The week that was in NJPW World history [November 1-5]

As we get set for Power Struggle on November 7 from Osaka, some classic struggles of the past include significant tag battles, and some shocking appearances. 

November 1 1990: Tag the new generation

When NJPW turned the corner from the 1980s into the new decade of the 90s, there was a very definite sea change underway at the top of the card. The likes of Riki Choshu and Tatsumi Fujinami were still very much in force in the IWGP Heavyweight Championship picture, but underneath was the rise of the Three Musketeers: Shinya Hashimoto, Masahiro Chono and Keiji Muto. 

At the culmination of 1990’s Dream Tour in the Nippon Budokan, things seemed all set up for the Musketeers. Hashimoto was challenging Riki Choshu in the main event for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but underneath that were Muto and Chono defending gold of their own- the IWGP Tag Team Championships- against two of Choshu’s proteges.

Kensuke Sasaki and Hiroshi Hase had both gotten their start under Choshu in his promotion hopping WJ project, a group formed when Choshu left NJPW in the mid 1980s. When he came back to his alma mater, Koshinaka and Hase followed suit, and quickly drew a lot of fans with their dynamic hard hitting and suplex heavy style. The ‘HiroKen’ tag team was immensely popular, so much so that even the red hot Muto and Chono would be booed next to the crowd’s favourites. It meant that the champions had to face an uncharacteristically hostile crowd and tough competition in the Budokan. 

Relive the match here!


November 2, 2012: Back to the Super Junior Tag

Fast forward 22 years, and 2012  saw junior heavyweight tag teams focused on in the autumn, with the first Super Junior Tag Tournament seeing two classic pairings 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. 

Relive the match here!

November 3, 2018: Goth Rock

Chris Jericho has some heavy ties to Power Struggle in Osaka. On November 5 2017, a video message sent the wrestling world into a frenzy when ‘the Alpha’ challenged Kenny Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom, and the next year, Jericho wrestled at Power Struggle for the first time against EVIL. 

Jericho might have lost his match with Omega on January 4 2018, but he recovered quickly, defeating Tetsuya Naito to lift the IWGP Intercontinental Championship by the summer in Osaka. After a dominant display to win the title though, EVIL put paid to post match punishment of the former champion, infuriating the new title holder. While EVIL was set to battle Zack Sabre Jr. at King of Pro-Wrestling, Jericho had his thoughts on revenge, and struck before the match took place, resulting in a no-contest.

While two years later the idea of EVIL defending Tetsuya Naito’s honour is a foreign one indeed, then as now, EVIL was very much protective of his own honour, something that led EVIL to challenge for the white and gold the very next month. With EVIL known for bringing violence in spades to Osaka in particular, Jericho faced a major threat. 

Relive the match here

November 4 1982: A new dimension to a pioneering rivalry

When New Japan Pro-Wrestling entered its second decade of operation, it was clear two competitors would be making headlines and headlining cards for many events to come. Former Olympian Riki Choshu was an imposing heavyweight force that was earmarked for greatness, but who found himself sharing the spotlight with a fan favourite by the name of Tatsumi Fujinami. Fujinami had been a sensation as a junior heavyweight, one that garnered a huge following who adored the handsome looks and innovative offense of ‘The Dragon. 

As Choshu found the attention of the crowd, and the endorsement of leading figures like Antonio Inoki going further and further to Fujinami, frustration built and eventually came to a head in October of 1982. Turning his back on Fujuinami and Inoki in a six man tag team contest, Choshu began a brutal rivalry with Fujinami that would break down barriers in New Japan Pro-Wrestling; a rare case of an all Japanese headline feud in an era where Japanese competitors facing international challengers was still de rigeur. 

On November 4, an added dimension came into Choshu and Fujinami’s battles, as the WWF International Championship was at stake in Kuramae Sumo Hall.

Relive the match here!

November 5 2017: Switchblade Shock

As mentioned, Chris Jericho made his first appearance at Power Struggle in 2017, but that wasn’t the only shocking debut on the card. For months, a mysterious video had been airing during events that heralded the arrival of ‘the Switchblade’, a figure that made himself known on November 5 2017 as Jay White. 

Returning from US excursion, White immediately made an impact when he struck with a Bladerunner to Hiroshi Tanahashi, who had just defended his IWGP Intercontinental Championship against Kota Ibushi. A big match already lined up for his debut, White made a huge impact from the jump in NJPW, and continues to do so to this day. 

Relive the moment here!