The last of the Kizuna Road shows that’s up for live streaming saw the retirement of Super Strong Machine.

We’re in Korakuen Hall once more for a six-match card, and having not set foot in a ring since April 2014, today marked the official retirement ceremony of the 61 year old, whose gimmick spawned the Machines in mid 80s WWF. Remember Giant Machine? You’re going to get a bunch like that today…

Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. KUSHIDA & Ren Narita
Yes! We’ve another go around in Narita vs. Ishimori!

Narita has to start with Yujiro early as the Bullet Club tandem took control early on – KUSHIDA tries to get involved, but he’s double-teamed and squashed with a standing moonsault before Narita got back to his feet and tried to throw some forearms at Yujiro. They had little effect.

Yujiro takes Ren into the corner for a boot, which gets a near-fall as Ishimori decided now’s the time to come in and pick his shots. Narita manages to get free and land a flying forearm to take Ishimori down, as KUSHIDA gets the tag in, which led to some kicks from the Time Splitter as he tried to keep the new Bone Soldier down. Headscissors take Ishimori outside, but Yujiro runs in to buy him some time… which backfires as KUSHIDA’s able to outsmart them and crash into Yujiro with a plancha. A slingshot DDT back into the ring puts Ishimori down in place for a cross armbreaker, but he’s quickly into the ropes. After having to abort a handspring elbow, KUSHIDA gets taken down with a handspring enziguiri from Ishimori, before both men tagged out, which gave Narita a chance to win as he hits a belly-to-belly on Yujiro for a near-fall. An attempt at a Boston crab predictably doesn’t go well, as Yujiro gets back on top, only for the Bullet Club pair to get smashed into with KUSHIDA’s handspring back elbows.

We’re back to Narita and Yujiro, with some biting putting Takahashi ahead, only for a dropkick to send him into the ropes… from where he returns with a clothesline for a near-fall. From there, a Pimp Juice short DDT’s enough to get the win, as it’s Yujiro’s turn to get the pin… and this was a match that I found strangely disjointed. It seems the next feud is Ishimori/KUSHIDA after all, which is a shame because as predictable as it would have been, I’d be all in on Ishimori/Narita for even a brief period of time. **½

Toa Henare, Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino vs. Togi Makabe, Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask
Okay, Henare’s not technically a Young Lion, but this may as well be Dads vs. Kids match. Which started with Umino trying to impress as he went after Tiger Mask at the bell.

Some running back elbows into the corner put Tiger Mask down, only for the veteran to rebound with some reverse spin kicks as Umino was gradually put in his place. Unfortunately for him, that place was in the wrong corner, as an unchained gorilla called Makabe gets the tag into wear him down further. Heck, even Liger decides to get in on it, pulling Umino to the floor so he can throw him into the guard rails for the hell of it.

With Liger in the match, Umino gets a taste of the Romero special, before he escaped some more double-teaming… only for Liger to come back and stomp him down as he tried to crawl towards Henare in the corner. A dropkick sets Umino free though, and now Henare’s in, taking down Liger with leaping shoulder tackles before Haka’ing his way into a falling chop to the throat.

Liger manages to fight back, taking Henare up top for a superplex, before tags take us to Makabe and Oka. The Young Lion does fairly well, charging into Makabe in the corner before suplexing him out of it for a near-fall, but a lariat from Makabe brings all that to a screeching halt as he almost took home the win. A clothesline from Oka nearly gives us an upset, but Makabe shrugs it off and takes Oka down for a King Kong Knee drop for the win. By the numbers, but pretty much what you’d expect from the trio of Makabe, Liger and Tiger. **¾

Two matches in, and I’m barely whelmed – something tells me that this is a one-match/ceremony show?

Rocky Romero & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & TAKA Michinoku)
Prepare to insert Suzuki-gun jumpstart comment here… except we didn’t get that, save of Desperado playing a game of “smell my belt” with YOH.

It’s SHO and Kanemaru who start us off, but we’re straight in with the double-teaming that SHO has to overcome before cracking into Kanemaru with a dropkick. Roppongi 3K have a go at this double-teaming lark as they keep Kanemaru at bay, but it quickly gets countered as Suzuki-gun took their foes outside the ring and into the guard rails. Just because.

Kanemaru hits a nice step-up legdrop across the guard rails as Rocky was draped on them, while Desperado and TAKA looked to isolate YOH, cornering him for some three-way boot choking. You’ve got to have a wide neck to be able to take three boots to it at the same time…

Desperado’s in next with a single leg crab to YOH, but it comes to nought as YOH escapes and fights back with a Dragon screw. There’s one for TAKA took, and finally Kanemaru as Rocky Romero gets the tag in as two thirds of the Suzuki-gun team were conveniently in the corners… for Forever Lariats! A right hand gets Desperado down as well, but the rogue luchador’s back to spark off a chop battle, before getting sent to the outside for PKs and superkicks from Roppongi 3K.

They throw him back in for Rocky to hang him in the ropes for a dropkick, while the rest of Roppongi 3K took out TAKA and Kanemaru… Rocky can’t quite get off Sliced Bread, and after the referee’s deliberately unsighted by Despy, some whisky spray from Kanemaru leads to the win via a roll-up. This wasn’t as bad as the Roppongi 3K/Suzuki-gun tags on the Dontaku tour, but this never really got going. **¼

G1 Match Announcements
We know the wrestlers and their blocks, now it’s time to find out what they’re putting in as the featured matches. They’re giving us the entire cards, with focus on the top two…

July 14 in Tokyo: Block A: Tanahashi vs. Suzuki, Okada vs. White
July 15 in Tokyo: Block B: Ibushi vs. Sabre, Omega vs. Naito
July 16 in Hokkaido: Block A: Makabe vs. Suzuki, Tanahashi vs. White
July 19 in Tokyo: Block B: Ishii vs. Naito, Goto vs. Omega
July 20 in Tokyo: Block A: Makabe vs. EVIL, Okada vs. Page
July 21 in Tokyo: Block B: Omega vs. Tonga, Goto vs. Ishii
July 22 in Tokyo: Block A: EVIL vs. Fale, Makabe vs. Okada
July 26 in Niigata: Block B: Juice vs. Omega, SANADA vs. Ibushi
July 27 in Shizuoka: Block A: Tanahashi vs. Makabe, Okada vs. YOSHI-HASHI
July 28 in Aichi: Block B: Omega vs. SANADA, Ishii vs. Ibushi
July 30 in Kagawa: Block A: EVIL vs. Suzuki, Elgin vs. Okada
August 1 in Kagoshima: Block B: Omega vs. Sabre, Goto vs. Ibushi
August 2 in Fukuoka: Block A: Tanahashi vs. EVIL, Okada vs. Suzuki
August 4 in Osaka: Block B: Naito vs. Ibushi, Omega vs. Ishii
August 5 in Osaka: Block A: Tanahashi vs. Elgin, Okada vs. EVIL
August 8 in Kanagawa: Block B: Yano vs. Omega, Naito vs. SANADA
August 9 in Tokyo: Block A: White vs. EVIL, Okada vs. Tanahashi
August 10 in Tokyo: Block B: Naito vs. Sabre, Omega vs. Ibushi

The G1 finals are on August 12, with those final three shows all being in Budokan Hall, which answers the question “is Ibushi still banned?” I think right now, everyone’s looking at that Omega/Ibushi match as a final-day eliminator, much like the Okada/Tanahashi match the prior night. There’s some stacked cards, and there’s a massive, massive understatement!

Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Takashi Iizuka) vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
Ah, there’s your jump start. I was beginning to think Suzuki-gun weren’t well.

We’re straight to the outside with Yano getting posted by Taichi, while Iizuka, still in his Hannibal Lecter mask, throws Ishii into the crowd. Yano goes into some chairs too as Taichi’s on the path of least effort it seemed, as we headed back to the ring with Taichi whipping and choking Yano with his own t-shirt.

A more obvious choke takes Yano into the corner, where Iizuka comes into play with some biting. Apparently Yano’s boot is tastiest around the ankle, but Iizuka goes for the toe and sole some more as Yano goes into the ropes… so Iizuka decided to gnaw at the head and hand of Ishii. He’s like an hyperactive rodent for God’s sake… A tag brings Taichi back in, but his offence stops when Yano stops him from ripping off the trousers so he can bring in Ishii. Who laughs off some kicks (well, he would if he could…) as he returns fire with some chops. Chop, kick, chop, kick, and both men are still standing before a kick to the nose rocked Ishii briefly, until a back suplex left both men laying.

Taichi tries a superkick, but has to make do with an enziguiri, which earned him a clothesline from Ishii on the rebound, as both men tag out… so we get Yano and Iizuka. You know the score. Bitey bitey. Iizuka goes for the referee, until he’s hit from behind by Yano, who seemingly hurt his hand in the process… so he can’t follow up, and that allows Iizuka to get some rope out to choke Yano with.

Back to the shtick as Yano and Iizuka exchange atomic drops, before there’s more rope choking, almost leading to the pin. Ishii breaks that up, before Iizuka goes for the iron fingers… Yano ducks it and shoves Iizuka into the referee, only for a low blow to be caught and met with biting. Taichi’s mic stand almost comes into play, but in the end Yano’s able to hit his finish of the low blow and a roll-up for the win. Eh. It was what it was. The Taichi/Iizuka team is going to be a turn-off for many, and if their matches are going to be as full of shenanigans as this, I don’t blame anyone for it. *¾

Michael Elgin, Jeff Cobb, Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Hirooki Goto, Jay White, Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI
Ahead of the match, the ring announcer told the crowd that Juice had broken his hand, but was wrestling against doctor’s wishes. But hey, at least Juice got his hat back! Every cloud has a silver lining, and all that…

We started with Cobb and Goto going into the ropes, and it’s an unclean break from the NEVER champion as Cobb shrugs it off and starts a battle of shoulder tackles. Cobb won, then tagged out as we got Okada vs. Finlay… which is an odd thing to be seeing these days. Finlay actually enjoyed a little offence, charging at Okada with back elbows before a leaping uppercut out of the corner was met with a flapjack instead.

Robinson and White disappear to fight in the crowd briefly, with Switchblade being thrown into a wall as Okada kept up on Finlay. YOSHI-HASHI comes in as I try not to switch off, but thankfully he tags out quickly to Goto, who keeps the offence up on Finlay, wearing him down with a chinlock, before Jay White returns to mock Juice Robinson. Juice just stares a hole through White as he mocked the Dusty punches before knocking Juice off the apron… Finlay tries to capitalise, but he’s quickly overcome… then recovers as YOSHI-HASHI tags in, hitting a dropkick to get himself free to tag in Michael Elgin. That tag clears the ring a little as Elgin charged at the apron, decking White with a forearm before laying into YOSHI-HASHI with chops, then avalanche clotheslines in the corner, as Medium Mike was on fire.

A stalling Falcon arrow is good for a near-fall, before Elgin snuffs out an attempted comeback by decking YOSHI-HASHI with a forearm. The Western lariat gives YOSHI hope, as he’s able to bring in Goto… who in turn avoids an Elgin dropkick and goes back to work on the Canadian with kicks to the chest. An enziguiri in the corner’s just the start of a barrage of kicks from Elgin, with another enziguiri putting Goto down, and leaving him open for a flurry of offence from the freshly tagged-in Cobb.

Cobb takes Goto into the corner, but they just end up battering each other with clotheslines as Cobb changes tactics – toying with Goto with gutwrenches for a near-fall. An Athletic-plex decks Okada, who thought he’d try his luck, but Cobb gets a little too ahead of himself as his standing moonsault misses Goto, who worked his way into a lariat to leave both men on the mat. That brief exchange takes us back to Juice and White, with Juice using his left elbow rather than his fist to knock down the US champion.

A back senton keeps White on the mat, as Juice built up to a cannonball… but White’s up out of the corner for a chop, only to run into a spinebuster as the tide looked to turn. The ring fills to keep White’s partners at bay, while Elgin, Finlay and Juice triple-teamed Switchblade briefly as we worked up to some Dusty punches… but the referee stops White from using his taped-up fist. That distraction is enough for White to come back with a Saito suplex to spark off a Parade of Moves, finishing with a full nelson slam from Juice to Okada?! We’re back to Juice and Jay, and with Jay going for the hand, it’s just a matter of time before he finished off Robinson with the Blade Runner. That’s a rather emphatic win, which makes me think that Jay’s days as champion could well be numbered. All in all, this was a pretty standard undercard tag, but easily the best thing on what has been a lacklustre show. ***¼

Post-match, Jay White continues to mock Juice’s mannerisms. Either that, or he was a really big fan of a former WWE Cruiserweight champion that nobody likes to talk about these days…

So yeah, my Japanese isn’t a strong suit, but we did get a nice video package for the main event, featuring Ryusuke Taguchi stitching together a Super Strong Machine mask. Hmm… he gets possessed, and all of a sudden, he IS a Super Strong Machine. Number 69, in fact. It’s as wacky as you’d expect a Taguchi video package to be.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Super Strong Machines (Super Strong Machine Ace, Super Strong Machine Buffalo, Super Strong Machine Justice, Super Strong Machine Don & Super Strong Machine 69)
For those not playing along, it’s Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi and Ryusuke Taguchi allegedly in the hoods and singlets…

Needless to say, the LIJ crew were far from impressed, but we finally got going with Ace against Hiromu, with the Ace Machine taking down Hiromu with a drop toe hold before missing a back senton. Early days, eh? A tag brings in Don, while Tetsuya Naito seemingly wanted to face the original… pacing around the ring with more than one eye on Super Strong Machine who was watching from ringside.

Don gets a Greco-Roman knuckle lock to Naito, but has to fend off BUSHI before he’s able to dump Naito with a slam… but he too misses a back senton. I see a trend here… Naito tries to rip off Don’s mask, to a chorus of jeers, so he tries to Irish whip him instead. Which fails. That looks familiar… instead, we get a back body drop as Naito’s pulled into Don, who nails a lariat for a near-fall as it’s time for Buffalo!

Super Strong Machine Buffalo hits a clothesline of his own as he stomps Naito, then lands a headbutt… and after getting spat on, it’s time for Mongolian Chops. Nope, can’t think who it is under the hood! The ring’s flooded with Strong Machines as Naito’s bombarded with avalanches in the corner, and now Strong Machine 69 is looking rather… robotic? Rather like Buffalo’s suplex, which almost dumped Naito right on his head!

BUSHI stops Buffalo as he climbed the ropes, as LIJ looked to put an end to the fun and games by unmasking the entire crew of Super Strong Machines… but they stop after we see just enough of everyone’s faces. Buffalo’s left laying as BUSHI chokes him with a t-shirt, while Super Strong Machine’s leader, Shogun Ky Wakamatsu was almost attacked by Naito on the floor. Finally, Buffalo reverses a suplex, but EVIL stops him from making a tag out. Justice ends up getting the tag, and quickly dumps Naito with an overhead belly-to-belly before going to work on SANADA with some kicks and an Exploder. Hmmm… EVIL and SANADA return to try and suplex Justice, but it’s countered as we built up into a chain of suplexes, ending with LIJ eating a five-way chain of suplexes!

We’re back to the mask tearing as SANADA tried to reveal Justice’s identify, but it doesn’t come off, as we worked up to a missile dropkick from BUSHI… who again goes for the mask. Machine 69 comes in next to get a near-fall on BUSHI with a bulldog out of the corner, before following up with the Three Amigos, only for BUSHI to stop the third one and tease a Machine DDT!

It’s blocked by 69, who again gets isolated as a barrage of dropkicks almost took the match for LIJ… but in the end, it’s BUSHI who gets a taste of his own medicine as a swandive headbutt from Buffalo nearly earned the win. The ring fills as the Machines hit someone else’s finishers, with Hiromu taking an Argentine backbreaker before being dumped into the pile of LIJ on the outside, while we finally get Naito’s comeuppance as Super Strong Machine dumped him with a clothesline!

Now we get back a back senton as BUSHI’s held down… Ace, then Don hit the back sentons, before 69 took the win with the Majin Fusha Gatame – a bridging hammerlock suplex. If you’d never seen Super Strong Machine before (like me…) this would have been a wash. A bit of a throwaway match save for the comedy spots, but for what it was, it could have been a whole lot worse. ***

After the match, there’s the in-ring photos… and that’s it. No shower of streamers, no nothing, except one more video package that recapped the career of Super Strong Machine, and now we get the farewell, with Shogun Wakamatsu presenting flowers, along with Hiro Saito, Masahito Kakihara (fresh off his New Japan Rumble win six months ago), Ryota Chikuzen (who was part of Makai Club and the Love Machines with Super Strong Machine under another name… bet you can’t guess what it was!). Kazunari Murakami (part of the old Makai Club from New Japan of old) and Katsuyori Shibata (ditto). Seigigun’s represented by Wataru Inoue and Yuji Nagata, while Togi Makabe, KUSHIDA, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Tiger Mask, Manabu Nakanishi and Jushin Thunder Liger represented the current era, along with pretty much the entire roster, Young Lions and all.

…and finally, as they say, we get the farewell speech from Super Strong Machine. Thanks to Chris Charlton for the cribbed translations, as Super Strong Machine broke the news of his wife’s sad passing from cancer earlier his year, as he then told us that since he’d been unable to take bumps, it was time for him to rest up and seek new challenges. A ten bell salute follows, and that my friends, is that.

The fourth night of the Kizuna Road tour was perhaps the most missable stop – unless you’re a fan of Super Strong Machine, that is. Pretty much everything on the show felt muted, as this was a “one segment show”, with everything being held back for the moment that was the final gaggle of Super Strong Machines. I hope the plural is gaggle, anyway… Next up for New Japan is the remainder of the Kizuna Road tour that won’t be streamed live (including Tomoaki Honma’s comeback on June 23, which is a little baffling, but what can you do?). The next live stream will be the G1 Special in San Francisco on July 7, a week before the G1 itself starts on July 14. The calm before the storm…