year feels done. The ethereal hangover of the arduous G1 Climax month has left its mark. It feels like it’s just a matter of time before Wrestle Kingdom, ‘the WrestleMania of wrestling,’ ignites our passions for another year. The Tag League can be dismissed like a hitchhiker on a dark night and the placeholder briefcase and title matches have come and gone with the expected civility.

But, we’re not ready for the big show quite yet. There are still quite a few major cast members whose destiny is yet to be decided. With the suggested truce of two superpowers, rumours of a clandestine traitor, a tournament final and a returning troubadour champion, there’s enough intrigue to stack an interesting card.

New Japan Pro Wrestling packs Osaka Prefectural Gym in the heart of the “nation’s kitchen” for another exciting stop on the road to Wrestle Kingdom.


This match feels like good value. It’s a smorgasbord of talent left over from the Super Jr Tag Tournament, battling one last time for honour, dignity and a final justification of a few plane tickets.

Taguchi opens the show with a fusion of rugby and salsa that nobody asked for. Thankfully, he was interrupted by a whirlwind of colour led by the esoteric Jushin Thunder Liger – the man who gets five stars from my heart and another five from my soul.

ACH starts against Tiger Mask and they wrestle with a rugby ball. It wasn’t funny or clever and the crowd greeted it with the worst reaction in pro wrestling: silence.

We saw Liger’s greatest hits, a quick 100m dash from Volador and a Henare who was desperate to make the most of the two minutes he was given. Soberano summed up his tournament by slipping on the ropes and then disappearing.

Taguchi gets the pin and this match is forgotten as quickly as it ended. **


Jado playing a geriatric Bill Alfonso in a Halloween costume can’t detract from the liquid cool of the OGs. The lack silence from the crowd does. Ishimori is injured and hobbles his way to the ring, hinting that this will be a build towards the oft-dismissed Tag League rather than the Junior belt.

The heels play their part and it starts with a classic brawl until Jado gets involved with his kendo stick. Honma is dominated and it tells a sad story. He’s a step slower since his injury. His otherworldly sparkle has gone.

Makabe couldn’t even be bothered to climb onto the apron for the first half of the match. He tags in, delivers a few punches and doesn’t take a single bump.

Alas, Ishimori has been faking his injury and his nefarious tactics with Jado lead to KUSHIDA taking the fall and a challenge for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship.

This existed. **1/4


Jay White is a Machiavellian manipulator. Since his return, his wrestling has been punctuated with a sly air of mistrust and sin. He mocked his tag team partners and entered a marriage of convenience with a weakened Chaos. He saw his opportunity to destroy them and he pounced.

Shaken by his loss to Kenny Omega, Okada is in the red. His new theme tune grinds to a halt, mirroring his career defining championship run. He is a broken man with a balloon and not much else.

All he has to motivate him now is his hatred for Jay White and his Brutus of a former friend, Gedo.

As soon as the bell rings, Okada launches himself at Jay White. They brawl, purposefully ignorant of the rules of tag team wrestling, while Fale and Beretta battle like background characters in a side-scrolling beat ‘em up.

The match itself is a short, concise affair. Beretta outsmarts the monstrous Fale with a roll up from the Bad Luck Fall.

The wrestling here is secondary to the story; it’s clear that the big finale will be told at Wrestle Kingdom. This may get lost, but Beretta was excellent. He looked more serious as he climbed the ropes before the bell. There was just enough of a glint in his eyes to suggest that he might be the traitor.

Championships are important to Jay White, but control is his ultimate prize. He was surprised by Okada’s aggression, so he needs another way to show his mental dominance. He lays out the challenge. Okada accepts. White runs away. This battle will be fought on his terms. **3/4


Tanahashi’s story is fascinating. He has been lauded as the ‘Once In A Generation Talent,’ surpassing all who came before him as perhaps the greatest worker the company has ever seen.

But, time moves on. His generation is now expected to step aside and let new stars take their place. Through his superlative efforts, the company were put in an amazing position, allowing the likes of Okada and Naito to take flight into the stratosphere. Now, Tanahashi loses the high-profile matches and watches the new generation speed away in front of him.

The glorious Tanahashi refuses to ride into the sunset. He steps on the pedal of his metaphorical sports car and stays within sight of the new top stars. Tanahashi will decide when his story ends, fighting spirit is in his blood, and he drags himself to another G1 victory.

Kenny Omega, the champion Tanahashi chases, is the perfect opponent for him. He occupies the spot that Tanahashi once held – the greatest living wrestler. Promos between the pair hint at a clash of styles. Once the innovator, Tanahashi now defends the style that he defined against the next generation.

The problem is, they haven’t really built much of this story. This match perfectly encapsulates the confused narrative that has surrounded Omega’s booking. Here, they should be building to the biggest match of the year at Wrestle Kingdom, instead it is being lumped in with a preview of Lion’s Gate match up between Omega and Finlay.

There’s even the wrinkle of Ibushi’s displeasure with his current position, his palms facing the sky as Finlay crumples in inadequacy. Is this what life with Kenny is like?  The shadow to his spotlight?

The work was fine, but in many places, it felt like a ‘build by numbers.’  There are hints at the subtle, weaving narrative that New Japan do so well but nothing that got the pulse racing. I enjoyed the arrogant way Omega ran through a finishing sequence on Tanahashi but I wondered if I was adding more to the story than was intended.

Finlay, as expected, takes the fall after the Golden Trigger.

This was an adequate if unexciting build. There’s still plenty of time, but as Omega swung the IWGP belt like the pendulum from a clock, I was left wondering if there was enough. ***


They changed this tournament to a league so they could have a three-way.

Shingo is clearly the most interesting person in this match. There’s no doubt that he’s a superb worker, but there have been some worries that he won’t adapt to the slower style of New Japan.

Such worries are unfounded. He has a phenomenal swagger, puffing out his chest between sudden bullet-like knees and huge lariats. A fight is often won or lost in the mind, and his walk and smirk is like a psychological gut punch.

Desperado hitting YOH with a tiny bit of a broken chair was perhaps the best metaphor for this match. I’ve no doubt it hurt, but a full chair shot would have been more impressive. Instead of one, coherent match, this was a spinning axis of three different matches that never quite hit the levels that it could.

It felt like a car that keeps misstarting and then petering out. Desperado’s amazing dive to the outside, Shingo’s pop up DVD and a springboard hurricanrana were great spots, but they had no glue to really hold them together.

SHO and Shingo, however, were breathtaking. Their exchanges had that intangible snap that great wrestlers bring to the ring. Shingo’s thunderous Pumping Bomber and subsequent near fall was the moment of the match.

The excellent closing stretch was marred slightly by the, seemingly obligatory, ref bumps and shenanigans. It certainly wasn’t a bad match but, like the rest of the tournament, is far from must-see.

SHO hits the Shock Arrow and Roppongi 3K are the first ever back-to-back winners of the Junior Tag League. ***3/4


Ospreay should have been challenging for the title here, but an injury has his Chaos stablemate taking his spot.

It doesn’t matter who Taichi faces, however. As a great Salfordian proverb goes – “you can’t polish a turd.”

In recent years, this NEVER Openweight title has gained a wonder of associated images. It’s a belt synonymous with Goto being hung by the neck at Wrestle Kingdom, with a heaving-chested Shibata holding it aloft after finally signing a contract with the company, with Ishii and Makabe smashing their skulls into a fine dust.

Taichi’s most innovative, brutal manoeuvre is ripping his trousers off.

Goto selling for the crooning champion feels odd. Taichi hits him with a suplex that supposedly knocked Goto unconscious and I felt like I could see the cogs of the match moving. Admittedly, the angle of the suplex was blocked by a ringpost, but it didn’t look brutal enough to incapacitate a man who came back from a Minoru Suzuki hanging.

Taichi wrestles like the idiot he is, ignoring blatant pinfalls and slows this match down so much it reversed daylight savings time.

Goto hits his moves and wins. Rubbish. *1/2


The RevPro title being defended on a major New Japan show is a superb achievement for the British promotion. Not only is it being defended, but it’s the focus of a feud between two of the greatest wrestlers working today. This is the third match in an excellent series, and it promises to settle an interesting feud that has given both men a great story to tell.

This is an animalistic scrap. It’s a meeting of two hellacious combatants who live and breathe for the toxic honour that violence can bring. There are no wristlocks or arm drags here. Instead, Osaka is dancing to a cacophony of horrendous forearm thuds and huge, thunderous chops.

A blues guitar solo is more about the notes that aren’t played than those that are. The spaces in between the notes are where the emotions are felt, and these two men give their audience space to breath and comprehend the level of brutality they can see. There are wonderful moments of realization that herald the arrival of another strike exchange. Both men know they will have to outlast the other if they want to win, wading through tortuous, stunning aggression.

Ishii cannot be controlled or dominated. He can be held back for a while, but he is always waiting for his moment to pounce. Here, a wonderful chop to the throat is punctuated by Suzuki’s guttural screams. Ishii will meet your most malevolent moves and greet you with some of his own.

The facial expressions are marvelous. Ishii is the master of the glassy-eyed stare before launching into his latest charge. Suzuki’s sick, depraved mind is evident for all to see in every smirk and grin.

The constant return to strike contests emphasises the beautiful simplicity of this contest. Sweat bounces through the air, dancing in the bright lights, as each man’s hand comes clapping down with another bolt of lightning.

Ishii’s brainbuster doesn’t come from a long build, but is the final blow in fabulous war of attrition. ****1/4


The defining characteristic of Naito’s character is that he cares too much. He’ll postulate and argue that he cares for nothing, but if that’s the case why did he point to the heavens like the Stardust Genius when he thought he’d won the IWGP Championship?  Why did he throw the intercontinental belt around in a desperate bid for attention? Why did he make Kidani the focus of his wrath and frustration for so long?

Like most caring people, family comes first. By locking submissions on an injured EVIL, Zack Sabre Jr has offended the leader of LiJ and here he will pay.

ZSJ, however, is not an easy man to beat. An arrogant man is dangerous enough, but ZSJ’s arrogance has evidence to back it up. ZSJ has beaten Naito twice this year alone, and on bigger stages than this one.

This is a fascinating mix of styles and it has produced excellent matches in the past. ZSJ’s greatest weapon is his calm intelligence and Naito thrives on frustrating his opponent. Naito can start the conflict simply by removing his ring gear slowly.

A dismissive judo throw sets out ZSJ’s stall. The transitions between the moves feels like ZSJ is putting on an exhibition. He calmly moves from one impossible submission to another. Naito is twisted into a million different holds before he’s thought of a counter for one of them.

ZSJ emotes a beautiful scream as he wrenches Naito’s limbs. Naito tries to land the big moves time and time again until a horrendous reverse DDT heralds the beginning of a violent crescendo.

Naito targets the neck and ZSJ sells it wonderfully. He flexes his fingers to hint at nerve damage and the pain makes him abandon Orienteering with Napalm Death; the move that finished Naito in their New Japan Cup match.

I love the moments of thought ZSJ has and I like to imagine what horrendous, violent images are dancing in his head.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t have the fire of their previous meetings. Perhaps it’s the lack of stakes or the seemingly obvious outcome. A sudden Destino felt more like an indication of a closing stretch than genuine pin fall attempt.

As expected, Naito gets the win. I wonder if he’ll be challenging anyone later? ***3/4


Chris Jericho is the embodiment of a mid-life crisis. His clothes would have been fashionable five years ago and his screaming about relevance is a little too forced to be believed. It’s a superb presentation of a wrestling character, and much like Tanahashi’s story, feels like uncharted ground.

EVIL is a fantastic anomaly. On his return from excursion, he moved like an awkward teenager taking his first foray in self-expression. Now he walks to the ring with a hexagram laser and it feels like he’s that goth mate we all had in high school.

EVIL jumps Jericho at the bell and Jericho screams and gurns like a man who knows he has made a mistake. It was clever to brawl in the crowd, it covers up some of Jericho’s inevitable shortfalls, but it is starting to become repetitive. I feel like I can block out a Jericho New Japan match before it has happened. The DDT and the table bumps are exciting and brutal, but I’ve seen this match before. I’ve no doubt I will see it again when Jericho returns.

While competent, most of this match felt like moves rather than a story. The best NJPW stories are about subtlety and this is anything but. There are signature moves and exchanging control periods that made this functionally fine, but it was rarely exciting.

In the third act, a springboard dropkick returns the memory of a table and there’s sudden interest. The Everything Is Evil through the table should have been amazing but neither men seemed particularly committed to it and their stumble to the floor felt like a metaphor for this match. Yes, they broke the table. They just didn’t do it very well.

There’s a functional finish with attempted finishers and a double lariat that has both men collapsing. A near fall on the Codebreaker had the crowd gasping. The Darkness Falls was reversed into a Lion Tamer and a tap out from EVIL. This is all secondary to the predictable Naito challenge at the end.

The Jericho story has been interesting so far, but it feels like it’s time for something new. ***1/2

Final Thoughts

This time of year often feels flat for New Japan. We’ve still got time until Wrestle Kingdom, but it feels like a lot of the pieces are already in place. We got a few movements here, but nothing too noteworthy.

Gedo is never afraid to tell the ‘right story’ and that’s what he did here. While this has its benefits, it can sometimes lead to predictable booking and finishes.

This wasn’t a terrible show, and it moved at a good pace, but not much was essential watching.