New Japan marked its 45th anniversary with a fine show, capped off with a not-surprisingly great main event with Tiger Mask W and Kazuchika Okada.

There was a change to the card going in, as the neck injury suffered by Tomoaki Honma last week obviously forced him off the card. Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan took the spot of Honma and Togi Makabe instead. Fortunately, hours before the show, it was revealed that Honma had regained the ability to move his arms and legs – after days of radio silence regarding his condition.

Tomoyuki Oka vs. Manabu Nakanishi
Oka charges at Nakanishi at the bell, trading wristlocks, before Nakanishi gets a hammerlock and takes the rookie into the ropes. A headlock from Oka ends with him being taken into the ropes, so he slaps away at Nakanishi… who issues receipts with some interest. Nakanishi started to overwhelm Oka with chops and elbows, before managing to recover and whip Nakanishi into the opposite corner. A slam failed, as did my stream! When it comes back, Oka hits an overhead belly-to-belly for a near-fall, before he’s eventually dropped with an axehandle to the chest.

Oka kicks out from a Nakanishi lariat, then elbows out of a Hercules cutter attempt, before taking another clothesline as Nakanishi got Oka up for a torture rack – and that forced the submission before the Hercules cutter could even be teased. Not too bad for this level, Oka’s looking good, but he’s probably a long way off a win here. **¼

The pre-show video – recapping 45 years of New Japan – gave us some gems such as Prince Devitt with Togi Makabe, as well as some of the bigger names from past and present.

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr, TAKA Michinoku & El Desperado) vs. Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, Gedo & Jado
Suzuki-gun jump their CHAOS opponents at the bell, and we settle down to Jado and Gedo against the Desperado and TAKA pairing. Jado was wearing a yellow wristband, which you could suggest was a tribute to Honma…

Suzuki catches Gedo in a rope-hung armbar, before Desperado threw him into the ringpost. We’re shown a long-shot that barely captures a chair shot, as Gedo takes a double-team boot, before Davey Boy Smith Jr came in and held up Gedo in a delayed slam, then a hanging vertical suplex. Just like his dad’s!

The beating keeps up on Gedo, until he dumped Desperado in a splits, but Suzuki tagged back in to keep him isolated. That failed as a low dropkick from Gedo allowed him to tag in Goto, who instantly dropped Suzuki with a spinning heel kick and a back suplex for a near-fall. Suzuki catches Goto in a front facelock, almost forcing a submission, before switching into a Gotch piledriver that was backdropped out of.

Goto came back with an ushigoroshi, and we got tags in to TAKA and YOSHI-HASHI, the latter landing a flipping neckbreaker before missing a chop in the corner. A left-arm lariat from YOSHI-HASHI turned the tide, as he fought off some attacks from the Suzuki-gun quartet, before the Karma (butterfly lock) forced TAKA to tap out. A fine opener – and thankfully extremely light on the Suzuki-gun shtick. ***¼

Bullet Club (Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Togi Makabe, Yuji Nagata, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask & David Finlay
At this point in the English feed, they gave an update on Tomoaki Honma’s condition, and we get going with Tiger Mask having to evade some double teaming… which he does, as Liger and Tiger take over with a double-team Shotei to Takahashi. Tiger gets choked by Takahashi’s cane – as Kenny Omega gleefully proclaimed “I’m cheating” – before Fale took the tag in to keep pounding away on Tiger Mask. It’s the veteran Tiger Mask who keeps taking a beating, with a leg lariat to the back by Omega and a Fisherman’s buster from Takahashi getting a near-fall as the Bullet Club just cycled through their team with tags.

A top rope armdrag takes down Tanga Loa as Tiger Mask made a comeback, then tagged in Makabe, who immediately started battering Loa with lariats. Those get Makabe a near-fall, before a slam takes him down as Tama Tonga has his turn, and we get the swearing battle between these two. Nagata comes in and kicks away at Tonga, throwing in a Yakuza kick and an Exploder for a near-fall, before catching him in an armbar!

The rest of Nagata’s team-mates cut-off Bullet Club run-ins, until Loa came in to end that hold. Nagata brings in Finlay, who tries his luck against Fale, before getting wiped out with a shoulder tackle. An avalanche drops Finlay as Kenny Omega then slams his partners on top of young David, ending with a tease of slamming Fale. Yeah… It turns into a comedy spot as Fale fell on top of Omega, and that’s where the Bullet Club had to fight back from, ending with a Grenade from Fale to Finlay for the win. A perfectly fine New Japan undercard match that didn’t outstay its welcome. ***¼

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) (c)
We get the long entrance for Taichi here, who came out without Kanemaru… who attack the champions in the aisle with El Desperado whilst Taichi’s valet distracted the referee.

The champions recover, but their attempt at a tope gets thwarted as Taichi uses Miho Abe (his valet) as a human shield, before Kanemaru attacked them from behind. On the floor, Taichi chokes Romero with his mic stand, before Abe slaps him. Taichi’s also got the bell hammer stuffed in his ring gear, but conveniently away from Tiger Hattori’s view.

Kanemaru comes in to hook away at Romero’s face, before Taichi comes in and uses the bell hammer on both of the champions, again with the referee distracted. They do the low-blow and fast count gimmick as Taichi tried to steal a win, but eventually Romero breaks free and tags in Beretta after evading some double-teaming. A tornado DDT from Beretta takes down Taichi, before the Suzuki-gun tandem’s attempt at double-teaming goes awry as they’re sent to the outside for those topes! There’s more back and forth, and I’ll be honest, this match is struggling to do anything for me, and it’s largely down to Taichi. Kanemaru comes in and trades blows with Romero, who succeeds with a reverse spin kick en route to those Forever lariats!

Roppongi Vice land a pair of jumping knees before Romero leaps into Taichi off the apron with one, as Beretta went for the Strong Zero. It was aborted, before he flipped a fireman’s carry into a torture rack as they went for a spike Burning Hammer for a near-fall. From there, they went for Strong Zero, with Desperado getting involved too early for the interference. Romero recovers with an Axe bomber as Desperado gets flung into the ring, which causes more distractions.

Taichi whacks the champions with their own title belts, allowing Kanemaru to hit a tornado DDT for a near-fall, before a Taichi powerbomb and a top rope DDT from Kanemaru secures Suzuki-gun the titles. Well… this wasn’t TOO bad, but the over-done interference and the fact that I just can’t stand Taichi’s act dragged this down in my eyes. **

After the match, the Suzuki-gun mob tried to continue the beat-down, but Gedo and Jado came out to make the save – just so Jado could show off his Silas Young tee again.

Revolution Pro Wrestling British Heavyweight Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Katsuyori Shibata (c)
Awh, they didn’t use Zack Sabre Jr’s Rev Pro theme. They don’t understand! Sabre was out with his EVOLVE and PWG title belts, as he promised to end the night as “Zacky Three Belts”.

Sabre, who was billed as a member of CHAOS here and was flagged as a junior heavyweight in New Japan, went for Shibata at the start as the pair tried – and failed – to grab a leg in the early going. They go to the ground in search of a heel hook, but instead we get headlock takedowns and escapes before Shibata just kicks away his challenger’s grips.

They reverse strait-jacket holds, before Shibata swings and misses with a PK attempt. Sabre evades a diving corner dropkick by following the champion into the other corner, then dropping him with an uppercut, as he went to work over Shibata’s right arm, trapping and twisting it between his legs. An armbar attempt ended with Shibata reaching for the ropes, as it was clear that Zack was targeting that taped up shoulder, as any right-minded person would.

Sabre tapped away on Shibata with kicks, but that just enraged the champion, who caught one and levelled Zack before landing a running boot in the corner. That diving dropkick connects, with Shibata briefly catching an Octopus hold as he kicked Sabre away… only to get caught in a triangle armbar. That’s then turned into a double armbar by Sabre, wrenching away at Shibata like he was pumping away before another rope break was forced. Shibata rebounds with big boots, which are replied in kind, before a big German suplex dumped the Brit for a near-fall. Sabre replies with an O’Connor roll for a near-fall, before a sequence ended with a bridging pin for another two-count, as Shibata came back with another German suplex. From there, the rear naked choke almost forced a rope break, before a sleeper suplex took Sabre into the ring for another rear naked choke… but out came Minoru Suzuki to cause a distraction. A reverse headlock takedown sends Sabre to the mat as Shibata booted Suzuki and the referee to the outside.

Davey Boy Smith Jr comes in to boot Shibata, as the Gotch piledriver takes down the champion… Suzuki holds up Shibata for the PK, and Zack gets the pin, ending Shibata’s 116 days as champion! A fine match with a bit of an asterisk next to the finish – their matches at York Hall were infinitely better, but they have Shibata/Suzuki to build-up to I guess. ***¾

So, we’ve got Zacky Three Belts as the latest member of Suzuki-gun (I guess the CHAOS tag was a red herring) – and isn’t that an interesting juxtaposition, the Rev Pro, EVOLVE and PWG title belts on a New Japan show?

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (c)
Ten-Kozy were joined at ringside by Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi, as the New Japan Dads had back-up. Given how big a fan of breakfast Nakanishi is, he’s got to be into his toast, so when do we rename this crew the Bread Club?

We start with Yano and Tenzan, who boots Yano as he went for the “break” shtick. Mongolian chops knock down Yano, who rakes the eyes of Tenzan, who just replies with a shoulder tackle. Kojima and Ishii batter each other with forearms, knocking each other loopy, but it was Kojima who got the upper hand, taking down Ishii with a shoulder tackle.

The match spills to the outside, where Tenzan’s whipped into the guard railings, as Yano removes the turnbuckle pad. Kojima’s instantly whipped into the exposed corner repeatedly, before a chop to the throat from Ishii knocks him down. Again, Yano whips Kojima into the exposed corner, as it’s everyone’s favourite bread lover who takes a beating, before Ishii quickly cuts-off a comeback attempt.

Kojima escapes a brainbuster then spikes Ishii with a DDT, as Tenzan tags back in and trades blows with Ishii. They clonks heads, with Tenzan eventually falling, but he comes back with a spinning heel kick to Yano as Kojima comes in to go after the “Master Thief”. Those rapid-fire chops are dished out to Ishii and Yano, before Kojima dishes out a Kokeshi – which the crowd erupts for.

Yano puts the brakes on as he was sent into that exposed corner, but Kojima ends up hitting a Koji Cutter, only to get caught in a schoolboy for a near-fall. The champions bump into each other, before a Yano low blow almost wins it with Tenzan breaking up the schoolboy from that. A massive lariat from Ishii takes down Tenzan, who’s then slingshotted into a shoulder tackle that sent Ishii flying, before a Ten-Koji Cutter dumped Yano on his head!

From there, Yano blocked a lariat, then went for a backslide, as Kojima hit another leaping Kokeshi. Tenzan put paid to Ishii with an Anaconda Vice, before a Strong Arm lariat saw the crowning of new champions! Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan regain the titles they last held in November 2013! A pretty good match, with little involvement from Nagata and Nakanishi – with Ten-Kozy rolling back the years it felt as they won the belts “for Honma”. ***½

Bread Club For Life!

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, Juice Robinson & KUSHIDA vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, BUSHI & SANADA)
We have a jump start here, as the match spills outside, which leads to the usual camera issues as we miss Juice Robinson taking being thrown into the crowd barriers, whilst EVIL throws Tanahashi into the steel.

Naito and BUSHI combine for a rewind sunset flip and a diving dropkick for a near-fall on Tanahashi, before an EVIL back senton earned a near-fall too. Tanahashi rebounded with a Dragon screw, before Michael Elgin dishes out a bunch of German suplex, until SANADA flipped out of his and into a massive forearm. SANADA’s leapfrog gets caught and turned into a powerslam, before a bunch of avalanche clotheslines softened up SANADA for a Falcon arrow for a near-fall. A buckle bomb is attempted, and countered out of by SANADA, who went for a Saito suplex that Elgin popped straight back up from, as a lariat took SANADA down.

KUSHIDA comes in and clears the apron with a handstand kick into the Ingobernables corner, following up with a cartwheel dropkick to BUSHI… who trips him moments later, leading to KUSHIDA getting crotched in the post. Juice comes in and flattens BUSHI with a back senton, who then takes a bunch of avalanches from the babyface team, ending with a stalling Jackhammer for a near-fall from Juice.

Some Dusty punches take down SANADA, as Juice followed up with a spinebuster to EVIL, before BUSHI countered the Pulp Friction with a Codebreaker. Naito comes in and levels Robinson with the outside-in dropkick, before a tornado DDT’s blocked and met with a lariat that flipped Naito inside out. SANADA dropkicks Juice’s left leg to save Naito, before going toe-to-toe with Elgin, winning out with a TKO! The parade continues, and ends with BUSHI taking a spin-out suplex, before Tanahashi eats a sit-out spinebuster slam. The end wasn’t far behind, as a Destino from Naito was enough to put Robinson away – ending another fun Ingobernables tag. ***½

After the match, Naito et al continue to run riot, with EVIL wearing down Tanahashi ahead of their New Japan Cup outing at the weekend.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Hiromu Takahashi (c)
Taguchi had his original music here, and he started by diving for his ankle lock – forcing Takahashi to the outside instantly. Taguchi takes Takahashi’s jacket, which coaxes the champion back inside, as he teased another ankle lock, before we went for a long rope running sequence that ended with a… Takahashi hip attack?!

Takahashi goes for a sunset bomb to the floor, but that’s blocked and met with a hip attack off the apron instead, before Taguchi tries for a hammerlock, instead segueing into an ankle lock as Hiromu again dives for the ropes. A dropkick to the arse takes down Taguchi, who’s then subjected to a catapult that tweaks away at the challenger’s knee, before a dropkick sends Taguchi flying into the guard railings.

The pace slowed down from there, with Takahashi grabbing a single-leg crab, before he mocked the hip attacks and nearly paid for it with a roll-up. A sit-out powerbomb leaves both men laying, before Takahashi hit the wheelbarrow driver off the top rope for another near-fall. From there, they trade huge slaps back and forth, before Taguchi snaps and kicks Takahashi down to the mat.

Taguchi connects with a dropkick that sinks Takahashi to the mat, as he followed up with the Dodon for a two-count as Taguchi quickly switched to an ankle lock. A frog splash from the challenger gets nothing but the knees of Takahashi, which seemed to tweak Taguchi’s knee a bit, but he was still able to kick out of a Time Bomb. Another Time Bomb is countered into an ankle lock, then into an armbreaker and back to the ankle lock, eventually forcing Takahashi into the ropes for a break.

A Tiger suplex sends Takahashi flying, before Taguchi pops up from a German suplex and drops the champion with a lariat for a near-fall. Taguchi seemed to go for a Hercules cutter, but Takahashi rolls into a wheelbarrow for a near-fall, before a bunch of lariats gets the champion another two-count, as the end comes when Taguchi takes a death valley driver into the turnbuckles, before a third and final Time Bomb secures the pin. Decent enough, but this felt like it was missing that little “something” – in spite of the excellent build for this match. ***½

After the match, Takahashi gets the microphone and apparently asks for a new challenger. Out comes KUSHIDA. What part of “new” was alien there?

Tiger Mask W vs. Kazuchika Okada
W starts by grabbing Okada’s wrist as the feeling out process began, and it wasn’t too long before they started giving and receiving forearms, ending with Okada lifting Tiger Mask onto the top rope and dropkicking him to the outside.

On the floor, Okada boots W over the guard rails, before leaping over that barrier with a crossbody that almost took W into the front row. Back inside, a slingshot senton keeps W down, as does a rear chinlock, but he fought free and landed a series of kicks to Okada, following that up with an attempted German, before settling for a ‘rana instead. The Golden Triangle moonsault follows from probably-Kota-Ibushi-in-a-mask, who rolled Okada back inside for a missile dropkick to collect a near-fall.

Okada comes back with a short DDT, then an uppercut for a two-count, before setting up for that top rope elbow drop… but W got up and ran into the path of an uppercut before a dropkick of his own took down the champion. A Tiger driver’s blocked as Okada backdrops free and countered with a neckbreaker slam.
Another Okada dropkick misses, but he gets his knees up to block a standing moonsault, before he rolls up W and traps him with the Red Ink submission. Finally, W gets to the bottom rope, but Okada just flattens him with a top rope elbow drop as a set-up for the Rainmaker pose.

W ducks a Rainmaker and snaps into a German suplex for a near-fall, before a flurry of strikes gave way to a powerslam and a springboard moonsault out of the corner for another two-count. Okada’s pulled to his feet as W tries for a Tiger suplex, but the champion counters out into a tombstone attempt, only for W to slip free and kick Okada in the head. Some shots to the head drop Okada, but W can’t capitalise immediately, and that eventually leads to Okada coming back with some swiping shots.

Those blows rile up W, who decks Okada with another flurry, then rakes away at Okada in the corner with some boots before he shoves the referee. Okada returns the favour as both men just lay into each other, weathering a storm only to run into a ripcord kick to the head. W holds onto Okada’s wrist though, for more kicks to the head, before a Tiger Bomb gets a near-fall!

Another Tiger Driver is blocked by Okada, who’s then taken onto the top rope by W, only to catch his foe and look for a top rope tombstone – but W lands on his feet and rocks Okada with a Pele! A top rope Tiger Bomb almost gets it as the crowd willed W onto victory, before a second Tiger Bomb’s avoided as Okada landed another Rainmaker!

Both men are left laying, but Okada crucially kept hold of W’s wrist, just like he did against Omega, which led to another Rainmaker, before a third was countered with a Pele. Okada catches a crossbody out of the corner and dumps W with a German suplex, before rolling into another Rainmaker, and that was more than enough for the win! Absolutely marvelous stuff – and even as a match with nothing at stake, this was incredible. ****¼

As a show, this was nowhere near as bad as the New Japan Road show, but this was a card made by its main event. Come for Okada vs. W, but make sure you’ve stayed for the rest of the show as – save for the expected Taichi monstrosity – this was a great three-hours of wrestling.