Welcome to our review of NJPW’s Power Struggle PPV. It took place yesterday, November 7th. I wasn’t able to do a live review so here we are. This is the last ‘standard’ NJPW PPV before their annual Wrestle Kingdom event in January. Any remaining shows between now and then will be special or themed shows dedicated to specific divisions. There will be the 2020 Super J-Cup in December which will focus on cruiserweights; and the World Tag League, which is pretty self-explanatory.
This show featured six matches, all of them singles matches. There were plenty of surprises in how they went down so let’s get into it.
2020 King of Pro-Wrestling Provisional Championship: Toru Yano [c] vs. Zack Sabre, Jr.
They announced that this match would be a ‘no corner pad’ match. In case you didn’t know, one of Yano’s gimmicks is he removes the long corner pads and uses them as a weapon. This is usually done behind the referee’s back, but he won’t have that opportunity here. Also, apparently getting thrown into the fully exposed corner hurts A LOT more in Japan than it does in North America.
This was a nice surprise as it deviated from Yano’s typical comedy shtick. People tend to forget that Yano is actually a very accomplished amateur wrestler, so him going back to those roots was refreshing here. At least for a few seconds, before Yano got whipped into all four exposed corners and left the ring to find another corner pad to play with.
Soon after, ZSJ tool control by doing what ZSJ does best: amazing technical wrestling and brutal submission holds. He looked like he was trying to snap both of Yano’s ankles with various holds, and even went so far as to wrap Yano up in the guardrail. But that proved to be ZSJ’s downfall as he got too wrapped up in what he was doing (pun intended). As ZSJ tried to break Yano’s legs, Yano tied ZSJ’s bootlaces together, trapping him in the barricade. And so, as the referee made his ring count, ZSJ hopped as far as he could and even dragged the barricade with him when doing so. But that wasn’t enough for him to secure the victory.
Winner and STILL KOPW 2020 Provisional Champion: Tory Yano
Final Rating: ***1/4 (Mostly because of the creative finish.)
NEVER Openweight Championship: Minoru Suzuki [c] vs. Shingo Takagi
Takagi’s back was taped up from an earlier Suzuki attack, so you knew that was going to be a focal point of Suzuki’s offensive strategy. And as expected, this was a prototypical ‘tough guy’ match. They trade stiff forearm shots, went back and forth in terms of control and big moves, and of course, Suzuki kept going after Takagi’s back with stiff shots and submission holds. But Takagi worked around it as much as possible. Each time he tried to mount a comeback, the pain in his back should shoot up and he’d fall to the mat. But that only made his underdog fight even more believable and exciting. And Suzuki also showed how tough he was (despite being 52 years old) when he took three insane lariats to the collar and didn’t even go off his feet. But Takagi wouldn’t be denied as he smashed Suzuki with one lariat after another before planting Suzuki with his Last of the Dragon finisher.
Winner and NEW NEVER Openweight Champion: Shingo Takagi
Final Rating: ***3/4
Kazuchika Okada vs. The Great O’Khan
O’Khan was accompanied by Will Ospreay, who came sporting a new look, dressed in a fancy suit and coming down with champagne. Apparently his new faction’s called ‘The Empire’ and O’Khan’s nickname is ‘The Dominator’. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case here.
This was a pretty boring match by Okada’s standards. It felt generic and slow, especially when O’Khan was on offense. A lot of his wrestling featured boring Mongolian chops, some generic power moves and corner strikes. He just didn’t come across as a monstrous threat, much less a star worthy of sharing the ring with Okada.
In fact, he came across more as a stepping stone for Okada to get to Ospreay, which is exactly what happened after the match. With O’Khan now an afterthought, Ospreay entered the ring and challenged Okada to a match at Wrestle Kingdom 15, which Okada accepted. Now, these two former stablemates will face off at the biggest Japanese wrestling show of the year, with Okada looking to not only beat Okada, but end his career.
Winner: Kazuchika Okada
Final Rating: **1/2
IWGP United States Championship Challenge Rights Certificate: KENTA [c] vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Even under Covic restrictions, this was a great match, Tanahashi and KENTA were two rising stars in the 2000s and one eclipsed the other during the 2010s. Now, in 2020, things went in a rather surprising direction as KENTA defeated Tanahashi, and by submission at that.
It was the best match on the card thus far, with both men trading trademark strikes and big moves. KENTA was able to out-strike Tanahashi (because, KENTA), while Tanahashi seemed better positioned to maintain control of the match in general. That is, until KENTA used the briefcase as a weapon and began targeting Tanahashi’s head. And once he locked in the crossface, it was all over for Tanahashi.
I just hope NJPW uses this win as an opportunity to really push KENTA forward. He has the potential to be a big star there but has been treading water since he debuted. By beating the now-former ace of the company, hopefully this’ll translate into a big win for KENTA in the months ahead,
Winner and still IWGP United States Championship Challenge Rights Certificate holder: KENTA
Final rating: ****
IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championships Tokyo Dome Challenge Rights Certificates: Kota Ibushi [c] vs. Jay White
This was a fantastic main-event-level NJPW match that had all the hallmarks of the modern NJPW style. There were lots of insanely stiff strikes, especially from Ibushi, There was some early limbwork designed to weaken a finisher, demonstrated by White attacking Ibushi’s leg to weaken his Kamigoye knee finisher. And there was a long back-and-forth segment during which either wrestler could’ve won at any moment with even the simplest of moves. And that’s exactly how the match ended: a simple backslide, albeit with White using the ropes for leverage following Gedo interfering on his charge’s behalf.
With this loss, Ibushi becomes the first person to win the challenge rights certificate in the G1 Climax and then lose it before Wrestle Kingdom. With this loss, Ibushi’s dream of main-eventing Wrestle Kingdom for the heavyweight title is gone, and to be honest, I have no idea why they booked this decision. I’m one of the few people that straight up doesn’t understand why Jay White gets pushed into main events: he just feels inferior to other NJPA gaijins and doesn’t really do anything to stand out.
Clearly someone likes him, however, and now he will get the spot that Ibushi had worked so hard to achieve. Life can be pretty unfair sometimes.
Winner and NEW: IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championships Tokyo Dome Challenge Rights Certificates holder: Jay White
Final Rating: ****1/4
IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championships: Tetsuya Naito [c] vs. EVIL
There was no denying it. No matter what trickery EVIL had up his sleeve, there was no way he was going to win. Especially after Jay White beat Ibushi. A Bullet Club vs. Bullet Club main event wouldn’t’ve ever been book for Wrestle Kingdom. But boy did EVIL try. He tried hitting multiple low blows but it wasn’t enough to keep Naito down. He and his cronies attacked the referee and also struck Naito hard with chairs. Also didn’t work. Even interference from guys like Dick Togo, Yujiro Takahashi and Jay White wasn’t enough. Naito’s will to win was just too strong. He overcame incredible odds and had to survive a crazy onslaught from the villainous Bullet Club. With this win, Naito can carry both of his titles into the Tokyo Dome main event(s), achieving another big dream.
Winner and STILL IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Champions: Tetsuya Naito
Final Rating: ****1/4
Thanks for reading.