As Los Ingobernables de Japon come to terms with the betrayal of EVIL, the mantle of challenger for the King of Darkness’ IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships is bestowed on Hiromu Takahashi. As reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion this is only the third time that the champions of the respective weight divisions have fought each other for the Heavyweight title. To say the main event of NJPW’s Sengoku Lord in Nagoya is history in the making is no understatement as LIJ and Bullet Club’s bitter rivalry heats up.

    Taiji Ishimori defeated Yuya Uemura

    Young Lion Yuya Uemura got off to a hot start against Bullet Club’s Taiji Ishimori, putting pressure on the Bone Soldier from the off. Despite a fired up Uemura getting in a series of offensive moves, Ishimori wrapped things up quite neatly with the Yes Lock submission.

    As Uemura continues to develop in the ring, it’s clear that he is a real contender in the making for the Junior heavyweight division.

    With Ishimori victorious and having played an integral part in running interference during EVIL’s title win, it was clear that Ishimori has his eye on regaining the Junior Heavyweight Championship. Expect a challenge from Ishimori to Hiromu in a replay of their epic Best of the Super Juniors final match at Korakuen Hall in 2018 – certainly one to look forward to.

    Ryusuke Taguchi, Satoshi Kojima and Togi Makabe defeated Gabriel Kidd, Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii

    Gabriel Kidd was gunning for Togi Makabe in this, the first of the evening’s multi-man tag matches. With his LA Dojo classmate Karl Fredericks having debuted on the main NJPW roster in the recent Lion’s Break: Collision series, Kidd obviously has the same thing on his mind. In challenging Makabe, Kidd has picked a hell of a path for himself but no guts, no glory, I guess. Kidd looks and moves well in the ring and the prospect of a singles encounter between Makabe and Kidd will be exciting in terms of paving the developmental path of the Young Lion.

    While Kidd and Makabe spilled to the outside, Kojima and Ishii were busy tearing chunks out of the each other in the ring. The prospect of a Kojima versus Ishii match over the course of the Summer Struggle tour is certainly appealing, if that’s the ground that’s being laid here, especially given that Kojima’s regular tag team partner Tenzan is tied up in a feud with Suzuki-gun (see below).

    After a German Suplex from Makabe to Kidd, it was quickly all over. However, Kidd wasn’t done with the Unchained Gorilla, squaring up to him and lighting the fuse on what could be an excellent rivalry over the summer with the Young Lion trying to score a win over the veteran.

    Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA and BUSHI) defeated Chaos (Hirooki Goto, SHO and Yoshi-Hashi)

    With the available members of Bullet Club tied up elsewhere, it fell to LIJ and Chaos to face off against each other. SHO absolutely bossed it against the LIJ team at one point early on in the match, getting in some big moves against each of his opponents. However, LIJ continue to be a tight-knit unit and were able to overcome the Chaos team with SANADA locking in the Skull End on SHO for the win.

    Master Wato, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Yugi Nagata, Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, DOUKI, Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.)

    Suzuki-gun continue to wage war on NJPW’s unaffiliated wrestlers at large and this match was the usual chaos (no pun intended) that we’ve come to expect from the faction with Ibushi eventually winning via his Kamigoye running knee-strike finisher.

    As Taichi and ZSJ’s feud with the Golden Aces, Tanahashi and Ibushi, stretches on, so too does Suzuki and Nagata’s. If all of this feels like a retread of what’s come before over the course of the New Japan Cup, that’s kind of because it is but with a somewhat limited roster because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, it’s understandable. However, much of the strength of New Japan as a whole is the penchant for storylines and feuds to play out over a long time. Let’s just hope the Summer Struggle tour will enable the NJPW bookers to keep things fresh.

    Master Wato continues as a breath of fresh air, quite literally given his speed and tendency for moves from the top rope. Wato and Kanemaru in a singles match in no doubt on the cards at some point over the summer – another one to look forward to.

    Kazuchika Okada defeated Yujiro Takahashi

    In the rivalry that no one anticipated in January 2020, Yujiro squared off against the man he betrayed when he turned on Chaos to join Bullet Club in the first place in Kazuchika Okada. This was effectively the Gedo-led interference-fest we’ve come to expect from Bullet Club. With a somewhat meandering pace set at the start it was probably for the best that this was wrapped up in around 13 minutes with Okada continuing to eschew his Rainmaker finisher in favour of the Cobra Clutch which, according to Kevin Kelly, Okada is calling the Money Clip.

    As the Gedo-Okada feud continues, it’s difficult to see where it all ends. It’s hard to see this as anything other than keeping Okada in a holding pattern until he can challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship again which is unfortunate.

    Shingo Takagi defeated El Desperado to retain the NEVER Openweight Championship

    Shingo’s run as NEVER Openweight Champion continues apace with this challenge from El Desperado, the man who robbed Shingo of his title belt after jumping him in the entranceway at the Dominion event after Shingo had defeated SHO.

    With Shingo fired up from the off, the Dragon gained the upper hand early before Despe went back to targeting Shingo’s knee. Desperado’s vicious streak makes him quite formidable and a singles run as a real threat in the Junior division would be good to see for  him. After a series of false finishes and Pinche Loco attempts, Shingo was finally able to pick up the win with the Last of the Dragon.

    EVIL defeated Hiromu Takahashi to retain the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships

    EVIL’s reign as the undeserving Double Gold Champion got underway with his first defence against his former friend and stablemate Hiromu Takahashi. Given the ending to Dominion, with Hiromu screaming out in a piece of true melodrama, it was unsurprising that the Ticking Time Bomb was shot out of a canon into the beginning of this match.

    The true artistry here was in suspending disbelief such that at several points it almost seemed that Hiromu was actually going to win, especially when he hit the two variations of his Time Bomb finisher. With both men scouting each other’s moves at various points in the match, this was easily EVIL’s best match since NJPW returned.

    There were some great spots, with EVIL using the Young Lions at ringside as a human shield on a couple of occasions and Hiromu diving recklessly from the top turnbuckle to the outside.

    Dick Togo remained the ‘spoiler’ here, running interference and ultimately costing Hiromu the match. However, this begs the question as to why Hiromu’s LIJ compatriots didn’t come to his aid, a sticking point which was cleared up by Shingo Takagi the following night, saying that Hiromu asked them not to interfere. Fair enough, then. However, it remains to be seen how far Bullet Club’s interference can take EVIL but, you would imagine, it’s going to have to inevitably build to a point where EVIL has to go it alone.

    The final image of Naito, who had come to the aid of Hiromu after the match, squaring off against EVIL surely sets the tone for the rest of the summer tour as the depleted LIJ battles the numbers game against Bullet Club.

    Overall, there were few surprises here and, given the unpredictability set up by EVIL’s heel turn, we can only hope that such twists and turns continue throughout the summer as NJPW builds to their first open air show at Jingu Stadium on 29th August. As the summer heats up, so does the IWGP Heavyweight title picture.