So, pretty good show, your usual New Japan fare, some pretty great wrestling, a lot of multiman tags, too bad nothing too special ha-
JUST KIDDING, JERICHO IS COMING TO NJPW!!!
As their last big show of the year, I knew that New Japan would do their best to both deliver on match quality and set the hype for the Tokyo Dome into gear, but I never could have predicted this. It’s almost a shame that Y2J’s surprise announcement overshadowed the rest of a damn fine offering, but what it does for the company businesswise offsets any issues I have with it and then some. And I’m deluding myself on that part about having any issue with it whatsoever, because as a lifelong, card-carrying Jerichoholic, this is basically the greatest thing that’s ever been announced in the history of forever. With a single promo, Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega already has that big-fight feel, and may easily become one of the most important matches in the history of the promotion. Who else is ready for Wrestle Kingdom?!
…oh right, I still have a show to go over. Don’t let my flippant tone fool you, there was plenty of goodness to unpack here beyond a single big moment. For instance:
Flash of the Blade: Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Kota Ibushi to retain the IWGP Intercontinental Title
Do I really need to tell you how great this match was? If you saw their showdown at the G1, you knew this was going to be ace (pun intended). This was easily my most highly anticipated bout going into the event, as I’m a pretty huge Ibushi mark and I had no idea who would come out with the title going into the weekend. The crowd was as into it as I was, evenly-split and popping for every single near-fall. The story of Ibushi tweaking his knee casting doubt upon his ability to both utilize his superior agility and hit the Kamigoe was excellent, and allowed them to pace the match beautifully. Admittedly, it wasn’t without its flaws. There were a couple of noticeable botches, with an apparent Golden Star powerbomb leading to both guys falling over and a clumsy top-rope Frankensteiner that looked a little scary. But overall, it did little to mar a fantastic main event!
…and then Switchblade appeared. I was wrong about my prediction for King of Pro Wrestling that Jay White would be introduced as Rocky Romero’s tag partner in the new Roppongi 3K (like, man, I couldn’t have been more wrong), but when that didn’t happen, I strongly suspected that he would end up being revealed as Switchblade. I don’t think I actually wrote that thought down in an article, but I had it, I swear! Regardless, White’s sudden reveal and subsequent beatdown of an exhausted Tanahashi would have been a lot more impactful had a much bigger name not just dropped a shocking announcement on the wrestling world, but I’m extremely optimistic for the Intercontinental title bout at WK. And given how quickly White is getting hotshotted into a major program with a legend like Tanahashi, NJPW brass must feel the same way.
Omega Retains, Alpha Appears: Kenny Omega def. Beretta to retain the IWGP United States Title
Beretta is in such a weird place right now. Had it not been for the appearance of Jericho becoming the story of the weekend, this night might have been remembered as Trentylocks’ coming-out party. He and Omega shined in a match that I’ve heard others argue to be the match of the night (I still think it was Ibushi/Tanahashi, but I can’t knock anyone for feeling this way). As for the match itself, Beretta’s reputation for damn-near killing himself in every big match continues, as he took a suplex onto the metal side of a table followed by an Omega footstomp THROUGH the table that had me cringing on both counts. Kenny really did his best to make Trent look good in this one too, as I’ve never been a big fan of the Dudebuster as a finisher, but Kenny landing so high and tight while taking it followed by a death sell made it look devastating, despite the subsequent kickout. But in the end, no one kicks out of the One-Winged Angel. Still very optimistic for Trent’s future, though as of right now, it looks like he isn’t on the card for January 4th. Maybe there’s a NEVER title shot in his future, or maybe the Best Friends put up a solid showing at the World Tag League?
Sadly, I had Jericho’s announcement spoiled for me (my own fault for not staying off social media before watching), but I still marked out along with the crowd as I took it all in. Jericho vs. Omega will likely be remembered as the most internationally-hyped match in New Japan history, so we can only hope it lives up to it. If you aren’t pumped for this, you don’t have a pulse! Seek medical attention immediately.
Scum And…Villainy? Marty Scurll def. Will Ospreay to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
I’m of two minds on this match: on the one hand, it was well-worked, fast paced, basically what you would want out of a New Japan juniors match. On the other hand, it felt a little anticlimactic, especially given the sudden roll-up finish. Scurll going over here was really unexpected for me as well, as when Ospreay went over their top junior KUSHIDA for the belt last month, I really thought it meant they were about to invest in Ospreay as champ. I guess I was wrong, but it sort of makes sense given the booking of the Fatal Four-Way going into the Dome. Nicely ties up all the loose ends of Ospreay wanting his rematch, KUSHIDA having never gotten his, and Hiromu always getting laid-out before he could make a challenge. But at the same time…why did Marty just accept all of their challenges at once? A very babyface move for a villain.
Side-note: Hiromu is one of my absolute favorite guys in the company right now. His in-ring work was already well-established as being great, but the protective gear to keep him from getting jumped again is just next-level stuff. Super happy he’s not getting left off the card at Wrestle Kingdom!
Hanging The Thief: Minoru Suzuki def. Toru Yano in a Bullrope Deathmatch to retain the NEVER Openweight Title
Not sure what about this particular bullrope match made it a deathmatch, but I don’t really care for barbed wire, thumbtacks, and explosions anyway, so I’m perfectly fine with it. Despite all the expected Suzuki Gun interference, I actually really enjoyed this match. Yeah, yeah, it was overbooked, but so is every Minoru Suzuki match. At this point, either you hate the run-ins, or you think it’s great heel heat for Suzuki and his goons, and I happen to fall into the latter camp. That, and I just love the dynamic of Yano’s trickery getting constantly cut-off by a vicious, vengeful Suzuki. It went exactly as I expected, with Yano getting repeatedly choked by the rope before being put down with the Gotch Piledriver, but this was exactly my speed. Your mileage may vary.
Junior Tag Domination: Roppongi 3000 def. Super 69 to win the Super Junior Tag Tournament
They’re REALLY pushing Sho and Yoh as the kings of the junior tag scene, aren’t they? Win the titles in their first match back with the company, then immediately win the following tag tourney. In fairness, with the division so lacking in depth at the moment, it really isn’t a bad call. New Japan desperately needed fresh blood in this area, so why not push some younger guys to the moon? The match itself was super fun, Taguchi and ACH bumping like crazy for the tag champs. I liked this match even more than the Junior Heavyweight title bout, and I especially dug the false finish with ACH tearing off the tape on his ribs before hitting a huge 450 splash. As for Sho and Yoh themselves…I’m still not totally sold yet. The former Tempura Boys can go, but their inexperience and lack of polish still shows in spots, with some of their transitions still looking a little awkward to me. They should improve with time though, and given that they’re facing the Young Bucks at Wrestle Kingdom, I think we still have plenty to look forward to.
All The Rest
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, & Gedo) def. Los Ingobernables de Japon
A fun 5-on-5 tag to cap off the first half of the show, but even with my eternal love for LIJ, this match has been presented to us so many times recently that it’s tough to recommend this one. Okada looks strong in victory going into his big title match with Naito, but to be honest, I checked out during this outside of the flurry of spots near the end.
TenCozy & Togi Makabe def. Bullet Club (Cody, Chase Owens, & Yujiro Takahashi)
To be frank, this one bored me to tears. This definitely had a lot to do with my inherent biases, as with the exception of Cody, none of the guys in this match hold any appeal for me whatsoever. The Japanese audience sure does seem to still love Kojima, though. Kojima pins Owens after a big LARIATOOOOOOOOO!!!
Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask, KUSHIDA, Juice Robinson, & Hirai Kawato def. Suzuki Gun (El Desperado, Zack Sabre Jr., Taka Michinoku, Taichi, & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
I really dig the way they used both of the Young Lions that appeared on this card. While on the surface a babyface tag win to pick the crowd up a bit, this was obviously designed as a showcase for how far Kawato has come. Between the show of respect from Liger and commentary putting him over post-match, expect big things from this young boy going forward.
Young Bucks def. Dragon Lee & Titan
Easily the best match on the first half of the show, I REALLY wish these guys had gotten more time to go. Highspots were excellent, but they didn’t really get enough wiggle room to develop a story. And, of course, the Cease And Desist submission finisher is fantastic.
David Finlay def. Katsuya Kitamura
Not that I was expecting too much from the pre-show opener, but I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t give Kitamura a big win here. Either way, he looked great in (what I’m pretty sure is) his first singles match on a non-Lions Gate Project show. Seriously looking forward to seeing what becomes of him once he gets some more moves and a fully fleshed-out character.
The last half of this was a fantastic watch. If you haven’t seen them already, go see the Intercontinental and US titles matches NOW, both for the actual matches and the post-match reveals. The rest of the card was a little more hit-and-miss, but as far as doing its job hyping up Wrestle Kingdom, Power Struggle delivered in my book. OKADA VS. NAITO! OMEGA VS. JERICHO! GET PUMPED!!!
Final Grade: A-
Now we’re on the NJPW’s slow season in the World Tag League. I’ll probably still try to catch some of it here and there, as I’m genuinely excited to see the debuts of Jeff Cobb, Sami Callihan, and the Best Friends in New Japan. I may even do a write-up of the Tag League finals, who knows…? Until next time!
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