One day removed from WrestleKingdom, the hottest ticket of the year saw New Japan set the table for the months ahead.
The last few Dash shows have been pretty monumental, with last year seeing the return of Suzuki-gun, while 2016 witnessed AJ Style’s expulsion from the Bullet Club. So, with high profile losses for Chris Jericho, Jay White and most notably, Tetsuya Naito, where do they go next? Well, from the off they announce that Jay White’s part of a proving series, as he’s the first to take on Young Lion Cup holder Katsuya Kitamura… but that’s not all he’s doing…
Tomoyuki Oka, Shota Umino, Tetsuhiro Yagi & Ren Narita vs. Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi
The Young Lions went after “the dads”, with Tenzan getting stomped on early as Narita worked his way into a Hulk Hogan-ish legdrop, brother. Things went wrong when they tried to suplex Nakanishi, with Narita and Yagi taking the reversal, and it was Yagi who found himself cornered next.
A Kojima neckbreaker, and a knee to the gut from Nagata keeps Yagi down, but the rookie fires back… and promptly gets kicked into the corner get again. Still, Yagi gets free and tags in Oka, who’s able to charge down Nagata with a shoulder tackle and then throw him with a belly-to-belly for a near-fall. Korakuen Hall got behind Oka, but he loses a German suplex attempt as Nagata responds with an enziguiri and an Exploder, before Kojima comes back in for Machine gun chops. It’s safe to say it’s been a real one-sided five-minute spell here… but Oka does manage to press slam Kojima a la Flair.
After another bumrush from the Lions, Umino’s able to turn Kojima into a Boston crab, but that’s easily powered out of. A dropkick fares better, as does a bridging German suplex, but Nagata barely makes the save to stop the upset… and moments later a Kojima lariat puts Son of Red Shoes down for the count. Pretty one-sided, but plenty of fire from the rookies, as you’d expect. **½
Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask, Togi Makabe, Henare & Hirai Kawato
Yeah, Suzuki-gun strikes before the bell as the ten-man tag went all over the building. Henare’s still got his Wampanaoq gear as he’s seemingly graduated from Young Lion status, but he’s quickly forced to overcome a double-team from TAKA and Kanemaru.
It’s back to the outside again as Henare takes a chair, before Taichi hits him with the bell hammer as we’re firmly in the Suzuki-gun bollocks here. Iizuka bites Henare, who eventually gets free and fires back with a flying shoulder tackle before bringing Makabe into the mix. You know the score with Makabe here – clearing house, throwing in a scoop slam before charging Iizuka into the corner for some mounted punches. There’s even some for attempted interferers too…
Iizuka gets free and just chokes Makabe down to the mat as the ring fills up, but it soon clears as Makabe gets in a slam… then a tag out to Kawato. Who gets promptly flapjack’d by Desperado. Still, Kawato fires up more and knocks Despy down with a back elbow as Korakuen got behind another of the lions, before Despy eats a Tiger Driver and a Liger Bomb.
They pull Desperado up for Kawato’s corkscrew kick, but the ring fills up to break up the count… and that’s where the tables turn as Kanemaru quickly lands his top rope DDT before the 4-on-1 offence on Kawato ends with a Pinche Loco from Despy for the win. Eh, it was what it was… we had little in the way of Suzuki-gun shenanigans last night, and they largely toned it down here. Good fire as ever from Kawato, while Henare’s time in was as solid as you’d expect. **½
Oh hey, Iizuka’s got his funky oven glove, and hits Kawato with the iron fingers after the match for… reasons. It meant Kawato did a pseudo stretcher job, which is more than anyone’s sold the iron fingers in forever.
Katsuya Kitamura Proving Series: Katsuya Kitamura vs. Jay White
I’m not quite sure anyone had this down as “what would Jay White be doing on night two as Switchblade”, but let’s see how this plays out. Of course, White’s back from excursion, while Kitamura is probably about to head out for one soon.
Kitamura’s fired up from the off, and he starts off with a spot of grappling as he gets White with a waistlock takedown. White hits back with some forearms to the neck of Kitamura, before falling for the old shoulder block spot. Yeah, White’s not going to be able to take down Kitamura this early…
White suckers Kitamura into a chop battle, but he takes out the knee before the rookie could throw. Speaking of throw, White dumps Kitamura on his head with a Saito suplex, then turfs him to the floor as “Switchblade” started to show some aggression in the form of the obligatory guard rail spots, before throwing him into the crowd in a bid to force a count-out.
Back in the ring, Kitamura’s able to throw White and then finally land those chops, before a shoulder tackle took White down again. More suplexes follow with a deadlift gutwrench, before Kitamura was able to spear White! The Jackhammer looked to follow, but White knees his way free and trips him down into a crossface Nagata lock, before pulling Kitamura up into the Blade Runner (Sister Abigail, etc etc) for the win. Impressive stuff here from Kitamura, but White… is still in the early days of this new character. Yeah, it’s hindsight to say that this should have been the debut, but this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint with Switchblade. ***
Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) & Cheeseburger vs. Bullet Club (Young Bucks (Nick Jackson & Matt Jackson) & Kenny Omega)
This is a weird one… the Elite in the midcard? Sure, we might get Roppongi 3K against the Bucks again, but my senses are telling me this might be a rare encounter between Omega and Cheeseburger.
Omega’s got taped ribs after his war with Jericho, as does YOH after the battering he took to his back last night. Nick Jackson seems to be struggling early after a dropkick seemed to tweak his knee, but he wants to tag out… only for the rest of the Elite team to cry off as they wanted an easy night.
Tags bring in Matt Jackson, whose back has plenty of tape… and he shares back pain with YOH too.Even tie-ups can’t be completed without either guy flinching. Heck, Matt can’t even run the ropes, while YOH can’t do a slam… this is farcical comedy, and that means we get to see Cheeseburger! Good Lord, Cheeseburger’s over in Korakuen Hall, eh? Cheeseburger lights up Omega with chops early on, but Kenny quickly stops him in his tracks. More chops come into play as Cheeseburger channels Kojima, chopping Omega and both Bucks in a pile, only to get caught with a trio of superkicks. Thanks for coming!
The Bucks stay in, combining a somersault neckbreaker into a backbreaker on Cheeseburger, before Omega plays Kid Lykos and calls a bunch of moves before they’re hit. Yeah, it backfires as Cheeseburger avoids a double superkick before tagging in SHO, who seems to be the only one in this match who’s even close to healthy. A ‘rana to Kenny takes him outside, before Nick’s forced to take a decapitation superkick for a near-fall.
The former junior tag champs hit Nick with the Dominator/neckbreaker combo, but the ring fills to break up the count as Matt and Kenny prepare to whip them into each other… and after a do-se-do, they opt for a superkick and a V-trigger instead as YOH’s back is left wide open for a backcracker from Nick.
More comedy as YOH escapes the Keystone Cops Elite to make the tag to Cheeseburger, who then plays the switcheroo with the Bucks, who eventually hit each other with a clothesline as ‘burger busts out the Shoteis. His attempt at a crossbody to the three of them goes wrong as he’s caught in a tombstone for a pop-up Indytaker… and that’s enough to put him away. A really enjoyable comedy match, with the Elite in the business of breaking whatever backs weren’t broken. A rare shtick-y Elite match that I actually liked! ***¼
Bullet Club (Cody, Marty Scurll, Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi & Leo Tonga) vs. Taguchi Japan (Kota Ibushi, Ryusuke Taguchi, Juice Robinson, KUSHIDA & David Finlay)
Another ten man tag then, and it’s the Elite B-team and friends as we have a rare sighting of Cody in New Japan with Bullet Club gear!
Taguchi Japan seems to be more focused on football this year than baseball. I wonder if Ryusuke would be able to save my club? To be fair, the number of managers Sunderland’s going through, he’ll get a shot sooner rather than later…
Brandi Rhodes joined the English commentary team, since they’re hell-bent on getting Cody and Brandi over, so I hit mute as Juice Robinson mocks Marty Scurll’s costume from last night. Instead, Juice gets Leo Tonga for some Dusty punches, then a diving clothesline as the Bullet Club young boy’s knocked down. Taguchi gets the tag in as Juice seemed to mock the old Stardust routine, but Leo quickly catches Taguchi and takes him into the corner as Chase Owens tried to have a go… but it quickly builds up to Owens being on the receiving end as Kota Ibushi tags in to complete a set of hip attacks.
5-on-1 attacks quickly backfire on Taguchi Japan as Yujiro avoids a bunch of dropkicks, and it leads to Taguchi getting worn down as Cody (and his leopard-printed gear) took over., as they built up to Taguchi getting dropkicked in the ass. I thought that was Samoan and impervious to any kind of assault? Apparently not tonight as atomic drops had massive effects, wearing down Taguchi to the point where he had to tag out to KUSHIDA.
KUSHIDA almost gets the win with an Indian deathlock to Scurll, but Marty gets free by tweaking the fingers… a “Just Kidding” superkick is finally caught, but Marty gets the last laugh as he snaps the fingers anyway. We’re back to Kota and Cody, with Ibushi’s standing moonsault getting blocked and turned into an inside cradle before Cody misses a Disaster kick. A standing shooting star press nearly gets Ibushi the win, before the Bullet Club swarmed the ring after Chase pulled Finlay off the ropes. Marty sparks a “Bullet Club Train”, which looks very similar to what Taguchi’s lot do… and culminates in Marty getting a piggy back off Leo Tonga as they charge into Finlay.
Brandi gets involved on the apron to distract, but nearly gets knocked off by Finlay… who puts on the brakes and ends up paying for it as he’s caught in an inverted figure four as Cody gets the submission win… before going straight for Kota! Another pretty fun tag match, but some of the shtick here was rather, erm, borrowed? ***¼
Juice tries to save Kota, but ends up taking a Cross Rhodes as the Elite B-team and friends keep wearing down Ibushi. Cody gets a chair… but he’s stopped by the unlikeliest of folks. The crowd roars as Kenny Omega hits the ring and gets into a shoving fight with Cody! The Golden Lovers have each others’ backs?
The arguments between Cody and Kenny blew up again here, leading to Omega ordering everyone to leave, as he has something to say… once he gets a working mic! Omega’s fed up of the in-fighting, and acknowledges that the Bullet Club’s not been whole for a long time. He’s got a shirt in his hand… and… I don’t think I like where this is going. Thankfully, Ibushi has bailed, so he’s not getting that shirt.
Omega calls out Switchblade – and Jay White heads out as I assume there’s an offer to join the ‘club. The shirt’s offered to White, but Jay’s looking rather pensive about it as commentary telegraphs things… Jay puts it on, but it’s a ruse as Kenny eats a Blade Runner! White throws off the shirt and vows that he’s going to take Kenny’s title… awh, we don’t get to call Jay White “Bayonet”.
So, Cody and friends interfere to cost Kenny the title and they pull the trigger on the Bullet Club implosion this year? Or will it be Kota Ibushi who does the thing, as Kenny seems to be juggling with a lot of niggling rivalries all at the same time?
NEVER Six-Man Championships: Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Bad Luck Fale) vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Beretta (c)
We’ve got a singles rematch from last night’s NEVER six-man gauntlet, as the former and new champions collided… once Fale killed the ring announcer again.
The match opened with Tama charging down Beretta with an elbow as “Heavyweight Beretta” replies with a series of chops. Toru Yano tags in… but he’s just scared of everyone, especially Fale… and I don’t blame him! He bounces off of the big guy, before he’s caught trying to tear off the turnbuckle pads… and it’s safe to say that Fale really isn’t impressed with Yano’s usual routines.
Yano slaps Fale on the back of the head after the ref calls a break, and yeah, that ends how you’d think. Tama Tonga takes over with some sweary stomps on Yano, before a running powerslam from Tanga Loa nearly gives us another title change… but we’re getting a rather slow pace out of this match as the Bullet Club seemed to have control from the off. The challengers keep Yano isolated, with Tanga Loa just charging down Yano off the ropes, before shrugging off a hair-pull. Ishii sneaks in a boot to the back before he’s finally tagged in, and the hot comeback sees the Stone Pitbull take a while to charge down Tanga with shoulder blocks, before finally getting the job done!
Problem was, Ishii went to knock Fale off the apron, and he just bounces off the giant Tongan. Fale’s dragged into the match, and has his feet stamped on as Ishii went for a brainbuster… then switches into a German suplex attempt, neither of which come off. He brainbuster finally comes off on Tama Tonga, as Beretta gets the next tag to try and capitalise on it, leading to some triple-teaming on Tam, and a tornado DDT that nearly seals the win.
Tanga Loa monsters back up as the challenger team use their power to force their way in, leading to Tama hitting his Veleno jumping DDT for a near-fall. A Gun Stun’s escaped as the ring fills up for a Parade of Stuff, ending with Ishii finally getting that German to Fale, catching him as he rebounds off the ropes!
Beretta sneaks in an enziguiri, but gets caught in a double-team as Guerrilla Warfare left him laying. Instead of going for the pin though, the Guerrillas decided to finish off Beretta with some headbutts… Tanga misses, and Beretta heads up to bring Tama down with a belly-to-belly superplex before counters to counters led to a Gun Stun as the Bullet Club regain their belts. The match itself was fine, but the pace dragged badly in the middle of it… These quick-fire title changes for the NEVER trios belts are pretty much the norm, it has to be said, but at least they’re not doing the whole nameplate gimmick that the IWGP straps have. They’d be out of room soon enough! **¾
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr. & Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin & War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe)
On the surface, I’m thinking this is the start of a Tanahashi/Suzuki title feud? Well, he’s got to have something after shaving his head last night…
During the entrances, Don Callis tried to run from Suzuki-gun… and still got sprayed. Cheers Lance! Yup, there’s a jump start as everyone heads outside, pairing off how you’d expect, with War Machine and the KES going for each other, before Tanahashi and Suzuki faced off. Things settle down in the ring as Sabre tries to take his shots at Raymond Rowe, but a forearm smash puts him down, only for Archer to pounce on Rowe in the immediate aftermath.
KES keep the upper hand here, wearing down War Machine, with Smith grounding Rowe in a chinlock, before a scoop slam from Rowe looked to give him a breakthrough… only for Suzuki-gun to again hit the ring to clear some of the apron. Archer repeats that to keep Rowe on his lonesome, only for Rowe to reply with some shotgun knees as he manages to tag in Elgin… but only because Suzuki makes a point of knocking Tanahashi off the apron again.
Elgin’s back in to squash Sabre in the corner, but a Falcon arrow’s escaped briefly as Sabre goes to his submissions. Both times, Big Mike escapes those, but Zack starts to edge ahead as he goes for the Canadian’s arm… then decides to trade blows, which ends badly as a lariat leaves Zack on his back. Sabre keeps on fighting though, and nearly wins with a Euro clutch before tagging Smith back in… but the camera wanders as Suzuki takes a chair and hits Tanahashi in the knee on the floor. Yeah, that’s clearly the next big feud…
The tables turn as Elgin and War Machine focus on Smith, with a Bronco buster from Hanson just obliterating the baby Bulldog for a near-fall… and finally Tanahashi hits the ring, as he goes toe-to-toe with Suzuki. Yup, he’s caught and rolled to the outside in a knee bar, while Smith hits a reverse DDT to Hanson as Suzuki-gun looked to have some control.
Archer’s Bossman slam gets Elgin down as a Parade of Moves broke out, ending with Sabre catching Rowe in a triangle armbar… but Rowe pulls him up as Hanson hits a springboard Decapitation lariat. Fallout’s avoided as Archer comes in and chokeslams away, before Hanson’s comeback is snuffed out as a Killer Bomb puts him away. So… that’s a farewell to War Machine, I guess, as the big focus was on Suzuki and Tanahashi throughout. An entertaining enough match, without too much in the way of the Suzuki-gun garbage. That’s clearly a B-team deal! ***½
Afterwards, Suzuki rolls Tanahashi back inside for more of a beatdown, using another kneebar to wrench away on the Intercontinental champion’s leg. Once he relents, he grabs the belt, and I guess that’s confirmed – at some point during the New Beginning tour, we’re getting that match. No complaints here, although I’m sure some will moan that it’s two veterans rather than anyone new… but we had that with Jay White last night, and look how that worked out.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay, YOSHI-HASHI & Gedo
Main event time, and it’s another LIJ vs. Okada and friends tag! Korakuen Hall was firmly behind Naito, despite him coming up short at the Dome. On the other hand, Okada got plenty of boos as the split crowds continued… or perhaps they really don’t like Okada’s new gear?
We opened with Hiromu and Ospreay, moving fluidly as Ospreay was all over Tanahashi early on, despite seeing a handspring back elbow caught. A springboard forearm leads to the CHAOS team flooding the ring as Hiromu takes a five-on-one beating, at least until he grabbed the beard of Gedo.
From there, BUSHI comes in to choke Gedo with a t-shirt, then wrench on him with a STF as the Ingobernables looked comfortable, especially when Naito throws Okada into the guard railings. Inside the ring, Gedo’s still suffering as he’s put into the Paradise Lock by SANADA, before Hiromu returns… and misses a low dropkick as Gedo comes full circle, pulling the hair as he looked to make the tag out.
EVIL gets the tag first though, and after having his own spot used against him, can’t stop Gedo from making the tag out to Goto. A bulldog from Goto gets a solid two-count on EVIL, before escaping a Fisherman’s buster to surprise the new tag champion with an ushigoroshi. We’re back to Okada and Naito, with the champion hitting another back elbow before pulling Naito into a flapjack for another two-count.
Naito swiftly gets back into it as he trips Okada in the corner for an outside-in dropkick, before dragging him out of the corner with a hanging neckbreaker, then following up with a spinebuster. A Destino’s attempted, but Okada counters into the cobra clutch before delivering a big boot after Naito had found a way out. YOSHI-HASHI tags in next to show off his new gear and take his shots on Naito as the ring again fills up, leading to a Bunker Buster/GYR combo and a standing shooting star press as the CHAOS team put the boots to Naito. A flipping powerbomb attempt is blocked as Naito responds with a Koppo kick, only to run into a left-arm lariat as YOSHI-HASHI again goes for – and gets – the powerbomb for a near-fall.
YOSHI-HASHI looks to cap it off with Karma, but SANADA makes the save with a Skull End as a Parade of Moves broke out, leading to a four-way dropkick to Okada after he’d crashed and burned with one of his… and it’s not too long before the end comes as YOSHI-HASHI continued to take a beating, and gets levelled with a single Destino as Naito gets back to winning ways. Probably the best match of the night, swift and fluid, and with a lot of fire… something a lot of these matches lacked in the build up to WrestleKingdom. ***½
The beating continues after as Gedo takes an MX from BUSHI.. Ospreay a Time Bomb… Goto the Darkness Falls… and finally, a TKO and Skull End to Naito. So, we’re looking at more months of these? That’s… not ideal, unless they find a way to put a fresh twist on these combinations, and it can’t just be “Naito wins in February LOL”.
Naito has his post-show speech, and I have a feeling that we’re not done yet… but if you were expecting Chris Jericho to make an appearance based on comments thrown around before WrestleKingdom, you weren’t let down as he hit the ring at the end and tore shreds into Naito! Young Lions tried to separate the two as the rest of the Ingobernables tried to help, but the pull-apart just led to Naito firing back, and Jericho grabbing tables in a bid to do whatever damage he could.
So, until the end it was a rather muted New Year Dash!! compared to prior years, with the Bullet Club implosion being the main thing teased this year. In fairness, the Bullet Club has been fragmented for ages, with the Elite brand threatening to overtake it… although it is a bit of an odd call to even threaten to put the proverbial bullet in the head of the company’s biggest cash cow in the West. As for the rest of the show… well, it was standard Korakuen Hall fare. Hope you like ten-man tags…
Next up is the Fantasticamania tour, featuring stars from CMLL, and then it’s onto The New Beginning trio of shows (with two in Sapporo in late January, one in Osaka in mid-February), where we’ve got Tanahashi/Suzuki, Roppongi 3K vs. Young Bucks and White/Omega on tap… plus whenever they decide to throw in Naito vs. Jericho. New Japan isn’t cooling down anytime soon!