Korakuen Hall’s about to become a little more vocal today, as cheering was allowed for the first time in over two years for a Japanese New Japan show.
Minoru Suzuki pinned Bad Dude Tito in 8:44 (***¼)
Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & YOH pinned Dick Togo, EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & SHO in 9:15 (**¾)
Hikuleo, Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens pinned Gideon Grey, Great O-Khan & Jeff Cobb in 9:50 (***¼)
Aaron Henare, TJP & Francesco Akira pinned The DKC, Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi in 10:56 (***)
KUSHIDA & Jado pinned Gedo & Taiji Ishimori in 10:03 (**¾)
El Phantasmo & KENTA pinned BUSHI & Shingo Takagi in 11:56 (***¼)
SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito pinned Taichi, El Desperado & Zack Sabre Jr. in 11:45 (***¼)
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada pinned Shane Haste & JONAH in 16:17 (***½)
Clap crowds have been used as a shorthand for the ills of New Japan’s issues since the pandemic started – and while that’s not entirely the sole reason New Japan’s popularity has suffered among Western fans (the rise of AEW, the handling of social media to name just two others), it’s the most obvious issue you’ll see when watching a show.
So, we’ve a rather distanced crowd of 720 in Korakuen Hall today as New Japan welcomes back cheering crowds for the first time since February 2020… but first, we’ve got Hiromu Takahashi out to welcome the crowd… and get those first vocal chants as he warmed the crowd up by having them cheer and boo. It feels weird hearing intentional mouth noises on a New Japan show after so long…
Bad Dude Tito vs. Minoru Suzuki
This feels like the Gabriel Kidd/Yota Tsuji trivia question as far as “the first match back… with vocal crowds,” and you’d better believe it that Korakuen Kaze Ni Nare’d.
Suzuki starts by working over Tito’s wrist and arm, but Tito escaped and went to stretch Suzuki with almost a grounded Cobra twist, before Suzuki almost intimidated his way to freedom. Kicks from the mat sting Tito’s legs, before “Big Teets” came in with a headlock takedown… which Suzuki quickly countered with headscissors. Suzuki takes Tito to the apron for a hanging armbar in the ropes, but that takes things outside as Suzuki’s thrown into the railings. A guillotine on the apron helps Suzuki fire back, as he took Tito into the rails and kicked the arm before a camel clutch on the floor was broken by Suzuki.
Back in the ring, Suzuki takes Tito to the corner, then rolled him out for a PK… which is caught as Tito retaliates with a shoulder tackle. We’re quickly heading to an exchange of elbows, with Tito’s rolling elbow and a Doctor bomb getting a near-fall, before Suzuki’s rear naked choke and elbow strikes led to the Gotch-style piledriver for the win. This was exactly what this match needed to be – more than an entrance, but plenty for the newly-vocal crowd to sink their teeth into. God, I’ve missed this… ***¼
House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, SHO & YOH) vs. Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, YOH & Toru Yano
Hey, so we get to hear what Japanese crowds think of House of Torture for the first time. A lot of booing when their music hit… and even more so when they pushed out a dog cage. I’d boo too just for that, to be fair.
The House of Torture jump the CHAOS lads at the bell, taking things outside as EVIL tried to throw Goto into the dog cage. Woof. In the ring, Goto charged out of the corner with a shoulder tackle to EVIL, before YOH joined in with one of his own. A back elbow to EVIL in the corner was the end of YOH’s offence though, as he’s taken outside for SHO to throw into the rails, while EVIL wiped out the ring announcer’s table. Yujiro’s in for the falling headbutt, elbow drop, leg drop combo for a two-count on YOH, while SHO came in to keep his former tag partner cornered. Dick Togo’s back to help, but YOH kicks away a pair of back body drops before dropkicking SHO. YOSHI-HASHI gets the tag in next, but his suplex is bitten away by Yujiro before Goto helped charge him down…
EVIL’s in for the ref-assisted superkick as we’re well into a Parade of Moves, ending with a DDT from Yujiro. Toru Yano gets a pop for his tag in as he goes right to the corner pads, removing one… but Dick Togo cuts him off. Yano heads between the ropes to shout break along with the crowd, before he caught Dick in the… with a Manhattan drop. SHO, Yujiro and EVIL rush the ring to stomp on Yano, before Dick brought out the garotte wire. The rest of Yano’s teammates break it up, then cleared house as Yano threw Dick into the corner… he put the brakes on, but couldn’t avoid a low blow and a roll-up as we got the first Yano-Toru-eh chant at the end. Interrupted by the House of Torture… **¾
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & Hikuleo) vs. United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Great O-Khan & Gideon Grey)
A weird factoid I found while looking through Cagematch – despite O-Khan and Gideon being paired with each other throughout O-Khan’s excursion with Rev Pro, they’ve only tagged together three times – the last time being O-Khan’s penultimate match in Rev Pro, just before the pandemic hit. O-Khan was massively popular with this crowd, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise if you’ve kept up…
We’ve a jump start from the Bullet Club, but Gideon’s not invited to play it seems as he’s shoved on his arse. He begs Fale and Owens to stop, but got thrown back as the clock was running on “will he last longer than the three minutes he did on Saturday against a similar team?”
Hikuleo and Fale charge, but Gideon ducks… then tried to scramble past Fale. O-Khan saves Gideon from a Grenade Launcher, before a roll-up nearly put Owens away. Gideon’s still wrestling in “that lovely jacket that reeks of Brexit” (cheers Neil David of the Eurograps Express podcast for that), as Jeff Cobb made a save, throwing Owens down with a German suplex before Gideon nearly won with a standing splash. O-Khan tags in and sits on Owens in the corner, before Cobb came in to try and win by kneeling on Owens. Fale’s in to break that up, allowing Owens to rake Cobb’s eye against the ropes before Hikuleo came in to swing for Cobb. Fale’s back as the Bullet Club surfed on Cobb’s back… Hikuleo’s splash in the corner looked to lead to a chokeslam, but Cobb elbows out, then avoided a big boot in the corner.
O-Khan’s back to go wild with Mongolian chops, before he shoved Hikuleo into Fale, then hit a throat thrust. There’s a judo throw for Owens, before Hikuleo returned to trade shots. Hikuleo takes down O-Khan, but ends up caught in a triangle choke… it’s broken up by Hikuleo, who then countered a head claw with a goozle, only to get pulled into a Sheep Killer. Things are going too well… and Gideon Grey’s got the confidence to tag in. Oh God. He runs into a scoop slam from Hikuleo, who then pulls him up for a chokeslam, and that’s your lot. ***¼
Ryusuke Taguchi, Master Wato & The DKC vs. United Empire (TJP, Francesco Akira & Aaron Henare)
We’re building up to the junior tag title match later in the tour, as we start with Akira and Wato.
The pair trade standing side headlocks, before Wato got caught in the corner, allowing TJP in… only for Taguchi to make the save with a hip attack. The DKC comes in and has TJP held up for some body blows, before he returned the favour for Wato. Taguchi returns for some more hip attacks, but he gets carried away and ends up heading outside as Akira followed up with a crossbody to the floor. TJP and Akira hit a double-team Manhattan drop, then a double-team neckbreaker on Taguchi for a two-count, while Akira’s missile dropkick earned him a two-count. Face-washing boots from TJP trap Taguchi in the corner, while Henare tagged in to, erm, box Taguchi’s arse.
Eventually, Taguchi mounts a comeback after a missed hip attack, finally connecting with a roll through and a hip attack to Akira. Wato tags in from there and cleared house, spinning down Akira with a low dropkick while a leaping uppercut off the top forced TJP in to break up the cover. A facebuster from Wato nearly puts Akira away, before TJP returned to set up for a Doomsday Cutter. Taguchi crotches Akira in the corner as Wato slipped out of TJP’s electric chair to hit a German suplex. Tags bring us back to DKC and Henare, with the latter taking a drop toe hold and some kicks. For some reason, Milano going “hi-yah” on commentary for DKC’s kicks cracked me up…
DKC pushed on as things went a little wonky with a Taguchi hip attack as the ring filled and cleared… leaving us with DKC measuring up Henare for some DKC Chops. They’re good for a near-fall, before a modified Anaconda Vise was rolled out of as Henare returned with a Blue Thunder Bomb and Rampage for the win. ***
KUSHIDA & Jado vs. Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & Gedo)
So, after a shockingly-brief interval, we’re raring to go with this continuation of the KUSHIDA/Ishimori title build.
KUSHIDA and Ishimori start on the mat, looking for an advantage as they traded holds and pinning attempts early. Ishimori baseball slides to the outside as tags brought us to Gedo and Jado. The World Class Tag Team implodes! Gedo swears a lot, then poked Jado in the eyes ahead of a missed charge to the corner. Chops from Jado earn him body blows, but Jado recovered to threaten a Green Killer DDT, which Ishimori broke up. All four men end up on the outside, but back inside Ishimori indulged in a spot of t-shirt choking on Jado, as this one struggled to keep my attention. Choking followed in the ropes, before Gedo returned for a fist drop.
Jado began to Hulk Up, taking down Gedo with a shoulder tackle as he came off the ropes, before tags bring us back to KUSHIDA and Ishimori. A crossbody chrome KUSHIDA, then a Pele kick took down Ishimori as Gedo returned… and had Ishimori tripped into his crotch. KUSHIDA looked to get the win with a roll-up, then a Border City Stretch as he paid homage to Alex Shelley… but Ishimori countered back into a very-similar Bone Lock as a roll-up nearly ended it.
Cipher UTAKI from Ishimori lays out KUSHIDA, but Gedo can’t capitalise as a double-team saw Gedo isolated ahead of a hiptoss and cartwheel dropkick… as a hammerlock suplex from KUSHIDA ends up getting the win. **¾
Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & KENTA) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)
After a brief break, we’re back with a renewal of the El Phantasmo/Shingo Takagi rivalry… complete with Phantasmo revealing an “ELP is my Daddy” shirt in the LIJ font. Then admonishing his “bad son” when Shingo threw the shirt to the outside…
ELP and Shingo start us off, quickly going to hair pulling before some headscissors from ELP earned him a shoulder tackle in return. BUSHI tags in and whips ELP corner-to-corner, then landed an overhead kick in the ropes before KENTA booted BUSHI off the apron. KENTA uses his book to batter BUSHI with in the corner, which must mean it’s a heavy read, before KENTA undid a corner pad… Back rakes from ELP and KENTA lead to a Boston crab from KENTA, which Shingo tried to break up before BUSHI forced his way to the ropes. ELP’s back to go after BUSHI’s nipples, while headscissors from BUSHI bought him some time to make the tag out to Shingo, who eagerly battered Phantasmo in the corner with clotheslines and elbows.
KENTA’s back to delay things, but Shingo charges him down while a back senton squishes ELP for a two-count. Phantasmo rakes the eyes to take Shingo into the corner, before Shingo fought back out with a pop-up death valley driver for good measure. KENTA kicks BUSHI in the ropes to stop a threatened comeback, but it’s shrugged off as BUSHI caught KENTA by surprise with a tope to the outside. Shingo blindsides ELP as he and BUSHI double-team… it calms down until ELP threatened a Made in Japan on BUSHI, forcing Shingo to break it up, before he was thrown into an exposed corner. Sudden Death takes care of Shingo, allowing ELP to try and finish off BUSHI with a CR2, only to get cradled for a near-fall, before ELP blocked BUSHI’s monkey flip and held him up there for a flying KENTA clothesline. From there, CR2 followed, and that’s it. A pretty good midcard tag with ELP showing plenty for what he’ll be like should he ever eschew the Bullet Club and become a good guy down the line… ***¼
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi & El Desperado) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & Hiromu Takahashi)
Hiromu and Desperado locking horns again, in front of this crowd? I’ll take this as a semi-main… particularly when the crowd was molten hot for literally everyone on both sides.
Taichi and Naito start, but Sabre quickly tagged in and tied up Naito with some headscissors on the mat while Taichi’s foot in the ropes tried to stop Naito from forcing a break. Desperado’s in, but gets kicked by SANADA in the ropes ahead of Hiromu rushing in for a shotgun dropkick for good measure, while Naito used the tassels on Desperado’s mask to stretch him in a seated surfboard. Hiromu’s back in for a clothesline and dropkick on Desperado for a two-count, before Desperado went for a suplex. It’s blocked, as Hiromu tried a Dynamite Plunger, only to get pushed off and met with a spinebuster. Tags get us to Sabre and Naito, as a Naito armdrag and Manhattan drop led to Combinacion Cabron… which Sabre blocked as a low dropkick ended up targeting Naito’s head.
Sabre’s deathlock on Naito isn’t helped by him being chopped by SANADA, who bumbled his way into hurting Naito more before Sabre’s Cobra twist on SANADA, then a grounded Octopus on Naito looked to force a stoppage. After a rope break, Sabre stomps on Naito’s knee some more, before see-saw sunset flips trolled the ref for a bunch of two-counts. A neckbreaker from Naito leaves Sabre laying, as SANADA tagged in to hit a dropkick. SANADA’s cravat traps Sabre, who tries to snapmare his way free ahead of a Cobra twist that again restrained SANADA. Sabre’s taken down for a Paradise Lock, but he knows SANADA’s game and prevented it…
Taichi’s in for some Kawada-ish kicks to SANADA, who replied with elbows as the pair went back-and-forth heading to the ten-minute mark… Taichi pec pops to fire up as he launched into SANADA with chops, only to get caught with a Magic Screw off the ropes, before a backbreaker into the corner set up for a moonsault. SANADA misses, as Desperado came in with a spear to spark a Parade of Moves… ending with a uwatanage from Taichi to SANADA. Taichi goes to rip off his trousers, but SANADA, ever the rotter, stops him and took him to the ropes for an O’Connor roll… and that’s enough for the win. ***¼
TMDK (JONAH & Shane Haste) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi
You’ll be shocked, but Tanahashi and Okada were audibly treated like Gods here…
When we get going, it’s Okada and JONAH squaring off… with surprisingly loud chants for the Aussie too. Wowing during the G1 will do that for you. The opening lock-up ends in the ropes, with JONAH breaking cleanly, before he invited Okada to try and take him off his feet with shoulder tackles. Instead, JONAH charged down Okada, as Shane Haste tagged in – just as Okada got free in the TMDK corner. Tanahashi tagged in too, trapping Haste with an overhead wristlock before Haste backflipped free, snapmared Tanahashi and hit a low dropkick. Tanahashi rebounds with a crossbody out of the corner after Haste’s mockery… then got taken down with a back suplex from Haste as TMDK looked to be in control.
JONAH’s back in after a Haste powerslam, as he slammed his own partner onto Tanahashi, before a waistlock from JONAH was elbowed out of. A back elbow from JONAH sinks Tanahashi seconds later, as did a sit-down splash, before Haste was thrown in with an uppercut to a cornered Tanahashi. Okada inadvertently distracts the referee as Tanahashi was kept cornered, leading to a JONAH headbutt before he missed a splash as Tanahashi rolled away in the nick of time.
Okada gets the tag in and quickly hits a DDT to JONAH, then knocked Haste off the apron… but couldn’t get the follow-up slam off as he ended up scoring with a dropkick instead. Another Okada slam attempt sees JONAH fall back onto him for a near-fall as we crossed the ten-minute marker, before a JONAH bodyslam and diving cannonball back senton nearly won it. A Money Clip from Okada looked to restrain JONAH, who broke free then took down Okada with a body attack as Haste tagged in to build on that. Haste’s dropkick downs Okada, while a spinning heel kick into the corner, then a leaping cannonball had the G1 winner firmly on the defensive. Okada shuts that all down with a dropkick though, as Tanahashi tagged in to hit a slam and a flip senton to Haste in the corner.
JONAH’s back to double-team Tanahashi, squashing him with a splash before a slam set up Tanahashi for a piggy-back’d splash as Haste nearly took home the win. The double-teaming goes awry when Haste’s head kick accidentally caught out JONAH, who then got taken down with a double-team suplex after an assist from Okada. Haste’s left in the ring with Tanahashi, almost winning with another back suplex before he got caught with a Twist and Shout. A Slingblade’s next out of Tanahashi for a near-fall, before the Ace went up top for an Ace’s High… the High Fly Flow followed, and it’s Tanahashi who closes out the first show back with cheering fans. Much like the opener, this was exactly what it needed to be – with Tanahashi and Okada being the figureheads standing tall at the end. ***½
A festival-like atmosphere for the good guys really elevated this show – even if a lot of the in-ring was largely the same as Friday’s tour opener. Still, that wasn’t the point behind this show. It was a show that opened the door for even the most jaded of fans to potential glories in the future – if the crowds can get this hot now, imagine what it’ll be like in the future. Especially since it’s given New Japan the first true sign of how their paying crowds have reacted to characters introduced and developed in the last two years, which you’d hope can only be a good thing.