The tour inbetween Dominion and the G1 Climax hit Korakuen Hall on Tuesday – with those G1 names finally revealed!
Aside from that, today’s featured match was another defence of the NEVER six-man titles, with Los Ingobernables de Japon putting the belts up against another incarnation of Taguchi Japan, in the form of Taguchi, KUSHIDA and Juice Robinson. Bizarrely (or perhaps not), there was no Bullet Club involvement anywhere on this show, as we continue to wait for the fall-out from Omega/Okada 2.
They try something new on New Japan World, as they flash up the match graphics during the pre-show rundown.
Tetsuhiro Yagi vs. Tomoyuki Oka
Your standard Young Lions’ opener, with Oka taking the early advantage as he scored headlock takedowns… but Yagi was quickly able to counter free. Yagi even managed to grab Oka in a toehold, then turn it into a single-leg crab as Oka found himself in trouble.
A snapmare and a kick to the back kept Oka firmly on the defensive, but he was able to sandbag himself away from a slam and just ragdoll Yagi so much that the normally stoic Japanese commentary team giggled. Oka returned the favour with a Boston crab to force a rope break, but an Oklahoma Stampede-esque slam earned Oka a near-fall before he went back to the crab to force the submission. Surprisingly short but a LOT of fun! **¾
Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask & Shota Umino
On a show where the six-man tag titles are being defended, we’re getting a LOT of trios matches. Half the card, in fact, with this one starting off Suzuki-gun’s night…
Of course, there’s a jump start as Suzuki-gun take the match outside as we instantly enter “hard-to-follow” territory as the cameras struggle to keep us in the loop… at least until Liger – in his white mask for a change – was triple-teamed. Liger quickly Shotei’s his way free before dumping Desperado with a tiltawhirl backbreaker, before withstanding some boots from Kanemaru and TAKA as they took a while to break up a Romero Special.
Umino tags in and quickly gets slapped down by Desperado, then gets triple-teamed by the boots of Suzuki-gun. Eventually Umino tries to fight back, but he’s caught by Desperado as the rookie took some more punishment, before hitting a dropkick to Kanemaru. A tag brings in Tiger Mask, who went to town on Kanemaru with a crucifix pin for a near-fall, before scoring with an armdrag off the top rope.
Liger and Tiger double-team Kanemaru until a Tiger Driver gets a near-fall, but Kanemaru hit back with a reverse DDT. Umino returned to lay into Desperado again, only to run into a big boot as Desperado eventually worked his way into a Stretch Muffler… with TAKA and Kanemaru holding the others at bay, Umino had no choice but to tap. A simple enough six-man tag – not much of note, but Umino’s coming along nicely given his brief career. **½
Manabu Nakanishi & Katsuya Kitamura vs. Yuji Nagata & David Finlay
Poor Finlay, seemingly back down to the kid’s table after having graduated from the Young Lions. There’s a fun spot at the start where Nakanishi just grabs Kitamura by the throat and backed him into the corner so we could start with the “New Japan Dads” rather than their kids.
Nagata and Nakanishi start trading wristlocks, before Nakanishi used his size advantage to tackle Nagata and land a big splash as Kitamura then willingly came in to show off his shoulder tackles. Just like his Dad’s! Some chops leave Nagata reeling, especially as his attempt to kick his way back in failed.
Finlay tagged in and felt Kitamura’s raw power, before being able to score a missile dropkick for another near-fall. Nagata returned as his kicks again proved ineffective against Kitamura, before opting to just stomp a mudhole in him instead. We even saw Nagata rile up Nakanishi, shoving him into the apron to get him to enter the ring and tie-up the referee for some double-teaming… very sneaky!
However, Kitamura was able to withstand that and use his strength to reverse a suplex from Finlay, before bringing Nakanishi back in to lay into Finlay with chops in the corner. Some corner lariats follow, as does a release suplex before Finlay rolls away from a knee drop… and we’re back to the Dads! Nakanishi resists an Irish whip, before spearing Nagata as he ran off the ropes, but Nagata caught Kitamura with the eye-rolling armbar… which a brain chop from Nakanishi quickly broke up! Some slams often them up as Nakanishi and (not-really) son wind up for a pair of clotheslines, then a pair of Argentine backbreakers which somehow turned into Nagata getting free and having Finlay thrown on top of him.
In the end, a leaping knee in the corner and an Exploder gets Nagata a near-fall on Kitamura, before the Backdrop Hold sealed the deal. A really enjoyable “sprint” (or as close as you’ll get from Nagata and Nakanishi these days!), with these guys packing a lot into the time they had. ***¼
Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Jado vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Togi Makabe
Time for the rest of the New Japan Dads now… and Makabe! It’s Makabe and Ishii who charge at each other like bulls from the off, with Makabe eventually drawing first blood as his shoulder tackle knocked down Ishii… who then replied with a scoop slam that almost dumped Makabe on his head.
A similar slam from Makabe, then dualling clotheslines left both men down as we cycled through the teams, going to Jado and Tenzan next. Jado chopped his way into a lead, only for Tenzan to shoulder tackle back into it and then do a Honma… by missing a Kokeshi. He kept the authenticity as well! Ishii and Makabe then headed into the crowd for some reason as Toru Yano pulled off a turnbuckle pad, and this quickly went out of control as Tiger Hattori struggled to contain things. When it calmed down, Tenzan found himself cornered as the CHAOS trio took their shots at him, primarily via chops and forearms from Ishii. For whatever reason, Yano decided to hit some mocking Mongolian chops, but Tenzan hit back with a spinning heel kick before bringing in Kojima… and we know what poor Ishii and Yano are going to get… rapid-fire chops!
Jado shoved Kojima off the top rope before he could go for the elbow, but still Kojima recovered to drop Yano with a Koji Cutter and bring in Makabe… who fell to an Ishii lariat for a near-fall, before Jado caught him in a crossface. Tenzan breaks that up, as Jado then took a TenKoji cutter, before Makabe’s King Kong Kneedrop earned the Dads the win. Another fun, if unremarkable outing, but this show has absolutely breezed along… as Korakuen cards tend to. **¾
Now we hit the part of the show that everyone tuned in for… the G1 names!
The make-up of the blocks and the schedule of matches will follow, but in the 27th G1 Climax are: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin, Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano (dear God), YOSHI-HASHI, Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, EVIL, Satoshi Kojima (hopefully not giving his spot up this year!), Yuji Nagata (in his final G1), Juice Robinson (in his first ever G1), Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr and… Kota Ibushi!
No Cody Rhodes then, whilst there’s notable omissions in the likes of EVIL and Tanga Loa – of course, last year’s NOAH participants were never going to be around this year. There’s some tasty matches in there potentially, but until the blocks are firmed up, we won’t be able to do anything more than dream of Omega/Ibushi.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Hirai Kawato
Without a title belt, Takahashi’s resorting to cuddling a stuffed cat on his way to the ring… and dancing it’s arm in time to Naito’s music.
Kawato did the expected thing of rushing the ring, and trying a jump start… which actually worked as the upstart put the Ingobernables on the back foot. We quickly settled down to Naito and Tanahashi, with their partners throwing in knees on the apron as they each tried to neutralise the others’ cheating.
So far, Kawato’s approached the biggest match of his career really well, but his limited arsenal quickly shone through as Naito blocked a slam and then dumped him down with a slam of his own. A missed dropkick sees Kawato crash and burn as the Ingobernables double-teamed him, before Kawato actually connected with one to take down Naito!
Takahashi quickly hit the ring to stomp the rookie down, but Kawato threw in some headscissors as he made the tag out to Tanahashi, who took down Naito with a Dragon screw, only to miss with a flip senton as Naito rolled away. Naito then made a point of going after Tanahashi’s injured arm, but the tide kept swinging back and forth as Tanahashi tried to lock in a Cloverleaf on Takahashi… before letting go as Kawato begged to be tagged back in.
A flying forearm gets Takahashi down, but he quickly recovers and overwhelms Kawato before mocking him with a Boston crab! Tanahashi broke that up as Kawato came back into it, only to get taken down with a clothesline as Tanahashi fell into an armbar from Naito. Another Boston crab attempt follows, and for the second time in the same show, a Young Lion loses to a Boston Crab. This time with a surprise aggressor though! Easily the best match of Kawato’s career, and on this trajectory he’s going to be quite a handful! They seemed to tease that this wasn’t the end, and on one hand I don’t like Takahashi going from champion to facing a rookie, this could work out well. ***¾
We’re taken to an unusual backstage segment where Juice Robinson and KUSHIDA seem to be practising whipping invisible men with their Taguchi Japan towels. Throughout this Taguchi kept a straight face.
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Taichi) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
This Kizuna Road tour’s the first time in three months that Davey Boy Smith Jr’s been in New Japan, last having been seen here on the 45th Anniversary cards. Hes’ got a new ring jacket, which looks rather Texan to me than anything to do with Britain or bulldogs.
YOSHI-HASHI jumps Minoru Suzuki at the bell, giving a taster of their NEVER title match back here on Monday, as Suzuki was pelted with forearms as he was left against the ropes. A left-arm lariat forces Suzuki to roll to the outside, before we got Hirooki Goto and Taichi… which feels like a downgrade to me. Suzuki catches Goto with a rope hung armbar as everyone else fought on the outside, with Suzuki making a point of dragging YOSHI-HASHI through the crowd and choking him with a tablecloth.
Of course, Suzuki whacks YOSHI-HASHI with a chair, before everyone returned to the ring where Taichi ran through his usual shenanigans with Goto. Suzuki gets his turn too, wrenching away on Goto with something close to an abdominal stretch before Davey Boy Smith Jr. tagged in and looked to powerbomb Goto. It’s blocked, so he delivers some forearms instead before Goto backdropped free of a second attempt.
Okada comes in next and has more success against the Bulldog, DDTing him ahead of a running European uppercut for a near-fall, before a big boot from the Bulldog led to a spinning side suplex! That got Davey Boy a two-count of his own, before Okada blocked a piledriver and replied with a dropkick to the Bulldog. More tags get us back to Suzuki and YOSHI-HASHI, with the latter dropkicking Suzuki in the ropes before hitting the Bunker Buster, but that just prompted Suzuki into levelling him with a forearm to the head.
The pair traded more blows for a spell, before a big boot from Suzuki led to an attempted Gotch piledriver… but YOSHI-HASHI backdropped free of it, only for Taichi (of all people) to almost win it with a buzzsaw kick. An attempted superkick is sidestepped before a left-arm lariat knocked him down… Taichi grabs the referee to block Karma, as a Gedo clutch almost won it for him after Kanemaru sprayed whiskey in YOSHI-HASHI’s face.
More distractions, this time from TAKA, almost set-up for a chairshot from Taichi, but Okada made the save as Taichi was eventually dragged down into a Butterfly lock for the submission. I wasn’t a fan of the Suzuki-gun shenanigans towards the end, but YOSHI-HASHI getting the win – and the post-match beatdown – solidifies him as a threat for Suzuki’s title on Monday. ***
After the match, Suzuki went after YOSHI-HASHI and almost had him in a Gotch Piledriver, but YOSHI-HASHI escaped and caught him in a Butterfly Lock until an army of Young Lions broke them apart. Yeah, Minoru killed some kids with a chair, as he is want to do.
Another backstage segment, this time with Los Ingobernables de Japon. I didn’t understand a word of it, but I liked this deviation from the norm – it made the main event seem even more important. Except for the sight of EVIL in full costume twirling his plastic scythe around…
NEVER Six-Man Championships: Taguchi Japan (Ryusuke Taguchi, Juice Robinson & KUSHIDA) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI) (c)
Taguchi found a way to poke fun of the Ingobernables’ dark entrance… with a light-up mohican. Oh Taguchi, you are a one…
BUSHI and KUSHIDA had the usual juniors rapid-paced opening sequence before we cycled through the usual tag sequence. Taguchi made SANADA run the ropes for a spell, before tripping and rolling him into the Milano Collection AT ball. Somehow Taguchi’s able to punch SANADA in the groin without so much as a ticking-off, and then we get the train conductor series of avalanche strikes into the corner.
Taguchi called the spot: a Juice Robinson cannonball, as SANADA sat there helpless in the corner, before the Ingobernables tripped Juice from the outside to help the champions get back into the game. A big back senton from EVIL gets a near-fall over Juice, who’s then grabbed by his own dreadlocks before a leg lariat took EVIL down to the mat.
Taguchi returns with hip attacks a-plenty for EVIL, with one eventually being turned into an atomic drop as the Ingobernables came back into it. At least until Taguchi landed another hip attack! KUSHIDA tries to get the win with a Hoverboard lock on BUSHI, aided by a diving headbutt from Robinson before there was a rope break. BUSHI tried to come back with a flipping backslide, but that was blocked as Juice got the tag back in to Dusty punch away on EVIL and SANADA.
A spinebuster from Juice sent EVIL rolling to the floor as a crossbody off the top gets him a near-fall on SANADA, but he came back with a moonsault off the top into a Skull End as everyone hit the ring for a parade of finishers. A Doomsday Hip Attack knocks down SANADA for a near-fall, before Juice countered a ‘rana from SANADA into a folding powerbomb for the nearest of near-falls!
From there, SANADA backed away from a Pulp Friction attempt, before trapping Juice in Skull End. Or so he thought, as they flipped back and forth until Juice was dropped across the middle rope, before a BUSHI MX led to a Skull End for the eventual tap. A hell of a main event, and once again the Ingobernable retain the belts that nobody before now was able to keep hold of. In fact, their two defences now tie them at the top of the leaderboard with the Elite – which should tell you how hot a potato these straps have been! ****
A nice, swift Korakuen Hall card – again, not much in here popping off the surface, save for the Tanahashi/Kawato vs. Naito/Takahashi tag and the main event, but this was a nice, easy watch, with the G1 news we all were waiting for. Exactly what you want from your “run of the mill” graps!