New Japan Pro Wrestling
Power Strugle 2020
November 7, 2020
Watch Live: NJPW WORLD
Power Struggle, what a fitting name. It feels like what’s been going on in America for the past week but it’s also the name of toady’s NJPW show!
We have three title matches, a grudge match, and both the U.S and Heavyweight title shots on the line. It’s EVIL vs. Tetsuya Naito IV and if that doesn’t get you excited, and it probably doesn’t, we got something that may just wet your whistle up and down the card! Anyway in the words of Slick Rick “Heeeereeeeeee we go.”
Provisional KOPW Title
Toru Yano (C) def. Zack Sabre Jr.
My dislike for Yano going into this by now is well known but I’ll give it a fair shot. The stipulation for this match chosen by Yano is that there are no turnbuckle pads since every time he tries to remove them Zack Sabre Jr. denies him. This removes that issue. Isn’t that swell. Then in an admittedly amusing moment, Yano starts trying to put at least one back on after tasing the steel. The theme for the bit of this match is Yano’s stipulation backfiring as he’s the one who keeps getting tossed into the exposed turnbuckles, which is a nice bit of being careful what you ask for. The first portion of this match is all Zack as he pretty much controls Yano.
When Yano does start getting a bit more offense in it’s not bad, this match at this point is taking a less comedic flare than I was expecting, which is a nice change of pace. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked they have had matchups in the past. Of course just as I say this we get Yano shenanigans and while locked in a guardrail assisted submission ties Zack Sabre’s laces together around the guardrail so he can’t get out! Okay, I actually giggled. Yano wins by count-out while Zack Sabre Jr. is not happy about what has happened. That was okay. Maybe could’ve been a tad shorter, but accomplished what it needed to do, and didn’t overdo the Yano shenanigans. Acceptable opener. ** 1/2
NEVER Openweight Championship
Shingo Takagi def. Minoru Suzuki (C)
Prediction? Angry faces, hard hits, lots of hate, and I’m going to enjoy it. Suzuki has some of the scariest fucking expressions by the by. Not surprisingly this match begins hard-hitting and I predict it’ll stay that way. Guess what it does, slows down of course but it pretty much what you expect it to be. For some, that may have diminishing returns and I respect that, but I still quite enjoy it. Neither man is afraid to either dish it out or take it from each other. During one forearm exchange, both men come off as if they are enjoying themselves which kind of gives this match a nice touch and feel. There is an admitted feeling of we’ve watched this match already at times, but when the match is good and remains good you can find yourself excusing that.
While there is the required no selling, both men do play off the toll the offense is taking on each other to showcase that they are indeed being hurt and the hard-hitting is taking its toll on one another which is appreciated. It’s hard to fully enjoy a match where there’s a lot of abuse if the results of that abuse aren’t played into. Both men are really good with body language and expressions to make sure the toll and everything are being played up. The match ends with Shingo beating down Suzuki strike after strike with Suzuki stubbornly refusing to go down but then LAST OF THE DRAGON says you are going down and staying down. Good match. I feel like I got into it a bit less than previous outings, maybe that’s a sign of some burnout on the matchup, but I still think it gave me exactly what I expected and wanted and I liked how definite the ending was. So I can’t complain and give this a high rating. ****
Kazuchika Okada def. The Great O-Khan
Huge chance for O-Khan here. There’s a lot of kinks he’s still working out, but he’s putting in the effort and this match against Okada could be a good showcase for him. I don’t expect this match to end clean. While I don’t HATE O-Khan’s offense I don’t find it particularly exciting which makes when he’s in control hard to get interested in. Again, things he can work on but it’s the first thing that comes to mind to me when watching this match. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some tricks in his bag. For example, I do like his sliding kick into a hanging opponent though, so there is stuff there he can keep in his repertoire. I have a hard time getting into the first bit of this match. Just not interesting to me. I’m not sure if I enjoy the shrieking during his strikes or find it ridiculous. I’m on the fence. Might be something that grows one me over time.
The match never seems to want to pick up going at the exact pace it’s been going at. Then at the ten-minute mark, we start getting Okada going for the Money Clip which does not help me start getting into the match. O-Khan keeps going for his claw hold slam but Okada keeps getting out of it, but it doesn’t feel urgent and just very paint by the numbers to me. We end up with a Money Clip versus a claw hold attempt battle. Then to my surprise, the match ends clean with the Money Clip putting O-Khan out in a match that only went a bit over ten and never got me hooked at all.
Hard to call the match disappointing because I didn’t have any set expectations going in, but I can say this match hasn’t done anything to increase my opinion on The Great O-Khan, but he’ll get opportunities another day. This though in my opinion was a huge miss. Boring. **
After the match, we get an Ospreay and Okada confrontation. Ospreay confesses he used Okada to get more popular. Says he can’t earn the title of the best wrestler in the world standing side by side with Okada. Puts over his expensive tastes, but thankfully not his recent awful merchandise, and now says he wants Okada’s career! Okada only understood that Ospreay wants him at Wrestle Kingdom and says that’s enough for him. So that match as we all expected is officially set! Not surprisingly, but has heavy potential all the same.
They also give us the match cards for the Best of Super Juniors Tournament. I’m going to apologize, I didn’t keep up, it’s 4 a.m where I’m at, but if you go to Show Schedules I’m sure they’ll have the schedules and matchups for those shows. I’m looking quite forward to these shows and I’m glad we are getting it. They also are kind enough to give us the Super J-Cup match schedule! That has high potential as well. NJPW is bringing the goods this fall/winter and I’m all for it.
IWGP United States Championship Title Shot
KENTA def. Hiroshi Tanahashi
I get a feeling I might have enjoyed their G1 Climax 30 match a bit more than some, a bit less than some. KENTA ratings seem to always be over the place. One thing’s for sure he’s not the wrestler he once was, and nor should we expect him to be. I go into this with hopes they can pull out something and enough of a spark is in KENTA to get us there. We get Tanahashi’s Abs reveal which goes great with my coffee. We get mocking air bass and mocking air piano from KENTA and now I’m hoping we get air triangle and air harmonica. KENTA control portions are . . .not doing it for me. The match continues to move along and I do appreciate what bits of spark I do get when they happen. On the upside, I don’t feel like the match is feeling longer than it is despite my concerns so we do have that going for it. We also get a brief case of, well, briefcase shenanigans, which isn’t surprising at all.
They eventually get to the strike exchange point of the match which finally begins to draw me in. Strikes sound nice and the exchange is fun. It’s taken a bit of work but I start to get into things a bit more. KENTA seems to start getting a bit of a spark in him which is helping this match at this point in time. We then get a submission attempt battle with both men attempting/using their signature holds. Kenta gets the crossface locked in and it looks tight and nasty and gets the clean as a sheet verbal tap victory. Took a long time for me to start investing in this match, but I did get there. It ends with a clean as a sheet submission victory for KENTA which I admit was an outcome I wasn’t expecting. Not sure how I grade this because it took a while, but I liked it a bit at the end. I think we’ll go a bit above three here. I think as per usual with KENTA matches ratings are going to quite vary. I have to give credit, I was struggling to invest and in the end, they hooked me. That deserves a reward. ***1/2
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Title Shot
Jay White def. Kota Ibushi
The winner gets the IWGP Heavyweight title match at the Tokyo Dome, so needless to say the stakes are high. These two together can click to put on great performances so I do have high hopes here. Jay’s kind of a bastard, stalling, briefcase stealing, mocking, cheap shots, and I love every bit of it. His opening control portions aren’t always the most exciting but I don’t feel they drag and the minutes go by well when he’s in control. It’s a good “feels like everything is building” pace. Will use this match to highlight the English commentary. Good job of putting over history, statistics, and strategies and thinking of the wrestlers throughout the matches tonight. Helps out quite a bit. Both men are very good with their back and forth exchanges and they usually come off pretty entertaining. Both men just have proven to gel well and this match just continues to prove they can keep that consistent.
As the match continues to build and pick up pace both men begin to put more and more enthusiasm into their efforts. Unlike the previous match, this match didn’t take quite as long to get me into it. As we go along moves feel like they start to have more impact, and there is some playing of exhaustion and struggle from both parties. Jay White’s big offense looks pretty damn good tonight. In particular a dead life suplex he nails. I love the counters, dodges, and reverses and reverses in this match. I like that things keep moving more and more as it goes on but never goes back down to too slow and loses me or goes too fast they find themselves lost and unfocused. And we get a very fun closing exchange AND THEN WITH HIS FEET ON THE ROPES JAY WHITE STEALS THE VICTORY!
Caught me off guard, the briefcase has been lost! Did not see that coming. Unless I’m wrong is that the first briefcase lost? Damn! I feel like a lot of mixed reactions are going to be given to that finish. I think my reaction will depend on who wins the main event. If we’re heading toward Jay White versus Evil I don’t think my feelings will be that good. Heck other than shock I’m not sure what they are now. The ending was shocking, the match was great, I guess it eventually had to happen but was this the right time? Just wow. ****
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Tetsuya Naito (C) def. EVIL
I dread dread dread dread the possibility of an EVIL win now. This is their fourth match up, maybe they’ll find the formula and it’ll be great? Yes, that’s me really grasping for hope right now. Early into the match EVIL throws Naito into the guardrail and it takes out the timekeeper. That’s probably the most interesting thing I can highlight in the first bit of the ma . .THAT IS UNTIL EVIL DOES IT AGAIN. What did the Timekeeper ever do to you? fucking hell. I don’t find the work bad at the first part of the match, just nothing I can really discuss. I do feel they are trying to put on a great effort though. Nothing feels phoned in or lacking at the moment. When they do pick up the pace for short bursts it’s pretty good. I’m not hating this match as it goes along so far. Don’t know if that’ll stick, but as I’m writing this review it’s been fine so far. I still hate EVIL’s chair offense during these matches but it’s something I know is going to happen so I just choose not to gripe about it. Must admit, chair into chair swing spot looked damn good.
I find myself surprisingly into this more than I expected going in. Dick Togo has surfaced but it hasn’t been to grievous yet, so maybe it won’t bog down this match as we go on? EVIL feels like he’s putting in real effort and trying to have a worthy main event, something he really hasn’t achieved since his allegiance switch. The match doesn’t feel like it drags as we go into the twenty-minute mark, it’s moving along quite well and I must admit having the winner in a bit of doubt after the last match is helping it out. After four matches you’d hope they find a formula that works, and so far for me, they have. We get the DESTINOOOOOOOOOOS and then the Dick Togo bullshit begins to happen, and just like that a match I was surprisingly enjoying gets derailed. I shouldn’t be shocked by now. Yujiro joins in on the fun because he needs to I guess? SANADA comes out to help at least and takes them away.
Somehow this match has gotten into three-paragraph territory for me, and the crowd is clapping their hands off. We get the obligatory low blow that the referee is unable to see, but it’s okay cause Naito gets his receipt. Jay White comes out, teases turning on EVIL but then puts down Naito. The match is getting more and more too shenanigans for my taste as Ibushi now runs down only for Ibushi to put down EVIL and then chase after White. At least none of it has decided the winner yet (although it did deny one at one point). They are trying really hard to make this match great despite all the shenanigans taking me out of it a few times now. But at least the shenanigans are potentially setting things up? DESTINNOOOOO is finally hit after a fun exchange and Naito gets the victory! Probably their best outing together. Not a fan of having two separate inference spots and that may or may not affect your enjoyment of this match, but I think in the end I can keep this match in the plus column. I may be going too high, but I think this match was a great effort and they both FINALLY fully connected and clicked. I never felt like the match was a slog(even though it went long), and I never found myself overly bored. You know what, yes I’m confident in this rating. Without the shenanigans derailing, I might have gone higher. ***3/4
Jay White comes out and tells Naito he’s not facing him on January 4, but he will face him on January 5 and will take the titles away from Naito. Then Ibushi comes out. Jay White taunts him and Ibushi chases him to the back. Naito just seems to be chilling in the ring as that all happens.
NJPW Power Struggle was an eventful and fun show with booking decisions that will no doubt be hotly debated. Some misses for sure but I thought I ended up enjoying it. The Main Event surprisingly entertained me, Shingo/Suzuki and White/Ibushi were high-end matches. We got set up for Wrestle Kingdom and we got our first briefcase loss. I don’t know how I feel about that and I feel the booking may color people’s view on this show more than the match quality.