Two sets of tag titles were on the line at Korakuen on Friday, as the New Japan Road continued!
We’re back to Korakuen Hall for the third of four nights in a row – which means Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton are on the call. The show opening video recapped the semi-main event angle, where Toru Yano once again stole some belts to get himself a title shot.
Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura vs. Tiger Mask & Gabriel Kidd
A classical Young Lion tag gets us underway, with Kidd and Tsuji working each other’s wrists.
Tsuji switches it up to shoulder tackles, but Kidd wins out on that battle before he put the boots to Tsuji. A slam has Kidd down, as Uemura tagged in for the first time to keep up the offence, using a snap back elbow to drop Kidd for a two-count. Following up with a cravat, Uemura stared a hole through Tiger Mask as he grounded Kidd, before Tsuji returned to keep Kidd on the back foot. Finally, Kidd’s able to muster some offence, launching into Tsuji with a dropkick before Tiger Mask came in… and took a Tsuji dropkick too. Uemura’s back to try and prove himself against his mentor, throwing some forearms before Gabriel Kidd ran in and met an overhead belly-to-belly.
Tiger Mask’s double-teamed with dropkicks, while a Boston crab on him ended in the ropes after Uemura turned it into a Lion Tamer. A backslide from Tiger Mask almost got the win, before Uemura had to fight his way out of an armbar attempt. Instead, he’s met with a series of kicks that knocked him down before a cross armbar forced the stoppage. That’s the first time Kidd’s been on the winning side in New Japan – and while neither he nor Tiger Mask were at their best, they were able to outclass their Young Lion foes. **¾
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Juice Robinson, David Finlay & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
Please tell me that they’re not teasing Roppongi 3K vs. Suzuki-gun again…
Yeah, we’ve a jump start as Suzuki met Juice Robinson in the aisle, and we start with everyone taking the guard rails. SHO and Kanemaru make it to the ring, with SHO landing an early dropkick before bringing YOH in… but a trip from Desperado turned things around as the Suzuki-gun corps took their opponents back into the railings. Plunder comes into the equation as Suzuki wore out a chair over Juice’s back, while we hear the English commentary fearing for their lives at the hands of Taichi. YOH’s able to make it back to the ring in time, as Kanemaru continued to put the boots to him… as did Taichi. Suzuki’s back with a hanging armbar on YOH in the ropes, before he managed to get free and tag in Juice, who cleared house.
Dusty punches from Juice get cut off as Taichi ran in with an eye rake, but a spinebuster drops him as Juice and Suzuki trade shots. Those clunking elbows sink Juice like a stone, but he’s able to land a Left Hand of God on Suzuki as Finlay tagged in to try and finish the job. Suzuki elbows out of a uranage and comes in with a rear naked choke instead, before Suzuki-gun rushed the ring to quadruple-team the former tag champ.
Kanemaru’s legal, but got caught with a double-team flapjack from FinJuice, before an Acid Drop from Finlay put Kanemaru away with ease. A rather flat finish, but given that Finlay’s a heavyweight and Kanemaru isn’t… it makes sense that his “B finish” gets the job done in your usual Suzuki-gun tag. ***
After the match, Suzuki laid out Young Lion Bailey Matthews with a steel chair.
Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare
After going almost half an hour against Shingo last night, Big Tom’s back in the undercard tags… this ought to be a relative gimme, right?
Goto and Honma start, and my word, Honma’s back are taped up something fierce. Honma starts with a wristlock, which gets reversed as Goto tried for a takedown, but it’s quickly escaped ahead of a standoff. Of course, Goto focuses on the taped-up area, throwing boots and forearms to the ribs and lower back, before Honma got free to hiptoss the former NEVER champion. Honma goes for a slam, but he needs a little more oomph in it before he missed a Kokeshi. Ishii comes in, as does Henare, and here’s something tasty. Henare throws some forearms as he clubbed away at Ishii… who fired back in kind before he bulled through Henare with a shoulder tackle. The Kiwi sits right up from a kick to the back and goes through Ishii with a shoulder tackle of his own, before they head outside, with Ishii being beaten on by the guard rails.
Back in the ring, YOSHI-HASHI looked to pick up against Henare, hanging him in the ropes for a dropkick, before a head kick from Henare bought him time against Goto… but Ishii clears the apron to stop Henare from making a tag. Well, until Henare was able to hit a brainbuster to clear the way as Makabe tags in. Corner punches and a Northern Lights suplex get a near-fall on Goto, before YOSHI-HASHI returned and ate a swivelling lariat.
Honma’s back to hit a bulldog on YOSHI-HASHI, but couldn’t follow up with a Kokeshi as the ring filled up for a Parade of Moves, before Honma got triple-teamed, leading to a side Russian legsweep/Headhunter combo for a near-fall. Henare and Makabe save Honma from a Kumagoroshi as they tried to turn things around, leading to a clothesline sandwich and finally a Kokeshi from Honma for a near-fall.
Honma looked to go for a Kokeshi Otoshi, but YOSHI-HASHI slipped out and returned with a Western Lariat for a two-count, before a Butterfly Lock forced the submission. Surprisingly decent, but Honma’s injured lower back just made him an even easier target. ***
Bullet Club (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale, Gedo & Jado) vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata
Nakanishi’s penultimate match sees him tick off one more New Japan Unit – and it’s a rare in-ring outing for Gedo and Jado!
Jado’s still rocking the Betty Boop Bullet Club tee – a weird crossover if there ever was one – as start with Nakanishi and White. A double-chop to the throat took White down, before tags brought in Kojima and Tenzan for some Mongolian chops to the Bullet Club leader. Nagata’s in too, keeping up on White with some shots before Gedo ran in to break up an Exploder… and took a chop to the head for his troubles.
Things spill outside from there as the Bullet Club took their opponents into the railings, before a low dropkick to Nagata allowed White to mock the Blue Justice pose. Eventually Nagata forced a way back with an enziguiri to Fale, before Nakanishi returned to double sledge through everyone. He’s able to rack Fale too, but Jay White breaks it up as things slowed to a crawl again… so White could choke on Nakanishi at ringside.
A chairshot followed to Nakanishi’s back as Fale tried to get the easy pin, before Nakanishi’s quadruple teamed in the corner. A splash from Fale gets a two-count on Nakanishi, before he clotheslined his way out of a Blade Runner. He’s absolutely shot… and can’t get the tag out as Gedo then came in with brass knuckles… but Nakanishi racks Gedo before he was caught with the Kendos tick from Jado. It has no effect… unlike a chop block from White as the ring filled up, and it leads to Nakanishi heading up top for a flying head chop, before he racked Gedo for the eventual submission. This dragged a little, but Nakanishi’s going out on top. Relatively speaking. **½
Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay & Rocky Romero vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & Hiromu Takahashi)
It’s odd seeing Okada this low down the card, but he’s nowhere near the title scene so…
We’ve got a weird deal here as Naito and Hiromu face each other on March 3, which was kind of testing Naito’s trust in his stablemate. Ospreay and Naito started off against each other, and they were kinda even early until Ospreay ‘rana’d Naito outside for a faked-out dive… but they don’t stop there as Naito rushed back in, and ended up eating a shooting star press as he tried to Tranquilo!
Rocky tags in and trips Naito as Ospreay lands a step-up elbow drop before holding Naito for a slap from Romero. Okada’s in next, slamming Naito, but misses a slingshot senton as an inverted atomic drop from Naito helped turn things back around for LIJ. Hiromu makes a rather pointed tag out to Naito after a flurry on Okada, before SANADA tried and failed on a Paradise Lock, which led to a flapjack from Okada. Ospreay’s back with a springboard forearm to SANADA, but SANADA responds with a rolling cradle to dizzy up Ospreay for a near-fall. The Paradise Lock follows on Ospreay, ahead of a low dropkick to free him as commentary again threatened us with the spectre of SANADA as Rev Pro champion. No.
Hiromu’s in with Ospreay, nearly getting a pin there before a Dynamite Plunger was escaped, with Ospreay returning with an enziguiri. Romero’s back to ‘rana Hiromu, before Okada came in to help out as a Shiranui from Romero nearly got the upset win. Hiromu tries to fight back, countering a ‘rana into a powerbomb, before a death valley driver trapped Rocky in the corner. A clothesline gets a near-fall for Hiromu, before a Time Bomb gets the win. Elementary in the end, and it’s interesting it’s a fall for Hiromu to build up his big match with Naito next month. ***¼
Post-match we get the LIJ fist-bump… before Hiromu tried to hit Naito with a Time Bomb. Naito fought back as tensions flared briefly, only to calm down as Hiromu gave Naito his cap back.
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Ryusuke Taguchi, Colt Cabana & Toru Yano vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, EVIL & BUSHI) (c)
Despite stealing the belts earlier, the challengers didn’t come out with the straps… and the only belt the champions had was Shingo’s NEVER openweight title.
“Where’s the belts?” led to the jump start as LIJ struck first… but the challengers hook themselves in the ropes and do the Yano trick… before going outside and finding the belts under the ring. Yano thinks they’re the new champions… and they walk off with the belts. An easy night’s work, eh? Eventually they hand over the titles to an unimpressed Red Shoes Unno, before the challengers almost got themselves counted out while arguing over who should start. Taguchi dives in at 19, but the LIJ team stand over him and put the boots to him. He eventually gets free with a hip attack, which Chris Charlton dubs a “Pumping Bummer”. I don’t wanna smell that one…
Yano’s in to undo the turnbuckles as he wound up Shingo, who grabbed the loose pad as we had a quick game of Duel before Shingo clotheslined the pad to knock down Yano. As the referee was fixing the pads, Yano tries to make a break for it with the belts again, and he’s made to pay for it as EVIL tries to whip him into the exposed corner before Yano pulled him down by the hair.
Cabana’s in, and dares Shingo to attack him… but he just gets blindsided by EVIL before a Quebrada took out EVIL and BUSHI. A thrust kick from EVIL takes Cabana down as LIJ looked to swarm, but Cabana outsmarts them and almost put away EVIL with a Superman body press after Yano’d knocked down EVIL with the pad. From there, EVIL uses Yano for a makeshift Magic Killer on Colt, before Colt was caught on the top rope and had to use a Bionic Elbow to knock down EVIL.
Colt goes for another Superman press, but EVIL gets his feet up to monkey flip Cabana into the corner as BUSHI and Taguchi come in. B-Triggers from Taguchi have BUSHI and Shingo on the ropes, literally, while a springboard hip attack drops BUSHI for a near-fall. Oh My Garankle’s next from Taguchi, but BUSHI breaks it in the ropes before a Bummer-Ye took Taguchi into the exposed corner as LIJ swarmed again.
BUSHI tries to get the win with MX, but he misses as a Parade of Moves starts, leading to Shingo clotheslining Colt. A belt shot from BUSHI misses, before he finally misted Taguchi, who’d tried use the belt to shield himself… and when that doesn’t work, a BUSHI roll gets the champions the win. This was a little more shticky than you’d think, but entertaining as hell as LIJ regain the belts they’d never lost. ***
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c)
Tanahashi and Ibushi are coming in as the underdogs here – Tana’s not been a IWGP tag champion for the better part of 15 years (last holding them in 2005 with Shinsuke Nakamura), while Ibushi’s only prior tag title reign was about ten years ago, with Kenny Omega when they were both junior heavyweights.
We open with Tanahashi and Tanga Loa, working headlocks early on before tags brought in Ibushi and Tama, with Tama going in for headlocks also. A shoulder tackle briefly has Ibushi down, before Kota rebounds with a dropkick that cracked into Tama. Suplexes from Tama Tonga get the champions on top as they kept the pace low and slow, but another dropkick form Kota surprises Tama as a tag’s made out to Tanahashi.
Right hands from Tana led him to a Dragon screw on Tanga Loa… then on Tama Tonga, before Tanga was met with a slam and a flip senton in the corner. A Kendo stick shot from Jado stops Tana as the referee was unsighted, and we head outside from there as Tanahashi’s taken into the railings and double-teamed on the outside. Back in the ring, Tama hits a slingshot senton to Tanahashi, quickly followed by his brother as the challengers were on the back foot. Tanahashi headbutts back into it, then got his feet up to stop Tama Tonga ahead of a crossbody out of the corner, which bought him enough time to tag in Ibushi. Kota’s dropkick finds its mark, but he has to ‘rana Tama away too, before a Flatliner from Tama dumped Kota.
Tanga’s spinebuster gets a near-fall as Ibushi looked to have been cut up… but he’s able to avoid a kick and hit a German suplex to stop Tanga in his tracks. Tanahashi is back, only to have to escape a powerbomb as Tanga just spears him instead. Some double-teaming led to a neckbreaker on Tanahashi for a near-fall, before Guerrilla Warfare dumped Tanahashi as Ibushi had to dive in to save the match.
The Guerrillas go for a Magic Killer, and land it flush on Tanahashi… but they don’t go for a cover, instead going for a super powerbomb, but Ibushi comes in to break it up. Second time looked to be the charm, but Tanahashi reverses the set-up suplex and followed in with Twist and shouts instead! A Slingblade follows to Tama for a near-fall, as Tanahashi sprung to the top rope for a High Fly Flow, but the ref’s pulled out to prevent the pin being made.
With no ref, Tanga Loa grabs one of the title belts and lays out Tanahashi with it… they set up Ibushi for similar treatment, but he ducks as Tanga Loa’s laid out! Kota kicks Tama Tonga down, then followed up with a Kamigoye, before a Pescado wiped out Tanga Loa and Jado on the outside. Tanahashi finally stirs as he pulls himself to the top rope, landing a High Fly Flow… and we’ve got new champions! A popular title change, as the “Golden Aces” leave Korakuen with the straps… and while this may not have been an all-timer, it once again gives us fresh hope that this tag division is going to be shaken up. ***½
Tanahashi and Ibushi celebrate with their newly-won belts to close the show… but their party’s ruined thanks to Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi coming in through the crowd to attack the new champions. A superkick-aided Zack Driver lays out Ibushi, before Taichi held Tanahashi in place as some Dragon screws tore apart Tanahashi’s knee. What’s this, a fresh tag team feud? I can get behind that!
The second night of the New Japan Road shows wasn’t essential viewing, nor did it produce any “notebook-worthy” matches, but it was a solid night’s action that was capped off with an eyebrow-raising angle that looks to finally get the Guerrillas of Destiny out of the tag team championship scene. What happens with them remains to be seen – and if neither Tama or Tanga make it into the New Japan Cup line-up, then that may be indicative of something else for the record-sharing tag team championship holders. All that’s left of this little run at Korakuen Hall is Saturday’s Manabu Nakanishi retirement event – which we’ll be a little delayed in watching… before they take a week or so off as the 48th Anniversary show tees us up for the as-yet unspecified New Japan Cup tour!