New Japan’s final pay-per-view of the year took place this past Saturday, with a Time Bomb nestled in the middle of the card…
We’re straight into the pre-show match here, with Juice Robinson and Young Lion Teruaki Kanemitsu taking the spotlight in a six man tag.
Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi & Teruaki Kanemitsu vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Juice Robinson
Decent stuff early on, with Kanemitsu trying his luck against Tenzan, but quickly finding himself overwhelmed when Kojima came into it. We got Nagata and Kojima for a fun exchange, featuring Kojima decking Nagata with a rolling elbow, then a Koji cutter.
Nakanishi and Robinson came in for a spell, ending badly for Juice when his cross body was caught and turned into a bodyslam, before Nakanishi hit his crossbody off the top. Kanemitsu almost stole the win after an Exploder suplex by Nagata, then a big splash by Nakanishi, before a flip senton earned the youngster a near-fall. They kept up the fast pace from there, as Kanemitsu dropkicked Tenzan, but it was the two youngsters involved in the finish, as Robinson dropped Kanemitsu with a lariat, before Pulp Friction (the Unprettier) earned the win. Way too short for a six-man to be memorable, but decent enough for what it was. **½
Fuego, Ryusuke Taguchi, Angel de Oro & Titan vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Ricochet, David Finlay & Tiger Mask
Ah, the glory of dubbed-in music returned here… and for once it actually seemed to fit here. Or perhaps that was just Fuego accidentally dancing in time to it?
This was another short opener, but none of the eight guys were using this as a night off. Titan Matrix’d out of an early clothesline from Liger, before a springboard dropkick took the veteran to the floor. Ricochet and Angel de Oro came in next for a sequence that featured a couple of headscissors before Ricochet too faked out a dive… only to fall into a leaping hip attack from Taguchi. Taguchi tags in for more hip attacks, but he ended up taking a triple dropkick from Tiger, Ricochet and Liger after they’d had enough of his arse. Fuego freaked out Tiger Mask with some faked out hip attacks before he got caught with an armdrag off the top rope. Finlay had a brief spell in until he tagged out to Ricochet, who in turn took a satellite headscissors into a DDT by Titan… who then took a backbreaker from Liger as we rushed into a parade of moves: hip attacks from Taguchi! Tiger Driver! Superkick from Oro! Spear from Finlay!
In the end, Finlay had to kick out of a wheelbarrow roll-up fro Fuego, before a flying forearm from Ricochet set up for the finish – a Finlay roll quickly followed by a shooting star press. For five minutes long, this was as good an eight-man tag as you’ll get. All action, with little downtime. Fun! ***¼
So… what’s next?
Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & BONE SOLDIER vs. Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Yoshitatsu
Goddamn you. The Boner was in a white shirt today, which killed the colour co-ordination, and additionally made him look even more like a backyard wrestler to boot You can probably follow the script here – Honma outsmarted the Boner and Chase Owens early on as they tried to double-team him. An early Kokeshi was blocked by Takahashi as he pulled Honma out of the ring, but Honma eventually nailed it after Makabe cut-off a double-team.
The Boner meekly tried to kick Honma in the ropes, and after being sent outside, the Boner went to work on Honma, whipping him into the crowd barriers. Boner tags in against Honma legitimately, but his offence was mostly kicks and chokes. Chase Owens mocks the Kokeshi taunt, and of course misses his headbutt, before Chase recovers… and takes a leaping Kokeshi headbutt.
Makabe tags in and quickly clears house, before having to clear out Yujiro as he tried to run in. A superkick from Owens drops Makabe as we eventually get Yoshitatsu and the Boner. Some knees from Yoshitatsu rock the Boner, as do some kicks, but Yoshi’s attempt at a Pedigree is backdropped out of as Boner lands a uranage.
After some Bullet Club double- and triple-teaming, the Boner lands his finishing move – the Bone Soldier (a full nelson slam) onto Yoshitatsu, before Yujiro lands his short DDT (called the Pimp Juice) for the win. This… didn’t suck. The Boner looks like a really bad indy wrestler in this gimmick, and his work sucked, but thankfully everyone else seemed determined not to have a bad match. **
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c)
Good stuff early on here, with the Guerillas dipping into their playbook, as Tama Tonga tripped YOSHI-HASHI in the ropes as Tanga Loa looked to dominate the opening stages. A double dropkick took down YOSHI-HASHI as the Guerillas seized the opportunities they had, before a Loa Samoan drop on YOSHI-HASHI earned them a near-fall. YOSHI returned with a DDT before making the tag out to Ishii, who finally took down Loa, before slamming Tonga back out of the ring.
Loa took over once more with a powerslam on Ishii for a two-count, before Ishii shrugged off a dropkick from Tonga and slammed into him with a shoulder tackle. YOSHI-HASHI returned for a flipping neckbreaker on Loa, before Tonga took a rope-hung dropkick to the back for a near-fall. The Guerillas again rushed the ring to double-team YOSHI, with a fireman’s carry flapjack getting Tonga a two-count.
Tomohiro Ishii came in to make a save as YOSHI-HASHI was about to take a double-team suplex, and then chipped in for a lariat-assisted Bunker Buster. Ishii added to Loa’s pain with a bucklebomb, before a lariat on Tonga set up YOSHI-HASHI for a Meteora for a near-fall… just as Loa crawled into the ring to break it up.
YOSHI-HASHI connected with a senton bomb off the top for a two-count, before a Butterfly lock trapped Tonga in the middle of the ring. Ishii restrained Loa, but Tanga powered up – with Ishii on his back – before breaking the hold. Loa’s punishment… a double-team suplex… but that signalled a see-saw period of the match, as neither team could maintain much offence.
Tonga and YOSHI-HASHI went back and forth with forearms, before a Loa spear set up for a swandive headbutt/body splash combo that earned the champions a near-fall – and would have won them the match had Ishii not run in. A powerbomb/reverse DDT combo gets Tonga a two-count, before YOSHI-HASHI pushes out of an assisted neckbreaker as Ishii’s attempt to help was again cut-off.
A Gun Stun is blocked by Tonga, who then takes a spinning kick and a forearm from YOSHI-HASHI. Tonga countered a pumphandle driver with a Gun Stun, and that left YOSHI-HASHI prone for a double-team facebuster that ensured that the Guerillas retained their titles. A much, much better match than we’re used to seeing out of Tonga and Loa… whether that was because of the challengers, or whether it’s because they put on their working boots for one night remains to be seen. For once, a GOD match you need to see! ****
Super Junior Tag Team Tournament Final: ACH & Taiji Ishimori vs. Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero)
Romero and Ishimori start us off with wristlocks and reversals, before a headscissor takedown and a dropkick sent Romero scurrying into our first sign of Roppongi Vice animosity.
Beretta comes in to drop ACH with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex, before a double knee strike took down ACH. Ishimori takes a double dropkick to get knocked off the apron, as a tope con hilo from Beretta knocked down the NOAH team. After Roppongi Vice took too long leaving the ring – so long, they were pulled off the apron – the tables turned as the Beretta ended up getting whipped into the crowd barriers.
The pace slowed down a little here, as ACH grabbed a single leg crab on Beretta, who eventually forced a rope break. After Beretta regained the upper hand, Romero almost lost it as he tried for the “Forever” lariats, before a standing Shiranui saw Romero get a near-fall. A second Shiranui was caught by Ishimori, whose tombstone attempt was stopped… but his handspring off the ropes into a corkscrew did was not. ACH and Ishimori land a pair of stereo deadlift German suplexes for a near-fall, but their stereo 450 Splash finisher ended up being curtailed as Beretta and Romero rolled to the outside. They were able to make up for it with a wheelbarrow facebuster/slingshot Ace crusher combination for a near-fall, as Beretta broke up the cover.
Ishimori’s moonsault slam off the top got him a near-fall on Romero. ACH accidentally clotheslined Ishimori in the corner as Romero sidestepped the move, before another double leaping knee connected with ACH as he slingshotted back into the ring. The end looked to be near as Ishimori ended up fighting out of a Dudebuster, instead a double knee strike as Beretta held him in a Torture rack… yet still Ishimori kicked out at two.
ACH hit back with a back suplex into a lungblower on Beretta, before Romero took a rolling clothesline in the corner. Rocky hit back with a reverse spinning kick, and then followed with the Forever lariats. We get an impressive as hell no-hands Sasuke special from ACH, before Roppongi Vice got their knees up to block the stereo 450 Splashes. From there, Romero fought back with ACH, giving and receiving forearm smashes, before a knee lift from Romero took ACH down hard. ACH countered with a kick from the ground up, before a deadlift suplex earned him a near-fall. Beretta popped up to counter a moonsault from ACH by taking him down with a belly-to-back superplex, as Romero put paid to Ishimori with a tope suicida.
That left ACH open for a Dudebuster – with a Strong Zero dropkick giving an assist – as Roppongi Vice won the match and the tournament… earning them little toy trophies. A fine tournament final, which still played up their dissension without it overriding the entire match. ****
Romero ordered out the Young Bucks after the match, and had two words for them: Tokyo Dome! There’s our junior tag title match for WrestleKingdom 11 then…
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA vs. BUSHI (c)
This was their rematch from Destruction in Tokyo – where BUSHI beat KUSHIDA for the belt back in September… KUSHIDA launched into BUSHI with a shotgun dropkick at the bell, then moved into some ground-and-pound, as this resembled more a MMA fight than a wrestling match. The cameraman took a spill as BUSHI was whipped into the guard rails, before they went up the aisle, with KUSHIDA connecting with a piledriver amongst the crowd.
Back in the ring, BUSHI sidestepped a charge into the corner before a lungblower in the ropes took down the challenger. That’s followed by BUSHI hanging in the middle rope as he took the challenger in a headlock on the apron, before dropping down to the floor. After using his t-shirt to choke KUSHIDA, BUSHI stomps away and grabs a guillotine choke, which gets broken after KUSHIDA rolled into the ropes.
BUSHI landed a second lungblower, before they traded kicks in the corner. KUSHIDA’s latest comeback saw him take down BUSHI with a cross armbreaker off the top rope, before BUSHI repeated the trick of rolling into the ropes for a break. A handspring off the ropes sees BUSHI land a dropkick, then a missile-like tope into KUSHIDA on the outside as the impact suddenly went a little violent.
After rolling KUSHIDA back in, BUSHI hit a missile dropkick, then a running knee-strike into the corner for another near-fall. KUSHIDA blocks a Code Breaker with an armbar, but it’s quickly turned into a guillotine again, with the champion holding on as he rolled through to the mat… but again KUSHIDA grabs the ropes after powering up.
BUSHI immediately followed up from the rope break with a Code Breaker for a near-fall, then an MX for another two-count. A second MX attempt misses as KUSHIDA sidesteps it, as he then drilled the champion with a forearm. From there, KUSHIDA ripped away at BUSHI’s mask, and that’s where the intensity increased once again, with stiff swipes at each other, before BUSHI pulled off a Destroyer for a near-fall.
KUSHIDA countered an MX into a Code Breaker of his own from the mat, then ran into BUSHI with a Knee Trembler, and eventually back into a cross armbreaker. After failing with that, the Hoverboard Lock got more success, eventually forcing BUSHI to tap as he was twice rolled back into the middle of the ring. Absolutely amazing – the crowd not being all in favour of KUSHIDA helped, but this was a match that actually felt like a war, rather than a display of moves as some of the juniors matches can sometimes fall into. ****¼
So, KUSHIDA took the belt home for the second time this year… what’s next? Oh yeah… the Time Bomb! We actually had pyro, as the Time Bomb proved to be… not Minoru Suzuku. Not the return of Suzuki-gun from NOAH… but Hiromu Takahashi. Or Kamaitachi, as we’ve known him by for the last three years (fun fact: according to Cagematch, his last match before being rebranded in his CMLL excursion as Kamaitachi was against Dave Mastiff in December 2013).
My Japanese, as you know, is non-existent, but Takahashi licking the IWGP Junior heavyweight title, then saying “Tokyo Dome” kinda made this obvious. For future reference: if we ever get a match with Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiromu Takahashi and Yujiro Takahashi in it at once… I may just lose my mind!
Kenny Omega, Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) & Adam Cole vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay & Gedo
Kenny has ditched his beaten up briefcase for… the restaurant menu-esque piece of paper that declares him the number one contender for the Tokyo Dome.
Ospreay started off swapping wristlocks with Nick Jackson in an exchange that ended with a stand-off… and had me wondering whether Ospreay was wearing a discoloured scarf or tape around his neck. Will faked out a dive after the Bucks were sent to the outside… and that promptly led us to a tease of an Omega/Okada face-off.
We got Okada largely overwhelming Adam Cole, before Omega took a flapjack into the ROH champion as he tried to make a sneak attack. Nick Jackson took a punch out of the ring as he tried to block Gedo’s punch… but eventually the Bucks hit a pair of superkicks before going to town on the CHAOS team. A quartet of topes knocked down the babyfaces as the Osaka crowd did the Terminator clap without needing to be cheerled. Gedo’s beard took the brunt of some punishment as Omega dropped a double axehandle onto it, before we got a beard wringer and more beard-based offence. You read that right.
A flying forearm from Ospreay cut off some self-promotion for Adam Cole, before Goto came in with a spinning heel kick in the corner and a side suplex for a near-fall. The Young Bucks saved Cole from a GTR with a pair of superkicks, before the trio fell to Ospreay’s springboard overhead kick, then a Sasuke special on the outside. Back inside, Cole took the ushigoroshi from Goto as we finally got a fast-paced but short-lived exchange between Omega and Okada. On this form, we’ve got nothing to worry about for January 4… the Bucks sprayed Okada and Goto with that freeze spray, but Hirooki managed to drop one of the Bucks with the ushigoroshi despite it. Will Ospreay borrowed Mark Andrews’ “stundog millionaire” (stunner counter to a suplex), as his next attempt at a dive was halted by an Omega chop.
Nevermind, Ospreay dove to the outside anyway after taking down Omega with a standing Spanish Fly, before Okada’s Rainmaker saw him fall to a litany of superkicks, including a four-way superkick that would have ended the match, were it not for Gedo. Who fought back briefly before being decapitated by four superkicks. Okada almost took the One Winged Angel, but countered it into a tombstone which was reversed too… only for Omega to take a dropkick to the face. A Rainmaker was countered with a knee strike, then a reverse ‘rana from Omega, who then hit a knee trembler and the One Winged Angel to get the win. In other places, that’d mean he’s guaranteed not to win in the Tokyo Dome…
This was a frenetic eight-man tag with hardly any downtime. Really entertaining to watch, largely because the Elite’s usual antics were toned down bigtime. The streak of great matches on this show is kept alive… ****
NEVER Openweight Championship: EVIL vs. Katsuyori Shibata (c)
Hard-hitting, as you’d expect, with both men hitting their opponent after early rope breaks, as they swung and missed with attempts at their signature moves in the early stages. Shibata grounded EVIL with a figure four headscissors, forcing a rope break, before EVIL took a big boot off the apron and into the guard railings. EVIL returned fire with a clothesline on the apron, before whipping the champion into the railings, and then sending a chair-wearing Shibata’s arm into the post.
With Shibata wedged in a chair, he just about beat the count-out to get more punishment from EVIL, including a curb stomp and a tight arm wrench. Shibata actually invited EVIL to kick away at the taped-up shoulder… which didn’t end well as Shibata powered back and kicked away at EVIL in the corner, pushing his boot into the challenger’s nose. The offence kept going back and forth, with EVIL shrugging off Shibata’s best efforts, but the champion seemed to have a penchant for EVIL’s head, trying repeatedly to kick it off before a clothesline took down Shibata. A back suplex from EVIL keeps Shibata down, as did a Blue Thunder bomb that nearly won the title for EVIL.
Shibata replied by ripping a page out of EVIL’s book with an STO, only for the match to descend into a war of forearm strikes. EVIL took a sleeper suplex after originally getting slapped for rolling out of an earlier sleeperhold… that suplex led to a nasty landing as the challenger landed on his head.
EVIL rolls out to the floor to put some distance between him and Shibata, but it’s a ruse as he popped up and grabbed a pair of chairs out from under the ring as the referee took a bump. Shibata finds himself with a chair put around his head and then struck off with a second chair for a home run, before a Fisherman’s buster on the chair gets a near-fall as the referee was thrown back into the ring by some of the ring crew. After that, EVIL lands the STO, and that’s all – we have a new champion after a brutal (in a violent sense) match. Shibata’s latest reign ends, and finally, EVIL gets the step up after a rather shaky 2016. ****¼
SANADA vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
The match started fairly slow as Tanahashi eked an advantage over SANADA as they worked a more ground-based war. SANADA took Tanahashi into the corner after cheapshotting him on a handshake, before the pace quickened with a plancha from SANADA to the outside.
After the plancha, SANADA led Tanahashi up the aisle with a headlock, before a ‘rana took down the “Ace” of New Japan, with SANADA returning to the ring to try and take the count-out victory. Needless to say, it didn’t end that early as Tanahashi returned at the count of 19, after log-rolling his way back to the ring. Tanahashi’s attempt at a Dragon Screw was blocked as SANADA countered it into an armbar, with Tanahashi eventually wriggling his way to the ropes. After the rope break, they traded European uppercuts in the corner, only for Tanahashi to hit back with a forearm out of the corner before dropping an elbow and a flip senton for a two-count.
SANADA knocked Tanahashi off the middle rope as he went for a senton, but the Ingobernable member got caught with a Dragon Screw in the rope as he tried to make his way back into the ring, before taking a Slingblade on the apron. Tanahashi kept the pressure up with a High Fly Flow to the floor, but back inside the tables turned again as SANADA hit some knees in the corner before a missile dropkick kept Tanahashi down.
A TKO attempt is blocked from Tanahashi, before SANADA looked to land awkwardly from a attempt to block a release German suplex, as he finally took down Tanahashi with a TKO on the second attempt for a near-fall. SANADA came close again with a bridging Tiger suplex, before going to the Skull End… which SANADA eventually releases so he can try for a moonsault, which misses.
Tanahashi looks to follow-up with a High Fly Flow, but that misses too, as SANADA lands on his feet from another moonsault attempt, injuring that knee some more. As SANADA tried for an enziguiri, Tanahashi dropkicked the bad leg before connecting with another Dragon Screw en route to a Cloverleaf submission, forcing a rope break. Another series of Dragon Screws softened the knee, as Tanahashi went back up top for another High Fly Flow… but SANADA got the knees up… which worked, but was also a bad call for him. As they worked back to their feet, the pair traded more shots, before SANADA again caught him in a Skull End. Tanahashi kept countering and scored some near-falls with roll-ups, before SANADA hit a Quebrada into a Skull End… which ended with a Roll the Dice.
SANADA kept spamming those Skull Ends, and that earned him a Slingblade, then a Dragon suplex as Tanahashi nearly sneaked the win… A High Fly Flow to the back, then a regular one to the front ended up being enough as Tanahashi took the win in a great contest. Deliberate and slow-paced when they needed to be, this was a tremendous effort that told a story… the story of “SANADA probably needs to find another finisher that works against Tanahashi”! ****¼
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Jay Lethal vs. Tetsuya Naito (c)
Sadly, Jay Lethal got a near-Guerillas of Destiny level reaction here, and to be fair, as a replacement for an injured Michael Elgin, Lethal had a bit of an uphill struggle here. At least they built off of the ROH feud from August, where Naito turned on Lethal… but even that felt cold here.
Naito frustrated Lethal early on by sidestepping some tie-ups, before a tope suicida sent Lethal into Naito and into the crowd barriers. Three times. Lethal kept on top of Naito with a hiptoss takedown followed by a dropkick, only to get backdropped and crotched on the top rope – a move (and subsequent pose) that got Naito a loud cheer.
Lethal became close friends with the guard railings, a move that Naito hoped would get him a count-out win… but Lethal returned well before the count of 20. An enziguiri sent Naito into the corner as Lethal made a comeback, but a back elbow, a dropkick and a neckbreaker ensured that was shortlived, with the champion getting himself a near-fall from it all. Lethal shocked Naito with a Gun Stun out of nowhere, before a series of forearms and clotheslines led to a spinebuster that earned Lethal a near-fall. Naito returned with an inverted atomic drop, then his outside-in dropkick, before a Koji Clutch forced Lethal to squirm into a rope break.
A Lethal Combination (backbreaker, reverse STO) gets Jay some breathing space, but Naito blocked as suplex, before a tornado DDT was turned into a death valley driver for a near-fall from Lethal. Jay follows up with a series of rolling back suplexes, before setting Naito onto the top rope for a belly-to-back superplex, only for Naito to elbow himself free. Instead, Lethal hit back with a dropkick, then succeeded with a superplex for a near-fall. Naito ducks under a handspring elbow and instead drops Lethal with a tornado DDT off the ropes, before getting a missile dropkick. A top rope ‘rana sees Naito drill Lethal to the mat, before he connects with Gloria for a near-fall. They trade forearms back and forth for a spell, before Naito blocks an uranage, and instead gets a brainbuster for another two-count.
Lethal hit back with a reverse Finlay roll (think of an Argentine backbreaker, then a forward roll) before he trapped Naito in a crossface. The hold’s broken as Naito inched towards the ropes, which led to a tease of a German suplex on the apron from Lethal, who instead had to settle for a normal suplex on the apron. The Lethal Elbow drop gets him a near-fall after throwing Naito back inside, before pulling a page out of Michael Elgin’s book with a buckle bomb and a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall.
Naito rushed back into things with an enziguiri, then a diving shoulder tackle, before a Destino is blocked and met with a right hand… then an enziguiri from Lethal, who tried for the Lethal Injection… but that’s blocked as Naito instead got the Destino for the win. A good match, but definitely not main event calibre – in spite of Jay Lethal working his backside off here, it’s proof that you can’t just plant guys from one group and expect them to headline. A rare mis-step when it comes to match placing from New Japan. ***½
Hiroshi Tanahashi appeared in the aisle after the match, before challenging Naito to a match at the Tokyo Dome for the Intercontinental title… and there’s your next challenger for the Ingobernable leader!
As a show, Power Struggle was definitely long, but it was memorable. We had a six-bout stretch of great matches, which is an automatic thumbs up in anybody’s book – and the creation of multiple matches for January’s Tokyo Dome show. Without a shadow of a doubt, this is a show you need to go out of your way and watch!