Osaka-Jo Hall hosted the first night of Castle Attack, with Kazuchika Okada finally getting his chance against EVIL in the main event.

Quick Results
Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb pinned Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroshi Tanahashi in 10:22 (**¾)
Tanga Loa pinned YOSHI-HASHI in 12:51 (***)
Hirooki Goto pinned Tama Tonga in 6:42 (*¾)
Toru Yano defeated Chase Owens in a YTR-style Texas Strap Match in 12:49 (*)
Jay White pinned Tomohiro Ishii in 25:42 (****)
Kazuchika Okada pinned EVIL in 28:09 (***)

This really is a weird card, huh? Almost all CHAOS vs. Bullet Club, as the feuds from that almost-cursed Castle Attack tour built to this weekend – with two singles matches ahead of the tag title defence tomorrow. We’ve got live English commentary again, with Kevin Kelly in the studio rather than in Osaka-Jo Hall – he’s got Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino on the call with him…

United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Will Ospreay & Jeff Cobb) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
After dominating on the Road-to shows, the United Empire have a slightly tougher test as it’s Tanahashi, Kojima and Tenzan providing the opposition here – no Young Lion in sight. Well, in the ring, at least…

We’ve no jump start, but the ring quickly fills as the United Empire baited their opponents in and attacked them from behind as the good guys were trying to leave. Triple-teaming to Tanahashi is initially fought off, with a springboard crossbody out of the corner dropping O-Khan before Kojima got the tag in. Kojima knocks Ospreay off the apron so he could go for O-Khan with Machine Gun chops, but the top rope elbow’s stopped as O-Khan came back in with a head and arm choke on the mat. A rope break saves Kojima, as Ospreay comes in with chops, before Cobb’s brief run in ended with O-Khan returning to hit some Mongolian chops on Kojima.

Eventually Kojima cuts off O-Khan with a Koji Cutter, then tagged in Tanahashi, who runs in with a leaping forearm and a Dragon Screw. Ospreay runs in to get the same treatment, while Tanahashi dishes out one out to Cobb in the ropes. Back-and-forth elbows between Tanahashi and O-Khan lead to more Mongolian chops before O-Khan put on a head claw choke, then a suplex too. Cobb’s back to take Tanahashi into the corner with headbutts, before Cobb misses a splash into the corner. Tanahashi hits back with a Twist and Shout as Tenzan begged to come in… he can’t hit Mongolian chops, remember, but a brainbuster was more than fine for a two-count.

Some triple-teaming leads to Cobb being thrown into Tenzan’s spinning heel kick, before an Anaconda Vise on the mat led to nought. A tag out brings in Ospreay, who looks to go straight to Storm Breaker… Tenzan blocks it and eats some Kawada-ish kicks before a Mountain Bomb flung Ospreay across the ring. Tenzan again short circuits on Mongolian chops as thrust kicks from Ospreay and O-Khan nearly get the ring, sparking the Parade of Moves as Tanahashi ate an Eliminator… Kojima takes a Tour of the Islands, and all that’s left is for Tenzan to be held up as an OsCutter puts him away. A pretty good opener, with the United Empire continuing to build momentum as their undefeated run stretched on on this tour. **¾

YOSHI-HASHI vs. Tanga Loa
It’s a preview for tomorrow’s tag title defence, and it’s Tanga Loa’s first singles match in New Japan that wasn’t part of a tournament. You’ve got to go back to runs in Impact and NXT for those…

We open with a lock-up as YOSHI-HASHI takes Tanga down in a cross armbar, but that ends in the ropes as YOSHI-HASHI instead puts the boots to Tanga. YOSHI-HASHI stays on that arm, elbowing away on it before a clothesline from Tanga got him free. Irish whips take YOSHI-HASHI into the corner for some short clotheslines, only for YOSHI-HASHI to return by going to that arm. Jado trips YOSHI-HASHI in the ropes, allowing Tanga Loa back in with a suplex that rolled into a back suplex for a two-count. The pair trade elbows before a headbutt from Tanga Loa took YOSHI-HASHI into the corner, before a basement dropkick from YOSHI-HASHI took out Tanga’s knee.

YOSHI-HASHI returns with a Head Hunter neckbreaker, then a chop into the corner as we return to the elbow strikes, before another neckbreaker from YOSHI-HASHI had Tanga down. Tanga catches YOSHI-HASHI on the top rope, but a superplex was countered into a sunset flip bomb out of the corner for a near-fall, before YOSHI-HASHI applied the Butterfly Lock. Tanga Loa stands up out of it, caught YOSHI-HASHI with a high knee and an enziguiri, before a spinebuster off the ropes led to a near-fall. From there, Tanga looks for Apeshit, but YOSHI-HASHI backs out into the corner and comes back with thrust kicks that barely faze Tanga… one finally works, so YOSHI-HASHI goes in for a back cracker, then dragged him into the corner for the Loose Explosion senton.

That gets YOSHI-HASHI a two-count, before he rolls Tanga Loa into the middle of the ring for a Butterfly Lock, which drags in Jado to interfere. YOSHI-HASHI superkicks him away before Tanga Loa accidentally laid out Jado, allowing YOSHI-HASHI to get a near-fall from a roll-up. A Dragon suplex drags down Tanga Loa ahead of running double knees, before Tama Tonga jogged to ringside, distracting as Tanga Loa countered a Karma into Apeshit for the win. A perfectly fine match, and one that makes me wish we see more of Tanga Loa in singles matches… That finish lead to the expected post-match attack that bled into the next match… ***

Tama Tonga vs. Hirooki Goto
Goto eventually runs to the ring to make the save, and after he clotheslined Tanga Loa to the outside, we start.

A roll-up from Tama nearly wins it straight away, before they take things outside, where Jado hits Goto with the Kendo stick. Back inside, Tama wears down Goto, but elbows to the head had little effect as Goto sidesteps a splash into the corner and comes back out with a suplex. A spinning heel kick into the corner and a bulldog out of it gives Goto a two-count, before a Tongan Twist gets Tama a near-fall. Tama goes for a Gun Stun, but that’s blocked as he instead lands the Veleno DDT, before a diving elbow to the back of the head bought Goto some time.

Jado distracts the referee as Tanga Loa looked to come in… but Goto fought them both off before a bunch of misdirection led to a Gun Stun… that’s blocked! Goto pulls Tama into an ushigoroshi, but puts on the brakes and turns it into the GTR for the win. A hell of a finish to a brief match, and I guess we split the wins here going into tomorrow… *¾

YTR-style Texas Strap Match for Provisional KOPW 2021 Championship: Chase Owens vs. Toru Yano (h)
So… if a Texas Strap Match is “touch all four corners”, and a YTR style match involves removing the corner pads… how does that meet in the middle? According to Chris Charlton – the winner is the person who takes off the final pad.

We eventually get going with Yano taking the slack and whipping Owens to the outside, then pulling him back in as Chase apparently wanted a handshake. Nothing going there, apart from more whipping, as Owens again bailed… so Yano removes a corner pad. Owens tries to remove one from the floor, but Yano got mad for some reason, then gave chase… allowing Owens to pull him into the ring post. Why’d you be mad that someone’s making your path to victory easier?

On the outside, Owens whips Yano before he ripped off the shirt. You know what’s next. CLOSE ZOOM UPS OF MARKED BACKS! Off comes a second pad, which Owens throws at Yano, before then taking Yano outside… but Yano whips Owens into the railings, then looked for some tape for… reasons. Owens escapes as a we get a tug of war – complete with the accidental flag in the middle – as Owens pulls Yano into the guard rails, before he taped Yano’s fist closed. I mean, it’s hard to undo turnbuckles with closed fists…

More whipping follows, but Yano countered out with a slingshot to the exposed corner, before he charges into the same said corner. Owens unties the third pad, so it’s now a race to the red pad… and after Owens got pushed towards the ref, we get a low blow… but Yano can’t undo the straps because his thumbs were taped up too. Eventually Yano undoes the tape, but Owens is back up and pulls Yano away before a Jewel Heist lariat knocked Yano down. Chase heads outside and pulls Yano into an exposed corner so he could get him the hell away from that final pad… a trip to the guard rails is next as Owens pulls up the padding at ringside, but a package piledriver on the floor’s countered with a back body drop.

Yano rolls back inside, but he can’t pull Chase back in as the strap proved to be a limiter. Owens pulls Yano back outside and decks him with the ring bell, but hits the same hurdle with the strap. Owens figures it out and throws Yano back inside, but while chase undoes one set of ribbons on the pad, Yano’s able to pull him away, then pull him into an oni koroshi falling powerbomb before Yano removed the final pad. The stipulation hamstrung this KOPW outing… now, let us never speak of this again. *

Jay White vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Jay White’s return saw him go straight after Ishii – the man who beat him at New Year Dash to send him “home”…

White powders outside at the bell, looking to bait Ishii to fight in the crowd – with Kevin Kelly on commentary noting that that’d get him suspended. Ishii gives chase as they synchronise going in and out of the ring before Gedo’s distraction allowed White to get some kicks in… and then pull himself back to the outside. White feigns a knee injury as he slides back in, but that’s a ruse for Gedo to attack from behind. Ishii shrugs it off and charges White to the outside with a shoulder tackle, then followed up by flinging White into the guard rails. White crawls up the aisle as he kept trying to bait Ishii… but to no avail as they resume in the ring.

A TKO drops Ishii throat-first on the top rope as, yes, we go back outside. Ishii’s dropped on the railings, then charged back between the apron and the rails. Back inside, White keeps working on that midsection, booting Ishii in the gut before shoulder charges continued to target the ribs. A knee drop leads to a reverse bear hug, with Ishii diving to the ropes as White continues to take charge. A simple Irish whip into the corner aggravates Ishii, but he’s able to come back with a scoop slam off the ropes, before a suplex bought Ishii some more time. The pair begin to doe-see-doe around moves as White spikes Ishii with a DDT, before a death valley driver lands for a near-fall. White chops Ishii in the corner, but that just wakes up a retort as chops to the throat drop White… who eventually hit back with a Complete Shot.

Ishii’s dumped seconds later with a deadlift German suplex, but a Kiwi Krusher’s blocked… so White just suplexes Ishii into the turnbuckle, which looked to have disastrous consequences. It’s repeated on the outside as Ishii’s chucked into the railings, but Ishii’s able to roll back in… and into the path of a Blade Buster for a two-count. White shrugs off a headbutt from Ishii and comes back with a uranage, before a Kiwi Krusher landed for another near-fall. Seeking advice from Gedo, White looks to be running low on ideas, as Ishii hooks the leg to block a sleeper suplex, before White’s elbows just weren’t getting registered.

A knee to the gut was though, as Ishii strikes back with a leaping headbutt after he’d lifted White to the top rope. Ishii followed that up with an avalanche brainbuster for a near-fall as the feed glitches out. Gedo distracts, but White can’t capitalise as Ishii comes in with a sleeperhold… but Ishii gets punched in out by Gedo, allowing White to hit that sleeper suplex. Ishii’s taken to his knees from a sleeperhold, but powered up… and gets dumped with a Regalplex instead for a near-fall. White’s body blows lead to him getting clotheslined, before Ishii went back to the sleeperhold. That’s let go of… but White hits the brainbuster first for a near-fall, before a Blade Runner gets countered into a German suplex. A folding powerbomb from Ishii takes him a little closer, before a Gedo distraction backfired, with Ishii blocking a low blow, then took down White for a sliding lariat for a near-fall.

From there, Ishii goes for a brainbuster, but they doe-see-doe around moves before Ishii’s bounced with a half-and-half suplex. White picks him up… but eats a lariat, before eventually hitting the Blade Runner for the win. This one was easy to zone out of at the start, with White’s “come and get me” game very likely to sap any excitement away from you – if you didn’t get the “he wants to get Ishii banned” nugget of information. With that in mind, this then became White trying to force Ishii into his game, but Ishii withstood and almost took the win by throwing bomb after bomb at the Kiwi, only for the Blade Runner to be the difference. I just wish their counter spots didn’t look like an aggressive bit of line dancing… ****

EVIL vs. Kazuchika Okada
After their brief and impromptu skirmish in Hiroshima earlier in the month, these two get the main event spot after all the procrastination from EVIL.

The pair start swinging at the bell, with Okada hitting some elbows before a big boot off the ropes took EVIL outside. Dick Togo distracts, so EVIL kicks Okada in the arse, before a slam from Okada led to a quick senton atomico as commentary was painting this as a must-win match for EVIL. A neckbreaker and a chinlock from Okada keeps EVIL down, as the ropes come to the former double-champion’s aid, before a basement dropkick takes EVIL back outside… but a brief chase ends with EVIL getting back on top, as Okada distracted himself with Togo. The guard rails come into play next, and yes, EVIL kills Mokoto Abe again. EVIL grabs come chairs as they repair the timekeeper table, and with the referee distracted he does the home run spot, before they return to the ring, as EVIL throws Okada into a conveniently-exposed corner. Cheers Dick!

A half crab ends in the ropes, as EVIL builds up some momentum… only to miss a back senton as Okada dives in with an uppercut instead. Okada keeps going with a back elbow off the ropes, then a DDT for a two-count, before he lifted EVIL up top… to dropkick him down to the floor. Okada chases after Togo in the aisle, but that just gives EVIL a chance to come back… except Okada caught him as a pair of DDT dumped the Bullet Club lads. They head back to the ring, where EVIL’s covered for a two-count, before a flapjack looked to keep Okada ahead… as did a neckbreaker slam out of the corner.

A shotgun dropkick off the top gets Okada another two-count, before EVIL finally looked to muster some response, clotheslining Okada into that exposed corner. Okada’s taken up top for a superplex, before the Darkness Scorpion left Okada in trouble, at least until he got to the ropes. Darkness Falls is next for a near-fall, before he pulled up Okada for Everything is EVIL. Okada tries to counter into a Money Clip, but then threw EVIL into the exposed corner before applying the hold… an eye rake breaks it up, and here’s the bullshit. Togo’s in and booted away, before an Okada dropkick led to EVIL getting caught in the Money Clip once more.

EVIL grabs the ref to try and break things up, but Red Shoes broke that up with a Polish hammer, before a tombstone and another Money Clip led to EVIL grabbing the ref again. Okada tries to reapply the hold, but he’s pushed into the referee. Okada puts the Money Clip on again despite there being no ref… so of course, Dick Togo comes in to choke him out… but Togo’s broken up and taken down with a tombstone. Okada teases using the garotte wire, but throws it away as EVIL punches him low… Okada kicks back low as we play roshambo. Another tombstone lays out EVIL as the ref’s come to… just in time for a Money Clip to get turned into a backbreaker, before the Money Clip ends in the ropes.

After absorbing a ripcord clothesline, EVIL throws Okada with a German suplex, before a lariat off the ropes almost got the win. A discus lariat from Okada starts some doe-see-doe counters to finishes as Okada just about hits a Michinoku driver, before a Rainmaker woke up the crowd in time for the three-count. This was looking to be a decent match until all of the run-ins and associated bullshit as we instead go back to “Okada can win when he uses the Rainmaker,” which isn’t that bad of a story. ***

After the match, Okada declared he wanted to get back into contention for the IWGP title – and he wants to do that by winning the New Japan Cup.

We’re back tomorrow for the “championship edition” of Castle Attack – starting at midnight Eastern time/5am GMT. Set your clocks for that! On paper, this was the lesser of the two cards – and let’s face it, if this had been a one-night event with a full crowd, only the top three matches would have made it onto the card with the current storylines. Still, in spite of its issues, White/Ishii more than delivered amid a superfluous undercard that really could have been done on the Road-to shows.