We’re back at Korakuen Hall as New Japan provides the warm-up for tomorrow’s NEVER trios title match with three singles matches, topped with Tomohiro Ishii vs. Yuji Nagata.

Quick Results
Taiji Ishimori, El Phantasmo & Jado pinned DOUKI, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru in 10:22 (**¾)
Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & Minoru Suzuki submitted BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito & SANADA in 12:29 (***)
YOSHI-HASHI submitted Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 14:29 (***)
Satoshi Kojima pinned Hirooki Goto in 15:11 (***½)
Tomohiro Ishii pinned Yuji Nagata in 22:14 (****)

We’ve just the two shows at Korakuen Hall this week – then a fortnight away as New Japan begins the Summer Struggle tour.

Bullet Club (El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori & Jado) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI)
We’ve got Ishimori challenging for El Desperado’s junior title later this month…

Ishimori and Desperado start us off, but a kick in the ropes from Kanemaru gives the Suzuki-gun lads an early advantage. DOUKI and Kanemaru come in to work over Ishimori in the ropes, with Kanemaru tagging in to hit a dropkick for a two-count. Jado threatens to clobber Kanemaru with the Kendo stick, but Kanemaru slides outside into a kick off the apron from ELP as the Bullet Club trio took over.

Back inside, Ishimori gets a two-count on Kanemaru before Jado came in to rake Kanemaru’s eyes against the rope. A side headlock keeps Kanemaru down, as did a shoulder block, before Phantasmo came in with a back rake out of the corner for a two-count. Ishimori repeats the trick as the new junior tag champions were all about scratching that back.

Showboating from ELP leads to a dropkick to take Kanemaru into the corner, but a low dropkick from Kanemaru plants ELP on his head before tags got us back to Ishimori and Desperado. They trade rights until a back suplex from Desperado dropped Ishimori for a two-count, while Ishimori’s attempt to counter led him to having to fight out of a Guitarra de Angel before hitting a handspring enziguiri.

An attempted Bloody Cross gets blocked, with Desperado returning with a spinebuster as DOUKI came in to hit a suplex for a two-count. A Gory bomb attempt fron DOUKI drew in Jado, who ends up taking an enziguiri and a plancha, before DOUKI returned with a Daybreak DDT on Ishimori.

Ishimori kicks out, but gets rolled into the DOUKI CHOKEY! Okay, it’s the Italian Stretch #32 as Gino Gambino goes banana somewhere in Australia. Ishimori makes it to the ropes to force the break, then had to escape a Suplex de la Luna attempt before Jado whacked DOUKI with the Kendo stick. A Sudden Death from Phantasmo followed, then Cipher UTAKI as Kanemaru broke up the pin just in time… but that just left DOUKI prey for a Bloody Cross as Ishimori left with the win. A decent enough opener, with the result you kinda expected. **¾

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & Minoru Suzuki)
We’re building up to the tag title defence in Hokkaido later in the month with this one… I wonder if Suzuki’s a little salty at not being on that GLEAT card that’s running head to head in Tokyo (the same one that SHO’s on)?

SANADA and Sabre start us off, with the opening skirmishes drawing no clear victor as SANADA eventually took Sabre into a straitjacket choke, which Sabre easily walked out of. A hiptoss from SANADA’s blocked and met with a Cobra Twist, which he hiptossed away from before finally landing that armdrag and a dropkick en route to a standoff.

BUSHI tags in and wraps Sabre’s arm around the top rope, before Naito came in to hit a low dropkick as the LIJ trio were targeting Sabre’s arm in the early going. A wristlock keeps Sabre at bay, but Zack counters out an stomps on the arm as Minoru Suzuki casually laid out BUSHI with a chairshot. Naito and SANADA get taken into the railings as stuff happens on the floor.

Back inside, Sabre stands on Naito’s hand as Suzuki came in for an ankle lock. Taichi distracts the ref as Sabre and Suzuki tied up Naito in a variety of changing submissions, before taking him into the corner for a beating. Taichi’s in to choke on Naito, taking him into the corner as Sabre and Suzuki tried to hold Naito there. Eventually breaking free, Naito’s caught with an overhead kick to the arm, before he hits a Manhattan drop and a low dropkick on Sabre.

Tags get us back to Suzuki and BUSHI, with the latter landing a missile dropkick and a tope suicida on Suzuki. A Fisherman’s screw back inside gets BUSHI a two-count, but Suzuki’s right back with a PK for a two-count of his own, before he ducked into a rear naked choke and a CLONKING elbow to drop BUSHI. Another rear naked choke followed, as did a Gotch piledriver attempt, but SANADA breaks it up with a dropkick to start the traditional Parade of Moves.

Taichi takes care of SANADA with a gamengiri, before Sabre and Taichi ganged up on Naito… leaving BUSHI all alone. He manages a double ‘rana on the tag champions, but ran into an Axe Bomber as Taichi got a near-fall. I must have missed him tagging out… but I didn’t miss the trouser reveal. A rewind kick from BUSHI stuns Taichi briefly, who snapped back with a Dangerous backdrop driver and the Stretch Plum. Naito and SANADA try to break it up, but they’re thwarted as BUSHI’s forced to tap. This was decent, with the champions getting one over on their next challengers. Oh, we finally learn what they call Taichi’s version of the Stretch Plum… which is the Holy Emperor Cross Mausoleum. ***

Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. YOSHI-HASHI
The first of three singles matches to build to tomorrow’s trios title defence, and I have a feeling this may be the shortest of the lot.

There’s been one prior meeting between these two, with YOSHI-HASHI beating Tenzan in the first round of last year’s New Japan Cup. To mark the occasion, YOSHI-HASHI seems to have gotten himself a new ring jacket…

We start with a lock-up that had YOSHI-HASHI backed into the ropes, before he faked out a chop following the switcharound… and just slapped Tenzan instead. A side headlock takes Tenzan down, before Tenzan shrugged off shoulder blocks to charge down YOSHI-HASHI with one of his own.

Mongolian chops follow as YOSHI-HASHI got knocked down, but a baseball slide sees YOSHI-HASHI drag Tenzan to the floor and into the guard rails. Chops follow on the outside, with YOSHI-HASHI rolling Tenzan back in for more of the same. Elbows to Tenzan’s neck keep him down, before Tenzan’s right back led to him getting chopped in the throat by YOSHI-HASHI.

A spinning heel kick from Tenzan takes down YOSHI-HASHI, as more Mongolian chops follow to take YOSHI-HASHI into the corner. Tenzan lands a brainbuster for a two-count, before taking YOSHI-HASHI into the corner for the Calf Branding – a modified bulldog out of the corner. That gets Tenzan a two-count as he transitions into an Anaconda Vise from the kick-out, but YOSHI-HASHI got to the ropes to force the break.

YOSHI-HASHI gets chopped again, before his attempt at a Head Hunter was countered with a Mountain Bomb. I think… He’s back up though to chop Tenzan in the corner, before rolling Tenzan into a Butterfly Lock… but Tenzan fought free as the pair again trade strikes. Chops and Mongolian chops take us back-and-forth, before a Tenzan headbutt dropped YOSHI-HASHI to the mat.

Tenzan hits a falling headbutt for a two-count… then went back to the Anaconda Vise, which YOSHI-HASHI nearly turned into a roll-up for the pin. Still, Tenzan keeps the hold on, turning it into an Anaconda Slam for a near-fall as YOSHI-HASHI powered back to his feet. From there, Tenzan makes another trip up top, but misses a swandive headbutt as YOSHI-HASHI began to fight back once more.

Clotheslines from YOSHI-HASHI see him get headbutted again, but he’s right back with a Western Lariat for a near-fall before a thrust kick and running double knees flatten Tenzan for another near-fall. YOSHI-HASHI goes to the Butterfly Hold from there, pulling Tenzan down as he tried to fight free to force the submission. A decent enough match given Tenzan’s limits in 2021 – showing us he had enough in the tank to be a threat here… but can he do it two nights in a row? ***

Satoshi Kojima vs. Hirooki Goto
We’ve five prior singles matches between these two, with Goto edging out the lead 3-2 – although they’ve not faced each other since 2015 in a singles environment…

Like the last match, we start with a lock-up, as Kojima takes Goto into the ropes before we headed outside, with Kojima chucking Goto into the railings. Goto returns the favour, then ducked as Kojima tried to clothesline him by the ring post, which ought to take away that lariat… especially as Goto elbowed the arm afterwards before he threw Kojima back into the rails.

Back inside, Goto stays on the arm, before the pair traded back suplexes as Kojima took control. Machine Gun chops follow in the corner, before Kojima took a trip up top to land an elbow drop for a near-fall. Goto recovers to hit a spinning heel kick into the corner, then a bulldog out of it for a two-count, but then got caught on the top rope as Kojima looked for a superplex.

Goto headbutted him down, but Kojima popped up to clothesline Goto to the floor. He doesn’t want the count-out, so rolls Kojima back inside before some attempts at Cosy lariats were ducked. Finally, one lands, as did a Koji Cutter, but Goto kicks out at two from that before landing an ushigoroshi. Another lariat decks Goto for a near-fall, before Goto tried to go back to the arm… and switched in for a GYR.

My feed drops out, returning with Goto ducking another Cozy lariat before he got spun inside out with one for the win. When my feed wasn’t buffering, this was pretty good stuff, as Goto’s questionable year with the titles continued – adding this loss to the Ishimori losses in warm-up matches. ***½

So we’re 1-1 in the warm-ups, I guess it boils down to this for bragging rights?

Yuji Nagata vs. Tomohiro Ishii
We’ve 11 prior singles matches here, ten of them in New Japan. Ishii’s won the last four, with Nagata not having beaten Ishii one-on-one since 2011.

No lock-up into the ropes to start here, as Ishii and Nagata throw elbows to start. A stuttering dropkick from Nagata misses, as did a high kick as Ishii backed into the corner, Now we get the lock-up, before a cross armbar from Nagata ended in the ropes. Kicks and knees keep Ishii in the ropes, before he returned with a suplex to take down Nagata.

Chops keep Nagata on a knee, but Nagata stands up and throws elbows before he got chopped down. More of those have Nagata reeling, especially those that ventured north towards the throat, as Nagata was chopped onto his arse in the corner. Getting to his feet just saw Nagata earn more chops as Ishii wore out the veteran, at least until Nagata (blistered chest and all) kicked back.

Mid kicks began to wear down Ishii, as did a front kick in the corner that led to a double underhook suplex for a near-fall. Another exchange of elbows has Ishii almost spent, with Nagata finding a second wind, laying out Ishii ahead of a PK to the back. Which just woke him up.

A slap knocks down Nagata, who then ate chops and forearms in the corner before a superplex attempt eventually took Nagata down for a near-fall. Nagata ducks a clothesline and drags Ishii into the Nagata Lock II crossface… before he rolled Ishii back into the middle of the ring to reapply the hold. Ishii’s foot manages to get onto the rope to force a break, but Nagata stays on top of Ishii with some more kicks.

An armbreaker followed, forcing Ishii to reply with shows with his good elbow, only for Nagat to swat him down again. Nagata keeps going with an Exploder for a near-fall, before a Backdrop Driver was elbowed away by Ishii, who returned with a rising headbutt to reset things.

Back to his feet, Nagata tries again with the elbows, but Ishii replies in kind as the strikes continued to rack up. Ishii’s knocked into the ropes again as the pair keep laying into each other with palm strikes, at least until Ishii missed and fell into the ropes. A leaping enziguiri knocks Nagata down, but he’s right back with an Exploder… only for Ishii to pop up with a clothesline for a near-fall.

Ishii followed that up with a sliding lariat for another near-fall, but Nagata cuts him off with another kick. Some buffering followed as Nagata pulls Ishii up out of the corner, but Ishii’s pretty much dead weight… so Nagata covers him for a two-count. Another enziguiri from Nagata led to a rebound German suplex, then a brainbuster for a near-fall… Nagata tries for a Backdrop driver, but Ishii blocks it twice… then put Nagata away with a sheer drop brainbuster for the win. Sure, the clap crowd doesn’t help, but this was a fantastic outing as we rolled back the clock to earlier in the pandemic, right when we first realised what the sweet spot involved. Wrestlers being snug. Stick this on your watchlists! ****

We’re back in Korakuen tomorrow for the final night on the Kizuna Road, featuring another NEVER trios title defence as Goto, YOSHI-HASHI and Ishii defend against Tenzan, Kojima and Nagata. Saying it with just the surnames really sounds like Impact, huh?

This show was a nice change of pace from the norm of “all undercard tags” – and we didn’t even get the now-seemingly-obligatory elimination match either! The problem with New Japan streaming shows so damned often is that even if you’re chock full of ideas, you eventually have to recycle them. A solid build for tomorrow’s tour-finale, even if there’s more than one eye on the Summer Struggle dates ahead…