New Japan Pro Wrestling
Summer Struggle 2021: Night 8
August 1, 2021
Watch: NJPW World
Before I start out the review, I’d just like to make a general comment. I know that this is the second year in a row we’ve had this schedule with New Japan, but it’s still very strange to be sitting here in the middle of August with no G1 Climax shows. Should be interesting to see whether they go back to the traditional schedule next year when the Olympics are over.
Kazuchika Okada def. Yuya Uemura
So this was the first of two very special singles matches featuring Yuya Uemura and Yota Tsuji, as the two young lions are FINALLY getting set to go on their excursion. I’m sure the two of them might’ve already been sent on their excursions last year, if not for the pandemic. First up, we have Yuya Uemura going up against Kazuchika Okada. While this was a perfectly solid bout, it was also very basic in terms of what we saw in the ring. Uemura managed to nail a dropkick, but Okada took control soon thereafter, and went after the young lion with (of all things) a series of bodyslams. Uemura was eventually able to fight back, though it wouldn’t change the outcome that we all knew was coming. Okada nailed Uemura with a number of short Rainmakers before locking in the Money Clip for the submission victory. This was followed up with a post-match bit that saw Okada bring Uemura up to his feet, before sending him into the ropes for a classic Okada dropkick. I guess Okada wanted to make it clear to Uemura who the true master of the dropkick is. Again, a fine opening contest, but not a super memorable one by any means. ***1/4
Tetsuya Naito def. Yota Tsuji
First of all, I have to say that I feel really bad for Yota Tsuji. It’s been known that he originally wanted to go to Mexico for his excursion, but with how bad the COVID situation is there, I doubt that’s happening. This is a guy who, despite his larger size, clearly loves lucha, or is at least inspired by lucha in some form. He got to show some of that influence off here against Tetsuya Naito (who came out wearing his full, big-match entrance attire instead of the T-Shirt and hat combo) in what was a really good match. By comparison, I actually thought he greatly outshined Uemura, in terms of their sendoff bouts. These two worked very well together, and there were a number of entertaining exchanges throughout. Tsuji was able to nail a number of his signature moves, but just like the previous bout, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Naito ultimately got Tsuji to tap out. A strong effort from Tsuji in his final match before he goes on excursion. ***1/2
BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens, El Phantasmo, & Taiji Ishimori) def. CHAOS (Toru Yano & Roppongi 3K)
Of course, it was recently announced that Chase Owens will be defending his newly-won KOPW Title against Toru Yano on the September 4th MetLife Dome card (it’s going to take some time to get used to calling it that instead of the Seibu Dome). Meanwhile, both Roppongi 3K and the BULLET CLUB duo of El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori are getting set to participate in the upcoming Super Junior. Tag League. This was probably the weakest match on the entire show, but it was still a solid match from start to finish. Even though we did get some brief shenanigans with Toru Yano and Chase Owens, those were kept to a minimum. This was a neat-and-tidy ten-minute affair that just served to set up the stuff that’s happening down the line. The finish saw Chase Owens pin YOH with a Package Piledriver, which just further solidifies the fact that Owens is getting an elevation of sorts with this KOPW Title run (and the news that he’s apparently going to be in the G1 Climax this year). Afterward, the heels attacked Yano, and tried to force him to say “I Quit”, which leads me to believe that one of the possible stipulations for their KOPW Title bout is going to be an I Quit Match. I guess we’ll find out what those stipulations are going to be in due time. ***
Powered by RedCircle
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA, & IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Shingo Takagi) def. BULLET CLUB (EVIL, Dick Togo, & Yujiro Takahashi)
In a very rare occurrence, LIJ were the ones to pull off a jump-start attack before the bell. It was triggered by Shingo going after EVIL straight away. I enjoyed this bout a little more than I was expecting going into it. Perhaps that’s because they kept the BULLET CLUB nonsense to a bare minimum. Dick Togo did try to use the garrote wire, but that attempt was easily thwarted. BULLET CLUB did work over SANADA for a bit, but BUSHI and Shingo later led the comeback, and Shingo would end up scoring the win for his team after hitting Dick Togo with the Pumping Bomber. That finish immediately reminded me of a show from a few weeks back, where Master Wato got to kick out of the Pumping Bomber before eventually falling to Last Of The Dragon. I guess Wato should consider himself lucky that he’s at least above Dick Togo in the New Japan pecking order. A fine buildup to the upcoming Shingo/EVIL IWGP World Heavyweight Title bout in the MetLife Dome that pretty much nobody is looking forward to. ***1/4
NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Titles
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, & YOSHI-HASHI) (c) def. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, & IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Dangerous Tekkers)
To say that the CHAOS trio of Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, & YOSHI-HASHI have been on a roll is an understatement. They’re arguably the greatest NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Champions in history, as they’re approaching the one-year anniversary since they won the vacant titles in a tournament final. This was their record-setting eighth title defense, and when the dust settled, they were successful once again, after Hirooki Goto pinned Minoru Suzuki and he and YOSHI-HASHI hit Suzuki with the GYR. These two teams had an absolutely incredible main event that was (no surprise) easily the best match on the entire show. All six competitors got opportunities to shine throughout, and we got some great back-and-forth action along with some incredible exchanges.
I know I’ve recently had complaints about the length of the recent IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles bouts between Dangerous Tekkers and LIJ (they’re entirely too long), but for some reason, I haven’t really had the same complaints with these titles. This match was just over thirty-five minutes, and the length didn’t bother me much at all. Maybe it’s the fact that I just really enjoy this CHAOS team. Perhaps the fact that it’s a six-man tag means that there are simply better opportunities for different pairings to interact with each other. Whatever it is, these bouts just never drag for me. The bout ultimately came down to an exchange between Goto and Suzuki, and that set up the ending that I mentioned earlier. Even though Suzuki was the one to eat the fall here (which wasn’t shocking, as Taichi and Sabre aren’t eating a pin while they’re holding gold themselves), the result was rather interesting when you consider comments that Ishii recently made regarding Suzuki giving up control of his group to Taichi. I know that idea is one that has been talked about by the fanbase (especially here in North America) for a while now, so we’ll see if that goes anywhere. As for the match itself, it’s definitely worth seeking out. ****1/4
Afterward, the champions were interrupted by the LIJ trio of Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, and BUSHI. I get that Naito and SANADA are part of the upcoming three-way with Dangerous Tekkers and CHAOS for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles on the September 5th MetLife Dome event, so doing a match with the CHAOS trio for their titles makes sense. However, we already saw that title bout back in early June. It was really good, but again….we already saw it.
One of the silver linings of the COVID pandemic is the fact that the smaller New Japan events are a lot more tight and compact. Five matches in just over two hours, and on this particular occasion, you had three matches that either stakes attached, or were important landmarks in the careers of some of the participants involved. The main event was easily the best bout on the entire card, and is worth watching for sure. I would also recommend the two opening singles bouts, if you’re someone who’s invested in the journeys of Yuya Uemura and Yota Tsuji (I preferred Tsuji’s match to Uemura’s match, but your mileage may vary). The other two matches were your typical New Japan multi-man affairs, and served their purpose well of building up the bigger matches that are coming up.