NJPW ‘New Japan Alive 2011’
Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium
4th December 2011
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Prince Devitt © vs. ‘American Wolf’ Davey Richards
Touring Japan with increasing frequency, Davey Richards has been following in the footsteps of his idol, the Dynamite Kid. The American Wolf is currently in possession of both the ROH World Championship and one half of the IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships. This hoard makes him a strong contender for the top Junior singles title in the world.
The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship is a belt with a 25-year history – punctuated by the reigns of countless icons, including the likes of Jushin Liger, Ultimo Dragon, Great Sasuke and Koji Kanemoto. Current Champion, Prince Devitt’s most recent run, with the 220lbs-and-under strap, began on September 19th of this year. The Irishman is holding the belt for the second time in his career – the first reign having spanned an impressive 364 days.
Building his challenge to Devitt’s claim of being the top junior on the planet, Davey defeated the long-time resident of New Japan, within the confines of May’s ‘Best of the Super Juniors XVIII’ tournament. He also gained possession of the aforementioned IWGP Junior Tag Titles as, alongside his No Remorse Corps team-mate Rocky Romero, he defeated Devitt and his partner Ryusuke Taguchi, at October’s ‘Destruction ’11’ event.
Seconded by their partners, for the much-anticipated Aichi showdown, Devitt and Richards would take their positions, at opposite corners of New Japan’s famous sky blue canvas, as the official announcements were made.
Skinheaded and looking more developed, in the upper body, than ever before, Richards entered this contest, visibly, meaning business. The versatile 28-year-old has been known to raise his levels of aggression, when competing in in Japan and, once the opening bell had sounded, he wasted no time in firing off a series of stiff strikes, to seize the early advantage.
Responding to Davey’s onslaught, the agile 178-pounder, Devitt, was forced to take to the air much earlier than expected – knocking Davey to the outside with a defensive dropkick before scoring with a textbook flip suicide dive.
Surprisingly making the quicker recovery, Richards fired back, borrowing a page out of playbook of his longtime rival Roderick Strong – hitting Devitt with a backbreaker on the apron. He followed the move up, by throwing caution to the wind with an impressive Air Wolf flip dive of his own.
Five minutes into the match and Devitt was very much under pressure – desperately fighting to avoid Davey’s German Suplex.
His power advantage showing, the American’s intense focus on Devitt’s back and ribs was to become a feature of the match, not only being exhibited through impact moves but also through a series of energy-sapping holds on the mat.
Sporadic flurries of chops aside, Devitt was unable to keep Davey at bay for an extended period. Eventually, it was only a mistake from Richards that gave the defending Champion a way back into the contest. As Davey slipped from the top strand, Devitt was able to execute a signature Double Stomp, which afforded him some much needed seperation.
Seizing his window of opportunity further, Devitt would again take to the air, connecting with a Manami Toyota-esque missile dropkick, for a two count. However, it wouldn’t be long before the balance would swing back in the favour of the challenger, as he telegraphed a hallmark spinning kick from Devitt.
Davey asserted his control with more solid kicks, followed by a lariat, leading into the German Suplex that he had been looking for earlier. A count of two. A devastating headkick. A count of two, again.
Once again fighting off his back foot, Devitt was able to hit an inverted Implant DDT, opening up his first real opportunity to hit his signature “Bloody Sunday” Single-Underhook DDT. Richards, on this occasion, was able to do enough to avoid the most feared move in Junior Heavyweight wrestling.
Accompanied by a respectful roar from crowd, Davey bounced back with a flurry of heavy artillery. A suplerplex and a brainbuster came in combination, facilitating a near fall, before a powerbomb, a signature of Davey’s NJPW arsenal, put those in attendance on the edge of their seats. Devitt, after eating his second near-fall in quick succession, rolled out of harms way, under the ropes.
Unrelenting, Davey looked for a powerbomb on the apron. Devitt cut the challenger off with an Back Brain Kick which, in turn, set up a brutal Bloody Sunday on the hard edge of the ring.
Having snatched himself away from the jaws of defeat, Devitt lugged Davey’s dead weight, from the floor back into the ring, hit another Double Stomp, followed by a mid-ring Bloody Sunday. This huge sequence of maneuvers was enough to end the match.
Prince Devitt pinned Davey Richards, via Bloody Sunday, in 12:01.
After the bell, Rocky Romero exchanged heated words with Devitt, reminding him that the NRC still hold the tag team gold. This interaction could, perhaps, have planted the seeds for a future singles bout between Devitt and Romero and also a return bout, for the tag titles.
What was most notable about the December 4th match was the amount of offense that Richards was able to get in. It’s testament to Davey’s standing, with New Japan, that they would allow him to look so strong, against a wrestler that has long been one of their most marketable faces.
Davey is amongst the most pushed Westerners in Puroresu today and, despite his geographical status, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he could hold the Junior singles title, in the not-to-distant future.