Metalhead’s Riff: NJPW Power Struggle 2015 (Nakamura vs Anderson, Super Jr Tag Team Tournament Final, Ishii vs Honma)

On Saturday, NJPW held its last PPV before Wrestle Kingdom 10. The event was headlined by Shinsuke Nakamura vs Karl Anderson for the IWGP Intercontinental title and also featured the final of the Super Jr Tag team tournament and Tomohiro Ishii vs Tomoaki Honma for the NEVER title. Finally some angles were expected given the fact that we’re only two months away from NJPW’s biggest event and there was a lot of speculation about who would answer Nakamura’s open challenge for Wrestle Kingdom 10. Without further ado,, let’s see take a look at what happened:

Jushin Thunder Liger, Mascara Dorada, Ryusuke Taguchi and Tiger Mask IV defeated David Finlay, Jay White, Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu in 7:46 via pinfall:

As said beforehand, this was your typical NJPW opener, lots of fun with the Young Lions eager to take every opportunity they get to shine. That being said, I didn’t feel like this was as good as the King of Pro Wrestling for example, it lacked some intensity and Dorada was a little more on the background than usual. Still lots of fun, with Tiger Mask IV pinning David Finlay with a top rope Tiger Suplex. I really like the fact that they’re making the Young Lions team up, instead of putting them in random teams and, while I know this goes against the NJPW way of doing things, the YL picking up a win one of these days really wouldn’t hurt anyone, on the contrary. Post-match, Liger, after weeks of tiptoeing around the matter, officially challenged Tiger Mask IV for the NWA Junior heavyweight title, which will most likely lead a legend vs legend match on the WK 10 under-card. And why not? The main use of the NWA titles in NJPW is to give the NJPW legends something to do so it makes sense. Fun opener.

Cody Hall, Doc Gallows and Tama Tonga defeated Captain New Japan, Juice Robinson and Togi Makabe in 7:53 via pinfall:

Not much happened here until Makabe tagged in and woke up the Osaka crowd. Solid work, it must be said, with Juice Robinson continuing on his quest to prove he belongs in NJPW. Unfortunately for the former CJ Parker, it appears he may have injured himself during the match. MVP on the Bullet Club’s side was, unsurprisingly, Tama Tonga who, in my opinion, remains one of the most underrated wrestlers in the company. I was therefore pleased he was the one picking up the win for his team by pinning Captain New Japan (who else) after a double arm DDT. Enjoyable card-filler.

Hirooki Goto defeated EVIL in 8:52 via DQ:

More of an angle than a match really, this one existed to introduce Takaaki Watanabe’s new EVIL character. His entrance was quite the sight, featuring a laser show, a grim reaper robe and a scythe. Slightly over the top maybe, but since NJPW doesn’t feature such characters often, it kinda works. For now. The match was well booked with Goto bumping all over the place and doing his bast to make EVIL look like a genuine threat. Just as Goto made his come-back and was busy trying to make EVIL tap out, Tetsuya Naito casually walked to the ring, took out Goto and then went on a rampage, beating up anyone in sight including referees and young lions. The angle was super over with the crowd, especially when Shibata ran in to make the save. Shibata taunted Naito with his traditional seated pose, Naito responded by beating up an hapless cameraman. Very well executed angle, NJPW doesn’t usually do DQ finishes, so when they happen, they get noticed. Naito has incredible heat on him and has completely revived his career with his excellent heel character. Expect him to go supernova in 2016. Also, it is now clear Goto and Shibata will reform their tag-team, so there will probably be more run-ins between them and Naito’s Los Ingobernables at the World tag league, possibly culminating into an all-out war at Wrestle Kingdom 10. Very enjoyable.

reDRagon and the Time Splitters defeated Chase Owens, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks in 8:53 via submission:

This was the expected spotfest, worked at an insane pace and with bodies flying everywhere. The kind of mindless fun such matches usually delivers. KUSHIDA picked up the win for his team by making Chase Owens submit to the hoverboard lock. Interestingly, KUSHIDA made it clear, post-match, that he wanted his Junior Heavyweight Title back. Omega responded with: “I will always be champion, until I decide I want to be a heavyweight”. Which could be a hint at what the future holds for The Cleaner. Anyway, KUSHIDA vs Omega part III coming up soon (read WK 10).

Super Jr. Tag Team Tournament Finals: Matt Sydal and Ricochet defeated Roppongi Vice in 16:06 via pinfall:

A bit of a slow start here, but once they got going it was awesome. RPG Vice continued their streak of really good matches, while Sydal and Ricochet showed of some really crazy move. Move of the night goes to Ricochet for an absolutely insane top rope shooting star press to the floor. That guy fears nothing. Twin Shooting Star Presses for the crowd-pleasing Sydal and Ricochet victory. I’ve said this before but I hugely enjoy the Jr Tag Team division when NJPW decides to book them team vs team instead of multi-team matches. Which made the post-match segment a bit disappointing to me. Sydal and Ricochet celebrated, said they were not just another temporary team but were here to stay and that they wanted the titles. This brought out reDragon and The Young Bucks (who wanted a re-match against the champion) while RPG Vice also claimed the right to challenge the champions by virtue of their semi-final victory. ReDragon just told everyone to bring it, which will likely lead to a fatal-four way at Wrestle Kingdom 10. Now I do get that NJPW Gedo wants to protect reDragon, and that the fatal-four-way will exist to take the belts from reDragon without them being actually pinned, but this move just renders the tournament meaningless. The victors, after beating The Young Bucks and RPG Vice to earn their shot will now have to go through the same teams they’ve just beaten during their match against the champions. It’s this kind of lazy booking that makes the Junior heavyweight scenes seem lackluster, and that’s a shame given the stellar talent they have at their disposal. That all being said, match was great, just too bad we probably won’t get the reDragon vs Sydal and Ricochet match everybody wanted.

AJ Styles and Bad Luck Fale defeated Toru Yano and YOSHI-HASHI in 9:02 via pinfall:

I will be honest and say I wasn’t expecting much more than a card-filler here, but the match ended up being much more enjoyable than expected thanks to everyone involved playing their role to perfection. Yano of course always excels at being the sneaky bastard, YOSHI-HASHI brought the high-flying, Fale is finally making strides in that monster heel role and Styles is just one of the very best in the world, what more can I say. Very enjoyable tag team, and it was great to see Styles back at his usual level after his back injury. Styles pinned YOSHI HASHI after a Bloody Sunday and the Styles Clash. Good stuff.

NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii (c) defeated Tomoaki Honma in 17:26 via pinfall:

These two already had a fantastic match earlier this year, one that received the 5-stars treatment from many observers. So expectations were understandably high. Did they pull it off a second time? In my opinion: YES! It’s funny though, if you look around on the internet, you will note many will put this match slightly below their earlier effort, but I think the result has something to do with that. If Honma had won, I’m certain everybody would have put this match above the other one. Because, let’s face it, when it comes to intensity, match quality, drama, crowd reaction and in-ring work, it’s difficult to see were they could have done better. Let’s talk about the Osaka crowd too who were 200 percent behind Honma and so desperately wanted him to win. They reacted to every near-fall, every come-back, every missed Kokeshi, every breathtaking exchange of strikes and head-butts like this was the end of the world. And then there was another insane flying Kokeshi to the outside, damn, Honma really must be crazy. I know Honma isn’t one that NJPW wants to put one of their titles on, but I hope they will do it anyway one day, just to witness the crowd reaction. Just fantastic. Whatever you do, whether you like NJPW or not, this is one you need to see!

 

Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata defeated Kazuchika Okada and Kazushi Sakuraba in 15:33 via pinfall:

You would think that anyone would have a tough time following Ishii vs Honma, but these four aren’t just anyone. Indeed Okada and co had of course no troubles keeping the crowds attention and delivering another great tag match at the same time. While Tanahashi and Okada were typically awesome whenever they were in there, Sakuraba and, especially, Shibata didn’t disappoint in the slightest, in the contrary. It is also interesting to note that every Okada/Shibata exchange was very well received by the crowd. I hope NJPW booker Gedo took notice and that we will see those two square off in 2016. The finish came when Shibata nailed Sakuraba with the GTS followed up by a Tanahashi High Fly Flow. But Tanahashi wasn’t done as he started taunting Okada post-match. The champion first calmly walked away until Tanahashi said something on the microphone that made the crowd react and prompted Okada to go face to face with Tanahashi. One kicked away contract briefcase later and all hell broke loose as those two engaged in one of the wildest pull-apart brawls I have ever seen. Okada especially looked totally enraged as he decked Tanahashi with the briefcase. Crowd was absolutely red-hot for this one. I can’t believe we still have to wait two months for these two to square off, but once they finally do, believe me, that match is going to be something else. Great match with a fantastic post-match angle.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) defeated Karl Anderson in 21:37 via pinfall:

The one thing that hurt this match was the fact there was simply no way Nakamura would lose here. With the result set in stone this fell perhaps a little bit short in comparison to other NJPW main events, but kudos to both for delivering a great match anyway. Nakamura always deliver of course but Anderson deserves some big praises here, working his ass off to deliver that big match Japanese (and other) crowds expects from a NJPW main event. Bullet Club was out I force, but, this time, their interference didn’t hurt the match but was simply used to further a story. Nakamura ended up overcoming all and keeping his title thanks to his Boma Yé finisher. Post-match, the Open Challenge was answered by none other than AJ Styles for yet another great moment. STyles told Nakamura he was taking his title away from him, Nak just answered with his best “bring it” smile. No 30 minute rambling speech to laboriously prove a point, just a short, intense, well executed, to the point and very heated segment. This is why I love NJPW.

 

Power Struggle 2015 not only delivered, it also exceeded expectations. A solid undercard, enhanced by the very heated Naito angle. Several good to great matches, another fantastic Honma/Ishii war and two more awesome angles, this card was incredibly entertaining from start to finish. They also did extremely well to heighten the interest for Wrestle Kingdom 10 by adding a fantastic Nakamura vs Styles match, teasing KUSHIDA’s come-back in the Junior Heavyweight Title picture and intensifying the Goto/Shibata vs Naito and Co feud. Still some issues with the booking of the Junior Heavyweight titles, but I’m really nitpicking at this point. With Okada/Tanahashi and Nakamura/Styles, I simply can’t wait for the big Tokyo Dome show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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