Lots of big returns as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship headlines
The first night of the Summer Struggle tour hits Sapporo on July 10, with the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship headlining on a night of significant returns to action. With NJPW’s best jockeying for position for the Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome card on July 25, who makes the biggest moves tonight?
Main event: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship- El Desperado vs Taiji Ishimori
Singles record 1-0 Desperado
On night one in Sapporo, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship will take center stage as El Desperado will attempt to make his second defence against Taiji Ishimori. After Desperado took the vacant crown in a three way battle in Osaka Jo Hall back in February, Ishimori was quick to assert himself as a potential challenger. Desperado responded in the affirmative, but in the meantime, a singles defence with YOH took priority.
After Desperado defeated YOH at Dominion on June 7, Ishimori was not going to let anybody jump the line. After making his challenge, Ishimori vowed to be a double champion by taking the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships on June 23 from Roppongi 3K, and then defeat the singles champion.
One half of the promise complete, Ishimori has been riding a hot hand of late, with confidence to spare in the ring. That’s extended to Ishimori even teasing his own version of Desperado’s signature moves, showing he’s even more dangerous than during their Best of the Super Junior meeting, where Desperado managed to squeeze a critical late tournament stage victory. Then, the final stages of the match became a battle of the two dirtiest players in the division, as Ishimori went to deliver a belt shot to the masked man, only to be met with a low blow, a biting Loco Mono right hand and Pinche Loco. Will the result be different with Desperado as champion and Ishimori as challenger?
5th Match: Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, SANADA & BUSHI) vs Suzuki-Gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr., DOUKI & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Tonight’s semi masin will see IWGP Tag Team Champions and challengers face off for the last time before their title clash on night two. With Naito and SANADA sending a clear message to Dangerous Tekkers on July 2 in Korakuen Hall, it’s clear that the tag gold is under threat, and there’s a good chance of this eight man bout being an intense one. Meanwhile Shingo Takagi will want to be on his best form, with Kota Ibushi and the Tokyo Dome a mere fortnight away.
4th Match: CHAOS (SHO & Kazuchika Okada) vs United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb)
Before being postponed to July 25, the original main event for Wrestle Grand Slam in the Tokyo Dome appeared to be Will Ospreay versus Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. After Ospreay vacated the title due to injury however, and Okada lost an Osaka Jo Hall match for the vacant gold to Shingo Takagi, Okada is currently without a spot for Wrestle Grand Slam.
Nonetheless, his ties to the United Empire remain, and this tag bout with Great-O-Khan and Jeff Cobb could result in either man making a name for themselves against the Rainmaker with the grandest possible stage looming. Meanwhile, after an impressive showing under Lidet UWF Rules for GLEAT recently, SHO will be looking to show two of the most prominent martial artists on the NJPW roster his own skills tonight.
3rd Match: Rocky Romero, Ryusuke Taguchi & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs BULLET CLUB (El Phantasmo, Yujiro Takahashi & KENTA)
Big returns are at play in the third match of the night, as Rocky Romero wrestles his first match in Japan since January. Through his matches on STRONG of late, Romero has made it very clear that he’s on a mission to challenge for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship before his 40th birthday, and on a night when that title is defended in our main event, will be looking to take this chance to remind the world what he’s capable of, especially against a rival like Phantasmo.
ELP wants to make his own steps to the singles junior heavyweight gold after tonight’s main event, while KENTA and Tanahashi make for two more intriguing elements. Tanahashi has been out of the title picture since losing NEVER gold to Switchblade Jay White, while KENTA wants to chart his own path through the rest of the summer tonight.
2nd Match: CHAOS (YOH & Tomohiro Ishii) vs BULLET CLUB (Dick Togo & EVIL)
Tag team action in the second match of the night sees Tomohiro Ishii and YOH go up against Dick Togo and EVIL. After a hard fought NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Championship defence on July 2, Ishii stood tall center ring in Korakuen before the lights went out.
In the midst of confusion, EVIL and Dick Togo struck, with the Spoiler choking the life out of the Stone Pitbull before EVIL connected to send Ishii into unconsciousness. Backstage, EVIL declared that he wasn’t interested in the NEVER gold, but rather the head of Ishii, and the two seem set for a future singles confrontation. Before that though, tag action will prove explosive, as the angered Ishii seeks vindication.
1st Match: Master Wato & Kota Ibushi vs Noge Dojo (Yuya Uemura & Yota Tsuji)
The night kicks off with Yuya Uemura and Yota Tsuji teaming up against Kota Ibushi and Master Wato. With an immense set of singles tests through the Kizuna Road tour now behind them, Uemura and Tsuji have proven themselves to be more than worthy of taking the next step in their careers, but tonight will start with both men showing what they can do as a tag team against an impressive mentor and student combination of Kota Ibushi and Master Wato.