Before NJPW goes back into tournament mode with Best Of Super Juniors AND World Tag League at the same time, it’s time for a Power Struggle. Their annual fall show is here, and is going to bring six big singles matches to the table once again. Titles and future title shots are on the line tonight, and any win here sets you up very nicely for Wrestle Kingdom come January.
NJPW King Of Pro-Wrestling Title No Corner Pads Match: Toru Yano (c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
You might have forgotten that at Summer Struggle, Yano pinned Okada to be named King Of Pro-Wrestling, but Zack Sabre Jr. did not. After beating Yano in the G1, he wants a rematch, a chance to become King Of Pro-Wrestling himself. It needed a stipulation however, so they’re taking the corner pads off, so it’s four corners of steel for this one.
I said it when they clashed in the G1, and I’ll say it again now: ZSJ brings out the best in Yano. He’s a perfect foil for the Sublime Master Thief, and they put together a great comedy match to start this show. From Yano trying to tape the turnbuckle pads back in place after being thrown into the corner, to him winning by tying ZSJ’s shoelaces together while trapped in a kneebar through the barricade, rendering ZSJ unable to get into the ring again? It was just fun, a light hearted start before we get into more violent and hard hitting matches.
Match Rating: 3/5 (***)
NEVER Openweight Title Match: Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Shingo Takagi
All great things must come to an end, and that includes this trilogy of hard hitting matches from Shingo & Suzuki. Suzuki won round one and claimed the NEVER Openweight Championship, and Shingo shot back in the G1. It’s tiebreaker time, and the gold is on the line once again.
This could have been the main event of the show, and no one would have complained. They tore each other apart with heavy strikes, neither man wanting to give up this huge match. Suzuki had damaged the back of Shingo in the build to this match, taking away some of his power. However, when Suzuki couldn’t hit that Gotch Style Piledriver, and Shingo essentially knocked him out with a lariat, that became worthless. He used everything he had to set up and hit Last Of The Dragon, and became a two time NEVER Openweight Champion.
Match Rating: 4.25/5 (**** ¼)
Singles Match: Kazuchika Okada vs. Great O-Khan
This one isn’t about gold, it’s about respect. Okada has had a rough year, he lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, failed to win the New Japan Cup or the G1 Climax, but worst of all, Will Ospreay turned his back on him. A man he brought into NJPW resorted to dirty tricks to push past him, and one of those tricks was bringing Great O-Khan in. Now, this graduated Young Lion is put to the test, as he faces down the 5x World Champion. All this in the same building where The Rainmaker Shock happened, when a young upstart Okada defeated Hiroshi Tanhashi to claim his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
While all the ingredients for a great match were here, it fell flat. Okada has been coasting through most of his year, and Great O-Khan didn’t exactly give a great performance either. It was a slow and plodding match, which ended with Okada getting another referee stoppage with The Money Clip, not a great look for your new monster on the roster. If you only know Okada from this year, you’d be surprised he’s praised as one of the greatest of all time.
Match Rating: 2.25/5 (** ¼)
IWGP US Heavyweight Championship Right To Challenge Contract Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA
At the end of the G1 Climax, Hiroshi Tanahashi got a big win over Zack Sabre Jr, and that boosted The Ace’s confidence to it’s usual level. He realized maybe he can still go at a champions level, and why not start by trying to earn a shot at the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship? After using the briefcase to attack Tanahashi twice, KENTA wanted him to repair it. Instead, Tanahashi might just take it off his hands.
This was the definition of a back and forth match, as both men had the win well within grasp many times. KENTA used every dirty trick in the book alongside his old strikes, while Tanahashi played the classics in hopes they’d bring him a big win. Eventually, he’d end up in the Game Over, and have to verbally submit. The pace wasn’t fast, but it was a classic match from both men, and that’s all it had to be. We remain on track for Moxley vs. KENTA, and Tanahashi was knocked down a peg. A big win to start the night for Bullet Club.
Match Rating: 3.75/5 (*** ¾)
Double IWGP Right to Challenge Contract Match: Kota Ibushi vs. Jay White
Kota Ibushi might have won the G1 Climax, but the path to Wrestle Kingdom isn’t going to be that easy. Jay White was able to beat Ibushi during the tournament, so why shouldn’t he get another chance to prove he should have been the one in the finals against SANADA? The one with the first class ticket to Wrestle Kingdom? We will see who is better tonight, as that main event match is on the line.
Jay White & Kota Ibushi have had great matches all year, and this was no exception. White was playing a long game and focused on the midsection of Ibushi, trying to take his breath away, while hitting his usual slick offense. Ibushi fired back with his hard strikes and stayed steady with his agility, and things were going his way, until Jay White got a backslide with his feet on the ropes for extra leverage to steal the win and the contract.
This one might be far from ever yet, with this dirty finish and time before the Tokyo Dome. But as it stands, Jay White is going to Tokyo Dome to face the IWGP Double Champion. 2020 strikes again, and that’s another big win for Bullet Club tonight.
Match Rating: 4.25/5 (**** ¼)
IWGP Heavyweight Title / IWGP Intercontinental Title Match: Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. EVIL
In a match that even Tetsuya Naito is tired of having, here comes the fourth edition this year of Naito vs. EVIL. They’ve traded the IWGP Double Gold, but a win in the G1 puts EVIL one win ahead of Naito. This is EVIL’s last chance to make the main event of Tokyo Dome, so who knows what tricks he has up his sleeve for his former friend.
If you saw their last three matches this year, you’ve already seen this one. They brawled, Naito hit his usual offense, Dick Togo helped EVIL cheat, the referee was found dead at ringside after having his leg yanked. SANADA & Yujiro Takahashi showed up, Jay White and Kota Ibushi showed up, all just cancelling each other out and making everything pointless. In the end, Naito did a mercy to fans everywhere and ended this match with Destino. Please make this their last match until next years G1 Climax, if not the 2022 edition.
Match Rating: 2.25/5 (** ¼)
What was your favorite match of Power Struggle? Let us know what you think in the comment section down below.
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