With the G1 firmly in the rear mirror, the Power Struggle begins as Tetsuya Naito and EVIL do battle over the dual gold once more.
Toru Yano defeated Zack Sabre Jr. via count-out in 12:10 to retain the KOPW 2020 Trophy (**)
Shingo Takagi pinned Minoru Suzuki in 18:56 to win the NEVER Openweight Championship (****¼)
Kazuchika Okada defeated Great-O-Khan via referee stoppage in 12:59 (**¾)
KENTA submitted Hiroshi Tanahashi in 19:57 to retain the Right to Challenge for the IWGP US Championship (***½)
Jay White pinned Kota Ibushi in 18:47 to win the Right to Challenge for the IWGP Intercontinental & Heavyweight Championships (***¾)
Tetsuya Naito pinned EVIL in 33:09 to retain the IWGP Intercontinental and IWGP Heavyweight Championships (***½)
We’re back at the Osaka Prefectural Gym in Osaka, and we’ve got live English commentary for this too! Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton are on the remote call for this…
No Corner Pads Match for KOPW 2020: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Toru Yano (c)
The stipulation for this was announced on Monday, with Toru Yano annoyed that ZSJ keeps putting the pads back on. Eh, it’s different…
Except the corner pads were on for the entrance ahead of the “ceremony” to undo them, featuring the Young Lions. Yano then promised a fair fight, although the cheeky smile suggested not all was on the level. We start with the pair looking for a lock-up, before they scrambled on the mat. Sabre blocks a whip into the corner, then sidesteps Yano’s charge as the defending champion began to take the exposed buckles. Think of it as playing Fire Pro for the first time and the only thing you know how to do for sure is the Irish whip! Yano rolls outside and grabs one of the corner pads… because one is legal!
Sabre goes outside after Yano and stops him, before an Irish whip took Zack into the railings. It bought Yano back inside as he tried to attach one of them, but Sabre takes him down for a neck twist, then threw the pad out as a Cobra Twist right by the ropes had Yano briefly in trouble. Yano does his pose, but Sabre pulls him into the ropes with a heel hook, before Yano went outside for another pad. Zack tells Yano to put the pad down, but like a naughty child, he wouldn’t, before the pair began to lay into each other with elbows on the floor. Yano breaks it up with his disinfecting spray, but Sabre rolls inside at the count of 19.
Yano brings a turnbuckle pad in… and tapes it into the corner. I’m sure some indies have done that with their pads before. Sabre runs into the protected corner, and looked confused at it, then threw Yano into the exposed one, before ripping off the QR code shirt. More Irish whips follow as Sabre then pulled Yano’s ears, then did some Garvin-ish stomps. Another toe hold follow from Sabre, but he almost gets pushed into a corner. Yano clung onto the ropes to avoid something, then came back with a belly-to-belly. Sabre charges into an exposed corner and almost loses to a roll-up… then another… then blocked Yano’s low blows as a Euro clutch nearly got Zack the “pony” trophy.
From there, Sabre rolls Yano into a heel hook, with Yano seemingly trying to get one of his one in reply, but eventually Yano’s able to drag himself to the ropes for a break. Yano rolls outside, but gets followed by Sabre, who dragged him between the guard railings as Sabre applies another leg lock… like you would around the ring post. Except while Sabre got all concerned with the hold, Yano tied his laces together, so when Sabre released the hold, he couldn’t get free, allowing Yano to hobble back in to get the win. This was okay, but the comedy of the stipulation wore thin extremely quickly. **
They ended up needing scissors to cut Sabre free… with Zack then doing his best Sid Vicious impression afterwards to chase Yuya Uemura to the back.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Shingo Takagi vs. Minoru Suzuki (c)
And now for something completely different…
They don’t take their time in getting going, with Suzuki and Shingo going right to the elbows, before a whip took Suzuki into the corner for a clothesline… but he’s right back with more elbows, which Shingo gladly returns. Headbutts follow back-and-forth, before a front chancery from Suzuki saw Shingo try to counter out with a suplex… but Suzuki wrenches away on the hold… until Shingo finally snapped into the suplex. Shingo misses a charge into the corner, but shoves off a hanging armbar, instead opting to join Suzuki on the apron… but Suzuki switches around and gets the armbar off anyway. A boot knocks Shingo off the apron and into the commentary team, where Suzuki followed up by throwing his back towards them again.
Another Irish whip has Shingo in the railings, before Suzuki went under the ring for a chair, which he BOUNCED off of Shingo. A half crab is next on the outside, which the referee tries to break up rather than start a count… they end up back inside, with a snapmare and a kick to the back keeping Shingo down, before a running front kick in the corner set up for a PK… but Shingo blocks it and eventually pulls Suzuki into a Saito suplex. Shingo pushes on with a falling back elbow off the top rope, getting a two-count out of it, before he toyed with Suzuki with some kicks. BAD IDEA. You know what’s next. CLONK. Here come the elbows!
Shingo gives as good as he gets, but his attempt at his combination descended was cut off with a headbutt to the back of the head, before he back body dropped out of a Gotch piledriver. Suzuki finds a way back into the rear naked choke, spinning in for the Gotch piledriver, but Shingo powers up into a death valley driver. Which Suzuki popped up from to deliver a PK, before he ate a Pumping Bomber… as both men staggered into the ropes. Suzuki comes back first with a front kick, before he threw some elbows at Shingo’s taped-up back. A DDT stops that, with a sliding lariat keeping Suzuki down before a Made in Japan was wriggled out of. There’s a diving kick from Suzuki, who then rolls Shingo into a half crab, but it’s right by the ropes as a break’s called, and we’re back to the elbows… until a running dropkick from Suzuki took Shingo back down.
A Boston crab follows, with Suzuki pulling Shingo into the middle of the ring, then turning it into a half crab that ended in the ropes. Suzuki pulls Shingo back up for a choke, before he went once more for the Gotch piledriver, but again Shingo escaped it. So Suzuki clonks him with a headbutt, then another, before Shingo returned the favour, then punched a running Suzuki. Another lariat just explodes a cloud of sweat off of Suzuki’s chest, but he refuses to go down, and ends up headbutting the back of Shingo’s head once more. Shingo returns with an elbow, a jab and a lariat, then one to the back of Suzuki’s head, knocking him loopy, but not down. Suzuki eventually falls to his knees, then to the mat after another lariat blasted him against the ropes.
From there, Shingo picks up Suzuki for Last of the Dragon, and that’s it! A definitive win to a match that I doubt I’d ever get tired of seeing, much like Suzuki/Nagata and Ishii vs. pretty much everyone. Not their finest work, but like other matches lately, that’s absolutely no slight on this near-20-minute slice of violence. ****¼
Great-O-Khan vs. Kazuchika Okada
Our only match of the night that’s not for a trophy, a certificate or a title, and it’s Great-O-Khan’s singles debut in New Japan. Sadly, there’s no Gideon Grey doing his intro, but they did have Will Ospreay out in a suit, like a Poundstretcher version…
O-Khan attacks Okada before the bell, quickly following in with Mongolian chops as he’s doing it like it’s the Cockpit all over again. They head outside, with Okada getting thrown into the ring apron, before a pump kick back inside knocked Okada down for a two-count. A submission attempt ends in the ropes, but O-Khan stays on Okada with knees to the gut, before O-Khan ran into a flapjack. A running back elbow keeps Okada ahead, with one in the corner, then a DDT getting him a two-count, before he looked for a neckbreaker slam. O-Khan resists, then came back with an atomic drop facebuster, before putting Okada in a Tree of Woe for a baseball slide. That gets a near-fall, despite O-Khan being in the ropes for the cover, before Okada blocked a Skull Crushing Finale and came back in with a neckbreaker slam.
Okada looks for a tombstone, but O-Khan grabs the ear and chops it before he avoided an Okada dropkick. An elevated Flatliner’s next for a near-fall, before he rolled Okada into a head-and-arm choke, but Okada gets to the ropes. O-Khan looks for the inverted suplex, but it’s blocked by Okada, so we get more Mongolian chops, before Okada landed a tombstone. The goddamn Money Clip is next, but O-Khan uses the Iron claw to get free, before Okada armdragged his way out of the Eliminator. Another pump kick takes Okada down, with the inverted stalling suplex following… another crack at the Eliminator’s countered into a Money Clip, but O-Khan backs into the corner, only to get caught with a shotgun dropkick. Okada looks to follow with a discus lariat, but he’s caught with the claw again, only to escape an Eliminator to land a discus lariat.
It’s back to the Money Clip, but O-Khan tries to escape… a backbreaker brings him down, and then we get a referee stoppage. This was an okay return as a singles for O-Khan, with a flat-as-a-pancake finish, but perhaps one you’d have expected given the build is Ospreay/Okada… **¾
Post-match, Ospreay has a staredown with Okada as O-Khan was helped to the back. That outfit really is someone’s idea of “posh Brit,” as Ospreay told Okada he’d “passed the test.” He claims Ospreay used Okada “to become more popular,” but now he’s left him so he can usurp him… and now he wants to end Okada’s career. He throws away his expensive suit jacket and watch, before he challenged Okada to a match at the Tokyo Dome, with Okada’s career on the line. Well, given that he’s using the Figure Four, I guess it’s crystal clear that the inspiration for Ospreay’s new look is Ric Flair. Ospreay leaves with his fizzy wine… and we head into the break.
But first, they announce the matches for the Best of the Super Junior tour… Master Wato’s getting a few semi-final matches, as it’s building up to a final night in Fukuoka with SHO vs. Ishimori and Wato vs. Hiromu. The top two in the block meet in the Budokan final on December 11…
As for the Super J Cup in the States, they announce the brackets:
Clark Connors vs. Chris Bey
ACH vs. TJP
Rey Horus vs. Blake Christian
El Phantasmo vs. Lio Rush
Plus undercard action with Karl Fredericks and Ren Narita taking on KENTA and Hikuleo.
Right to Challenge for the IWGP United States Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA (h)
Tanahashi’s come close to that contact before – albeit because it was the times KENTA smashed the briefcase over his head.
There’s some reluctance at the start as KENTA ruffled Tanahashi’s hair, before a lock-up took them into the ropes. For more hair ruffling. An Irish whip takes Tanahashi into the corner, where he returns with a crossbody, but they both take turns air guitaring and breaking the other up, with KENTA being sent outside for a plancha. KENTA keeps his distance, rolling through the ring to the outside so he could grab his broken briefcase. He tries to sucker in Tanahashi through the ropes for a shot, and of course, Tanahashi falls for it, and gets whacked with the briefcase as KENTA took over with some punches on the mat.
Kneedrops follow, before a mocking back heel as KENTA busts out the air piano. It’s a silent musical!
Tanahashi tries to come back with elbows, but he’s knocked down as a neckbreaker gets KENTA a two-count, with some Figure Four headscissors keeping the Ace down. More elbows to the back of the head lead to some mid kicks, before a neckbreaker snuffed out Tanahashi’s attempted comeback. It also gets KENTA a two-count, as a chinlock then proceeded to wear down Tanahashi some more. KENTA throws Tanahashi back to the mat as he tried to fight free, with Yota Tsuji cheerleading at ringside. More kicks and elbows from KENTA take Tanahashi into the corner, but he catches a front kick and wrenched KENTA to the mat with a Dragon screw. A flying forearm builds momentum for Tanahashi, who then slammed KENTA ahead of a flip senton out of the corner before a Cloverleaf ended quickly in the ropes.
A roll-up from KENTA nearly nicks a win, as a tornado Stun Gun and a flying clothesline got him right back in control. KENTA looked for Game Over, but Tanahashi wriggles into the ropes before it could be applied, so KENTA keeps going with palm strikes and a DDT that got a near-fall… with the kick-out sending the referee flying to the outside. Taking advantage, KENTA grabs his briefcase again… but this time Tanahashi blocks it. The referee returns, as KENTA ends up getting knocked down in the struggle… before KENTA countered a Slingblade with a clothesline. The pair trade elbows as they fight on their knees, then more strikes until a palm strike from Tanahashi knocked KENTA into the ropes… only for a quick switcharound to see KENTA surprise Tanahashi with the Green Killer DDT.
A stomp off the middle rope crushes as KENTA then looks to go for the Go 2 Sleep… Tanahashi avoids it, then takes some palm strikes as KENTA beat him down. A Busaiku knee follows for a near-fall, before Tanahashi countered a G2S with a Twist and Shout… rolling in a second one, before Tanahashi countered another G2S with a Slingblade. There’s a second Slingblade for a near-fall, with Tanahashi then springing up top for the Ace’s High crossbody. A Cloverleaf follows, but KENTA powers out of it and rolls Tanahashi into Game Over. It’s escaped as Tanahashi goes back to the Cloverleaf, but he can’t apply it as KENTA reverses back into his hold, rolling Tanahashi around the ring until he forced the submission. This was pretty good, with a hell of a finish with KENTA rolling Tanahashi in the Game Over and REALLY leaning in on it… but with both men pretty banged up, it’s yet another loss for the Ace. ***½
Right to Challenge for the IWGP Intercontinental & IWGP Heavyweight Championships: Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi (h)
Kota Ibushi had barely started celebrating when he got challenged to a briefcase defence…
White gets mad because the ref rang the bell “too early,” but of course, the Kiwi rolls outside, going after Ibushi’s briefcase, which drew out the G1 winner into a brief chase. He throws the briefcase at Ibushi, then clocks him with a right hand as White began to wear down the two-time G1 winner. Ibushi gets lifted onto the apron, but his dreams of a springboard back in were stopped as Gedo grabbed his leg, allowing White to pull him down onto the apron. A front suplex drops Ibushi on the apron next, before they headed back inside, with White stomping away on Ibushi.
Kicks to the back get shrugged off as Ibushi elbows White, before some shoulder charges took Kota back into the corner. An eye rake snuffs out some fire as Ibushi’s thrown outside, and we know what’s next – an Irish whip into the barriers, with White looking to get a pin off of that, but of course the referee refused to count. So White does it again, out of spite, before he threw him out to Gedo, who does the trick again… before Gedo got thrown into the railings. White follows and gets a similar taste, before he shoved White into the side of the ring. They return inside, but White gets dropkicked to the floor for a wild plancha.
Back inside, some kicks and a standing moonsault get Ibushi a two-count, before White avoided an elbow in the corner… only to run into a scoop slam, then get caught as he tried to roll away from a moonsault. Still, White gets back up to hit a gutbuster on Ibushi, then a front suplex and a Blade Buster. Ibushi manages to come back in with a ‘rana, but White tries to chop back into it, only to get ragdolled with a German suplex. White recovers with a snap Flatliner, then with a deadlift German suplex of his own, before he teased a sleeper suplex. Ibushi charges into the corner to break it up, but White stays on top as he tries to knee Ibushi in the gut… only to get spun into a nasty package tombstone.
After a Bomaye knee, a head kick keeps White down as Ibushi looked for Kamigoye… the first attempt is pushed off, so he instead nails a Last Ride powerbomb for a near-fall. White tries to sneak back with a Blade Runner, but Ibushi escapes and nails another head kick, before Gedo popped up to distract. He’s booted down, before White was caught with a bicycle knee… Ibushi goes for a Kamigoye, but White ducks it, and hits a backslide… putting his feet on the ropes, and we’ve got a new contract holder! That’s the first time ever someone’s lost the G1 winner’s briefcase – and that’ll be the story of the match. I’m not sure why, but this one didn’t land with me as much as it perhaps should have done, as Kota Ibushi’s toil during the G1 now looks to have been for nought, with him being cheated out of the case. ***¾
IWGP Intercontinental x IWGP Heavyweight Championship: EVIL vs. Tetsuya Naito (c)
After beating Naito at Dominion, and losing the titles back at Summer Struggle, EVIL gets one more crack courtesy of his win over Naito during the G1…
Neither man’s in a hurry at the bell, feigning interest in locking up before EVIL came in with a side headlock. Naito gets free and elbows down EVIL, before some headscissors wrenched away on EVIL’s neck. A side headlock follows, then a cravat as EVIL reached for the ropes to try and force a break, but Naito took his time to let go, as EVIL then rolled outside. Naito follows EVIL outside to give him a kicking, but Dick Togo distracts for long enough for EVIL to do his trick of shoving Naito into the timekeeper… this time seeing the time keeper BREAK THE BARRICADE behind him as he flew into the crowd. A suplex keeps Naito on the floor, before the pair rolled back inside… and hey, Togo’s removed a turnbuckle pad.
A snap suplex gets EVIL a two-count, before Naito got thrown into the exposed buckle. Hey, we saw plenty of that in the opener. Seeing the timekeeper had gotten his bearings, EVIL heads outside to throw Naito towards him again, before Dick Togo got involved, throwing a chairshot at Naito behind the ref’s back. EVIL sweeps away part of the broken chair, then rolled Naito into a half crab that ends in the ropes, before Naito came back in with a neckbreaker. A whip towards the ropes sees Naito change trajectory as he baseball slides at Togo, before taking EVIL into the corner for Combinacion Cabron. More headscissors follow on the mat as Dick Togo popped up on the apron to distract the referee, which sorta worked, as Naito lets go of the old… then got clotheslines to the outside.
Togo’s left some chairs for EVIL too, which he gleefully uses as he hit a home run on Naito. Back inside, EVIL mocks the clap crowd, before a clothesline and a Fisherman buster drew a near-fall. Naito scrambles out of Darkness Falls, then hit a swinging DDT off the ropes to buy him some time. He lifts EVIL up top, but just gets pulled down before a whip to the exposed corner and a backbreaker put EVIL back ahead. A charge takes Naito back to the exposed corner, before a superplex bounced Naito off the mat for a near-fall. EVIL follows that with a Scorpion Deathlock, which he wrenches down on as the referee almost stopped the match… only for Naito to get to the ropes. Darkness Falls lands moments later for a near-fall, before Naito countered Everything is EVIL into a German suplex.
EVIL tries to charge back, but runs into a spinebuster, before Naito took him up top for a ‘rana. Gloria followed for a near-fall, before EVIL escapes Destino and hits another German suplex. Another crack at Everything is EVIL is blocked, with Naito replying with a leaping elbow, stopping to knock Togo off the apron again before a running Destino folded EVIL in half. A second one follows, but Togo dives into the ring to pull out the referee in the nick of time. Cue the bullshit. Togo hits the ring with the Spoiler Choker, as Yujiro Takahashi also arrives to jab Naito with his pimp cane. The garrote wire is enough for Yujiro to hit his former tag partner with the Pimp Juice… before SANADA ran out in all white to make the save, dropkicking Togo and Yujiro to the outside for a plancha, before he carted the two of them to the back.
Red Shoes Unno is back in the ring, but is beat up as Naito and EVIL got back to their feet, trading right hands as they went. EVIL catches a kick and throws Naito’s leg at the referee, sending him sailing outside while a low blow had Naito down again. Naito returns the favour as Jay White wandered down to the ring… he pulls up EVIL and teases a Blade Runner, but instead sets him in the corner, then hit Naito with a sleeper suplex. Out runs Kota Ibushi, still pissed off from earlier… he kicks EVIL in the head before chasing White to the back as we sailed by the 30-minute mark. Elbows from Naito weaken EVIL, who charges him back into the exposed corner, before Naito returned the favour. More elbows follow, before EVIL pushed Naito towards the ref… who cowers and misses a low blow, as a lariat almost changed the titles again.
Naito escapes Everything is EVIL twice, then slaps him down before planting him with Valentia (a Snow Plow). Destino follows, folding EVIL in half, and that’s your lot! This was much better than their prior outings, but then the endless parades of interference dragged it down for me. I guess Naito definitively beating EVIL, with interference and all firmly puts EVIL in the rear view mirror? ***½
After the match, Jay White hits the ring with his newly-won briefcase to mock the failures of Kota Ibushi and EVIL, before challenging Naito to their match at WrestleKingdom… but on the second night. It’s a shame that briefcase says 1/4, as White insists he’s winning the belts on January 5. Kota Ibushi returns though… chasing White to the back as Naito then thanked the fans for not leaving the show before the main event. That’s a little too close to the truth, eh, as Naito tells the crowd that was his last match of the year – what, he’s not doing the Road to Tokyo Dome shows?!
The night ends with confetti showering the ring… and that’s Power Struggle! While not a “home run” of a show, Power Struggle delivered the one big surprise people had been waiting for years to see – a change in the direction after the G1. Don’t think Jay White winning it is cementing the Tokyo Dome plans, but it’s nice to see that things aren’t always following the same path. Come for Shingo and Suzuki battering each other, and stay tuned for the second half of the show as what you expected the plans to be damn sure changed…