The path to crown a new set of IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team champions starts in Chiba!

We’re in Chiba for the first of two shows this weekend at the Makuhari Messe International Conference Hall. It’s the venue with the escalators in the background! This is technically night six of New Japan Road, but given that it’s a “filler” name (that was used for a show in July and three shows in February before the shutdown), it’s not a big deal.

Anyway, the minor news coming out of last weekend is that the IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team titles have been vacated as a result of YOH’s injury earlier in the summer. They’re doing a mini tag-league across the shows today, tomorrow and on Wednesday, with the top two teams facing in the final for the belts in Korakuen Hall on Friday.

Quick Results
Satoshi Kojima pinned Yota Tsuji in 6:50 (**¾)
SHO, Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & Gabriel Kidd submitted Yuya Uemura, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI in 11:30 (***)
Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Yuji Nagata & Tomoaki Honma pinned DOUKI, Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. in 11:30 (***)
SANADA, Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi submitted Jado, EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi in 11:00 (*)
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Tournament: Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi (1-0) pinned Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado (0-1) in 13:30 (***¼)
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Tournament: BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi (1-0) pinned Gedo & Taiji Ishimori (0-1) in 21:00 (***½)

Yota Tsuji vs. Satoshi Kojima
It feels like it’s been a while since we saw a young lion against an elder… and no, Master Wato last week doesn’t count.

Tsuji starts with a wristlock, but Kojima counters out into a side headlock, taking the Young Lion down before a headscissor escape leads us to a stand-off. Another side headlock leads to Kojima pushing off Tsuji, but he’s taken down with a shoulder tackle as the Young Lion tried to move ahead. A slam’s resisted, as Kojima lands one of his own, then a shoulder tackle as a chinlock forces Tsuji into the ropes for a break. Kojima keeps going with a neckbreaker for a two-count, but Tsuji fires back with forearms and elbows, only to get decked with a retaliatory elbow strike. Chops follow as Kojima built up to the Machine Gun chops, following up with the forearm and a diving elbow off the top for a near-fall as this was becoming one-way traffic.

More elbows wake up Tsuji, who went for a dropkick… and finally took Kojima down with one off the ropes. A leaping elbow in the corner follows, then a shoulder tackle and a big splash as Tsuji built up momentum, but the obligatory Boston crab ends in the ropes before Kojima even left his back. Tsuji goes for a suplex, but Kojima slips free and catches a spear, countering it into a DDT. Tsuji lands a spear at the second time of asking, then a brainbuster as the Young Lion pushed on again, finally rolling Kojima into a Boston crab. It ends in the ropes, so Tsuji comes back with some right hands before he ran into a Cozy lariat, spinning him to the ground for the pin. I see Kojima was mad that that move cost him a shot at that KOPW trophy, eh? This was good, but short for a Young Lion’s outing as Kojima made light work of his opponent here. **¾

Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano, SHO & Gabriel Kidd vs. Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Yuya Uemura
We’re building up to the NEVER trios match next Friday, as both teams add a Young Lion for this warm-up.

Yano wants to start for his side, against Ishii… and Yano doesn’t have a change of heart at first, as he instead went for the turnbuckle pad as Ishii just stared at him. Yano throws it aside to trade elbows, before Yano raked the eyes… and earned himself a shoulder tackle from Ishii. That makes him tag in Kidd, who relished the opportunity to stand and trade with Ishii… even if he got elbowed to the ground at first. Kidd recovers with shoulder tackles, before Yano tripped Ishii in the ropes, allowing Kidd to charge down the former NEVER champ. Uemura aruns in to clear house with dropkicks, but he’s swarmed by SHO and Okada, with SHO tripping him into Okada’s boots before Uemura too got tripped by Yano.

The champion team recovers as they club down Kidd, before taking him to the corner as Goto put the boots in to wear him down. Uemura tags in to help with a double shoulder tackle that gets a two-count, then resumed stomping a mudhole into Kidd. Gabe tries to fight back, but he’s taken into the corner again as YOSHI-HASHI comes in to land some elbows, before whipping him into the corner for a chop. Kidd finally retaliates with a dropkick to YOSHI-HASHI, before tagging in Okada who slid in with a back elbow to YOSHI-HASHI, following up with another one in the corner and a DDT for a two-count. Uemura breaks it up, but gets elbowed away as YOSHI-HASHI made a comeback, eventually taking down Okada with a Head Hunter.

Goto tags in to clear the apron before he tried for an ushigoroshi. Okada blocks it as he takes a spinning heel kick and a back suplex out of the corner, before another ushigoroshi was wriggled out of. A flapjack drops Goto, as SHO tagged in to pepper him with kicks. Clotheslines barely faze Goto, who eats some more elbows before SHO ran into an ushigoroshi. Uemura begs to tag in, and gets it, as he smelled blood… he catches SHO with elbows before a whip into the corner led to a wild corner dropkick. A leaping elbow follows for a two-count, and then the obligatory Boston crab which gets broken up by Yano… who rakes the eyes before throwing Uemura into the exposed corner. It sparks a Parade of Moves, culminating in a hiptoss/cross armbar from SHO that looked to end things, but that’s broken up as Goto and Kidd went at it.

Kidd lands a brainbuster to Ishii, only to get superkicked away by YOSHI-HASHI as we continue the revolving door until a spear from SHO drew a near-fall on Uemura. A dropkick from Uemura offered some fresh hope, as he began to block some of SHO’s big stuff, but in the end it was another cross armbreaker from SHO that forces the submission. Really good stuff this, with the CHAOS lad really scrapping – and the addition of the Young Lions seemed to add to the proceedings as well. ***

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Yuji Nagata & Tomoaki Honma vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI)
The Golden Aces may be done as a team, but they’re tagging again here in what is only really build for their sure-fire participation in the G1.

Of course, Suzuki-gun attack before the bell – and to my delight, it settles down to Suzuki and Nagata lighting each other up with kicks and elbows. That will never get old. Honma tags in to change things up with some stomps to Suzuki, throwing in some chops as well before he went for a slam… and stopped himself missing a Kokeshi as Suzuki rolled to the apron. Honma… Learned?! Honma follows in with elbows, but gets caught with a hanging armbar as Suzuki was on the apron, before the pair scrapped on the outside with Suzuki ripping at Honma’s ear. Meanwhile… yeah, Taichi and Sabre were going back after Tanahashi’s knees. Back in the ring, Honma tries to make a comeback with some elbows, but he crumbles to the mat from a single shot from Suzuki as a PK nearly ends things.

DOUKI’s in for Honma to make a comeback on, but an eye rake took Honma back to the corner as Zack Sabre Jr. tries his luck. The Suzuki-gun lot triple-team Honma in the corner, before Sabre went in with a cravat, targeting Honma’s famously-knackered neck, as Taichi tagged in to keep the focus going. Eventually Honma broke free, ducking an Axe Bomber before hitting a leaping Kokeshi headbutt, as he then tagged in Tanahashi to take over. Elbows from Tanahashi help clear things, before a springboard moonsault out of the corner took down Taichi. A Dragon screw takes care of Suzuki, then Taichi again, before the flip senton out of the corner drew a near-fall. Tanahashi tries to follow up, but has to wriggle out of a Dangerous backdrop driver, before an exchange of boots led to an enziguiri from Taichi that left both men down.

Ibushi and Sabre tag in to freshen things up, but a big boot from Zack earns him a barrage of shots from Ibushi, who then landed a standing moonsault for a two-count. A ‘rana from Ibushi drops Sabre ahead of a Last Ride attempt, but Sabre countered into a guillotine choke… then a triangle armbar as he looked to force a submission. After getting free, Ibushi has his leg swept away as DOUKI tagged in to see if he had better luck this time around… and he at least lands a pair of clotheslines for a near-fall. A Daybreaker springboard DDT nearly puts away Ibushi, before the Italian Stretch #32 was quickly broken up by Nagata. Suzuki’s quickly on him as Honma finally lands a Kokeshi amid the big Parade of Moves, which calms down as Ibushi measures up DOUKI for a kick… but it’s ducked. A leaping knee doesn’t miss, and that puts DOUKI down for Kamigoye for the win. A standard multi-man match here, with mostly everyone showing something ahead of the G1 – but with the tag title feud long gone, this match-up sure felt needless. ***

Bullet Club (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & Jado) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & SANADA)
EVIL’s entrance loses a lot when it’s in a brightly-lit conference hall…

We’ve a jump start from EVIL, who put the boots to Naito from the off, even tossing his own LIJ cap at Naito as the recently-deposed champion looked to control the tempo early on. Headscissors from Naito turn it around before he chokes EVIL with his jacket… then hurled it outside as Jado almost seemed tempted by the new merch. A trip from Jado takes Naito down as the Bullet Club took over – with Jado throwing Naito into guard rails before rolling him back inside for EVIL. Yujiro tags in to slam Naito, following up with a low dropkick for a two-count before Jado came in and… teased a Kokeshi? He just walks over Naito for the hell of it, before raking the double champ’s eyes on the top rope. What even is this?

Triple-team boot chokes keep Naito on the mat in the corner, before EVIL returned to hit a slam and a back senton for a two-count. The pace is interminably slow here, as Naito tries to fight back with punches from the bottom, only for an eye rake to stop him as EVIL came back in with a suplex attempt. Naito wriggles free and hits a Manhattan drop, then an enziguiri, before Shingo tagged in. Save us Shingo.

He catches a boot from EVIL and clotheslines him in the corner before a barrage of shots took EVIL down. A Pumping Bomber’s ducked as EVIL goes for the hair, before using the referee to hold Shingo’s leg for a thrust kick. Yujiro’s back in to sweep the leg and hit a low dropkick for a two-count, before Shingo hit back with the elbow, jab and clothesline combination. SANADA’s in next, backflipping over Yujiro who then got tripped and tied up in a Paradise Lock. A low dropkick eventually frees Yujiro, but Jado sneaks in with a Kendo stick shot from behind as we’re back to the shtick. A double backdrop suplex from Jado and Yujiro gets a two-count, before a crossface from Jado looked to force a submission, but Naito stomps it apart as the Parade of Moves looked to start. Naito’s low bridged to the outside by EVIL, while Yujiro tried to bring in his pimp cane. It distracts the ref as SANADA is measured up for a Kendo stick shot, but Shingo’s in to block it as LIJ proceeded to batter Yujiro, taking him outside before SANADA made Jado tap to a Skull End. Thank God it’s over. I mean, there were parts where this looked okay, but this was so bland, slow and lifeless I was literally screaming at my monitor for this to end in the opening minutes. *

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Tournament: Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Way To The Ass Masters (Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato)
Blame Chris Charlton for that team name…

Wato charges at Kanemaru at the bell, looking for some retribution for last week, and he started out hot, taking him down with a spinning back kick. Wato’s able to avoid a distraction from Desperado on the apron, but Despy’s back to pull down a springboard attempt as the former junior tag champions took over. Irish whips take Taguchi and Wato into the guard rails, before a suplex dropped Wato back in the ring for a two-count. Desperado comes in to keep Wato down, absorbing some chops before he went for the eyes as Kanemaru returned to pull Wato onto the apron for a running boot to the side of the head.

A kneedrop on the apron followed for Kanemaru as he got a two-count, before a camel clutch stretches Wato. Desperado’s back to hit some slams before a back body drop from Wato propelled Despy… but Taguchi’s on the floor hurt, and couldn’t tag in. Another leaping rear spin kick catches Desperado as Taguchi finally tagged in, and here come the hip attacks. A springboard plancha from Taguchi wipes out Desperado on the outside, but another hip attack misses back in the ring as Desperado began to block. One’s turned into an atomic drop… before Taguchi faked out his own move. The next one lands for a near-fall, before Taguchi went for Oh My Garankle… but Desperado fights up, only to stumble into a Dodon attempt. Despy tries to wheelbarrow out, but Taguchi sits down on it for a near-fall before a Despy spear found its mark.

Kanemaru’s back in to sidestep a hip attack, before he went for an atomic drop. Except Taguchi’s arse is suddenly like a Samoan head, and impervious to attacks, as he resists… and came back with a hip attack to take down Kanemaru. Wato tags back in to go for a finish, knocking Kanemaru back for a swandive uppercut for a near-fall, before double-teaming with Desperado turned it back around. Kanemaru scoops Wato into a reverse DDT for a near-fall, before he went up top for Deep Impact that needed Taguchi to break the pin on to keep the match alive. A suplex from Kanemaru’s blocked as Wato hits a spinning roundhouse kick, while Taguchi flew in with a hip attack to help clear house… following in on Kanemaru with a Bummer-ye before a Magistral Driver from Wato almost got the win.

From there, Wato tries to follow-up, but nearly gets pinned with a roll-up. Taguchi takes care of Desperado with another hip attack, before Kanemaru elbowed out of Dodon. He eats a high kick as Wato proceeds to dive outside onto Desperado, as a Dodon/RPP combination proved to be enough for Wato to get the win! This was pretty good, and not as scrappy as the singles match in Jingu last week – but does anyone really see these guys with the belts on Friday? ***¼

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Tournament: Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & Gedo)
BUSHI and Hiromu have a cool new remix theme – their second as a team – and some sweet new masks too!

Gedo and BUSHI start… but Hiromu fakes out the Bullet Club double-team as it’s LIJ who gang up on Gedo to start with. Ishimori comes in and takes a dropkick from Hiromu as BUSHI went to work on, erm, Gedo’s beard. A double sledge to the facial fuzz from Hiromu’s next, before he tugged at the beard some more, swinging Gedo around the ring by it for the fun of it. A double-team hiptoss/facebuster combo finally stops the onslaught to Gedo’s beard, but keeps him on the defensive as he took a clothesline and a low dropkick for a two-count. Ishimori tags in after he’d cleared the apron, and begins to work over Hiromu, choking him in the ropes… then on the mat, while Gedo removed the turnbuckle pad in the Bullet Club corner.

Hiromu’s thrown outside so Gedo could whip him with a belt, before they returned to the ring as Hiromu got bounced off of the exposed corner. Gedo tags in to ground Hiromu with a hammerlock, but Hiromu got a foot to the rope to force a break… so they throw Hiromu shoulder-first back into the corner as the Bullet Club pair resumed their focus on that body part. Ishimori returns for a hammerlock on the mat, throwing in some knees too before an armbar from Gedo keeps things grounded. Hiromu fights free, but a hair pull and another whip into the exposed corner snuffs out that hopeful comeback, before Hiromu finally found a way back in with a Dragon screw.

A tag brings in BUSHI, who nails a missile dropkick to Gedo, but Ishimori instantly cuts him off, only for a double ‘rana to take them both down. BUSHI keeps going with a DDT for a two-count, before a tijeras took Gedo outside… with a leaping knee from Ishimori cutting off the attempted dive. More knees from Ishimori keep BUSHI down as a PK drew a two-count, before he rolled BUSHI in for a Yes Lock that ended in the ropes before it could be fully applied. A dropkick from BUSHI turns it around as Hiromu tagged in to clear out Ishimori, but his overhead belly-to-belly was blocked as Ishimori seemed to be a step ahead. From there, Hiromu’s trapped in the ropes for a baseball slide German suplex, before Hiromu countered out of a Bloody Cross attempt, eventually trading German suplexes on the way to getting caught with a lariat.

Gedo runs in to knock BUSHI off the apron, before Ishimori caught Hiromu with a Mistica on the way to a Yes Lock. BUSHI tries to break it up, but Gedo takes care of him as Hiromu got rolled away from the ropes, echoing last week’s result… only for BUSHI to return to properly break the hold. Back on his feet, Hiromu belly-to-belly suplexes Ishimori into the buckles, then tagged in BUSHI as Gedo also came in… and it’s Gedo who pulls BUSHI into a crossface almost immediately. BUSHI gets to the ropes to force a break, but Gedo stays on with a chinbreaker. A rewind spin kick catches Gedo unawares as BUSHI took him outside for a tope suicida, before a swinging Fisherman neckbreaker back inside almost got the win. The MX looks to follow, but Ishimori counters with a Codebreaker as a rapid-fire Parade of Moves broke out. Gedo tries to roll up BUSHI after a charge into the corner, but it gets a near-fall as the Bullet Club looked to push on.

Ishimori distracts the ref as Gedo grabbed his brass knuckles, but an enziguiri stops that as BUSHI cleared house by himself, hitting a back cracker to Ishimori, then a lungblower to Gedo for a near-fall, before missing an MX. Gedo shoves the ref to the outside to mask a pop-up mule kick, with a resulting Gedo clutch not quite getting the win… Hiromu makes the save and began to take everyone on, dropping Ishimori on the outside before a sunset-flip assisted German suplex threw Gedo across the ring. LIJ keep going with what looked like Aussie Open’s Fidget Spinner, but instead the double-team resulted in a facebuster for Gedo… and that’s enough for a somewhat anticlimactic win. The move will get over, no doubt, but this match could have done with being a little shorter, even if it was a main event. ***½

So after the first round of matches, the mini-league stands at:

Hiromu & BUSHI; Taguchi & Wato – 1-0
Ishimori & Gedo; Desperado & Kanemaru – 0-1

On the whole, this was largely a run of the mill show, with no specific matches to build up to since the G1’s two weeks away. Cherry pick the two junior tag tournament matches for the sake of completion, and for the love of God, skip the Bullet Club trios tag. You’ve better things to do!