Now, we tend not to make a point of reviewing every random New Japan show – New Japan World only puts the notable cards on their service, afterall. However, Monday’s Korakuen Hall card was going to be notable for the fact that this would be where the competitors in this year’s G1 Climax were to be revealed.

Going into this, it was clear that we were getting variants of matches from Dominion, as New Japan entered something of a holding pattern ahead of the G1, but there was one major question for the opening match: what now for David Finlay now Jay White’s gone to ROH?

David Finlay vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
Huh… this is quite the fall for the runner-up of the Best of Super Junior tournament, is it not? Finlay grounds Taguchi  as they mat wrestle, and I get a spinny wheel as we buffer out of the gate. Lovely! As my feed resumes, Taguchi’s working over Finlay’s left leg, forcing the German into a rope break, before trapping back both of his arms and rolling him forward into a pinning predicament, a la Jack Gallagher. Finlay got his knees up as Taguchi tried a sit-out splash, and made a comeback with uppercuts, including a diving uppercut off the second rope for a near-fall.

Taguchi wriggled out of a Finlay roll, and took down the youngster with an Ankle lock, forcing Finlay into the ropes for a break. A trio of hip-attacks followed from Taguchi, with a leaping hip attack off the floor getting a one-count, as Finlay almost shocked him with near-falls from a wheelbarrow roll-up and a uranage backbreaker. More European uppercuts follow from Finlay, but he runs into an enziguiri from Taguchi, and a Dodon (chickenwing facebuster) as the Best of Super Junior finalist takes the win. Good match, with a lot more offence from Finlay than I’d have expected. ***

Kazushi Sakuraba, Tomohiro Ishii & Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask & Captain New Japan
Ah, seeing Rocky Romero dance along to Sakuraba’s dubbed-in music is a thing of joy! Sakuraba went to work early on Captain New Japan, who quickly rushed to tag in Liger after he avoided a knee strike… and Liger wasn’t exactly thrilled at having to face him either.

After Beretta got tagged in, Liger was eager to come in, but wasn’t rushing to shake Beretta’s hand, and after Beretta shook the referee’s hand – and someone in the crowd – they finally did it… but Liger was smart, and caught Beretta’s kick attempt, and eventually landed a tiltawhirl backbreaker. Romero and Tiger Mask followed, with Tiger getting the early advantage, forcing Romero to the outside. Nakanishi pulled Tiger Mask out to avoid any further aerial attacks, and after returning to the ring, TIger Mask found himself in a chop battle with Tomohiro Ishii. Bad idea.

Sakuraba returned to the ring and folded up Tiger Mask in a Walls of Jericho-like move, then grounded Tiger with a chinlock, before Nakanishi waded in to break things up. After a brief period outside, Tiger Mask was back in to take some Forever clotheslines from Romero, but cut him off with a Tiger Driver before bringing in Nakanishi to… get kicked to pieces by Sakuraba. A double-team suplex from Sakuraba and Beretta went badly wrong for the CHAOS guys as Nakanishi reversed it, before clotheslining Beretta for a near-fall, despite Romero’s best efforts. A torture rack followed from Nakanishi, who no-sold Romero chops, before tossing Beretta into his partner, and going airborne with a cross body block onto both members of Roppongi Vice for a two-count.

Nakanishi missed a knee drop on Beretta, who rushed a tag to Ishii, only for Ishii to take a spear from the veteran. That veteran move was then met with almost a rookie mistake, as Nakanishi tagged in Captain New Japan to eat a clothesline, before he fought off a four-on-one attack from CHAOS – to some success – dropping Ishii with a Rock Bottom-like uranage for a near-fall. The four-on-one attack worked the other way, with Nakanishi dropping Ishii with a Polish hammer, before a Captain New Japan diving headbutt saw a pin broken up at two.

Sadly though, once the ring cleared, the Captain’s luck ran out as he took a headbutt, before the numbers game proved too much as he ate double knee strikes from Roppongi Vice, then an Ishii clothesline for a two-count as the ring filled up once more. Roppongi Vice cleared the floor with planchas, as we missed something else, returning to the ring to see Ishii nail the Captain with a brainbuster for the win. A fun eight-man tag, albeit one of no importance! ***½

Hangman Page, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens vs. Satoshi Kojima, Matt Sydal & Yoshitatsu
The Bullet Club’s new man is back, fresh off ROH action at the weekend, but again he’s stuck with the C-team with Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi… Yes, we get the Bullet Club jump start, but Yoshitatsu overcomes Page with a diving knee off the apron as Owens and Takahashi work two-on-one against Kojima with limited success, before Matt Sydal took out the Bullet Club with a moonsault to the floor.

A poke to the eye gets Chase Owens the advantage, at least until Kojima floored him with a shoulder tackle, but the action spills outside once again, with Yoshitatsu getting worked on by Page and Owens. Takahashi was tagged in to keep the pressure on, mixing up a rear chinlock and a legdrop, and there’s more of the same from Owens too.

Yoshitatsu finally made the tag out to Sydal, who took down Page with a hurricanrana and a back kick, before a standing moonsault scored him a two-count. A neat exchange saw Page score a two-count on Sydal after a sive to the outside from Owens took out Yoshitatsu, before Sydal and Page reverted to forearm strikes. Sydal finally made the tag to Kojima, who immediately avoided a back elbow in the corner from Owens and replied with the rapid-fire chops, but he found himself caught on the top rope by Takahashi, as the triple-team action continued.

Yoshitatsu broke up the pin after a Chase Owens lungblower on Kojima, as Hangman Page went for the shooting star headbutt on Yoshitatsu to the outside. Stop that.

Back inside, Kojima took advantage of a miss by Owens and Takahashi to drill Owens with a Koji Cutter, but ended up eating a superkick for the near-fall, before laying out Owens with a lariat for the win out of nowhere seemingly. Perfectly acceptable wrestling, but even with “fresh blood”, the Bullet Club (sans Omega and the Young Bucks) are struggling to keep fresh. **½

Post-match, we saw another Bullet Club beatdown, with Hangman Page keeping his gimmick alive by hanging Yoshitatsu over the top rope. Not sure that was a wise one to suggest after his recent neck surgery…

G1 Climax 26 Announcement
We’re about three weeks away from the start of the G1 Climax, so it’s time to find out who’ll be involved:

Block A: Togi Makabe, Satoshi Kojima, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, SANADA, Naomichi Marufuji, Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi.

Block B: Katsuyori Shibata, Yuji Nagata, Tomoaki Honma, Michael Elgin, Toru Yano, Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, Kenny Omega, Katsuhiko Nakajima, YOSHI-HASHI

Two really deep blocks, with very little in the way of dead wood – and when you’re struggling to pick who’s going to be finishing bottom, then you’re onto something. Block A will likely be propped up by one of the Bullet Club C-team, whilst Toru Yano – back from his brief exile in Pro Wrestling NOAH – is likely to be block B’s whipping boy. Speaking of the field, it’s going to be weird not seeing some of the other veterans (I’m looking at you Tenzan) in this tournament.

Some really interesting match-ups in those blocks (and I mean really eyebrow raising, particularly when they ran down the main events for each night), particularly in block B with the EVIL/Naito match on the cards (for August 7), whilst the addition of NOAH talents like Naomichi Marufuji and Katsuhiko Nakajima certainly raises eyebrows.

Given his injuries this year, I’m not expecting Hiroshi Tanahashi to last the entire tournament, which is a shame since I would have been expecting a Tanahashi/Naito final – but I’m going to go a little more left-field for my finals pick: Marufuji vs. Okada.

Shame that we’re not getting KUSHIDA in the G1 this year, but I’m not too disconsolate over the lack of Bullet Club D team members, but what can you do? Here’s the feature matches; can it be July 18 already (and not just because that’s my birthday…):

July 18: SANADA vs. Tanahashi, Okada vs. Shibata
July 22: Naito vs. Nagata, Shibata vs. Honma
July 23: Tanahashi vs. Makabe, Okada vs. SANADA
July 24: Shibata vs. Nakajima, Honma vs. YOSHI-HASHI
July 25: Makabe vs. SANADA, Okada vs. Goto
July 27: Yano vs. Naito, Shibata vs. Elgin
July 28: Ishii vs. Marufuji, Goto vs. SANADA
July 30: Elgin vs. Omega, Shibata vs. Naito
July 31: Makabe vs. Marufuji, Tanahashi vs Goto
August 1: YOSHI-HASHI vs. Nakajima, Honma vs. Naito
August 3: Ishii vs. Tanahashi, Makabe vs. Okada
August 4: Nakajima vs. Naito, Shibata vs. Omega
August 6: Tanahashi vs. Marufuji, Okada vs. Ishii
August 7: Nagata vs. Omega, EVIL vs. Naito
August 8: SANADA vs. Ishii, Tanahashi vs. Kojima
August 10: Honma vs. Elgin, Shibata vs. Nagata
August 12: Goto vs. Marufuji, Tanahashi vs. Okada
August 13: Shibata vs. EVIL, Naito vs. Omega

And those are just the main events… a LOT of wrestling in the weeks ahead for the 26th G1 Climax!

Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Juice Robinson vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Katsuyori Shibata & Yuji Nagata
Shibata, of course, now having been accepted by the veterans he was fighting for most of the year, is now teaming with them here. Honma and Shibata start us off, but Honma’s forearms have little effect, and of course he misses his first diving headbutt, and gets a kick for good measure.

Makabe and Nagata came in next to try their luck, and they quickly descend into a shoving match before Juice Robinson gets taken down with a dropkick to the knee by Nagata. Robinson had a little less luck from Tenzan, as he was whipped between the corners, but he was able to land a clothesline and a back senton for a near-fall as Makabe and Honma took their opponents to the outside.

Honma came in and worked over Tenzan’s left leg, before Nagata came in to clear house with some kicks to Makabe, then an Exploder suplex for a two-count. Makabe came back with a Northern Lights suplex for a two-count of his own, but walked into a big boot from Nagata, who brought in Shibata who drilled Honma with knees and forearm strikes in the corner.

Honma was eventually successful with a Kokeshi staggered headbutt for a near-fall on Shibata, before nailing a diving spear-like headbutt on Shibata. A tag to Robinson followed as he resumed rivalries with Tenzan, and fared badly, taking a Samoan drop for a near-fall, before getting locked in the Anaconda Vice. Robinson needed to have the hold broken up, but found himself left alone in the ring with Tenzan, who went airborne with a moonsault for the win as Nagata held back Makabe on the outside. A decent match, but with little to build towards save the G1, this was of little significance. ***

The post-match saw Shibata and Honma keep fighting, almost like we saw with Nagata and Shibata just weeks earlier… and the dubbed music for Tenzan led to an accidental music video as Shibata and Honma kept fighting. Speaking of Tenzan, he cut a promo afterwards, seemingly irate at not being included in the G1 tournament (thanks to Chris Charlton/@reasonjp for the translation!)

EVIL & SANADA vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
After Los Ingobernables de Japon lost all of their matches at Dominion, the fightback starts now! YOSHI-HASHI and SANADA started off, with YOSHI sending SANADA to the outside. Goto and EVIL were then tagged in to pick up where they left off at Dominion, as the faces made the most of quick tags to keep their opponents in check.

After going to the outside, the heels took advantage, with a baseball bat shot from SANADA taking out YOSHI-HASHI, before Goto took his usual “I wear a chair and get thrown into the ringpost” spot. Back in the ring, SANADA kicked the ropes to crotch YOSHI-HASHI, before bringing in EVIL to flatten him with a back senton splash for a two-count. SANADA returned briefly to take down YOSHI-HASHI with a dropkick following the rewind leapfrog, before an EVIL backbreaker forced YOSHI-HASHI to kick out at two.

YOSHI-HASHI fought out of a brainbuster attempt, and eventually dropped EVIL with the suplex into a neckbreaker, before finally tagging in Goto, despite SANADA’s best efforts. Goto dropped EVIL and SANADA with clotheslines, before a spinning wheel kick in the corner took down EVIL. After seeing a chop blocked, Goto took down EVIL once more and kicked away at his arm, before EVIL blocked another kick and landed a fisherman’s suplex.

YOSHI-HASHI returned to drape SANADA over the ropes and land a dropkick into his back for a near-fall, before a springboard dropkick got SANADA back into things, only for YOSHI-HASHI to catch him in the butterfly lock, forcing EVIL to break the hold. Goto rushed in to dispatch EVIL once more, as YOSHI-HASHI hit a clothesline for a two-count on SANADA after his powerbomb was blocked.

YOSHI-HASHI looked to end it by going up top, but SANADA got out of the way as he came off the top rope, with EVIL rushing in to deliver a lariat. EVIL then came in for the assist as SANADA delivered a powerslam off the top to YOSHI-HASHI, with Goto breaking up the pin at two. SANADA missed a moonsault, but landed on his feet, only for Goto to clothesline him, then give EVIL an ushigoroshi (then a plancha to the outside), leaving YOSHI-HASHI free to finish off SANADA. However, after a powerbomb and a jackknife pin, SANADA kicked out, and was able to drop YOSHI-HASHI with a TKO for a near-fall, before his attempts at locking in the Skull End gave YOSHI-HASHI the opening to snatch a roll-up for the win. Good little match, and the best on the show so far, with plenty of back and forth between the two, as LIdJ continue their shaky record ***¾

Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI vs. Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay
Main event time, and Will Ospreay’s back in newly-familiar territory – the top of the card in Korakuen Hall. Tetsuya Naito gets a heck of a response from the Tokyo crowd, showing that his brief IWGP title run hasn’t dented his confidence. Even if he isn’t wearing the snazzy Saturday Night Fever-esque white suit for his entrance today.

Okada and Naito started off, with Naito taking the champion into the ropes for a clean break, but the favour wasn’t returned as Naito cheapshotted Okada before faking out a dive. Both men then tagged out, so we got Ospreay vs. BUSHI as one lone man in the crowd screamed “It’s Vader Time!”

Ospreay trapped BUSHI in an Octopus hold, before tagging out to Okada who aped Naito’s “Tranquilo” pose whilst trapping BUSHI in a leglock, to something of a mixed response, it has to be said. Outside the ring, Okada went on a walk with Naito, with the added help of a t-shirt for extra choking, before Naito obliterated Goto on the floor, as Ospreay fared little better in his scuffles with BUSHI.

Back inside, BUSHI finally took off his t-shirt to choke Ospreay with, as Okada’s attempts to make the save only made thing worse for his partner, as BUSHI trapped Ospreay in the STF. Ospreay finally made a comeback with a handspring into a moonsault press in the ring to take out Naito and BUSHI, before making the tag out to Okada, who quickly found himself back against Naito.

A big boot got Okada a solid two-count, before Naito returned fire with a dropkick, an enziguiri and a tornado DDT. Okada fought back with the Heavy Rain neckbreaker out of the corner, before landing an elbow drop off the top rope as he went for the Rainmaker lariat. However, Naito ducked, but missed a Destino before bringing in BUSHI. Ospreay returned to block a lungblower from BUSHI, thrusting him up into a fireman’s carry, then a lungblower before trying a tope, only to be cut off by Naito, who took a dropkick off the top rope by Okada… and then we got our dive, as Okada backdropped Ospreay to the floor for a twisting body press.

Inside again, Ospreay looked to set up for the Rainmaker, but instead used the ripcord-action to hit the one-man Spanish Fly for a near-fall, following up with a diving spinning kick, before being kicked low by Naito, as BUSHI hit a Canadian Destroyer for a near-fall with Okada making the save. In the end, it was too much for Ospreay, as he fell to the MX (top rope lungblower) from BUSHI, with Ospreay looking to take an awkward bump on his head en route to losing the match. A fun main event, with a surprising result (in my mind, anyway) ***½

For a six-match card, this was solid, but if it weren’t for the G1 announcements, this would have been a totally skippable event. With nothing else to build towards but the G1, this was the definition of a throwaway show, and a reminder as to why perhaps networks like New Japan World and the WWE Network really shouldn’t show too many house shows (glorified or otherwise)!

Still, the big takeaway here came in the form of this year’s G1 Climax – and since that’s the only reason I tuned into the show, I’ve got no complaints!