New Japan prepared for this weekend’s Sengoku Lord with a return to Korakuen Hall – in front of fans!

Hot on the heels of Dominion a little over a week ago, New Japan’s warming up for Sengoku Lord in Nagoya on Sunday – and we’ve got the new double champion EVIL in the main event. He’ll be facing Hiromu Takahashi this weekend, but first we’ve the customary trios match to get us there… As is going to be the norm for the foreseeable future, we’ve no English commentary on the live feed. If that’s a big blocker for you, Kevin Kelly’ll be here with the English dubs in a few days…

Quick Results
Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan pinned Yuya Uemura & Yota Tsuji in 10:25 (**¾)
Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI, SHO & Tomohiro Ishii pinned Gabriel Kidd, Ryusuke Taguchi, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma in 12:00 (**½)
SANADA & Shingo Takagi submitted DOUKI & El Desperado in 12:40 (**¾)
Hirooki Goto & Kazuchika Okada pinned Gedo & Yujiro Takahashi in 11:45 (**¾)
Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. pinned Master Wato, Yuji Nagata, Kota Ibushi & Hiroshi Tanahashi in 12:05 (***)
EVIL, Dick Togo & Taiji Ishimori pinned BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito in 14:00 (***)

Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura vs. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
We’re still dealing with a reduced roster, and reduced capacities too (with social distancing enforced inside Korakuen Hall). Good to see some things never change though…

Kojima and Tsuji start, with the Young Lion working over Kojima’s arm in the initial stages, wrenching in wristlocks and hammerlocks that get countered back and forth. There’s a break in the ropes, and it’s a clean one too, before a side headlock from Tsuji is shoved off, with the resulting shoulder tackles blocked by Kojima, ahead of an eventual takedown from the veteran. Tags bring in Uemura and Tenzan, but their first lock-up is inconclusive. Second time’s the charm as Uemura works the wrist, then grand a side headlock, but Tenzan takes him down into a chinlock that’s quickly countered as Uemura stretches and rolls Tenzan into a pinning predicament. Headlocks and headscissor escapes lead to a stand-off, with the new era of polite applause being the only reactions we’ll get today.

Uemura starts a chop fight, which he comes off worse in, as Tenzan mixed it up with Mongolian chops that took the Young Lion down. Kojima’s back to help stomp, before a double-team shoulder tackle and a neckbreaker forced a series of two-counts on Uemura. Tenzan’s back with headbutts, then an eye rake as Uemura tried to fight back, leading to him squashing the youngster in the corner with a clothesline. A brainbuster follows for a two-count, with Tsuji breaking it up, but he gets knocked back to the outside. Tsuji tagged back in moments later to clear house, landing a suplex for a two-count on Tenzan before going for the standard issue Boston crab submission. An eye rake from Tenzan stops all that, as he returns fire with a Mountain Bomb and brought Kojima back in.

Kojima knocks Uemura off the apron before going to Tsuji with Machine Gun chops… then an Irish whip and a leaping forearm before the follow-up elbow was cut-off as Tsuji just nailed him. Uemura’s back to charge into Kojima with back elbows, setting up for some chops of his own, before Tenzan came in to break up a capture suplex… only to get met with his share of a double dropkick! Uemura rolls Kojima into the Boston crab, forcing Tenzan to stagger in to try and break it up with Mongolian chops. Tsuji stops that with a spear as Uemura held firm, but Kojima got to the ropes… and had to block a German suplex, countering right back in with a DDT. A Koji Cutter’s blocked as Uemura hits his capture suplex anyway for a near-fall, before a spirited fightback ended with him running into a Cozy lariat for a definitive win. Some good heart from Tsuji and Uemura, but in the end, experience was the big difference. **¾

Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, SHO & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Ryusuke Taguchi & Gabriel Kidd
After a knee injury scare during the New Japan Cup, YOSHI-HASHI’s back in action here in a fairly run-of-the-mill CHAOS undercard tag.

Taguchi and YOSHI-HASHI get us underway, swapping wristlocks and other holds in the search for an early advantage. A roll-up from Taguchi gets an early two-count, as YOSHI-HASHI came back in with elbows and chops, before the obligatory side headlock led to YOSHI getting shoved into the ropes for an eventual hip attack. That looked to sting. Honma tags in, and gets some help with Gabriel Kidd for a shoulder tackle for a two-count, before some right hands took YOSHI-HASHI into the corner. An Irish whip lets YOSHI rebound with chops and a shoulder charge too, before Ishii came in to relish in a chop battle. Ishii goes a little high with some of his chops, so Honma returned the favour before a double-handed chop finally took them down. Then he went for a Kokeshi and missed. Silly Honma. Taguchi rushed in and had better luck, before setting up YOSHI-HASHI for a Kokeshi that landed. I sense a pecking order here…

Ishii’s left in for some four-on-one offence in the corner, with Taguchi calling the shots… until Honma missed a charge as things went a little weird. Toru Yano comes in to play Taguchi against Honma, directing traffic as Taguchi seemed blissfully unaware to it all, with Gabriel Kidd losing his mind at just how stupid his partner was. Eventually the multi-man beating on Honma subsided as SHO began to pepper him with kicks for a near-fall. Honma blocks a suplex, then a German suplex, before a leaping Kokeshi finally took down SHO. Makabe tags in to clear house, but gets stopped by YOSHI-HASHI… who then got knocked down as Makabe went for SHO in the corner with mounted punches. A Northern Lights suplex almost gets the win, before the pair trade elbow strikes.

A leaping knee from SHO and a spear force him into the lead, before Yano tagged in and undid a turnbuckle. All your favourite Yano-isms here, with the rope stuff are cut-off with a swivelling lariat, before Gabriel Kidd tagged in to try his luck with CHAOS. A shoulder tackle for Yano, a slam for YOSHI-HASHI… and then it’s back to Yano with a suplex attempt. Yano rakes the eyes, but can’t avoid a dropkick as Kidd went for a Boston crab, which he gives up as he sensed Ishii rushing in. I want that match. NOW. A forearm dumps Kidd as we start a Parade of Moves, featuring a flying hip attack from Taguchi that almost led to Kidd pinning Yano, before the Boston crab ended in the ropes. Eventually Yano hit back with an atomic drop before he slingshots Kidd into the exposed corner, leading to a roll-up for the win. This was fine, but that section in the middle with Taguchi being oblivious took me out of this one. **½

Bless Toru Yano, sanitising the crowd’s hands after the match.

Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & DOUKI) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & SANADA)
I’m sure you’ll be shocked by the news that Suzuki-gun were the ones jumped by their opponents before the bell.

Despy came out wearing Shingo’s NEVER title belt around his neck, and that was a red rag to a bull here, as Shingo went straight for the masked man. An early attempt to pull off the mask led to the pair exchanging elbows, before Desperado got caught in the corner with chops and punches. SANADA tags in, after Desperado was taken into the corner, with both men choking on him briefly, before SANADA went for a Paradise Lock… and was shoved off. Desperado lifts him into the apron, but can’t follow up as DOUKI ends up pulling SANADA to the floor for our regularly scheduled mayhem with the guard rails… leading to Desperado heading into the crowd for some unused chairs as social distancing went to hell for a brief moment. All in the name of Shingo having his leg bashed in with a chair.

Back in the ring, DOUKI tagged Desperado back in as the Suzuki-gun lads worked over SANADA with a double-team spinebuster and an assisted back senton for a near-fall. Shingo’s still dragging his way back to the ring as Desperado distracts the ref from DOUKI’s choking of SANADA… and we finally pick up again with SANADA hitting a suplex on DOUKI. Right as Shingo returned… but Desperado dragged SANADA away to prevent the tag. A low dropkick from SANADA stops Desperado as that tag’s finally made, with Shingo charging through his challenger on Saturday before using his (bad) knee to hit Despy in the gut with as he pushed ahead. Desperado kicks at the bad knee again before lifting up Shingo for a knee breaker… only for the follow-up Dos to end as Shingo scuttled into the ropes.

An attempt at a Figure Four is pushed away as Desperado keeps going for the knee, changing it up with a spinebuster before he went back to Numero Dos. Shingo eventually powers his way free and rolls into the ropes, before the pair traded off on each other with elbows. A thunderous lariat from Shingo rattled Desperado, who couldn’t defend from more elbow strikes before he ran into an elbow and a jab, with the lariat eventually taking him down. SANADA’s brought back in, as was DOUKI (after a trip from Desperado), and it’s DOUKI who pushed ahead with a suplex attempt… but SANADA slips free, only to get caught with an enziguiri. A Widow’s peak mixed with a backside gets DOUKI a near-fall, before the Daybreaker springboard DDT led to another two-count… but things come unstuck at the Suplex de la Luna as SANADA wriggled free, leading to some brief double-teaming. A low dropkick from SANADA gets a near-fall, with Shingo and Despy scrapping outside, before DOUKI’s attempts at a flash pin led to him taking a TKO into a Skull End for the submission. Again, this was fine, with the Shingo/Desperado stuff really spicing things up – but otherwise, this was a paint-by-numbers undercard tag. **¾

After the match, Shingo got his belt back, then stared down Desperado from the ring… only for Desperado to attack him from behind and steal the belt again. Toru Yano’s got some competition when it comes to belt theft…

Cleaning time! The ring crew have given up the whole-body hazmat suits in favour for what looked like towels and Toru Yano’s spray. Someone’s been watching how the US indies are doing this…

Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Gedo) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto
Gedo’s still holding a light for Jay White, which makes me think the “original” plan for was something along the lines of Goto vs. White?

Yujiro and Okada start, but Yujiro circles the former champion and instantly tagged out to Gedo. Okada looked thrilled. So did I, recalling the last time those two wrestled in Korakuen. At least Gedo wasn’t feigning injury this time. He offered a handshake, but gets knocked down by Okada, whose sliding dropkick took him outside… with Hirooki Goto chasing after Goto to stop him from running away. Goto tags in and works over Gedo’s arm, wringing it ahead of a back elbow off the ropes for a two-count. A kick in the ropes from Yujiro, and a hot shot, opens the door a little as the Bullet Club’s cheating allowed Yujiro to take down Okada with a clothesline, before those two went outside and… into the ring post. Gedo removes a turnbuckle pad after Okada and Goto had been thrown into the railings, but Goto comes back in… and gets thrown into that exposed corner.

A falling headbutt from Yujiro gets a two-count on Goto, before Yujiro set up Goto for a PK… only to divert and boot Okada off the apron instead. Gedo’s back to kick away at Goto, before an elbow to the head and some punches in the ropes forced referee Marty Asami to try and separate the pair. Yujiro returns with a running kick at Goto, before a suplex was blocked with Goto returning fire with a clothesline. Okada tags in to throw some elbows to Yujiro, taking him down with a sliding back elbow ahead of a snap DDT that spiked Yujiro for a two-count. A leg sweep from Yujiro and a Fisherman buster gets him back in it for a two-count, only for him to run into Okada in the corner, who came back with a neckbreaker slam.

Goto and Gedo come in again, with Gedo raking the eyes before a superkick was caught… he’s met with a clothesline, then a spinning heel kick and a back suplex as Goto built up some momentum. Gedo wriggles out of an ushigoroshi, only to get whipped into the exposed corner as a Parade of Moves broke out… leading to Gedo reaching for some hardware in the corner. He’s got his brass knuckles, but Goto stomps on his hand to disarm him ahead of an ushigoroshi, before a GTR got the win. Strangely lifeless at times, with Okada – long the butt of my jokes for how inflexible he was in the no-fans era – seemingly being the only one to evoke any kind of response here. **¾

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Yuji Nagata & Master Wato vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Well, I can’t make my “Suzuki-gun attacked first, to everyone’s shock” gag as Master Wato was first out. Harrumph. Then of course… they do.

Suzuki’s back from a precautionary rest due to having a fever, and he’s right back in with fever. ELBOW FEVER, that is. He goes after Nagata early on, before countering out of a Backdrop Hold with a crossbody, only to roll into the corner as Yuji went for a PK. Tags bring in Sabre and Tanahashi, with Tanahashi geeing up the crowd before he had to muscle his way out of a full nelson. Tanahashi counters with a Cobra twist, before the pair went for duelling knee bars on the mat, ending with Tanahashi rolling into the ropes to force the break. A kick in the ropes from Taichi led to him holding Tanahashi’s leg for a dropkick from Sabre, as the new tag team champions began to aim for Tanahashi’s legs once again, while Nagata was hurled into the guard rails by Suzuki.

Kanemaru comes in next as Minoru Suzuki throws some cheeky kicks to Gabriel Kidd at ringside. Hey, he had a week without traumatising Young Lions… meanwhile, Kanemaru made a point of stomping on Tanahashi’s right knee, before Suzuki came in to add to it with a heel hook. Master Wato tries to break it up, but he’s thrown outside by Kanemaru as the focus again remained on Tanahashi. Tanahashi whiffs on a crossbody out of the corner to make things worse, but he manages to catch a Buzzsaw kick and counters it into a Dragon screw. Finally, a tag brings in Ibushi who cleared house with a head kick and a running shooting star press to Taichi for a near-fall, before things descended into duelling kicks between Ibushi and Taichi, looking to give each other dead legs.

A rear spin kick from Taichi stops Ibushi in his tracks, but Kota returned the favour before getting met with a Dangerous backdrop driver. Cue more bedlam on the outside as the rest of Suzuki-gun went after their foes, but another high kick from Ibushi stops things as tags end up bringing in Kanemaru and Wato. Kicks and a backfist from Wato force Kanemaru to use the referee as a human shield, but a dropkick puts Kanemaru down… as did a springboard uppercut, which almost won the match. Yuji Nagata comes in to help with the Blue Man Group, as Kenamru’s attacked in the corner… but Suzuki drags Nagata outside as Wato went for some moonsault knees that barely got a one-count. Wato slams Kanemaru before going up top for the RPP Spiral Tap… but Suzuki stops him in his tracks, dragging him down for a rear naked choke before a scooping reverse DDT from Kanemaru drew a two-count.

From there, Kanemaru heads up top for the Deep Impact DDT, which lands… but he pulls up Wato at two before finishing him off with a twisting brainbuster. Oh Wato, it’s early days, but this return run is barely pulling up weeds, let alone pulling up trees. Still, at least Suzuki and Nagata can be relied on for some energy. ***

Suzuki and Nagata continue to scrap long after the final bell, slapping each other for fun as they tried to troll Korakuen into a response.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI) vs. Bullet Club (EVIL, Dick Togo & Taiji Ishimori)
It’s our first fall-out from Dominion, and this time BUSHI looks more like himself…

It’s so odd seeing Naito getting the “middle man” treatment in these LIJ tags, eh? Hiromu looked so spaced out here, like he was still in shock at what EVIL did. He removed his coat to remove a Bullet Club t-shirt before the bell, but of course it was a sham as he knocked EVIL to the outside, choking him with the shirt before throwing him into the guard rails. We return to the ring as LIJ focused on Ishimori with some triple-teaming, before Hiromu went to work on the Bone Soldier with chops. Naito comes in and trips Ishimori into a half crab, which EVIL nonchalantly pushed away with his boot. EVIL hotshots Naito into the ropes before throwing him into the railings, as he then turned his attention to Hiromu and BUSHI on the outside. It’s so jarring seeing all this stuff designed for booing… set to a respectfully-silent crowd.

Ishimori rolls Naito into the ring, but referee Red Shoes refuses to count the pin… so instead in comes Dick Togo to punch Naito in the face. A chinlock keeps Naito on the mat, as he headstands for extra torque (and to show off). In the middle of all this, the turnbuckle pad’s been removed, which I realise when EVIL threw Naito into the exposed corner, as the Bullet CLub worked over the former double champion. Togo returns to stomp over Naito’s knee, before Naito got free and caught Togo in a Boston crab. EVIL wanders in to push it apart with his feet, before raking Naito’s eyes to ensure the hold was broken. Tags bring us to EVIL and Hiromu, with Hiromu laying it in with forearms before rolling EVIL into a low dropkick… only for Togo and Ishimori to rush the ring.

Hiromu passes Ishimori into an accidental ‘rana on Togo, before dropkicking him outside, following up with a wacky dropkick off the apron that did the job. A Falcon arrow almost does the deal, getting Takahashi a two-count, but again, the Bullet Club swarm the ring and stomp Hiromu, who again gets whipped into the exposed corner. Eventually Hiromu came back in with a clothesline, before making the tag out to BUSHI who went wild with enziguiri and a DDT for a near-fall on EVIL. A charge in the corner from EVIL leads to him eating an overhead kick in the ropes, before a missile dropkick took EVIL outside… and again, Togo and Ishimori swarm the ring. BUSHI outsmarts them with a bulldog/dropkick combo, before heading outside with a tope suicida that took EVIL into the commentary team’s plexiglas screens.

Back in the ring, running double knees set up EVIL for a Doomsday dropkick from Hiromu… but again, the Bullet Club swarm the ring to break up the pin. Naito and Hiromu take care of Togo and Ishimori, while BUSHI set up for an MX… which misses, as we spark a Parade of Moves, with Ishimori throwing Hiromu into an EVIL clothesline. Ishimori distracts the ref as Togo garotts BUSHI with the wire, before Everything is EVIL brought an end to an otherwise-oddly meh main event. ***

After the match, Hiromu went to attack EVIL, only to get choked out with that wire from Dick Togo, before EVIL went for Everything is EVIL… but just threw down Hiromu instead before he headed to the back, after the customary promo, of course.

Next up for New Japan – Sengoku Lord in Nagoya on Saturday, featuring Shingo vs. El Desperado and EVIL vs. Hiromu Takahashi… before they return to Korakuen Hall the next night for the start of a Summer Struggle tour that sees New Japan hit that venue seven times in three weeks. The first “run of the mill” New Japan show in five months certainly felt like it. Perhaps it’s coming too quickly with the big shows after their time away, but this New Japan Road show felt distinctly lifeless at times, with the Korakuen crowd not bringing the atmosphere that we saw in Osaka under the same conditions. Hopefully this is a blip, because we’re a long way off from having shows in front of full Korakuens…