New Japan Pro Wrestling
Power Struggle 2023
November 4, 2023
Edion Arena Osaka
Osaka, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Meet Your Reviewer

Suit Williams: As this site’s self-imposed WWE Correspondent, I don’t watch or cover the shows in Saudi Arabia. Even I have my limits. So, with some free time, I figured I’d cover New Japan’s stop in Osaka for Power Struggle. Follow me on Twitter/all Twitter variants @SuitWilliams.

New Japan rolled into Edion Arena in front of 4,046 paying fans, essentially equaling the number they did in February for the New Beginning show headlined by Kazuchika Okada and Shingo Takagi. This show also saw Walker Stewart make his debut on English commentary as the new play-by-play man for New Japan’s English side. He had done some US shows, but this was his first shot in Japan as the new English voice of New Japan. He’s got a proper Syracuse Grad announcer voice, but he was fine on this show. I’ll get used to him quickly.

TALES FROM THE UNDERCARD (NAMES IN BOLD INVOLVED IN THE FALL)

  • Pre-Show Frontier Zone Six Man Tag Team Match – Oleg Boltin, Ryusuke Taguchi & The DKC def. Mochizuki Jr., Strong Machine J & Yoshiki Kato – Taguchi tapped out Mochizuki Jr. with the Ankle Lock.
  • Callum Newman & Jeff Cobb def. Oskar Leube & Yuto Nakashima – For the uninitiated, the 21-year-old Callum Newman is the new United Empire Young Lion. Cobb pinned Leube with the Tour of the Islands.
  • El Desperado & Master Wato def. MUSASHI & YOH, Kosei Fujita & Robbie Eagles, & Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney – This was a tornado tag where all men were legal as long as they were in the ring. As Eagles held Musashi in the Ron Miller Special, Desperado caught Fujita in a flash pin to steal away with the win.
  • Kevin Knight, KUSHIDA & Tama Tonga def. BUSHI, Shingo Takagi & Titán – Tama pinned BUSHI with the Gun Stun. Afterwards, he faced off with Shingo, who beat him for the NEVER Openweight Title in Las Vegas.
  • Tetsuya Naito & Yota Tsuji def. SANADA & Yuya Uemura – Tsuji pinned Uemura with the Gene Blaster spear.

David Finlay def. Tanga Loa

I was very tempted to watch this match at double speed as I do with the undercard. Tanga Loa, who isn’t exactly prime Keiji Mutoh out there, in a singles match against David Finlay who has a habit of underwhelming in prime spots. While the match was nothing special, the crowd was surprisingly into this match in the closing stretch. Finlay scored the win after a shillelagh shot and Into Oblivion. **1/2

Falls Count Anywhere Match
Jon Moxley def. Great-O-Khan

When Jon Moxley vs. Great-O-Khan was announced for this show, I had no earthly idea what it would look like. There was a wide range of what this match could look like, and how well it would go. Never would I have thought it would look like this.

The initial “match” ended in a double count-out, with the men brawling around ringside from the jump. Moxley took the mic and demanded the match to restart, this time as a Falls Count Anywhere match. The request was granted, and these two had a truly wild brawl around the building. O-Khan used a riding cart to drive Moxley into a row of chairs. He then rolled Moxley up in the tarp covering the floor, much like my uncle used to do to me with a blanket when I was five.

This was a match that you would read about in an old PWI magazine, with the cover of a bloody Moxley being dragged around by O-Khan. Moxley’s blood puddled all across the Edion Arena as they locked on submissions around the floor. O-Khan was kicked down a set of bleachers before Moxley landed the Death Rider on the floor for the win. It’s possible that the environment of New Japan helped here, as you aren’t used to seeing these big arena brawls in Japan. But this was still the best and most unique plunder brawl I’ve seen in a long time. ****1/4

NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, & Tomohiro Ishii © def. TMDK (Mikey Nicholls, Shane Haste, & Zack Sabre Jr.)

The early part of the match felt very pedestrian, as I was still coming down from the Mox/O-Khan match. But there was a Sabre/Ishii sequence that kicked this match into gear, with the match quickly rounding into another awesome match.

There was a sequence near the end where Nicholls and Haste took everyone out with the Tankbuster, leaving Sabre alone with Tanahashi. But Tanahashi reversed the Zack Driver into an inside cradle to score the win and leave Sabre apoplectic in the ring. Sabre faced off with Tanahashi afterwards, setting up a potential TV Title match at Wrestle Kingdom. ****

Speaking of Wrestle Kingdom, as the champions were posing, we got a video of Bryan Danielson challenging Okada to a match at the Tokyo Dome. Despite beating Okada twice, Danielson wanted revenge for the injuries Okada had caused him, threatening to break Okada’s arm so he could never hit the Rainmaker again. Maybe Danielson is a big fan of the Money Clip.

Super Junior Tag League 2023 Finals
Catch 2/2 (Francesco Akira & TJP) def. House of Torture (SHO & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

When this show started, I had a sinking feeling that the junior tag team title scene would result in a classic four-way at the Tokyo Dome. When Desperado and Wato won the four-way tag earlier, along with the win over the War Dogs in the Super Junior Tag League, I thought we were going to get shenanigans here that ended in a justifiable four-way match at Wrestle Kingdom.

We got the typical House of Torture shenanigans, but after Callum Newman and Jeff Cobb ran off EVIL and Dick Togo, TJP spat the whiskey in Kanemaru’s eyes before helping Akira hit the 2×2 knees to score the win and win the 2023 Super Junior Tag League. I’m glad to see it, as Catch 2/2 is one of my favorite teams in the world right now. After the match, Clark Connors and Drilla Moloney jumped them and left them lying before getting run off by the other United Empire members. These two teams had a solid match at the Independence Day strong shows, and the rematch at the Dome has a chance to be just as good. ***1/4

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Hiromu Takahashi © def. Taiji Ishimori

This match was technically fine, but I’m beyond the point of having any emotional investment in Bone Soldier Taiji Ishimori. It’s been five years of him in the same spot, doing generally the same stuff. He’s a good wrestler, but I need something different out of him. A new look, a new unit, something to regain my interest. Hiromu retained with the Hiromu Roll. He put the belt around his waist for the first time since he won the title, having finally pinned the previous champion in a title match. ***1/2

After the match, Hiromu made his own challenge for Wrestle Kingdom by calling out El Desperado. Desperado got off of the commentary desk and accepted the challenge, noting that he needed to take some time off to get surgery to correct his vision but would be back in time for January 4. I wrote about Desperado putting Takahashi in the rear-view mirror after Wrestle Kingdom 16 two years ago, which clearly didn’t happen. But these two having a stadium match in front of a real crowd will still be great.

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay © def. Shota Umino

In February, I covered New Beginning in Sapporo for the site. That show saw Will Ospreay have a 5-star match with Taichi, one that will be on my Match of the Year list for 2023. That match was followed by Shota Umino shitting the bed in the main event against Tetsuya Naito. It was a dull, uninspired slog that saw the Sapporo crowd apathetic to the man who the promotion expects to lead it into the future, as highlighted by his standing as one of the Three Reiwa Musketeers.

Umino has grown greatly in the past 9 months, not only as a main event-level wrestler, but as a man who believes that his name belongs alongside those of Naito, Okada, and Ospreay. His confidence has grown exponentially, and that confidence shined in this match. When he stood nose-to-broken nose with Ospreay, walking through elbows to the chest, he felt like he belonged there. He didn’t feel like a kid trying to be a big deal, he felt like a big deal. He felt like a man ready to take the torch from Ospreay instead of sitting and waiting for the torch to be given to him.

Unfortunately, taking the torch from Ospreay on this night proved to be too tall of a task for Umino. Ospreay survived Umino’s greatest offensive flurry of his career, peaking with a top-rope Death Rider. Umino landed one last Death Rider, but in one fluid motion, Ospreay bounced up and drilled Umino in the face with a Hidden Blade. Umino survived a Jumping Blade, a Death Rider, and a Storm Driver, but a full-force Hidden Blade followed by a Storm Breaker finally put Umino down for the count. Ospreay retains in the match of the night. ****1/2

After the match, Ospreay showed respect to Umino before calling Moxley in the ring. But as those two went face to face, David Finlay cracked them both in the head with the shillelagh. He took the mic and talked about how neither the UK nor the US saw him as one of them. Gedo then pulled out a Looney Tunes hammer which Finlay used to destroy both belts. Finlay stood tall as Ospreay and Moxley looked at their broken prizes.

The angle was very good. Ospreay has spent the year fighting for that title, making it the marquee title in New Japan. Moxley was synonymous with the US Title in his time in New Japan. Shota Umino spoke of how much that title meant to him, and how it was his dream to defend the US Title against Moxley at Wrestle Kingdom. Three people who fought and bled for those titles had to watch as the petulant child Finlay destroyed them. There was no problem with the angle.

The problem is the man executing the angle. David Finlay does not fit into this equation. He’s nowhere near the level of Ospreay or Moxley, especially looking the way he did here. His work has not inspired confidence that he can be the next leading foreigner in New Japan either. He still hasn’t found that missing component that can get him to the next level and sticking him in this position will only make that clearer.