New Japan Pro Wrestling held their last major show of the year this morning, so let’s crack the 2016 edition of Power Struggle open and see what’s worth watching, shall we?
As always, I've got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the folks in it, 3 is a match that's worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.
Mind you, these are not star ratings. They're not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you're best off skipping. I have my biases, of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.
Juice Robinson & TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Teruaki Kanemitsu, & Yuji Nagata (2)
Kanemitsu is a young lion with no fear of his elders, which makes him a joy to watch every time he makes one of these bigger shows. Even so, TenCozy level him after his show of defiance and things proceed from there in a pretty standard NJPW opening tag match kind of way.
Juice Robinson picks up the win for his team with a Killswitch he’s dubbed Pulp Friction.
Definitely check this one out if you like to see young lions bringing it to 3rd Generation guys, but it’s not essential.
Angel de Oro, Fuego, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Titan vs. David Finlay, Jushin Liger, Ricochet, & Tiger Mask IV (3)
Pairing off early and gets their pyrotechnics in, first Liger and Titan, then Angel and Ricochet, but things break down and Taguchi takes the match to Butt Town before he and Tiger Mask get into it. A short Tiger/Fuego interlude injects itself before Finlay gets in and everything breaks down again.
Finlay and Ricochet pick up the win for their team with a Finlay Roll / shooting star press combo.
It might have just been the CMLL guys being in this, but I dug this more than I’ve enjoyed a random junior heavyweight undercard match in a long time. They just kept doing stuff and didn’t outlast their welcome. If you find yourself agreeing with Vader on the regular you might want to give this a skip, but if you like flippy dudes doing flippy stuff, check it out.
Bullet Club (BONE SOLDIER, Chase Owens, & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) & YOSHITATSU (1)
Honma starts things off strong for GBH+ but Bullet Club subterfuge puts him on the back foot. He finally gets some relief tagging his buddy Makabe in, and the Unchained King Kong goes to town on Owens. Yoshi then comes in against the Boner and all our nightmares are made real.
Bullet Club run hard on Yoshi, he gets some separation with a sweet hip toss into a knee ot the face to no avail...
Yujiro picks up the win for Bullet Club with a snap basement DDT.
If you’re a really big Honma fan, his run in the first part of the match is probably worth checking out, but other than that there’s just not much here.
Post-match Boner chokes out Yoshi before Makabe makes the save with his chain, so we have more of this ahead of us.
Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa) (c) (IWGP Tag Team Championship) (4)
Guerrillas dominate the early goings, Roa by strength, Tonga by speed. They absolutely dismantle YOSHI-HASHI in a cool striking > jumping neckbreaker > leg drop > standing frog splash sequence, and put the exclamation point on by double dropkicking Ishii out of the ring.
Ishii relieves his pal and runs roughshod on the tag champs until Roa cuts him off and gets a nearfall off a running powerslam. Tacos takes his turn, tagging in and putting together a bit of a run but Tonga counters the suplex neckbreaker and gets the momentum back once more until Ishii breaks up a finish attempt.
Buckle bomb into a superkick into a running lariat and then sliding double knees gets the challengers a nearfall. HASHI connects with the Swanton but it’s not enough to put Tonga away! The underhook neck crank is in, Ishii has Roa in a sleeper too but the erstwhile Camacho powers through and breaks up the legal submission.
Everything breaks down, a diving headbutt / frog splash combo gets a tight nearfall for the champs when Ishii breaks it up, and HASHI kicks out of the powerbomb / inverted DDT combo! Chaos make one more valiant run at this, Ishii dropping Roa in the corner with a German suplex, Tacos blocks the Gun Stun and gets a tight nearfall of his own off a huge right hand.
Tonga reverses Karma into a Gun Stun...
Guerrillas of Destiny pick up the win shortly thereafter with the assisted implant DDT, retaining the IWGP Tag Team Championship.
Really good match. I’ve been pretty down on GoD thus far this year but either they’re finally putting it together or they just have crazy chemistry with this iteration of Chaos.
ACH & Taiji Ishimori vs. Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) (2016 Super Jr. Tag Tournament Finals) (2)
Strong back and forth early, Beretta hits a huge tope on Ishimori, ACH trips Beretta neck-first into the apron. ACH and Ishimori take the lead from there, working over Beretta until Rocky comes in and things get a bit more even. Tandem slingshot maneuvers and deadlift German suplexes get a nearfall for the ROH/NOAH combo, they look for top rope followups but RPG Vice bail, so ACH punts Beretta from the apron and Ishimori hits a huge diving moonsault to the outside on Rocky.
Wheelbarrow facebuster / slingshot cutter combo gets two on Rocky before ACH takes care of Beretta with a corkscrew crossbody and Ishimori hits a beautiful moonsault fallaway slam on Rocky from the top. Rocky’s out of it bigtime but wakes up enough to flip the bird and spew invective before successfully misdirecting traffic and wiping Ishimori out. RPG Vice nearly get the win with a diving knee-assisted Argentine backbreaker slam.
ACH hits a lumbar check, Rocky runs the Forever! lariats on him in return but ACH is able to get one of his own off and stop them early before bowling RPG Vice over outside with a running no-hands twisting moonsault! Stereo 450 splashes follow but RPG Vice get their knees up! ACH and Rocky slug it out and have some tight exchanges ending with ACH connecting with the brainbuster for a nearfall.
Beretta connects with a release German off the second on ACH, Rocky takes Ishimori out with a dive...
Roppongi Vice win by pinfall with Strong Zero, winning the junior tag tournament.
Pretty fun match early on, but it felt like they were just trading momentum with no real structure after a while and it just outstayed its welcome. Not exactly bad, but unless you’re a fan of either team specifically, you can probably skip this one.
Rocky cuts a promo calling out the Young Bucks and they oblige. Rocky then challenges them for Wrestle Kingdom and the Bucks accept.
BUSHI (c) vs. KUSHIDA (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship) (5)
KUSHIDA wastes no time bringing the fight to BUSHI! He dumps the champ outside and takes him pillar to post, dropping him with a piledriver in the walkway! BUSHI gets his own back in the ring, hanging KUSHIDA up in the ropes and hitting a lungblower. KUSHIDA sells on the outside while BUSHI takes a nap in the ring, happy to retain by countout.
KUSHIDA, of course, makes it in, and BUSHI chokes him with his t-shirt before grabbing a bodyscissors guillotine choke. KUSHIDA flags but does not fail, and BUSHI hits a second lungblower shortly after breaking the hold. KUSHIDA nails BUSHI hard with a reverse STO that plants his skull into the turnbuckle pad! Flying armbar off the top! He’s got full extension but BUSHI rolls to the ropes.
Forearm-for-forearm, KUSHIDA goes for a handspring when they break but BUSHI is right there with a dropkick to his face and a head-first suicide dive when he ends up outside. A missile dropkick sets KUSHIDA up for corner double knees, the champion follows with an enzuigiri but the challenger ducks so he gets him on the flipside with the reverse roundhouse! Codebreaker attempted but KUSHIDA catches it and looks for the Hoverboard Lock only for BUSHI to reverse back to the guillotine!
KUSHIDA fights but BUSHI rolls with him and keeps it in tight. Again referee Marty Asami tries the arm drop test and KUSHIDA will not fade! Bodyscissors applied, KUSHIDA is able to get the ropes but BUSHI drops him with a Codebreaker for a nearfall. MX connects, and it’s still not enough, so he tries again and KUSHIDA ducks it to hit the big wind-up punch. KUSHIDA frustrated now, tearing at BUSHI’s mask before they slug it out again.
BUSHI hits a Canadian Destroy for a nearfall and heads back up top for MX but KUSHIDA catches him with a Codebreaker of his own into a small package for a nearfall! Penalty Kick to the arm, tilt-a-whirl Hoverboard Lock attempt, BUSHI slips out but KUSHIDA grabs the armbar, he can’t extend the arm so he shifts to the Hoverboard Lock and drags BUSHI to the center of the ring...
KUSHIDA wins by submission with a modified Hoverboard Lock, winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
...which makes me wonder what the point of switching the title was in the first place, but Gedo’s ways are not meant to be known by mortal man. Was an awesome match, though, better than the one KUSHIDA lost it in and definitely worth a watch.
It’s time to finally find out what this was all about! The clock hits zero and a video plays... it’s Kamaitachi! He’s back to New Japan under his real name of Hiromu Takahashi! And he’s here to issue a challenge to KUSHIDA for a junior title match at Wrestle Kingdom. Well, I’m convinced. Should be an awesome match.
Bullet Club (Adam Cole, Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson, & Nick Jackson) vs. Chaos (Gedo, Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada, & Will Ospreay) (3)
Ospreay and Nick start it off, Young Will having the advantage, even fending Matt off when he sticks his face into it. Omega comes in and Ospreay tags Okada. Omega is quick to tag Cole in his stead but it’s a ruse to blindside the IWGP Heavyweight Champion! They double-team him but Okada keeps his head above water and fends them off.
Goto comes in and has the better of Cole for a bit before tagging Gedo in to continue the beating. The Bucks save Cole and everything breaks down, Bullet Club with quadraphonic dives! Bullet Club work Gedo over a while, wrenching his beard unholy until Ospreay dives in on Cole and creates an opening to tag Goto back in.
He seems like he has Cole beat but the Bucks break it up and Ospreay lands a Sasuke Special on them! Ushigoroshi on Cole leads to Omega and Okada coming in for real this time. Okada hits the Reverse Neckbreaer but Matt hits him with the freezing spray when he goes up top and everything breaks down again. Suplex reversed into a Stunner by Ospreay and he looks to fly but Omega cuts him off with a chop to the face!
Omega ducks a Rainmaker and shoots Okada right into a superkick before laying him low with a snap Dragon suplex. The Bucks superkick Goto and Ospreay when they try to make the save, and Bullet Club take Okada to the Superkick Party! Gedo makes the save and gets invited to the Party as well! Okada fights out of One-Winged Angel, Omega fights out of the tombstone, and Okada plants him with that dropkick of his.
V-Trigger counters the Rainmaker, poison Frankensteiner, Okada is reeling! V-Trigger against the ropes...
Bullet Club win by pinfall with One-Winged Angel on Kazuchika Okada.
Like all these sort of house show eight man tags that end up on big shows, this was hardly essential but it was a lot of fun, especially in the finishing run. Plan accordingly.
EVIL vs. Katsuyori Shibata (c) (NEVER Openweight Championship) (5)
EVIL pushes Shibata around early but the champ ain’t having it and slugs it out with him. Shibata grounds EVIL with a figure four headscissors but the Ingobernable man is able to make the ropes. Shibata knocks him clean into the barricade with a Yakuza kick for his trouble, however! EVIL returns the favor knocking Shibata off the apron and proceeds to take him to the woodshed on the outside, wrenching his bad arm over the barricade and kicking it hard.
It wouldn’t be an EVIL match without a Pillmanizer spot on the outside, and he wraps the bad arm in a chair and sends it into the ringpost. A surfboard curb stomp into a senton back in the ring gets two. Shibata takes a seat and invites EVIL to kick the bad shoulder (with a legitimate rotator cuff tear, remember) because he is a crazy man. Back to his feet he turns the tide with forearms before stomping and choking EVIL in the corner.
Hesitation dropkick connects and EVIL is gasping. Half-halch suplex follows for two and Shibata locks an abdominal stretch in. EVIL goes to the eyes after the break and forearms Shibata’s face in. Discus lariat in the corner and EVIL puts the boots to the champ, shoving referee Marty Asami to the side when he tries to break it up. Shibata ain’t rolling over yet, though, and comes back with forearms and kicks, leading to another slugfest section.
EVIL connects with a back suplex and the fireman’s carry spinebuster gets two. Looking for EVIL but Shibata blocks and hits an STO of his own! On their knees now, striking forearm for forearm and then to their feet, Shibata wins the exchange and looks to follow with a strike rush but EVIL blocks by hitting the bad arm so he locks in a sleeper! EVIL tries to break the hold by breaking the bad arm over his shoulder but Shibata fights out and keeps it in, eventually converting to a sleeper suplex.
EVIL heads outside to recover and tosses the referee into Shibata when he follows before hitting him with the NEVER belt! The chair is back in play, wrapped around Shibata’s neck this time, and EVIL swings for the fences with a second chair! FISHERMAN BUSTER ON THE CHAIR! NOT ENOUGH!
EVIL picks up the win with EVIL, becoming the new NEVER Openweight Champion.
Awesome match. I’m bummed Shibata’s reign is over, but realistically with his injuries it’s been on borrowed time since the G1. Hopefully he can take the time to heal up properly now, even if he feels like he “has” to work Wrestle Kingdom.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. SANADA (4)
Desultory mat grappling early on before SANADA inexplicably offers a handshake and Tanahashi takes it, leading to an awkward double kick catch-the-foot spot and the match heating up a bit. The action spills outside after a false start with SANADA landing a slingshot crossbody on the 1/100 Dude and taking him up the ramp for a Frankensteiner.
SANADA heads back in the ring to wait the count out but Tanahashi barrel rolls his way back down to beat the count. Standing moonsault misses but SANADA’s quick on his feet and lands a low dropkick immediately. SANADA blocks a dragon screw (it’s a miracle!) and locks on a Stranglehold Gamma, which is cool to see.
Forearms traded in the corner before Tanahashi switches to uppercuts. This turns out to be a mistake because all it takes is one from SANADA to put him on the mat, but maybe it was a ploy because he’s right there with a pounce and some elbow drops when SANADA looks to charge. Scoop and a slam, he goes up top but SANADA nails him and they fight around the ropes before Tanahashi hits the rope-hung dragon screw.
Sling blade on the apron sets up the High Fly Flow to the outside! Back in the ring SANADA strings together some offense culminating with a springboard dropkick. The TKO follows but it’s only worth a nearfall and he tweaked his knee in the process. Bridging Tiger Suplex gets another two-count and Skull End is in!
Tanahashi’s arm flops to the mat and SANADA seizes the moment, breaking the hold and looking for the moonsault, but the former Ace rolls out of the way and heads to the top himself only for High Fly Flow to also come up empty! A second moonsault aggravates the bum knee again and SANADA rolls around in agony. Tanahashi kicks his leg out of his leg and connects with another dragon screw before locking the cloverleaf in.
SANADA makes the ropes but Tanahashi drags him back in the middle of the ring for more dragon screws. High Fly Flow connects but SANADA has the knees up so he can’t capitalize, but the damage done may have been worse given that SANADA took it all on the bad knee. Strikes are exchanged, a blinding flurry of forearms that leaves SANADA on his knees. Off the ropes, O’Connor roll into Skull End but he can’t get all of it. A second try gets reversed into a small package for two, and Tanahashi flips out of a third into his own Skull End!
Off the ropes for a fourth, Tanahashi reverses again, this time into a dragon screw neck whip! Sling blade atempt reversed into Skull End reversed into a successful sling blade, Tanahashi nearly wins with a bridging Dragon suplex. High Fly Flow to the back! Up top again...
Hiroshi Tanahashi picks up the win with High Fly Flow.
Man, I could have done without the first couple minutes, everything through the weird handshake spot or so, but the back half of that match was great.
Jay Lethal vs. Tetsuya Naito (c) (IWGP Intercontinental Championship) (3)
Naito plays the part of a bullfighter in the beginning, dodging Lethal and urging him to calm down, but Lethal catches him with a mule kick and the triple suicide dive before mocking his pose on the apron. He stays on Naito, taking him on a tour of the turnbuckles before getting crotched on the top rope and kicked to the outside himself.
Naito takes a nap as Lethal writhes in pain. He stops Red Shoes’ count and heads out to put boots to Lethal before rolling back in for a few more Zs. Into the barricade this time, and only back in long enough to break the count before more barricade punishment. More naptime, and Lethal beats the count by rolling back in himself this time, leading Naito to rain overhead elbows down on his back.
Naito to the mat with a side headlock, grinding his knuckles into Lethal’s eyes, before following up with a flurry of offense including a low dropkick and a swinging neckbreaker. He settles on a rear chinlock, pummeling Lethal when he gets to his feet but Lethal gets a knee in and creates an opening that he immediately exploits with a cutter.
Lethal keeps his window open with strikes and a big spinebuster for two. Naito fights out of a back suplex and lands a Manhattan Drop into the outside-in dropkick but looking for a Frankensteiner, Lethal slips out and nearly powerbombs him. Naito with a reverse STO into the Pluma Blanca but Lethal gets to the ropes without much delay. Setting up Gloria as a followup but Lethal fights out of it and is able to hit Lethal Combination to leave both men laying.
Lethal blocks Naito’s step-up Tornado DDT and turns it into a Death Valley Driver for two! Lethal hits the rolling back suplexes, Naito blocking the third so he sets him up top, looking to hit it as a superplex but Naito fights out. Huge leap on the dropkick to nail Naito in the face while he’s still in the corner and the former ROH champion connects with a straight superplex!
Lethal Injection blocked, Naito hits the tornado DDT and perches on the top rope for a missile dropkick. Avalanche Frankensteiner connects, then Gloria for two! Looking for Destino but Lethal fights out, Naito with a rolling kick and Lethal clobbers him with a lariat. Forearms are thrown, Lethal fires up and looks for another Lethal Combination but Naito blocks and throws a suplex for two.
Lethal with an inverted Finlay Roll into an arm-trap crossface! Struggle on the apron, Lethal looking for a German suplex but eventually getting a straight suplex. He rolls Naito back in the ring and hits Hail to the King for a nearfall. Buckle bomb into a revolution powerbomb in tribute to Michael Elgin but Naito isn’t going down.
Naito catches Lethal Injection and they struggle for position, an elbow sets up Destino but Lethal blocks and throws kicks, Naito blocks Lethal Injection a third time...
Tetsuya Naito wins by pinfall with Destino, retaining the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.
That was fine, but something about Lethal just refuses to click in Japan, it’s a bummer.
Tanahashi comes out after the match to continue to build towards his title shot at Wrestle Kingdom.
Not quite as good as King of Pro-Wrestling, but a fine show all the same. Make sure to check out the NEVER and IWGP junior title matches for 100% sure, as well as the surprisingly good heavyweight tag match and SANADA/Tanahashi, just maybe fast forward the first few minutes on the last one there.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.