We’re here for this! Tomohiro Ishii and Shingo Takagi headlines the latest New Japan show at Korakuen Hall as the NEVER title took centre stage.

With no Honor Rising tour this year, we’ve got this pair of “New Japan Road” shows inbetween the Tiger Hattori and Manabu Nakanishi retirements… and they’ve loaded them up. Like last night, commentary comes from Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton.

Gabriel Kidd vs. Yota Tsuji
Some Young Lion action gets us underway, as we start with shoulder tackles before Kidd tied up with Tsuji in the ropes.

Tsuji hit back with a chop, before cranking in a side headlock and an eventual shoulder tackle as Kidd was on the ropes early. A hiptoss gets Tsuji a two-count, before a slam looked to give way to a Boston crab… but Kidd kicks his way free before crashing into Tsuji with a dropkick. Kidd follows in with running uppercuts in the corner before a slam gave him a near-fall, following up with a single leg crab that ended in the ropes.

Kidd keeps up with forearms, but Tsuji fought back with a spear before he wore down Kidd with another slam. That’s good for a near-fall, but the follow-up Boston crab’s enough to cause problems as Kidd is repeatedly dragged from the ropes and eventually had to tap. A good win from Tsuji, as Kidd paid for his sluggish start. ***

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, Will Ospreay & Yuya Uemura
Yuya Uemura’s an idiot – he charged the ring and went for Suzuki at the bell, then took him outside and into the guard rails. Jesus, he’s going to die for that.

Back in the ring, elbows from Uemura led him to shoving away the referee as the Young Lion was more agitated than usual. YOSHI-HASHI tags himself in to prevent a likely DQ, and now Uemura gets to chill for a bit… while YOSHI-HASHI paid for his sins. A hanging armbar awaited YOSHI, before we went outside again… and yes, Suzuki was Young Lion hunting. Yuya Uemura was 25.

Having been thrown into chairs, then having them whacked off his back, Uemura was worn out and thrown into the back of Korakuen Hall… with a… post box thrown on him?! Meanwhile, the match continued without them as Desperado and YOSHI-HASHI returned to the ring, but everyone was just fascinated with Suzuki’s war on the outside.

Suzuki returned to stretch out YOSHI-HASHI, who then took a series of clotheslines in the corner from Taichi. Off come the trousers, but it’s perhaps a touch too soon to be wrapping up, and that’s confirmed when Taichi caught a buzzsaw kick before tagging out to Ospreay. Will springs in with a flying forearm to Taichi, but gets swarmed… and dispatches of Kanemaru and Desperado with a handspring enziguiri.

Taichi’s back for another enziguiri, while Goto comes in to trade shots, eventually falling to an enziguiri from Taichi. Goto tags out to Uemura, who takes a shot at Suzuki again before he helped quadruple-team Kanemaru… finishing with an overhead belly-to-belly for a near-fall. Of course, Suzuki-gun recover and go after Uemura, hitting a spinebuster and PKs for a near-fall, before Kanemaru’s Boston crab eventually ended in the ropes.

Uemura tries his luck with roll-ups, but ends up getting clotheslined as Kanemaru took the win with a Deep Impact. A real good showing from Uemura, who came in with a death wish and somehow survived. ***¼

Oh wait. Suzuki choked him out afterwards before showing something equating to mercy.

Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare vs. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & Colt Cabana
Commentary addresses Colt Cabana accidentally being Toru Yano’s +1 in the Tiger Hattori ceremony last night…

Colt and Yano have an argument to see who starts with Honma… Okada took charge and decided to start. They start with Okada locking up with Honma into the ropes for a clean break. Honma tries to respond, but he misses a Kokeshi, before Henare and Yano come in. Yano goes for the turnbuckle pads, then got taken down with a shoulder charge from Henare.

After he was taken into the buckles, Henare found himself having his arms rung by Colt and Yano, before an attempt to charge out of the corner saw Henare hit nothing but air as Cabana just walked away. Okada’s back in to slam and senton Henare, before Makabe comes in and eventually took a neckbreaker slam.

Cabana’s back to hit some Dusty punches to Makabe, then a Bionic elbow that just made Makabe clothesline Colt. Honma returns to bulldog Cabana, then follows up with a Kokeshi before Cabana got triple-teamed, leading to a leaping Kokeshi that cracked into Cabana. Boom Boom indeed.

Yano makes a save from that, but Honma keeps going for Kokeshi, heading up top only for Okada to stop him. Colt and Yano low bridge Makabe to the outside as Cabana then grabs the referee to mask a low blow from Yano, as a Superman body press gets the win. A little brief, but a fun little trios match – Cabana and Yano in short doses are a blast. ***

Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi)
Nakanishi continues his retirement by facing New Japan factions – today, it’s LIJ.

An LIJ quintet who riles up Nakanishi as they left the ring in unison rather than face him. We started with Nakanishi trying to overpower BUSHI and Hiromu, before he had his eyes raked. He recovers to charge through Naito, then brought in Tenzan who unloaded with Mongolian chops as double shoulder tackles and a splash had the double-champ in trouble.

Tiger Mask comes in next to dropkick Naito, while SANADA came in… and hit a nice low dropkick after EVIL had tripped Tiger Mask. Naito’s back to tear away the mask off of Tiger Mask, holding him the corner so EVIL could come in with chops. Some t-shirt choking from BUSHI followed ahead of a STF, before Hiromu went wild with a Mongolian chop aimed for Tenzan… but it hits Naito instead.

Hiromy had more luck with his second Mongolian chop, before we calmed down a little with SANADA suplexing Tiger Mask for a near-fall. Tiger Mask’s back with a Tiger Driver, then tagged in Nagata to kick through SANADA ahead of an attempt at an Exploder suplex. It’s blocked, as SANADA hit back with a dropkick, before he tried to trap Nagata in a Paradise lock… which gets pushed away as the Exploder finally lands.

Machine Gun chops from Kojima come next, but EVIL stops a top rope elbow as LIJ swarmed the ring. EVIL & SANADA focus on Kojima, looking for a Magic Killer, but instead Tenzan comes in to help drop SANADA with a TenKoji Cutter. A Koji Cutter follows from Kojima, but he can’t quite follow up on EVIL, who’s back with Darkness Falls before Nakanishi came in to hit a rare Hercules cutter on EVIL. DEAR GOD, HE FOLLOWED IT UP WITH A PESCADO TO THE OUTSIDE!

All that’s left is for EVIL to take a Cozy lariat… and that’s it! A bit of an upset here, but the New Japan dads pick up another win as Nakanishi is busting out the big guns on his final nights! ***

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Bullet Club (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa))
This is building up to Friday’s IWGP tag title match, with Ibushi and Tanahashi challenging…

We get a jump start as the Bullet Club clear the ring early, before an attempt to focus on Ibushi largely went to plan. Ibushi has to leap over a Kendo stick shot from Jado to springboard into Jay White, as David Finlay tagged in to try and carve through the Switchblade. A flying uppercut gets Finlay a near-fall, but White turned it around as he hoisted Finlay from the ring to the floor as a beatdown began at ringside.

Finlay’s rolled back in as he remained on the back foot, as he eventually fought back against White… who just throws him back to the mat. Eventually Finlay makes some headway with a uranage backbreaker, before tags bring in Tama and Tanahashi, with the latter hitting a springboard crossbody out of the corner. A flying forearm’s next for Tanahashi, but Tanga Loa rushes the ring as the Guerrillas try to double-team – only to get thwarted by Ibushi’s kicks. Fale wanders in too, but he takes a Dragon screw before Tama trapped Tanahashi with a Tongan Twist. Tanga Loa’s back to charge in with a clothesline, but he then took a Twist and Shout neckbreaker before Juice tagged in.

A cannonball awaits Tanga Loa in the corner, before a crossbody off the top almost ended things. Juice looked to go for Pulp Friction, but Jado’s in with a Kendo stick… that Marty Asami dove on to remove. The Left Hand of God gets rid of Jado, but Tanga Loa had time to recover before he’s flapjacked by Juice and Finlay. From there, the Left Hand of God and a Prima Nocta looked to set up the former champs for the win, but Tama Tonga comes in with a belt shot as the ref was distracted, allowing Tanga Loa the easy win. Decent enough, but they made a point of keeping Tanahashi and Ibushi out for long spells. ***¼

Post-match, Tanahashi and Ibushi are laid out with belt shots before Kota’s dropped with Apeshit.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Rocky Romero & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) (c)
Our first of two title matches today – can Rocky Romero upset his students and win the junior tag titles for a ninth time?

Rocky tried for a cheapshot on SHO at the bell, but he’s instead taken down into an early cross armbreaker… then issued one of his own as they were both left with sore arms. Taguchi and YOH are next, working over each other’s arms, before Taguchi went down for a knee bar that rolled into a half crab… right by the ropes.

YOH hits the ropes, but is made to run as Taguchi drops down… before a turnaround led to Taguchi getting on top as the challengers looked to double-team their opponents. Well, Rocky was. Taguchi was just calling the shots into the corner. YOH’s thrown into Taguchi’s arse, but he recovers to suplex Rocky into it as Roppongi 3K went after Rocky, with SHO in particular throwing kicks to the back of his coach.

YOH’s back with knee drops and stomps on Rocky for a near-fall, before some grounded headscissors had Rocky in trouble. Uppercuts keep Rocky in the corner, but he fought back with a tornado DDT, faceplanting YOH in the process, before Taguchi came back for some hip attacks. A springboard hip attack to YOH misses, but he does manage to hit SHO on the outside ahead of a tope con giro to the champions on the outside. Back inside, a springboard hip attack finds YOH for a near-fall, as did the Three Amigos… or at least, two of them. YOH escapes the third one to land a DDT for a near-fall, only to get caught with an ankle lock as Taguchi rolled free. The ankle lock’s reapplied, but YOH gets free and lands a modified Asai DDT before tagging in SHO to try and push things over the line.

Taguchi manages to charge down SHO as Rocky got back in, taking down SHO and YOH with ‘ranas, then following up with Forever clotheslines. A flying knee to SHO’s arm looked to set up for another armbar, finally getting it after a Falcon arrow while YOH was trapped in an ankle lock… somehow, SHO’s able to counter into one of his own, as all four men eventually ended up trading strikes in the ring.

Hip attacks from the challengers finally find their mark, before SHO got slingshotted into Taguchi’s arse. Another tornado DDT follows, while Taguchi adds a Bummer-ye for a near-fall. A wheelbarrow lungblower’s next as the referee wasn’t doing great in keeping this down to “one in, one out”…

Rocky avoids a running neckbreaker/Dominator combo at first, but eventually took it as he was clinging onto the match… but Taguchi’s able to return to make a save as a Parade of Moves was sparked, eventually leaving everyone flat out. Rocky tries to steal it with a backslide… then with a rana as he found a second wind, only to get dropped with a SHO clothesline before a deadlift, bridging German suplex almost led to the successful defence.

A Power Breaker follows from SHO, catching Rocky low in the back for a near-fall as Taguchi broke up the pin… but after YOH took Taguchi outside, SHO looked for a Shock Arrow, only for it to be countered… SHO counters the counter into a 3K, but Taguchi narrowly makes the save as both team started to inch closer to victory. In the end, SHO finally lands Shock Arrow on Rocky, but it’s still not enough… as the Strong X – a spike Shock Arrow – finally got the champions over the line. This was LONG (almost too long) and hard-fought, although I had trouble seeing Rocky and Taguchi as winners… but this was strong outing, and one that continues to add credibility to Roppongi 3K after some short reigns. ****

NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Shingo Takagi (c)
I’m ready for this. “They’re going to beat the hell out of each other, for your enjoyment”. Quite.

We start with a strong lock-up, ending in the ropes before we got going with shoulder tackles that neither man budged for. Keep going! Eventually it’s Shingo who knocked down Ishii first, before he followed in with a back senton that left Ishii needing the ropes. A front headlock in the ropes forced a break, but Ishii’s right back with a shoulder tackle to get back in, as he proceeded to headbutt Shingo into the corner.

Chops follow, before Shingo countered a suplex with one of his own as Ishii was back on the deck. A knee drop’s next, but we’re quickly back to the “beating the hell out of each other” portion as Ishii refused to register forearms from Shingo… walking through them before he threw some of his own. This is very much what I came to see!

A clothesline from Shingo dumps Ishii awkwardly on his neck, but Ishii’s straight back up with some HIGH CHOPS to the throat, and now they’re turning up the intensity. Ishii runs into some boots before Shingo seemed to tease a death valley driver… but instead lifted Ishii onto the apron, where Ishii looked for a suplex to the floor. Instead, Shingo goes to the apron and teases a death valley driver and dumps Ishii on the edge of the ring. Jesus!

Shingo’s up and rolls Ishii back inside, catching Ishii with a backpack bump and a sliding lariat as the champion looked to have the edge. Noshigami is next, before Ishii squirmed out of a Made in Japan to end up taking some more clotheslines. A Pumping Bomber’s next, but Ishii counters into a slam before some wild shots led to a Northern Lights suplex… they’re back up trading back suplexes very quickly, until a backdrop driver from Ishii had both men laying.

Ishii’s back up for clotheslines that Shingo replies to in kind, before one bit lariat had Shingo spinning to the mat. Yes, this is exactly the kind of match I wanted! A folding powerbomb nearly puts Shingo away, before a superplex from Shingo took us past twenty minutes… and still no nearer to a winner. Duelling headbutts get us a little closer, as do Ishii’s rapid-fire elbows (beh-beh!), but Shingo’s got some of his own before leaving Ishii in a heap with a forearm. Made in Japan follows, but Ishii kicks out at two… then at ONE after a Pumping Bomber. What is this sorcery?!

Ishii’s stiff lariat drops Shingo, as did a snap German, but another lariat gets Ishii a near-fall before an enziguiri left the champion laying. A sliding lariat is next for a near-fall, before Shingo busted out a sit-out tombstone for a near-fall. Christ, they’re turning up the intensity. Shingo looked for Last of the Dragon, but Ishii slips out and goes back to clotheslines before he got hung in the ropes for a modified GTR from Shingo.

OH GOD! The sound of that Pumping Bomber… but Ishii still kicks out! Last of the Dragon’s next, with Ishii getting dropped… and that’s all folks. Everything you expected, and then some, this one went just over 27 minutes long, and it was glorious! Tomohiro Ishii may have lost, but he more than delivered his part of proceedings here, as Shingo Takagi continues to blaze his own trail in New Japan. ****½

After the match, Ishii dove on Shingo again, throwing forearms before they were pulled apart. Ishii staggered to the back… stopping to grab a chair for another fight. Sadly, while his mind was willing, the body absolutely was not.

The first of the “not Honor Rising” shows was a solid outing for New Japan, capped off with the two title matches which absolutely delivered. While they both went long, only the junior tag title match threatened to fall off, while the Shingo/Ishii main event was glorious. Especially if your idea of pro wrestling involved big lads knocking lumps out of each other. We’re back at Korakuen tomorrow for another show, headlined with the NEVER trios titles and a defence of the IWGP heavyweight tag championships.