Wrestling Review: NJPW Power Struggle (2018)

Last year’s Power Struggle event saw the return of Chris Jericho to New Japan Pro Wrestling for the first time in nearly twenty years, and this year’s version will see Jericho return once more, this time as the IWGP Intercontinental Champion. Jericho will go one on one with Los Ingobernables de Japon member EVIL, where the King of Darkness will look to claim a title that has long eluded him throughout his wrestling career. EVIL’s LIJ running mate and leader, Tetsuya Naito, will seek to defeat the submission master Zack Sabre Jr in the second=top match of the show, while Tomohiro Ishii and Minro Suzuki continue their rivalry of the year when they clash for Ishii’s RevPro Heavyweight Championship. Taichi will also be defending his championship, the IWGP NEVER Openweight title, against former champion Hirooki Goto, and the winners of the Best of the Super Jr. Tag League will be decided as last year’s winners Roppongi 3K (SHO and YOH), current Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) and the LIJ duo of BUSHI and Shingo Takagi do battle in a three way tag team match. All of this and more at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) Power Struggle 2018.

+ Tetsuya Naito vs Zack Sabre Jr.: this was good, as all of the Sabre/Naito matches have been, but something about it didn’t quite click into final gear for me. Without putting any implication on a winner, I never felt like Naito was in danger, and I never really felt like Sabre was going all out, so by the time it was done I was satisfied, sure, but I still felt like I wanted to see more
+ Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs Minoru Suzuki (RevPro Heavyweight Championship): holy smokes, this was fantastic and easily the best match of the show. Every single interaction between Ishii and Suzuki this year has been fantastic, and as I said to my viewing partner before the match begun, there was every chance that someone might die by the end of this one. Ishii’s chops and forearms, and Suzuki’s slaps and kicks made me physically wince every time, and I loved every single second of it
+ Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Shingo Takagi) vs Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) (Super Jr. Tag League 2018 Final): holy smokes, this was fantastic. With my boys Desperado and BUSHI being forever-favourites, and just how damn good both of the Roppongi boys are, this had all three teams with at lest one competitor to keep my interest, and the addition of Shingo Takagi was very welcome, in place of, I assume, the injured Hiromu Takahashi. This was a really great end to a pretty average tournament
+ CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Beretta) vs Bullet Club (Jay White & Bad Luck Fale): I’m a little bit out of date with this, because last I remember Switchblade was taking control of CHAOS, so to see him teaming with Fale under the BC name is a bit jarring. Nonetheless, I loved everything about this. The story of the match was told in two separate parts, and each story had it’s own build and payoff. This was relatively simple, but I loved it

Chris Jericho (c) vs EVIL (IWGP Intercontinental Championship): all of Jericho’s NJPW matches thus far have been kind of strange; as he gets older of course he can’t be the cruiserweight that he once was, despite busting out a few high-flying moves here. EVIL is the brawler, so the technical style of Jericho seems to fit a bit more, and Jericho just can’t hang with the super stiff style of the NJPW heavyweights, which lends itself more to gimmick matches (ie. those with Omega and Naito). EVIL is great, and easily one of my favourites around, but this was just an uneventful slog, though I can admit the final few minutes, and indeed the aftermath, did have me excited
Taichi (c) vs Hirooki Goto (NEVER Openweight Championship): this was weird, because it seemed designed to intentionally suck the life out of the stadium. One guy was on offence for the most of the match, and no matter who it was, the issue is still the same: if Taichi won after dominating, Goto looks like an absolute chump. If Goto won after dominating, then why did it take him so long to defeat the former joke, Taichi? If Taichi won after Goto dominated, then Goto sucks for not being able to put Taichi away. And if Goto won after Taichi dominating, then why was Taichi able to defeat him so strongly to win the title in the first place. This wasn’t good
Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi & David Finlay) vs Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi): this was fine, but one of these four really stands out in the worst kind of way. I hope it’s not a surprise to say that Finlay was the one here to take the fall, and while this was mostly to build Omega/Tanahashi, it was Ibushi that shone the brightest (as always). I am not hugely into this Tanahashi/Omega thing, so I am a bit disappointed this didn’t help it
KUSHIDA & G.B.H. (Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe) vs Bullet Club (Robbie Eagles, Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga): I know I should care more about fellow Aussie, Robbie Eagles, but dang it I just don’t. KUSHIDA is one of the best workers on the planet right now, and while the aftermath of the match hinted at bigger things to come for him, the match itself was nothing more than a way to get the BC boys on the show
Soberano Jr., Volador Jr., Tiger Mask & Jushin Thunder Liger vs Taguchi Japan (Toa Henare, ACH, Chris Sabin & Ryusuke Taguchi): this was all right, but as with all opening tag team matches, it was as predictable and safe as you could imagine. I still don’t much care for Sabin or ACH just floating around in the already clustered NJPW juinor division

Should you watch this event: I know the way NJPW works, and how they set out their match card, but on the quality of matches there is no doubt in my mind that Ishii/Suzuki and the three way tag final should have been the last matches. Something about Jericho’s in-ring work is not clicking with me in NJPW, and Omega, Okada, Tanahashi and Naito all had relatively quiet nights, which really left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Go out of your way to see the aforementioned Ishii/Suzuki and Tag League final, but you can probably leave the rest.

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