NJPW: Summer Struggle
August 29th, 2020
Tokyo, Japan @ Meiji Jingu Stadium
Commentary: Kevin Kelly & Chris Charlton
NJPW has a baseball stadium packed with fans following social distancing rules and masks etc as the Summer Struggle tour 2020 comes to an end with a double title match and much, much more.
1) Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Master Wato (w/ Hiroyoshi Tenzan)
Didn’t know much about the backstory on this but it’s super fun. The veteran Kanemaru cuts off Wato early on and dominates. Wato fires back with some flashy stuff but gets shut down before he can get any consistent offense. That’s actually what leads to the pin with Kanemaru catching Wato in a pinning combination/cradle for the three count.
Match rating - **1/2
2) Kazuchika Okada vs. El Desperado vs. Toru Yano vs. SANADA - KOPW FINALS MATCH
This KOPW shit is so weird and the most non NJPW thing that NJPW has done since I’ve been watching. It’s too much to explain so just read up on it if you aren’t familiar. This four way is enjoyable for what it is though, it’s just weird seeing Okada in this lower card setting. And getting pinned via a roll up by motherfuckin Yano. None the less, it happened and here we are. Toru Yano is KOPW 2020.
Match rating - **1/4
3) Shingo Takagi (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki - NEVER Openweight Title Match
DREAM MATCH. Shingo has held the title since February and had three successful defenses, all of which were awesome matches as the dragon seems to be on one of the best tears of his career since jumping ship to New Japan and continually blurring the line between junior and heavyweight. The difference between his last few defenses shows just that as his last NEVER defense was against star junior Sho in a great contest at Dominion, followed by fellow junior El Desperado and now here he is against a hard hitting, straight shooter like Suzuki. Shingo delivers no matter the opponent and this match rocked ass because Suzuki rarely disappoints as well. This was exactly what you’d expect from the two. They didn’t go all out into epic territory but they gave you what you’d want to see. A stiff, hard fought slugfest. In the end, Suzuki’s old faithful rear naked choke / gotch style piledriver combo puts Shingo away after around 15 minutes. Awesome match and we have a new NEVER openweight champ.
Match rating - ****
4) Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. Taiji Ishimori - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match
Its Bullet Club vs. LIJ not only in the main event but also here in the undercard. Hiromu unsuccessfully took a bid at former partner EVIL’s IWGP Heavyweight title in a champion vs champion match a few weeks ago but came up short in his attempt to get back at EVIL for turning on their leader Naito. None the less, Hiromu did not come out of that looking weak by any means. Here, these two go back and it’s not the first time they’ve faced off so there’s a lot of sick counters and call backs. My favorite off hand was Ishimori’s counter to Hiromu’s release overhead suplex into the corner as he landed on the ropes, they struggle with counters for a second only for Hiromu to lure him right back in and nail it. The entire second half of this match was a struggle between the two for advantage as three everything at one another. Hiromu has his usual baby face fire, but Ishimori had an answer for everything and in the end, Hiromu was unable to roll his way out of a cross face and tapped out. Ishimori brings the Junior title back to Bullet Club. Good match, not a barnburner and not their best, but a good match.
Match rating - ***1/2
5) Zack Sabre Jr & Taichi (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi - IWGP Tag Team Title Match
Their last match didn’t really do much for me, but I enjoyed this a lot more. Maybe it’s because the Golden Aces fighting from underneath to regain their titles and it’s so easy to love both Ibushi and Tana in that role? I’m not sure, but Taichi & Sabre isolated and abused Tana for a good 7 minutes or so. They played the cheap dickheads so well as always. Ibushi got the hot tag and it ruled, of course. Sabre fires back and Tana gets back in and gets stuck in one of Zack’s gruesome armbars. Ibushi tries to break it up with the kamigoye but Taichi runs in with the glove, IBUSHI KICKS HIS ARM HARD AS FUCK. But this distraction is chaotic enough to lead to Sabre & Tana being isolated again. Tana misses a high fly flow and next thing you know, Sabre & Taichi retain despite Ibushi coming super close to breaking up the pin.
Match rating - ***1/2
6) EVIL (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito - IWGP Heavyweight and IC Title Match
I’m not even gonna cap, this was mostly a snooze for me and I hate that because I love so much about both guys/parties involved. This started strong and I came in positive about it, but it soon divulged into standard shit that was almost as boring as these two’s first match. The interference led to a cool moment with LIJ finally firing back at Bullet Club. SANADA got a nice pop out of it and it seemed to bring the crowd back into it as they were hella dead for the first portion of the interference (ref bump, Bushi run in etc) anyways, Naito and EVIL now go into finishing run mode. Another ref spot, Evil uses it to nail Naito with a lariat for a good near fall. Naito fights back and we get some stiff ass strikes and slaps. This leads to Destinoooo. Kevin Kelly croaks trying time hold it out for the duration of the three count and good lord why did he do that. Yeah so Naito is double champ again but god these double title matches have felt so lackluster esp considering all the epic matches both titles have had in recent years. Glad Naito is champ again, but god I hope things turn around soon.
Match rating - **1/4