Can El Phantasmo leave with three belts? Find out as we’re back to Korakuen Hall for another stop on Kizuna Road!

It’s back to Korakuen Hall, with Mavs Gillis and Chris Charlton on the call for this truncated six-match card.

Yuya Uemura vs. Yota Tsuji
Neither man’s been able to register back-to-back wins against the other, and with this being the last time they face one-on-one on this tour… it’s now or not-for-a-while for Tsuji.

Uemura sensed that from the off as he went for the arm, but Tsuji held on before the pair teased slamming each other. It’s Tsuji who edged ahead though with his slam, before a Boston crab has Uemura in trouble… but we’ve a rope break and strikes before a beautiful armdrag snuffed out Tsuji before a bridging capture suplex gets Yuya the win. I love how these Young Lions are slowly getting their finishers, even if it only works against each other. We’re 4-4-21 in terms of their records, and I’m betting they’re hoping for a new class from the Dojo so they can pick up regular wins! ***

Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare vs. Yuji Nagata & Shota Umino
Shota’s back with his regular New Japan Dad again, even if he does do that embarrassing thing in public with his t-shirt…

Umino and Henare start with shoulder tackles, before Honma and Nagata locked horns. Elbows and kicks have Nagata ahead briefly, before Honma slammed and missed a Kokeshi. Yep, his run only lasted one day. Honma edged ahead when he avoided a dropkick from Umino, but it’s Henare who’s back doing the heavy lifting, before we’re back to the scrapping dads. Those chops from Honma were horribly hit and miss, but he finally landed a leaping Kokeshi. Problem was, Henare’s back in and quickly falls into a Shirome armbar that Honma dove in to break, before Henare and Honma sandwich Umino with lariats and Kokeshi for a near-fall.

Umino fought back with a German suplex, but it’s a Henare headbutt that stops him in his tracks, before a spear and a uranage got the win. This was good when it was Henare/Umino, but my God, Honma looks absolutely shot these days. It’s not news, but if you’ve been away and wondering why he’s not anywhere near the G1… well, a severe neck injury’ll do that to you. **½

Post-match, Henare ranted to the English commentary table about not being in the G1…

Kota Ibushi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi)
This was the Tenzan comeback match after several months off with a knee injury.

We’ve more hesitation before the match as EVIL refused to bump fists with LIJ, and we start with Naito mocking Tenzan with Mongolian chops. Of course there’s a speedy reply, as Naito spat back at Tenzan as the “New Japan Masters” team settled into a groove. Kojima’s Machine Gun chops trap EVIL and Naito, but BUSHI gets involved as LIJ turn the match on its head. The pace finally picked up with Kota Ibushi tagged in to kick and flip onto EVIL for a near-fall, only for EVIL’s Fisherman buster to stop Kota.

Tags take us to Liger and BUSHI, with the latter eating a tiltawhirl backbreaker before Shingo broke up a Romero special. Yeah, Korakuen aren’t happy they’re not seeing all of the hits tonight… Tiger Mask doesn’t get it much better as he’s triple-teamed with low dropkicks before a small package nearly caused the upset, before he’s dragged into a Skull End for the submission. Add another one to the “this was fine” column, but the pace was agonisingly slow for much of the match and struggled to keep my attention. **½

Post-match, angry Liger went for Naito’s throat, literally, as BUSHI had taken Tiger Mask’s mask as a trophy… while LIJ again hesitated to show some unity.

Time for some more G1 announcements… we’re getting the cards!

July 6 – Ospreay/Archer, Ibushi/Kenta, Okada/Tanahashi, EVIL/Fale, SANADA/Sabre in Dallas
July 13 – Yano/Naito, Juice/Shingo, Ishii/Cob, Taichi/Moxley, Goto/White
July 14 – Ospreay/SANADA, Okada/ZSJ, EVIL/Ishii, Fale/Archer, KENTA/Tanahashi
July 15 – Yano/Shingo, Juice/Goto, Ishii/White, Moxley/Cobb, Naito/Taichi
July 18 – KENTA/Archer, Okada/Fale, Tanahashi/ZSJ, EVIL/SANADA, Ibushi/Ospreay – happy birthday to me!
July 19 – Juice/Cobb, Yano/White, Goto/Naito, Shingo/Taichi, Moxley/Ishii
July 20 – Fale/ZSJ, Archer/Tanahashi, SANADA/Ishii, EVIL/KENTA, Okada/Ospreay
July 24 – Juice/Yano, Goto/Taichi, Cobb/White, Moxley/Shingo, Naito/Ishii
July 27 – Ibushi/Archer, Ospreay/Fale, EVIL/ZSJ, SANADA/Tanahashi, Okada/KENTA
July 28 – Juice/Ishii, Taichi/Cobb, Shingo/White, Goto/Yano, Naito/Moxley
July 30 – Ibushi/Fale, Archer/Okada, EVIL/Tanahashi, ZSJ/Ospreay, SANADA/KENTA
August 1 – Cobb/Shingo, Juice/Naito, Ishii/Goto, Moxley/Yano, Taichi/White
August 3 – KENTA/Fale, Archer/ZSJ, Ospreay/EVIL, Ibushi/Tanahashi, Okada/SANADA
August 4 – Ishii/Yano, Taichi/Juice, Goto/Cobb, White/Moxley, Naito/Shingo
August 7 – SANADA/Archer, Tanahashi/Fale, Ibushi/ZSJ, KENTA/Ospreay, Okada/EVIL
August 8 – Cobb/Naito, Moxley/Goto, Juice/White, Yano/Taichi, Ishii/Shingo
August 10 – KENTA/ZSJ, EVIL/Archer, SANADA/Fale, Ospreay/Tanahashi, Okada/Ibushi
August 11 – Ishii/Taichi, Shingo/Goto, Yano/Cobb, Moxley/Juice, Naito/White
August 12 – G1 Finals in Budokan

Commence your predictions – Naito/White and Okada/Ibushi sure seem like block deciders from about two months out, don’t they?

Bullet Club (Jay White, Taiji Ishimori & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Mikey Nicholls, Juice Robinson & Ren Narita
The Bullet Club enter this match with some more gold after Ishimori won half of the junior tag titles last night…

Narita made a point of going after Ishimori early, before he got a helping hand from Tanahashi… but Tama Tonga’s able to put Tana down by working on the legs. Ren Narita of all people breaks up a Jay White submission attempt, as the Young Lion tempted fate, and eventually met his fate before Juice came in to drop Tama with a spinebuster. Nicholls helps out, before Juice’s back body drop got him free as Ren Narita blind tagged himself back in. It’s almost like the Best of the Super Junior run gave Ren a new lease of life!

Narita takes down Ishimori and White with dropkicks, before he and Tanahashi looked for duelling submissions. Juice and Mikey throw in holds of their own too, but the Bullet Club got free before Ishimori trapped Narita in the Yes Lock for the eventual submission. Hey, this had some good flashes with Narita, but in the end his search for a win remained fruitless as the Bullet Club celebrated like they’d won big time. ***¼

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Bullet Club (El Phantasmo, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Taguchi Japan (Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi) (c)
Can ELP leave Tokyo with three belts?

Well, he tires out Taguchi early by making him run the ropes, but Taguchi stopped himself before tags took us to Yujiro and Yano as we went to shtick. Off come the turnbuckle pads, before the Bullet Club mock Taguchi by doing their baseball plays to a cornered Yano before Chase Owens threatened to blind Yano with curry.

The “gas pedal” sees ELP stand on Yano in a Tree of Woe, before Chase hurled him into an exposed corner. Eventually Makabe gets in and dumps Yujiro with a slam, then with a lariat. Taguchi’s able to return, but he’s quickly taken down as ELP returned and began to wear down his next title challenger… only to get whacked in the head with a leaping hip attack. B-Triggers keep Phantasmo in the ropes, but ELP’s back with a whirlibird neckbreaker. Yano’s back to remove more turnbuckle pads, but Chase is smart to his tactics as he used the pad to block a low blow before a Jewel Heist almost led to the title change. The ring fills for a brief Parade of Moves before Owens almost stole it with a roll-up… but in the end it’s Yano’s low blow and roll-up that gets the job done as Taguchi Japan retain. Utterly skippable. I don’t know what it is with this stretch of shows, but so far these two Korakuen shows have been largely disposable fare. **¾

Elimination Match: Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Lance Archer, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI, Tomohiro Ishii & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
DOUKI’s out with Suzuki-gun, despite not being in the match.

Okada and Archer start us out in this match, but there’s plenty of tags as both sides cycled through as we had all the teases for upcoming matches in and around the G1. It’s not long before everyone brawled around and into the crowd, which led to some awkward moments where the English commentary team were calling stuff we didn’t see.

Okada and Suzuki brawled to the back as apparently YOSHI-HASHI and ZSJ were the legal men… and nearly lost via count-out. More brawling sees Okada get thrown into a camera, before YOSHI-HASHI had to fight through Suzuki as we got back to Okada and Suzuki. Still annoyed at not being in the G1, Suzuki took his anger out on Okada with clonking elbows, before he tripped Okada into a knee bar. When Suzuki didn’t let go after a rope break, referee Red Shoes Unno put the boots to him to make him break it up… which he did. Before he hiptossed the referee, which earned an easy DQ as Suzuki was our first man out. Followed by some Young Lions, who nearly got knocked out…

That took us past the 15 minute mark, with Okada dropkicking Kanemaru off the top rope for elimination #2, before Okada’s attempt at dropkicking Archer out led to him almost getting chokeslammed. The EBD Claw gets Okada out over the top rope, while SHO & YOH looked for instant revenge, sending Archer onto the apron but they couldn’t finish the job here.

Archer runs through the former junior tag champions with a chokeslam and a Blackout, before scoring a pair of easy eliminations, tossing out YOH before pinning SHO with the claw. Ishii’s in to try and get him some, but he eventually lands his brainbuster before a clothesline… was absorbed by Archer, who tried for another elimination. Ishii clings onto the ropes, then pulled Archer over by his boot before he knocked him to the floor. Taichi tries to capitalise, and does so with the help of DOUKI as we’re left with ZSJ and Taichi against YOSHI-HASHI. Don’t you dare.

The referee’s distracted by DOUKI as YOSHI-HASHI threw out Taichi… so of course it doesn’t count. DOUKI drops off the apron as the Suzuki-gun pair continue to play with YOSHI-HASHI, who looked to eliminate Taichi with a butterfly lock… only for Sabre to kick it apart. Taichi grabs hold of the ref as he was about to taste Karma, allowing DOUKI to interfere. He’s dealt with with a superkick though, before Taichi’s thrown out then dropkicked to the floor. We’re down to Sabre and YOSHI-HASHI as the final two, as a taste for next Tuesday’s title match.

After getting to the ropes to break a submission, YOSHI-HASHI found a second wind, almost winning with a backslide, before he fought out of a rear naked choke on the apron and chopped Sabre to the floor for the win! That’s an upset, and one that they needed to give YOSHI much credibility ahead of Sendai next week. ***¾

So CHAOS stand tall at the end of this… except for a brief period of afters as Suzuki-gun rushed the ring before they were sent packing as YOSHI-HASHI threatened to beat Sabre and take his spot in the G1. Pull the other one!

Much like Sunday’s show, this felt like a horribly flat Korakuen Hall show as the brief lame duck season between Best of the Super Juniors and the G1 rolled on. Nothing on here stunk, which is par for the course, but with nothing standing out apart from the main event elimination match, which are hard to get wrong, this really is a New Japan show you can afford to skip if you’re looking to avoid burn-out.