As we catch our breath from the amazing events of Power Struggle, there’s just a little time before Showdown in San Jose and then WOrld Tag League to check out some matches from the extensive NJPW World archives:
November 2, 2012: Back to the Super Junior Tag
At Power Struggle on November 3, Roppongi 3K made history by winning the Super Jr. Tag League for the third consecutive year. This was the second year that the annual junior heavyweight tag tournament was contested as a single block league, as prior to that we saw a single elimination tournament; the first of which coming in 2012 with two classic junior tag teams in the final.
Withstanding competition that comprised the Forever Hooligans of Alex Kozlov and Rocky Romero, TAKA Michinoku & Taichi, Jado & Gedo, Negro Casas & BUSHI, Low Ki & brian Kendrick, and Jyushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask, it was the Apollo 55 combination of Ryusuke Taguchi and Prince Devitt, and the Timesplitters, KUSHIDA and Alex Shelley that made the final.
Apollo 55 had dominated the junior heavyweight tag division through the early part of the decade, but as Taguchi, and particularly Devitt’s singles ambitions grew, competition was snapping harder at their heels. KUSHIDA and Shelley strongly represented that competition, with both men’s trademark smooth in ring style leading to easy chemistry, and a sure fire Korakuen Hall classic in the tournament finals.
November 4, 1982: Inoki Handicapped in Kuramae
Through the 1970s and early 80s, Antonio Inoki would take on all comers to protect the image of NJPW as the King of Sports, and himself as the top figure within it. Whether pro wrestlers or martial artists, Inoki would always accept a fight. Yet in 1981, an unexpected turn saw Inoki defending NJPW’s honour against a different promotion entirely.
Established in the 1960s, the International Wrestling Enterprise, or IWE, was a pioneering promotion with a forward thinking approach and innovative style. IWE would actively scout the best wrestlers worldwide to compete in matches that were very different, and often much more gruesome and violent than the competition NJPW and AJPW presented.
Yet fortunes would wane for the company by the end of the seventies. It was necessary for IWE’s wrestlers to head elsewhere within Japan to prove their worth. That included NJPW, where ace Rusher Kimura, amateur great Animal Hamaguchi, and offensive innovator Isamu Teranishi invaded in 1981.
Kimura would go straight to the top, and involved himself in a heated and bloody feud with Inoki. He would assault Inoki after matches and even attempt to cut his hair, leading to a hair versus hair match in the summer of 1982; a match Kimura lost but still esaped with the majority of his locks intact. Eager to make Kimura and the IWE pay, Inoki wanted another match, but could only get his hands on his nemesis if he wrestled the entire contingent from the invading promotion at once, which is what happened in Kuramae Sumo Hall.
November 5, 2016: Ticking Time Bomb
Without a doubt, the moment fans in Osaka on November 3 at Power Struggle this year will have forever in their memories was the return of Hiromu Takahashi. While it was a long wait for fans to see the Ticking Time Bomb once more, it was, in hindsight, not such a huge surprise. After all, it was at the same event, in the same building, that Hiromu showed his face after returning from excursion.
Then as now, it was a hotly anticipated moment. Videos began airing at the G1 Climax final showing a time bomb’s display gradually counting down toward a date months in the future. As the videos continued to air, we got a few vague hints as to just who this figure could be, with flags flashing by in quick succession: Britain, Mexico, America, Japan. Still, with Takahashi’s name not being uttered for months, speculation was rife as to just whom the video was in reference.
Meanwhile, KUSHIDA and BUSHI had a score to settle. In September, BUSHI had taken the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in controversial form in KUSHIDA’s home town arena, the Ota City Gymnasium. Intent on showing his vision of junior heavyweight future, BUSHI was not going to let go easily, but KUSHIDA was persistent and relentless, snatching the win with a Hoverbaord Lock. Before he could lead Osaka in a victory wave though, the cl0ck reached zero.
November 8, 2009: The Chains That Bind
Togi Makabe’s 2009 was a turbulent one to say the least. It started with his once mighty Great Bash Heel faction falling apart. The machinations of Toru Yano saw Makabe’s allies all leave en masse to join Shinsuke Nakamura in CHAOS, including the maniacal Takashi Iizuka, who Makabe himself had transformed from a focused fighter to a wild maniac in GBH.
The only man who stood by Makabe’s side was Tomoaki Honma, and the two, now with the deck stacked against them on an almost nightly basis, would become loved and appreciated by the fans that had booed them so viciously mere months earlier. At the G1 Climax, a bloody Makabe overcame Nakamura, leaving a simple but emotionally resonant comment to the fans of ‘Thank you, OK?’.
Still though, Makabe had a lot of vengeance that needed to be enacted against his former brethren in GBH. At Power Struggle in Ryogoku, Makabe would have his sights set on Iizuka, in a chain match that quickly became as brutal and bloody as matches come.