Friday, September 25, 2015
NJPW on AXS Review - Power Struggle '14 - September 25th, 2015
New Japan on AXS has been trekking through 2014 and we now find ourselves in November of that year at NJPW's November event, Power Struggle. Tonight's show promises to be another true strong style fest as Tomohiro Ishii defends the NEVER Title against Hirooki Goto and Shinsuke Nakamura defends the IC Title against Katsuyori Shibata. Four of strong style's finest are in action tonight along with what promises to be a super fun tag team match with Kota Ibushi & Hiroshi Tanahashi teaming up to face Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI.
1) Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Hirooki Goto - NEVER Openweight Title Match
The night kicks off with this match that is filled with stiff shots right out of the gate as we've all come to expect from a match involving Ishii. Sadly, this match was clipped so after the early flurry, they skipped ahead a bit and sure enough, Ishii was still laying in the shots to Goto. Goto retaliated however as he nailed Ishii with a sick kick that drew blood from his mouth. Things graduate to a new level of stiff at this point with every shot being heard loud and clear. They blast each other and Goto finally FLOORs Ishii. Cover, 1...ISHII KICKS OUT! He doesn't get up, but he did get the shoulder up quick to show his resilience. Once both men rise to their feet, Goto nails Ishii with a nasty looking facebuster before they begin trading shots again. Goto comes out on top again, but the third time turns out to be the charm as Ishii HEADBUTTS GOTO TO THE MAT! Whaaaattt?! After a few moments of hesitations, Ishii hits the ropes and LARIAT FROM GOTO! Hard hitting and fast paced is the best way to describe the action here as you can tell. After a showing of fighting spirit from Goto, Ishii is finally able to put him away with a hug brain buster and retain his NEVER Championship.
Match rating - ***1/2
After the match, Togi Makabe is checking on Goto when Ishii notices. Oh boy! I could see it coming and got hyped. Ishii steps over Goto right in front of Makabe, essentially placing his crotch in his face in a cocky manner. Makabe stands up and towers over Ishii while staring him down. LAWD! These two would meet in January of 2015 at WK9 and this was one hell of a teaser.
2) Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI HASHI
This is a pretty interesting tag as Okada & Tanahashi are going at it just months prior to their big meeting in the Tokyo Dome at WK9. Tanahashi is the IWGP Champ and Okada is coming off his big G1 win. They go right at it from the start before we skip ahead to Ibushi & Okada in the ring where the junior gone heavyweight sensation busts out some awesome combos on Okada only to get caught with a pair of knees to the gut off of a moonsault. The action jumps ahead a few more times, showing various big highlights, before AXS finally finds a good stopping point where Ibushi flips out of a catapult manuever into a hurricanrana followed by a standing moonsault for a nearfall. Killer sequence! Ibushi takes control from this point on and heads up top and hits YOSHI HASHI with a Phoenix Splash for the 1-2-3.
3) Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Katsuyori Shibata - IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match
Here we have a rematch from the 24th annual G1 Climax which was held earlier in 2014, just a few months prior to this contest. That bout was great so the anticipation is high for this one that has stakes that are arguably almost as high. Intense mat work starts things off with Shibata being completely no non sense, even more so than normal, while Nakamura is his usual charismatic self. It's an awesome dynamic. The mat work and holds lead to a quick strike exchange in which neither man is able to land a hit as it comes to a stalemate. Goto's serious demeanor turns out paying off as he catches Nakamura in a headlock in the midst of one of his mannerisms before tossing him to the apron and kicking him to the floor with a running start. Shibata follows him out and tosses the champion over the rolling onto one of the announcers table. The ref counts, but Nakamura begins to stir so Shibata grabs him and tosses him back in the ring. Shibata immediately goes to the leg by locking Nakamura in a figure four leg lock. It's clear that Shibata is gaining an advantage and just as he does, he messes up by doing, in a way, the same thing that Nakamura did earlier - taking things lightly. Shibata starts slapping and toying with The King of Strong Style. Nakamura rises up and goes head to head with him which leads to a battle of elbow strikes. Shibata appears to be coming out on top when Nakamura lands a running kick that floors him out of nowhere. The defending champion begins running through his signature moves and takes control of the contest from this point. After a minute or two, Nakamura goes for the Boma Ye, Shibata moves, tries for a chokehold, Nakamura reverses, Shibata reverses, Nakamura reverses and sinches it in. Shibata rolls him out and kicks him dead in the back before putting Shinsuke in a head lock variation that transitions into an octopus hold that puts him in an extremely painful position. Shibata breaks the hold and puts Nakamura in the corner. He is NAILING him now. Elbows, elbows, elbows. RUNNING DROPKICK TO THE FACE! Shibata is in full control as we head to commerical.
We return to exactly what we saw when we left. Shibata taking apart the champion. Underhook suplex from Katsuyori Shibata that leads to a discussion between Josh & Mauro about various types of suplexes. The conversation is cut short as Shibata goes for the penalty kick and NAKAMURA JUMPS UP FOR A KICK OF HIS OWN! Both men are down and begin getting to their feet at the same time. You know what this leads to - another striking battle in the center of the ring. Nakamura wins this one with a spinning kick. He follows it up with a reverse powerslam, but GOTO DOESN'T GIVE A SHIT! GERMAN SUPLEX TO NAKAMURA! Both men are down. As they begin getting up, Shibata locks in the sleeper. Nakamura finds his way out and gets pushed into the corner where he ascends the second rope and FLYING KNEE! Nakamura is setting up for another, but SHIBATA CUTS HIM OFF WITH A BOOT TO THE FACE! Shibata lays in a brutal slap and a precise kick to the temple that sends Nakamura down. Shibata then nails him with a GTS for a nearfall. Nakamura won't stay down! Shibata resorts back to the penalty kick, NAKAMURA CATCHES IT! BOMA YE! ANOTHER ONE! COVER - 1...2..SHIBATA KICKS OUT! Nakamura nails him with yet another Boma Ye and is finally able to keep Shibata down. The King of Strong Style remains the IWGP Intercontinental Champion. This was a good match, but I don't think it topped their G1 encounter. It was just on another level. Still an unbelievably solid match up, though.
Match rating - ***3/4
Nakamura gets on the mic and apparently challenges Kota Ibushi to a match at WK9. IBUSHI COMES FROM BEHIND AND GERMAN SUPLEXES NAKAMURA! HOLY SHIT! What a moment for Ibushi. Nakamura against Ibushi for the IWGP Intercontinental Title is set for WK9. It was really cool to see the set up here for the classic that would be held between these two.
We leave this episode with the stage being completely set for the two top matches at Wrestle Kingdom 9. What will be next from NJPW on AXS? I guess we'll have to wait until next week to find out!