Sunday April 24 saw New Japan complete a double header at Korakuen Hall, with another Road to Wrestling Dontaku card, headlined with another elimination match between the Bullet Club and the rest of New Japan.
We’ve written in the past about how New Japan is able to build up to pay-per-view supercards with variations of those matches – whilst WWE would just spam the same few matches, New Japan mixes and matches, as we would see in matches involving all three singles title holders.
David Finlay vs. Jay White
I knew it couldn’t last – they’re back to facing each other in the openers! Unfortunately these guys are rapidly getting into the “you’ve seen them once, you’ve seen them a thousand times” territory, which is the danger of having so many house shows on New Japan World.
White dominated in the early phases, and started to work over Finlay’s left leg, but Finlay looked to get back into it after taking down White with a dropkick. Finlay mumbled “I’m going to kill you” before squashing White with a fireman’s carry roll, before going for that Young Lion’s staple – the Boston crab!
Finlay ducked a clothesline and scored a near fall with a German suplex, then went for the Boston Crab again, but White easily made the ropes. In the end, it was Finlay who fell to that move, once White put the knee on the head. Good enough match, but it’s quickly running the risk of falling into “just another match” territory at this point, even if they put on good bouts **¾
YOSHI-HASHI & Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) vs. Captain New Japan, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask
An interesting mixture of guys for this six-man, with Roppongi Vice virtually directionless on this tour without the Young Bucks. Or indeed, past challengers Matt Sydal and Ricochet. Captain New Japan retained his Yoshitatsu tribute gear, and Taguchi… well, you know my thoughts on him by now.
Unlike yesterday, where everyone was scared to take on Manabu Nakanishi, they’re queuing to start the match against Captain New Japan, and Beretta gets the first dibs. To be fair, the Captain could probably beat himself, as both members of Roppongi Vice played along at being stopped by him, then just stepped aside as he went for a shoulder charge. His night got worse as he then saw Taguchi and Tiger Mask refuse to tag out to him, which begs that question again, why do they accept these matches if he’s that bad a partner?!
Taguchi and Tiger Mask shared quick tags in and out, refusing to bring the Captain back into the match, as YOSHI-HASHI went from sympathetic babyface in last night’s main event, to a dastardly heel in the second match here, attacking Tiger Mask from behind.
Romero went after Tiger Mask in the corner, trying to pull his mask off, and that theme continued throughout the match, at least until Tiger Mask beat the odds and took out both parts of Roppongi Vice and made the hot tag to Taguchi, who ran wild with his hip attacks again.
A miscommunication saw Taguchi strike Tiger Mask with a hip attack, and that seemed to be enough for them to finally bring in Captain New Japan again… and he actually had some offence. Tiger Mask dropped YOSHI-HASHI with a Tiger Bomb, and the Captain followed up with a diving headbutt that actually connected… only for the pin to be broken up. A uranage got another two-count for the hapless Captain, who eventually fell to YOSHI-HASHI’s butterfly lock via submission. Decent match with good comedy spots that weren’t too obnoxious **¾
Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata vs. Juice Robinson, Katsuyori Shibata & KUSHIDA
Juice Robinson’s getting a one-night-only feud with Manabu Nakanishi tonight then… the lucky boy!
They’re doing the same “one out from each side of the storyline” intros as last night, which clearly defines the storylines for any newcomers, I guess. At the end of their match last night, Shibata just about schooled Nagata, and the favours were returned here, especially after Shibata cheapshotted him with a Mongolian chop in the ropes.
Juice got his ring time with Nakanishi, and it unwisely consisted of him failing at shoulder charges, before being outsmarted by his elder. Ditto for KUSHIDA and Liger – with this match being a lot like Saturday’s tag, but with one extra man per side. KUSHIDA kept working on Liger’s left arm to set up for an eventual Hoverboard lock, and Shibata kept it up, and even managed to knock Nagata off the apron to boot.
KUSHIDA blocked out a sunset flip and switched it into an attempt at the Hoverboard lock, but instead went for a cross armbreaker that Nakanishi had to break up. Juice Robinson kept up the pressure, but missed a swandive headbutt that almost let in Liger for a tag out, only for KUSHIDA to run in… and eventually take a tiltawhirl backbreaker.
Nagata finally got tagged in and made his first order of business to kick Shibata off the apron, before going to work on Robinson. Shibata then came in to kick the hell out of Nagata, then wallop him with a series of stiff forearms. After fighting out of a sleeperhold, Nagata hit an armbreaker on Shibata and put him in an armbar until Nagata’s own eyes rolled back in his head, but it got broken up so Nakanishi could have his turn.
Shibata found himself hoisted in the torture rack by Nakanishi, but held on and turned it into a sleeperhold as everyone exited the ring… and with Shibata knocking Nagata off the apron again, he delivered one more kick to Nakanishi to seal the win. Good match that continued the young vs. old feuds. ***¼
And just like last night, they repeated the post-match beatings, with Nagata getting a sleeperhold by Shibata for good measure, whilst Liger and KUSHIDA fought in the crowd, just because. Not sure where Nakanishi went in all of this… but who cares! Four more snowflakes for the post-match stuff again!
SANADA & BUSHI vs. Gedo & Kazuchika Okada
Another interesting pairing in the first of two tag matches stemming from last night’s eliminator main event, except this time Gedo’s been added to the mix. Okada started off with SANADA, since that’s Okada’s direction after his title loss, and it wasn’t long before they ended outside, but it was Gedo and Okada who initiated it for a change.
SANADA and Okada ended up in the crowd pretty quickly – the same area where Liger and KUSHIDA ended up earlier – and SANADA ended up using the baseball bat on the former champion. Is “Cold Skull” some baseball reference? We get BUSHI’s usual t-shirt spot, choking out Gedo, but things don’t pick up until SANADA and Okada return to the fray, with the former TNA guy (err, the one that was the X-Division champion) pulling off a cool pair of leapfrogs before dropkicking Okada to the mat.
BUSHI’s forced to break up a Red Ink STF on SANADA, with Okada later dropping SANADA with the Heavy Rain. However, the return of Gedo into the match made him the weak link out of the two, but he was able to snatch a near fall on BUSHI. However, SANADA scored the win via tap-out on Gedo with a guillotine. Good tag match, but it never seemed to get going. ***¼
Can you believe, by the way, that TNA had Okada and SANADA on their roster at one time, and the best they did with them was “Samoa Joe’s cameraman” and “flunky for James Storm”??
Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii vs. EVIL & Tetsuya Naito
This one started with Naito and EVIL immediately being sent to the outside, with Ishii sending the IWGP champion into the crowd. EVIL and Goto started in the ring as Naito composed himself in the crowd, before Ishii came in to wallop EVIL with strikes and headbutts. That’d be a programme I’d like to see! As for the feud we are getting, Naito used a t-shirt to choke Ishii before whipping him into the barriers a few times, as Goto took the EVIL chair into the ringpost.
EVIL kept on top of Ishii in the ring, as it was all Los Ingobernables for a while. Naito hit a nice looking dropkick out of the ring on a cornered Ishii, before sweeping the leg from the outside and returning in with a slingshot dropkick. Ishii finally got a break with a powerslam that ended up looking like a suplex on EVIL, before making a hot tag to Goto, whose ushigoroshi attempt was blocked at the first attempt by EVIL.
Ishii finally got the upper hand on Naito with a backdrop driver, but a swinging neckbreaker put the champion back on level ground. A headbutt from Ishii blocked Naito as he went up top, with Ishii eventually dropping Naito to the mat with a superplex that garnered a two-count.
Naito saw a tornado DDT blocked, so he responded by spitting at Ishii (as you do), before EVIL came back to add to the beating. They tried for the Out of Control (double team gorilla press), but Goto cut them off, as an ushigoroshi and a diving lariat got Ishii a near fall on EVIL. Another lariat from Ishii got another two count after dumping EVIL on his end, but in the end the ROH TV champion picked up the win with a brainbuster on EVIL to round off the best match of the night (so far). ***¾
Yoshitatsu, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin vs. Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi
We wrap up this show with a ten-man elimination match featuring the Bullet Club against a mixture of the former IWGP tag team champions, and the current NEVER six-man tag team champions. Standard New Japan elimination rules here – over-the-top-rope plus the usual pinfall, submission or DQ eliminations count.
The New Japan guys came out to their own songs, and my word, Tatsu looked so guilty when he was doing the Triple H water spit entrance. Eh, each to their own, I guess!
And this being the Bullet Club, we got the jump start as Kenny Omega teased his “Howard Finkel voice” for his intro… We went for ten minutes without an elimination, as we focussed on those who were already slotted against each other, with Honma’s missed falling Kokeshi headbutt opening the way for Bad Luck Fale to make it in… but Fale insisted on facing Tanahashi.
Insert the obligatory Bullet Club floor and crowd fighting here, and when they returned to the ring, Tama Tonga was on top of Tatsu as all of his partners hadn’t made it back to the apron. Tatsu took a fireman’s carry/blockbuster-style neckbreaker combo from Tonga and Loa, before Fale knocked the rest of the New Japan team off the apron.
Elgin and Omega worked a few decent spots, culminating in a double bodyslam on Elgin and Takahashi that scored Big Mike a count of two. The Bullet Club ganged up on Makabe to try and eliminate him as he did the ten-count corner punch on Tanga Loa, and it ws the newcomer who got eliminated first, punched off the apron after earlier having gone over the top at the hands of Makabe.
Tama Tonga almost went out next after a series of finishers was enough for only a two-count, but in the end Tonga threw out Makabe after low blowing him and throwing him over the top as the referee was distracted. Tonga eventually lost a long criss-cross spot with Honma, fallng to a lariat, before Honma almost eliminated himself and Tonga with a Cactus Jack-esque clothesline over the top. The two fought on the apron to stay in, but Honma ducked a clothesline from Fale, who connected with Tonga to complete that elimination.
Fale kept on after Honma, and a Grenade eliminated him, as Tanahashi quickly followed up to toss out the giant, only for him to hang on and sneak in under the ropes. Tanahashi skinned the cat to avoid being eliminated by Fale, but eventually got knocked out after interference by Yujiro. Seconds later, Michael Elgin clotheslined out Fale as the pace quickened, with Kenny Omega’s reverse ‘rana dropping Elgin to the canvas.
Yoshitatsu ran in to make the save, but ran into an Omega superkick. Elgin used his power to hoist up Yujiro from the mat and eliminate him after a spinning powerbomb, leaving Omega in with Elgin and Tatsu. Omega dumped Elgin on his neck with a Dragon suplex, but bounced off the ropes into a release German suplex, then a deadlift German for a near-fall.
One buckle bomb later, and Elgin looked to have it won, at least until Yujiro ran in for a distraction… that turned out to be a set up for Elgin’s Samoan drop/fallaway slam combo… but Omega’s use of the freeze spray sees him able to throw Elgin out.
We’re left with Yoshitatsu and Omega, and Tatsu fires up into some forearms on Omega, ending with a spinning knee to the head. Omega returns the favour with a Shining Wizard that gets him a near-fall, and looks to follow up with a Styles Clash, but Yoshitatsu fights free. More freeze spray antics follow, but Tatsu grabs the can and uses it on Omega, but he ends up falling to the One Winged Angel as the Bullet Club grab the win in a fun main event. ***¾
All-in, this show just about shaded Saturday’s Korakuen hall, and continued the build to the upcoming Wrestling Dontaku show… but first, one more stop on Wednesday night, headlined by Kenny Omega and Michael Elgin for the IWGP Intercontinental championship!