New Japan’s final pay-per-view of the year was a momentous one as Osaka – and the rest of the world – found out who was Switchblade! Safe to say, nobody’s guessed the other surprise…
Katsuya Kitamura vs. David Finlay
An exceedingly-rare singles match for the Young Lion here, as Kitamura took on an injured David Finlay. Commentary tells us that Finlay couldn’t lift his arm a few days ago… which is a bit of a disadvantage!
A shoulder tackle knocked Finlay down onto the bad arm, but he was able to gut through and wear down the rookie. Problem was, as soon as Kitamura threw chops, Finlay was firmly on the defensive, at least until he sidestepped a spear and hit back with a spiking DDT. Second time was the charm for the spear, but it wasn’t enough, and Finlay was able to fight back with a uranage backbreaker before a Stunner gets the win. Fairly standard stuff – and I’m not sure how much Finlay’s injury restricted things, but so much for those expecting a shock Young Lion win! **
Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) vs. Dragon Lee & Titan
This was the Buck’s first appearance in New Japan since they dropped the IWGP junior tag titles to Ricochet and Ryusuke Taguchi at the G1 finals… don’t think too much has happened with them since?
Commentary instantly takes shots at “Stamford” for the way they’ve gone after the Bucks lately, and the Bucks headed for an early Meltzer Driver, only for the luchadores to escape and hit some early tope con hilo. Back in the ring, Titan hits a diving clothesline into the corner and sent himself out to the floor in the process as the Bucks were firmly on the back foot, at least until Nick Jackson chained together a springboard facebuster and an awkward moonsault that nearly spiked Titan.
The Bucks work their way into duelling Sharpshooters, then into a superkick as Titan took a rope-hung senton for a near-fall, but an apron ‘rana from Dragon Lee saves an Indytaker, only for him to get dumped onto the apron with a Matt Jackson DDT. We’re bringing the head drops here, I see!
— LARIATOOOO!!!! (@MrLARIATO) November 5, 2017
In the end, a blocked ‘rana left Titan vulnerable for an Indytaker, before the Bucks busted out their “new finisher” – the Cease and Desist: a Sharpshooter and Crossface at the same time. That’s some slack officiating, but the ref calls the submission, as the Bucks leave after a pretty decent opener. I don’t expect this’ll be the last we see of them tonight… ***¼
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Juice Robinson, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask, KUSHIDA & Hirai Kawato
Yeah, we had a jump start in this ten-man tag as Sabre instantly went after Juice’s dreadlocks whilst the masks of Liger and Tiger quickly became “at risk”. Liger escaped it though, and a double DDT finally gets him into a tag as Juice Robinson ran wild, at least until a Pulp Friction attempt was rolled through into an Octopus stretch from Sabre. Quick tags keep the action fast-flowing, unfortunately with a lot of it flowing towards KUSHIDA, who took some 5-on-1 attacks, before the good guys amped up Kawato into a tope con hilo on Sabre on the outside. That’s… like egging in someone to their own death, but fortunately the match ends before Zack can hit back, as KUSHIDA tapped out TAKA with a Hoverboard Lock. Way too quick, but I’ve a feeling the win for KUSHIDA here might lead to a challenge for the Tokyo Dome later… **
Bullet Club (Cody, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Togi Makabe, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Since Tenzan wouldn’t “kiss the ring”, the Bullet Club trio jump him… but things quickly settle down into Tenzan going after Chase. Cody sneaked in a kick to Tenzan in the ropes, which prompted a little 3-on-1, and I’m worried that Cody’s been brought in for a singles feud after with one of these guys.
Tenzan’s left in there for a long time as he takes a lot of offence, culminating in Owens mocking the Mongolian chops. Still, at least Kojima found a new skill – you can break up a pinfall by just shouting at it! Cody tagged in and took a Mountain bomb, before we got a little Makabe in our lives, courtesy of some scoop slams.
Owens comes in and mocks Kojima’s machine gun chops, which earn him some of the real thing, before recovering to blast the bread lover with a running knee for a near-fall. Chase is getting quite a lot in for someone as low down the card as he is, but it’s all mockery as he aped Kojima’s Strong Arm lariat… it’s ducked, and Kojima hits the real thing for the win. Fun stuff, but this felt like filler on this show. **½
Super Junior Tag Tournament 2017 – Final: Super 69 (Ryusuke Taguchi & ACH) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
This is only the fourth match that Roppongi 3K have had as a tag team (in this guise anyway), and it’s fair to say they’ve stormed the junior tag division thus far. A win against Super 69 in the finals here would have seen them almost sweep the entire division.
ACH starts off by guiding Taguchi into a load of corner-to-corner hip attacks, tiring out his own partner. There’s a lot of comedy here too, as R3K leapt over each other before Super 69 just leap into each other as they tried the same, allowing the champions to firmly gain control. A pair of tope con hilo will do that for you!
YOH’s working over ACH’s ribs, nailing a stomp to the taped up area for a near-fall, but ACH tries to chop back… and quickly gets snuffed out as YOH kept up the pressure. SHO comes in with an abdominal stretch, which ACH hiptosses free of… and for a Super Juniors tournament final, we’re refreshingly free of needlessly flippy stuff.
— Italo Santana (@BulletClubItal) November 5, 2017
Just as I type that, Taguchi leaps over the active cameraman with a plancha as he starts going airborne, but he’s quickly back to the mat with an ankle lock on SHO. After getting free, SHO throws in some kicks as the match became evenly poised… but despite coming back in, it seemed everything ACH threw caused pain to his ribs.
A massive running discus lariat into the corner dropped YOH, but a huge frog splash misses and it’s back to square one for “Super” ACH. He manages to avoid the double-team Dominator, before YOH skinned the cat from a superkick… but this time Taguchi saves the day as the champions went for the double-team flatliner. Somehow, Super 69 nearly get the win with a Dodon/450 Splash combo, but ACH’s ribs caused too much of a delay before the cover was made.
Delays thwarted the Dodon/Facebuster combo that Super 69 had used in the tournament, and with ACH down and out, Taguchi takes a lot of Germans, whilst YOH threw in a sneaky kick to ACH’s ribs ahead of that double-team Flatliner to Taguchi. Seconds later, ACH gets one, and that’s all folks! Roppongi 3K sweep the board, and this was a thing of beauty. You expected flippy stuff? Subverted! Ground-based stuff with high spots where it mattered was the order of the day – along with ACH’s phenomenal selling of his ribs. You still sense that the champions have work to do in connecting with the wider crowds. ****¼
Oh hey, it’s the Young Bucks. Told you! They openly mock how New Japan do title challenges, noting that they “want our damn belts back.” Rocky Romero accepts on 3K’s behalf, and there’s another one for the Tokyo Dome!
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, BUSHI, SANADA & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Gedo
I love these guys, but this match is quickly in “done to death” territory right now. At least we get creepy Hiromu putting lip balm on Naito, I suppose…
EVIL and Ishii charge at each other early, but it’s not long before the Ingobernables do their usual stuff, double-teaming YOSHI-HASHI before Naito dragged Okada into the aisle for a couple of body slams on the ramp. Osaka did NOT like that!
Back in the ring, things settled down as YOSHI-HASHI dropped SANADA with a Bunker Buster, before SANADA and Goto teased several of their bigger moves on each other. Instead, we get a springboard dropkick, before Okada and Naito tagged in… and the first thing we get, is spittle from Naito.
Okada edges ahead with a DDT, but a neckbreaker from Naito evened it up, before Okada blocks Destino, then a tornado DDT. Instead, he turns that swiftly into a neckbreaker slam as the tide keeps turning, with the ring filling just as BUSHI looked to hit Okada with the MX. That was never going to happen, eh? What was likely was BUSHI taking a dropkick and a top rope elbow as Okada fired back into it… just in time for him to catch an onrushing Naito with a tombstone, leaving BUSHI vulnerable for a Rainmaker for the win. Good stuff, as always here, but the Tokyo Dome can’t come quickly enough! ***½
After this match, they had an announcement for New Japan’s latest foray into the US: in 2018, they’re returning to Long Beach on March 25 for a show called Strong Style Evolved. The best part: the building’s called WALTER Pyramid. The capitalisation may be my own doing…
Bullrope Match for the NEVER Openweight Championship: Toru Yano vs. Minoru Suzuki (c)
Gotta say, the cartoons for the promo package for this match were out of this world!
This bullrope match isn’t one of those “touch the corners” matches, it’s just a regular match where they happened to be tied together. With added athletic tape around the strap… but Yano doesn’t yield and he tries to attack Suzuki ahead of the bell, before the champion decides to help out by offering Yano’s wrist to the ref. He’s a nice helpful chap, is Minoru.
Once they’re tethered, the match goes outside for the Minoru Murdering Special, as he rolls Yano around the ringside area. It’s not too long before the rope’s used to choke Yano, and of course, Kanemaru and Desperado are out there to stomp away on Yano on the floor. Hey, if choking isn’t illegal, I doubt this is either… but at least Yano’s tag partner from the tour finally does something as he dragged the goons away. Hi Hirooki Goto!
With everyone else gone, Suzuki tore away at Yano with a cross armbreaker, but Yano makes the ropes and goes to his usual stuff. He never ever learns. Eventually Yano gets some offence in, whipping Suzuki into the exposed corner, just in time for Takashi Iizuka to wander down to the ring.
Problem was, that distraction just gave Suzuki a chance to tie up Yano in the ropes, with the rope. For whatever reason, chairshots weren’t allowed… but Suzuki just kills the ref as the shenanigans continue. Taichi pulls out the ref after a powerbomb from Yano, and Iizuka returns to wipe out Yano with a chairshot… but Iizuka’s iron glove misses as Yano hits a pair of low blows and cradles Suzuki for a near-fall.
Suzuki uses the rope in his favour though, yanking Yano into that exposed corner, before doing a legitimate ripcord dropkick. Love it. More strangulation leads to a delayed, rope-assisted Gotch piledriver, and that’s plenty. This wasn’t good, but I can’t wave away a match that featured so much Suzuki murdering. Even if the Suzuki-gun shenanigans we expected happened… **¼
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay (c)
The Bedford Corn Exchange. The London Cockpit Theatre. York Hall. The Electric Ballroom. The Markthalle. Korakuen Hall. These two have wrestled all over the place, and now Osaka’s Edion Arena became the biggest venue to play host to the latest round in this ongoing struggle.
They went all-out early on, with Ospreay dropkicking Marty to the outside, but he faked out the Sasuke Special, before Marty kicked away a guard rail as Will went for a springboard. That didn’t end too well for the champ, as they ended up going into the crowd for a bit of a Brookesing.
Marty slows the pace, at least until Will’s handspring enziguiri knocked both men down, and Will starts to ease into some of his usual stuff – the diving dropkick and the corkscrew splash. Indy’riffic pins follow, before Ospreay yet again fell for a Just Kidding superkick. Someone has to learn someday.
They started to throw slaps with increasing intensity, and this becomes like a Family Guy slapping scene until Marty just chopped Will in the throat as they continued to go move-for-move with neither man holding much of an advantage. A missed Sasuke special earns Ospreay a superkick and a tornado DDT on the floor, but they continue to throw bombs at each other as Ospreay throws in a Next Stop Driver for a near-fall.
Ospreay’s offence came crashing down when Scurll got the knees up to a shooting star press before following up with an inverted Go to Sleep as the pair continued to waffle each other. A finger snap comes as promised, and finally Ospreay avoids a Just Kidding superkick as he turned up the tempo even more, only to run into a massive lariat!
Scurll hits Will with his own Essex Destroyer for a near-fall, before trapping Ospreay in a chicken wing, using the still dislodged fingers to prevent Will from freeing himself via the ropes, as he instead needed to dump Scurll on the strands for an enziguiri as they continued to race towards a finish… and with Ospreay going for an OsCutter, Marty countered out into a wheelbarrow roll-up, and just like that, we have a new champion! Just as Ospreay gets the KUSHIDA monkey off his back, a more Villainous monkey returns and it’s familiar territory. A hell of a match between these two, and despite all of the remarks about how this match has been done to death, they find ways to make it fresh everywhere. Go out of your way to see this! ****¼
Ospreay got in the referee’s face after the match as he disputed the pinfall… KUSHIDA’s out and challenges Scurll for the title. Ospreay disputes it, and in among all of the hubbub, Hiromu comes out with a face mask, a cup and some hockey gloves to prevent a headbutt or a finger snap. He wants to issue a challenge too, and we’ve got a four-way at the Tokyo Dome!
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) November 5, 2017
Yeah, that’s going to be a show-stealer.
IWGP United States Championship: Beretta vs. Kenny Omega (c)
Beretta cemented his claim for a title shot by piledriving Omega – dressed as Jasmine from Aladdin – on the apron earlier in the week. Personally, I’m not sure if Beretta’s second singles match as a heavyweight should have been a title shot, but here we are…
An early tope from Beretta knocked Omega into the aisle, and it’s not too long before Omega pulls out a table from under the ring. They don’t even set it up when Omega suplexes Beretta onto the back of it, before double stomping his feet through the damned wood!
Omega kept up with a tope con hilo into Beretta in the aisle, as the US champion picked his spots on a battle-scarred Beretta, picking up a back body drop for a near-fall. Beretta rebounds with a nice snapping German suplex to Kenny in the ropes, before teasing an apron piledriver… and that’s instantly countered.
The Shoudou gives Omega a near-fall, but Beretta crotches Kenny up top and lit him up with chops… only to get dragged into the top turnbuckle as he went for what looked to be some mounted punches. Spurred on, a Jay Driller from Omega nearly does it, before Omega’s moonsault was stuffed with a German suplex off the top!
— Italo Santana (@BulletClubItal) November 5, 2017
That looked scary.
Beretta keeps up with a piledriver, but this crowd do not believe he’s going to win. Nor do I. Another piledriver on the apron left Kenny for dead outside… and Beretta joined him with a tope con hilo, landing into what was left of that table from earlier.
Beretta BARELY beats a count-out as his back was cut to pieces, but by this point he was just dead weight for Omega, with Dragon suplexes putting exclamation points on things. Clubbing shots to the back kept the former Dudebuster down, before a powerbomb bounced Beretta right into a V-trigger, but somehow he kicked out of a Dr Wily Bomb!
Again, Beretta somehow found it in him to mount a comeback, but his back meant he couldn’t get Kenny up for a Dudebuster. So he takes a V-Trigger, only to rebound instantly with a scary as hell Dudebuster. ALL THE HEAD DROPS. Omega retaliates again with kicks to the back, but he’s almost shocked by a crucifix from Beretta…
Just like that, Omega snaps with a V-Trigger, then a One Winged Angel, and in a match that nobody thought Beretta could win… he didn’t. This was phenomenal stuff – but they really need to build Beretta’s credibility. Good effort, and good work, but the standing for the crowd to buy in just is not there. Yet. ****¼
After the match, Omega gets the mic and prepares for the next challenge. They love highlighting this trope… and I’m worried because on Twitter Cody Rhodes said he’d do it. In Japanese, Omega says that nobody has the guts to do it, and begs for “anyone” to answer the call. Eventually the lights go out, and it’s Switchblade time…
Hang on, why is Fozzy’s “Judas” playing… is it… CHRIS JERICHO! Jericho appeared on the video screen, calling himself the greatest of all-time… he challenges Omega for the Tokyo Dome. This… is… INSANE – and it’s on for January 4!
— LARIATOOOO!!!! (@MrLARIATO) November 5, 2017
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Kota Ibushi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (c)
After the bombshell we just had, this could have taken a while to get into, but they played it smart, working on the mat as the crowd ate everything up.
Ibushi edges ahead with a dropkick that sent Tanahashi outside, but the champion escapes a Golden Star moonsault and dropkicked him onto the apron, starting a period of Tanahashi working over Ibushi’s legs. A Dragon Screw takes Kota outside, where the targeting continued, and just when Kota thought he’d be able to capitalise when Tanahashi misses a back senton… he jars his knee on a standing moonsault.
Regardless, Ibushi finds the time to stomp on Tanahashi after jumping over a low dropkick, before a ‘rana takes Tanahashi outside for a Golden Triangle Moonsault! Problem was, the knee is still a bullseye, as a dropkick caught Kota in the ropes ahead of a Dragon screw as Tanahashi threatened to spam that move some more. Another Dragon screw led to a Cloverleaf, but Ibushi found another way back, blasting his knee into the middle of Tanahashi on the turnbuckles.
Tanahashi went to the apron for cover, but nearly got dragged back in with a German suplex. He counters with, yes, a Dragon screw, followed by a High Fly Flow to the floor, before we entered Slingblade territory back inside.
— Italo Santana (@BulletClubItal) November 5, 2017
Out of nowhere, Ibushi caught Tanahashi with a flipping kick, before an awkward top rope ‘rana, where Tanahashi caught his heels in the turnbuckles, led to a near-fall. Ibushi tries to follow with a Kamigoye, but Tanahashi crossed his arms to stop it, before Kota just lawn-darts him into the turnbuckle pads. Ouch.
A deadlift German off the apron folded Tanahashi in half as we just kept on going, until a faceplant from a Phoenix Splash left Ibushi on the mat… but somehow he rolled away from a High Fly Flow as both men crashed and burned. So they just paintbrush the taste out of their mouths. As you do.
Our second slap fight of the show puts Tanahashi into the corner as Ibushi seemed to enter a new gear, shoving away the referee out of anger, but Zombie Tanahashi appears days after Halloween and fires back in kind! Out of nowhere, Ibushi levelled Tanahashi with a Golden Star/Last Ride powerbomb, and STILL we’re rumbling on! An attempt at the Phoenix-plex is thwarted when Ibushi’s body gave out, allowing Tanahashi a chance to Roll the Dice three times… but a kick quickly derails whatever the champ had in mind.
Ibushi calls for a Kamigoye, but it’s countered into a Slingblade, before a bridging Dragon suplex adds to the pain… one High Fly Flow actually connects to the back of Ibushi, so Tana goes up again, and that second one secures the title defence. MY GOD. What a run of matches to close out the show… and I’m just sad that this had to end. So much intensity, so much rage and so much fire from both men. Hopefully this isn’t the end of Ibushi’s latest New Japan run – and no, that’s not me calling for Tiger Mask W once again! ****¾
After the match, Ibushi and Tanahashi hugged – before then Tanahashi took the mic for the customary end-of-show speech and air-guitar solo… but just as we were about to go to publish, the lights go out: and the real reveal of Switchblade happened! It’s JAY WHITE! White came to the ring and told Tanahashi that he was going to take “his kingdom” at WrestleKingdom. They came to blows, and White leaves Tanahashi laying in a bed of confetti before symbolically placing a pendant of a dagger on Tanahashi’s chest…
From top to bottom, it’s safe to say that Power Struggle wasn’t a blow-away show, but the stuff that needed to hit hard did. The Chris Jericho thing was a massive shock in an era where everything seems to be news before it happens… but this reinvention of Chris Jericho will lead us to his first match in New Japan in over 19 years. God, it’s been a while. Bell-to-bell, well, every match you would have expected to have knocked it out of the park… did. The Super Juniors tag tournament final… the three title matches… not every show needs to be loaded from top to bottom, but it does need to create intrigue for the future. Coming out of Osaka, WrestleKingdom gained more stacked matches: and if you’re a New Japan fan, it’s going to be hard to turn down the lure of a late night/early start on January 4 even more!