After a hectic week of shows that featured a Power Struggle, and two appearances in the UK, New Japan made the trip to Singapore for a show that would end up being slightly more than a throwaway event.
The Marina Bay Sands hotel was the venue for an eight-match card that featured a Power Struggle rematch, as EVIL defended his newly-won NEVER title against former champion Katsuyori Shibata. A third of the card had been involved in the Rev Pro Global Wars double header in the UK that wrapped up just four days earlier, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that this may be an easy show…
David Finlay vs. Juice Robinson
A pretty standard opening match, Finlay started by grabbing a headlock and keeping it on as he took down Robinson, who fought free, only to be taken down with a standing dropkick. Some boots in the corner saw Robinson knock down Finlay, who then got thrown into the turnbuckles, before the favour was returned as Juice tried to give the crowd their “one more time”.
Robinson regained the advantage with a grounded chinlock, before Finlay fought up to his feet and started a back and forth forearm battle, eventually scoring a near-fall with a diving uppercut out of the corner. They kept going back and forth as Robinson hit a big boot and a standing leg lariat for a near-fall, before a corner clothesline decked Finlay.
Finlay came out of the corner with a spear to drop Robinson, then deadlifted up the former NXT star into a bridging German suplex for a near-fall. Juice went for the Pulp Friction (Unprettier), but Finlay pushed away, only to run into a Fireman’s carry gutbuster for a near-fall. A second attempt at the Pulp Friction was successful, and earned Juice the win.
It was a bit surprising to see Finlay go down in this match, especially given that he’s still one part of the NEVER 6 man champions, but besides that this was a decent enough opening contest. **½
Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta) vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Ryusuke Taguchi
Before the match, Beretta ripped up a “Liger City” sign that a fan had made… the same sign also had “SGP VICE” on it, which showed how indecisive that fan was!
Liger was taken to the ropes early on as he forces breaks out of Romero, who then offered a handshake, which wasn’t immediately a cheapshot, as Liger caught the attempted kick, only to have his eyes raked. Romero was thrown to the outside, before Liger faked out a dive to cheers from the crowd. Taguchi came in and missed as he tried a sit-out splash to avoid a sunset flip, but succeeded with a hip attack before Liger returned to tie-up Beretta in a Romero special. Rocky came in to break up the move, and he quickly began to stomp away at Liger in the corner. After Beretta tagged back in, Liger began a comeback, but once again the dissension within Roppongi Vice resurfaced after Beretta accidentally spat water at Romero.
Rocky tagged in to land a series of Forever lariats, but was met with a clothesline out of the corner by Liger as both men went down. Liger came back with a back body drop to Beretta, before Taguchi tagged in for a series of hip attacks, until Beretta turned one into an atomic drop.
A tornado DDT takes down Taguchi, before Liger returned to drop Romero with a tiltawhirl backbreaker, a Shotei, then a top rope ‘rana for a near-fall. Beretta breaks up a pin after a Liger bomb, before a series of waistlock reversals led to Liger taking a double knee strike, as the Strong Zero-assisted Dudebuster earned the win for Roppongi Vice. As the number one contenders to the junior tag titles, they needed to win, but this was pretty much a throwaway undercard match. Good, but nothing you’ll remember the next day. ***
Tomohiro Ishii & Gedo vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
So, was the Guerrilla’s good match at Power Struggle a fluke… or have they turned the corner? They started with a lot of power moves, as Tonga and Ishii traded shoulder tackles, before Tama learned the hard way: you can never headbutt Ishii!
Tonga and Loa took some double-teaming blows to the back from Gedo and Ishii, but Loa quickly took the advantage, decking Gedo with a lariat in the corner. After driving Gedo into the corner, the veteran found himself isolated in the ring as both of the Guerrillas took their turn beating him down, before Ishii’s attempt at a comeback ended with a neckbreaker and a big splash from the tag team champions.
Tanga Loa misses with a swandive headbutt, and that eventually allowed Gedo to make the tag out to Ishii, who dropped Loa with a German suplex after originally being double-teamed. Loa takes the chop/forearm combo in the corner, but hit back with a spinebuster for a near-fall. They try for a suplex, but it gets blocked until Ishii hits his brainbuster… that Loa no-sells.
Loa takes down Ishii with a bodyslam before tagging Tonga back into the match. Tama found his forearms to Ishii’s head were ineffective, and was promptly sent into the turnbuckle by a forearm from Ishii… who then brought Gedo back into the match. A jawbreaker from Gedo saw him follow up with a crossface on Tonga, only for Loa to break up the pin and start another spell of double teaming, which ended with the Fireman’s carry/spinning neckbreaker combo for a near-fall.
Ishii and Tonga trade headbutts, but the numbers game backfires as Ishii overcomes Tonga and Loa, before a superkick from Gedo almost snatched a win over Tonga. As Gedo looked to finish him off, Tonga confused him with the wacky rope running, then a Gun Stun, before the double-team elevated facebuster earned the Guerrillas the win. That’s two good matches in a row from the champs, and whilst I can’t say the GOD have turned the corner, they’re definitely got more than their heads poking around it! ***¾
Hirooki Goto vs. Tomoaki Honma
Goto’s got a 3-0 record over Honma in prior singles matches, but I’ll be damned if this match doesn’t stick out as a weird-as-all-hell midcard affair.
On Thursday, I saw Honma wrestle on the Rev Pro Global Wars show, and it was a decent, if not great, striking battle against Sha Samuels. This felt like a carbon copy, albeit at a slightly faster pace – with Honma going for and missing an early Kokeshi as Goto rolled away. Goto replied with a clothesline that sent Honma to the outside, where he was met with a plancha… something you’ll never have seen from Sha!
After posting Honma, Goto returned to the ring and stomped away on his opponent, before working a neck crank in the centre of the ring. Goto worked up into an elevated headscissors, with Honma eventually wriggling his way into the ropes for a break. Honma launches into Goto with overhand chops, but was kneed back down as Goto’s suplex was blocked… but he was able to avoid another Kokeshi attempt.
Goto choked away on Honma in the corner with his boot, and then threw some more chops in the former tag champion’s direction. Honma wriggled out of an ushigoroshi attempt, before seeing a suplex attempt blocked, instead taking down the G1 finalist with a jumping Kokeshi. Another standard Kokeshi followed from Honma, who flew into Goto with some chops in the corner, before scaling the turnbuckles for a Blockbuster! That’s not something he does every day…
Goto kicked out after the Blockbuster, but found himself in place for a top rope swandive Kokeshi… but of course, Goto rolled away as Honma collided with the mat. They traded punches as they fought to their feet once more, only for another jumping Kokeshi to tahe down Goto as Honma went for an armbar. That’s another unusual move from him. After breaking the hold via the ropes, Goto found himself trading lariats with Honma, and before Honma blocked a GTR. Another leaping Kokeshi was caught and turned into the ushigoroshi for a near-fall, before the GTR earned Goto the win. This took a long time to get going, but unfortunately they took too much of their 11 minutes to get into gear. Not bad, but not great either. **¾
KUSHIDA, Togi Makabe & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & SANADA
Well, we’re back to the formula – and with Naito/Tanahashi locked in for WrestleKingdom in January, you can guess what we started with… and they actually locked up! No tie-up dodging this time, although Naito took Tanahashi into the ropes so he could pull the hair before eventually breaking cleanly.
After Tanahashi did the same, Naito cheapshotted him and tossed his challenger out of the ring before… running into a Tranquilo pose. We switched to KUSHIDA and BUSHI, as the former junior heavyweight champion found himself unable to shake off KUSHIDA’s headlock. Once he did, he took out the champion with a tope. This led to some brawling outside the ring, before BUSHI returned and choked away at KUSHIDA with a t-shirt.
KUSHIDA eats the outside-in dropkick from Naito as the Ingobernables retained control. A hiptoss did see KUSHIDA get free from SANADA, but he had nobody to tag to as SANADA’d knocked Makabe and Tanahashi off the apron, ensuring that the junior heavyweight champion remained in the ring by himself for a little longer.
Makabe finally tagged in and cleared house, going straight to the mounted corner punches on SANADA, before getting a two-count out of a Northern Lights suplex. SANADA’s double leapfrog and a dropkick took down the veteran, before Naito tagged in… and cleared the apron again. Tanahashi tagged in eventually and laid out Naito with a Slingblade before dropping an elbow for a near-fall.
SANADA got involved again, as Tanahashi was briefly double-teamed, with a sunset flip into a dropkick getting Naito a near-fall after he worked with BUSHI. Tanahashi avoided the Gloria, before shrugging off a tornado DDT attempt and landing a second Slingblade. BUSHI ended that comeback as Tanahashi took corner charges from BUSHI and SANADA, before a dropkick knocked Tanahashi off the middle rope for a near-fall. A Codebreaker dropped Tanahashi for a near-fall, before the match suddenly went back and forth, with Makabe dropping SANADA and Naito with a double clothesline. Another Slingblade took down BUSHI, before a dive from KUSHIDA to the outside ensured that Tanahashi’s High Fly Flow would be enough to gain the win. ***½
Before the semi-final, we had a nice bit of product placement as the English announcer told fans that they’d be able to win a camera if they took the best photo of the following match.
Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI
One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong… and no, I’m not talking about the incredibly-over Bullet Club. Well, maybe one half of that team…
Okada and Omega were over as hell here, which should bode well for WrestleKingdom. Especially if the crowd sing “Oh Kenny Omega” to the tune of Seven Nation Army! We start with Omega and YOSHI-HASHI, who gets attacked from behind as the Bullet Club opened with some flagrant double-teaming. A step-up ‘rana from YOSHI-HASHI sees him recover to take down Takahashi, before Okada comes in to set up a drop toe hold, a leg drop and a back senton for a near-fall.
Both of the Bullet Club team take a slingshot senton into the ring as Okada slammed Omega next to Takahashi, before YOSHI-HASHI shrugged off a double team and sent Takahashi to the outside. He followed him out, only to take a bodyslam onto the corner of the ring apron whilst Takahashi and Okada fought in among the crowd… who didn’t move despite the announcer’s pleas! Back in the ring, Takahashi stomped over YOSHI-HASHI, before a neckbreaker earned Takahashi a two-count. Omega picked up a handful of near-falls after tagging in, but he quickly tagged back out as Takahashi’s legdrop off the ropes got him… yep… another two-count. A reverse spin kick saw YOSHI-HASHI get some separation before an attempted tag out was thwarted as Takahashi pulled Okada off the apron.
Omega nearly took the win with a pumphandle backbreaker, before taking the Bunker Buster after YOSHI-HASHI reversed a suplex. Okada came in for a spell with Omega, ad flapjacked his WrestleKingdom challenger before tying him up in an STF. Omega hit back with a FInlay roll then a moonsault for a near-fall, before Okada was forced to escape the One Winged Angel.
In return, Omega avoided a Rainmaker and a German suplex, before a knee strike decked the champion, as Omega tagged out to Takahashi. A big boot saw Takahashi rock Okada and get a near-fall, before Omega came back to land a reverse leg lariat into a bulldog to get Takahashi another two-count over the champion.
A diving neckbreaker from YOSHI-HASHI took out Takahashi, before he cleared Omega from the ring – this left Okada free to drop Takahashi with a dropkick, before the Rainmaker took home the win. That finishing sequence felt a little “out of nowhere”, but it was really the only result that could have happened here. Decent match, but again, typical house show stuff. ***½
NEVER Openweight Championship: Katsuyori Shibata vs. EVIL (c)
Both men were somewhat fresh off of their UK tour, with Shibata bringing along his newly-won Revolution Pro Wrestling British Heavyweight title for the ride.
Shibata started by grappling with EVIL… who responded by using strikes. Undeterred, Shibata went for the wrist and took down EVIL with a wristlock, before stamping on that body part. After going to the apron, EVIL swung and missed with a clothesline, only to be taken down with a sleeperhold, then kicked onto the floor as Shibata seemingly was in total control.
Frustrated, EVIL went to his usual tactics by grabbing a chair, but Shibata ran at him and took the match onto the floor, with kicks and uppercuts, before using the chair himself… but EVIL ducked as the challenger hit the ring post. EVIL, on the other hand, had more luck, as he sent Shibata into the ringpost at the second attempt, after placing an open chair on his head. The same happened moments later when Shibata’s chair-laden arm was sent into the ring post, leaving him stuck on the outside.
Back in the ring, EVIL worked over Shibata with kicks, before throwing him into the corner shoulder-first. A back senton got the champion a near-fall, before EVIL went to a rear chinlock to keep his opponent grounded. That was turned into a spinning sidewalk slam for a near-fall, before Shibata invited EVIL to kick him as hard as he could in the injured shoulder.
Those kicks just riled Shibata, as he chopped down EVIL with ease, before launching into the corners with running big boots and a diving dropkick. An abdominal stretch followed, which Shibata turned into an Octopus hold, forcing EVIL to reach out to grab the rope… giving Shibata a chance to kick an exposed EVIL in the chest. After raking the eye, EVIL made a comeback and came close with a release Fisherman’s suplex.
Shibata went back to a rear chinlock after slipping onto the apron to avoid a Fireman’s carry slam, but he found himself dumped onto the apron courtesy of a clothesline from EVIL. Using as much of the count as he could, Shibata finally brought himself back into the ring, before a combination of forearms earned EVIL a near-fall. A lariat from EVIL had little effect, before they traded the no-sell German suplexes, to the roar of the Singapore crowd… who actually broke out into a chant of “this is awesome”.
From their knees, Shibata and EVIL traded forearms, before EVIL caught a PK, only to end up caught in a sleeperhold. EVIL grabbed the referee and backed Shibata into the official to free himself, before a lariat took down Shibata. With the referee bumped, EVIL went back outside in search of some more chairs – ending with EVIL placing one on Shibata’s head, and striking it off in a game of human baseball.
It looked to be elementary from there, as EVIL landed the Fireman’s carry spinebuster for a near-fall, before Shibata reversed the EVIL and hit an STO of his own. A headbutt from EVIL was followed up by a forearm, before Shibata used his head and followed that up with a sleeperhold. Much like against Zack Sabre Jr, Shibata dumped EVIL with a sleeper suplex, before going back to the rear naked choke as a set-up for the PK… which earned him a second surprise title win in a week! A solid main event which the crowd came unglued for by the end. Typical Shibata – and not in a bad way! ****
After the match, Shibata threw EVIL out of the ring, before sitting cross-legged with his regained NEVER title and the British Heavyweight title. As a show, this was an easy – but weird – card to watch. EVIL’s loss to Katsuyori Shibata is a real head scratcher, even if Shibata is now the Japanese Conor McGregor with two belts, but it feels like this title change could hurt both EVIL and Shibata – unless both men get a clear direction in the immediate future. Since both men are tied up in the G1 Tag League, there’s a chance we won’t get any clarity until much closer to WrestleKingdom.
Most of this was “Road To…” fodder in terms of having any long-term meaning, but at least the wrestling on display was for the most part, great. The surroundings of the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Center were just plain odd, with almost the entire show being brightly lit, with only EVIL getting his light show. It didn’t hurt too much, but it definitely felt like a wrestling show hosted by people who had little experience of the graps game.