11/7 NJPW POWER STRUGGLE PPV RESULTS: Wells’ report on Naito vs. Evil, Ibushi vs. White, Tanahashi vs. Kenta, Yano vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

By Kelly Wells, PWTorch contributor

Tetsuya Naito (art credit Matt Charltonn and Sam Gardiner © PWTorch)

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

NJPW POWER STRUGGLE 2020 PPV REPORT
NOVEMBER 7, 2020
OSAKA, JAPAN AT OSAKA PREFECTURAL GYM
AIRED LIVE ON NJPW WORLD

Commentary: Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero, Chris Charlton.


(1) TORU YANO (c) vs. ZACK SABRE, JR. – No Corner Pads match for the KOPW provisional championship

For those uninitiated to this new championship, the “King of Pro Wrestling” title is bestowed at the end of the calendar year to whomever holds it at that time. It was introduced with a series of four matches with different stipulations where the winners went on to a four-way match, which Yano shockingly won despite Okada being in the match. It seems like a bit of a troll job for a goof like Yano to be on track to be named “King of Pro Wrestling,” which I find funny in a good way.

Before the match, Yano tried to get Sabre to agree that neither would actually use the exposed corners in the match. Sabre of course declined. Early hijinks led to Yano retrieving one of the pads and actually putting it on in a twist on his usual act; Sabre took him down and removed it again. Sabre worked an abdominal stretch until Yano reached a rope. Yano, after some questionable tactics, once again put on one pad and this time taped it taut. He then hit Sabre with an Irish whip, and Sabre looked surprised and even annoyed when he hit a pad instead of exposed steel. Sabre took down Yano and put the boots to him, then started twisting Yano’s legs about. Kevin Kelly said that Sabre didn’t care about the KOPW trophy and would “throw it in the bin” if he won.

Both traded near-falls and eventually Yano spilled to the floor. Sabre wrapped Yano’s leg around a bar in the barricade and worked a figure-four, but a close-up showed that Yano had tied Sabre’s shoelaces together as he sold the pain of the figure-four. Yano escaped the hold and Sabre found himself stuck long enough for the countout.

WINNER: Toru Yano by countout at 12:10. (*)

(Wells’s Analysis: If you face Yano, you work a Yano match no matter who you are. Nothing new here; the joke that Yano holds a title called “King of Pro Wrestling” continues to be their little joke)

(2) SHINGO TAKAGI vs. MINORU SUZUKI (c) – NEVER Openweight Championship

Huge intensity from opposite corners before the bell. Rocky said it was a battle of “two BMFs.” Quick forearm exchange to start. It went to a corner and and Suzuki threw rapid-fire forearms. Suzuki turned the tables and threw his own. Reversal and some headbutts by Suzuki. Chops by Shingo. The ref backed Shingo from the corner and Suzuki grinned up at Shingo.

Suzuki and Takagi fought to hit a suplex, and Takagi finally hit one. Action went out to the apron and Suzuki did his upside-down armbar through the ropes. Suzuki booted Takagi off the apron and into the barricade, then followed him out and threw Takagi’s back into a the barricade twice, then whipped him into another barricade. Suzuki wrecked Takagi’s leg and shoved off the referee, then stared him down, when he looked to break it up. The count finally started and the match went back into the ring. Suzuki worked a half-crab and Takagi reached the bottom rope quickly. Both men hit their feet and went for another shot exchange. Takagi blocked an Irish whip and hit a side suplex, then a corner lariat. Suzuki sold the flurry with eyes agape. Dragon suplex by Takagi got two. Another shot exchange ensued as both men slowed down and instead put everything into each haymaker. The crowd, mandated to be quiet, couldn’t resist an “oooohhhh” on a couple of shots. Rope runs, boots and headbutts were exchanged. Shingo missed a sliding lariat and Suzuki got Shingo up for a Gotch-style piledriver but Shingo wriggled free. DVD by Shingo. Boots by Suzuki. Both guys fired up as the audience clapped in appreciation for the segment.

Suzuki threw forearms at Shingo’s back. Snap DDT by Takagi followed by a sliding lariat. Takagi fired up the crowd and went for Made in Japan. Suzuki wriggled free, in part because of Takagi’s (taped) back being targeted. Running boot and a half-crab by Suzuki. Shingo quickly reached the bottom rope. Suzuki threw palm strikes. Takagi threw forearms. Suzuki hit a dropkick and both guys sold a bit. Suzuki recovered first and hit a Boston Crab in the center of the ring. He dragged Takagi once but Takagi was able to crawl to the rope to break. Suzuki set up the Gotch again but Takagi fought from it, sacrificing his back as he wriggled free. Headbutt by Suzuki. Another. Rope run, and Takagi hit a forearm so big that both guys collapsed in opposite directions. Takagi charged in with a lariat, but Suzuki didn’t go down. He yelled and fired himself up. Takagi missed a forearm and Suzuki took quick advantage, but soon after, both of them ran the ropes and hit shots. Takagi threw a few big forearms and Suzuki started to look lost. Big lariat sent Suzuki collapsing against the ropes and then the mat. Takagi lifted Suzuki and went for Last of the Dragons. Despite the pain in his back, he hit it for the pin and the title.

WINNER: Shingo Takagi at 18:56. (****)

(Wells’s Analysis: Not a pretty match by any means, but another satisfying slugfest from two of the best in that particular arena. Suzuki is past the point where he’ll really contend for the IWGP Championship or the Intercontinental Championship, so this is the belt that can keep him somewhat relevant as he continues down a path of putting younger talent over. Meanwhile, Takagi could spend a couple of years higher up the card, but it just doesn’t look like that’s in the cards given the level at which he’s booked, despite audience admiration)

(3) KAZUCHIKA OKADA vs. GREAT-O-KHAN (w/Will Ospreay)

Khan jumped Okada before the bell and took control. He took Okada outside as Rocky dumped on the Empire, calling them the “Dump Fire.” Ospreay was outside the ring in a suit and was wearing glasses as he surveyed the scene. Khan threw boots at Okada and crowed in the camera. Kevin pointed out that Khan was 46-0 in RevPro during his excursion, so he’s definitely been in the cards to be a major player for a while now. Back into the ring and Khan took down Okada and stood on him with one boot for a two count. Khan continued working ax-handles and Okada tried a couple of shoulder blocks to get back in it. Khan ran the ropes and Okada hit a flatliner. Okada threw some forearms, then ran the ropes and hit a back elbow. Irish whip and a DDT by Okada for two.

Khan fought off a neckbreaker attempt and planted Okada. Okada fought through some shots and hit a neckbreaker, getting the crowd into the match. Khan regained control shortly after and planted Okada then worked a head and arm lock until Okada reached the bottom rope with a leg. Khan brought up Okada and went for a suplex, which Okada blocked. Khan did three Mongolian chops while screaming in a high pitch. He ran the ropes and Okada hit a dropkick. Tombstone piledriver. Okada went for the Money Clip but Khan fought it off with a claw. Rope run and Khan hit a big boot. Khan hit a delayed reverse suplex and sat cross-legged and nodded. Khan went for The Eliminator but Okada countered into the Money Clip. Khan went back into a buckle to break. Shotgun dropkick by Okada. He ran right into a claw while going for the Rainmaker. He fought off the claw and hit a spinning Rainmaker, then hit the Money Clip. Khan went for the ropes but Okada hit a backbreaker to keep the hold on. Although Khan didn’t break, the referee stopped the match. Ospreay seethed from outside the ring.

WINNER: Kazuchika Okada by referee stoppage at 13:26. (**3/4)

After the match, Ospreay entered the ring and mockingly clapped. He congratulated Okada for “passing his test.” He said he used Okada to become more popular so everyone knows the name Will Ospreay. He said there was one thing he couldn’t get standing side by side with Okada, and that was the title of best wrestler in the world. He bragged about the cost of his suit, champagne and watch. He asked what was worse than stabbing his friend in the back? He said he could end Okada’s career. He said if he’s the guy who ends Okada, he’ll afford all the nice things he wants. He said being the man who ends the Rainmaker will finally make him happy, and says he’ll finish him…at the Tokyo Dome. He made the offer and Okada nodded immediately.

Charlton translated. He said Ospreay talked a lot in English and all he really understood was Okada-Ospreay in the Dome, and that was enough for him. He said Ospreay wasn’t his younger brother anymore, and he’d crush him in front of the world. The announcers put over the coming match.

(Wells’s Analysis: Decent old-school match, which I think is going to be Great-O-Khan’s calling card for some time unless he develops a wider moveset. The big news is the first match signed for Wrestle Kingdom, which should be very strong.)

-The revved-up announcer ran through the schedule for Best of the Super Juniors. Taiji Ishimori, Hiromu Takahashi, and El Desperado were consistently in most of the top two billed matches. SHO and, interestingly, Master Wato were also represented well (and both were in the top two billed matches on the final day). The tournament runs from November 14th to December 11th. Meanwhile, the Super J Cup will be run in the US, with first-round matches of Clark Connors vs. Chris Bey, ACH vs. TJP, Rey Horus vs. Blake Christian and El Phantasmo vs. Lio Rush. Additionally, Ren Narita was featured as he’ll soon be starting his excursion at the LA Dojo.

-Cleaning and disinfecting of the ring.

(4) HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. KENTA (briefcase holder) – right to challenge for Jon Moxley’s U.S. Championship

Referee Marty Asami showed Tanahashi the contract to prove its veracity. Kenta messed up Tanahashi’s hair early, and Tana glared at him. Kenta hit an Irish whip ad charged into an elbow. Tana went for some air guitar and Kenta dropkicked him. Kenta mimicked the air guitar and got dropkicked himself. Kenta rolled out of the ring and looked to use the briefcase. Tana charged in and Kenta hit him with the briefcase, then dropped it and entered the ring and did a little ground and pound. Asami broke it up because Kenta was using closed fists.

Kenta did his hop-over back kick move, then stalked Tana as he tried to stand. Tana got to his feet and hit a couple of forearms and Kenta took him down with a forearm then slammed him for two. Kenta worked a submission but Tana got to the ropes. Kenta dropped a couple of elbows and then kicked at the grounded Tana, which fired him up. Tana caught a kick and threw some forearms, then hit a neckbreaker. Kenta recovered and worked a chinlock, then yanked Tana’s hair to drop him to the mat. Young Lion Yota Tsuji hammered the apron to try to get Tana into it. Kenta charged Tana in the corner, but Tana caught his leg and hit a dragon screw. Tana hit some combo shots and a flying forearm off the ropes. Body slam by Tana in the corner. Tanahashi went up and hit a somersault senton for two.

Tana went for a submission with the legs and Kenta quickly scrambled for the ropes to break. Tana ran the ropes and hit a boot. Kenta rolled up Tana for two upon countering a sling blade. Kenta dropped Tana on his neck on the rope in the corner, then hit him from the top for two. Tana ran into a powerslam by Kenta for two. Kenta covered again for two, then complained of a slow count to Asami. Kenta threw all sorts of shots in the corner and Asami pulled Kenta from the corner. Kenta reversed a move and hit a DDT and covered for two. Kenta rolled off and bumped the ref so he could get his briefcase. He tried to hit Tana with it but Asami recovered and as the two fought over the briefcase. Kenta was incidentally hit with it in the chaos so Asami warned Tanahashi.

Soon, both men were down. They fought to their feet and exchanged forearms. Tana blocked a backfist but got hit with another. Tana went for a move from the apron but Kenta hit a draping DDT. Kenta charged the corner and hit a big boot, then a Shibata dropkick in the corner. Stiff double stomp by Kenta off the buckle for a two count. Kenta called for Go 2 Sleep but Tanahashi fought it off. Big palm strikes by Kenta, who then hit a big running knee on Tanahashi for two. Tana fought off G2S again and hit Twist & Shout, then another. A third. Kenta put up Tana for G2S again, but Tana hit a Sling Blade from that position. Tana hit another Sling Blade and covered for two. Tanahashi went up and hit a flying cross-body. He locked Kenta into the Cloverleaf and Kenta fought for the bottom rope. Kenta reversed into a Game Over and the audience clapped to get Tanahashi into it. Tana nearly had himself out of it and Kenta rolled through to keep hold, then did so again to avoid a possible rope break. Tanahashi verbally tapped to finish, shocking the announcers.

WINNER: Kenta at 19:58. (***1/2)

(Wells’s Analysis: This was something between the high-energy Tanahashi matches of old and the much more leisurely-paced psychological affairs of his G1 campaign. I couldn’t stop myself from hoping for a higher gear that just isn’t possible anymore, but Tanahashi has risen to the occasion and developed a totally different style to keep himself in the ring for, ideally, at least a few more years)

-Hype for the next match aired.

(5) KOTA IBUSHI (briefcase holder) vs. JAY WHITE (w/Gedo) – right to challenge for IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championships at Wrestle Kingdom 15

Jay went with a lot of theatrics, pawing at the contract and hitting his Too Sweet with Gedo. He stalled outside to open and barked at referee Asami that he wasn’t ready when the bell rang. He continued to feign getting in the ring and grabbed Ibushi’s briefcase outside, drawing Ibushi out. White entered the ring with the briefcase and Ibushi charged. White tossed Ibushi the case and then took shots at him, with the first contact coming at a minute and a half. Kevin Kelly brought up the fact that men defending the briefcase are 16 for 16 since the advent of the defense matches.

Gedo grabbed Ibushi’s leg on the apron and White booted him, then slammed him backward on the apron. White then planted Ibushi on the apron as the announcers told the story that White would be targeting the knee to take away the threat of the Kamigoye. Ibushi entered the ring and White stomped on him. White kicked a seated Ibushi’s back and Ibushi begged for more. Ibushi hit his feet but White grounded him with a boot. Knees to the midsection by White. Shoulderblocks in the corner. White yanked Ibushi outside and whipped him to the barricade. He brought him in and covered but Asami wouldn’t count after the barricade attack. White whipped Ibushi outside and Gedo put Ibushi in the barricade, but Ibushi recovered and put Gedo in the opposite barricade. White exited and Ibushi put him in the barricade as well to get the crowd fired up. The ring announcer reached nine and Ibushi entered the ring. He dropkicked White from the apron and hit a plancha on White. The ref counted again and yet again the two entered before the count even reached ten. Standing moonsault by Ibushi inside got two.

Ibushi motioned for the crowd to get into it and they started clapping rhythmically. Quick reversals in the corner led to a powerslam by Ibushi and a moonsault that kind of hit, but wasn’t supposed to as White was rolling toward the buckle. Weird landing for Ibushi. Stomach breaker by White got two. White planted Ibushi twice and hit a Blade Buster for two. The crowd clapped for Ibushi and White mocked them. White wanted a uranage and Ibushi elbowed free and took down White with a forearm. Rana by Ibushi. Both sold on the mat. Both hit their feet and hit some quick reversals until Ibushi hit a snap suplex. Ibushi missed a lariat and White flatlined him. White with a German suplex. Ibushi missed another lariat and White hit a huge uranage. White took Ibushi to a corner and hit a number of shots as Asami tried to take it out of the corner. Knees to the midsection by White. Ibushi reversed a move and both ended up selling on the mat.

Ibushi recovered first and hit a snap DDT and a stiff kick to the head of a grounded White. White used shoulder blocks to avoid Kamigoye and Ibushi reared back and hit a Bomaye. Last Ride by Ibushi got two. Out of nowhere, White nearly hit a Blade Runner but Ibushi reversed and then had to knock Gedo from the apron. Ibushi again went for Kamigoye but White rolled him up and then used the ropes away from Asami’s view and, genuinely shockingly, got the three count. The announcers did a great job selling the dirty deeds and the dejection of Ibushi and the fans.

WINNER: Jay White at 18:39. (****)

(Wells’s Analysis: If they were ever going to give these briefcase defense matches any sizzle, at some point the holder had to lose. This finish was truly a shock and while I feel Ibushi will probably win it back, it’s far from a sure thing as there are a few possible outcomes for the top matches at the Tokyo Dome in January. Once again, these two delivered in a match together and if they get another, I assume it goes even longer and Ibushi wins it back. Until then, it should be a good time to hear White crow about how great he is and claim he made history leading up to his eventual defeat)

(6) TETSUYA NAITO (c) vs. EVIL (w/Dick Togo) – IWGP Heavyweight Championship & Intercontinental Championship match

Kelly points out that Naito’s average singles match length this year is 26:57 before continuing to sell shock that Jay White took the briefcase from Kota Ibushi. Slow start in the ring until Evil hit a kick a minute in and then worked a headlock. Evil held on and grounded Naito. Evil ran the ropes and used a block to take down Naito, but Naito hit an armdrag and a basement dropkick on the next attempt. Naito worked a headscissors and eventually covered for one. Headlock by Naito. Action spilled outside as Kelly talked about how Naito has wrestled more like a tecnico than a rudo of late, which is a nice story, if not particularly true as Naito still utilizes stalling and mockery as a huge part of his act.

On the outside, Evil put Naito into a barricade and the count went to ten before Naito reentered. Snap suplex by Evil for a two count. Evil got in Naito’s face and mocked him. Evil whipped Naito into an exposed corner, after which the action went outside again. Evil whipped Naito into the barricade right in front of seated ring announcer Abe, laying him out in what looked like a genuinely painful spot. The match went back into the ring and Evil worked a single-leg crab until Naito hobbled to the rope to break. Evil kicked down at Naito derisively and picked him up for a fisherman buster, and Naito blocked and threw some shots. Evil went for the buster again but Naito again fought it off. Neckbreaker from Naito. Rope run and Naito hit a sliding dropkick to hit Togo on the outside. Combinacion Cabron by Naito, who hit his pose and then covered for two.

Naito hit a neckbreaker on Evil against his knee ad then trapped him with his legs and slapped at his head. Togo went to the apron in an attempt to distract referee Red Shoes Unno, then got Naito’s attention. Naito went after Togo and Evil dumped Naito to the outside. Evil grabbed a chair on the outside and put it to Naito’s midsection, then did his two-chair spot that I remain surprised hasn’t injured anyone by going wrong. Evil rolled Naito into the ring and mockingly clapped as he was grounded on the mat.

Corner lariat by Evil followed by a quick fisherman buster for two. Fireman’s carry by Evil, escaped, and Naito hit a tornado DDT after which both guys sold on the mat. Naito took Evil to the top for a Frankensteiner, but Evil slipped under and hung up Naito on the top exposed steel, then hit a hard knee to the back before both guys sold again. After both reached their feet, Evil steamrolled Naito into the exposed corner again, then put him up a different corner and hit a superplex. Evil hit a Scorpion Death Lock and Naito fought for about a minute before reaching the bottom rope to break at the 19 minute mark.

Darkness Falls by Evil got two and the crowd stomped a little bit. He went for Everything is Evil and Naito escaped and hit a Russian leg sweep. Both guys sold on the mat again. Naito took Evil up a corner and hit a huracanrana, then Gloria for two. He went for Destino but Evil countered into a suplex. Enzuigiri by Naito and a flying forearm. Naito once again cleared Dick Togo from the apron and hit Destino. He picked up Evil and hit another one, and after a two count, Togo yanked Red Shoes out of the ring to stop the count. Togo used his wire to choke Naito and Yujiro Takahashi appeared out of nowhere and used his cane to hit Naito in the midsection. Sanada, in an all-white getup that looked a few sizes too small, showed up and destroyed both Yujiro and Togo, and then carried both of them out.

The two got to their knees and exchanged forearms. Red Shoes recovered. The shot exchange continued as both hit their feet. Evil hit a low blow away from the eyes of Red Shoes after another bump, and Naito returned the favor. Jay White strode to the ring and surveyed both guys as the announcers said he had booked his way into the match at Tokyo Dome already, so I guess there won’t be another match? He feigned Blade Runner on Evil, then smiled and went after Naito. Kota Ibushi showed up and ran off White, so whatever’s happening should take us all the way to January.

The two reset with nobody at ringside again. Naito hit some back elbows and Evil shoved him into the exposed corner. Naito fired up and put Evil into the same corner. Naito went for Valencia but Evil broke free and hit a low blow and a big lariat and covered for a convincing near-fall. Red Shoes, bless him, was still selling his multiple bumps. The two exchanged near-finishers and Naito hit Valencia. Destino finished.

WINNER: Tetsuya Naito at 33:01. (***3/4)

(Wells’s Analysis: The match itself didn’t go into a super high gear, but the main event booking was enough to keep someone guessing. I still think it’s possible that Ibushi gets his briefcase back to face Naito, leaving Jay White and Evil to face one another, as has seemingly been teased. Evil going face likely isn’t in the cards, but White breaking away is a possibility, though I don’t think I’d waste his valuable heel act.)

After the match, Naito begged for someone to raise his hand. Jay White and Gedo came to the ring and White mockingly raised Naito’s hand. White said it’s just the two of them now. Ibushi failed, and even with White’s help, he said, Evil failed two. So next is Wrestle Kingdom. On night one, he said he was going to take the night off and Naito could do whatever he wants. On the 5th, though, he says he’s challenging Naito and he’ll take those championships. He said it was his Destino. Kota Ibushi hit the ramp to applause. Jay told him to go away and this was between he and Naito. He wanted to know why Ibushi was present. Ibushi closed in on White and Gedo, who ran off up the ramp. Ibushi chased White out through the entrance.

Naito finally got his time on the mic. He said he was grateful people stuck around for their match after the bad news of the semi-main. He said he isn’t on the BOSJ tour so this is the last time you’ll see him for the year, but he can’t wait to see everyone in Osaka again next year. He said he knows when they’ll be back but he’s not allowed to break the big news. He said there’s only one way to finish Power Struggle, and he ran through the name of his teammates and yelled out Los Ingobernables de Japon to conclude his mic time.


FINAL THOUGHTS (9.0): This one had a lot of intrigue and moved us toward some of the matches that’ll happen on Wrestle Kingdom. Meanwhile, World Tag League and BOSJ will run concurrently starting a week from now. If I had to guess right now, I’d say Ibushi makes up for his two-loss performance last year at Wrestle Kingdom and has a two-win performance this year and leaves as champion, but this show set up a long journey to find out just how it’s going to work. As a New Japan wrestling show it was good, but as hype for Wrestle Kingdom, it was extremely strong.

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