It’s been a while since I’ve penned an NJPW Adventure. I may cover WWE on LOP Radio every week, but Japan’s #1 promotion is also #1 in my heart. This is the product I fanboy over, the wrestling land I drifted to after the US product set me out to sea. Watching them upon their post lockdown return I just felt at home, like all was right again as I sat there smiling and remembering how I much I enjoy their style.
A shout out to SirSam and Jeremy Donovan for collaborating with me during the New Japan Cup, always a fun time writing during those tournaments. The columns become full with such an amount of positivity, a great reminder as to why I’m a fan of pro wrestling in the first place.
Today I’ve got this column posted within an hour of the show finishing, going over the three singles matches on the show. The tags were fine, but that’s not why anyone’s here so I won’t waste time covering them in what would be light fashion anyway. So three matches it is, including a huge main event between two former stablemates and yet another amazing title defence from Shingo Takagi.
New Japan Pro Wrestling was LIVE in front of paying fans once again, how fantastic it is to see an actual crowd in attendance. They may be discouraged from cheering, slowly figuring out how to show their appreciation via clapping, but their simple presence is a presentation game changer. As WWE found out, the difference between a 0% and 1% crowd is massive.
Sengoku Lord was the aftermath for Los Ingobernables de Japon after dissention and the rise of a Bullet Club under EVIL. A night of the lads releasing their frustrations, still victorious but seemingly trying to figure out where everyone stands in this new status quo. Be it by bonding over beating up referees, or full of emotion driving your entire body through your now former ally. We all heal in different ways.
The singles matches from this show all seemingly covered that changing landscape in New Japan: a Bullet Club era of darkness, champion-less CHAOS and LIJ in disarray. Not forgetting Suzuki-Gun finding success under it all, the world from the beginning of the year completely shifted. I mean, come on, who predicted a 2020 Yujiro Takahashi singles rise??
2020, the year of No Limit.
Also before I get into the matches, a shout out to my home city man in Gabriel Kidd. Inspiring seeing how far he’s coming, an awesome performance here as the Young Lion took it to Togi Makabe in his 6 man tag. Throwing chops like Nottingham Forest throw away play-off places, I’M STILL RECOVERING.
NJPW Sengoku Lord Review
Special Singles Match
Kazuchika Okada vs Yujiro Takahashi
The Rainmaker versus the Tokyo Pimp. Okada once again having to deal with his former manager Gedo and the Bullet Club numbers games tricks his brings. Sure you can avoid a Yujiro lariat, but can you dodge a wrench?
The heels were on top for a tad, but really this was a match Okada should never be losing. The Ace at the top of the company versus a man not even half way up his own stable, any other result would have been pretty damn questionable. That’s even with unsuccessful wrench dodging.
Okada continued to utilise his new submission that he debuted in the New Japan Cup, kind of like a sat up Cobra Clutch with a different grip and you’re applying it from behind whilst kneeling. So really nothing like the Cobra. Great description there, I did preface it with ‘kind of’. NJPW1972 has it named as the Cobra Clutch, so at least I’m backed up there!
Okada this time mixed it in with his other offence, once he realised the hold wasn’t working he quickly span his opponent round and lifted him up for a Tombstone Piledriver. Dropping the man right on his noggin before once again applying the head based hold. Somewhat similar to the adapted execution of The Rainmaker, combining it with the Tombstone took years for someone to overcome.
In the end the Tokyo Pimp was about as much of a threat as you thought he would be. He got in a tad after some Gedo interfering, but aside from that he never felt a threat. The Rainmaker gets another win to his belt as we edge closer to the G1 Climax, a win that keeps that momentum rolling even if I’m not going to remember this match after today.
If you’re using this column as a gauge of interest, yeah you can give this match a skip and jump right to the final two. Because yes, Okada vs Takahashi was exactly as average as you thought it would be. Saving the Kazu banger for another show.
Tonight was someone else’s turn for the spotlight. Rain, rain, come on back another day.
NEVER Openweight Championship
Shingo Takagi vs El Desperado
Is 2020 the surprise year of Despy? Donned in a new cool as hell black and gold get up, the man’s going after gold! This match cemented his higher place tonight, his second strong showing in the division since NJPW’s return.
Shingo wisely took the Suzuki-Gun man seriously, going after him right from the bell. Fully aware of the stable’s antics, not giving the man any chance to be cheeky. The Dragon himself initiating the ringside brawl, twice launching Despy into the barricade. The challenger had to fight his way into his own element, which may have been Shingo’s one error in judgement. Sure you can take the fight to a Suzuki-Gun member, but you’re willingly entering their world, where they know the lay of the land so much better than you.
With that Desperado got on top and next thing you know Takagi’s limping in the ring with a buggered knee, being worked on and clutching the thing after every other move. Like taking the Strong Style to Ishii, even if you win you’re going to get battered. Even if you take the action back to the ring, El Desperado will find a way to clobber you with the championship belt.
Honestly, the challenger impressed me once again. After first stepping up against Ishii in the New Japan Cup, he once again showed he could dance with the big NEVER boys by holding his own against Shingo. Desperado scoring multiple close falls and nailing big moves, he came ever so close. Just no cigar.
LIJ may be in a struggle, but Takagi has been steadily retaining his title in impressive fashion regardless. Yet another solid outing, the man simply doesn’t have bad matches. The one consistent in NJPW right now: Shingo Takagi will be in a banger of a NEVER fight.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
EVIL vs Hiromu Takahashi
It’s a rare thing in New Japan for the Junior Champion to challenge for the heavyweight title, only the 3rd in history and first since Finn Balor challenged Hiroshi Tanahashi 7 years ago.
Like with Desperado, Hiromu stepped up to the heavyweight plate during the New Japan Cup. However the LIJ man took things further, going all the way to the semi finals before running into a Rainmaker wall. He built a lot of great momentum before EVIL’s turn, before the whole landscape of the company shifted.
This was an emotionally influenced challenge, screaming if not crying into the mic as EVIL walked up the ramp at the end of Dominion. Hiromu broken and angry, subsequently perhaps frustrated with how difficult it was to exact revenge with legend Dick Togo constantly interfering from ringside.
A much better match than either the New Japan Cup Final or the Dominion main event, it did such a good job of getting you right behind Hirmou as he fought against the odds. Even if EVIL doesn’t exactly come out of it feeling like the strongest champion, with what we now know is coming next, maybe that was for a reason.
However in this match Hiromu sure did have some strong spells, countering a lot of EVIL’s offence and even invested enough EXP into his Togo Awareness ability to halt that man as well. The middle portion even had him launching onto his former stablemate (and a couple unfortunate Young Lions) with his crazy Diving Senton from the top to the outside, before once again countering more of EVIL’s normal trade.
In terms of establishing EVIL as champion, this match forced the man to show he had more than just your typical string tricks. Instead of swinging momentum with interference, he had to actually wrestle his way back in. Doing so with a suplex to the corner, followed by a great big Super Duper Plex from the top. He had to fight back a hell of a lot too, with the amount of counters thrown his way and the number of times Hiromu just did not stay down.
Man, the sheer amount of Germans the King of Darkness threw at the challenger. Hiromu refused to give up so much he ended up avoiding EVIL’s STO finish via exhaustion. Right before the classic NJPW main event final wind kicked in and became the one part of the show where I really missed the usual crowd noise. Hiromu hyping up as the clapping really increased in volume, echoing around the arena and even evoking genuine noise from the crowd – which I guess is the modern day equivalent of a mega pop.
The Time Bomb in the end was countering so much of EVIL’s offence, getting closer and closer with the crowd audibly gasping with each subsequent near fall. Even when referee Red Shoes finally got caught, after the champion and his ringside companion hit the Magic Killer, Hiromu still fought back in and countered EVIL’s STO with one of his own.
Followed by a painfull looking Death Valley Driver into the exposed turnbuckles and nailing the Time Bomb! The crowd was going crazy! Meant to not cheer, they couldn’t help it as Hiromu flat out had EVIL’s number. He also hit Time Bomb II, sending the crowd to their peak and Dick Togo only just pulling Red Shoes out in time.
Which was when we finally got our typical Bullet Club match interference beat down, Dick Togo choking the challenger who tried to fight him off. He may have done so were it not for EVIL finally landing the low blow, the numbers game finally catching up after the Junior had fought the odds for so long.
Anything but a dominant showing from the new champion, the challenger outright had him beat more than once. EVIL didn’t win the match as much as he survived it. If adding to the narrative that he’s not worthy of being champion, I’m just curious which man they’re going to choose who is.
Well we may already have our answer…
Main Event Aftermath
Who’s Next For EVIL?
During the show it was revealed that NJPW’s Summer Struggle event next month will be taking place at Jingu’s baseball stadium, the company’s first mass open air show in 21 years. Which would be pretty flipping huge anyway, nevermind the fact the country is just slowly opening up thanks to a worldwide pandemic.
After the main event we got two matches set up, first Ishimori threatened to attack Hiromu with the Junior belt before he was stopped. Because he was halted by none other than Naito! Who stepped right up to EVIL and laid down the challenge!
Echoes of Naito’s first reign popped into my head, with him beating Okada at Invasion Attack before quickly losing it back to The Rainmaker come Dominion. It’s not uncommon for first time reigns to have a short run in New Japan, especially when it comes to heels. There’s very recent precedent: Okada’s first, Naito’s and Jay White’s. AJ Styles being the only exception to the rule, but even he didn’t make it to the end of the year.
EVIL’s done his job too, he’s shaken things up and created a rift that’s going to be intriguing as hell to explore. Especially between he and SANADA, whenever NJPW decide to venture that path. So I really wouldn’t be surprised if Naito wins the belt, hell us knowing where that match will take place increases that fact for me.
However, there’s always AJ Styles. A man who took the mantel of Bullet Club leader and held that IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the majority of the year. There may be precedent for short initial reigns, but there are always exceptions to the rule…
Comment below, rate and click an emoji too. I’ll be here to reply and chat this weird wrestling world.