8/29 NEW JAPAN SUMMER STRUGGLE IN JINGU: Evil vs. Naito for the IWGP IC Title and IWGP Title, Takagi vs. Suzuki, Takahashi vs. Ishimori, KOPW 2020 Finals, more

By Rich Fann, PWTorch contributor


AUGUST 29, 2020

English Commentators: Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton

(1) YOSHINOBU KANEMARU vs. MASTER WATO (w/Hiroyoshi Tenzan)

The show kicked off with a great establishing shot of the stadium, with fans socially distanced and masked. Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton are on commentary. Wato and Kanemaru started off hot with Wato in the driver’s seat, and Kanemaru peppered with kicks and punches.

Kanemaru took the match to the outside and regained his composure – but Wato was back on his heels in no time. The grandmaster hit a great corkscrew splash to the outside and returned Kanemaru back into the ring. Kanemaru set Wato up and the youngster ran into the ref, and with the referee downed, Kanemaru went for his trusty whisky bottle – but Wato kicked the bottle out of Kanemaru’s hand. Tenzan happily pocketed the full bottle outside. Wato hit a powerbomb with a facebuster which seemed awkward, and when Wato attempted to pick up Kanemaru, the veteran hit a flash pin for the win.

Post match, Wato harangued the referee as Kanemaru tapped his own temple and walked away with the win.

WINNERS: Yoshinobu Kanemaru by pinfall (Flash Rollup) in 7:30 (**)

(Fann’s Analysis: Great start to the show technically – both announcers are socially distant by continent, and watching in real time. The match itself was okay with Wato continuing to be outsmarted by the wily cheating veteran. Wato’s finishing sequence was confusing as you couldn’t tell who got the worse of his set up powerbomb facebuster. And as has been the case since his return to New Japan, Wato needs to figure out his facial reactions a bit better.)


This match was one fall for the finish and the title of King of Pro Wrestling for 2020.

Sanada and Desperado jumped Yano as Okada entered and the match was on. Yano then recovered with the Rainmaker’s assistance, and begged off, which gave him to room for a pin attempt on Okada to no avail.

The match spilled outside, and somehow the scene was set of Okada held Sanada outside for Yano to dive on him to the shock of everyone, but instead Desperado stopped the insane attempt. Back in the ring, the combinations that worked together became fun, as Sanada and Okada double teamed Despy – after which Okada gave the LIJ salute to Sanada and snuck a kick on the Cold Skull.

Sanada eventually got Okada alone after Yano was placed in the Paradise Lock and Desperado was incapacitated outside, but Okada hit Sanada with a shotgun dropkick and freed his Chaos teammate. Sanada slapped on his Skull End, but Desperado broke it up with a frog splash from the top rope. A Pinche Loco attempt on Okada was countered, and Okada slipped his cobra clutch. Before Kanemaru could submit, he grabbed the referee and shoved the official to the mat. However, Yano in the din hit a low blow and pinned Okada to become the first KOPW 2020 champion.

WINNERS: Toru Yano by pinfall on Okada (low blow) in 7:00 (**1/2)

(Fann’s Analysis: Toru Yano beat Okada in Okada’s own match. That alone is worth seeing this show for, as the four way was quick and fun. While this wasn’t New Japan’s typical cup of tea, all four kept the action going and as the second match on the card they kept enough comedy in to show the four way wasn’t to be a “major” event in this capacity.)

Post match, Yano grabbed the disinfecting spray and sprayed down his trophy as Okada limped away, groin in hand.

(3) SHINGO TAKAGI vs. MINORU SUZUKI – Never Openweight Championship Match

The match hadn’t even started yet and both men head butted and shoved one another. Once the bell rang, nothing changed. The first five minutes of this match were brutal, as Shingo and Suzuki slapped, punched, and choked each other relentlessly. Marty Asami, the referee/poor soul that had to officiate the hossfight could only implore the men to not kill each other outside of the ring.

When the pair returned to the confines of the ring, Takagi dared Suzuki to kick him as hard as he could. The men’s attacks echoed in the stadium as they traded chops to the chest, and Shingo felled the sadistic Suzuki with a headbutt. A back suplex onto Suzuki could only get a two count for Takagi, as the fans clapped loudly for the LIJ strong man.

Both men back on their feet, forearms flew from one to the other, as the fans were whipped into a fury seeing the two men go shot for shot. Suzuki transitioned from a rear naked choke to a Gotch-style piledriver, then when Shingo countered the piledriver ducked a Pumping Bomber and went back to the choke. Suzuki again attempted the Gotch-style piledriver, but Shingo hit a DVD and got space to recover. Shingo nailed a Pumping Bomber for a two count and fired up with the crowd. Made in Japan also could only get Takagi a two count, and when Shingo went for Last of the Dragon, Suzuki headbutted him from the vertical position and then followed with two more headbutts to drop Takagi.

The pair had another fantastic exchange that ended with a Suzuki dropkick onto Shingo. Both men then fought from the ground with punches and forearms, and once on their feet headbutts again became the weapon of choice for both. As Shingo scrambled to hang with Suzuki’s strikes, a sleeper and a Gotch-style piledriver ended the reign of one of the winningest New Japan wrestlers in the past year.

After the match, we had a short break for clean up and disinfection of the ring.

WINNER: Minoru Suzuki by pinfall (Gotch-style Piledriver) at 14:56 to win the IWGP NEVER Openweight Championship. (***3/4)

(Fann’s Analysis: Great match, both men were hard hitting and throughout the match the announcers were constantly giving praise to Shingo Takagi’s winning record since joining New Japan. The story had been throughout the match that Suzuki and Takagi were on even ground, but as the match went on the LIJ member started to fade and the veteran Suzuki was like a shark sensing blood in the water. Going forward, with the G-1 looming this bears watching, particularly if Suzuki and Takagi are in the same block. In terms of competitors, the usual suspects of Ishii, Goto, and depending on border restrictions perhaps Ospreay.)

(4) HIROMU TAKAHASHI  vs. TAIJI ISHIMORI – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match

Hiromu entered the ring from the dugout with sparklers and his wonderfully colored feathered jacket. At the bell the action was fast and furious with Hiromu focused on a quick win via Time Bomb and Ishimori defiance of physics preventing him from doing so. On the second attempt, Takahashi fell awkwardly onto his arm, which Ishimori noticed and hit a 450 splash onto said arm.

Hiromu rolled out of the ring and Ishimori followed. Both men chased each other in and out of the ring, and when Hiromu tried his senton powerbomb on the apron Ishimori flipped out of it and shoved the champ into the post injured arm first. At this point it became clear that for every move Hiromu had, Ishimori had a counter.

After yet another Ishimori flip counter out of a Hiromu attack, the wildman of LIJ hit his patented overhead belly to belly into the corner onto Ishimori. A Dynamite Plunger by Hiromu only got a two count. Hiromu despite the bum arm/shoulder began to assert himself, but couldn’t use the aforementioned arm to get Ishimori up for a suplex, which led to Ishimori back in control.

Ishimori got the Yes Lock onto Hiromu, and the champion screamed as he tried to find a way out of the submission. Finally, Takahashi was able to grab the rope with his free hand. Ishimori had his Bloody Cross countered, but Hiromu couldn’t counter a buckle bomb followed by a lariat. Hiromu hit a sudden Time Bomb, but couldn’t get the three to his frustration. Ishimori countered Time Bomb II with a Bloody Cross and the Yes Lock, and with Hiromu’s tap out Ishimori became the new champion.

WINNER: Taiji Ishimori by submission (Yes Lock) to win the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship. (****)

(Fann’s Analysis: Two up, two down for LIJ – with Hiromu’s loss, they’d lost both the Never and IWGP Jr. Titles. Hiromu from minute one of the match was on the back foot and it seemed to be a matter of time for Ishimori to put the final nails in the coffin. After his excellent showing against EVIL for the Double Titles, it’ll be interesting to see where Hiromu goes next – does he attempt to get a rematch, or will he focus on the NEVER title perhaps? On the winner’s side of things, Ishimori and Bullet Club are looking pretty good long term, and the junior scene looks like it could use the infusion of some new challengers.)

(5) DANGEROUS TEKKERS (ZSJ & Taichi)  vs. GOLDEN ACES (Hiroshi Tanahasha & Kota Ibushi) – IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match

Golden Aces came out fired up, as Tanahashi excitedly waved to the crowd in the upper deck. Ibushi took the lead in the match, and ushered politely his partner to the corner. Taichi kicked off for the champions’ side, and the pair measured each other for a few moments before a move to lock up. ZSJ tried to sneak into the ring, but Ibushi cut him off, and Tanahashi entered to help clear the riff raff out.

The story in the match, while the champions took advantage outside of the ring had been the continued isolation of Tanahashi as the perceived “weak link” of the team. Eventually, Ibushi was tagged in, and Taichi, still angered that Ibushi won’t turn on Tanahashi, began to trade kicks to the chest. After an exchange that ended with Ibushi down thanks to a gamengiri, off went the pants of Taichi, as he is wont to do.

Both men tagged out, and ZSJ after a few dragon screw leg whips from Tanahashi could not use his legs to transition into his traditional submission counters. As a result, when ZSJ tried to tap Tanahashi out, Ibushi was able to break it up. However, Taichi entered with his claw and with the ref distracted and Ibushi unable to get there in time, ZSJ got the pin after a Zack Mephisto.

WINNER: ZSJ by pinfall (Zack Mephisto) at 20:13 to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. (***1/2)

(Fann’s Analysis: The continued story of Taichi resenting Ibushi’s great relationship with his mentor Tanahashi, unlike Taichi’s relationship with his mentor Toshiaki Kawada. Tanahashi thought he had the match won with his traditional Hi Fly Flow, but when Zack ducked the second attempt, it was not to be. As Tanahashi limped away with the help of the young lions, it was clear the story of the mentor slowly losing his fastball continued. Ibushi seemed fiercely loyal to his partner, but it seems to be a matter of when, not if that happens. My money is on the G-1, or just before.)

(6) TETSUYA NAITO vs. EVIL (w/The Spoiler Dick Togo, Gedo) – IWGP Intercontinental and IWGP Heavyweight Double Championship Match

Main event time.

Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton did a great job to outline and underline the fact that EVIL’s turn wasn’t a rash but instead a premeditated act. Before the bell, Naito got Togo out of the ring but couldn’t handle EVIL’s follow up, who dumped his former leader to the outside still in his entrance gear.

EVIL obliterated Naito’s head with a home run chairshot, and when Red Shoes went to check on Naito, EVIL removed a cover from one of the corner turnbuckles. Naito staggered and entered the ring on 16, and EVIL continued to focus on the neck of Naito. EVIL’s cockiness was short lived, as a combination de gabron allowed Naito space to collect himself. Kevin Kelly talked about the injuries that Naito faced to get the double championship to begin with, as Dick Togo hopped onto the apron with a chair to distract the ref.

Red Shoes was great in catching both Togo and EVIL trying to cheat and EVIL instead had to gain the advantage legally. Now on the apron, EVIL tried his hardest to get a DVD on the apron, but Naito instead hit a neckbreaker onto the floor, both men damaged. Back into the ring a top rope hurricanrana from Naito onto EVIL netted a two count, and a Gloria attempt was countered by EVIL.

With the stadium crowd excited, Naito continued to counter the machinations of EVIL and Togo, but when Naito stopped short to avoid Red Shoes, he slipped and hit his head. EVIL then threw Red Shoes into the exposed corner, and Dick Togo entered to beat on Naito. Both men received ferocious boos from the socially distanced crowd. The pair of Bullet Club members hit Magic Killer on Naito, and BUSHI came to help make the save.

Dick Togo go his garrote out and choked Naito again, but before EVIL could hit a chairshot, SANADA arrived in shiny shoes to stop the cheating, and both he and BUSHI escorted Gedo & Togo out of the stadium.

At this point Red Shoes had recovered and both competitors continued their fight. EVIL again used Red Shoes as a distraction, this time with a low blow the result, and a lariat to Naito only got a two count. After a quick exchange, however, one Destino was enough for Tetsuya Naito to regain his double championship.

Post match, Naito thanked the fans in person, on the internet and around the world, and as fireworks blew up the night sky the LIJ leader celebrated with his traditional Tranquilo pose.

WINNER: Tetsuya Naito by pinfall after a Destino. (****1/4)

(Fann’s Analysis: Naito winning the titles back in an arena he’d attended as a youth (Naito is a huge baseball fan) underlined what was a good match whose interference served to finally give LIJ . After being denied an opportunity to celebrate with his double championship at Wrestle Kingdom due to KENTA’s arrival post-match, Naito is now the first to win both titles and first to win both back. For those that have been concerned that Naito wasn’t geting the respect he deserved, this win, in a stadium with fans, is the exclamation point – even during COVID – that has been missing. EVIL now recedes to the semi main scene with the return of Switchblade looming, and while his experimental run wasn’t lights out, it allowed for this moment to happen, which all in all – makes it to me a success.)

FINAL THOUGHTS (8.0): Going into the fall G-1 season, we’ve had the ledger evened out and all seems set for a great tournament. Tonight’s show featured a bevy of title changes, and the return of Naito to the double championship allows him to continue his journey, and to have done so with fans – and with the fact that despite all the setbacks, the LIJ leader can stand tall. In the other matches, we’ve now seen Suzuki move himself into a position as NEVER Openweight champion, which signals his absence from the G-1 may only the 2019 iteration, Ibushi & Tanahashi’s break up has another step in the process, and Taichi is phenomenal as the dark force that wants it to happen. Finally, Hiromu’s loss and Naito’s win is something that should be highlighted, as we have yet to hear from the junior member with their leader’s victory.

Overall the stadium show was short, entertaining and felt like a great night of wrestling. In current times, that’s all you can ask.

Contact Rich at PWTDive@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/rich_fann.

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