NJPW were back in action today, presenting the final show of the Summer Struggle tour from Jingu Stadium. An attendance of 4,710 people was announced.
Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated Master Wato in 7:31 via roll-up
This was a decent little opener, one that showed the strengths of both men. Even in these shorter, sub-10 minute matches, Master Wato continues to impress – hitting precise kicks and getting some wonderful hangtime on his more high-risk offence. He’s really been a breath of fresh air to the junior division since his return from excursion.
There was the usual ref bump/distraction, which the veteran Kanemaru tried to capitalise on, (unsuccessfully) attempting to hit his adversary with his signature bottle of whiskey. The frequent referee bumps have become tiresome at this point, especially when the main events of every big show have been riddled with them.
As mentioned, the Heel Master eventually got the win, handing the young upstart his first singles loss since his return. The roll-up was a clever move, keeping Wato strong while giving Kanemaru a much needed singles victory.
Toru Yano defeated Kazuchika Okada, SANADA and El Desperado in 7:01, pinning Okada with a schoolboy
This was a decent contest. I was very happy that Desperado was involved, it’s been great seeing him in higher profile matches since the comeback. Okada and SANADA both put on strong showings, despite the latter’s obsession with trying to get a victory with Skull End. Yano did his usual schtick, taking off the corner pads and whatnot. That sort of thing has found itself falling flat recently, as has most comedy work. It’s just not the same with fans unable to cheer because of COVID-19 prevention guidelines.
In a major swerve, ‘The Sublime Master Thief’ picked up the win, hitting a low blow on Kazuchika Okada before trapping him in a schoolboy to become the inaugural King of Pro Wrestling.
While it wasn’t what I was hoping for, I’m still very interested in the concept of KOPW, especially with someone as unpredictable as Yano as the trophy holder. It could be something truly brilliant if given the time and attention.
+ Surprise winner in Yano
+ Everyone got some offence in
+ The KOPW already has its own identity as a result of the different stipulations
– A tad shorter than expected, could’ve been more fun with a bit more time
NEVER Openweight Title: Minoru Suzuki defeated Shingo Takagi in 14:56 with a Gotch Style Piledriver
Shingo Takagi fails to make his 4th defence of the title
This was absolutely phenomenal. No shenanigans, no interference. Just two established veterans beating the life out of each other for New Japan’s unofficial “tough guy belt”. These two couldn’t have put on a bad match if they wanted to. What a contest.
Everything was paced well, with the match starting off relatively slowly before building to an exchange of headbutts in a display of dominance from both men.
Suzuki eventually picked up the win, applying the sleeper before making a quick transition into the Gotch-Style Piledriver to claim the NEVER title for the second time in his career.
It was rather surprising seeing Shingo overwhelmed in the way that he was, with the usually dominant champion failing to string together any major offence for the majority of the match.
But it was a good move to structure the match in that manner. The challenger is supposed to beat the former champion in a convincing manner to give the reign a sense of legitimacy from the get-go. This was achieved – Suzuki looked like an absolute monster.
I’m very excited to see what he does with the championship moving forward.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title: Taiji Ishimori defeated Hiromu Takahashi in 13:30 via LeBell Lock submission
Hiromu Takahashi fails to make his 2nd defence of the title
While it wasn’t quite on the level of their Best of the Super Junior final from 2 years ago, The Time Bomb and The Bone Soldier put on a really great match, one that easily earns a place as one of the NJPW’s best since the restart.
Hiromu got in some solid offence here and there but was completely overwhelmed as a result of the damage done to his body in the lead up to the match. Taiji had an answer for everything, finishing things much faster than anyone could’ve predicted. After attacking the arm from the get-go, he locked in a modified version of the LeBell lock – one that also attacked Takahashi’s shoulder – for the dominant submission victory.
Thoughts on the result
I was a big fan of Ishimori winning here, even if it was at the expense of Hiromu. A proper run with the junior title has been a long time coming, and the win over Takahashi gives the opportunity for a rubber match at Wrestle Kingdom, with the pair tied at one win each.
The emphatic loss also gives Hiromu an opportunity to do something away from the title. He could work with less experienced guys in the junior division. He could tear it up with larger opponents to build the junior division up. He could even go for the junior tag titles with LIJ stablemate BUSHI. He’s in a very interesting position; I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Dangerous Tekkers defeated Golden☆Aces in 16:01 via Zack Mephisto on Tanahashi
Dangerous Tekkers make their 1st defence of the titles
This was actually a lot of fun. It continued the slight dissension between Tanahashi and Ibushi, it gave Dangerous Tekkers their first defence and (most importantly) proved that New Japan is serious about investing in their tag division after years of neglect.
It wasn’t quite on the level of their match at Dominion, but it was still incredibly enjoyable. There were callbacks to their previous matches. There were some smooth counters courtesy of ZSJ. Ibushi and Taichi had a brilliant exchange of kicks – I’m slowly becoming a big fan of Taichi as he continues to hold his own against NJPW’s best.
The end came as Tanahashi missed a High Fly Flow, which allowed Dangerous Tekkers to hit the fallen Ace with Zack Mephisto. Great stuff.
Tetsuya Naito defeated EVIL in 26:20 via Destino
EVIL fails to make his 2nd defence of the double title
I’ll be honest. I went into this match with extremely low expectations. I’d been given no reason to care about EVIL’s run, nor had I been given any reason to expect anything other than a relatively drawn-out match riddled with interference and shenanigans.
This main event didn’t change my mind all that much.
EVIL quickly hit his awful baseball chair spot, which was soon followed up by Dick Togo getting involved.
My interest was somewhat piqued when SANADA and BUSHI came out to make the save, although this was primarily due to me expecting the match to quickly come to an end with Bullet Club equalised. It didn’t.
Naito did eventually get the win with a Destino, regaining the titles he never should’ve lost to begin with.
This was a much better affair than the one we got at Dominion, although not quite on the level of Hiromu vs EVIL from Sengoku Lord. It was fine though.
We finally got an uninterrupted LIJ roll call, with Jingu Stadium providing a cool backdrop for Naito’s re-coronation. This was a great end to the show.
This was probably one of my favourite shows since the comeback from lockdown. Takahashi vs Ishimori was brilliant. Suzuki vs Shingo was a glorious spectacle of unadulterated violence. Dangerous Tekkers vs Golden☆Aces was a great physical contest that advanced multiple ongoing narratives.
If you’re strapped for time, I’d probably recommend Suzuki/Takagi, Tekkers/Aces and Ishimori/Hiromu. Nothing was inherently bad though. The majority of the show served its purpose of ending feuds (as bigger shows should), with the only big story left ongoing being the one between Tanahashi and Ibushi.
We now look ahead to the G1 Climax, which kicks off on September 18th.
What did you think of the show? Let us know!