New Japan Pro-Wrestling draws 5,558 fans to the EDION Arena Osaka for Power Struggle 2019. The last major stop on the calendar before Wrestle Kingdom features three title matches, the Super Junior Tag League final and a special attraction singles match between Tetsuya Naito and Taichi. Let’s get started!
Clark Connors, Titan, TJP & Volador Jr. def. Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask & Yuya Uemura @ 5:43 – **1/2
Uemura was shot out of a cannon for the opener. Dude was hot all match, his biggest highlight being when he turned Connors’ spear into an armdrag. Connors too got some shine by starting off the match with Liger. He popped up after an attack and slapped Liger across the face before getting dropped by a slap in return. Big ups to Uemura for lifting his arm like he wanted to kick out but didn’t have the energy.
El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori def. Robbie Eagles & Rocky Romero @ 8:42 – **1/4
The match starts hot with an exchange between Eagles and Ishimori. Watching Eagles, Ishimori and Romero together it’s clear these guys should be the focus of the junior division. ELP has had two great singles matches since the beginning of his run, both against Ospreay. Outside of that the dude is nearly impossible to watch. Despite being a heel, he took away Eagles’ shine by doing the rope-walk spot that popped the crowd harder than any comeback reasonably could.
Romero and Eagles should’ve been a team for tag league and with Ospreay likely out of the division come February, that’s probably the plan going forward. I think they can have something with Eagles. He works really hard but his shine can’t get taken away by wrestlers not knowing their place in a match.
EVIL, SANADA & Shingo Takagi def. Lance Archer, Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr. @ 9:07 – **3/4
The exchange between Shingo and Suzuki alone should make the match worth your time. Those two went in on each other with brutal strikes that bled into the post-match. EVIL too got in on the action with Suzuki. Both Shingo and EVIL were on fire. Shingo getting the hot tag was a perfect build to Suzuki getting his chest caved in. Suzuki felt like he’d taken control of his group after giving his crew the spotlight for most of the year.
Everything outside of those exchanges was no good. Archer is too primped and pretty for this unhinged gimmick he’s been running with. It worked with the long straggly hair but he’s put too much effort into his look for me to believe what he’s trying to sell. SANADA and Sabre had the final stretch that went too long on the counter pins but it lead to the finish so at least there was a payoff.
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi def. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI @ 10:51 – ***
It’s the house show aces but Y-H showed up in a big way which brought the match over the hump. Everyone bought that he had Tanahashi beat with the Kumagoroshi and cheered him on for the follow up Karma which he just couldn’t hit. His entire finishing sequence brought the match to life. Tanahashi having a hot finish made sense for the post-match Jericho video. It’s something everyone expected but nevertheless will be a fun special attraction. Tanahashi’s charisma will be able to carry and make for a great environment at the Tokyo Dome.
Tetsuya Naito def. Taichi @ 12:56 – ***1/2
A good old-fashioned bomb fest. This is the style that best suits Taichi (evidenced by the G1 sprint with Ishii). They come inside after a hot brawl through the crowd to start the match. Taichi turns a rana off the second into a powerbomb that Naito sells like death. Taichi stays on top by hitting a series of dangerous backdrops until Naito comes in hot with a running Destino followed by Valentia (which is so brutal that it should be his finisher).
Naito escapes the Black Mephisto and hits the move himself before finishing Taichi with a Destino. Hot, middle of the card singles matches is something the company should be doing more often. Not every singles match needs to be a main event that goes 25+ minutes. A heated 12-minute match is more than enough.
Super Junior Tag League Final
Roppongi 3K def. El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru @ 14:13 – ***1/2
Outside of two brief moments of bad facials from SHO, everything about this match worked. SZKG started with an attack on 3K’s entrance and backdropped SHO on the ramp. This left YOH in there to take the beating and make his comeback which is what he excels at while giving SHO the eventual hot tag. SHO’s open to his hot tag was a flurry of wrist-clutch kicks to the grounded Kanemaru.
Everything clicked well throughout the match. Kanemaru would pull the referee aside and Desperado would hit SHO in the back with a chair. The finishing sequence told a great story of SHO trying to do everything himself and failing but YOH popped in out of nowhere to aid his partner into the win.
Perfectly executed match aside from a couple of oversold facials from SHO but even those were better than they normally are so overall a thumbs up match.
NEVER Openweight Championship
KENTA (c) def. Tomohiro Ishii @ 20:12 – ****
What an old-school stiffer. These two went all out with big strikes to the face and neck. Absolutely brutal exchanges from start to finish, not once letting up. The match kicked off with a big mood where KENTA went to bail but Ishii went on the chase and brought KENTA right back inside. From that point on, everything was done between the ropes. They were outside for a grand total of five seconds. It’s no secret that when you want to get the most out of someone on the roster you put them against Ishii.
These two embraced the classic stiff style you can still see across Japan but it’s largely missing in New Japan. Since it’s not something you get to see often from the roster this was a nice treat. Similar to last year’s Power Struggle that saw Ishii take on Minoru Suzuki. I always appreciate seeing Ishii get singles opportunities outside of the G1 and NJC. The guy makes the most out of every chance he’s given.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay (c) def. BUSHI @ 16:20 – ***1/2
If there’s anything BUSHI can be appreciated for it’s that he understands longer doesn’t mean better. A common complaint all year is that Ospreay has been going long for the sake of long. I appreciated the King of Pro-Wrestling match more than most because at least there was a story they were working off of in that case. BUSHI’s presence meant the match would be kept short and snappy but with BUSHI comes the distraction and mist.
The ref bumps were at least fun and the mist spots were creative. That much credit has to be given to these gys. They’ve had a couple of really substandard matches in the past but here they generated something that was both fun and creative. Another major knock on Ospreay is his facials. He hammed it up far too often for my taste in this match specifically but that’s a me thing because these two had EDION shaking. They were so into every little move and came unglued when they thought BUSHI had the win. I think this is a really good match but I’m probably somewhere in between Ospreay’s lovers and haters.
The post-match angle with Hiromu is the best moment of the year. New Japan has been doing great with the moments. Shibata’s G1 return in 2017, Shibata seconding Tanahashi in 2018 and now Hiromu’s return. The reason for these moments are unfortunate but they make the most of those circumstances with unforgettable moments. Hiromu Takahashi is the best wrestler in the world and I’m happy he’s back.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Jay White (c) def. Hirooki Goto – 27:40 – *
This isn’t an emotional rating based off result. White being boring on top is fine in theory for a heel. What makes a good heel work is a babyface you want to see win. White’s match against Naito at Destruction was a good example and the Okada match at MSG being White’s best example. All of the life has been sucked out of Goto. No one believes in him and no one really would care if he did win because we’d all know it’s not to put focus on him but someone else.
White’s not blameless because he sure is dry on top but they didn’t do him any favors with Goto either. This is such a bad pairing. The fact that it got three main events this year is appalling. The feud has done nothing beneficial for either man and is one of the biggest missteps on a laundry list of missteps from New Japan. I understand that people leaving changed their plans and everything had to be booked on the fly but what a waste of a main event.
The post-match angle with Okada, Ibushi, Naito and White sets up a tournament for the main event of the second night at the Tokyo Dome. I don’t mind the idea, we’ve seen every combination of these four have a great match. As we look on to 2020 though, a lot has to change.
Everyone knows going in that Power Struggle is a low-level B show so expectations are never high. The war between Ishii and KENTA harkened back to the classic NEVER Openweight style and having a special singles between Naito and Taichi was good fun too. It was a wrinkle you don’t often see in New Japan and a thumbs up for the added surprise that it was a relatively short singles match. The tag league final was a solid way to end the tournament. 3K with the three peat is cool but also show the lack of depth in the division.
Hiromu Takahashi’s return stole the show. Power Struggle is normally used as a tool to promote the final major stop before Wrestle Kingdom and this year was the same as always. You had a handful of really good matches but none that are going to end the year high on any list. The main event was atrocious in just about any way imaginable. Definite contender for worst main event of the year.
Tomohiro Ishii vs KENTA
Roppongi 3K vs Suzuki-Gun
Tetsuya Naito vs Taichi
Will Ospreay vs BUSHI