The Golden☆Lovers teamed for the first time in over three years at Korakuen Hall, as New Japan’s annual mash-up with Ring of Honor had a distinct flavour of Bullet Club to it.

Cynics may note that this is real close to a “true” ROH card, in that over half of it is made up of the Bullet Club, plus some “supporting cast”… Korakuen Hall’s the venue, as is the way for most of these shows it feels, but they’ve brought in some guard railings just so they can stick the ROH signs up.

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Katsuya Kitamura & Toa Henare
Henare has music! Commentary’s really keen on telling us about how Henare went for Fale on his first day in the dojo years ago… so hopefully he’ll last a little longer today.

Kitamura starts off shoving Yujiro to the ground as we go straight to the power game… demanding that he has a crack at Fale. The big lad obliges, and he gets knocked down to a knee from a shoulder tackle, before knocking Henare off the apron, almost out of embarrassment. They head outside, where Kitamura’s thrown into the guard rails, and that turns things in the Bullet Club’s favour.

Fale takes a seat on Kitamura to give him a two-count, and Yujiro keeps it up with a boot in the ropes, only to get suplexed as the Young Lion reverses things. In comes Henare, scoring with a flying shoulder tackle to Yujiro, who bites back and gets a tag back to Fale… Kitamura almost nicks a win with a spear, but all four men end up in the ring briefly. Fale’s back to try and overpower Kitamura, but a suplex attempt from the Young Lion doesn’t work, as the giant Tongan rushes in with a lariat instead for a close two-count, before the Grenade does the deal. Good stuff, with Kitamura getting a lot of offence in but still came up short. **¾

Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & HIKULEO) vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Delirious & Cheeseburger
It’s a warm-up for tomorrow’s six-man tag title match, where we’ll be swapping out HIKULEO for Fale against the same opponents here.

Delirious starts, but quickly tags out when HIKULEO threatened to reply to a chop. Liger has a similar reaction, and it’s poor Cheeseburger who’s got the crowd on his side… and HIKULEO’s forearm on his head pretty soon afterwards. HIKULEO gets a good sound out of Cheeseburger with a chop, as the Bullet Club trio dominate early on. There’s a spell outside with Liger, but it’s all on the defensive end of things… at least until he manages to avoid a Tama Tonga strike, and get himself free with a Shotei. Cheeseburger comes in, but his crossbody’s instantly caught as Tama takes him into the corner… but the burger’s able to evade everything and take down Tama with a satellite DDT!

Just like that, a Tongan Twist shuts off Cheeseburger’s offence, before he slides away and brings in Delirious. Wacky rope running confuses HIKULEO, and Delirious just about gets off a sunset flip, with a little help from a Shotei from Cheeseburger, and that’s the win! Short and inoffensive, but not much else. **¼

Young Bucks (Nick Jackson & Matt Jackson) vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
This was a tease of the Bucks stepping up in weight class, and we started with Finlay and Nick Jackson, and it wasn’t long before the Bucks started going to their wheelhouse, making their own routines look effortless.

As they should!

Finlay’s away from a tag as a pair of backflips and dropkicks kept him down, before a front facelock from Matt kept up the pressure. An attempted slingshot facebuster’s blocked by Finlay, but Nick’s back in to take a European uppercut as Robinson finally gets the tag to clear out the Bucks with clotheslines.

An overhead belly to belly greets both Bucks, repeatedly, before there’s a tease of Tiger Hattori getting one too. Cannonballs follows for the Bucks, as Finlay tagged back in to try and capitalise, landing some rushing uppercuts into the corner for good measure. Juice returns for a stalling suplex to Matt, whose back looked like it was twinge-ing, but he’s able to fight back and land a through-the-ropes dropkick to Finlay before finally tagging out.

Nick’s much more fluid with his offence, taking down Robinson and Finlay with a clothesline and a bulldog at the same time, before a step-up corkscrew press to the floor added more insult. A pop-up facebuster doesn’t work, as Juice ends up having to fight off a Sharpshooter, with Finlay getting the same treatment as he tried to break it up. Rope breaks put paid to that, but Nick’s attempt to go for another Sharpshooter almost costs him as Juice nails a full nelson bomb instead.

Finlay’s back in to take on both Bucks at once, but he’s cornered with a clothesline and gamengiri on the apron, before the Bucks called for a Meltzer Driver. It’s avoided as Finlay sidesteps a superkick, with the Bucks hitting each other by mistake, but Nick’s able to hit his target, only for Juice to return with leg lariats instead. Dusty punches ahoy!

Juice goes full cease and desist with too sweet eye pokes, but he’s taken out with superkicks before Finlay’s yanked off the top rope into a spear for a near-fall. The Bucks follow that up with a Meltzer Driver, and the expected happened – Finlay eats the fall! Good stuff from the Bucks in what was a throwaway match in the middle of the show as they threaten to be directionless away from the junior tag title picture. ***½

Hey, remember when there was talk of merging the junior and heavyweight tag scenes?

KUSHIDA vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Flip Gordon
This was pretty much a try-out for the debuting Flip Gordon, who many expect to fly around the world again later this year for the Best of Super Juniors tournament. Hopefully by then someone’ll have dubbed his theme song to call him “Flat Gordon”…

Korakuen Hall… it’s a far, far cry from wherever-the-hell he used to work for LDN.

It’s a rather tentative start, but Gordon, erm, flips away from some early attacks before going into his hand-walking dance. It confuses the hell out of KUSHIDA and Hiromu, before they figure out… just dropkick him in the face!

With Flip outside, Hiromu gets to chop KUSHIDA repeatedly, before a hiptoss and a dropkick sent Takahashi scurrying… just in time for Gordon to return. There’s more chops from KUSHIDA, who begins to work over Flip’s legs in a bid to stop him from living up to his name. A variation of the Figure Four keeps Gordon down, at least until Takahashi breaks it up so he could go after the leg himself.

Takahashi dumps Flip awkwardly with a trapped-arm Dragon screw, and it’s looking pretty grim for Flip. He’s able to come back with a roundhouse kick before using his back knee to lay out Hiromu ahead of a standing moonsault for a near-fall… but that knee hold up regardless as he lands an Orihara moonsault to KUSHIDA on the outside. Hiromu quickly responds with a shotgun dropkick into the guard rails, as he went back after KUSHIDA in the ring. The handspring off the ropes is caught by Hiromu, but KUSHIDA’s able to counter the counter with a Hoverboard lock as superkicks ended up leaving all three men laid out.

Flip falls awkwardly as he connected with a springboard thrust kick to KUSHIDA, but he recovers to nail a ‘rana and a tope as he looked to keep the hit-rate high… a 450 splash is aborted as he instead comes in with a reverse Finlay roll and a standing shooting star press for a near-fall. Yup, Flip’s winning over Korakuen Hall!

KUSHIDA’s back with a handstand kick into the corner, knocking Flip to the floor, before dragging Hiromu off the top rope into a cross armbreaker, before Flip’s springboard frog splash broke that up. We’re back to three-way strikes, before Flip fell into a Hoverboard lock, which KUSHIDA tried to counter into Back to the Future.

Hiromu’s back to take both men into the corner with great gusto, but a springboard cutter meant for both men saw Gordon only take out Hiromu, before he pulls KUSHIDA to the outside, as a 450 splash got the win! A definite upset, but a really good outing… in spite of Flip having a dodgy case of “is my knee meant to hurt?”-itis. A minor niggle, definitely, but this is going to be far from the last time we see Flip here. ***¾

Jay White & Best Friends (Chuckie T & Beretta) vs. Dalton Castle, Jay Lethal & Ryusuke Taguchi
We’ve got Beretta vs. Dalton Castle for the ROH title on tomorrow’s show, and we’ve got a whole lot of silence. Dalton’s boys hadn’t made the trip over for this show, and it meant that we had a decidedly toned-down Castle here…

Taguchi’s gotten chicken goujons for everyone for a pre-match snack, as commentary notes that Beretta’s dealing with several injuries. Just what you need just before a title match!

Beretta starts out with a headlock as he tried to restrain Castle, but it turned into an even opening exchange until Beretta’s forced to roll out of a Bangarang attempt as the champion tried to snatch a surprise win. Chuckie T comes in next, seemingly irate that Dalton’s still got his t-shirt on, but instead he has to make do with Taguchi, who sits down out of a sunset flip as the CHAOS team found themselves on the back foot.

Taguchi uses Lethal and Castle as battering rams to Chuckie in the corner, but an attempt to throw him into a hip attack goes wrong as the pendulum swung. Jay White’s in to try and follow up, but Taguchi ends up eating a Saito suplex before Chuckie returns and misses a moonsault… landing on his feet as Taguchi tries too quickly for a hip attack.

A second hip attack connects, but Taguchi has to tag out to Lethal pretty quickly to clear house… following in with a nice tope to Beretta on the outside. The Lethal Combination left White laying, before the Kiwi’s attempt to block a top rope elbow just had Lethal stop himself and lock in a brief Figure Four. The ring fills again as the tide keeps turning, ending with a Bummer-ye running hip attack to White for a near-fall.

White rolls away from a Dodon as some near-falls gave way to an ankle lock, before another we counter the counters until White lands a Blade Runner for the win. Enjoyable stuff, but I’ll be damned if the bulk of the focus wasn’t on that ROH title match tomorrow. The Jay White hype train continues, and in the seven weeks since his bust at the Tokyo Dome, there’s been a lot of water gone under the proverbial bridge. ***¼

NEVER Openweight Championship: Beer City Bruiser vs. Hirooki Goto (c)
Last year it was Punishment Martinez getting the random wacky NEVER title shot… this year it was the Beer City Bruiser making the unlikely appearance. Fortunately, Hirooki Goto left his oversized necklace at home. We’ll park that there, eh?

The Bruiser didn’t seem to understand that he had to win the match to get the belt, and with his cigar jammed in his mouth, we got going. Shoulder tackles get us underway, with the Bruiser winning out as the referee cleared the ring of the destroyed cigar, before knocking Goto to the outside with a right hand.

On the outside, the Bruiser connects with a cannonball off the apron, but he takes the crowd’s cheers rather than immediately following up, taking his time before chopping Goto around ringside. Back inside, a neck crank keeps Goto down, as a low dropkick almost gave us a surprise title change… but Goto was easily able to get a foot to the ropes. That beer comes into use again as the Bruiser sprayed another mouthful of booze onto Goto, following up with a nerve hold.

Goto fires up from there, and eventually nails a lariat to take the big guy down, but he can’t get him off his feet for a back suplex initially… finally landing it after surprising the Bruiser after ducking a clothesline. An attempt at an ushigoroshi doesn’t quite work, as Goto’s taken into the corner for a hip attack and a cannonball, as the Bruiser threatens to go up top?!

Nah, he nails a Vader bomb instead for a two-count, before Goto figures out he has to try and choke out the Bruiser. Instead, Goto’s powered up into a sit-out powerbomb, before an Emerald Fusion-like slam kept the Bruiser’s chances of the upset alive. He tries to follow up by going up top for reals, but his frog splash came up short as Goto left him laying with a sliding lariat. Another battle of clotheslines sees the challenger win out, but a Goto headbutt quickly gets in back in as the GTR secured the win. I was surprised at just how much the Bruiser got here, but this was a fun outing… albeit not on the same shock level as the Punishment Martinez match last year. ***¼

So, we’ve just one match left… anyone up for a reunion of some Golden☆Lovers? Korakuen Hall was… especially since you’d have to go back to October 2014 in DDT for their last match as a team (also… at Korakuen Hall!)

Bullet Club (Cody, Marty Scurll & Hangman Page) vs. Golden☆Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) & Chase Owens)
It’s like a Bullet Club civil war, but judging from at least one fan, Cody still has bigger issues. Like overcoming the shadow of Stardust…

To nobody’s surprise, the Golden☆Lovers’ appearance made Korakuen come unglued… while Cody just wanted to spit on a fan’s sign for Kenny and Kota. Yep, he’s the one we’re meant to boo, if you’re unsure.

We opened with Page taking Ibushi into the ropes, but Kota’s snapped back in with a dropkick to put the Hangman in his place… but Chase Owens forces a tag in as the crowd are instantly taken out of it. Kenny then gets the tag as they try use repeated quick tags to keep the Bullet Club partnership alive ahead of the reunited pairing with Ibushi.

Cody rushes in to knock Ibushi off the apron as we’re made to wait for that first tag, when Marty Scurll comes in to try and restrain Omega some more. Those two remain remarkably even, but Cody’s distraction led to Scurll getting a little conflicted, as he refused to snap Omega’s fingers. Kota Ibushi kicks Scurll away as Marty gets triple-teamed by Owens and the Lovers (which sounds like a bad jazz band Kevin’ll form if he ever hits on hard times). Cody’s trio come in to turn things around, targeting Chase for a spell, as the Bullet Club’s “crown jewel” started to have his arm worked on.

That continued as Cody’s part of the Bullet Club tried to stop Chase from tagging out, with a Marty superplex helping things in that department, as Scurll’s able to make the tag out to Cody to keep the isolation going. Cody mocks Kenny’s pose for his Terminator dive, but Marty wants no part of it, as he stays in the ring as Cody and Page connect with topes. Eventually Marty goes into action with an apron superkick, but we’re still made to wait for *that* tag as Cody knocks Owens away in the ring… until Chase gets a slingshot backbreaker in off the ropes before tagging in Ibushi. Finally, the Golden☆Lovers are in to overwhelm their opponents, and it’s almost like they’ve never been apart!

A pair of Golden Triangle moonsaults wipe out Page and Scurll, before a powerbomb into a German suplex nearly sees Kota get the pin over Marty. Duelling Kamigoye and V-triggers are attempted, but Cody breaks it up as we snap into a Parade of Moves, ending with Kenny and Cody bumping into each other theatrically. An eye rake from Cody looked to stop Omega, before the basement uppercut kept that going until Kenny lands another V-trigger.

Cody eats a snap Dragon suplex, before Page’s somersault lariat saved Cody from another V-trigger knee. Ibushi returns the favour, landing a springboard dropkick to prevent a Cross Rhodes, before a Tomorrow Driver from Scurll left Ibushi laid out. On the outside, Page’s shooting star headbutt wipes out Owens as Ibushi’s trapped in a chicken wing. Despite a rope break, Scurll tries for another chicken wing, before lifting up Ibushi for a doomsday dropkick with the help of Cody… that’s only enough for a near-fall as Cody and Omega sent each other outside, before Hangman Page tags in to try for another somersault lariat… only to flip into a head kick from Ibushi.

Owens is back in for a trapped-arm lariat on Page, before a package piledriver is narrowly avoided, as Chase fought back into a rebound lariat. Another package piledriver attempt follows… but Page counters into the Rites of Package belly-to-back piledriver, and it’s Hangman who gets the win… except Omega and Cody fighting on the floor overshadows that as the Young Bucks rush out to split them up. Solid enough for the main event, but this was a match more about those moments than the result. ***½

The post-show speech had Cody put over the “Team Kenny versus Team Cody” story, before burying the Golden☆Lovers reunion. One loss ended it? Cody called Kota Ibushi “Kenny Omega’s rat” in what wasn’t one of his finer comments… before claiming that “Bullet Club is fine… Bullet Club is fine”. I see Cody likes rhyming, eh?

Even if you’re not a fan of the overwhelming amount of Bullet Club in ROH these days, or the over-reaching storylines from within, this Honor Rising show was pretty good. Aside from the main event, there’s not much that’ll be on the highlight reels for too long, but likewise, this wasn’t a show that will remain self-contained after this weekend is up. If you’re a picker-and-chooser, definitely hunt this down for the main event and the three-way, and perhaps the Bucks’ tag as well…