I heard you like New Japan at Korakuen Hall. Good, they were back there yet again for a post-Anniversary show card…
Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi, David Finlay & Hirai Kawato vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tomoyuki Oka
We get a jump start as Kawato leapt into Liger with a dropkick as soon as the veteran hit the ring, as it seemed that Kawato was unleashing some anger. From a beating he took from Suzuki earlier in the day.
Liger recovered with a Shotei as he started to kick away at Kawato in payback (for that payback), laying into the Young Lion with chops and boots in the corner, as we saw a vicious Liger for the first time in forever. Tenzan tagged in and got some of Kawato’s fire… then killed him with some headbutts and Mongolian chops too.
They spill to the outside, where Kawato gets familiar with the guard railings, before Liger rolls him in so that Kojima can score a near-fall out of a DDT. Those rapid-fire Kojima chops light up Kawato’s chest, before Finlay saves the kid’s life by dragging him into the corner as Taguchi took over with hip attacks. Taguchi mocks Tenzan with some Mongolian hip attacks to Kojima, who replies with an atomic drop and a Koji Cutter.
We go back to Oka and Nakanishi, who look like clones of each other, and Oka actually slams Nakanishi down hard. Oka nearly dumps Nakanishi on his head with a low-angle overhead belly-to-belly, before he goes to the Young Lions’ only submission hold: the Boston crab! The hold’s easily powered out of, as a double axehandle from Nakanishi gets a near-fall before the ring fills and empties out quickly. That leaves Oka alone with Nakanishi, who finally hoists up the rookie in a torture rack and scores the second submission in as many days with that hold. Pretty good for an opening tag match; you gotta love young lions’ firing up and getting their arse handed to them! ***
After the match, Kawato shoved Liger again, but remained on friendly with his own team-mates, despite having a tanned chest by the end of it all!
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tanga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Yuji Nagata, Michael Elgin & Juice Robinson
You know what this means – Fale killing announcers! We started with Takahashi and Juice, the latter of which took a trio of avalanches from the Bullet Club before a release Fisherman’s buster almost won it in short order for Juice. Robinson takes a beating for a while as he urged Takahashi to hit him harder… which he did, courtesy of a big boot. A clothesline gets Juice back in it, as we get tags to a hoss fight between Fale and Elgin. Fale backs Elgin into the corner to avoid a German suplex, but Elgin rebounded with a lariat for a near-fall, only for Fale to bring in Tanga Loa once more.
We get Nagata and Loa, with the former replacing the injured Honma in this weekend’s New Japan Cup tournament, and the veteran Nagata went to work with a low dropkick on Loa, before a side slam and a diving dropkick saw the Bullet Club trio collect another near-fall, before the Backdrop Hold got the win for Nagata. A bit of an abrupt ending, but I’ll be honest, outside of the Hoss Fight, this match did little to whet my anticipation for the Cup matches. **¼
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi & El Desperado) vs. Hirooki Goto, Beretta, Gedo & Jado
After joining Suzuki-gun yesterday, Sabre joked on Twitter that he joined them “so he didn’t have to wrestle Taichi again”. So they have him tag with him instead. Ribs!
No jump start here, and we start with Sabre and Goto, based off of comments that Sabre made about wanting to add Goto’s NEVER title to his collection. Good Lord, Sabre’s going to be that meme everyone had about Triple H with all the belts. We start with grappling as Sabre frustrated Goto in the early going, before he instantly went after Beretta with a neck snap when the former junior tag champ was tagged in.
Suzuki-gun took over, with Gedo being thrown to the outside as Taichi choked away with a camera cord, before he grabbed the bell hammer again. Back inside, Desperado stomps on Gedo, before Kanemaru came in to keep it up, as Taichi used the bell hammer on edo’s head. I’m sure Taichi’s act is enjoyed by somebody. It sure as hell isn’t me.
A kick to the head almost gets Taichi the win over Gedo, who replies with a boot to Kanemaru as Gedo finally made the tag out to Jado and his yellow wristband. Jado hits a lariat before chasing after Sabre, as he teased the rope-hung DDT to Kanemaru – which drew an “ooh” out of the crowd. It’ll be a while before we see that move again out of Jado, I feel.
Jado’s back suplex leads to a pair of tags that take us to Goto and Sabre, with the latter scoring a Pele kick to the arm before the ring filled up. Goto lands a spinning heel kick in the corner, then a back suplex for a near-fall, before he countered out of a guillotine and went for a GTR. Instead, Sabre snapmared him down and scored a bridging pin to score the win out of nowhere! A solid tag match, but my word, Sabre stood out like a sore thumb in this unit. Keep Zacky Three Belts in with the Suzuki-gun elite, and all will be well. ***¼
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr. & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Katsuyori Shibata, Togi Makabe & Tiger Mask
Jump start! This was all about Shibata and Suzuki, and they lay into each other from the off, ending when Shibata just booted Suzuki to the floor.
Tiger and TAKA tagged in for a much more sedate face-off, with Tiger Mask blasting TAKA with kicks, before he was forced to deal with the much larger Davey Boy Smith Jr, who cleared the apron as we saw Suzuki and Shibata thrown into the crowd. A chair’s used to strangle Shibata, as Smith came back in the ring with a stalling slam to Tiger Mask.
A sleeperhold sees Smith get a near-fall over Tiger Mask, as Suzuki tags back in to keep picking apart the pieces, grabbing a heel hook on Tiger Mask, who was able to drag his way to the ropes to force a break. Out of nowhere, the Tiger Driver gets some space for Tiger Mask, as he brings Shibata back in to boot Suzuki in the corners repeatedly, and my word, Shibata has a knack for building up upcoming matches in these tags. The diving dropkick rocks Suzuki, who comes back with a knee to the gut then a Yakuza kick before the pair teed off on each other with forearms and elbows.
Suzuki ducks a PK as both men drill each other with big boots simultaneously, so we get Makabe and Smith, with the ladder landing some boots of his own. TAKA tries his luck with Makabe as the veteran takes a series of running attacks and a powerslam from Smith, ending with Tiger Mask breaking up a cover. Shibata kicks away Suzuki’s Gotch piledriver attempt on Makabe, and as everyone else brawls outside, we’re left for TAKA to take Makabe’s King Kong Kneedrop for the win. A fun outing, and unlike the prior tags, this has me really want to see Shibata vs. Suzuki. Preferably in day-long iron man match. ***¾
The post-match stuff sees Suzuki toss a fan out of a chair as he looked to keep up brawling with Shibata… instead opting to jab Tomoyuki Oka with that chair and then hit him over the back with it as Suzuki laid waste to the Young Lions before diving into the ring to get back at Shibata.
Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Tama Tonga) vs. Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii
We start with Omega and Ishii trying their luck with shoulder tackles as Ishii kept knocking down Kenny, before Tama Tonga took down Ishii from behind.
Omega had little answer for Ishii’s shoulder tackles, but teased a bicycle knee as both men seemed fairly even – shoulder tackles aside! We get some tags that leads to a fun sequence where Tama Tonga chased Yano around the ring like a dog chasing a postman, before he tried to crawl under the ring to get away from Omega and Tonga, pulling out a bucket and some cleaning equipment in the process.
Omega just tosses the bucket onto Yano’s head, making a satisfying “thunk” sound, before he’s made to wear it for a game of human bongos. Oh my word, this is great! Somewhere in that, Yano pulled out the Elite’s freeze spray, which gets sprayed into his eyes, before a springboard axehandle smash from Omega kept Yano at bay. Kenny tries to knock Ishii off the apron, but that doesn’t work, at least until he resorted to a big boot, before Tonga charges into an unprotected turnbuckle.
Yep, it’s Yano being Yano.
Ishii tags in and drops Omega with a powerslam, before he overcomes some double teaming and drills Kenny with a Saito suplex for a near-fall. Omega tries to powerbomb Ishii, who eventually backdrops free, only to get caught with a Finlay roll and a springboard moonsault as the Bullet Club leader picked up a near-fall.
A full nelson is easily broken by Ishii, who tees off on Omega with forearms, only to take a snap ‘rana, then a superkick, before Ishii’s lariat sent Kenny flying. We go back to Tonga and Yano, who tease low blows on each other as Yano goes through his Rolodex of spots. The Yano shrug leads to Omega decking his own man, then taking a low blow, before Yano countered a Gun Stun into a low blow.
Omega pulls out the referee to save the count, before his knee strike to Yano’s stopped as he charges to the outside. Tonga comes back with a low blow then a Gun Stun, and that’s all folks! Plenty of comedy here as Omega and Yano bounced off of each other perfectly, with a pretty solid wrestling match under all of this too. **¾
Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA
EVIL and Takahashi get jumped at the bell, as the good guys look to give them a taste of their own medicine. Tanahashi throws EVIL into the crowd, whilst KUSHIDA whips Hiromu into the guard rails hard.
When they returned to the ring, Tanahashi held up EVIL’s arm so KUSHIDA could dropkick it, but the tables turned when KUSHIDA was thrown to the outside as we went back to brawling around the ringside area, where EVIL issued a receipt by clotheslining Tanahashi over the crowd barriers. Inside the ring again, the Ingobernables pairing worked over KUSHIDA, before Hiroshi finally came in and dropped EVIL and Takahashi with a pair of Dragon screws. Some more Dragon screws followed as Tanahashi looked to work away on EVIL’s knee, only to be met with a clothesline as the pair fought back and forth. A Fisherman’s buster from EVIL countered another Dragon screw as we went back to KUSHIDA and Takahashi, with those two teasing dives at each other, ending with a handspring kick and a tope con hilo from KUSHIDA!
A knee breaker from KUSHIDA drops Takahashi, who keeps trying to fight back, with the champion eventually landing an overhead suplex into the corner. EVIL and Tanahashi counter Slingblades and STO’s, before EVIL finally lands his. Takahashi almost wins it with a German suplex on KUSHIDA, before an O’Connor roll sees KUSHIDA come close, only to pick up the surprise W with a backslide with a jack-knifed cover. That was quite something – Takahashi isn’t one for taking falls, but this was quite the outing for all four men. ***¼
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & SANADA) vs. Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI & Rocky Romero
Okada and Naito start the match in the ring, but you know what that means… despite the loud chants for Naito, we get an attack from behind as BUSHI helps out, only to have Naito shoved into him as Okada looked to get an early upper hand.
That skirmish ended, so we go to SANADA & YOSHI-HASHI, before the match spilled to the outside where Naito decided to throw Gedo into the mix, whipping him into the guard railings, as Okada went the same way. It calms down a little as Romero faced off with BUSHI, who quickly used his t-shirt to choke away at the former junior tag champion, before he went to a STF, naturally whilst raking away at Rocky’s eyes.
Okada finally tags in and knocks down BUSHI with elbows, then with a DDT before he kipped up and rushed back in with an uppercut for a near-fall. BUSHI avoids a top rope elbow and hits a swinging neckbreaker before Naito tags in and nonchalantly goes for that outside-in dropkick. Naito and Okada counter Rainmaker and satellite DDTs respectively, with the latter being countered into a neckbreaker slam from Okada, before YOSHI-HASHI tagged in with SANADA. A flipping neckbreaker from YOSHI-HASHI followed-up by as rope hung dropkick to BUSHI, then to SANADA, who rebounded with a double leapfrog dropkick.
SANADA goes for a TKO, but its countered into the Karma (butterfly lock), only for SANADA to work up into a Skull End. That too is countered and met with an uppercut, before YOSHI’s left-arm lariat drops SANADA. Romero tags in and peppers SANADA with Forever lariats, only for BUSHI to trip him… and get a lariat of his own! A triple team from the CHAOS group ends with a missile dropkick to a rope-hung SANADA for a near-fall, before SANADA comes back with a Skull End to Romero.
YOSHI-HASHI eventually breaks that up as Okada’s sent into the ring barriers again. It leaves Romero and SANADA in the ring, as a wheelbarrow from a Skull End almost gets the win, as does a small package from another Skull End, before SANADA countered a Shiranui into a TKO for another two-count. From there, SANADA just locked on the Skull End for the flash submission as the Ingobernables took away the W. This was a fun six-man tag, and got really hot towards the end – well worth your time! ***¾
Well, it was exactly what you’d expect for a Korakuen Hall show. Plenty of tag matches, a few high spots, but otherwise “just a show”. Hirai Kawato being all up himself – then getting his backside handed to him – was fun in the opening match, as were the Shibata/Suzuki interactions. After so many events in a short space of time, this is the last Korakuen Hall show for, ooh, a few weeks, as they don’t return (at least on New Japan World) until March 26 for a Road to Sakura Genesis show. Just as well really, as these were really becoming weary to watch – no matter how good the in-ring is, you can hammer a building too often, and with New Japan seeing smaller groups out-perform them at the box office, perhaps they’re at that point.