A lot has been said about New Japan Pro Wrestling since it's return post-lockdown. The New Japan Cup was blighted by long matches featuring heavy interference and 'Moneyclip' Cobra Clutches. Of course there were diamonds in there like Suzuki/Nagata and SHO/Takagi however some of the Taichi matches and the final featuring Okada and EVIL were not to many fan's taste, including my own.
Then came Dominion and the EVIL/Naito IWGP HEaviweight Championsip match which saw EVIL defeat Naito in a 38 minute match. Any 38 minute match is a commitment and many of us will happily sit through a 38 minute New Japan main event. However most of them are 4+ star quality wrestling matches... The double championship switch to EVIL did not meet that criteria leaving many fans wondering what had happened to New Japan?
All that being said, your author did not even watch Sengoku Lord, the first time I've missed a big New Japan event in over a year, possibly 2. Therefore I went into Summer Struggle hoping for a return to the New Japan I love but with trepidation.
Double Championship Match - IWGP and Intercontinental
Tetsuya Naito vs EVIL(C)
Tetsuya Naito's won back the double gold that he won at Wrestle Kingdom 14. In doing so he became the record holder for most IWGP Intercontinental Championship wins, quite an achievement. Now he must turn his attention to holding onto his championships as although he has held the 2nd belt the most in company history, he is behind Shinsuke Nakamura in terms of accumulative days in possession of the belt.
This match really shone the floodlights on the gaps and flaws in EVIL's games. The newest member of Bullet Club committed 23 fouls in this match but only completed 18 manoeuvres offensively. After a year of collecting statistics on wrestling matches, I have never seen a wrestler complete less offensive moves than illegal moves in a wrestling match. Add this to the fact this is the main event of a NJPW show for the world's most prestigious wrestling championship.
In terms of Naito's statistics, he utilised over 75% of the total legal offence in this match, his double figures for grapple use, reversed 9 more moves than his opponent and had a reversal rate of 58%. Hopefully Naito can now move on from EVIL and have some proper competitive wrestling matches again!
IWGP Tag Championship Match
Golden Ace vs Dangerous Tekkers(C)
Another rematch from Dominion, this on however was more of a wrestling match. That being said, Dangerous Tekker did utilise similar offence to EVIL just not to the same tedious scale. In the lead up to this match, the interest has been in the relationship between Ibushi and Tanahashi and the shifting dynamic between them. A broken Ibushi, post 2 Wrestle Kingdon defeats was lifted up by the teaming up of Golden Ace. We went into this match with that flipped and Ibushi driving his confidence-lacking partner forward.
However, this was not to be a Disney ending. Despite being in the ascendency for most of the match, Golden Ace fell to the 'Zack Mephisto' to their opportunistic opponents. This will have come as a demoralising defeat to Tana and Ibushi who led in every category except submission and had better accumulative offence values in all of the five minute periods of the match!
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Hiromu Takahashi(C) vs Taiji Ishimori
This one was a sprint, coming in at 13 minutes and 30 seconds, it was a rewarding and short watch for a New Japan match. Hiromu Takahashi went into this match with every right to be brimming with confidence. In 2020 so far, he had made it to the semi-finals of the New Japan Cup and challenges EVIL for the Double Gold.
However Taiji Ishimori was able to score the upset victory and did so in dominant fashion. His controlled the match with almost 2 thirds of the offence and out-did Takahashi in all offensive categories except grapples. The defining factor however was his ability to reverse Takahashi's offence with an impressive 49% of Takahashi's offence being reversed.
NEVER Openweight Championship
Shingo Takagi(C) vs Minoru Suzuki
A title change in the first of 3 singles title matches set the tone for the evening. Minoru Suzuki picked up the NEVER Openweight Championship from dominant champion, Shingo Takagi in dominant fashion. This match was the hardest hitting of the evening and the most numerous in terms of quantity of offence.
In winning the match Suzuki hit a gargantuan 105 strikes, his opponent managed 'just 62' (the quotation marks are used here as in a normal match 62 strikes are a respectable total to say the least!). He also had almost 2 thirds of the offence and was more and more dominant as the match went on, his offence in the final 5 minutes dwarfing Takagis by a factor of 3!