The last major stop before WrestleKingdom, Power Struggle was a show that shone a light on the good and bad – while continuing to point us all towards the Tokyo Dome.
Kevin Kelly and Chuckie T are on the English call for this, coming from a sold-out EDION Arena in Osaka. Instant upgrade.
Ryusuke Taguchi, Chris Sabin, ACH & Toa Henare vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask, Soberano Jr. & Volador Jr.
Big shock, the New Zealander is really adept with a rugby ball!
Tiger Mask and ACH start us off with… rugby? ACH dons the scrum hat, but gets the ball kicked out of his hands, only to rebound as he throws the ball to Tiger Mask, which keeps him busy enough to not defend a dropkick. We’re quickly cycling through the tags as Liger tagged in, and took Sabin outside for a baseball slide dropkick, then a cannonball off the apron, before a Romero special stretched Sabin.
It’s time for lucha as Volador springboards into a crossbody, then a ‘rana on Sabin, who headed outside for respite… then caught the luchador with a hotshot on the apron. A missile dropkick knocks Volador down for a two-count… but a brief fightback forces Sabin to tag out to Henare, who catches a crossbody and counters it into a suplex. Henare blocks a ‘rana and throws a chop, only to run into a superkick, as a clothesline put both men down…
In come Taguchi and Soberano, with the latter slipping in the ropes for a backflip. He saves it and dropkicks Taguchi, before getting lifted onto the apron, which set up for a tornillo off the top for a near-fall. The hip attacks are unleashed, including a springboard hip attack backwards into Tiger and Liger, as Taguchi then called the shots for some corner offence. Hey, just like baseball? We end with a quartet of hip attacks as Soberano’s isolated again, left for a duelling hip attack from ACH and Taguchi, before a wheelbarrow X-Factor proved to be enough to get the win. A fun opener, if not by the numbers and brief. **¾
Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & KUSHIDA vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Robbie Eagles)
With the Elite being rebranded as such, it looks like we’re back to the plain ol’ Bullet Club branding. Ishimori was out on crutches, having injured his ankle on the penultimate night of the Road to… tour.
You could surmise that this was an audition for Robbie Eagles to get a junior title shot, but we start with an airhorn-assisted jump start as the Bullet Club started on offence. Eagles chops through Honma to begin with, but a shoulder tackle knocks down the junior as we end up with Jado using his Kendo stick to turn things back around.
Honma’s left in the Bullet Club corner before a slam and some weird stomps from Tanga Loa drew a two-count, with KUSHIDA breaking things up. Tama Tonga comes in and avoids Kokeshi as Honma tried to make a comeback, but he does manage to score with a back body drop before making the tag out to Makabe, who tries to clear house. There’s corner-to-corner clotheslines for the Guerrillas, but Robbie Eagles saves Tama from the mounted punches before he ran into a scoop slam.
In comes KUSHIDA as the ring fills, allowing us to have a trio of mounted punches. The hiptoss and cartwheel dropkick helps KUSHIDA take down Tama, but the numbers game plays against them as Robbie Eagles gets involved as the Bullet Club always seemed to be a step ahead. At least until the Guerrillas ate a double Makabe clothesline! Honma’s in with Kokeshi to Tanga Loa, then to Eagles, and to Tama, as KUSHIDA was left with a good advantage. He kicks away Tama’s arm, but an attempt at the Hoverboard Lock’s shoved away… and quickly regained as KUSHIDA counters the Gun Stun! An O’Connor roll gets KUSHIDA a near-fall, but he’s pushed into a Kendo stick shot from Jado, which somehow only gets Tama a near-fall… so Taiji Ishimori goes in with his crutch and whacks out KUSHIDA, and that’s enough for the win. This was okay, but very plodding… at least it sets up a title match for Ishimori though, in a weird way. **¾
Post-match, Makabe chases away the Bullet Club with his chain as they posed over KUSHIDA like they’d hunted him.
Bullet Club (Jay White & Bad Luck Fale) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Beretta
One year after returning to New Japan, Jay White’s pretty much on a collision course with the Rainmaker.
Okada jumps White before the bell, leaping after him with a plancha as he finally got him some. White’s whipped into the guard rails, then taken into the crowd as Okada went all Suzuki on his backside, even if it means that Beretta had a rather large, angry Tongan on him.
Eventually they calm down, but White reignites it, and gets ome receipts as he throws Okada through the guard rails, before another Irish whip’s reversed, with the Kiwi taking the railings again. Okada goes all Jado with a draping DDT, using the guard rails for elevation, as next to nobody cared about what was going on in the ring… until Beretta dropkicked Fale to the outside for a tope that we only caught via the hard camera.
Meanwhile, Fale’s back to wearing out Beretta, scoring with a big splash as Okada and Gedo squared off at ringside. There’s a little too much going on – are we meant to be focusing on the match in the ring, or the Okada stuff? Not to worry, Gedo grabs Okada’s leg as Fale looked to be winning with a Grenade, before Beretta countered a Bad Luck Fall with a sunset flip for the upset. This was not much of a match, with all of the focus being put on the Okada/White stuff. It kinda reminded me of WCW, when the focus was on the nWo and the matches in the ring were secondary. I have no idea how to rate this. I’m going low, but it was effective build for the real match to follow. **
Yeah, post-match Okada and White continued their pull-apart, with Okada going all Suzuki as he beats down the Young Lions so he could keep up his beatdown. He’s not quite as sadistic as Minoru, but this new-found aggression was good… especially as White challenged him to a singles match, “anytime”. Okada quickly responds, and wants it right now?!
Of course White chickens out, as he closes the guard rail gate and walks to the back.
Hiroshi Tanahashi & David Finlay vs. Golden☆Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi)
Given this is the main event of WrestleKingdom, it’s so weird that Omega/Tanahashi are so low down the card. The stacked card is stacked, eh?
We start with Tanahashi and Omega trading shots, before a load of swings, misses and green screens lead us to a stand-off. Ibushi tags in, but we don’t quite get a G1 final rematch, as David Finlay’s brought in… and how’s this for disparity among the roster? Finlay shoves away a headlock, then takes down Ibushi with a dropkick, but Omega gets a blind tag in and surprises Finlay with a Kotaro Krusher for just a one-count.
Omega quickly tags back out as Ibushi takes more shots at Finlay, knocking him down, as the Golden☆Lovers found their groove, with Omega returning to methodically work through Finlay. Tanahashi makes a save as a simple whip into the corner looked to be enough… but that’s also enough to distract Omega as he throws Tanahashi outside and into the guard railings. There’s a plancha to Tanahashi as well, as Omega seemed to want to win this on his own.
A replay means we miss Finlay hitting a European uppercut, which buys him enough time to tag in Tanahashi, who drags down Omega with a Dragon screw. Omega ducks a Slingblade and comes back with a Finlay roll, before a springboard moonsault misses, with Kenny jarring his knee in the process. Tanahashi shrugs off a chop, but can’t avoid a mini V-Trigger, nor a snap Dragon suplex as Kenny seemed somewhat compromised by that knee. Omega looks to finish it off with a One Winged Angel, but Tanahashi slips out and lands a Twist and Shout, as both men tag. Ibushi quickly knocks down Finlay with kicks, before a standing corkscrew moonsault surprises us all out of nowhere. Speaking of surprises, Ibushi took a uranage backbreaker weirdly, landing on his head as Finlay almost took the win, before countering a Stunner into a strait-jacket German suplex for a near-fall, rolling through it… but Kamigoye’s avoided as we get a mini Parade of Moves.
The Golden☆Lovers hit a version of the Indytaker on Finlay, but a Golden Trigger’s saved by a crossbody from Tanahashi, who keeps the match alive… only to run into a pair of kicks as the Golden Trigger finally hits Finlay for the win. This was easily the best thing on the card to this point – leaving us with Omega cockily taunting Tanahashi after the match with his belt. ***½
Super Junior Tag League Final: Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Shingo Takagi) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Yeah, we’ve a jump start. Who knew? The LIJ team headed outside at the first sight of that, as Suzuki-gun focused on Roppongi 3K, with SHO in particular taking the early offence.
YOH returns to help double-team Desperado, then Kanemaru, before dropkicking BUSHI and Shingo off the apron as they tried to control the match. My feed stutters as LIJ were in control, with BUSHI tagging in Shingo, who gladly partakes in a chop battle with SHO, as the Ingobernables team were working well together to wear down SHO, while collecting a bunch of near-falls.
BUSHI takes off his t-shirt and chokes SHO with it, before Suzuki-gun force their way in as Desperado holds BUSHI in the ropes so Kanemaru can tag himself in. I’m liking these different ways of the bad guys trying to out-do each other. Desperado somehow uses the back of a seat on YOH on the outside, which earned him some chops back in the ring, before Kanemaru came in to help out, throwing a dropkick to help Despy’s sidewalk slam.
LIJ hit the ring… and quickly get dumped out by Kanemaru, while Desperado’s whipped into them with a tope con giro that saw him sail over the guard rail and into commentator’s row. My GOD! Back in the ring, Kanemaru comes close with a scooping reverse DDT on YOH, but Shingo hits the ring as he single-handedly turned the match around for LIJ. A pop-up death valley driver from Shingo almost puts away Kanemaru, who then gets caught by BUSHI knees and the spinebuster/backcracker combo for a near-fall. Kanemaru hits back with a low dropkick to the knee, but SHO forcibly tags himself in and exchanges clotheslines with Shingo. A dropkick puts the newcomer down, but Shingo’s back with back elbows before a Gory Bomb’s escaped by SHO. The Pumping Bomber’s stopped as Roppongi 3K hit duelling leaping knees, and they seem to be setting up for the 3K on Shingo… only for BUSHI to come back with a back cracker as a Parade of Moves broke out.
Shingo blocks a Desperado spear, but gets his eyes raked before he hits duelling Pumping Bombers on SHO and Desperado. The Gory Bomb’s next for SHO, who takes another Pumping Bomber for a near-fall, before the Last of the Dragon was countered with a YOH superkick, as the 3K would have gotten them the win… but Kanemaru pulls out the referee! That swine!
With no referee, Desperado clocks SHO with a belt shot. There’s another Parade, but this time it’s of sprays as BUSHI and Kanemaru expel stuff from their mouths as SHO somehow comes out on top, obliterating Desperado with a Lumbar Check for a near-fall, before the Shock Arrow spikes Despy and gets Roppongi 3K the win! I guess that means 3K are back in the hunt for a junior tag title shot… especially since they’ve won the Super Junior Tag League back-to-back. This started off slow, but when it got into gear it was shockingly good – I’d call this just about the match of the tournament, if only for the ludicrously oversized and generic VICTORY trophies that the winners got. ****
Post-match, Rocky coerces SHO into a promo, as he reveals that they will indeed challenge for the junior tag titles… but they don’t say when for!
NEVER Openweight Championship: Hirooki Goto vs. Taichi (c)
This was originally meant to be Will Ospreay challenging Taichi, but with Ospreay’s (still unspecified injury) that he picked up three weeks ago at Rev Pro ruling him out, we instead get a rematch from Destruction in Beppu.
Taichi jumps Goto from behind with a Saito suplex at the bell, which knocked Goto out. Taichi eventually makes a cover, but pulls up Goto at two and boots Goto out of the ring. The referee’s shoved aside as Taichi drags Goto into the crowd, where he drills a chair into his challenger, forcing Goto to crawl back to the ring to beat the count.
Back in the ring, Taichi tries to choke out Goto, who sold death way too convincingly, reviving himself to try and mount a fight back, only to get taken into the corner with a spin kick. He hits back with a kick as Taichi’s taken down to keep the lethargic pace up, before a spinning heel kick and a back suplex get Goto a near-fall. Taichi tries to mount a comeback with some kicks, but Goto’s hitting back… only to get knocked down with more kicks and stomps from the champion. This isn’t good. Clubbering clotheslines don’t get the crowd into it, as Taichi goes for a full nelson and an Axe Bomber clothesline as somehow this is ten minutes old.
Goto finally hits back when he lifts up Taichi for a delayed, spin-out facebuster, before the referee’s shoved aside. Taichi can’t get the win with a low blow and a Gedo clutch, nor can he from a Last Ride and a folding cover as we get some annoying flashes of decency in what’s been an utterly turgid contest. Seriously, the only memorable thing after that opening Saito suplex has been the pro-Taichi crowd! Goto lands a GYR but collapses to the mat, allowing Taichi to go into the corner to grab his title belt. The ref’s pushed away again, before Goto disarmed Taichi of the belt and hits an ushigoroshi. There’s a kick to the chest from Goto, but Taichi kicks out, before he took Shouten Kai as Goto looked to push ahead with a GTR… and we have a new champion. Now, let us never speak of this again. *
So, with Goto winning, I guess “plans change” yet again for Will Ospreay, unless he’s coming back and we have an intra-CHAOS match?
Rev Pro British Heavyweight Championship: Minoru Suzuki vs. Tomohiro Ishii (c)
Will the good night for CHAOS continue? Ishii regained the Rev Pro title back in Brixton three weeks ago, and will defend against David Starr next Friday in York Hall… if he gets past this.
This match has had some fantastic build on the Road to Power Struggle tour, largely coming from Ishii and Suzuki knocking the you-know-what out of each other. Suzuki charged at Ishii at the bell, landing a big boot… but Ishii returns the fire with repeated elbows in the corner as they brought the fight to Osaka!
They start exchanging elbows, but the rapid-fire ones give way to the slower, clonking strikes that had both men rocked, with Suzuki staggering into the ropes. He tries to grab a hanging armbar, but Ishii sends him outside… and instantly throws him back into the ring as he throws knees to the gut instead. Chops follow, but Suzuki kicks back as he knocked Ishii down to the mat, then boots him to the outside as Suzuki sat and waited, rather than follow the champion outside.
Ishii returns, but he’s forced to fight back from his knees, with Suzuki almost laughing off those blows as he put Ishii back down with another body blow. Suzuki toys with Ishii, throwing some kicks but Ishii hits back with some high chops to the throat as he ended up awakening the angry Minoru. Back to the clonking elbows, then, with Ishii having a little extra behind his, so Suzuki adds more to his strikes too! Ishii has to use the ropes to stop himself from going down, but both men are on those jelly legs as Osaka oohed in unison to each shot being thrown. Somehow Ishii’s got something left in him as he hits a flurry of elbows, but Suzuki’s singular, solid shots rocked him again, as Ishii fell into the ropes.
With Ishii down, Suzuki kicks away and puts his boot through him with a diving kick to the face, getting a two-count out of it… but Ishii starts to show some defiance, standing up into more elbows before he sent Suzuki into the corner. Ishii lifts Suzuki out of the corner for a Last Ride-style powerbomb, as Big Tom found his second wind, only to get caught with a rear naked choke, which he escapes out of as it’s time to keep stomping on Suzuki.
There’s more palm strikes now as the pair kept looking for the death blow… which nearly came as a running boot from Suzuki left both men on the deck once more. We’re back to the palm strikes, as Osaka cheered in appreciation for the violence they were seeing, with Ishii hitting back with a headbutt, before he ran into a big dropkick from Suzuki! Getting back to his feet, Suzuki grabs a rear naked choke on Ishii, being the prelude to a Gotch piledriver… but Ishii wriggles out and throws a clothesline. Suzuki didn’t budge. But he dropped Ishii with a single forearm in response.
A front facelock from Suzuki’s countered as Ishii looks for a back body drop, but turns it into almost Hangman Page’s Right of Passage a near-fall. There’s a headbutt to the jaw, then a sliding lariat on Suzuki for another two-count, as the Suzuki-gun leader slips out of a sheer drop brainbuster and goes back to the palm strikes! He grabs a rear naked choke once more, but the Gotch piledriver’s again avoided as Ishii fought back with more lariats, before a sheer drop brainbuster earned the win. This was an all-out war – perhaps missing some of the prolonged intensity of their prior matches, but this was exactly what you’d expect from these two. ****¼
Ishii left without his belt, going down the “loser’s walk of shame” exit for some reason.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tetsuya Naito
Built up from the last Destruction show, where Sabre was meant to take on EVIL… we’ve got the next go around in Sabre vs. Naito, with Zack looking for his third win of the year over the LIJ leader.
Sabre’s already annoyed with how long Naito’s taking to remove his Saturday Naito Fever ring gear, and when we get going, he deposits Naito on the mat with a headlock takeover. There’s a lot of stalling as Naito tried to get under Sabre’s skin, but he returns to the ring to the same result: headlock takedown, and a hurried bid to try and escape.
Naito finally finds a way through with armdrags before a low dropkick keeps Sabre down… but Naito can’t resist a pose and ends up getting caught in a triangle armbar right by the ropes. With both men struggling to find a way through, Sabre just ties up Naito in the ropes, while focusing on Naito’s left arm and elbow, seemingly in a bid to end the match via injury. Sabre lifts Naito onto the apron and sweeps the leg… then drags him into the aisle so he can tie up the Ingobernable with a submission attempt – hoping to leave him incapacitated there and claim a count-out. Naito makes it back in at 19, but Sabre’s right back in with a single-leg crab, torquing away at Naito’s legs while trapping an arm as Naito had to slide under the ropes for freedom.
A series of kicks to the legs keep Naito on the deck, but Naito finally manages to chain together some offence, catching Sabre with a reverse DDT/backbreaker combo. There’s another one with Sabre hung up in the ropes, then a scooping reverse DDT as Naito claimed another near-fall… but he keeps the upper hand as he lifted Sabre to the top rope, only for the ‘rana to be countered as Sabre rolls through into a big STF.
Sabre tries to roll through the hold into a pinning attempt, but he just ends up in the ropes as his arm looked to give way. Still, he looked to make sure Naito felt similar pain, as he twists Naito’s arm between his legs, only for Naito to come back with a series of chops as they went tit-for-tat with chops and kicks. Naito takes Sabre into the corner with forearms, following in with a low dropkick, before a tornado DDT and the Gloria pumphandle slam earned Naito a near-fall. Sabre avoids Destino, but manages to hit back with an Octopus after side-stepping a leaping forearm… but Zack’s arm means he can’t lock in the Octopus too much, so he rolls Naito down into a calf slicer instead. That transitioned towards Orienteering with Napalm Death, but Sabre can’t keep the hold on and Naito scurries into the ropes as Naito perhaps found a way to compromise Zack. Regardless, Sabre continues to throw strikes before rolling Naito in for a PK for a near-fall, as you sensed frustration building as Zack had to find a plan B.
A Zack Driver’s escaped, as was an Octopus… but Sabre catches an enziguiri and turns it into an ankle lock. Naito escapes and lands a German suplex, before running into Sabre with Destino for a near-fall. Some pinning attempts nearly bring us to a close, with a Euro Clutch getting a 2.9999 count for Sabre, but Naito’s back with an enziguiri before another he countered a counter and dumped Zack with his own Zack Driver! One Destino later, and Naito left with the win! This was pretty good, but was more of a story-telling match than a contest full of urgency. If you’d walked in halfway through, you’d probably miss why Sabre was unable to utilise his usual game, but his expressions throughout helped convey frustration… a frustration that eventually led to defeat. ****
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: EVIL vs. Chris Jericho (c)
EVIL’s upgraded his laser fingers with a fancy spinning laser pentagram…
Chris Jericho’s entrance video proclaimed him to be “Best in the World”. Shane McMahon may want to stake a claim to that. EVIL leaps into Jericho from the off, with the pair heading into the crowd as we open with some brawling among the fans. They get back to ringside, where EVIL dishes out a suplex on the floor, before going for a table which he sets up by the entrance way.
It gives Jericho enough time to recover, but EVIL hit back and looked for a powerbomb through the table, only for Jericho to counter with a back body drop. There’s a t-shirt choke from Jericho, as he throws EVIL into commentator’s row with it, aiming for the timekeeper’s table as Jericho spiked EVIL with a nasty-looking DDT. OW.
Jericho shoves the table into referee Red Shoes after dumping EVIL into the ringside area… and the crowd finally wakes up and boos as he blew his nose on a New Japan banner. Good job it’s not a Brazilian flag or anything… they finally returned to the ring, where a crossbody off the top gets Jericho a near-fall, prompting EVIL to fight back with chops. An enziguiri catches EVIL for another near-fall, as does a superkick and a Lionsault.
Jericho continues to put the boots to EVIL, but he’s caught up top as the challenger looked to bring him down with a superplex… Jericho shoves him off and instead flies in with a back elbow for a near-fall. EVIL again hits back with a clothesline that took Jericho to the outside, where things are quickly followed up on as EVIL whips Jericho hard into the guard rails… and now it’s time for some impromptu baseball. There’s a pair of chairs under the ring… one’s jammed into Jericho, then put on his head as he’s thrown into the ring post. The second chair’s used as Jericho has it smashed off him, with part of the chair breaking off in the process! Returning to the ring, EVIL lands a Fisherman’s buster for a near-fall, but Jericho looked to snuff him out with a Walls of Jericho, which gets countered… only for Jericho to send EVIL onto the apron.
Oh god, the table… Jericho’s pulled into place as EVIL teases a suplex from the ring to the floor, but instead Jericho’s just lifted onto the apron as a version of Everything is EVIL sent Jericho from the apron through the table. Rather than take the count-out, EVIL rolls Jericho back into the ring, and gets a near-fall from a senton off the top rope. Somehow, Jericho’s able to get back from that with a Walls of Jericho, but EVIL hand-walks into the ropes as a break was eventually forced.
Jericho shoves the referee aside, thinking EVIL had tapped, but it kinda worked for him as it left Red Shoes out of place as EVIL had a cover. There’s a lariat coming, but Jericho elbows EVIL away before missing a Lionsault, allowing EVIL to come back with the Darkness Falls for a near-fall. A wheelbarrow roll-up from Jericho nearly does it, but EVIL kicks out and blocks a Codebreaker as both men ended up on the mat once more.
Jericho manages to land that Codebreaker seconds later as he caught EVIL off the ropes, but the challenger kicks out at two. We have a series of counters after Jericho leapt off the top, ending with Everything is EVIL, but Jericho kicks out at two, before a lariat wiped him out. Another crack at Everything is EVIL is blocked, but Jericho ‘ranas out of another Darkness Falls, rolling through into a Walls of Jericho, eventually forcing EVIL to tap as he was right by the ropes. This was… okay, but it didn’t have the feel of a main event for my liking. ***½
Post-match, Jericho puts EVIL back in the Walls of Jericho while the referee wagged his finger… Tetsuya Naito comes back through the crowd to make the save and send Jericho packing. Have we taken the long way around to get that match for WrestleKingdom, nearly a year in the making?!
Power Struggle was a loaded card that performed well… the problem was, there were perhaps a few too many matches that, in-ring at least, did not deliver. While we got the really good Okada/White build, the match surrounding it was a non-story… and the less we say about Taichi vs. Goto the better. Still, the good on this show was really good – and if you’re cherry picking, there’s plenty to come away with here.