Tuesday, November 2, 2021

NJPW Power Struggle 2021 Preview & Predictions

Well, COVID restrictions are loosening over in Japan, and that means NJPW is once again allowed to run full-length, nine-match cards in front of up to 5,000 people.  So this weekend the annual Power Struggle show will be the first NJPW PPV in nearly two years to feature a full lineup.  And aside from a few warmup tag bouts it looks pretty solid.

The G1 is behind us and the road to the Tokyo Dome is ahead.  Kazuchika Okada has his sights set on regaining the company's top championship, though he does not recognize Shingo's IWGP World Title as the true championship (nor should he, that belt sucks).  He's been carrying around the REAL IWGP Title and I hope at WrestleKingdom we'll see that belt reinstated.  Regardless, before Okada can make that happen he has to get past the one man who beat him in the G1, Tama Tonga, and I'm betting he'll also insist on a rematch with Kota Ibushi at the Dome.  Meanwhile Shingo Takagi will have his hands full with the reinvigorated Zack Sabre Jr., who went on a submission warpath during the G1, tapping out Takagi clean in the middle of the ring.  Similarly, Hiroshi Tanahashi will face a man who scored a G1 upset over him, Kenta.  Not a bad trilogy of matches on tap, plus we'll get a Jr. Title contest.

But first....

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Championship: Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Evil, Sho & Yujuro Takahashi

These titles have now been around for six years and they've never really meant anything.  This is why I'm resistant whenever I see people clamoring for AEW to introduce a Trios Title - six-man teams don't stay together consistently or long enough to make a belt like this carry any prestige.  Remember the NWA version?  Thing had to be vacated every few months because of injuries or departures.  Pointless.  Anyway, this Chaos faction has held the title for a year or so, so that at least helps.  I think they'll lose them here though - the Evil wing of Bullet Club is hot thanks to the addition of Sho.

Pick: House of Torture

KOPW Trophy Amateur Rules Match: Toru Yano vs. Great-O-Khan

Ugh, I have no interest in this stupid trophy.  This is kind of NJPW's equivalent of the 24/7 Title - a meaningless achievement contested mostly in comedy segments.  This one is amateur rules and both guys do have an amateur background, so maybe the match will be entertaining.  I guess I could see O-Khan winning here just to give him a little something-something to do.

Pick: O-Khan

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Robbie Eagles vs. El Desperado

Alright, here's the meat of the card.  Eagles defeated Desperado for the title in June and just won the Jr. Tag belts as well, partnering with Tiger Mask to unseat Desperado and Kanemaru.  Perhaps Eagles will pull double duty at the Dome if he retains here; he's really keeping this title warm for Hiromu anyway.

Pick: Eagles retains

IWGP US Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kenta

A motivated Kenta can be quite good.  Let's hope Kenta is motivated here.  Tanahashi is in the midst of an incredible in-ring year and a great showing against Kenta would be a fitting way to cap off 2021 for the Ace.  I don't see him losing the title until either the Dome or a US showdown with Jon Moxley, so he keeps it for now.

Pick: Tanahashi retains

#1 Contender's Briefcase: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tama Tonga

Tonga's had probably the best in-ring year of his career, with numerous strong showings in the G1.  He'll get a chance on this show to have a career-defining match, even if he's got less than a prayer of winning the briefcase.  But with Okada back in top form this should potentially be an unexpected classic.

Pick: Okada keeps the briefcase

IWGP World Championship: Shingo Takagi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

These two had a helluva match in the G1 and without a proper time constraint this should be pretty amazing.  Shingo is one of the best in the world right now and ZSJ has been crushing it lately.  This could be one of NJPW's best matches all year.  Shingo's obviously retaining but if the company comes to its senses and brings back the Intercontinental Title, ZSJ should be the top candidate to win that belt.

Pick: Shingo retains

Power Struggle has traditionally been one of the lesser PPVs on NJPW's calendar but with the return to their classic show format this one could be one of the standouts of this weirdo year.  Four matches with **** potential or better is nothing to sneeze at.

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