New Japan celebrated their 47th anniversary with another sold-out show at Tokyo’s Ota Ward Gymnasium, as the junior straps were all on the line.

Kevin Kelly and Colt Cabana start out on commentary.

Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Ayato Yoshida, Shota Umino & Ren Narita vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, Hikuleo & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
Given how loaded one team was with Young Lions, you’d expect this to be a fairly one-sided outing for the Bullet Club, who unsurprisingly got into a shoving match with their opponents before the bell.

Commentary plugs all of the New Japan Cup ties they can in this match, as Ren Narita scored with a baseball dropkick early to try and neutralise Jado. A triple dropkick from the Young Lions takes Chase down, but causes the rest of the Bullet Club to hit the ring as the match spills outside, where the Bullet Club of course took over.

A nonchalant pin from Fale doesn’t work, as Narita kicked out from having a knee placed on him, as pretty much the entire crew had their go with Ren. Narita nearly shocks Owens with a small package, but he’s quickly taken back down before he finally made a tag out. It’s Togi Makabe who clears house, dropping the Guerrillas of Destiny with a double clothesline as the Young Lions eventually found their way back in, taking aim at Chase Owens.

Problem was, it all backfired horribly on them as they missed a charge to Owens in the corner, and after the Bullet Club ran in with corner attacks, it was left for Ayato Yoshida to try and fight back… only to eat a knee strike and a package piledriver from Owens for the win. By-the-numbers stuff here, with Chase getting the win as he sent a message to Juice Robinson going into the New Japan Cup. **½

Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Yuji Nagata & Toa Henare
Since they didn’t pay it off on the New Beginning in USA, because visas, Ishii and Nagata are paired together in the New Japan Cup… so we have this tag match to warm us up!

Ishii and Nagata stared holes through each other before the bell, but their opening exchanges barely registered on each other… that is, until Nagata snapmared Ishii and kicked him in the back. Henare and YOSHI-HASHI are in next to trade forearms, before an attempt at a Bunker Buster’s elbowed out of… so YOSHI-HASHI slides to the outside so he can throw Henare into the barriers.

Ishii gives Nagata some similar treatment, but it’s Henare who’s forced to fight back as YOSHI-HASHI slapped him around… finally taking down YOSHI-HASHI with a spear. Both men tag out, so we get some more Nagata and Ishii goodness, with Nagata edging ahead with a big boot. Kicks from Nagata pin Ishii into the corner, but the Stone Pitbull shrugs off a running boot and charges Nagata down instead. Forearms follow as Nagata trips Ishii into a Shirome armbar… only for YOSHI-HASHI to break it apart. Boo you YOSHI-HASHI! A vertical suplex follows as Ishii tagged out to YOSHI-HASHI, who tried to put the boots to Nagata, only to run into a knee as Henare’s brought back in, dumping YOSHI-HASHI with a Samoan drop for a near-fall.

More forearms ensue as YOSHI-HASHI’s taken to a knee… Ishii comes in to try and save the day, only to absorb a headbutt from Henare. Nagata cuts off Ishii with an Exploder as the legal men resume, and after Henare drew a near-fall from a rugby tackle… he’s quickly taken down with a Western Lariat as YOSHI-HASHI found his second wind, finishing off Henare with a Fisherman’s suplex into a Snow Plow – a move they’ve labelled the Kumagoroshi. Fun stuff, and they barely scratched the surface on Nagata/Ishii, so that’s a win too. ***¼

Don Callis jumps in on commentary from here on…

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Satoshi Kojima, Tiger Mask, Tomoaki Honma, Ryusuke Taguchi & Dragon Lee
Isn’t Dragon Lee a random as hell guy to book for this show? We’ve a lot of first round pairings here, not least Suzuki and Kojima… and it’s the debut of Taichi with the Iron Fingers, since he picked it up from Takashi Iizuka last month. Yay.

We start with everyone brawling on the outside, before Dragon Lee took down El Desperado with a ‘rana in the ring. Dragon Lee’s shining himself early on, showing off his offence against Despy, before Tiger Mask came in and drilled Despy with a tiltawhirl backbreaker.

Kanemaru runs in to cut him off as all hell broke loose again. You know the score with Suzuki-gun, as El Desperado tries to remove Tiger Mask’s hood. It doesn’t work, so TAKA Michinoku comes in as Kojima had a chair thrown at him on the outside. Tiger Mask hits back with a Tiger Driver on Kanemaru, before he tagged in Honma… Taichi’s in too to take his shots, but Honma overpowers him with a bulldog before… yeah. He missed a Kokeshi.

Taichi looks for a superkick, but ends up running into a clothesline as Honma landed Kokeshi at the second time, as tags take us back to Kojima and Suzuki. Machine gun chops from Kojima don’t make a dent on Suzuki, who swings it back around with a big boot and a PK to Kojima… but Kojima too doesn’t let Suzuki keep him down.

So we go to the clonking elbows, as Kojima staggers around the ring, before he came back with a Koji cutter. Taguchi comes in to just troll Suzuki with hip attacks. It ends as you’d expect, with Taguchi getting choked into the corner and clobbered with some 5-on-1 offence. TAKA gets caught out of nowhere with an ankle lock, but the Suzuki-gun goons break it up as a Parade of Moves broke out, complete with dives from Tiger Mask and Dragon Lee, before a Bummer Ye and a Dodon put away TAKA. Once you got past the Suzuki-gun tropes, this was looking to get good, but otherwise, it’s more warm-up fare for the New Japan Cup. ***

IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship: Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) (c)
So, Roppongi 3K kinda had the crowd turning on them when they interrupted the champions a few shows back to demand a title shot… if only to undo the memories of them losing these belts on last year’s anniversary card. With the Best of the Super Juniors tournament upcoming, you do have to wonder: is Shingo really going to be considered a contender if he’s carrying a tag title?

They shoot out of the blocks as SHO and Shingo leathered each other with strikes early on, with clotheslines not seeing either man budge… so YOH blind-tags himself in as the challengers cleared the ring ahead of topes con giro that SHO cracked his foot on the guard rails on.

Back in the ring, YOH tries to work over Shingo’s legs, while SHO came in with a knee to the gut as he went back to work on Shingo. BUSHI interferes… but so does YOH as Roppongi 3K remained ahead, only for Shingo to land a desperation Pumping Bomber to take SHO down. Takagi can’t go for the pin, so that lariat gives him some breathing room as the match spilled outside, with SHO getting hurled into the guard rails, as the champions finally managed to get a foothold into the contest.

A t-shirt choke has BUSHI ahead, as does a chop exchange, before Shingo comes back in to just taunt SHO with boots. It sort of fired him up, but Shingo just lands some right hands and a clothesline before a battle over a suplex ended with SHO just spearing away a Pumping Bomber set-up. YOH’s brought back in to try his luck against Shingo, knocking him down with a diving uppercut before he avoided a knee drop as Shingo suddenly started to take some offence on that bad wheel.

YOH tries to squeak out a submission with a Figure Four, but Shingo rolls into the ropes for the break and responds with a pop-up death valley driver. A tag brings BUSHI back in, as he lands a missile dropkick to YOH, then followed in with a rewind enziguiri before a neckbreaker from YOH left the champion down. SHO’s back with a suplex to BUSHI for a near-fall, only for BUSHI to hit back on the arm as LIJ suddenly found themselves back in the ascendency.

The spinebuster/backcracker combo dropped SHO for a near-fall, before YOH superkicked away an attempt at Rebellion on SHO. A pair of Pumping Bombers graze SHO and YOH, who hit back with double high knees as the focus then turned to BUSHI… except BUSHI slips out of a 3K and hits a double ‘rana. A tope suicida from BUSHI catches YOH off guard on the outside, while SHO ducks a Pumping Bomber to land some German suplexes on Shingo…

But the black mist from BUSHI stops SHO in his tracks after the ref had been unsighted. One Pumping Bomber and Rebellion later, and the match should have been over, except YOH dives in to make a save, allowing BUSHI to go up for the MX… but SHO rolls away and manages to counter a running lungblower into the 3K as Roppongi 3K regained the titles! Some lovely sequences on show here as they called back to last year’s title loss, but the cynic in me has to think that Roppongi 3K lost so they can strap a proverbial rocket to Shingo during Best of the Super Juniors. ****

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Taiji Ishimori (c)
During the Honor Rising shows, Liger scored a flash pin on Ishimori to put a seed of doubt in everyone’s minds, and my word it worked as the Tokyo crowd were hot for Liger coming into this.

Kota Ibushi was on Japanese commentary, which led to a few people reckoning that he may be gunning for Ishimori’s title…

We start with Liger out-wrestling Ishimori on the mat, tying him up in knots as a scissored hammerlock looked to end things real early. When that didn’t work, we got the seated surfboard as Liger was playing his greatest hits, going from that into a Romero special and into a Dragon sleeper (are you watching SANADA…), before relinquishing the hold.

That was where Ishimori began his fightback, avoiding a tiltawhirl backbreaker to come in with a handspring enziguiri as the match then spilled to the outside. Liger takes the guard rails, before a cravat back in the ring kept Liger on his knees. After elbowing free, Liger’s quickly caught and dragged back to the mat, only to hit back with a tiltawhirl backbreaker, taking Ishimori outside for the baseball slide dropkick.

Liger keeps up on the outside with a cannonball senton off the apron, before he took Ishimori towards the crowd with a brainbuster in the aisle. Ishimori barely beats the count, and still remained on the back foot as a Shotei and a top rope ‘rana keeps Liger ahead, only for Ishimori to turn up the pace as he confounded Liger ahead of a springboard seated senton.

Liger’s taken outside from that, with Ishimori following through on a Golden Triangle moonsault to the floor. HMMM. Back inside, Liger can’t avoid the running double knees – a move that looked to have knocked out the veteran – before a tombstone gutbuster almost put him away. Somehow Liger manages to counter a Bloody Cross with a Fisherman Buster, before he flipped Ishimori inside out with a Shotei!

A Ligerbomb’s next, but Ishimori’s able to kick out at two, before he countered out of a brainbuster. Liger’s still on the up and up though, ending quickly when a Koppo kick was caught and turned into a crossface by the champion, only for Liger to drag himself to the rope to force the break. From there, Ishimori gets another near-fall out of a clothesline, before Liger nearly scored a second flash pin with a La Magistral… then again with a Thesz press, before one more Shotei’s ducked, with Ishimori instead countering with another crossface, rolling through Liger’s attempt to escape as he clung on to score the submission. This was a hell of a contest with Liger more than matching Ishimori – but with youth on his side, Ishimori just about squeaked past Liger. ****

Liger shoves away Yota Tsuji’s offer of an ice pack as he headed to the back… while Ishimori stayed back in the ring to ask for a challenge. Out comes Dragon Lee, and suddenly it all makes sense, as Dragon Lee challenged Ishimori at the G1 Supercard at Madison Square Garden. They’re slowly stacking up that card…

They then announced the dates for this summer’s G1 Climax:

July 6 – American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas
July 13 – Ota Ward Gymnasium, Tokyo
July 14 – Ota Ward Gymnasium, Tokyo
July 15 – Sapporo
July 18 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
July 19 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
July 20 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
July 24 – Hiroshima
July 27 – Nagoya
July 28 – Nagoya
July 30 – Takamatsu
August 1 – Fukuoka
August 3 – Osaka
August 4 – Osaka
August 7 – Hamamatsu
August 8 – Yokohama
August 10 – Budokan Hall, Tokyo
August 11 – Budokan Hall, Tokyo
August 12 – Budokan Hall, Tokyo

That’s a final three nights at Budokan Hall… they’ll need to be stacked shows to fill it out.

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA)
This was another New Japan Cup warm-up tag match, with all six men in the field of 32… and we start with Naito and Okada!

From the opening lock-up, Okada takes Naito into the ropes for the mock-clean break, before the pair hit the ropes, traded armdrags and… Tranquilo! A big boot from Okada traps Naito, as does a low dropkick by the ropes, before Goto and SANADA tagged in. Of course SANADA goes straight to the Paradise Lock, but Goto pushes free before catching SANADA with a clothesline as the ring filled up to knock LIJ off the apron.

SANADA and Tanahashi grapple as they searched for an abdominal stretch, reversing each other until SANADA got the hold locked in… with Naito rushing in to dropkick Tanahashi in the knee as he was left helpless. A deathlock from Naito puts more pressure on Tanahashi’s shot knees, as LIJ clearly had a game plan – wear down what little cartilage Tanahashi has left.

Tanahashi counters EVIL’s “I’ll give your leg to the ref” by catching a superkick and delivering a Dragon screw, before Okada returned and blasted through EVIL with a running back elbow. A DDT from Okada spikes Naito and the rest of LIJ, before he slammed EVIL and headed up top… only for it to come to nought as EVIL ducks and took him into the corner for a Fisherman buster.

EVIL holds onto the ropes to save himself from an Okada dropkick, as some misdirection eventually led us into a clothesline from EVIL. A tag brings SANADA back in, before Goto returned to get triple teamed by LIJ, with a Saito suplex from SANADA almost ending things. The ring clears quickly after that, with SANADA flipping into a Skull End, only for Tanahashi to counter that with a Dragon sleeper of his own… which an EVIL German suplex stopped as a Parade of Moves broke out!

Goto brings that Parade to an end with an Ushigoroshi to Naito, before SANADA flipped out of another Ushigoroshi and rolled Goto into a Skull End. There’s a swing on it too, but Goto manages to roll out and after using an Indian deathlock, he cradled SANADA into the Goto Shiki – a pin with no escape, as Goto managed to leave this one with a W. A fun trios match that didn’t excel, but nor did it need to. Perfectly Decent Graps. ***¼

After the match, everyone on the winning team vowed to win the New Japan Cup. At least two of them are lying.

Will Ospreay vs. Jay White
Our non-title main event started with White powdering to the outside, as Ospreay just stood and waited in the corner. No mind games for him today!

When they finally locked up, Ospreay took White into the ropes before he slipped out and grabbed a headlock, with White having to pull the hair before he shot Will into the ropes for a shoulder tackle. They go back and forth on that for a bit, with Ospreay finally taking down White with a shoulder tackle and a dropkick, sending the IWGP champion outside for a faked out dive.

Ospreay quickly goes airborne with a plancha, and followed up by taking White into the guard railings before he went all parkour on the apron to get by Gedo… only to get caught by White as Ospreay distracted himself with Gedo’s crappy beard. White sidesteps a springboard forearm as Ospreay tried to fight back, instead dumping him with a Saito suplex on the floor, then with a suplex that swung Ospreay right into the ring post!

Back inside, Ospreay tries to fight back, but gets caught with some pumphandle gutbusters from White for a two-count, and that gives the Kiwi something to target – the recently-recovered ribs of Ospreay. A waistlock’s turned into a Saito suplex as Ospreay tried to elbow out of the bearhug-like grip, and as Ospreay tried to fight back, he’s just caught and dumped into the turnbuckle with a suplex as those ribs were really weakening him.

Again, Ospreay finds an opening, but his handspring’s cut-off with a low dropkick as White maintained his focus, following up by sweeping away the legs as a springboard forearm ended with Ospreay dropping ribs-first across the top rope. Out of nowhere, a ‘rana from Ospreay sends White over the top rope and to the floor, with Will following outside with a Sasuke special as he reinjured the ribs on the impact. Back inside, Ospreay connected with the springboard forearm, then a handspring enziguiri as Will began to gut through the rib pain, before a standing corkscrew press drew a near-fall.

Kicks from Ospreay find their mark, before he’s forced to elbow away another Saito suplex, instead clotheslining White to the floor before a tope was caught as Will was sent back-first into the guard rails. That looked nasty. Still, Ospreay manages to beat the 20-count to keep the match alive, only for White to keep on top of him with knees to the ribs… before Ospreay somehow mustered up the strength to lift the Kiwi into the corner for a Cheeky Nandos.

Will keeps up, pulling White into a Tree of Woe, and slapping him silly before he tried to pull White off into a Storm Breaker. Instead, we get White countering into a Blade Runner attempt, which Will escaped and countered out of with an enziguiri before a Flatliner and a German suplex left the NEVER champion on the mat. Briefly, because he’s right up with a Spanish Fly to catch White out. A strike exchange leaves White in a heap once more, before a hook kick kept Will ahead after White had tried to avoid an OsCutter. Ospreay lifts White onto his shoulders, then heads up top as we get his one man tag moves with an avalanche Iconoclasm for a delayed two-count. The Robinson special followed as Ospreay sensed a victory… only for his OsCutter to get caught in a crucifix as White battered him with elbows to leave him prone on the mat.

White goes for a Blade Runner, but somehow Ospreay slips out into a reverse ‘rana… then followed in with his Hidden Blade elbow as both men were left flat on the floor once again. Gedo runs into the ring as Ospreay set up for a second Hidden Blade… and another distraction allowed White to catch Ospreay with a low blow and a Cobra Clutch Suplex as Ospreay was suddenly on the back foot. A cross-armed brainbuster’s next out of White for a near-fall, before Ospreay flipped out of a Blade Runner and countered with a Ligerbomb for a near-fall!

Ospreay tries to put the icing on the cake with an imploding 450, finding his mark… but it reinjured the ribs as he had to wait to make a cover, as White barely saved his rear by getting a finger to the ropes. Will tries to go for the Storm Breaker, eventually hoisting up White… who escaped as a series of counters and escapes lead to a hook kick from Ospreay, then another Robinson special… before an OsCutter’s countered into a modified mid-air Blade Runner! From there, White picks up Ospreay for a second Blade Runner… and that’s your lot. A valiant effort from Ospreay, but in the end it was a bridge too far as Ospreay’s long singles winning run came to a shuddering halt. An epic match in terms of length, if not quality, but this was perhaps the best match on the night as Jay White continues to pad out his CV as champion. ****¼

Post-match Gedo comes in with a chair as White threatened to lay out Ospreay… but Kota Ibushi makes the save as he stares down White… only for the Bullet Club to run in and attack Ibushi until Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi make the save.

For a one-off show, the 47th Anniversary show was a very good card as New Japan built up to the New Japan Cup that would start barely two days later. A hattrick of matches at the fabled **** level and no stinkers mean that this isn’t a show you can handwave – but this may be one for the cherry pickers as we come into a crazy-busy run of shows. Just like last year, Will Ospreay brought it in the main event, but ultimately came up short as you’ve got to wonder… New Japan’s giving him these spots for a reason. Is he potentially a long-term challenger, or is he going to be the bridesmaid and never the bride here?

  • Our New Japan Cup coverage will follow the same pattern as last year – delayed, and only covering the tournament matches, since we’re not going to be able to catch the shows as they happen. Carat.