After an epic WrestleKingdom, New Japan relocated to the slightly-more-sedate Korakuen Hall for the morning after the night before.
There was a massive cheer at the start of the show when Scott Norton was announced as wrestling in a ten-man tag, whilst we have a NEVER six-man championship match main eventing.
Kyle O’Reilly, Ricochet & David Finlay vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask & Henare
I’ll admit, after their exchange in the New Japan Rumble, I was expecting Liger vs. Tiger here… as opposed to them being partners in an opening six-man tag.
Ricochet and Liger start us off, and Ricochet gets kicked in the gut early as he tries to mock Liger… but he recovers to hit a 619 in the corner then take Liger outside for a Fosbury flop to the floor. Finlay comes in and gets a near-fall out of a diving uppercut, only for Liger to respond with a tiltawhirl backbreaker before getting the tag out.
Tiger Mask cuts off some double teaming and gets a near-fall with a crucifix on O’Reilly. Henare comes in and catches Finlay in the Boston crab, and he resists some efforts from Ricochet to break the hold with a big boot… so Liger comes in and ties up Ricochet with a Romero special, before an Octopus from Tiger Mask restrains O’Reilly.
After Finlay makes the ropes, Henare tries to fire back, before he’s overwhelmed with a Ricochet superkick, before he’s given a death valley driver onto Ricochet’s knees for a two-count. A Finlay roll leads to a shooting star press from Ricochet, and that’s your lot – a basic, but fun opening six-man tag. **¼
After the match, FInlay headed into the crowd – right up to the back of Korakuen Hall – and gave his mother a hug. His father (Fit Finlay) was there, and he got nada!
Yujiro Takahashi & Hangman Page vs. Yoshitatsu & Billy Gunn
There’s a part of me that really wants New Japan to release a new entrance music album. With Billy Gunn’s music on it.
Takahashi and Yoshitatsu start with shoulder tackles and armdrags, before Page interferes by hanging Yoshitatsu on the top rope… and my feed dies! Page comes in and slingshots Yoshitatsu’s neck into the middle rope, but the referee refuses doesn’t count as Yoshitatsu finally gets some cheers.
Takahashi tries to goad Gunn into the ring, and finally the former “Mr Ass” tags in and gives us our first cuss of the day. A Famouser misses as Takahashi sweeps Gunn to the mat for a low dropkick, only for Gunn to hit back with a powerslam off the ropes. Yoshitatsu returns and drops Page with a spinning heel kick, before Takahashi drags him outside and lands the Pimp Juice onto the floor.
Page grabs Billy’s junk, but just gets thrown onto the apron for some right hands… but Page recovers and slingshots into the Adam’s Apple lariat. Yoshitatsu is thrown back in, and it’s elementary from there as Page drops Yoshi with the Rites of Passage (belly-to-back piledriver) as the Bullet Club team pick up the remarkably easy win. **½
After the match, Billy Gunn went toe-to-toe with the same Young Lion that he’s tried to intimidate all tour long, and if it weren’t against their usual MO, I’d have bet that they’d be teasing that match at some point.
Adam Cole & Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) vs. YOSHI-HASHI & Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero)
Good God, the Young Bucks’ custom titles are now being sold via their Twitter… and you know what? Someone will buy them!
We get a series of shoulder tackles early on as Adam Cole tries to take down YOSHI-HASHI – but the tide shifted as Roppongi Vice came in and double-teamed Cole, before the Young Bucks pratfalled into and out of the ring. Rocky Romero stops Beretta from making a dive, before Beretta shoves him down… and Romero takes out Cole with a tope instead.
The Young Bucks hit some superkicks, before Nick flies off the top rope into a pile on the floor with a senton dive. Back in the ring, Beretta’s back elbow off the middle rope’s turned into a back cracker for a near-fall by Cole, before we get the “Super-Kliq” do their usual spot – the Bucks run the rope and eventually peck Cole on the cheek as he held Beretta in a camel clutch.
Matt Jackson taunts the old-school Matt Hardy legdrop – and misses – before Cole and Nick pull Romero and YOSHI-HASHI off the apron to prevent a tag. More superkicks as the Bucks set up for a Meltzer Driver, but Romero and YOSHI-HASHI make the save before Beretta reverses things into a tombstone.
Romero tags in and flies with some headscissors, before mocking Adam Cole’s signature taunt, and then flies into some Forever clotheslines… which end with a blocked back suplex and a pair of superkicks. A Last Shot and a running knee strike gets a near-fall as Matt gets a near-fall. The CHAOS team turn things around as YOSHI-HASHI almost pinned Cole with a senton bomb, but the Bucks make the save and end up diving to the outside as they miss Romero in the ropes.
Cole drops Beretta with an almost “Just Kidding” like superkick, then dropped Beretta with a Panama Sunrise… but YOSHI-HASHI is legal, so he lands a flipping neckbreaker. A pumphandle driver’s blocked, before Cole throws in a superkick, only for a Last Shot to be countered into an inside cradle as YOSHI-HASHI shocked Adam Cole (Bay-Bay?!)! Really good mid-card match, and the star of YOSHI-HASHI continues to rise! ***¼
The Super-Kliq trio immediately beat down on YOSHI-HASHI after the match, allowing Cole to go for a double-superkick-assisted Last Shot for what Kevin Kelly tagged as the “Fatality”.
Team 2000 (Scott Norton, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Hiro Saito & Cheeseburger) vs. Kenny Omega, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Bad Luck Fale & BONE SOLDIER
Brought to you by “The music is altered due to the musical rights!” This was a nice throwback for fans who’d been watching New Japan seventeen years ago… and my Lord, Norton gets a good reaction yet again. The opponents for the reformed Team 2000 here… “the always dangerous members of the Bullet Club… and BONE SOLDIER” (© Steve Corino).
So, we start with Omega and Norton, and Omega tries to get “Flash” to ditch Team 2000 and join the Bullet Club. They too-sweet each other, but the handshake is a ruse as the former nWo Japan member forces Omega to the mat with a simple handshake. We get Norton vs. Fale in a match I didn’t know I wanted to see, but their brief exchange early on wasn’t too bad.
Cheeseburger tries to get a too-sweet, but he just gets press slammed into the Bullet Club on the floor, who respond by throwing him back from the floor and into the ring. Okay, THAT RULED.
— LARIATOOOO!!! (@MrLARIATO) January 5, 2017
After the comedy, we get Tanga Loa taking some Mongolian chops from Tenzan, who then tagged in Cheeseburger for a big splash that led to a monstrous kickout from the former tag champion. Cheeseburger was left stranded as Loa drove him into the Bullet Club corner, before he made a comeback with some shots on Tama Tonga that he openly mocked. A sunset flip doesn’t cut it either, as Cheeseburger then succeeds with a ‘rana before tagging Tenzan back into it.
Tanga Loa comes in and wears down Tenzan, as does Omega, who shows little sign of that 46-minute epic the night before. The Boner and Fale tag in as Tenzan finds himself isolated in the corner, before Fale misses an avalanche in the corner, allowing Kojima to tag in and work over the Boner. Not like that. Boner misses another avalanche and takes the rapid-fire chops, as does Omega, before Tama Tonga breaks it up. Hiro Saito makes that save, then Norton comes in… and we get Cheeseburger doing the rapid-fire chops to a non-too-pleased Fale. Rest in Burgers, eh?
Omega throws the Boner into Kojima as my feed wavers again, and we come back just as Kevin Kelly makes an erection joke. The Boner misses a headbutt off the top and takes a Koji Cutter, before eating a Ten-Koji Cutter, then back sentons from Cheeseburger and Saito for a near-fall. It’s pretty elementary from there, as Kojima lands the Strong Arm for the win. FUN! ***¼
Michael Elgin & KUSHIDA vs. Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi
Are they teasing a continuation of the Naito/Elgin feud from the back end of last year.. Before Elgin injured his eye? Seems like it…
Of course, we start with Takahashi against Elgin… but “Big Mike” only had eyes for Naito. Every move he did to Takahashi early, was done whilst staring at the Intercontinental champion, who tried to attack Elgin from behind… and again whilst Elgin had Takahashi up for a stalling suplex.
The double teaming eventually paid-off as Naito nailed Elgin with a low dropkick as the Ingobernables pair tried to work over Elgin’s recently-healed eye injury. KUSHIDA’s used as a human missile as Elgin throws him onto Naito and Takahashi, but it’s not until the newly-crowned junior heavyweight champion tries to outmuscle Elgin when things change around.
KUSHIDA tags in and hits a handspring back elbow, before Naito takes a cartwheel hiptoss and dropkick. A springboard is aborted by KUSHIDA, who blocks a sunset flip from Takahashi by going for the Hoverboard lock, but Takahashi immediately scurries to the ropes to break the hold. Naito tags back in and nails KUSHIDA with the outside-in dropkick in the corner, before Elgin comes in and flattens Naito with a pair of avalanche lariats.
A Falcon arrow from Elgin gets a near-fall, so he goes for a buckle bomb… only to catch Takahashi’s attempted interference and give him a German suplex. Naito takes an enziguiri then a German suplex into the corner as Elgin seemingly disliked Naito’s neck… and Takahashi got more of the same too courtesy of a running death valley driver into Naito in the corner.
A low dropkick from Naito “saved” Takahashi from an Elgin powerbomb, as Naito then shoved the referee down to give KUSHIDA a low blow. Elgin gets a low punt too, before the big guy blocks a German suplex… and we have a surprise in Dragon Lee running in as he takes out Takahashi with a massive flip senton over the top rope! Lee seemed to hit the crowd barriers hard… but he was able to recover, so he didn’t break his leg in a debut dive.
With Naito left alone, Elgin catches him in a torture rack, which he turns into a Burning Hammer for the win! That was a hell of a match, and a cool surprise too as New Japan looked to be going towards a rematch from last year’s Dragon Lee/Kamaitachi classics. ***½
After the match, Dragon Lee laid out Takahashi with a suplex into a powerbomb and grabbed Takahashi’s title belt. Poor KUSHIDA – he has a great match and then finds himself out of the title picture for now… but it’ll be a hell of a Best of Super Juniors!
Katsuyori Shibata, Yuji Nagata, Juice Robinson, Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto & Will Ospreay
I’d be joking that Will Ospreay would be feeling left out without a title belt, but he brought his Rev Pro British Cruiserweight title… so that’s something now he’s potentially a little lower down the IWGP Junior heavyweight totem pole after what we just saw.
Ospreay and Shibata went head-to-head in a battle of the Rev Pro champions, and that would usually be an unwise idea, so let’s see how that goes. Very poorly, at first, btu Ospreay flew out of the corner with a dropkick as Shibata went for his corner dropkick, and this is another match to add to the “I want to see this now” stakes. Perhaps in Rev Pro?
Toru Yano came in and worked with Nagata briefly… and that went badly, as he went straight for the ropes after enraging Nagata. Honma has better luck after he and Nagata landed a double shoulder tackle, and then the ring filled up once more. They all ended up outside, except Yano and Honma, with the latter being sent into an unprotected turnbuckle. Ishii threw Makabe’s head into a supporting column, as things calmed down a little.
Honma took some punishment from Okada, then Goto, and finally Ishii, who laid into Honma with an avalanche lariat… which was promptly no-sold! A brainbuster is blocked by Honma, but Ishii manages to deadlift and land it anyway as Yano rushes in… and gets DDT’d anyway. Ospreay tried his luck with forearms to Makabe, but he’s easily shoved off, before the tag team champions take duelling corner punches and Northern Lights suplexes.
Ishii and Makabe trade lariats, with little effect save for busting Ishii’s nose, before Okada tags in to go for his top rope elbow… but Makabe pops up. A lariat decks Okada, who’s taped up from his war last night, to the point where Juice Robinson came in and was able to hit a cannonball in the corner. Okada fights out of a powerbomb, but takes a double-knee gutbuster for a near-fall, but he worked back to make the tag out to Goto, who looked to finish the job.
A back suplex on Robinson gets Goto a near-fall, but Juice lands a leg lariat after avoiding an ushigoroshi attempt. Juice drills Goto with some Dusty punches, only to take a clothesline as Shibata breaks up the pin… and promptly gets taken out with a tope suicida from Ospreay on the outside. Robinson takes an ushigoroshi, but the ring fills up before Goto can finish him off.
After things settle down Robinson drops Goto with a lariat, before Shibata fends off Ospreay and waffles Goto with a PK, allowing Robinson to get the win with a Pulp Friction! That is a massive win for the ever impressive Juice, who I’d have to say is up for a shot at Goto’s NEVER title now. That was incredible! ***¾
Juice motions with the NEVER title belt, but before he can celebrate properly… Suzuki-gun flood the ring! Minoru Suzuki! Desperado! Lance Archer! Davey Boy Smith Jr! Yoshinobu Kanemaru! Takashi Iizuka! TAKA Michinoku! Oh crap it’s Taichi… Suzuki-gun are back to run roughshot on New Japan! The rest of CHAOS try to make a save, but Suzuki-gun overpower them, ending with a huge Gotch piledriver from Minoru on Okada!
The return may have been expected after the New Japan/NOAH partnership died, but this was great. In one solitary segment, Suzuki-gun returned and were made to look like a massive threat. That certainly makes life in New Japan much more interesting… Suzuki-gun vow to win all the gold in New Japan, which I’m fine with. As long as this doesn’t mean I have to watch Taichi wrestle.
Since we’re all hung up on ratings in New Japan this week… six star segment!
NEVER Six-Man Championships: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Manabu Nakanishi & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI (c)
Well, this is quite a contrast to what we just saw, eh?
After the babyfaces came out to Tanahashi’s horrific new theme, we start with SANADA and Nakanishi… except EVIL came in from behind to double-team Nakanishi and take him down with an eye rake. Their double-suplex failed as Nakanishi reversed it, before Tanahashi tagged in and went to work over SANADA… with headlocks!
SANADA gets thrown into Taguchi’s rear-end in the corner, before a second hip attack was blocked as it was turned into an atomic drop. A long rope-running series saw BUSHI lose patience and just dropkick Taguchi after several drop-downs, but the “Funky Weapon” came back with a hip attack… before a second one saw him wedge himself in the ropes and get smashed in the ass with a chair from EVIL.
They head outside where EVIL works on Tanahashi’s leg with steel chair shots in the crowd barricades, as BUSHI chokes away on Taguchi with a t-shirt. Taguchi goes for, and whiffs again, on a hip attack on SANADA, before EVIL tagged in and landed a big back senton for a near-fall.
Taguchi makes a comeback with a reverse/regular DDT to EVIL and BUSHI, before Tanahashi comes in and immediately starts hobbling on his bad knee. The good knee is used for a knee lift to EVIL, who replies with a Fisherman’s buster. Tanahashi’s bad knee forces him to tag out to Nakanishi, who lays into SANADA with right hands, before a short-arm clothesline and a series of axehandle smashes take down the rest of the champions.
Nakanishi goes for the Argentine backbreaker, but instead has to make do with a German suplex… which SANADA flips out of as the Ingobernables then drop Nakanishi with a double belly-to-back suplex from EVIL and SANADA. That gets a near-fall, before Nakanishi falls into a Skull End – after briefly countering it with an Argentine backbreaker. SANADA regains the Skull End until Tanahashi breaks it up with one of his own, and then turns it into a swinging neckbreaker.
EVIL pulls Tanahashi off the apron as Nakanishi tried to tag out, leaving the veteran alone ot take a BUSHI missile dropkick. A crossbody from BUSHI’s caught and turned into an Argentine backbreaker… but BUSHI works free and kicks Nakanishi low before landing a Codebreaker for a near-fall.
Tanahashi catches EVIL with a Dragon screw as the ring filled up for a sequence that ended with a Tanahashi Slingblade to BUSHI, before Tanahashi and Taguchi landed planchas to the outside. Nakanishi lands the Hercules cutter out of an Argentine backbreaker on BUSHI, and we have new champions?! That… was NOT a result I was expecting at all… but hey, those NEVER titles have pretty much been props since day one.
A decent main event – not great, but not a stinker either way, as we end the show with new champions. ***½
Nakanishi, Tanahashi and Taguchi are the tenth champions – for a set of titles that’s been around barely a year – and this is Tanahashi’s second run with the belts. And yes, Los Ingobernables set the record for the shortest reign with those titles, beating the Takahashi/Fale/Tonga trio’s three-day reign from last February.
So… that was an eventful New Year Dash, eh?
What Worked: The return of Suzuki-Gun. In less than ten minutes, this group returned and were made to look like a huge threat to pretty much all of New Japan; The Team 2000/Bullet Club tag… for the most part. A good comedy/nostalgia match that was quite good; BUSHI-kid
What Didn’t: Given how long Omega vs. Okada was at WrestleKingdom, I wasn’t a big fan of both guys working the next night, none the worse for wear… at least Okada was taped up and sold a little.
Thumbs: Up – “slightly” for the in-ring, and massively for the angles that set the table for an interesting year ahead for New Japan.