A week after Dominion, we’re on the Kizuna Road as the Bullet Club came calling for Roppongi 3K’s junior heavyweight tag titles…

We’ve a rare seven match card – but the headline here coming in was the announcement of the G1 Climax blocks! Mavs Gillis and Chris Charlton are on commentary for this.

Yuya Uemura vs. Yota Tsuji
Tsuji’s a little tentative on his entrance, as commentary tells us they’ve gone from drawing all the time to trading wins back-and-forth.

You know what you’re getting here, solid basics on the mat, before Tsuji started to throw some solid strikes, including some big chops before Uemura cut him off with a nice dropkick. Uemura’s offence only served to give Tsuji an idea, as he went from chops to dropkicks, before a spear cut off Uemura en route to a Boston crab for the eventual submission. Perhaps not the pace or energy of some matches, but you really get the sense that the rivalry these two have is real. ***

Suzuki-gun (Taichi, DOUKI & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Tomoaki Honma & Ren Narita
Hey, DOUKI’s back on the tour… and Taichi’s serenading Kanemaru too!

Narita had the balls to jump Suzuki-gun… and it goes just how you’d expect. Honma helped him out before DOUKI’s wiped out with a pescado… DOUKI does the splits to turn things around as Narita sent himself outside, where Kanemaru took him into the railings for a nasty guillotine legdrop. Poor Narita took a pasting here, as “Taichi’s gonna Taichi”, before Narita finally forces in with a dropkick as we’ve got the experienced lads in now. Honma chopping through Kanemaru, but Taichi kicks Honma to stop a Kokeshi, only to get one of his own. Kanemaru gets one too as Honma’s strangely accurate with those things today.

Taichi and Ishii come in to clatter into each other, before Narita came in some vigour, dropping Taichi with a suplex before Kanemaru kicks away a leg lace submission. From there it’s pretty elementary as Taichi rips off the trousers, only to nearly lose to a series of roll-ups, before an Axe Bomber and a buzzsaw kick took the win. Narita showed a lot of tire here, but at the end of the day, it’s a pretty straightforward win for the Suzuki-gun reserves. ***

Juice Robinson, Mikey Nicholls & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Bullet Club (Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Jado)
On the earlier nights of the tour, they’ve looked to be building to Juice & Mikey getting a tag title shot. That’s certainly a match. They start by brawling in the crowd as the champions seemingly didn’t want to defend against new opponents…

Things turned around with Nicholls dropped Tanga Loa with a Big Ending as the CHAOS pair seemed to work well together. Well, Mikey’s always been a tag team guy, I guess. Taguchi’s in to get drop toe hold into Tama’s Tongas, before his arse caught by Juice, Mikey… and Jado’s Kendo stick. Yet that’s not a DQ? Jado spanks Taguchi, who may have been turned on by it, as the tag team champions slowed down the pace while wearing him down, as Taguchi’s arse of steel… was more like aluminium given how little it affected the champions. Jado pulls down Taguchi’s tights and threatened to cane his arse, but Juice makes the save by spamming Dusty punches. After the champions and challengers cleared out, Taguchi quickly gets the win with Oh My Garankle… and that’s about ten minute that left a lot to be desired. There wasn’t anything technically wrong, but throwing together two singles guys, one of whom has been treading water, and making them insta-tag-title-challengers isn’t my idea of reviving a tired division. **¼

Kota Ibushi, Yuji Nagata, Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Shota Umino vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi)
Kota, Tetsuya… stay off the god damned apron.

LIJ enjoyed the better of the early going as we had the focus on Shingo grinding Shota Umino’s head into the ring post while Liger was in trouble in the ring against BUSHI. SANADA keeps up the momentum, focusing on Liger’s knee as Shota Umino stopped him from the ignominy of a Paradise Lock, before he went wild on Shingo. For a few moments, at least. Liger stayed in trouble before he got a tag through to a fired-up Nagata, who kicked away at Naito before he fought to take him down for a Shirome armbar. Ibushi tags in with a missile dropkick and a pescado, before Naito got bloodied up with some strikes.

Umino comes back in to take down Shingo with a missile dropkick, but Takagi’s back with punches, only to get suplexed. The ring fills, then empties, as Shingo battered Shota ahead of a Noshigami… but that’s not it! Still, Shota has some fight left in him, but a Pumping Bomber folds him in half for the W. Can we have Shingo/Shota somewhere down the line, because these two had a real spark between them. Especially if it leads to Shingo/Moxley a ways down the line… ***¼

After the match, LIJ hesitate to do their fist pose – bringing back echoes of last year when SANADA looked to be really unsure, but it’s EVIL who walks away this year.

G1 block time now… but first, here’s Taichi with a bottle of Coca Cola. Other carbonated beverages are available.

Block A: Kazuchika Okada, Zack Sabre Jr, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, EVIL, SANADA, Bad Luck Fale, Lance Archer, Will Ospreay, KENTA
Block B: Tetsuya Naito, Tomohiro Ishii, Juice Robinson, Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto, Jay White, Jeff Cobb, Shingo Takagi, Taichi, Jon Moxley

Jesus wept, how stacked is that A-block?! Will Ospreay becomes the first man to be in the New Japan Cup, Best of Super Juniors and G1 in the same calendar year – and barring a disaster, this run ought to seal his place in many people’s end-of-year ballots.

There’s some omissions here: no Suzuki, no Makabe, no YOSHI-HASHI, no Kojima – but let’s be realistic, the field we’ve got here is more interesting and perhaps more open without them. Besides, it actually paid off last year’s “YOSHI-HASHI struggled” storyline in doing this…

Bullet Club (Jay White, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe & Toru Yano
So we’re still playing off of White’s win last week over the shell of Tanahashi, it seems.

We’ve got shtick early on as Yano removes the turnbuckle pad, then gets clotheslined by it as commentary was openly salivating over those G1 blocks, before everyone brawled outside. Owens took Makabe into the guard rails, while Yano had a similar meeting. Yeah, this is really a match for commentary to wax lyrical over that line-up, stopping only as Tanahashi comes in to take down Jay White with a forearm. NOT A SLINGBLADE.

A Blade Runner’s blocked as White forces his way in, scoring with a deadlift German suplex to leave Tanahashi down. Tags get us back to Makabe and Owens, as Chase’s package piledriver is blocked… Yano’s back to try and throw everyone into the exposed corner, but he ends up taking it as a Saito suplex took care of Tanahashi, before Chase Owens stole the win with a roll-up on Makabe – with a handful of tights. This was fine, and it wasn’t until the finish that commentary remembered they had a trios title match that this was building to. **½

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr. & Lance Archer) vs. Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI & Toa Henare
Both teams have a man who’s surprisingly out of the G1 – but YOSHI-HASHI has a bigger fish to fry, as he’s got Zack Sabre Jr. in a little over a week for the Rev Pro title.

Those start start us out as we see YOSHI’s taped up his arm a little differently, while he and Sabre scrambled through the opening exchanges. A chop rocked ZSJ, but he’s able to get free as the match descended into the usual Suzuki-gun brand of chaos. Suzuki’s focusing on Okada with a chair before he returned to the ring to help brutalise YOSHI-HASHI. Tags get us to Okada and Suzuki, with Okada blasting through Suzuki with a sliding back elbow… before “murder grandpa” Suzuki got up and cornered Okada with some kicks. He also booted the referee in the balls for good measure, before they worked up to the clonking elbows.

Red Shoes Unno’s having to ice himself as Suzuki wore down Okada… not caring that he was in the ropes. Henare and Archer come in as the now-lone member of the KES charged through Henare before the Blackout (inverted crucifix bomb) drew a two-count as Lance pulled up Henare at two… so he could put Henare down with a head claw. Very Von Erichy, and it’s nice to have a secondary move too. A decent brawl, but one that didn’t seem to do too much to build that ZSJ/YOSHI match for next week. ***¼

Post-match, Suzuki complains about not being in the G1, and asks to have a match to get into the field. I mean, we do sort-of have a precedent, when Kojima gave Tenzan his spot a few years back…

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) (c)
I’m here for Chris Charlton dubbing ELP “El Pillock”. That needs to catch on.

Ishimori and YOH start out slowly as we got to see the Bone Soldier’s taped-up shoulder – which was almost at YOSHI-HASHI levels… YOH busted his ear open very early on, which meant that it was SHO who took a lot of the Bullet Club offence, including chops aplenty from Ishimori. Phantasmo playfully kicks SHO in the back as he was living up to Charlton’s nickname for him. Running knees catch SHO in the corner as Ishimori then set up for ELP to… stand on his balls. I buffer briefly as a bleeding YOH gets in to catch ELP with a backbreaker and Dragon screw combo before he got himself low bridged to the outside. A baseball slide German suplex keeps YOH on the back foot as the tag champions looked to be in trouble, especially with El Phantasmo continually antagonising. He’s gotta flip out of a spider German suplex after YOH caught him from a Tree of Woe, as the Bullet Club again did everything they could to keep SHO from tagging in. The air on YOH’s leap… only for it to be in vain was perfect!

Finally they slip up as SHO gets in, clobbering them with almost Forever lariats, before he avoided a wheelbarrow/stomp combo from Ishimori. SHO had no such luck with a handspring enziguiri, but he was able to respond with a lariat as the pair went back and forth until SHO’s attempt to slide under Ishimori led to him falling into place for a double stomp. YOH’s back, and comes close with a Final Cut, only for Phantasmo to respond with a sunset bomb off the top rope before hauling himself up top… for a big splash! ELP misses a moonsault, which gives YOH the chance to lock in the Stargazer – his brand of calf slicer – but ELP gets to the bottom rope nevertheless. Phantasmo ends up getting his title belt, which he spits on before whacking out YOH with it, before a whirlibird neckbreaker sends YOH spinning to the mat for a near-fall. SHO makes a save to stop a CR2, switching it into the double-team Dominator before ELP ate the 3K for a near-fall.

A dive from SHO wiped out Ishimori, as ELP almost succumbed to YOH’s bridging German suplex. Instead, Ishimori’s back to purposely hurl SHO into the referee, meaning nobody saw ELP’s dick punch to YOH before the CR2 led to the win as ELP’s now a double champion. I was not expecting that result, as Phantasmo could well be leaving this swing at Korakuen Hall with three belts. This was a pretty good match, although one that you got the feeling was a little lacklustre at points. Perhaps Korakuen really didn’t buy the “makeshift” Bullet Club pairing despite how fluid they looked as a tandem. All told, I’d not be surprised if ELP/Ishimori as tag champions ended up as little more as another wedge to drive Robbie Eagles out of Bullet Club… ***½

After the match, Taguchi ran in to stop ELP from beating on the deposed champions, before the post-show promos built up to their match in Sendai in a little over a week.

All in all, while nothing on this show stunk, it felt like one of those shows where nothing really stood out either. Truth be told, most people would have been watching this show just for the G1 announcements, but at least the wrestling surrounding it was easy to watch – with something notable at the end for those who watched what, for all intents and purposes, “was just another house show” as a lot of the spotlight’ll be off New Japan until the G1 starts in just three weeks time. How’s this year flying by?!