Shingo Takagi defends the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against Zack Sabre Jr. in the main event of NJPW Power Struggle in Osaka.
Sabre defeated Shingo in a non-title match during the G1 Climax tournament on September 23 to set up the IWGP title bout. The two have split their two career singles matches 1-1.
In the semi-main, G1 Climax 31 winner Kazuchika Okada will defend his Wrestle Kingdom title shot against Tama Tonga. Tama defeated Okada in the G1, Okada's only blemish in the tournament.
Four other titles will be on the line on today's show.
Hiroshi Tanahashi defends the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship against KENTA. KENTA holds a 2-1 lead in their three career singles bouts.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Robbie Eagles defends against El Desperado. The two have split their previous singles meetings 1-1.
Provisional KOPW 2021 Toru Yano defends against Great-O-Khan in an amateur rules match. This duo has also split their career singles bouts 1-1.
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI defend the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championships against Bullet Club's House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi and SHO).
A series of tag matches fills out the undercard. Yuji Nagata, Ryusuke Taguchi and Master Wato will face SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi and BUSHI. Tiger Mask, Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma will take on Tanga Loa, Gedo and Jado. Yoshinobu Kanemaru and DOUKI will face Young Lions Ryohei Oiwa and Kosei Fujita in the opener.
Our live coverage begins at 4 a.m. Eastern time.
Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI) defeated Ryohei Oiwa & Kosei Fujita
This was well wrestled, precisely what you would expect from a young lion match.
The Young Lions opened the match with energy but failed to maintain their early lead. The Young Lion duo regained control after DOUKI, who started the match, tagged out, but this too was short-lived as Kanemaru took advantage of their inexperience. A scoop slam and Boston crab led to the Suzuki-Gun favoured submission.
BULLET CLUB (Tanga Loa, Jado & Gedo) defeated Tiger Mask, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
This wasn’t good, per se, but it was fun at times and didn’t overstay its welcome.
Gedo and Tiger Mask opened the match, but Loa and Gedo hit the ring soon after Tiger Mask gained advantage. Tiger Mask not only tried but succeeded in fighting off all three of his opponents. Makabe and Honma then traded tags, taking complete control for their team.
The brawling continued for some time, with everyone hitting something. Honma and Loa traded strikes after the ring was cleared. Loa connected with a driver after surviving the onslaught before pinning Honma.
Los Ingobernables De Japon (SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) defeated Yuji Nagata, Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato
This match featured structural elements that I am not a fan of, but similar to the previous match, it was amusing and brief.
Taguchi and Hiromu opened the match with a lively exchange. With aid from Taguchi, Wato secured some match presence. This led to SANADA and BUSHI hitting the ring to take control. Wato managed to survive before tagging Nagata into the match.
Nagata and SANADA began a brawl that demanded intervention from Hiromu. Nagata fought off both before tagging in Taguchi, who ran through all three of his opponents, hitting them all with hip attacks. SANADA ended the sequence with an atomic drop, triggering a 6-way brawl. A hip attack from Taguchi also ended the brawl. Taguchi then embraced his Nakamura, hitting the signature taunt and SANADA with the Bomaye. SANADA kicked out of the pin and escaped the ankle lock that followed before bridging Taguchi for a sudden finish.
NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag team Championships: HOUSE OF TORTURE (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & SHO) defeated CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI) to win the titles
This match was long and not very good. In a match that should be filled with impassioned disputes between ex-faction-mates, fluff filled most of the run time.
The first title match of the night opened with a brawl. As the dust settled, Yujiro and Goto shared the ring. Yujiro secured control inside the ropes with aid from EVIL, who removed the turnbuckle pad just in time for a slam into the hooks. EVIL then tagged in, choked Goto with a towel, and tagged out.
SHO, now legal, traded blows with Goto. Goto won the exchange and fought off the opposing rally before tagging Ishii into the match. Ishii ran through his former faction mate, but a pause, seemingly caused by emotion, allowed SHO to gain an advantage. SHO then proved he was also susceptible to the same flaw, as a pause allowed Ishii to take control back from him. Ishii’s momentum was vanquished with a kick from EVIL, leading to a SHO spear and tag.
It was YH who gained control of EVIL, only for a cane shot and a whip into the exposed buckles to recement HOT dominance. YH endured all of the underhanded tactics and interference before landing a superkick that forced a breakup. YH’s rally also was met with resistance from EVIL, but it was outside interference that caused another brawl.
The CHOAS team had a visible pin after emerging from the smoke, but the referee was pulled outside the ring. This led to all-out BULLET CLUB chicanery. Alone in the ring with YH, Evil hit Everything is Evil, leading to the pin and new champions.
As the new champions celebrated (by attacking the former champions), YOH returned, running off House of Torture. SHO fled before YOH could get his hands on him.
KOPW 2021 Amateur Wrestling Rules: Toru Yano defeated Great-O-Khan to retain the title
Before the match started, Nagata explained the rules in Japanese. I do not speak Japanese, however, so I had no clue what was happening. Thankfully, there was a scoreboard.
O-Khan entered the ring in a singlet, so you know this is serious business, and in case you didn’t think this was serious, Yano also had a singlet—talk about big match feel.
As the match started, O-Khan and Yano wrestled into the ropes; the referee, equipped with a whistle, stood the pair back up. Soon after, Yano pushed O-Khan into the ropes again, but this time, he scored a point. 1-0 Yano. O-Khan responded with a takedown; for this, he received two points. 2-1 O-Khan. O-Khan maintained his lead by rolling Yano around, scoring two more points. 4-1 O-Khan.
Period two started with Yano pushing O-Khan into the ropes for a quick point. 4-2 O-Khan. O-Khan then placed Yano in the ropes to regain the 3 point lead. 5-3 O-Khan. Yano stuffed a takedown before landing a colossal suplex shooting him into a lead late in the 2nd. Final score: 6-5 Yano, in a photo finish.
After Yano won the match and had his hand raised, O-Khan beat down the winner with help from Toa Henare. Thankfully, Nagata restored order.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: El Desperado defeated Robbie Eagles to win the title
This was quite good. The multi-dimensional leg work weaved through the match was made all the sweeter by the payoff.
The opening sequence was fairly typical. Eagles slightly outwrestled Desparado, but Desperado took advantage of momentary openings, leading to significant Desperado favoured offence. Said sequence was punctuated with a beautiful dive from Desperado, leaving the challenger with control of the champion early.
Desperado focused his attention on the champion’s legs, a move reciprocated by Eagles. After Eagles fought to his feet, he connected with multiple kicks before hitting a dive of his own; after landing the move, Eagles limped back in the ring before hitting a springboard dropkick. Eagles then locked in the Ron Miller Special that forced Desperado in the ropes.
Desperado finally regained some footing after a sudden spine buster. Desperado wasted no time either, as he turned his attention back to the legs of Eagles. Eagles fought through the pain, though, landing a superkick and attempting the 450; Desperado blocked the move with his knees.
With both men essentially on equal footing, a strike battle began. After the striking broke down, the pair traded increasingly impactful offence. This led to near falls and more leg work. After an Eagles rollup attempt was reversed, Desperado locked in Numero Dos, his over the shoulder single leg Boston Crab that Eagles failed to escape. Desperado is champion.
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: KENTA defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the title
This match was great in its second half. Getting there was almost a chore, but once it picked up, it was incredible.
KENTA tried setting the mood early on by overwhelming Tanahashi’s crowd reaction with claps of his own; this failed. KENTA then continued the antics by leaving the ring for a while. After he finally re-entered the ropes, Tanahashi connected with a sequence that sent him back outside. This time Tanahashi capitalised with a dive. KENTA then grabbed the IWGP US Belt and began to run away.
After Tanahashi caught up to KENTA, KENTA hit a quick slam on the ramp. Tanahashi broke the referee’s count at 19. KENTA then removed the turnbuckle pad before slamming Tanahsi into the exposed metal. To follow this up, KENTA connected with multiple closed fist strikes in mount. KENTA was in control. KENTA tried draping Tanahashi over the second rope for a hangman’s DDT, but Tanahashi caught KENTA with a dragonscrew; this led to the match spilling outside, and on the outside, KENTA flourished. KENTA pulled a table from beneath the ring that he set up ringside. KENTA then positioned Tanashi for a GTS from the apron to the floor through a table. Tanahashi evaded his doom only to be hit with the hangman’s DDT. KENTA then hit a double foot stomp before turning his attention back to the table.
KENTA placed Tanahashi on the furniture before climbing to the top rope, but Tanahashi rolled off before KENTA could connect. Tanahashi then landed a sling blade, gaining control on the outside. Tanahashi now set KENTA on the table and climbed to the top himself. High Fly Flow put KENTA through the table.
Back in the ring, Tanahashi hit High Fly Flow again, but on his third attempt, he ran into the knees of KENTA. KENTA then secured a crossface to reset momentum in his favour. KENTA hoisted Tanahashi for a GTS, but Tanahashi escaped, hitting a dragonscrew to reset match flow again. KENTA survived by throwing Tanahashi into the exposed corner, opening him up for a running knee. KENTA tried again for a GTS, but again was hit with a sling blade. KENTA again recovered by throwing Tanahashi into the corner. This time, KENTA succeeded in hitting the GTS before pinning Tanahashi to win IWGP gold.
Tokyo Dome IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Right to Challenge: Kazuchika Okada defeated Tama Tonga
I was generally not a fan of this. The majority of this match felt bloated, but hey, the closing sequence was good. It just wasn’t for me.
The two began a battle of offence as soon as the match started. Okada gained momentum from the opening exchange; this lasted until the match fell outside the ropes. On the outside, Tama landed a suplex that left Okada motionless; at the count of 19, Okada re-entered the ring. Now on the inside, Tama’s control continued via a chinlock turned choke.
Okada finally freed himself from the prolonged hold before connecting with a big boot. A flapjack left Tama grounded on the inside, and a dropkick sent him crashing to the outside. This time on the outside, Okada had success. After rolling Tama back in the ring, a top rope dropkick led to an Okada near fall. Okada followed the near fall with the money clip.
After escaping the money clip, Tama rolled to the outside. Okada tried for a tombstone close to the ramp, but Tanga freed himself and delivered Tongan Twist. Back in the ring, another Tongan Twist led to a Tama near fall. Okada dodged a strike and locked in the money clip in the centre of the ring. Tama made it to the rope moments before unconsciousness. Okada then tried for the rainmaker, but Tama ducked. Tama caught Okada with an Alabama slam that he followed with a top rope dive for a convincing near fall. Okada stuffed three gun stuns to stay in the match.
Okada tried for a tombstone but was blocked; a dropkick found the mark, however. Okada tried again but was hit with a tombstone instead of delivering one. A dropkick from Okada followed a dropkick from Tama. Okada tried again for a tombstone and failed again; this led directly to the climax. In a move dense closing sequence, Okada closed the match with a rainmaker.
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Shingo Takagi defeated Zack Sabre Jr. to retain the title
I enjoyed this a lot, but it could have been significantly better with a shorter run time. So many of the sequences were excellent, but with so much, it’ll be hard to pick out anything meaningful.
The opening sequence consisted of ZSJ trying for holds and Shingo evading them. A shoulder tackle opened ZSJ to strikes from the champion in the first play of control. This was short-lived, however, as ZSJ continually caught an open limb.
Shingo was not afraid to engage on the mat, forcing ZSJ into the ropes in an early exchange. ZSJ’s response was to exit the ring, effectively resetting the match. ZSJ then caught Shingo in the ropes, gaining control for himself; a punt to a prone Shingo only cemented this.
Shingo eventually fought to a standing position after turning a choke into a slam. Shingo followed up with heavy strikes and a DDT leading to a near fall. After the pin attempt, more strikes reigned in, but again ZSJ capitalised on an opening to take the match back to the mat.
After the match returned to an upright position, a remarkable sequence of suplexes and strikes created another reset. This time, a dragonscrew from Shingo left him in the driver’s seat. Shingo hit a powerbomb that he turned into a crossface that forced ZSJ back in the ropes.
ZSJ used the rope break to scrap back into a favourable position. After a lightning-quick strike, the Zack Driver left both men lying. ZSJ tried for a choke, Shingo dropped him, ZSJ grabbed the arm. After escaping, Shingo hit a strike, but again the match returned to the mat. On the mat, Shingo secured a choke. ZSJ fought himself free only to be hit with Made in Japan, resulting in a near fall; a pumping bomber followed.
Shingo hoisted ZSJ to the top rope, where a struggle commenced. ZSJ pulled Shingo down into an armbar. Shingo fell into the ropes to escape. ZSJ then continued the attack on the arm. After another Zack Driver and another kick out, ZSJ grew visibly frustrated. ZSJ locked in a choke while on the back of Shingo. Shingo climbed to the top, where he fell onto ZSJ. ZSJ was unphased as he immediately took Shingo’s arm once again. Shingo powered through and hit Made in Japan again, ZSJ kicked out.
ZSJ and Shingo began trading hard strikes; Shingo won this exchange. ZSJ immediately took control via grappling again, and a quick pin almost left him with gold. Another pumping bomber, another ZSJ kick out. With the end in sight, Shingo hit Last of the Dragon, leading to the pin.
After the match, Okada walked out to the ring with the old belt on his shoulder. He cut a promo, Shingo responded, close show.