New Japan Pro Wrestling
Power Struggle 2019
November 3, 2019
Osaka Prefectural Gym (EDION Arena Osaka)
Watch: New Japan World
Meet our reviewers
John Carroll: Power Struggle is a super interesting show every year and John is excited to be here reviewing it with you. You can follow them on Twitter @toshanshuinla or their podcast @wrestleomakase.
Tyler Forness: Being the last big show before Wrestle Kingdom (World Tag League doesn’t exist), it’s always a fun watch since we get big angles to setup Wrestle Kingdom. Like John, I am also excited to be here reviewing the show. You can follow him @CCSTheRealForno and @CCScouting for wrestling and football-related takes
Titan, Volador Jr, TJP & Clark Connors def. Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi & Yuya Uemura
John: This was pretty much your standard “here’s a bunch of the teams that didn’t make it to the finals at the end” match for the Super Junior Tag League, but like the tag league itself this year it was pretty enjoyable. Titan and Volador had a better tournament than any CMLL team in recent memory, both in the standings and just bringing enjoyable matches every night. TJP and Connors were a very strong team as well as the “LA Dojo Then and Now” connection, and Tiger Mask and Yuya Uemura were an even better young lion/dad team. But let’s give a special shoutout to Ryusuke Taguchi, who never gets enough credit for being as over as he is. The crowd audibly reacted when he tagged into this match for the first time which made me want to point it out here. Overall a good, solid opener that was fun while it lasted and all action. ***1/4
Tyler: This was the crowning of Yuya Uemura as the new Ace of the Japan Dojo. Throughout the Super Junior Tag League the crowd got more and more behind him and he came really close to picking up a couple of wins as well. John echoed my thoughts on the other combatants; Titan and Volador Jr were excellent and definitely surpassed expectations. I hope we end up seeing more of them, like we have with Dragon Lee in the past. The most intriguing thing about this match was TJP getting the win here. In the preview, I speculated (mostly jokingly) that he might be the guy to get Liger’s last match on 1/5 at the Tokyo Dome because Liger has specifically mentioned wanting to wrestle people he hasn’t before. With Kevin Kelly putting that fact over on English commentary during the match, it seems that he may have his last US match in San Jose against TJP. Overall, this was a really good opener. ***1/4
El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori def. Robbie Eagles & Rocky Romero
John: Phantasmo and Ishimori finished the Super Junior Tag League with a 5-2 record, but it wasn’t enough to get them into the finals thanks to the fact that their two losses were to both the other teams with 5-2 records. So here the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Champions found themselves battling the unique CHAOS team of Robbie Eagles and Rocky Romero in a non-title match, and perhaps unsurprisingly they came out on top. Honestly I found this match a little lackluster, as it started off very slow for a bout that only went under 9 minutes and the crowd took a while to get into it as a result, but the closing stretch was fun at least. ELP & Ishimori were of course not done for the evening, while Eagles in his post-match promo indicated he was planning to go back to his native Australia for a while. **3/4
Tyler: I’m with John in that this match felt lackluster. The story here was that the champions were upset that with ten points they weren’t in the final and they were upset by it. Gino Gambino was putting this over on English Commentary as well. Overall, I thought Rocky and Eagles were a decent pair, but they didn’t have the best chemistry. Did we really need 3 sliced breads in a row? Post-match, we had ELP continuing the fact that they were left out of the final and I expect that, even though they lost to the eventual champions, the story be part of the build for Wrestle Kingdom. **1/2
Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA & Shingo Takagi) def. Suzukigun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr & Lance Archer)
John: Like the opener, this was another short but fun multi-man tag, with the Shingo-Suzuki strike exchange as the clear highlight. I’m not sure if that’s going to eventually lead to a singles match down the line or is just something they did on this tour to fill time since they were matched up against each other every night in tags anyway, but either way, I greatly enjoyed their little mini-feud. SANADA and ZSJ had a few sublime mat exchanges in this match as well, again as they have all tour, and SANADA once again got a flash pin over Zack just like he did in their excellent G1 match back in Dallas. That will apparently lead to another singles match for ZSJ’s British title, which sounds great to me. The confusing bit was Zack saying in his post-match presser that he wanted to face him at “the World Tag League opener” (with apologies to Kanagawa I assume he actually meant the second and third shows at Korakuen Hall), which would indicate no EVIL/SANADA team this year? Or Zack/Taichi? Unless they go back to the blocks and the split shows I guess? We’ll just have to wait and see! ***1/4
Tyler: In the preview, I fully expected this to be a fun match that set up matches for Tokyo Dome, and for the most part I was correct. We saw the continuing story of Shingo and Suzuki, who had a fantastic spot, exchanging forearms in the middle of the ring and continued by brawling outside the ring throughout the match. As John mentioned, SANADA did get a flash pin again on ZSJ, which was the same finish as their G1 match in Dallas, which was absolutely fantastic. During the match, Archer went over to English commentary talking trash about David Finlay attacking him at King Of Pro Wrestling, even challenging him for the San Jose show on November 9th. Where does this leave EVIL moving forward? I initially thought it would be a match with Lance Archer, but it seems that he doesn’t have a great direction right now. Since we have World Tag League announcements coming Tuesday afternoon in Japan, we will soon know more. Overall, a fun and entertaining match that delivered exactly how it was supposed to. ***1/4
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Kota Ibushi & Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI
John: Okada and Ibushi started this match off and had an exchange with some good energy, which is an encouraging sign given that I don’t think the build to their 1/4 IWGP Heavyweight Title match has been anything to write home about so far. Then YOSHI-HASHI tagged in and worked a great deal of the match, and you may be shocked to learn his portion was pretty dull. But when Okada returned and wiped out both Tanahashi & Ibushi, leaving YOSHI to try and put away the Ace and even get a close nearfall, the crowd did finally get back into it and it was exciting. So it at least started and ended well, even if everything in between was not much to write home about. Afterward we, of course, got the Chris Jericho video message, officially challenging Hiroshi Tanahsahi for January 5th, which was no surprise. ***
Tyler: Going into this match, there really wasn’t a lot of anticipation. We had three absolute studs and one dud who was going to eat the pin. However, these four men did a great job delivering a fun match. Okada and Ibushi did exactly what they needed to do: have a solid exchange that helps build the excitement for their upcoming title match. What really stood out to me was that, since they have been teaming for most of the last year, Okada and Tanahashi did not have any time tagged in together. In the closing stretch, Tanahashi countered Karma into a Sling Blade and finished him with the High Fly Flow. Post-match, as John mentioned, we got the much anticipated Chris Jericho video challenge for January 5th, in what was the most detailed Jericho video package to date. ***
Tetsuya Naito def. Taichi
John: Naito started out by taking his suit off outside the ring rather than doing his normal “take it off slowly in the ring as a stall tactic” deal, which was a great way for him to signal how serious he was here. Then we quickly began with a total slugfest in the ring, including both men shoving the ref down, and a wild brawl in the crowd. After all the complaining about how Suzuki-Liger at KOPW last month didn’t match the build, this touch should be appreciated, as after a build where the two of them said they were going to try and kill each other they did just that right out of the gate. Back in the ring Taichi countered Naito’s usual top-rope rana with a sick looking super powerbomb off the top, as the LIJ leader did his usual amazing job of selling that he was out. From there once Naito tried to fire up Taichi just kept no-selling his strikes, looking like a badass in the same way he did back in his final G1 match with Tomohiro Ishii. He dropped Naito on his head with two sick backdrops, including one that came after side-stepping Naito’s signature flying forearm in a great looking spot, and all of this came before we even reached the 10-minute mark.
Finally, Naito fired back up and hit the running Destino for a nearfall, before going for the real one. Taichi blocked it into a Black Mephisto attempt, which Naito quickly reversed into his own Black Mephisto (which seemed to shock the live crowd) and then hit Destino for the win. I thought this was an amazing sprint of a match, an awesome condensed version of their previous two matches that I liked better than their G1 contest (and would put just below their criminally underrated New Beginning in Sapporo IC Title bout). Naito got to put Taichi down in just under 13 minutes and look strong, Taichi got to look like he could hang with Naito in a clean fight in a similar manner to how he put Ishii down at the G1, and a great trilogy of 2019 matches comes to an end. ****1/4
Tyler: In the preview for Power Struggle, I spoke very highly of Taichi and his evolution as a wrestler in New Japan this year. While he uses underhanded tactics being a member of Suzukigun, he is growing as a bonafide wrestler in my eyes because he is relying more on his ability than ever before. It was really nice to see that he stayed the course for this match, which was essentially a #1 contenders match for the IWGP Intercontinental Title and a spot in the mini-tournament. This match started out with a bang, as Naito attacked Taichi right at the start and they did a great job making this match different from their previous two matches this year, having this be an all-out sprint with only a couple minutes of outside brawling. The entire match these two were going back and forth, and we even saw Naito hit a Black Mephisto. At the end of the day, we saw this become exactly what we thought it would be: a really good match where Naito hits the Destino on Taichi and gets the pin. I thought this was their second-best match this year, only behind the fantastic match at New Beginning. ****1/4
Super Junior Tag League Final
Roppongi 3K def. El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru
John: No one on earth could be surprised when Desperado & Kanemaru made the rampway attack on Roppongi 3K, although it’s kind of absurd for Marty Asami to just ring the bell while SHO is laying on the ramp dead from it. “Oh, you attacked them before the match and left this guy laying? Nothing I can do about that, good luck going two-on-one YOH, ring the bell!”. Marty-san is kind of a dick. Anyway, the undisputed highlight of this match for me was Desperado having SHO locked in his submission hold, the Numero Dos (thank you Andrew Rich), a real tense moment especially after they had worked his back over from the pre-match and throughout the contest by that point, and just when he was about to make it to the ropes Kanemaru spit the whiskey in his face and Desperado dragged him back! A truly awesome spot. SHO, of course, managed to escape and a great closing stretch ended with them hitting the 3K on Desperado for the win (maybe my one complaint about this ending was that the actual finishing move on Despy felt a little out of nowhere). ELP and Ishimori attacked them afterward and stole their trophies, which is whatever to me; frankly, ELP’s entire over the top, mustache-twirling villain act has already gotten extremely old to me, especially since he doesn’t really have the promo chops to back it up. Hopefully, he can evolve that character a little bit after they lose the belts back to Roppongi 3K at the Dome, because right now it’s probably my least favorite pushed act in New Japan. ****
Tyler: This match started out with classic scumbag Suzukigun antics, as El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru attacked Roppongi 3K during their entrance. The most notable part about this was the backdrop suplex that Despy hit on SHO, aggravating the back injury that SHO obtained during the Tag League and it left him lying on the ramp for multiple minutes. After YOH was in the match for around 8 minutes, SHO was tagged in and he did an excellent job selling his back throughout the rest of the match. During the match, Kevin Kelly mentioned that a tag team finisher had not been used to pick up the victory in the entire tournament, and the fact that Roppongi 3K used the 3K to win the Super Junior Tag League is one of the things that makes him so great. The road to Wrestle Kingdom officially began after the trophies were presented, as ELP and Ishimori came out and attacked R3K. Not only did ELP spit on the belt before hitting both SHO and YOH with it, they stole the trophies while R3K were left lying in the middle of the ring. The match was very good and it propelled a very intriguing story forward. ****
NEVER Openweight Championship
KENTA © def. Tomohiro Ishii
John: The striking in this match was vicious from pretty much the opening bell, but especially when KENTA won a devastating-looking slap battle in the corner. Just when it was starting to slow down a little KENTA fired it up with a huge corner dropkick and double stomp off the top, which also woke the crowd up from a bit of a stupor (honestly the crowd wasn’t that great all night), but then we went into a long heat segment from him that failed to hold my interest at times. Ishii finally fired back with his signature throat chops after no-selling some of his kicks, but KENTA took back control by countering the sliding forearm into his Game Over submission in a very cool spot. He seemed a step ahead of Ishii constantly, including when he dodged two lariats and then absolutely spiked him on his head with a German suplex, but Ishii finally fought back by no-selling the Kobashi spinning chop (!) and dropping him with a spinning kick to the face.
They had yet another strong strike exchange before KENTA finally dropped him with a huge Go 2 Sleep, and then rather than going for the pin he decided to make a statement by pulling down his knee pad and delivering a second one for the emphatic victory. Ishii has kind of been in a “get guys ready for a bigger match” role, as he did by laying down clean for Taichi at the G1 to get him ready for Naito and now laying down clean for KENTA to get him ready for likely Goto (with Shibata in his corner) at Wrestle Kingdom, so it will be interesting to see what if anything he ends up doing at the Dome. Could he just be destined for a spot in the NEVER 6-man gauntlet, or perhaps they’ll go back to his earlier issues with the Guerrillas of Destiny by having him win the World Tag League this year? Time will have to tell there. ****
Tyler: When these two stood toe to toe in the middle of the ring before the bell, it had a big fight feel, just like a heavyweight title fight does in boxing. Once the bell did ring, it was exactly what you want from these two: a slugfest. As John mentioned above, the perfect encapsulation of this match was the slap battle that KENTA won in the corner, followed a little later by Ishii winning a forearm exchange with one blow after KENTA hit him with multiple shots. One of the more interesting aspects of this match was the crowd in Osaka. Early on in the match, they were very quiet, only slightly heating up for the closing stretch. I did love the defining finish to the match as they alluded to, with KENTA wanting to truly put away Ishii by hitting a second go to sleep with an exposed knee. Not only did it have a big fight feel, but it also delivered as such, with KENTA coming off like a true star who, even wearing Bullet Club colors, didn’t need or use any underhanded tactics in picking up the victory. The one question left is who does KENTA get at Wrestle Kingdom? Is Shibata able to compete? Only time will tell, but whoever KENTA faces, it’s going to be a fantastic slugfest. ****1/2
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay © def. BUSHI
John: I was watching this not live but completely unspoiled so the temptation to fast forward to the end just to see if Hiromu actually came back was unbearable, but I’m glad I resisted it because this was a truly outstanding match. Ospreay attacking BUSHI at the bell was a nice touch, something he doesn’t really do ever but made it clear how upset he was with BUSHI for costing the Birds of Prey their shot at winning Super Junior Tag League two days earlier. We went out to the floor for a big brawl, including a sick looking bump where BUSHI kicked Ospreay’s leg out from under him when he had jumped up to the railing for a dive, sending him crashing into it face-first. BUSHI then followed that up by absolutely spiking Young William right on his head at a near 90-degree angle on the apron via a DDT, and it’s here where I was left wondering why exactly nobody gets their fainting couches out for Will’s repeated, ridiculous head bumps like they do for Tetsuya Naito or Kota Ibushi (especially when they wrestle each other!). Should I do what some folks did for their Dominion match and refuse to rate it out of safety concerns? Be consistent, folks!
Anyway, around the ten minute mark the match started to get a little silly when BUSHI threw Ospreay into the referee, but the next spot was so ridiculous I kind of loved it: BUSHI went for his trademark poison black mist, but Ospreay stopped him by KISSING HIM (!) and STEALING THE MIST (!!) and blowing it into BUSHI’s face instead. Again, I can see why that spot may not have worked for everyone, but it was so absolutely unexpected that I couldn’t help but love it in the moment. BUSHI, however, wears a mask so it makes sense that he wasn’t completely blinded, and he managed to pull pour Red Shoes into the path of the Oscutter right after, laying him out again. He got his knees up on the Shooting Star Press and then finally hit Ospreay with the black mist and That Jerk Marty Asami ran down to try and count the pin (“Sure BUSHI, you repeatedly abused my senior official and then blew actual poison in your opponent’s face, I’ll come help you try and steal the junior title why not?”) but Ospreay kicked out. The crowd by this point was going absolutely crazy for BUSHI’s attempts at pulling off the major upset down the stretch, as he countered the Stormbreaker into his unique backslide variation (the “BUSHI roll”) and hit the MX off the top but Ospreay kicked out of both. Finally, Ospreay countered another MX attempt into an Oscutter for a nearfall and then put BUSHI away with the hidden blade, Oscutter in the corner and the Stormbreaker. An absolutely awesome match, my match of the night and one that I liked better than a lot of far more hyped Ospreay matches this year. BUSHI really got his chance to shine, which he rarely receives, and the crowd being so behind him trying to beat Will was just really great to see. ****1/4
Afterward, Hiromu Takahashi made his long-awaited return to New Japan in what was frankly one of my favorite moments ever as a wrestling fan. I love that they faked us out twice, as Will challenged anyone to come out and received no response at first only for the lights to go out when he went to leave the ring. Then they did that some Time Bomb countdown from when Hiromu originally debuted (in this building 3 years ago of course; how did we not see this coming as his return date, by the way?!), with the new countdown date being for Wrestle Kingdom, which again faked you out into thinking he wasn’t coming out here but they were just announcing his return date. Instead, we then got another bomb and an adorable CGI Naoru to light the fuse, and out came the man everyone has spent the last 17 months waiting to see. Hiromu then gave an incredible promo that only he could pull off, mocking the idea of working safe by taking bumps all over both the ring and even into the barricades on the floor before challenging Ospreay to a Jr. Heavyweight Title match at Wrestle Kingdom. Ospreay-Hiromu instantly becomes one of the most exciting prospects for the Dome, and frankly in hindsight as much as I hated waiting this long for him, New Japan probably made the right decision holding him off all these extra months. His return at the Dome to challenge Ospreay feels like one of the biggest things in the world right now; who cares if he missed the Super Junior Tag League or whatever?
Tyler: Not only did Ospreay bring out the sword for this match, but he got the action started fast, coming out guns blazing and attacking BUSHI right at the start. This set the tone for an absolutely fantastic match. Not only did BUSHI deliver, but he is incredibly underrated as a singles wrestler, delivering every time he is put into a big spot. Early on in the match, we saw a great callback to the Best Of Super Juniors match these two had with a draping DDT onto the apron, aggravating the neck injury that has plagued Will ever since Sakura Genesis 2018 where he landed awkwardly on the apron attempting a Spanish Fly. For the rest of the match, we saw BUSHI work over the neck with his patented swinging neckbreaker and utilizing the STF as well.
As we moved forward in the match, the crowd got absolutely molten hot for these two, including going absolutely crazy for BUSHI’s nearfall after hitting the MX on Ospreay. After kicking out, we got into a great closing stretch with Ospreay countering the MX into a cutter, hitting the Hidden Blade, Super Oscutter and the Stormbreaker. These two have excellent chemistry and delivered in a big spot. ****1/2
John did a fantastic job talking about the return of Hiromu Takahashi, so I won’t go into detail, as they laid it out in excellent fashion. Even though the intro video package went on a little too long for my taste, Naoru and Daryl were massively over with the crowd and Hiromu is now the best troll in wrestling after intentionally throwing himself into the guard rail and turnbuckle to only spider up like Bray Wyatt in challenging Ospreay. Pair all of that with him debuting to challenge KUSHIDA at Power Struggle 3 years ago and it was as close to perfect as you could get.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Jay White © def. Hirooki Goto
John: Up until this match began I was getting ready to lay down a hot take- if this one could deliver at a ****+ level after the last four matches all pulled it off, plus of course we just had the ultimate emotional high of Hiromu Takahashi’s long-awaited return, Power Struggle would have come out of nowhere to be a low-key Show of the Year contender. Unfortunately, this match missed the mark for me, the first high-profile Jay White match to do so in a while. The early highlight was White driving Goto into the guardrail over and over again in front of Shibata, who stood up and took his headset off to a huge pop from the crowd, but after we moved passed that the long and boring White heat segment really lost them. Goto fired back up and tossed Jay all over ringside himself, but this still had very little heat and wasn’t particularly interesting. A good spot down the stretch was Goto pulling the hair of Jay to break up the Blade Runner, which felt like deserved cheating given all the crap Jay pulls. But then Jay quickly broke that up with a low blow when Gedo had the referee distracted.
From there we hit the usual finisher reversal spam you see in a lot of matches from both guys, which mostly looked good and was probably the highlight of the match even if it likely went a little too long. Goto eventually hit the GTR and was about to get the pin when Gedo pulled the referee out, drawing Shibata from the commentary booth to take out Gedo to by far the loudest pop of the match. But KENTA ran down during the chaos and delivered the Go 2 Sleep to Goto, then put Shibata down off the apron with a running boot to huge boos. This felt very overbooked but also kind of necessary to get us to our likely Wrestle Kingdom destination of KENTA vs. Goto (w/ Shibata). KENTA sent Shibata into the railing at ringside and then kicked the shit out of him, while back in the ring Jay finally hit the Blade Runner for the pin. This was by no means a bad match, but the highlights all involved a non-competitor and it just couldn’t follow the outstanding undercard and semi-main. ***1/4
Afterward, we had the much-discussed and controversial closing segment. I had actually read the reaction to this segment before I watched it (the only thing I really spoiled myself on) so I was expecting a train wreck from start to finish, but at first things looked good. Jay White cut a great heel promo after winning and then called out Okada and Ibushi, as he was planning to face the winner in a double title match on 1/5. When Naito came out instead the crowd gave him a superstar reaction, as they did when Naito told him he would need the IC belt back so he could fulfill his dream of becoming a double champion. But from here, everything went off the rails. Kota Ibushi received an almost shocking lack of reaction when he came out, and his promo felt awkward and stiff, as he basically just said “By the way, I too want to be double champion.” and felt like an afterthought here. And then Kazuchika Okada came out and buried the entire concept of wanting to be double champion, unfortunately doing so in such a funny way that the crowd largely ended up agreeing with him. Okada then just kinda left, seemingly mid-promo, as did Kota, and then White awkwardly told Naito to get lost so he could celebrate and he wasn’t accepting his challenge. Naito just leaving was again very weird- the idea was supposed to be that they were teasing the match was going to happen no matter what Jay said as Naito took forever to go up the ramp and lingered at the top for a while too, but it just didn’t really work in execution. I don’t think this is some kind of total disaster that permanently destroyed the idea of doing a double title match at Wrestle Kingdom, like some people seem to, but it definitely wasn’t the greatest segment. Naito came off well when he first challenged White and then less so by almost backing down to White, Okada looked like a jerk which I think was the idea but he was also kind of likable to the crowd which hurt it, and Kota felt like he was just there. White was a great heel though, as he pretty much always is. Overall it was a flat ending to what was still a really great show, easily New Japan’s best since the G1.
Tyler: After the entrances from both Goto and White, the camera panned to the Japanese commentary table, where we see Katsuyori Shibata, the best friend of Hirooki Goto, doing commentary for the match. Before the bell, we see Goto having a taped-up lower back, which would be the strategy of Jay White in this match. While I agree with John in that this match was a letdown, I love the nuances of the Jay White character. When Goto gets the rope break, he waits for a second, then wrenches on the single leg crab, making fun of Goto’s lower back tape to Marty Asami and looking absolutely bored in a strike exchange in the middle of the ring. At about the 24 minute mark after a low blow from White, Goto hits a shouten kai and the crowd really starts getting behind Goto. Then, we get the Bullet Club shenanigans. Goto hits the GTR on White and gets a visual pin on White, but Gedo pulled the referee out of the ring, prompting both Shibata and KENTA to get involved. After a GTS on Goto, White hit a Blade Runner and got the win. All in all, it was a fine match, but a very disappointing main event from a great show. ***1/4
John did a great job explaining the events after the match, so I will just give a few thoughts. How good is Jay White? The crowd legitimately hates the heel. In today’s pro wrestling, it’s so great to see a company use the basics of pro wrestling to get crowd reaction while still having matches with incredible action. He also enhances the heel character that he so greatly personifies by calling out his “old friend from CHAOS” Kazuchika Okada, even going so far to ask Gedo to help him callout the IWGP Champion. Once Okada got the mic, not only did he bury the notion of having a double champion, but he also referenced the fan vote the fans had before Wrestle Kingdom 8 since the fans were unhappy with Naito winning the G1 and instead voted the IC Title match of Tanahashi-Nakamura to go on last at the dome. This fell off really flat, but Jay White continues to do a great job coming off as an arrogant prick. I’m not sure how we specifically move forward from here, but, as it is every year, it will be a fun two months before Wrestle Kingdom.