New Japan Pro Wrestling
POWER STRUGGLE 2018
November 3, 2018
Edion Arena Osaka
Kevin Kelly and Chuck Taylor on commentary (YAY CHUCKIE T!).
TAGUCHI JAPAN (Ryusuke Taguchi, Chris Sabin, ACH & Toa Henare)
JUSHIN ‘THUNDER’ LYGER, TIGER MASK IV, VOLADOR JR & SOBERANO JR
ACH and Tiger start us off. They feel each other out at the top, with a tackle moving no one. ACH grabs the rugby ball and helmet for some shenanigans, but Tiger answers with a gut kick. ACH able to turn it around into some quick offense using the rugby gear, then tags Sabin. Sabin stays on Tiger but gets caught in a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, allowing Tiger to tag in Liger.
Liger dumps Sabin outside and hits a baseball slide, following that up with the rolling senton off the apron. He tosses Sabin back in and looks for the Romero Special and gets him up fully. Liger lets him go and tags Volador who hits some great high flying offense and evasion on Sabin sending Sabin outside, but Sabin cuts off a dive and pulls Volador neckfirst down on the top rope.
Sabin climbs to the top and hits a big missle dropkick, covers but only 2. Sabin gets a clothesline in the corner but then eats a superkick before tagging in Henare. Henare and Volador trade shots, and Henare catches Volador into a big stalling suplex. Cover but only 2. Volador looks for a running rana but Henare holds on, eats a superkick from Volador but answers with a lariat.
Taguchi and Soberano get tags, with Soberano hitting a nice corner dropkick on Taguchi, stuns him with a gamengiri and hits a corkscrew crossbody off the top into a cover but it gets broken up at 2 as Taguchi Japan gets dumped save for the team captain. Liger looks to copy Taguchi’s base-running but Taguchi sees it coming and fights back, taking out both Liger and Tiger with a springboard hip attack!
All four members of Liger’s team are now in the corners, and Taguchi then calls in his team who ACTUALLY RUN THE FOUR CORNERS hitting each member of Liger’s team in sequence. Awesome. Taguchi Japan that each hit moves on each of Liger’s team, with Soberano left in with ACH and Taguchi who hit a sandwich hip attack to the head, and an assisted jumping X-Factor. Cover, and thats the 3 count and the WIN.
Taguchi Japan defeats Team Liger by pinfall after an assisted jumping X-Factor by Taguchi and ACH
JAY’S RATING: 3 out of 5
This was a nice opening match with some quick action, some humor, some great team spots and a nice bit of fun all around. The end deflated a little for me, and felt almost like it caught the crowd off guard – I think they could have used an extra beat or two there before hitting the final move and it just could have buttoned the thing more strongly. But nonetheless, a nice showing.
After the match, all 8 competitors take a group bow.
GREAT BASH HEEL & KUSHIDA vs GUERILLAS OF DESTINY & ROBBIE EAGLES
Bullet Club attacks before the bell, with action spilling to the outside and Eagles and Honma left in the ring, where Eagles lays in hard chops to Honma. Headlock by Eagles, sent to the ropes and first tackle does nothing, but the second puts Eagles down. Honma looks for kokeshi but Jado hits a kendo-stick shot to the back before he can hit it. Eagles gets back on Honma, choking him in the corner before tagging in Loa.
Loa with a big slam on Honma, elbow drops, stomp and a cover for 2. Tag to Eagles who hits a great running double knee in the corner, covers but KUSHIDA breaks it up at 2. Tag to Tama, Honma fights back and looks for kokeshi but misses it. Honma comes back though with a back drop to Tama, and tags in Makabe. Makabe lays into Tama, Loa tries to intervene but Makabe hits corner clotheslines on both members of GoD. Eagles breaks the momentum and hits chops to Makabe, but gets caught running in a big powerslam.
Tag to KUSHIDA, and the faces lay in punches in the corners on BCOGz. Tama looks for offense but KUSHIDA hits him with the cartwheel dropkick before nailing Eagles with a roll through kick. KUSHIDA with kicks to Tama, but Eagles with a GREAT counter sequence ending with a clothesline to the back of the head! THAT WAS GREAT. Makabe dumps Eagles and lands the double clothesline on both members of GoD, allowing Honma to hit KOKESHI! KUSHIDA with a springboard dropkick on Eagles, and holds him for Honma to hit another KOKESHI! Tama back in but eats a flying KOKESHI!
KUSHIDA kicks Tama’s arm and looks for the Hoverboard Lock, but Tama holds on and dumps him and hits a shot that looked preeeeeeetty low, KUSHIDA looks for the punch but Tama ducks and looks for Gun Stun but KUSHIDA holds the arm and GETS THE HOVERBOARD LOCK! Jado hops on the apron for the distraction, but KUSHIDA able to get a rollup on Tama for 2, but the kickout launches KUSHIDA right into Jado’s kendo stick! Tama with a rollup, but KUSHIDA kicks out at 2! Jado holds the ref as Ishimori (who was at ringside on a crutch) BREAKS THE CRUTCH OVER KUSHIDA, Tama in with a Gun Stun and cover, and thats 3 and the WIN.
GoD & Robbie Eagles defeat GBH & KUSHIDA by pinfall after interference and a Gun Stun
JAY’S RATING: 3.25 out of 5
I enjoyed this match more than I expected to, actually, mostly thanks to Robbie Eagles (have my eye on him now) and a good sense of urgency and the desire to win keeping things moving forward (and the crowd pops on each kokeshi make me smile every time). I’m also ok with the interference here because the pacing of it made sense to me, and it was Ishimori who got the final deciding shot in on that front which moves forward the story of his title shot he earned by scoring a fall on KUSHIDA earlier. Also, props to KUSHIDA for continuing to find new and interesting ways of locking in the Hoverboard. He has so beyond earned the title of Junior Ace, and for me he’s still only getting better and better.
After the match, Ishimori raises KUSHIDA’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title belt, and stands mockingly over KUSHIDA’s corpse until GBH comes in to clear house.
JAY WHITE & BAD LUCK FALE vs KAZUCHIKA OKADA & BERETTA
Okada goes right after White before the bell hitting him with a dive outside and sending him into the crowd with offense. We hear some from the commentators about Fale and Beretta but the camera stays on White and Okada. Beretta now back in the ring with Fale, Okada makes it back to his corner but then Jay White runs and kicks him off and sends Okada into the rail. Jay throws Okada into some audience seating, then pulls Okada back to ringside but Okada reverses and sends Jay into the rail. Okada then hits a draping DDT on the floor off the rail on Jay! (Beretta is still fighting off Fale and hits a nice suicide dive that the cameras barely capture…)
Eyes now on Fale/Beretta as Fale uses his power to take advantage, while Okada chokes out Jay. Fale throws Beretta back in and hits big shots in the corner. Fale whips Beretta to the other side, big corner crush and a big splash for a 2 count. At ringside, Okada and Gedo go face to face, and Gedo grabs Okada’s foot to hold him back as Fale looks for the Bad Luck Fall, but BERETTA ROLLS OUT OF IT AND ROLLS UP FALE FOR 3 AND THE WIN!
Beretta & Kazuchika Okada defeat Bad Luck Fale & Jay White by pinfall after a rollup
JAY’S RATING: 2.9 out of 5
This was a pretty nice match for the time it was given, with strong storytelling throughout in spite of some questionable camera work that remained SO focused on Okada/Jay even when nothing was really happening there, while action WAS happening with Beretta and Fale that could have helped frame the finish better for the TV audience. Nonetheless, love Beretta snatching the fall here too, especially as Best Friends look at Tag League coming up. This was well executed by all involved, a great use of a short match format, and the Okada/Jay feud is getting GOOOOOOD.
After the match, Fale beats down Beretta as Okada and Jay just explode in the crowd. They keep getting separated only to just go back at it. Okada even hits a couple Young Boys who try to hold him back. Jay takes the mic and says its time, any time, anywhere, one on one. Jay leaves as Okada says “how about right now?” And gets back in the ring, but Jay closes the gate and declines that particular offer. Great heel pop from the crowd for that as Jay kills some Young Boys and the crowd chants for Okada. This is one of the more brutally aggressive feuds I’ve seen in NJPW in a bit, and Okada and Jay are locked in beautifully with it. I’m so in. Also, Jay is more and more showing how one can be a true heel, with heel crowd heat, while still delivering GREAT matches and keeping the action and storytelling tight. In a way, still strikes me in that way as a next-gen Triple H. Loving it.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI & DAVID FINLAY vs THE GOLDEN LOVERS
Tensions between Tanahashi and Okada are flaring hot as they start us off with shot trading right at the bell! During the entrances Kevin Kelly noted that Tanahashi has been feeling some particular hatred for Omega as of late. Tanahashi gets the advantage, Omega looks for V-Trigger early but Tanahashi evades, great counter sequence brings them nose to nose again. YES. Tag to Ibushi and Finlay.
Finlay and Ibushi lock up, Finlay with wrist control, Ibushi reverses, nice counter sequence from both keeps Ibushi in control. They run the ropes fast but Finlay hits a GREAT dropkick to drop Ibushi coming in. Omega gets the blind tag and they hit a double team on Finlay, finishing with a Kotaro Krusher from Omega. Omega with a cover but only 1. Omega sends Finlay into the corner and tags Ibushi. Ibushi with shots to Finlay takes him down, but Finlay fires back with shots of his own before getting dropped by Ibushi again.
Tag to Omega who keeps Finlay rocked. BIG chop in the corner to Finlay, followed by a hard whip and a cover by Omega, but Tanahashi breaks it up at 2. Omega fights off Tanahashi and takes him outside, sending him to the railing. Omega back in but Finaly fights back, Omega takes him down though before hitting a pescado on Tanahashi at ringside. Omega back in but gets downed by a flying European uppercut, allowing him to tag Tanahashi in who rocks Omega and knocks Ibushi off the apron. Great Dragon Screw to Omega, but Omega follows up with You Cant Escape but tweaks his knee on the pop-up, Tanahashi evades the moonsault and Omega’s knee buckles again, which Tanahashi smells with a dropkick right to the knee.
Tanahashi looks for Sling Blade, but Omega catches him coming with a chop. Tanahashi shrugs it off, slaps Omega but Omega hits V-Trigger and a Snap Dragon Suplex! Omega picks up Tanahashi and looks for One Winged Angel, Tanahashi out of it though and right into Twist and Shout. Both partners back on the apron as Tanahashi and Omega are down. Tags made, flurry from Ibushi downs Finlay, corkscrew standing moonsault lands flush but Ibushi only gets 2. Ibushi looks for the German but Finlay fights out, they trade hard shots, Finlay with a big chest kick but Finlay hits a SICK URANAGE (holy shit) and covers but Ibushi out at 2!
Finlay is fired up and calls for the Stunner, Ibushi reverses into the straight jacket German and a bridge but only gets 2. Ibushi holds on to the wrists and looks for Kamigoye, but Finlay evades and Ibushi moves right into a Sling Blade from Tanahashi, who eats a V-Trigger from Omega! The Golden Lovers hit an Indy-Taker style move on Finlay, and call for the Golden Trigger until Tanahashi runs in and hits a crossbody on both of them! Tanahashi runs the ropes but eats a kick and a V-Trigger at the same time, sending him outside. Golden Trigger to Finlay, Ibushi covers and gets the 3 count and the WIN.
The Golden Lovers defeat David Finlay and Hiroshi Tanahashi by pinfall after The Golden Trigger
JAY’S RATING: 3.75 out of 5
A really nice outing for all four performers here, with strong story advancement for Omega and Tanahashi leading up to the Tokyo Dome on January 4th. Tanahashi’s “philosophical disagreement” has grown into a nice source of fire for his pursuit of regaining the IWGP Title, and Omega is in top form. Ibushi also looked great, surprising no one, and Finlay is showing an added focus and fire that really struck me in this match. As far as this match could function to showcase some of Finlay’s growth after excursion in Mexico, it really delivered and I am that much more tuned into Finlay moving forward. But at the end of the day, this was about Omega and Tanahashi, and the drama, the action, the even-ness, all of it was calibrated quite well to deliver a fun taste of what we still have to come between these two.
After the match, Omega grabs the G1 briefcase and waves the belt in front of Tanahashi’s face, daring him.
FINALS: Super Junior Tag League 2018 – Triple Threat Tag Team Match
ROPPONGI 3K vs LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (BUSHI/Shingo Takagi)
SUZUKI-GUN (El Desperado/Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
And Suzuki-Gun (SG) jump before the bell and dump the LIJ team before taking the fight to Roppongi 3K (R3K). They double team Sho, Sho fights back and R3K able to hit double teams on LIJ and SG. Sho now stays on Desperado, hitting a big slam but Desperado goes for the eyes and tags in BUSHI from LIJ. Neckbreaker to Sho, cover, but only 2. Tag to Shingo who knocks Yoh down, Sho tries a chop but Shingo just absorbs and fires back. Double hand chop to Sho takes him down. Shingo whips Yoh to the ropes and follows to lay in a BIG knee that gets a great crowd creation. Vertical suplex from Shingo, cover but a kick out at 2.
Tag to BUSHI and double team leg drop/senton combo on Sho, covers but another 2. BUSHI gets a choke with the t-shirt but breaks before 5, but Sho hits a big knee to the gut and tags in Yoh. Yoh in hot with dropkicks on LIJ, dragon screws, backbreaker neckbreaker on BUSHI into a kip up, and the crowd is behind Yoh. Hits BUSHI in the corner and looks for a suplex, BUSHI reverses but Desperado catches BUSHI, Kanemaru tags himself in and takes control of Yoh before dumping him outside where Desperado can send him into the rail.
Yoh thrown back in and Kanemaru slams him down, face scrub with his boot and tags in Desperado who toys with Yoh. Yoh tries to fight back, they trade shots, Desperado to the eye and avoids interference from Shingo, but that allows Yoh to get a shot in. However, Desperado gets the tag and they stay on Yoh with a double team backdrop/dropkick combo, covers but only 2 as LIJ breaks it up. LIJ in to gang up on SG, but SG turns it around and Desperado is able to land a HUGE flipping suicide dive taking out LIJ to a great crowd pop! Inside, Kanemaru with a reverse DDT on Yoh, covers but only 2!
Kanemaru and Yoh trade shots, but Kanemaru hits a great tilt-a-whirl facebuster, but Yoh fights back with a falcon arrow (Chuckie T: “HE DID THE DEAL!”). Desperado in to keep Yoh down but BUSHI in and gets Shingo the tag in off of Yoh. Shingo hits HARD and FAST offense of SG, great DDT/Flatliner combo on Yoh and Kanemaru and Shingo is looking great. Shingo looks for a suplex, Kanemaru reverses, but Shingo hits a GREAT pop-up DVD! Covers but only 2. “Shingo” chants. Holy crap Shingo Takagi.
LIJ gets a double team on Kanemaru (bearhug/backstabber), Shingo covers but only 2. They look for Rebellion but Desperado cuts it off allowing Kanemaru to roll up Shingo, but only gets 2. BUSHI takes out Desperado at ringside, Shingo looks for Pumping Bomber but Kanemaru takes out the knee. Sho tags himself in off of Kanemaru and hits Shingo in the corner, and they both absorb lariats. They looks for them again but catch each others arms. Sho hits a big dropkick that takes down Shingo, gets the deadlift but Shingo out of it, BIG right hand to Sho, Shingo looks for Moshigami but Sho gets out of it and R3K take down Shingo with jumping knees! Double team backstabber into a running knee puts them in control.
R3K call for the 3K and line up Shingo, but BUSHI interrupts before eating a deadlift German from Sho, who takes a spear from Desperado, who trades shots with Shingo before Shingo takes him and Sho both down with big lariats! Shingo hoists Sho into Moshigami and lands it, and calls for Pumping Bomber and HITS IT HARD. Cover, but Sho kicks out at 2! The crowd is fired up.
Shingo looks for Last of the Dragon but Yoh breaks it up and they hit 3K, covers but Kanemaru pulls the ref outside at 2! SG hits a belt shot on Sho and Shingo is still down after 3K. Desperado tags himself in off of Shingo and hits a Judgment Slam on Sho, covers, but Sho kicks out at 2! Desperado looks for Pinche Loco but BUSHI breaks it up with mist to Desperado, but then eats a kick from Yoh who clears the ring and hits a big dive on his opponents outside. Sho with a big lariat to Desperado and then a Last Ride Poject Ciampa, covers but only 2! Sho is fired up, hits Shock Arrow, covers and gets 3 and the WIN!
Roppongi 3K defeat Suzuki-Gun & Los Ingobernables De Japon by pinfall after Shock Arrow to Win the 2018 Super Junior Tag League for the 2nd time (first ever 2-time winners)
JAY’S RATING: 4.25 out of 5
I couldnt get enough of this match, and thought that it was both laid out and executed extremely well. And triple-threat tags can either be great, or they can be train wrecks, depending on a number of variables. And this was exceptional. All three teams were locked in and looking to win, and it really felt like a high stakes tournament final, which translated to the crowd who just ate the entire thing up. They also really stuck the landing – thats what a home stretch feels like. Giving the nod to R3K feels right, given their hot debut and then issues getting momentum back – this is a nice redemption story in progress, they are incredible in the ring together and individually, and feel like they can be a flagship team for the division if thats where they want to go with them. Making them the first 2-time tournament winners only underlines that. This was great stuff, and I want to also give particular nods to Sho and Shingo Takagi. If they keep this up, they are on track for future main eventers, and I love it.
After the match, Rocky takes the mic and offers it to Sho. The crowd chants for him. Sho said he would only talk if they won the tournament. He speaks and says that they won, but thats not the end. He lays out the challenge for the IWGP Junior Tag titles as the crowd chants for Roppongi 3K. Sho is a future star, I think. And he will DEFINITELY make the heavyweight jump at some point.
NEVER Openweight Championship
HIROOKI GOTO vs TAICHI (c)
This is an interesting match to go into, given the injury to original challenger Will Ospreay and subsequent replacement by Goto. Personally, I was calling that they were going to put the title on Ospreay and solidify his spot in the heavyweight division, so now I really dont know how they want to play the immediate future of this belt.
Taichi attacks before the bell with a backdrop suplex and Goto isnt moving. The ref is checking on him, and Goto is completely dead weight. Taichi does a non-chalant cover but picks Goto up before the 3 count. He starts kicking at Goto, who starts showing some signs of life. Taichi pushes the ref away and Taichi brings Goto outside, who still is not standing. Taichi takes him into the crowd and tosses him into the chairs. He then hits Goto in the face with an audience chair. Taichi then rolls back into the ring as the ref starts the count on Goto out in the crowd. Goto crawls his way back toward the ring, and is able to make it back right at 19.
Taichi continues to mock Goto, covers and hooks the leg but Goto is able to kick out. “Let’s Go Taichi” chants (I dont understand…). Goto starts to fight back, but doesnt have much behind his shots. Goto looks for a backdrop of his own, Taichi blocks but Goto able to catch a kick to the torso. Goto hits the spin-kick/suplex combo and covers, but only gets 2. Goto hoists Taichi up but Taichi goes to the eyes and hits a gamengiri in the corner, looks for the buzzsaw kick but Goto fights it off.
They go back to trading shots, Goto starts getting the advantage, but Taichi hits a series of kicks that takes Goto down. Taichi paintbrushes Goto, who starts to fire up before getting caught with a jumping enziguri from Taichi and a buzzsaw kick. Cover, but Goto out at 2. Taichi loses the pants and calls for the superkick, but Goto catches him into ushigoroshi, but is too worn out to follow up.
Both competitors up and they absorb lariats, and Taichi is able to go to the eyes and take Goto down with a big clothesline. Taichi looks to bomb Goto but Goto drops weight, Taichi tries again but gets backdropped. Goto and Taichi trade shots but Goto is able to hit Ura Shouten for a 2 count! Goto pulls Taichi up and looks for GTR but Taichi took down the ref, hits a low blow and a clutch on Goto in time for the ref to see it but only gets a 2 count! (Thats the sequence that won him the belt in the first place.)
Taichi hits a lariat to the back of the head and another enziguri, picks up Goto and hits a Last Ride! Covers, but Goto out at 2. Taichi hoists Goto but Goto powers it down and hits an inverted GTR, but again cant follow up. Taichi gets the NEVER belt from Miho Abe and pushes down the ref, but Goto grabs the belt and uses it to pull him into a headbutt. Goto hits another ushigoroshi, a big kick to the chest and a deep cover, but Taichi is out at 2. Goto slow to get up but stays on Taichi, looks for GTR but Taichi reverses and looks for a suplex, but Goto hits Shouten instead! Picks up Taichi, and hits GTR! Covers, 3 count and the WIN for Goto’s 4th NEVER title win!
Hirooki Goto defeats Taichi by pinfall after GTR to win the NEVER Openweight Championship for a 4th time
JAY’S RATING: 2.75 out of 5
This ended up being a decent way to salvage the Ospreay situation, though it does add either a level of intrigue or a level of uncertainty, depending on how you look at it, to the Ospreay title shot situation with the belt now held by his CHAOS stablemate. Perhaps thats where they will take the story, and lean into the hand of cards they were dealt? This was not Taichi at his most recent best, but he played his part well here, and Goto looked great again even if the selling at the top lasted a little long perhaps (or at least had too many stretches of Taichi sort of just walking around cockily). The crowd reaction for Taichi was fascinating however, as it seems like his recent performances have gained him a consistently loyal fanbase now. The crowd ended up adding a lot to this, and Goto now moves toward establishing a legacy for the NEVER title, given his inability to find consistency in the IC or IWGP Heavyweight tracks. Solid work here, interested to see where it goes.
Revolution Pro Wrestling Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship
MINORU SUZUKI vs TOMOHIRO ISHII (c)
The bell rings and they go right to it! Suzuki hits a kick, Ishii hits an elbow, Ishii gets Suzuki in the corner and LAYS IN FOREARMS. And then Suzuki DOES THE SAME TO ISHII. They evade some of their signature strikes and standoff. GREAT M’F-ing START.
They go nose to nose, and trade forearms. No one is moving. They just keep eating them. Suzuki finally gets a bit rocked, goes to the apron and looks for the hanging armbar, but Ishii fights it off. Ishii goes out, but just grabs Suzuki and throws him back in, which gets applause from the crowd. There’s something to be considered in that crowd reaction…
Ishii lays big knees into Suzuki, and Suzuki is looking pissed. Ishii with chops, but Suzuki walks through them and asks for more. Suzuki with kicks to Ishii sending him outside, but Suzuki just sits in the middle of the ring and calls him back in. Ishii in but Suzuki kicks him down right away and maneuvers him into the corner. Suzuki gets Ishii down again, and hits a big series of knees into the ribs of Ishii. Ishii pulls himself up and hits gut shots from his knees, which Suzuki absorbs. Suzuki hits a big shot and Ishii goes down.
Suzuki with a big forearm to a kneeling Ishii, and he mockingly puts the boots to him. Toe kicks to Ishii’s face while talking smack. SUZUKI IS EVERYTHING. Ishii pops up and hits a slew of those throat chops to Suzuki, who makes some intense choking sounds and sells the throat HARD. Ishii then returns the toe kicks to the face, and Suzuki GETS A LOOK IN HIS EYE. SUZUKI. IS. EVERYTHING. The crowd pops.
Nose to nose. Forearm from Suzuki. Ishii returns a big one and begs on Suzuki. Suzuki with a JESUS HELL THAT SOUND. Ishii lands a GOD-DAMMIT WHAT THE HELL. I mean… I just don’t even know how to write about this that does it justice. Suzuki is SMILING, Ishii is ROARING, and each shot they land just ECHOES through the arena. They are rocking each other, but coming right back for more. The crowd is eating it up. So am I. Suzuki is still smiling as he winds up a cracks off another one. Ishii is wobbly, and Suzuki lays in another loud one. And another. And another and suddenly Ishii fires up and hits alternating shots in a flurry! Suzuki back with some bombs, and Ishii is down across the ropes. One more shot and Ishii is down, finally, and the crowd applauds and chants for Ishii.
Suzuki stalks Ishii and goes to whip him, but Ishii just collapses in a heap. Suzuki goes back to the ribs with kicks, sits Ishii up and hits a running boot right to the face, covers but somehow Ishii is up at 2. Suzuki lines up Ishii and hits the running boot in the corner, snapmare and hits the running PK… but ISHII IS ALIVE AND EATS THE KICK FOR BREAKFAST FOR FEUL. The crowd explodes. Suzuki with one to the back and Ishii is up and fired. Forearms to Ishii but Ishii isnt budging! Ishii hits a big one on Suzuki that puts him in the corner and crushes him with a clothesline, then perches Suzuki up top but Suzuki hits a forearm. Ishii gets him up for a powerbomb though and just dumps him on the mat with a thud.
Ishii calls for a lariat but Suzuki reverses into the choke, Ishii powers him off and stomps on Suzuki’s head HARD, and Suzuki is woozy. Ishii pulls him up and they start the slap fest until Suzuki uncorks a short running boot that knocks them both down! AND SUZUKI IS STILL SMILING. Nose to nose again, slaps traded picks up momentum and they start laying them in, crowd is loving it. They keep going at it, with each having moments of getting rocked. Suzuki gets the advantage until an Ishii headbutt, but Suzuki is able to try for the choke again, Ishii looks for a suplex reversal but Suzuki wont budge, they turn it around and Ishii lands a big vertical suplex! Ishii hits the ropes but Suzuki gets up and lands a big dropkick, and they are both down again!
Suzuki sits Ishii up and locks in the rear naked choke, and stands Ishii up with it. Suzuki wrenches back on it hard, and then looks for the Gotch. He gets Ishii up, but Ishii reverses with a lariat, but Suzuki just SWALLOWS IT and drops Ishii with a forearm. God…dammit… Suzuki with more shots to Ishii and locks in a guillotine, and looks for the Gotch again but ISHII HOISTS HIM UP AND DROPS SUZUKI DOWN RIGHT ON HIS HEAD OH MY GOD IS SUZUKI STILL ALIVE?!
Ishii calls him up and hits a running lariat! Covers, but Suzuki is out at 2! Ishii looks for another one, but Suzuki hits a kick, Ishii follows with a headbutt, and then hits the sliding lariat on Suzuki! Covers, but only another 2. Ishii looks for the Brainbuster, but Suzuki goes behind, they trade shots again and Suzuki gets the choke once more. He looks for Gotch but Ishii hits an enziguri and another big lariat to take Suzuki down. Ishii with yet another lariat, picks him up and hits the Vertical Drop Brainbuster, covers, and thats the 3 count and the WIN.
Tomohiro Ishii defeats Minoru Suzuki by pinfall after the Vertical Drop Brainbuster to Retain the RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship
JAY’S RATING: 4.5 out of 5
That was an absolutely STELLAR match between two of the best heavy hitters in the world today, period (I’d say throw WALTER, Chris Hero and Keith Lee in there and that might be my top 5). What a match. WHAT. A. MATCH. I’m always a fan of these two just slugging it out, but this was definitely one of their best together. These are two beasts, who you know could legitimately beat the hell out of just about anyone, but who also just LOVE what they do, love telling stories this way, love getting locked into a match like this. Suzuki’s expressions are probably my favorite in the business. He’s that perfect balance of performer and athlete, and Ishii is right up there with him. So when they go at it, its like music to me. Violent, graceful and utterly artistic. I dont know if I would say this was their best outing, but I would say that this match contains my favorite strike exchange they have had thus far, as they just laid into each other toward the middle there. This FELT like a title match, and the best thing on the card so far. Congratulations to both – standing ovation for this one.
After the match, Minoru Suzuki hobbles his way to the back, determined to make his way back under his own power, and also is PISSED. SUZUKI IS GODZILLA.
ZACK SABRE, JR. vs TETSUYA NAITO
Crowd is hot for Naito at the bell. They lock up to begin and ZSJ lands a throw on Naito. Lockup again and ZSJ starts the arm work but Naito is able to stay ahead of it and they separate. Lockup again and ZSJ gets a hammerlock, Naito looks to counter but ZSJ keeps Naito tied up. Naito gets a headlock but ZSJ turns it into a headscissors. Naito is able to pop that out to an armbar but ZSJ manipulates out of it into a stretch, Naito turns that into a cover but ZSJ pops out and Naito goes tranquilo and then heads outside.
Naito back in for a lock up and ZSJ gets the arm into a great hold, is able to get a headlock from there and take down Naito. Naito looks for a rollup but only a 1 count as ZSJ keeps the headlock. ZSJ to the ropes and Naito gets a couple of arm drags and a quick dropkick to the back of ZSJ’s head, throws up a LIJ salute but ZSJ pounces into a triangle, but Naito fights him to the ropes.
Naito gets caught by ZSJ in the bottom rope, which ZSJ uses for an illegal hold that the ref lets go for a surprising amount of time. ZSJ moves things to center and gets the stomp to Naito’s arm. ZSJ with a big uppercut, Naito with a chop, they trade, go to the corner but ZSJ sends Naito to the apron and sweeps his legs out to dump him. ZSJ takes Naito to the ramp and looks for a calf crusher, and then a half crab and then just slams Naito’s knee into the ramp floor and heads back to the ring as the ref begins the count. Naito sells the leg but is back in at 19.
ZSJ catches Naito coming back in with another half crab variation, then traps the arm and the other ankle and knee as well until Naito is finally able to fight an arm out to the ropes. ZSJ keeps things slow and goes for the knee again, Naito looks to fight back but ZSJ hits shots. ZSJ hits a big kick to the bad leg that takes down Naito. Naito tries to mount a comeback and hits a running rana, but cant follow up. Chants for Naito. Naito fires back, hits a nice reverse neckbreaker on the knee and follows with a running dropkick to the back of the head. ZSJ in the corner and Naito looks for his corner combo, ZSJ reverses, but Naito is able to get a rope hung backbreaker and a scoop reverse DDT for a 2 count.
Naito has ZSJ in the corner and targets the neck. He hoists ZSJ to the top rope and looks for the top rope rana but ZSJ rolls it through into an STF/Rings of Saturn combo! Naito able to roll to the ropes and gets the break. ZSJ is up first and keeps on Naito’s knee, then attacks the arm as well, while still selling the neck. European uppercut to Naito, forearm in return to ZSJ. They trade slow, with Naito hitting a BIG chop that sits ZSJ down. ZSJ back on the knee, Naito puts him in the corner and hits a sliding seated dropkick. ZSJ looks to reverse, but Naito lands the big tornado DDT and follows with Gloria, covers but only 2.
Naito calls for Destino but ZSJ attacks the arm, Naito hits the Kappo kick but ZSJ snatches him up in an Octopus! ZSJ is still showing difficulty due to the neck, but keeps wrist control on Naito. ZSJ then rolls it through into a calf crusher, and then rolls that into a seated position and looks to add the grounded muffler but he cant keep it due to the neck! They roll through this position and Naito is able to get the ropes. That was an awesome submission sequence.
Both are slow to get up. ZSJ with uppercuts, and then hits a HUGE PK, covers but Naito up at 2. ZSJ looks for the Zack Driver, Naito reverses, they trade and evade and Naito looks for an enziguri but ZSJ catches the leg. Go behind but Naito reverses into a German suplex, and then hits a running Destino! Cover, but ZSJ is able to roll the shoulder up. Naito takes the arm, ZSJ looks to reverse but Naito gets a cover for 2, but ZSJ rolls that into a wrist-lock clutch for a VERY CLOSE 2 COUNT! ZSJ kicks but Naito reverses into an enziguri, looks for Destino, ZSJ reverses and looks for the Zack Driver but Naito reverses THAT and hits an Emerald Flowsion! Naito sets up ZSJ again and hits that second Destino, covers and gets the 3 count and the WIN.
Tetsuya Naito defeats Zack Sabre, Jr. by pinfall after Destino
JAY’S RATING: 4 out of 5
This was a very, very good match between two performers who really know how to work off of each other well. They earned the slowed-down spots well, as they were just picking each other apart and the exhaustion showed and gave them something to continually power through against each other. I dont know a single other wrestler who can quite do what ZSJ does, certainly not to the extents that he can, and it just makes him a joy to watch in the ring every time. And I LOVE how New Japan is letting him really have these even, hard-hitting and ultra competitive matches with the more established main event talent on the roster – I feel like they view ZSJ as a mid-card star about to break out, and I hope as a long-term gaijin top star as I think he could bring something so different and electric to the main event title picture. Naito also looked great here, selling the submission work of ZSJ wonderfully and fighting through being just dissected to get some revenge on ZSJ for an earlier upset loss. Naito will now of course move on to the IC program with Jericho, though I do hope that put the IWGP strap back on him soon. Especially with the addition of Shingo, and anticipating the return of Hiromu Takahashi, LIJ could be poised to make a real run for just about EVERY major title. Pull the trigger. He’s ready. This match certainly continued to prove that.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
EVIL vs CHRIS JERICHO (c)
EVIL jumps Jericho before he’s fully out of his entrance gear before the bell and we are off hot. EVIL beats down Jericho in the corner, whips Jericho to the corner and his a clothesline. EVIL looks for another corner shot but Jericho retreats outside. EVIL follows him into the crowd and sends Jericho into the rail, as Jericho fights back. EVIL gets the advantage again and walks Jericho back to ringside, sending him into the corner post. Jericho gets some distance but EVIL follows and hits a snap suplex on the floor. EVIL then looks under the ring and pulls out a table, setting it up near the entrance ramp. Jericho looks to fight back, but EVIL stays on him. EVIL looks for a bomb on Jericho through the table, but Jericho backdrops him instead.
Jericho now goes on the offensive, using the camera for mindgames and then choking EVIL with his shirt. Jericho clears part of the announce area and sends EVIL into the table, then picks EVIL up and they are both standing on the tables, Jericho screams “EVERYTHING IS JERICHO” and hits a big DDT on EVIL onto the announcers tables! EVIL gets tossed back over the rail to ringside, Jericho grabs the NJPW banner and holds it up to the crowd before blowing his nose into it to a chorus of boos. He then shouts at Kevin Kelly before tossing EVIL back in the ring.
Jericho climbs to the top and hits a big crossbody and covers EVIL, but only gets 2. Jericho gets further under the skin of the crowd as he paintbrushes EVIL, picks him up and lays in big chops. EVIL fires back, but Jericho able to hit an enziguri, covers but EVIL is up at 2. EVIL fires back, runs the ropes but runs into a Jericho superkick, and Jericho hits a great Lionsault (to a nice pop) but only gets a 2 count. “Y2J” chants as Jericho slams EVIL and kicks him while he’s down. Jericho climbs to the top but EVIL cuts him off, looks for a middle rope superplex but Jericho blocks it and hits a diving back elbow, cover but another 2.
They trade blows again, but EVIL gets a kick to Jericho’s gut, and clotheslines Jericho over the top rope to the floor. They both look for whips but EVIL gets control and sends Jericho hard into the rail. EVIL goes back under the ring for a chair and gets a shot to Jericho, then wraps it over his head to do more damage, including baseball-batting it with a second chair. EVIL sends Jericho back in the ring, hits a clothesline in a corner and a fisherman buster, covers but Jericho is up at 2. Chants for EVIL.
EVIL sends Jericho to the corner again and stomps the mudhole and chokes Jericho down. EVIL looks for a running dropkick to a seated Jericho but Jericho grabs the legs and pulls EVIL toward center and tries to turn him over! EVIL reverses out of it, but Jericho is able to dump EVIL on the apron and hit the triangle dropkick. Jericho looks to send EVIL through the table but EVIL gets Jericho running with a shoulder to the gut, and looks for a suplex on Jericho through the table. Jericho holds on and is able to fight to the apron, but EVIL hooks him up and lands an Everything is Evil through the table! (And I think a couple fans can be heard trying to start a “This Is Awesome” chant!)
The ref begins to count, and EVIL throws Jericho back in the ring at 16. EVIL goes to climb and hits a big senton bomb, covers but Jericho kicks out at 2. EVIL looks for Darkness Falls, Jericho fights out and looks for the Walls of Jericho and turns him over and sits down! Jericho screams “ASK HIM!” as EVIL writhes and fights for the ropes. EVIL will not give up yet, and finally is able to get the rope break.
Jericho says EVIL tapped out but the ref says no he didnt, so Jericho pie faces the ref just to turn around into a clothesline from EVIL! EVIL covers, but Jericho is out at 2. More EVIL chants. EVIL lines up a lariat but Jericho reverses, but misses a Lionsault allowing EVIL to roll Jericho through and land Darkness Falls! Cover, but Jericho kicks out at 2. EVIL looks to finish, picks up Jericho but Jericho gets a rollup for 2, looks for a Codebreaker but EVIL pushes him off and both each lariats that crumple the other down.
Chop to EVIL by Jericho, EVIL returns it, they trade shots, EVIL looks to take the advantage through some misdirection but Jericho is able to catch him coming back with a Codebreaker! Cover on EVIL, but EVIL kicks out at 2! Jericho cant believe it, shouting “STAY DOWN!” Jericho climbs up top again while screaming “EVERYTHING IS JERICHO”, lines up EVIL but gets caught and EVIL lands Everything is Evil and covers Jericho, but Jericho is able to kick out at 2!
EVIL looks for the lariat again and hits it full, calls for the finish again but Jericho pushes him toward the ref and looks for the low blow, EVIL catches him and picks him up for Darkness Falls which Jericho turns into a rana, but EVIL rolls that through, except Jericho keeps the momentum through to his feet and grabs EVIL’s legs and turns over EVIL again into the Walls of Jericho! EVIL fights again and reaches, almost gets the ropes, but Jericho pulls him back and heightens the angle for a moment of the Liontamer, then sits back down for the Walls and EVIL has to tap.
Chris Jericho defeats EVIL by submission after The Walls of Jericho to retain the IWGP Intercontinental Title
JAY’S RATING: 3.8 out of 5
This was a solid main event, almost hitting “great”. EVIL is another guy on the roster who I feel is a true future main eventer, and this match showed that he can go toe to toe with someone as experienced and consistent as Jericho is. He delivered a match that told everyone that he could totally win against Chris Jericho – thats an awesome new notch on the belt for EVIL. And Jericho is, well, Jericho. He’s always on, can sell any moment, and knows how to play a crowd brilliantly. I dont love how part time he has made the IC belt, but you also know that when he shows up its going to be worth it, so it sort of balances out. And his work here was once again very strong. My main gripe with the match was simply that I dont know that it ever could keep its spark lit for long enough to reach the next gear – it was structured fine, I saw what they were going for story-wise, and god knows there were some great spots of aggression from and between both. But then it would sort of plateau for a bit, and that kept it from quite clicking the way I would have hoped it would. That being said, it certainly wasnt a let down of a main event, and pushes Jericho into a very exciting program with Naito next.
After the match, Jericho puts EVIL into the Walls of Jericho again until Naito runs down and attacks Jericho, who runs for safety with his belt. Jericho asks if Naito wants it, and Naito opens the ropes for Jericho, but Jericho walks away. Naito picks up the mic and officially makes his challenge to Jericho for the IC belt.
This was a VERY strong event from New Japan, with a strong tournament final, a new champion crowned, a bunch of stories advanced and overall just really great action and execution. One of the things I was most excited by while watching this was how you can start to see some real next generation leaders being nurtured, and they are already showing some incredible potential. And I’m not even talking about the rapid ascent of Jay White, though that’s part of the equation. I’m talking even fresher than that. From Sho Tanaka to Shingo Takagi to ZSJ to Juice Robinson to Taiji Ishimori to Robbie Eagles to David Finlay to EVIL to Will Ospreay… the NJPW bench of folks who could take the reins for the future is sort of brilliant. And I think that was one of the successes I personally felt of the event: it kept the necessary focus where it should, but also did provide some real showcasing for a ton of next-wave people on that list who were on the card – they all had chances to look great without stealing any spotlight from the top players. For me the best matches were, by far, the tournament final, Naito/ZSJ and Ishii/Suzuki (that last one being the strongest match of the card), with a solid following by Jericho/EVIL and the Golden Lovers tag match, which – anchored by solid showings throughout – made for an extremely enjoyable event that makes me lean forward into the next. Congrats all around on a great Power Struggle 2018, top to bottom one of the stronger “mid-card” (i.e., not the Tokyo Dome, G1, etc) PPV cards I’ve seen this year.