The United Empire were, ahem, united for the first time in Japan as Osaka saw Tetsuya Naito try to unseat Will Ospreay as US champion.

Quick Results
Francesco Akira & TJP pinned BUSHI & Titan in 11:36 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships (***½)
Kyle Fletcher, Mark Davis, Gideon Grey & Aaron Henare pinned Toru Yano, David Finlay, Alex Zayne & Hiroshi Tanahashi in 9:50 (***)
Hikuleo pinned Yujiro Takahashi in 0:28 (NR)
NJPW World Television Championship Tournament Semi-Final: Ren Narita pinned SANADA in 14:31 (***¾)
NJPW World Television Championship Tournament Semi-Final: Zack Sabre Jr. pinned EVIL in 4:48 (***)
Master Wato & El Desperado pinned Hiromu Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori in 16:49 (***¼)
Tama Tonga & Kazuchika Okada pinned KENTA & Jay White in 17:34 (***½)
Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler pinned Great O-Khan & Jeff Cobb in 17:31 to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships (***½)
Will Ospreay pinned Tetsuya Naito in 30:07 to retain the IWGP United States Championship

We’re inside the EDION Arena in Osaka for this, with Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton doing live-in-studios commentary…

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Titan) vs. United Empire (Francesco Akira & TJP) (c)
Titan joined Los Ingobernables de Japon at last month’s Declaration of Power, which means we’ve got another junior tag team in LIJ with Hiromu Takahashi otherwise occupied…

A jump start from the challengers took Akira and TJP outside for dives early on as this one started off quick… but there’s a similarly quick shift of momentum as the champions took control courtesy of a tope con giro from Akira. Back inside, an elevated back senton from Akira’s good for a two-count, as was a pop-up X-Factor, before BUSHI came out of the corner with a low dropkick. We’re dealing with clap crowds here, so it’s a familiar soundtrack as BUSHI’s double ‘rana took down TJP and Akira… and bought him time to tag out to Titan. A rope-walk from Titan helps him take down Akira with a dropkick, before bodyscissors dragged TJP outside ahead of a springboard moonsault into the aisle.

Back inside, Titan and TJP trade kicks, ahead of a swinging DDT that nearly won Titan the titles… Titan overcomes TJP and Akira’s double-teams with a double dropkick, as BUSHI tagged back in… and got taken into the corner with an eye rake. Outsmarting Akira, BUSHI heads up for a missile dropkick as the challengers found a second wind… but the United Empire duo weren’t going down so easily. A rewind kick from BUSHI buys some more time… but a wheelbarrow stomp from Akira threatened to end that offence. Titan’s corner dropkick and BUSHI’s Codebreaker threatened to lead to the Angel Immortal springboard stomp finisher, but TJP makes the save as the United Empire made one last push, putting away BUSHI with a pair of diving knees, before the Leaning Tower (doomsday bulldog) led to the win. A really pacey opener with the United Empire starting their first night all in Japan on the right foot… ***½

United Empire (Aaron Henare, Gideon Grey, Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs. Alex Zayne, David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano
Bloody hell, Gideon’s got an entrance video AND a theme song… it’s getting chilly in Hell, I see. This was Aussie Open’s Japanese debut, and the song they had in Rev Pro didn’t get held up in customs…

It’s a wacky line-up opposite the United Empire here, which perhaps might give away the result. Finlay and Henare start things off, trading early pins and side headlocks as Finlay looked to subdue things early on. A side suplex from Finlay lands for a two-count, before Alex Zayne came in to catch Henare with a Baja Blast for a two-count. A corkscrew back senton from Zayne gets another two-count, but a back elbow and a springboard enziguiri wiped out Zayne as the Empire stormed the ring. Henare stretches Zayne in the ropes for some crossface punches, before Kyle Fletcher tagged in to play pass-the-parcel with Zayne on a stalling suplex.

Davis takes over to finish the move, before a slam led to a missed back senton from the Aussie. Eventually Zayne hits a Pele kick, allowing him to tag out to Tanahashi, who fired away with forearms before Tanahashi kicked away telegraphed back body drops. There’s a Dragon screw for Henare, a slap for Gideon, and a delayed reverse Flair Flop from it… a slam and a flip senton gets a near-fall on Davis, who then avoided a Slingblade as he dropped Tanahashi for a back senton. Kyle’s back to chop Tanahashi in the ropes, but Tanahashi takes Fletcher down with a Twist and Shout moments later. Toru Yano’d kicked Fletcher in the ropes just before that, then tagged in. You know what’s next. Off come the corner pad, as Fletcher’s bopped on the back of the head… ahead of a charge into the exposed buckle.

Yano nearly won it with a roll-up, as he then pulled Fletcher down by the hair… Henare runs in to hit a body blow to Yano, sparking a Parade of Stuff from the Empire. It leads to the Dental Plan on Yano for a near-fall, before a roll-up from Yano nearly led to the upset. A Super Collider takes Yano and Tanahashi into each other as Aussie Open pushed on one more time, leading to clotheslines and a Coriolis on Yano for the win. A super solid start for Aussie Open in their eventual debuts (some three years after everyone had expected them to arrive here), and believe me, they’ll be turning the heads of those who haven’t yet caught onto them in the upcoming World Tag League… ***

Yujiro Takahashi vs. Hikuleo
This was meant to have been Hikuleo vs. Karl Anderson for the NEVER title, but Karl’s return to the WWE (and getting booked on the Saudi show today) meant that was off.

Yujiro’s got a kid’s version of the NEVER Openweight title, no doubt reminiscing over his run with that belt eight years ago. Hikuleo swings for Yujiro, who headed outside… and there’s SHO to chop block Hikuleo’s knee. SHO and Yujiro put the boots to Hikuleo before the bell, wrapping him in the ropes for forearms and kicks, before Hikuleo kicked Yujiro off the ropes. There’s a similar front kick for SHO as Hikuleo then grabbed the pair and bumped them into each other. A clothesline takes the two House of Torture lads down as the bell then went. The hair helps up Yujiro as he’s sent into the ropes for a snap powerslam, before a chokeslam puts “Huge Yooj” away. Hikuleo’s not getting paid by the hour, I see…

NJPW World Television Championship Tournament Semi-Final: Ren Narita vs. SANADA
The NJPW World Television title tournament started at the beginning of the tour, and the 15-minute time limit format has had some mixed success – Tomohiro Ishii vs. Ren Narita’s been the one match everyone’s shouted about, and today’s card will give us the two finalists for the decision match at WrestleKingdom in January…

Of course, Narita’s just gotten back from his excursion in the US, now repackaged as the “Son of Strong Style.” A mini Shibata, if you want to be so reductive. SANADA targets the arm early on, but Narita grounded the former tag champion as the pair scrambled back to their feet. The pair headed to the ropes, where Narita broke… but SANADA’s switcheroo leads to a Skull End that quickly ended in the corner. SANADA snaps back and tied Narita in a Paradise Lock, but Narita popped up from the low dropkick that freed him as he rolled and kicked SANADA. Heading outside, Narita’s sent into the rails, then dumped with a Magic Screw off the rails as SANADA then took them into the crowd for a piledriver on the floor.

It led to a count-out tease, but of course Narita beats the count… and got stomped on back inside. SANADA takes Narita to the apron for a Paradise Lock around the bottom rope… and another low dropkick gets Narita free once more. A plancha from SANADA meets Narita on the outside, leading to a two-count back inside before an overhead belly-to-belly got Narita back in it. A cross armbar from Narita ends in the ropes, before a Cobra Twist was broken up with a hiptoss from SANADA… whose dropkick looked to get him back in it, but Narita’s back with that Cobra Twist. SANADA dragged himself to the ropes for a break, only to get pulled down with a back suplex for a two-count. More kicks from Ren have SANADA staggered into the corner as we pass the ten-minute mark…

Getting free, SANADA backflipped over Narita for a Skull End, but they counter, counter and counter, leading to Narita turning a TKO into the manjigatame… which SANADA switches into a Skull End, then an O’Connor roll into the Skull End. Narita’s trapped in the middle of the ring, but of course SANADA lets go to go for a moonsault. It misses as Narita’s able to snap back in with an O’Connor roll for a near-fall, looking to beat SANADA at his own game, before a jumping high kick looked to set up for a Narita Special #4. SANADA breaks free and gets a springboard dropkick in, before an O’Connor roll led to SANADA getting caught in a rear naked choke… which he flips out of. We’re back to the Skull End, but Narita’s roll-up breaks it up.

Narita dug deep to hit a SWEET bridging T-Bone suplex for a near-fall as we hit the final minute, before trading enziguiris led us to the Narita Special #4 that booked Ren’s spot in the WrestleKingdom final. My word, Ren is a bloody revelation since he’s come back from excursion, and is justifiably a lot of people’s highlight as we head towards 2023. If you’re not already, keep an eye on Ren… ***¾

NJPW World Television Championship Tournament Semi-Final: EVIL vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Sabre and EVIL have form, with Sabre having previously employed a Young Lion to dress up like him to take the proverbial bullet. This time, Zack had Kosei Fujita do his pre-match promo to call EVIL a “pumpkin-head wanker.” I sure hope those weren’t Fujita’s first words of English…

Unfortunately, EVIL and Dick Togo dragged Fujita to the ring, already beaten up for the belated Halloween insult. Zack didn’t make the save, as instead… we had someone else come out to ZSJ’s music, wearing a baseball cap with “I AM ALSO ZSJ” scribbled onto it. Go on, do that with the new Young Lion… Dick Togo approached “also ZSJ” in the aisle and unmasked Ryohei Oiwa… then put the boots to him as Sabre dragged down EVIL in the ring and almost won with a crucifix pin at the bell. Dick Togo’s back at ringside to trip up Sabre, as things spilled outside with Zack getting sent into the rails, where he then had Fujita and Oiwa slammed onto him.

EVIL chokes Sabre with a t-shirt before he made ZSJ wear a chair. Sabre ignored it and took EVIL onto the timekeeper’s desk, then charged Togo into the railings to knock EVIL on his arse. Still wearing that chair, was Zack. EVIL throws Fujita into Sabre, then tried for a Sharpshooter to get a count-out win… but Sabre blocks it with a heel hook to wind down the count. Sabre lets go, and hit the ring… EVIL hobbled after him but had his leg held by a bungling Togo, who realised the error of his ways just in time for EVIL to take a PK for a near-fall. EVIL avoids a Zack Driver before a Euro clutch nearly put him away… trickery with the referee backfires as EVIL’s sent to the exposed corner, before Oiwa and Fujita restrained Dick Togo.

Sabre traps EVIL in a rear naked choke, which is broken by a mule kick low blow… but the inside cradle doesn’t get the win. Everything is EVIL gets countered, as Sabre then pulled EVIL down into a grounded cobra, and that’s enough to book Zack’s spot in the final. From start to finish, I loved this segment, and that’s a tasty title tournament final to look forward to in the New Year! ***

El Desperado & Master Wato vs. Hiromu Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori
A partners incredible match, with all four men being paired up by random drawings ahead of the four-way match for the junior title at WrestleKingdom.

We start with Hiromu and Wato trading chops, and it’s at this point where you’re really reminded of the clap crowds. Wato cartwheels out of a tijeras, but got taken to the corner as Ishimori backed away from Hiromu’s tag. A low dropkick takes Desperado off the apron, but there’s no double-teaming as Ishimori was more than content to just observe. Desperado pulls Hiromu to the outside, throwing him into the railings as Master Wato protested… then kicked his own partner into the railings. Guys, I don’t think they’re co-existing. Back inside, Wato stretches Hiromu in a camel clutch as Ishimori sat cross-legged on the apron.

The ropes save Hiromu, as Wato then was forcibly tagged out by Desperado, who slapped his way into the match. Hiromu remains in trouble as Ishimori again refused to tag in, so the proverbial handicap match continued with Hiromu getting his legs worked over. Hiromu’s sent into the corner, as Desperado chopped Wato to tag in… it’s certainly a liberal interpretation of the tag rules. An axe kick from Wato drops Hiromu for a two-count, before Hiromu slapped Desperado to tag himself out. The arguments there allowed Hiromu to hit some low dropkicks to free himself, but a dive out to Ishimori of course didn’t lead to the tag as Ishimori dropped off the apron. Desperado drags Hiromu into the aisle for a suplex on the ramp, before Desperado and Wato blew up on each other amid the count-out tease.

Wato’s the legal man, having “tagged in” amid all that as Hiromu made it back to the ring at the count of 17. Eventually Hiromu finds a way back in with a tijeras to Wato, then with corner-to-corner charges as a snapmare and a low dropkick left Wato laying… and suddenly got Taiji Ishimori interested in a tag. Hiromu nailed Ishimori with a forearm, which counted as a tag, before a shotgun dropkick off the apron took the champion into the railings. Inside, Hiromu drops Ishimori with a Falcon arrow… but went for a pin on his own partner. Oops. Wato tries to steal the pin, but Ishimori kicked out before he blocked an attempt at Recientemente. A blind tag from Desperado stops the flow as Wato again goes for Recientemente… confusion with Wato leads to Desperado throwing him into Ishimori for an accidental double-team, leading to a Numero Dos from Desperado. Ishimori almost makes it to the ropes, but pulls Desperado into a crossface as Ishimori and Wato had duelling submissions on.

Ishimori throws Desperado into Wato to break up that hold, before Wato and Hiromu went at it… Hiromu reverses an Irish whip, but Wato just dives onto Ishimori on the outside, before a back senton off the top sees Hiromu wipe out Wato and Ishimori. Desperado completes the set with a tope con giro into the trio. It leads to a four-way count-out tease that’s beaten…

Wato “tags in” as all hell breaks loose, with the Parade of Moves ending with Hiromu and Ishimori finally working well together. Cipher UTAKI from Ishimori has Desperado on down, while a pop-up sit-out powerbomb from Hiromu and a corner death valley driver laid out Wato… only for Ishimori to hit a leaping knee as Hiromu was going for a Time Bomb, and there’s the accidental win for Wato! This was fine, but would have benefitted more from an audible crowd as there was only so much you could do with the mismatched partners. Certainly it wasn’t as cloying in execution as you see elsewhere… ***¼

Kazuchika Okada & Tama Tonga vs. Bullet Club (Jay White & KENTA)
We’re building up to Okada vs. White at WrestleKingdom, so this your obligatory tag match to kick things off again after intermission.

White and Okada get us going as they lock up into the ropes, with White using the ref as a human shield to create a distraction. Okada’s taken into the corner for a beating, but returns with elbows as the pair ended up reaching a stalemate ahead of tags out. A dropkick from Tama Tonga catches out KENTA, as Okada returned to keep control of proceedings. Tama tagged back in, but the Bullet Club tandem turn it around, taking him outside and into the railings as Okada’s attempt to make the save saw him take the rails too. Back inside, KENTA and White look to snatch pins on Tama, who’s then choked in the corner as the Bullet Club dominated.

Breaking free, Tama’s able to get out to Okada, who ran wild on White with forearms and a back elbow. A DDT out of the corner’s good for a two-count, as Okada then went for a Money Clip… but White rolls free, only to get thrown down with a backbreaker. Another Money Clip followed, but it’s in the ropes as White quickly forces a break, then returned with a DDT of his own. Okada kicks out at two from a Blade Buster, then elbowed out of a uranage… before a Blade Runner and sleeper suplex were countered out of. A running neckbreaker slam out of the corner has Okada back in it. KENTA tags in and gets kicked in the face for his troubles, as Tama Tonga then came into the fray for some mudhole stomping.

KENTA gets the boot up on Tama in the corner, but a clothesline resets things as a Stinger splash in the corner, then a back suplex almost won it for Tama. Jay White sneaks in a forearm to Tama on the apron as the Bullet Club looked to double-team, leading to a Complete Shot and a German suplex from White on Tama. KENTA’s up top for a double stomp for a near-fall, then a Busaiku knee for another two-count as Okada dove in to break up the count. KENTA calls for a Go 2 Sleep, but it’s slipped out of as a Tongan Twist left KENTA laying. KENTA tries to snatch it with a roll-up with his feet on the ropes, before a rolling death valley driver from Tama left him prone for a Supreme Flow… which gets a near-fall as Okada took care of Jay White once again.

Tama’s Gun Stun gets blocked, but the Go 2 Sleep’s escaped as well as the Gun Stun eventually lands… and that’s enough. This was fine, but it’s going to take a lot to get me excited for Okada vs. White, and the litany of undercard tags that are expected, particularly when signs are pointing to an Okada title win. ***½

IWGP Tag Team Championship: United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb) vs. FTR (Cash Wheeler & Dax Harwood) (c)
This was FTR’s second defence of the IWGP tag titles that they won at Forbidden Door – having defended them over Aussie Open last month at Royal Quest 2…

We’ve a somewhat dishevelled Gideon Grey doing the first ring introductions here, and thankfully “one fall” hasn’t caught on in Japan, so there’s no need to have him tell us to shut our faces. Wheeler and Cobb start us off, as that proverbial feeling out process quickly saw the pair on the mat courtesy of a waistlock takedown from Cobb, before Harwood and O-Khan tagged in and locked up into the corner. O-Khan’s shoulder tackle has Harwood down, as Dax can’t quite match things on the comeback… so he kicks O-Khan and took him down with a suplex. Dax adds chops coming out of the corner, while a snap suplex grounds O-Khan as Wheeler came in for an assisted legdrop for a two-count.

Quick double-teams were the name of the game for FTR, but O-Khan’s able to make his own advantage, choking Dax with his braid before things spilled outside. Jeff Cobb posts Harwood, then rolled him back inside as O-Khan targeted the arm with elbows and an armbar. Cobb’s in to charge Harwood into the corner, before a stretch in the ropes allowed O-Khan to pounce on Dax on the floor, taking him into the rails. Fighting out of the corner, Harwood slapped back at O-Khan, but gets taken back into the Empire’s corner as Cobb’s backbreaker left Harwood down for an armbar. Getting free, Harwood takes down Cobb with a low dropkick… but Wheeler had been knocked off the apron, so there’s no tag as Cobb came back with a running back suplex. O-Khan returns to work the arm some more, but a flash DDT out of Harwood dropped O-Khan in the Empire corner…

Cobb’s back to stop the tag out, but Dax evades a splash and finally brings in Wheeler, who ran wild with chops and forearms. A deadlift German suplex is blocked as Cash mounted some offence with a clothesline and finally that deadlift German to Cobb. It’s good for a two-count as O-Khan stopped Wheeler going up top… buying Cobb time to make a comeback with a superplex back into the ring. Wheeler slips out though, then tagged in Dax as we had a sudden Doomsday Bulldog, but that almost-Leaning Tower only got FTR a near-fall, O-Khan drags Cobb back to the Empire corner to tag himself in, as we resume with Harwood and O-Khan trading forearms. Clotheslines from Dax are shrugged off… as were O-Khan’s, but they added up as O-Khan finally found a way through with a STO for a two-count. Cobb tries to take care of Wheeler, catching a plancha on the outside before sending him throat-first into the railings… but Cobb’s attempt to charge Cash into the rails ends up with Cash side-stepping as Cobb went into the crowd.

Back inside, Dax lands a teardrop suplex on O-Khan, who returned fire with a clothesline… before FTR landed a Power Plex out of nowhere for a near-fall, with Cobb making the save. Dax chop blocks Cobb’s knee to prevent a Tour of the Islands, and that leaves FTR alone with O-Khan… he kicks away a Big Rig attempt, then dropped Cash with a Tenzan Tombstone Driver for a near-fall. O-Khan goes for an Eliminator, but Dax blind-tags in as FTR catch O-Khan out of nowhere with a Big Rig… and that’s your lot. I’d read summaries beforehand that this was one of FTR’s weaker matches of the year, and I’d have to agree – another victim of the clap crowds, but this did get pretty hot into the final moments. At least FTR aren’t one-and-done in Japan… ***½

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Tetsuya Naito vs. Will Ospreay (c)
Naito beat Zack Sabre Jr. at Royal Quest 2 to get this shot… and had taken custody of Gideon Grey’s winter coat in the build up to this. Yes, he’s back to do the Empire’s ring announcing…

Once Naito had removed all of his entrance gear, we got going with Ospreay charging out of the corner with a shotgun dropkick that was easily sidestepped. Naito tries a tijeras, but that’s countered out of as we swing and miss… sending Ospreay to the outside, only for Ospreay to slide back in for the double pose. Naito’s reluctance to engage angers Ospreay, as the pair struggled in the ropes waiting for the referee to force a clean break. Ospreay switches around and swings with a chop, which Naito ducked ahead of a hiptoss backbreaker that looked nasty. A neckbreaker followed with the headscissors, which Ospreay quickly scuttles into the ropes to force a break on before rolling outside.

Ospreay heads back inside, but is quickly grounded with a modified cravat from Naito, who kept up the focus on the neck. Making it to the ropes, Ospreay demands a break, which isn’t forthcoming, as Naito charged in with some elbows to the neck, before a Combinacion Cabron follow-up ended with Ospreay lifting Naito up top and sending him to the floor with a chop. Following Naito outside, Ospreay sends his challenger over the railings with a short Irish whip, then towards the timekeeper’s table with a chop, before a forearm knocked Naito off the rails and back into the ringside area. Back in the ring, Ospreay fires off chops at Naito sending him down for a two-count, before a hiptoss attempt from Naito was countered into an abdominal stretch.

A spinning backbreaker’s next from Ospreay, as was a chinlock, before Naito manages to cut off Ospreay’s momentum with a diving kick off the ropes. Another back elbow drops Ospreay ahead of a dropkick to the back, leading to a Combinacion Cabron as Ospreay was face-first in the corner. That’s added to with a neckbreaker for a two-count, as more elbows to Ospreay’s neck looked to keep the champion in trouble. Naito brings Ospreay out of the corner with a falling neckbreaker, as it’s then back to the double leg nelson. The ropes eventually save Ospreay, who tries to fight back, only for Naito to go right back to the neck with elbows and stomps. A handspring enziguiri gets Ospreay some time though, taking Naito outside for a plancha, before a springboard back inside misses… Naito tries a tornado DDT, but Ospreay blocks it before hitting a wall-flip enziguiri to take Naito down… and again, that neck is proving problematic.

The springboard forearm bring Ospreay back in it for a two-count, as he then teed up for an OsCutter… but Naito grabs the legs to stop it. Kawada-ish kicks look to set up for the OsCutter, but Naito this time trips Ospreay in the ropes for a hanging backbreaker… then a hanging neckbreaker off the apron to the floor. Ospreay bounces off the ring post thanks to Naito, then was met with more elbows to the neck as a neckbreaker over the rails was teased… Ospreay breaks out, then hit an OsCutter off the rails to stop Naito in his tracks. Both men stayed down as they looked to use as much of the 20-count, with Ospreay using the ring apron to try and pull himself up as the pair made it back in at 19.

Back inside, Naito and Ospreay continue to take shots with forearm strikes, with the pace changing as the pair tried to get that second wind, but it’s Ospreay who’s sent to the mat first as Naito stood tall. Naito pulls up Ospreay, but those Kawada-ish kicks offered some defiance before a T-bone suplex took Naito down. For like a second, because Naito’s right back with those elbows to the neck. Naito keeps pulling Ospreay into elbow strikes, three more of which leave Ospreay laying. More of the same have a similar result as commentary doubted whether the referee would wave this off, just as Ospreay charged Naito into the corner to break up a Destino. Another tijeras from Naito’s blocked, but the swinging DDT ends up planting Ospreay on his head, before a trip up top led to an avalanche reverse ‘rana that Ospreay flipped out of as he snapped back for an OsCutter instead.

Ospreay dragged himself on top of Naito to pick up a two-count, then followed Naito into the corner as he looked to haul him up for a Cheeky Nando’s kick. It’s laboured, but Naito eats it before Ospreay pulled him into an Electric Chair on the top rope… but Naito swivelled out into an avalanche ‘rana instead. Destino looks to follow, but it’s stuffed and turned into a sit-out powerbomb as Ospreay gets a near-fall. We’re upping the ante as Naito cradles Ospreay out of a Hidden Blade, before Ospreay gets hot shotted into the buckles ahead of an Esperanza that face planted Ospreay.

Destino’s next… but Ospreay pushes Naito aside, only to eat it at the second time of asking for a near-fall. It’s always the clean one that wins. Ospreay pushes away that one, but the Storm Breaker’s countered into a Destino… and remember, it’s not the clean one, so it ain’t winning. Ospreay’s up at two, and countered another Destino, this time into a pop-up forearm. A Hidden Blade’s next, but Ospreay can’t make the cover… so he bides his time and adds a second, swiping off Naito’s head for a near-fall, before a Storm Breaker finally put away the former Stardust Genius. A fantastic closing stretch, but like with a fair amount of this card, the clap crowd hurt a lot… but for the situation they were in, this was a cracking main event. ****¼

Aussie Open came out in their Reservoir Dog-ish suits to celebrate with Ospreay and Gideon afterwards (and yeah, Gideon’s got his coat back). You kinda know what that means, right? Ospreay’s checked off one challenger, so he gets the mic for a post-show promo… Cassidy, Finlay, Naito are the three Ospreay’s defended against so far, so who’ll be number four? Ospreay mocked Naito, saying there’d be no Tokyo Dome for him (it seems), but it looks like Will’s got another appearance before then – as he called out the New Japan x STARDOM Historic X-over show.

There’s an open challenge issued, with Ospreay calling anyone from the Forbidden Door. With no answer, Gideon Grey goes to wrap it up as we get the streamers showering the ring… but we’re not done! The lights go out as Ospreay’s leaving the ring, with some unfamiliar music hitting… and a video package proclaiming the appearance of ROUGHNECK.

Who is Roughneck? We quickly find out… it’s the returning Shota Umino, who’s all-but-ditched the “Shooter” nickname, but still has Jon Moxley’s jacket. That pretty much tells you that Umino’s excursion with Rev Pro is over, as he’s answering Ospreay’s challenge at the Historic X-over show, despite coming up short against Ospreay at Royal Quest 2 last month. We get the obligatory face-off, with Umino then faking out a promo as he laid out Ospreay… Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher meet a similar fate, before Shota put the boots to Gideon Grey, then left Ospreay laying with a Death Rider. Aaron Henare, TJP and Francesco Akira run out to help clear out Shota, who celebrates in the crowd as we go off the air… and Shota’s recent-ish reluctant run alongside Gideon Grey in Rev Pro adds a degree of intrigue to this, even if this is all the build for that match.

The Battle Autumn tour wrapped up with a show that started off hot, but wobbled a little in the middle. While a lot of New Japan’s long-standing issues persist, they have made an attempt to freshen things up… and while sporadic “cheering” events are of course a welcome sight, they only serve to make the clap crowd shows even more jarring. Next up is the combined World Tag League/Super Junior Tag League tour – and they’re already teasing Aussie Open vs. FTR for the tag titles at the Tokyo Dome, so let’s see if the newest arrivals for the United Empire can get it done in the next six weeks or so…

New Japan, Battle Autumn, Battle Autumn 2022, Aaron Henare, Alex Zayne, BULLET CLUB, BUSHI, Cash Wheeler, David Finlay, Dax Harwood, El Desperado, EVIL, Francesco Akira, FTR, Gideon Grey, Great-O-Khan, Hikuleo, Hiromu Takahashi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jay White, Jeff Cobb, Kazuchika Okada, KENTA, Kyle Fletcher, Los Ingobernables de Japon, Mark Davis, Master Wato, Ren Narita, SANADA, Taiji Ishimori, Tama Tonga, Tetsuya Naito, Titan, TJP, Toru Yano, United Empire, Will Ospreay, Yujiro Takahashi, Zack Sabre Jr.