November marks the last major show for New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2016, as the pace changes with the upcoming World Tag League to take us through to the end of the year. Many of the final preparations for Wrestle Kingdom matchups will begin to take shape and the champions heading in will be crowned, so while Power Struggle lacks the big show feel of a King of Pro Wrestling, it doesn’t lack in importance. With so many questions about what we can expect from Wrestle Kingdom next year, here are five questions to be asking as we continue on the road to the January 4 Tokyo Dome show:
Is Power Struggle The Los Ingobernables show?
2016 has seen the continued rise of the Los Ingobernables De Japon, and at Power Struggle the four biggest matches each feature a member, three of which are title matches. We also can’t forget the potential fifth man who has shown up on occasion in the preceding months who might decide to make himself known on such an LIJ heavy card. It’s a testament to the strength and popularity of the Ingobernables brand, but it’s one thing to dominate the top of the card, it’s another thing to win at the top.
Bushi defends his IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title against Kushida, the man he won it off at Destruction in Tokyo. The two have faced off a bit in the past year, and it’ll be telling to see who will leave the champion with Wrestle Kingdom on the horizon. I had Kushida pegged as champion heading into the event, but it’d mark a very short reign for Bushi to drop it straight back. That being said, this is a 50/50 toss up as to who leaves as champion.
Evil is challenging Shibata for the NEVER Openweight title, and while Evil has certainly picked his game up in the past year but with so many potential big name challenges for Shibata at Wrestle Kingdom, it seems unlikely that Evil will claim his first NJPW gold. Their newest member, Sanada, faces Hiroshi Tanahashi in a grudge match that could very easily be a late match of the year candidate. If they’re to set up Tanahashi v Naito at Wrestle Kingdom like I suspect, it’d make sense for Sanada to lose here, which is fine since he already has a win over Tanahashi.
Speaking of Naito…
How well can Tetsuya Naito really draw?
So it turns out this question has been answered quicker than I (and most people) would have guessed. Power Struggle is officially a sell out! This is great news for the Los Ingobernables leader Tetsuya Naito, who is defending his Intercontinental Championship against Jay Lethal. Jay Lethal ticks two of the three boxes you want in a challenger. He’s a talented wrestler and so the two of them should put on a great match. He also owns a win over Naito back in Ring of Honour, and the two have had their issues after Lethal’s alliance with Los Ingobernables was unceremoniously ended. The issues lay in his popularity in Japan, despite making a few appearances for NJPW he doesn’t garner much of a reaction from the audience yet.
The original challenger was meant to be Michael Elgin, but after Naito literally imploded Elgin’s face with a dropkick giving him a facial fracture, New Japan was forced to find a replacement. It’s a shame, because the Japanese audience loves Elgin, and he would have been a great opponent for Naito at Osaka, a city who has hated him for years. Nevertheless, Naito is officially headlining a sellout show and doing so without a New Japan mainstay in the opposite corner will speak volumes to management. It has to be said though that Naito has the benefit of a high profile Tanahashi singles match to help boost ticket sales, but a sell-out with over a week left is great news for both Naito and the company.
Who is ‘Time Bomb’?
At the G1 Climax finals we were treated to a short teaser video suggesting that a bomb would go off soon. Specifically at Power Struggle. Naturally the rumour mills went wild, with the popular prevailing theory (also held by Dave Meltzer) is that the ‘Time Bomb’ was the legendary Minoru Suzuki. Other theories have been thrown around, from a retuning Kamaitachi, Cody Rhodes to Ryback, but Suzuki certainly makes the most sense.
The thought of a possible Suzuki/Shibata match at Wrestle Kingdom for the NEVER Openweight Championship is huge. And it makes sense, as Suzuki has been with Pro Wrestling Noah for the past few years running rampant with his faction Suzuki-gun. Shibata has been a major player in the Noah/NJPW feud, so don’t be surprised to see the ‘time bomb’ explode after Shibata retains against Evil.
Who will win the Super Junior Tag Tournament?
The Super Junior Tag Tournament is kind of like the little brother to the World Tag League, which will be taking place next month, and tends to feature a mish mash of established and throw-together teams. Round one has come and gone over two separate ‘Road To’ shows, and by the time we reach Power Struggle four teams will be knocked down to two. The question is, who will be there to win it all?
Who exactly is going to win is hard to predict. The current Junior Heavyweight champions The Young Bucks were knocked out in the first round against Ishimori and ACH, so in theory the bracket is wide open, but my money is on Ricochet and David Finlay knocking off Roppongi Vice in the finals – potentially furthering the rather ‘rocky’ relationship between Romero and Baretta. The last two Wrestle Kingdoms have opened with the Junior Heavyweight Tag Championships being defended in a four team match, so the winners are likely to be involved in the match but it also means that a team that loses in the tournament isn’t necessarily off of the Wrestle Kingdom card. Might hurt the award’s importance, but it doesn’t hurt the unpredictability.
Does Okada or Omega have the upper handed at we head towards WK?
The main event for Wrestle Kingdom was locked in at King of Pro Wrestling. Kenny Omega versus Kazuchika Okada. The question now is who gain the momentum at the last big event before they reach the Tokyo Dome. They might very well face off in the World Tag League, but it’s here at the aptly named Power Struggle that Kenny Omega can send a clear message to the champion.
Expect to see them come to blows in a multi-man tag match, with two of the big three factions in new Japan go head to head in Chaos and the Bullet Club. A match like this will serve more as a taste for things to come, letting the two of them have a bit of in ring interaction, but mostly serving to tease the audience with the potential for what is to come. The interactions will be short and sweet, but they’re sure to mean an awful lot in the long run. These New Japan multi man tag matches also help protect both guys, so there’s no doubt that both champion and challenger will look strong before their big match. Given Kenny’s penchant for speaking his mind, expect him to have plenty to say to his opponent during the match as well.