Wrestling Review: NJPW Power Struggle (2020)

New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) returns to Osaka for the 2020 edition of Power Struggle. In the main event, Tetsuya Naito will defend his double gold — both the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championship titles — against eternal thorn in his side, former stablemate turned Bullet Club leader, EVIL. The two have met three times in the past few months, with EVIL holding a 2-1 lead over the champion, so Naito will certainly be looking to rectify that deficit. Both the current challenge rights certificates will also be on the line, as Kota Ibushi defends the Tokyo Dome Challenge certificate against Jay White, and KENTA defends his IWGP United States Challenge certificate against Hiroshi Tanahashi. Either current holder losing their chance to win championship gold in the future could have huge ramifications as we march onwards towards Wrestle Kingdom.

Also on the card, The Great-O-Khan makes his singles debut in NJPW, in a match that is a tough task for anyone: one on one with Kazuchika Okada. Evan with Ospreay at ringside, O-Khan will certainly be the underdog, but just imagine what a win could do for O-Khan’s young career. Minoru Suzuki and Shingo Takagi will also meet for the NEVER Openweight Championship in a rematch from their match of the year contender at Jingu Stadium, while Toru Yano will defend the (provisional) King of Pro Wrestling 2020 trophy against Zack Sabre Jr. in a match where the corner post pads will be removed.

+ Tetsuya Naito (c,c) vs EVIL (IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championships): depending of what you thought of their G1 match, this was probably the best outing these two have had. There was the expected shenanigans, and then there was some unexpected shenanigans, including some fantastic teases that the crowd bought into entirely. Naito didn’t look off as he had a few times of late, and EVIL was as thicc and naughty as ever. I’ll admit there was perhaps a little bit too much going on, but overall it was definitely a positive with an awkward but enjoyable aftermath
+ Kota Ibushi vs Jay White (Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships Challenge Rights Certificate): this was fantastic, and easily the match of the night. These two have such incredible chemistry together (one clear botch in this match aside) that it brought the crowd to pre-pandemic noise levels, which I got a real kick out of. Ibushi is so, so fast, and White is so smooth and clean in everything he does that the match just looks like they knew what the other was going to do before they did it. I run out of ways to say so many NJPW matches are good, so I’ll just say it: this was really, really good
+ KENTA vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship Challenge Rights Certificate): this was a lot of fun. KENTA is such a jerk that even as Tanahashi heads into his sunset, the match is full of emotion. The crowd loves Tanahashi so much that they broke their silence rule a few times. This was where the show really turned around for me
+ Minoru Suzuki (c) vs Shingo Takagi (NEVER Openweight Championship): mates, let me tell you, Shingo did not come here to fuck around. Shingo was pounding on Suzuki like he owed him money, and I loved every second of it. Suzui did his trademark smile, and I knew that meant he was having fun. This was brutal, and while perhaps not as good as their Jingu Stadium battle, this was still really good

Kazuchika Okada vs Great-O-Khan (w/ Will Ospreay): there were a lot of ways this could have gone, and if you ask me, this was not the right way. O-Khan looked really good when on offence, and his interplay with Ospreay on the outside was simple but effective. Okada was his same, half-speed self, all the way up until a really lacklustre ending
Toru Yano (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr. (No Corner Pads Match for the provisional KOPW 2020 Trophy): yeah, nah. This was dumb, and I did not care for it

Should you watch this event: Six matches in just over three hours (including video packages, post-match and the cleaning intermission) is probably the perfect PPV length. Best still, all three matches that came after the intermission were good or great, with the Shingo/Suzuki match also standing well above the other two matches. This was a good show.

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