In a week where New Japan’s lost a roster member to a severe neck injury, we take a look at the comeback of another wrestler from a similar injury – and the return match of Tomoaki Honma.
Originally injured in March 2017, Honma’s career was thought to be over at one point, after a draping DDT from Jado caused temporary paralysis. Still, after surgeries and therapy, Honma was able to make a comeback, with his first match back being in his hometown of Yamagata on the Kizuna Road tour earlier this year. New Japan World posted this match a week or so ago, so if you want to catch it… it’s there
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Toa Henare
This was the main event of the show, for the obvious reasons, and we’ve got the Young Lions and referee in the red-and-yellow Honmania t-shirts.
Oh, and his team-mates too… Honma’s understandably hesitant to climb between the ropes, overwhelmed by the occasion, and if New Japan allowed streamers, you’d better believe the ring would be flooded in red and yellow.
Like an over-eager Young Lion, Honma wants to start the match, and he begins against Naito. Well, he would if Naito weren’t all about the mind games, but when we do get going, Honma’s taken into the ropes and spat on as Naito isn’t showing any sentiment. In return, Honma starts firing some elbows, then shoulder tackles, before he teases a Kokeshi… but Naito powders to the outside. Yeah, we’re not giving that one away quite yet!
From there we go to the usual “cycling through tags” motif: Makabe and EVIL are in, but it’s a ruse as EVIL and SANADA just double-team Makabe for a spell, before Taguchi comes in and makes the save with hip attacks. Good ol’ hip attacks. Tanahashi’s in too to try it out as well, and you can see where this is going. Henare, Makabe, Honma all complete the set as we pass the five minute mark with some relative gaga.
Honma teases Kokeshi again, but Hiromu knees him in the back to stop it as LIJ properly gang up on him with five-way stompings, before the match spills outside. There’s guard rail bumps for Honma as he definitely isn’t getting eased back into things… although he has recovered enough to beat a count-out tease. LIJ continue to isolate Honma back in the ring as Naito and BUSHI combine for a sunset flip/dropkick for a near-fall.
Eventually Honma begins a fightback with some mild chops to SANADA… which intensify once he gets back to his feet, only for an uppercut to deck him for a near-fall. Honma keeps up on that path though and finally hits back with a brainbuster to SANADA, then with a lariat to EVIL as a tag’s finally made out to Hiroshi Tanahashi… who has no trouble clearing house.
A slap to Hiromu, a springboard crossbody to EVIL… and then in comes Naito to try and help out, but instead he just gets a share of a double Dragon screw! There’s trips all around as Tanahashi takes EVIL into a corner for a dropkick, before Taguchi returns with some flying hip attacks. He tries a bulldog, but EVIL easily shoves him away too, as Hiromu tagged in to try and pick up the pieces, only to see a lot of his stuff swing and miss, while Taguchi had similar luck, eventually connecting with a hip attack. The Three Amigos are next for Taguchi, but Hiromu slips out of the third and ends up eating an enziguiri instead, before countering another hip attack into a German suplex as we sailed past the fifteen minute mark.
Tags take us to Henare and BUSHI… Henare scored with a shoulder block before chopping down BUSHI with a Polish hammer as a diving chop drew a near-fall. The ring fills up as BUSHI gets isolated, taking running back elbows into the corner en route to a Samoan drop from Henare. EVIL breaks up the cover there as the ring empties… but Naito’s back to clock Henare with a slingshot dropkick as LIJ return the favour from earlier, isolating Henare as it’s the former Young Lion’s turn to fight back.
Another cleared ring led to BUSHI trying for the MX, but Henare avoids it as a Tanahashi Slingblade allowed him to tag out, sparking a parade of Lariats from Makabe! BUSHI’s left alone as we get duelling lariats from Makabe and Honma, before we finally get Kokeshi and a King Kong Knee Drop… and that’s the crowd pleasing win!
Well, I was surprised we got Kokeshi given that this was Honma’s first match back after a broken neck, but this was more a match to slay a demon rather than win any awards. Still, this was a really fun multi-man tag match, and one that flew by, despite almost going 20 minutes! ***½