After yesterday’s shocking move from EVIL, his new life begins with a big test as he took on Tetsuya Naito in a shocking night in Osaka.
This is the first “real big” New Japan show since we lost Larry. Rather than repeat what we all know – that he will forever be a huge loss to this community – I’ll use this space to remind you of the Go Fund Me that’s still open for his family.
Last night at the New Japan Cup finals, EVIL won the New Japan Cup… then turned on Tetsuya Naito, stomping on a LIJ hat as he left Los Ingobernables de Japon for the Bullet Club. Which left Milano Collection AT – EVIL’s biggest fan – in tears on commentary at the end of the night. We open with a recap of last night’s events at Osaka-Jo Hall – of course, we’ve only got Japanese commentary for the live feed. Kevin Kelly will be backfilling this in the coming days.
Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima & Ryusuke Taguchi submitted Gabriel Kidd, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma in 9:25 (***)
Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA & BUSHI submitted Yota Tsuji, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano in 10:15 (***)
El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI pinned Yuya Uemura, Master Wato & Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 9:45 (**¾)
Yujiro Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori pinned Hirooki Goto & Kazuchika Okada in 9:40 (***)
Shingo Takagi pinned SHO to retain the NEVER Openweight Championship in 20:00 (****¼)
Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi to win the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships in 28:40 (****)
EVIL pinned Tetusya Naito to win the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships in 38:00 (***¼)
Satoshi Kojima, Ryusuke Taguchi & Yuji Nagata vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Gabriel Kidd
We start with some mix-n-match teams, and Gabriel Kidd seems to have eyes for Yuji Nagata, making a beeline for him as he hit the ring.
Instead, Kidd started with Taguchi, grappling him to the mat as the pair rolled into the ropes. A wristlock puts Taguchi down as the crowd applauded, before an armbar was escaped with Taguchi slipping out into a side headlock. Kidd escapes and replies with one of his own as they upped the pace, but in the end we hit a stand-off as tags then brought in Honma and Kojima. They start with shoulder tackles, as an eye rake from Kojima helped him on the way to knocking down Honma… who replied with a tackle of his own. Oh, and a missed Kokeshi. Because of course. Nagata’s in, before Kojima returned to help with a double shoulder tackle. Stomps help take Honma to the corner ahead of some machine gun chops, but Honma replies with some of his own, even if the pace was more manual than automatic.
More chops from Kojima take down Honma ahead of the top rope elbow that has about the same hit rate as a Kokeshi… but Kojima lands it before bringing Taguchi back into play. Palm strikes to Honma’s head prove an irritant, so Honma hits a DDT… then misses a Kokeshi. Taguchi does the same, before finally Honma lands one! Batting .333 for the day, eh? Makabe tags in to clear house, but Kojima’s full of something today as he’s breaking things up… only to get cornered as Makabe went corner-to-corner with clotheslines. Mounted punches greet Taguchi, as do a Northern Lights suplex, but Taguchi kicks out, then came back with a hip attack before bringing Nagata back in. Makabe takes some kicks before running into an Exploder… but his swivelling lariat bought him time as Gabriel Kidd returned to the fray.
Now Gabe gets Nagata, leaping into the corner with a back elbow before a shoulder tackle drew a two-count. Nagata counters back though, taking him down for a Fujiwara armbar that Honma stomped apart, before they triple-teamed Nagata, leading to a dropkick from Gabe for a near-fall. The standard issue Boston crab follows, but it doesn’t get the result, so they go back to trading elbows, before Kidd paintbrush Nagata in the ropes. That just earns Kidd a kitchen sink knee and a mid kick for a near-fall, before Nagata hit an Exploder, leading to a Nagata Lock II for the submission. A perfectly fine opener, with Kidd fitting his role of Young Lion perfectly – but I do worry about his life expectancy here given the foes he’s picking… ***
Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Yota Tsuji
LIJ are licking their wounds after last night, and I guess the default trios champions are out now. I mean, not officially, but that situation with EVIL holding belts in a group he’s left will probably be resolved at Korakuen later in the month. In the meantime, enjoy Hiromu’s wrist tape with “WHY?” scribbled all over it…
SANADA and Yano start, and of course Yano has eyes for the turnbuckle pads. It’s Hiromu who stops Yano at first, but he couldn’t prevent him a second time… only for SANADA to trap Yano with a rolling clutch as he dizzied everyone en route to getting a two-count on the mat. Yano staggers into a punch from BUSHI, before he got to the ropes to save himself from a Paradise Lock. A hair pull yanks down SANADA, as Tsuji tagged in to lay in with some elbows. Of course, it’s too soon for a Boston crab, but Tsuji tries anyway as chops take SANADA into the ropes, before a low dropkick took down the Young Lion. BUSHI rushes the ring as SANADA ties up Yano in the ropes, while Hiromu took Ishii into the guard rails. Tsuji’s taken into a Paradise Lock too, and left not very socially-distant from Hiromu, as the dropkick from SANADA ends up freeing both men at once. Efficient.
Hiromu’s in to light up Tsuji with chops as the crowd clapped along, before throwing Tsuji into the exposed corner. A chop rings around Osaka-Jo Hall as BUSHI returned to do the same, before a neckbreaker took down the Young Lion. Tsuji replies with a slam as BUSHI came off the ropes, before one to an on-rushing Hiromu left him exhausted… with little option than tagging in Ishii. Ishii goes straight for BUSHI with chops, but BUSHI buys himself time and hits a missile dropkick. Ishii pops right back up, then swats away a second dropkick to charge down BUSHI, before feeding SANADA to Yano for a slingshot into the exposed corner. BUSHI reverses a whip and sends Yano into the corner, before Ishii countered out of a swinging Fisherman neckbreaker… only to fall for it at the second time of asking.
Hiromu’s back, kicking the rope into Ishii before a dropkick flipped the Stone Pitbull into the ropes. Yano trips Hiromu by the ropes, then held him for Ishii… but SANADA foils that plan, only for Ishii to hit that backdrop suplex on Hiromu anyway. Tsuji’s brought back in to pick up the pace, hitting a splash on Hiromu in the corner before a shoulder tackle and a suplex earned him a two-count. The Boston crab follows, but Hiromu easily scrambles to the ropes before a missed splash got Tsuji a hattrick of low LIJ dropkicks for a near-fall. The ring fills and empties to break that up, as Hiromu stays on Tsuji for a Time Bomb… which is countered into a roll-up for a near-fall. That annoys Hiromu, who breaks Tsuji with a superkick for a near-fall, before putting him away with a Boston crab for the humiliating submission. A solid outing from a still-shattered LIJ trio. ***
Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Master Wato, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Yuya Uemura
DOUKI’s enforcing social distancing with his pipe, as Master Wato teams up with one of his mentors in Hiroyoshi Tenzan. Uemura being on the same side as him doesn’t bode well…
The Suzuki-gun lads get jumped at the bell, so Wato’s clearly watched tape, as he goes for Kanemaru on the outside… and ends up having his eyes raked against the guard rails. In the ring, Tenzan throttles DOUKI before a headbutt and a clothesline off the ropes left him down. Wato tags in and helps with a double shoulder tackle for a two-count, before he clocked DOUKI with a dropkick off the ropes. Tenzan’s back to put the boots to DOUKI, before he brought the Mongolian chops… only for Desperado to trip him up and drag him outside as things went wild. Kanemaru’s slicing legdrop was aborted and turned into a stomp off the barriers, before he DDT’d Wato on the outside. Tenzan makes it back into the ring, but Kanemaru’s legal and just chokes him by the ropes as the rest of the Suzuki-gun team joined in.
Eye rakes from Desperado take Tenzan down, while DOUKI’s low dropkick gets him just a one-count. Tenzan finally fires back as he reversed a suplex on Kanemaru, but DOUKI stops him from tagging in Wato, before a spinning heel kick from Tenzan cleared house and finally allowed him to tag in the blue man. Kanemaru instantly rakes Wato’s eyes, but Wato’s back with jumping kicks before taking Kanemaru outside for a tornillo. Back inside, as springboard European uppercut takes down Kanemaru for a two-count, but a scooping reverse DDT turns it around as Wato almost took the fall there. Clearing the apron, Kanemaru remained focused on Wato, who threw some more kicks before he ran into an enziguiri, with Desperado returning to take a dropkick from Wato too.
In comes Uemura to try and push on, running into Desperado with elbows and uppercuts, before a dropkick took down Despy. Wato clears the apron as they triple-team Despy, leading to a roundhouse kick from Wato and a moonsault double knee drop as Wato went all Speedball on us. It gets Uemura a near-fall as he looked to finish off a woozy Desperado with a Capture suplex, but Despy headbutts free before his German suplex was countered with a roll-up for a near-fall. Uemura’s elbow builds up steam, but Desperado pulls the referee into his path, masking a knock-out punch as Pinche Loco ends up getting the job done. Another sub-ten minute undercard tag – the perfect length for these shows, but the story continued afterwards as Suzuki-gun continued to put the boots to Wato on the floor. **¾
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto
I guess they’re still perpetuating the “Gedo’s revenge” storyline as Okada’s firmly away from the IWGP title picture right now… and feels lost. At least he’s not arsing around with balloons this time.
Okada hurls his ring jacket at Yujiro before the bell, clearly annoyed with him for his role in what happened last night… but it’s Ishimori and Okada who start us off. Of course, Yujiro attacks Okada from behind and puts the boots to him as Ishimori targeted the taped-up neck, before Okada outsmarted the pair of them as he ends up DDT’ing Yujiro. Things spill outside as Okada throws Yujiro into the railings, then booted him over them as a draping DDT looked to bring Yujiro back towards ringside… but he bit his way free and hit a Fisherman suplex on the outside instead. With Okada already worn down, Ishimori gets a couple of two-counts before applying a nerve hold to the taped-up neck, before Yujiro tagged in and mounted him for some punches.
Yujiro takes Okada to the ropes for a front kick, as he exercised what he admitted to yesterday as “pulling Okada down to his level.” Astonishing self-awareness right there. Ishimori’s back to keep Okada down with a cravat, rolling him down to the mat as he looked to pop his head off, before Goto rushed in to stop Ishimori from applying the nerve hold again. In the end, a flapjack from Okada stopped Ishimori in his tracks, as Goto finally gets the tag in. Goto clears house with shoulder tackles before he dumps Ishimori with a clothesline. A spinning heel kick into the corner and a back suplex out of it gets Goto a near-fall, before Ishimori rolled Goto up for a superkick… buying him enough time to tag Yujiro back in. Yujiro’s front kick traps Goto in the corner, before a leg sweep and a low dropkick set up for a reverse DDT that almost got Yujiro the win. They struggle over a suplex until Ishimori hit the ring to uneven things, before Okada tried to level it up, crashing into Yujiro with a dropkick before throwing Ishimori outside.
Goto’s left to deal with Yujiro, but Gedo’s on the outside to lay into Okada with his spanner… an ushigoroshi from Goto leaves Yujiro laying as Goto’s none the wiser to what’s going on. A back cracker from Ishimori stops a GTR, before a Bloody Cross allowed Yujiro to finish off Goto with Pimp Juice… and that has to be an upset! ***
After the match, Yujiro dishes out another Pimp Juice, this time to Okada, as the Bullet Club duo were left standing tall.
Before we get to the three title matches, it’s time for a good ol’ clean.
NEVER Openweight Championship: SHO vs. Shingo Takagi (c)
Onto the business end of the card, and I’ve got high hopes for this.
SHO’s brought out his share of the IWGP Junior tag team titles – something which is up in the air given YOH’s injury. From the bell, they race into a lock-up, which led to obligatory shoulder tackles as they both looked to draw first blood. A back elbow from Shingo doesn’t work as SHO just charges him down before SHO escaped a noshigami and looked to go for a cross armbreaker. Shingo rolls outside, where SHO stays on top of him by taking him up to the apron to tease an early German suplex on the side of the ring. It’s escaped as Shingo lifted him up, but a leg sweep and a dropkick through the ropes keeps the champion on the outside as Shingo countered a dive by just charging down SHO before he left his feet.
We’re back outside courtesy of a shoulder tackle as the pair scrap some more, but it’s SHO who’s tossed into the guard rails before they head back in, with Shingo following up with a simple suplex for a two-count. Danielson elbows keep SHO down, as did some derisory kicks from Shingo, which just served to wake up SHO, who replied with a snapmare and a punt to the back. They upgrade to elbows as the crowd clapped along, but a double-handed chop crumbles SHO into the ropes, before Shingo countered a spear attempt into a DDT. SHO hits it at the second attempt though, avoiding a sliding lariat in the process, before he uncorked some rolling German suplexes on the champion. Shingo elbows free, but can’t avoid a rebound German after he ran into the ropes – and almost lost the match in the process.
Shingo manages to stop SHO with a sucker punch and a clothesline, before another clothesline in the corner sparked some fresh back-and-forth. SHO pops up from a snap backdrop suplex and delivers one of his own, before they traded lariats as a head kick from SHO left both men laying. Getting back to their feet, the pair trade more lariats, clobbering each other for fun until a leaping knee from SHO earned him a hard clothesline. Shingo keeps going with a sliding lariat and a noshigami for a near-fall, but SHO’s back with a back cracker and a pop-up powerbomb. A Power Breaker’s next, but it seemed to damage SHO’s knees so much that he couldn’t instantly capitalise on it. Still, SHO gets back up for a lariat, but Shingo’s up at one, before a snap deadlift German suplex almost put the champion away.
SHO looks for the Shock Arrow, but a back body drop stops that, as Shingo tried to club his way back into the match. A barrage of forearms keeps Shingo in the ropes, but SHO pushes down the referee to stop him from separating them… it doesn’t help much as they go back to the clotheslines, which Shingo tried to counter into a Made in Japan… but instead he turned THAT into a modified Codebreaker instead. Made in Japan follows, getting a near-fall, before a Pumping Bomber folded SHO in half. For a one count?! After bumping out of a sleeper, Shingo was forced to kick-out of a strait-jacket piledriver, before he pushes away from Shock Arrow… and had his arm kicked out of his arm. A Last of the Dragon was rolled through as SHO applied a cross armbreaker, sensing victory was on the horizon, as he held on despite Shingo’s attempts to power free. Shingo tries to roll through, and ends up successfully powering SHO up into a death valley driver!
Somehow SHO staggers up to his feet, but crumples down again before he began to lay into Shingo with some right hands. A staggers SHO, whose mid-kick gets caught as Shingo pulled one out of the Hirooki Goto playbook with a draping GTR off the middle rope. From there, Shingo goes for Last of the Dragon, and that’s all! Weirdly definitive at the end, but this was a fantastic slugfest that saw Shingo atone for his cup loss – but SHO pushed him way harder than Shingo ever expected to be. ****¼
After the match, Desperado attacked Shingo in the aisle, laying him out before stealing the NEVER title belt. It’s a wild turn, but I’m here for this – Despy more than proved himself against Ishii earlier in the New Japan Cup.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi (c)
This feud survived the pause, and was one of the defining features of the New Japan Cup – for better, or for worse.
Tanahashi and Ibushi rip a page from the Suzuki-gun book as they attack their challengers before the bell, taking them outside ahead of duelling planchas. Back in the ring, Sabre’s slammed before elbow drops, splashes and a flip senton flattened him, but the challengers try and take over, only for Ibushi to clear them out with dropkicks. Elbows from Ibushi take Sabre into the corner, but Zack caught out Ibushi with a kneebar – albeit right by the ropes as we get a fairly quick break. Sabre continues to work the knee, before dragging Ibushi into the corner as Taichi just stood on Ibushi’s neck by the ropes. A snapmare and a kick to the back just awakens Ibushi, who replies with a dropkick before bringing Tanahashi in to catch Taichi with a Dragon screw out of the corner.
There’s one for Sabre too, before Taichi took a slam and a flip senton off the middle rope for a near-fall. A gamengiri from Sabre stops Tanahashi in his tracks, and provides a distraction as Taichi began to choke Tanahashi with some rope smuggled in a chinlock. He’s hiding it less as Tanahashi’s dragged outside and choked through the guard rails, before Taichi switched the rope for some camera cabling. Back in the ring, there’s more choking from Taichi, before Sabre came in and used a strait-jacket hold to wear down Tanahashi some more. A neck twist from Sabre has Tanahashi writhing on the mat, with neck cranks and cravats not helping things. Another neck twist to the back of the head leads to some grounded figure four headscissors from Sabre, who then upgrades into a Cobra twist that Tanahashi’s able to escape, before he caught Zack with a Dragon screw variation.
Ibushi tags in to take down Taichi and Sabre, catching the latter with a springboard moonsault out of the corner for a near-fall. Kota goes for a Pele kick, but it’s caught as Zack hit one of his own to the arm, before a leg sweep crashes Ibushi to the mat – leaving him prey as Taichi came into things. Kicks from Taichi only serve to annoy Ibushi, who replied with some of his own as the crowd applauded in time to the kicks. A rear spin kick from Taichi takes Ibushi to his knees, but Kota’s back with some more before a gamengiri in the corner left him on jelly legs. An Axe Bomber misses, as Taichi instead came back in with a Stretch Plum while Sabre blocked Tanahashi with a guillotine… but Tanahashi frees himself and manages to save his partner with a better Dragon sleeper than you’ll see elsewhere on this roster, before Ibushi came back with a back suplex/elbow drop combo.
Sabre gets one of those too, before Ibushi planted Taichi with a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall. Ibushi blocks a low blow and comes in with a knee strike to Taichi, before Sabre broke a Kamigoye attempt by just ragdolling Ibushi to the mat with a mounted choke. The one-armed choke keeps Ibushi away until he got thrown into a head kick as Taichi then lands a Last Ride powerbomb, folding Ibushi for a near-fall to boot. Off come the trousers as Taichi looked to put Ibushi down with a buzzsaw kick, but it’s caught as Kota flipped Taichi around, before he ultimately settled for a high kick of his own. Tanahashi’s back in, but his Slingblade’s countered… but the Saito suplex gets countered back into a Slingblade on Taichi. A second Slingblade’s stopped via an elbow from Taichi, who followed up with a jumping enziguiri, before a punt from Sabre was caught… allowing Tanahashi to just swipe away Sabre. A backslide leads to a Twist and Shout from Tanahashi, who threw in another Slingblade for a near-fall, then a High Fly Flow crossbody… which sparks a brief Parade of Moves, ending with Sabre countering a Kamigoye into a Zack Driver.
Another Slingblade from Tanahashi takes Sabre down again, but the High Fly Flow lands square on Zack’s knees as the ensuing roll-up nearly gets the upset. With the referee unsighted by Sabre, Taichi blasts Ibushi with the Iron Fingers from Hell, before Tanahashi ducked the funky oven glove… only to run into a Dangerous backdrop driver. From there, Taichi upped the ante, holding up Tanahashi for some restrained Dragon screws, with Sabre alternating legs as they tried to ruin all of the cruciate ligaments. With Ibushi nowhere in sight, the challengers hit a superkick-assisted Zack Driver… and we have new tag team champions! They took their time, going damn near half an hour, and while the final stretch of Suzuki-gun decimating Tanahashi’s fragile knees was effective in terms of the story, it sure did cool things down a little too much for my tastes. ****
Post-match, Ibushi’s rolled into the ring as they underscored the win with a Zack Memphisto…
We’ve some more cleaning before the main event…
IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental Championships: EVIL vs. Tetsuya Naito (c)
Almost five years after joining LIJ, EVIL jumped from the group last night to become Bullet Club’s top heavyweight (at least, for now)… and has a chance to put the proverbial exclamation mark on that with a win here.
EVIL’s got new music, but the generic Bullet Club titantron as Milano is still standing by his man. Meanwhile Osaka, so anti-Naito at one point, seemed to be on his side here. The rest of the Bullet Club joined EVIL at ringside, but were sent to the back by referee Red Shoes, who refused to start things otherwise. We finally get going, but Naito’s not charging at EVIL, instead, EVIL rolls outside and plays Naito at his own game. Naito has enough and charges with a dropkick through the ropes, before he introduces EVIL to the guard rails, then one of the commentary desks before going back to the ring, where Naito stretches away on EVIL in the ropes.
A cravat forces EVIL to the ropes, but he’s back as he clotheslines Naito to the outside, where he followed up by taking his former leader into the railings. Stomps trap Naito’s leg in the railings, before EVIL grabbed the timekeeper’s table and teases a Darkness Falls through it. And then, the unthinkable… EVIL grabs his scythe from Milano Collection AT on commentary, who snapped and leaves commentary to attack his former favourite, only to get hurled into the railings. Now THAT is EVIL. So much so, the crowd booed for the first time this weekend, in defiance of the rules.
Milano gets back to his feet as EVIL does a Yano with the turnbuckle pads, all while Naito hobbled back into the ring. An Irish whip took Naito into the exposed corner, before EVIL grounds Naito with a leg grapevine. Naito gets to the ropes before firing back with some chops and forearms, then sandbags on a suplex, before EVIL just kicked him in the knee repeatedly. A single-leg dropkick turns the tables, before a back elbow and a low dropkick left EVIL on the mat. Naito keeps going, with a Combinacion Cabron, then with the headscissors on the mat as he raked away at EVIL’s face before his challenger desperately tried to get to the ropes. Elbows from EVIL help him take down Naito, but the champion’s right back with an inverted atomic drop and some more elbows, only for EVIL to duck an enziguiri as he found himself another opening.
Driving Naito’s knee to the mat, EVIL forces the champion to roll outside for cover… but they end up on the apron, right near the table that was set up earlier. Naito elbows away to avoid a knee breaker, before he dumped EVIL onto the apron with a reverse DDT… opting then to reposition the table for a piledriver off the apron, only for EVIL to rake the eyes as he then put Naito through the table, knee-first! EVIL goes under the ring for some chairs, but referee Red Shoes uses a remnant of the table as a shield, before EVIL just went back to the ring, looking for the count-out win. Naito beats it, but ends up getting caught in a Darkness Scorpion, and was held in for a long long time before getting to the ropes to force the break. EVIL tries to follow up again with Darkness Falls, but Naito elbowed free, only to get thrown into the exposed corner as a clothesline almost put him away.
Darkness (finally) Falls for a two-count for EVIL, but Naito’s able to come back with a reverse Destino/standing Diamond Dust (that flip Stunner that Darby Allin does), before the pair began to trade right hands and elbows as they get back to their feet. An eye rake from EVIL delays Naito, who hit right back with a tornado DDT off the ropes, before he got his own back by throwing EVIL head-first into the exposed corner. A top rope ‘rana followed from Naito, before a Destino landed for a near-fall… but a second one’s blocked by EVIL, who then threw Naito into Red Shoes in the corner… and at almost 32 minutes in, here come the run ins. First, Jado with a Kendo stick… he’s at Iron Sheik at WrestleMania 17 pace, so Taiji Ishimori sprints past him and hits a springboard seated senton. Jado FINALLY gets to the ring, but he took so damn long to tease as hot that Hiromu ran out and dumped Ishimori into the buckles with an overhead belly-to-belly.
Hiromu gets rid of Jado and Ishimori, as Naito got back to his feet… but I sense more shenanigans. Ah yes, EVIL jabs Naito with a chair, then popped out the seat as he smashed it over his head. Ow. Everything is EVIL looks to follow, but Naito escapes before he flapjacked EVIL into the buckle… then brought him down with a swinging reverse DDT for a near-fall. A SNOW PLOW follows from Naito, but EVIL grabs the ref to hide a mule kick… and we’ve still got stuff left. Out walks BUSHI, who looks bigger than normal. He decks Naito, then chokes him out as that booing returned, while “BUSHI” distracts the referee so EVIL could stomp on Naito’s Ingobernables. Everything is EVIL follows, folding up Naito… and that’s the mother of all upsets. Tetsuya Naito’s first defence of the double gold sees him fall to EVIL, in a match that I’d joke was approaching TNA levels of overbooked… but we knew this was coming, right?
Given the turn of EVIL yesterday, they had to do something to establish him – and losing clean to Naito on night one was not going to be the right way. Whether I’d have gone the whole hog and have EVIL win the belts… is perhaps too far the other way. Time will tell, but that match just felt distinctly underwhelming. ***½
After the match, fake BUSHI unmasked as Dick Togo… before Hiromu Takahashi sprinted to the ring to save his fallen boss. He challenges EVIL, who just blows him off… then leaves as Hiromu was left screaming in the ring.
I hope you like Korakuen Hall – as things stand, New Japan is there for their next show on Monday 20th, then again on July 26, 27 and 31 as they continue getting back to normality, with Sengoku Lord sandwiched between those shows on the calendar later this month in Aichi. A solid show from New Japan, in spite of the odd ending – while things still feel weird in the world, Dominion provided a reliably solid undercard, and a second half of the show that was an absolute cracker. We’re definitely back to “full show” lengths after the two hour bite-sized chunks of Cup shows, and while the limited crowds are producing a different atmosphere, it’s good to be finally back… and away from the holding patterns we’re seeing so much of in the wrestling that’s on hand right now. Now… where do New Japan go after this massive booking U-turn, dethroning Naito so quickly, even after his run for the big belts took up so much of 2019.