NJPW Summer Struggle: Tetsuya Naito regains Double Championship
By: Mike Murray
For the first time in 21 years, NJPW holds an outdoor show and they return to that same site: Meiji Jingu Stadium, the home park of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. The weather report says it is super hot out and incredibly humid. The crowd is really spaced out and quite sparse with the social distancing measures taken by NJPW. The crowd has been instructed not to cheer or boo or chant in accordance with Coronavirus guidelines so they have been given Remote Cheer devices to help add to the atmosphere in the stadium.
This show takes place close to the dates when NJPW was scheduled to have had their big show at Madison Square Gardens. Is this a similar card to what we would have seen? Was this supposed to be the main event of that Show? We might never have the answers to those questions.
Mike’s Match Ratings
Master Wato vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru – 2.5*
King of Pro Wrestling 4-way: El Desperado vs SANADA vs Toro Yano vs Kazuchika Okada – 2*
NEVER Openweight Championship: Shingo Takagi vs Minoru Suzuki – 4.25*
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi vs Taiji Ishimori – 3.75*
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Dangerous Tekkers vs Golden Ace – 3.75
IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental Championship: EVIL vs Tetsuyo Naito – 4*
MATCH 1 – MASTER WATO VS YOSHINOBU KANEMARU
Master Wato starts out with some quick offense but quickly Kanemaru takes control of the match. Kanemaru drives most of the match and Wato gets in a few kicks and a corkscrew plancha. Kanemaru throws the referee into Wato’s path and the Grandmaster chucks the ref to the mat with a sore arm. Watt tries to hit some sort of overhead facebuster but it looks terrible and it would look like he is the one that is affected by the maneuver. Kanemaru quickly rolls up Wato for a three count.
WINNER – Yoshinobu Kanemaru in 7:32
Underwhelming opening match to say the least. The crowd was more into this then I would have expected, but it was the first match of the card, so I am sure that helped their enthusiasm. Another lackluster Wato match and this time getting beat by Kanemaru, who is not anywhere near the top of the Junior Heavyweight division. It should be interesting to see what happens with Wato next.
MATCH 2 – KING OF PRO WRESTLING (KOPW) 4-WAY: EL DESPERADO VS SANADA VS TORU YANO VS KAZUCHIKA OKADA
This is a rare singles 4-way match in NJPW. Each of the participants won a match with a unique stipulation earlier this week to earn a spot in this match. The winner of the match gets a pretty lame trophy that must be defended only in matches with stipulations. The best sequence of this match had El Desperado on the outside and SANADA placing Yano in the Paradise Lock and just leaving him beside the ropes forever. That allowed SANADA and Okada to have a quick sequence just between the two of them. Cool spot where El Desperado hits a frog splash on Okada while SANADA has him in Skull End. Okada puts on “Money Clip” (Cobra Clutch) on El Desperado, the referee gets tied up with those two and is shoved down to the match, Yano hits a low blow on Okada and pins him and Yano becomes the first King of Pro Wrestling 2020.
WINNER – Toru Yano in 7:00
This was quick, to say the least. This match had some comedy but really, this was a short, house show level match that looked like its sole reason was to get people onto a big card. Yano winning can make for some entertaining stipulations going forward while defending the trophy if that is your cup of tea. It was certainly surprising that Okada was not the winner as this seemed tailor-made to give him something to do while keeping him away from the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
MATCH 3 – NEVER OPENWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP – SHINGO TAKAGI DEFENDS AGAINST MINORU SUZUKI
The heat and humidity of this outdoor show were really obvious in this match, both guys wearing sweating pretty hard. Speaking of hard, if you like stiff matches, this one is for you. Forearm exchange to start and they end up outside the ring where they take turns throwing each other into the barricades. Pretty early on in the match, Suzuki delivers a kick to the back of a sitting Takagi who dares Suzuki to hit him harder. There was a sequence where Suzuki threw three forearms in a row and they were so loud, even in this outdoor baseball stadium.
Suzuki put on his sleeper and tried for a Gotch-style piledriver but Takagi fought out and hit a Death Valley Driver and followed that up with a Pumping Bomber. Made in Japan by the champ only gets a two count. Takagi tries for a Last of the Dragon but Suzuki gets out and hits a headbutt to the back of Takagi’s head. Big series of palm strikes by Suzuki.
The finish comes when after another series of forearm strikes, Suzuki gets the advantage and puts on his sleeper. As the referee is checking on Takagi, Suzuki transitions to the Gotch-style piledriver and hits hit for the win.
WINNER – Minoru Suzuki in 14:57
Excellent deliberate, hard-hitting match. The way the sound of their strikes, whether it was chops or forearms, carried through the stadium was incredible. With the loss of the NEVER Openweight Championship, the door is open for a big role in the G1 for Shingo Takagi.
INTERMISSION AND RING SANITIZATION
MATCH 4 – IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP: HIROMU TAKAHASHI DEFENDS AGAINST TAIJI ISHIMORI
Hiromu comes out with a taped-up shoulder that has been a target on the Road to Summer Struggle shows throughout August. Ishimori immediately attacks the shoulder at the start of the match. This is Hiromu’s first one on one junior heavyweight match since February.
Tons of offensive moves by both wrestlers! Hiromu tries for a release German suplex, but Ishimori lands on his feet. Ishimori hits a 450 from the top rope onto Hiromu’s taped shoulder. Hiromu tries for a sunset bomb outside the ring but Ishimori avoids it. Hiromu tears off the tape from his shoulder. Hiromu hits a big dropkick from the apron to Ishimori who is propelled into the barricade. Falcon Arrow by Hiromu. A belly to belly overhead throw by Hiromu and Ishimori lands on the ropes. Dragonrana by Ishimori. A second belly to belly overhead throw by Hiromu hits and Ishimori crashes into the corner. A Dynamite Plunger by Hiromu gets a two count. Ishimori German suplexes Hiromu right onto the back of his head, but Hiromu gets right up and hits a German suplex of his own. Hiromu hits a Death Valley Driver into the corner and follows it up with Timebomb but only gets a two count.
Hiromu attempts a Timebomb 2 that Ishimori escapes from and he hits a reverse Bloody Cross snd then gets the champ into a Yes Lock. When Hiromu is trying to get to the ropes, Ishimori rolls away from the ropes and closer to the middle of the ring. The challenger reapplies the Yes Lock and the champion taps out.
WINNER – Taiji Ishimori in 13:30
Very good, fast-paced match. Both guys were going at an incredible pace. All of Ishimori’s offense was focused on the injured shoulder and it all led to the Yes Lock submission. Maybe with the loss of the Junior Heavyweight Championship, we will see Takahashi in the G1.
MATCH 5 – IWGP TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: DANGEROUS TEKKERS (ZACK SABRE JR & TAICHI) DEFEND AGAINST GOLDEN ACE (HIROSHI TANAHASHI & KOTA IBUSHI)
Zack Sabre’s knee is taped up after he had suffered damage from Dragon Screws earlier on during the Road to Summer Struggle tour. Ibushi insists on starting the match for his team against TAICHi. Sabre tries to sneak in but Tanahashi warns Ibushi and Golden Ace take out TAICHI and Sabre.
Just before the 10-minute mark of the match, Ibushi and TAICHI square off for their patented ‘kick the crap out of each other” spot that has become a great part of their matches during this feud. Both guys lay in some BIG kicks and its awesome. The sun has been setting during this match but you can still really hear those kicks.
Tanahashi hits a Dragon Screw on Sabre and follows it up with another Dragon Screw with Sabre’s leg trapped in the ropes. Tanahashi tries for a Texas Cloverleaf, but Sabre makes the ropes for a break. Later, Ibushi holds TAICHI and Tanahashi hits a Dragon Screw on him. Ibushi then grabs Sabre and Tanahashi hits another Dragon Screw on him – revenge for the damage Dangerous Tekkers inflicted on Tanahashi at Dominion.
Sabre eventually gets a hold of Tanahashi and just wraps him up in the middle of the ring and stretches him in all kinds of ways until killer Ibushi shows up back in the ring and pries Tanahashi free. Ibushi sets up Sabre for the Kamigoye but TAICHI gets back into the ring and has the iron glove. Ibushi kicks Taichi’s arm, knee strike to Sabre, and other kick to TAICHI.
Tanahashi hits Aces high to Sabre and climbs back to the top rope. Tanahashi misses High Fly Flow and Dangerous Tekkers hit Zack-Memphisto (combination Zack Driver with Black Memphisto) for the win.
WINNERS – Dangerous Tekkers in 16:00
Very good, solid tag match that was kept pretty short compared to their last tag team title match which clocked in just under 29 minutes. TAICHI has improved a lot from working with Ibushi and Tanahashi through the NJPW return. Hopefully, his improvement will carry on through the G1.
MATCH 6 – IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT & IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP: EVIL DEFENDS AGAINST TETSUYA NAITO
EVIL comes out accompanied by Dick Togo. Before the bell rings, EVIL hits Naito with the Heavyweight belt and Naito falls outside of the ring. EVIL and Togo lay the boots into Naito. Evil grabs two chairs from under the ring, wraps one around Naito’s neck, and hits his homerun swing. Back in the ring, Naito is whipped into the exposed turnbuckle after the padding has been removed. The crowd seems to be using their Remote Cheer devices and some sort of chant is broadcast through the stadium.
Togo trips Naito from outside as the challenger runs the ropes. EVIL attempts a Darkness Falls on the ring apron, but Naito escapes and hits a neck breaker to the floor. Naito hits a huricanrana from the top rope. Naito is again whipped into the exposed turnbuckles. EVIL hits him with a big clothesline in the corner and takes Naito up to the top rope and hits a superplex from up top. EVIL hits a Darkness Falls for a two count. Everything is Evil is blocked but Naito is whipped into the exposed turnbuckle for the fourth time. Naito hits a swinging DDT. Gloria by Naito. A swinging reverse DDT from the top rope by Naito as the action picks up. Togo hits Naito with a chair to the back as EVIL distracts Red Shoes. Everything is Evil is blocked again by Naito as the challenger drops big elbow strikes to the champ’s neck.
Naito shoves EVIL into Togo, who is up on the ring apron. EVIL grabs Red Shoes and tries to shove him into Naito, but the challenger puts on the brakes and stumbles. EVIL then just throws Red Shoes into the exposed turnbuckle ad the referee is down. Togo comes in and puts the boots to Naito again. Boos rain down from the Remote Cheer devices. Togo and EVIL hit a Magic Killer on Naito. BUSHI runs down to the ring and takes out EVIL and Togo. Gedo comes down and he takes out BUSHI. EVIL has a chair, Naito kicks him but Togo gets out his garrote and tries to choke Naito with it. SANADA runs down to the ring and he dropkicks the chair into EVIL’s face. SANADA hits a TKO to Togo. BUSHI hits MX on Gedo and LIJ grab Gedo and Togo and drag them away from ringside and that leaves just Naito and EVIL.
Red Shoes is still dead. The crowd is clapping. Naito hits an Enzuigiri and a flying forearm to EVIL. The challenger hits a Destino for a two count. EVIL grabs Red Shoes and low blows Naito, without the referee seeing it. Lariat by EVIL and Naito kicks out at two. The crowd presses their “cheer” button on their devices. Everything is Evil is blocked by Naito who then tries for Valentia but really both guys collapse. Kick to EVIL’s head by Naito. Naito blocks a low blow attempt. Naito hits Valentia and then Destino for the win.
WINNER – Tetsuya Naito in 26:21
Strong match and an interesting choice to go back to Naito with the double gold. Naito again wrestled a more serious style of a match with no fooling around, no shenanigans, and no Tranquilo poses mid-match.
What does this mean for Bullet Club? Who is coming back for the G1? Jay White? Fale? What is to become of EVIL? Story-wise, we finally see LIJ support Naito as EVIL has had numerous members of Bullet Club assist him since he has joined the faction. The crowd gets to see EVIL vs Naito one on one and Naito gets his big win without someone interrupting the celebration – in the baseball stadium where he saw the last NJPW outdoor show 21 years ago. Plus, he gets fireworks as he poses with the belts in an image that I am sure will be used for years to come. Things were sure looking dark for LIJ as both Hiromu and Shingo lost their titles earlier on in the show.
This show started off pretty weak, but with the third match, it really picked up steam and was a very quick show. The final four matches are all worth going out of your way to check out.
Thanks for reading and let us know what you thought of NJPW Summer Struggle in the comments below.