It’s back to Korakuen Hall once more as New Japan started the build to the New Beginning shows with a whole lot of Suzuki-gun!

Tomoyuki Ota vs. Yuji Nagata
This is one of “young boy” Ota’s first proper matches, having wrestled on two of the New Japan “Lion’s Gate” shows, before doing a match with Nagata at a festival the day before WrestleKingdom (think of it like the old Axxess matches WWE used to have…)

Basic stuff early as Ota tries for, and fails, to take down the veteran, but Nagata switches a waistlock into an armbar… but it’s reversed as Nagata’s taken down with another armar. Nagata gets back up and grabs a toe-hold, then eventually takes down the newcomer with a hiptoss and a kick to the back. Ota tries a comeback, but his strikes just rile Nagata, as he comes back with a pump kick off the ropes, but that just sends Ota rebounding with a clothesline.

After kicking out at one, Nagata’s stomped on in the corner, then brought out with an overhead belly-to-belly that gets Ota a couple of near-falls. Ota goes to the Boston crab – the one submission all young lions know – and Nagata actually struggles in it, before crawling to the bottom rope for the break. Ota keeps clubbing away on a downed Nagata, but he absorbs the strikes and returns in kind. Nagata loses out on an armbreaker, before he throws Ota with an Exploder before going to the Nagata lock III for the eventual submission. A basic match, but I was shocked at how much Ota got in here. He’s clearly someone New Japan’s got high hopes on, especially as he’s starting out against name guys. **½

Jushin “Thunder Liger” & Henare vs. Tiger Mask & Yoshitatsu
This match was changed due to a shoulder injury to David Finlay – so rather than veterans vs. young boys, Hirai Kawato dropped out of the match too.

Whatever happened to Yoshitatsu going to Mexico?

Henare and Tiger Mask start off, and the veteran avoids an early takedown attempt, before kicking away from an arm wringer attempt. They take each other to the ropes, but Tiger Mask is the early aggressor, landing shoulder tackles before the New Zealander knocks him down with a receipt.

Henare misses a corner charge and gets dropkicked onto the apron, which acts as the prelude for some tags as we get Liger and Yoshitatsu in. A plancha from Yoshitatsu takes down Liger outside the ring, eventually collecting a near-fall out of it. Yoshi slams Liger then tags in Tiger who just unloads with some punches from above, like Liger’d gotten him a parking ticket or something. Liger stands up and runs into a spinning back kick as Tiger Mask gets bored enough to tag Yoshi back in.

That doesn’t matter as Liger tries to punch his sometime partner off the apron, but that just opens him up for some double-teaming in the corner. Tiger Mask returns and avoids the lucha special tiltawhirl backbreaker… but he has no answer for a Shotei! Henare comes in to try and take advantage, and finally lands a body slam for a near-fall, but again the veteran pairing make a comeback as Yoshitatsu peppers Henare with kicks to the chest. Henare comes back with a suplex as he looks to go up top, landing a diving shoulder tackle for a near-fall.

From there, the young boy goes for the Boston crab (of course…), and with Jushin Liger rushing in to give Henare cover from any interference, Yoshitatsu then powers out. D’oh! They exchange schoolboys and small packages for near-falls, before a version of the Blue Thunder bomb gets Yoshitatsu a two-count.

Tiger Mask and Liger end up on the outside as Yoshitatsu tries for a Pedigree… but Henare backdrops himself free, only to take a Triple H-style knee and a Pedigree… and good God, Yoshitatsu gets the win! Decent enough for what it is, but it only highlighted the lack of direction some folks here have. **¾

Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Takashi Iizuka & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI, Gedo & Jado)
Iizuka came down to the ring on a leash, with El Desperado struggling (at best) to control the wildman. Iizuka then dived into the crowd and went after Shimpei Nogami, who had his Blue Justice t-shirt on under his white shirt… and ended up being stripped. That’ll be a meme.

This is the first time I’ve seen Desperado since his UK tour where he was utterly, utterly forgotten about in WCPW. The epitome of a wasted booking, Desperado was used in a throwaway Survivor Series-esque elimination match, and teamed with El Ligero in a random tag match. Because they both had “el” in their name. Seriously.

Anyway, YOSHI-HASHI is back in front of a crowd who knows how to react to heels after working against Pete Dunne for Rev Pro last weekend in the UK, and he’s initially attacked by Iizuka as the Suzuki-gun trio jump their opponents. Kanemaru pairs off with Jado whilst Gedo gets Desperado choking him in the barricades, and those two end up in the ring as the chaos continues. Iizuka trips Gedo in the ropes as he’s taken outside for some whips into the ring post, before Iizuka uses his leash to choke away on Gedo some more.

Gedo’s left in the ring as Desperado grabs a chinlock, before Gedo finally gets out and outsmarts them as he sidesteps Kanemaru who knocks Iizuka off the apron. In comes Jado for some clotheslines, before he uses Kanemaru’s boot to knock down Desperado. A back suplex gets Jado a two-count, before Kanemaru avoids a knee trembler and comes back with a DDT. Desperado tags back in and squashes Jado with a back elbow, but takes a clothesline in return.

YOSHI-HASHI chops away on Desperado after coming in, then gets his rope-hung dropkick before Desperado fights back with a diving uppercut to send YOSHI-HASHI into the corner. The Bunker Buster’s set-up, but Iizuka comes into break it up before he takes a reverse spinning back kick. Desperado eats a left-handed lariat from YOSHI-HASHI, who then tries for Karma (Made in Japan/pumphandle half-nelson driver), but Iizuka comes in with a chairshot and that’s the DQ. Well that was a waste of my time… yes, they’re already establishing the Suzuki-gun B-team as being useless without having to cheat. This had better not be the motif going forward… *½

Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima
I think this is the first time I’ve seen this KES pairing – and they come out doing the Cbris Brookes water-spitting spot to annoy the crowd. Well, Archer does, Davey Boy Smith Jr. is more cultured…

Archer and Tenzan start with a battle of shoulder-tackles, before Tenzan goes to the Mongolian chops. Archer hits back with a big boot and another shoulder tackle, and it’s clear that the former Dallas is all about power. Tags bring in Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Kojima, and the former DH Smith tries for a wristlock, but it’s reversed before a headlock takedown from Kojima proves fruitless.

Kojima has a bit more luck with a cravat, before sidestepping a charging Bulldog and following up with the rapid-fire chops. Archer rushes in to cut-off Kojima though, and that’s where the tables turned as Smith wore down on Kojima with a chinlock. Archer tags in and mocks Kojima’s rapid-fire chops before another shoulder tackle gets a near-fall. Is Davey Boy the only one doing the wrestling here?

Smith tags back in and gets a two-count from a neckbreaker – delayed because Tiger Hattori was too busy dealing with Archer on the apron – before a powerslam out of the corner gets another two-count. Finally Kojima tags Tenzan back in for more Mongolian chops to Davey Boy, who on my low-res feed looks like Minoru Suzuki without the designs shaved into his hair.

Davey Boy fights out of a suplex attempt, before falling to the Mountain Bomb for a near-fall, but Smith fought back as he tried to deadlift Tenzan into a powerbomb. Instead, we got some more punches before a spinning heel kick from Tenzan knocked both men down. We’re back to Archer and Kojima, and Kojima gets a receipt in for those mocked chops from earlier. Koji actually lands that top rope elbow for a near-fall, but Archer hits back with a full nelson slam before the KES look to double-team Kojima with a pop-up powerslam.

That just gets them a near-fall, so they look to get the Killer Bomb (full nelson slam into a powerbomb), but Kojima works free and dumps Smith with a lariat, before Archer eats a Ten-Koji Cutter for a two-count. Kojima looks to fire up, but he’s caught by Smith from behind as the KES hit a Hart Attack for a near-fall. They continue to go back and forth as Kojima hits a Koji Cutter on Smith, but a lariat’s kicked away from as Archer returns to help land the Killer Bomb for the win.

Easily the best thing on this show – but I have a feeling I’m going to need to learn to love Archer as a part of this team, as he did nothing for me here. ***½

During the interval Yuji Nagata came out for commentary – and gave his number one fan Nogami a replacement Blue Justice t-shirt.

CHAOS (Will Ospreay, Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii) vs. Katsuyori Shibata, Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Juice Robinson
The entrances here really made me think if they’d lost their mind and jumped to Ospreay/Shibata – since they were the first two out before they alternated entrances for each team.

We start with Ospreay charging into Shibata with a dropkick, before Will unleashes on him in the corner… but Shibata replies in kind, only to run into a low dropkick as Ospreay tries to keep Shibata on the ground. Shibata flips around into a headlock, but Ospreay works free before they both swing and a miss on kicks – and this is a lightning fast open.

Honma tags in now, but he wants Ishii instead… so we move to that. The pace really slows down as they go to power rather than speed, with shoulder tackles and missed Kokeshis. Everyone else dropped of the apron for a spot of brawling around ringside as the camera remained focussed on Ishii and Honma in the ring, and oh look – Yano removed a turnbuckle pad for Honma to get thrown into!

Goto tags in and kicks Honma in the back for a two-count, before Yano came in and whipped Honma again into the exposed corner. With Honma cornered, Ospreay comes in to kick away on him before aping Shibata’s Octopus hold… which just saw Shibata nonchalantly walk in and boot Will in the face. Yeah, Shibata doesn’t care does he? Chops from Ishii knock down Honma, before Ishii incites Makabe to come into the ring, and we go back to a battle of chops and headbutts from Honma and Ishii. A chop to the throat downs Honma, who eventually comes back with a deadlift suplex before bringing in Makabe to bring the shoulder tackles. Ospreay’s thrown into the corner by Makabe, but Ishii makes a save, only to be dropped with a lariat.

Yano tries his luck and just takes a powerslam, then a corner clothesline as Ishii took the mounted punches. My feed skips around and recovers as Juice Robinson takes a Goto clothesline after he’d started some Dusty punches. A back suplex gets Goto a near-fall before he tries for the ushigoroshi, but instead Juice gets free and delivers a spinebuster, then a Diamond Dust out of the corner as a cannonball kept Goto down.

Goto comes back with the ushigoroshi after Juice ran at him, then we got tags back out to Honma and Yano, with the former finally succeeding with a bulldog out of the corner. Shibata charges Ospreay chest-first into the crowd barriers as Honma takes an atomic drop from Yano… before issuing a receipt as Yano gets batted back and forth by the former tag champions.

A double lariat sends down Yano for a diving Kokeshi, but that’s only good enough for a near-fall! Ospreay sets off a chain reaction when he kicks Makabe, which prompted Shibata, then Goto, then Robinson, then Ishii to get involved, before Yano and Ishii fell to a double lariat from Makabe. A sequence sees Yano knock the referee away so he could low-blow Honma, but Makabe makes the save as a leaping Kokeshi, a Shibata PK and a swandive Kokeshi ends the match. A fun undercard tag, and now I’ve seen hints of Shibata vs. Ospreay, I can’t wait until they actually have a proper match! ***½

Michael Elgin, KUSHIDA, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi)
Aaah, Ryusuke Taguchi came out dressed as EVIL – complete with a velour hooded cape, a cheap plastic scythe, but sadly, no replacement for the laser fingers.

EVIL and Tanahashi start us off, but of course it’s a ruse as BUSHI attacks Tanahashi from behind to kick the match off. Tanahashi comes back with a bow and arrow hold as he briefly annoys EVIL, which somehow leads to Takahashi slapping the holy hell out of Taguchi. Perhaps it’s because he mocked Takahashi’s mannerisms?

A series of repeated drop-downs end with Takahashi on the back foot as KUSHIDA comes in and delivers a drop toe hold to take Takahashi into Taguchi’s arse. Yup. Takahashi gets held in a wristlock by Elgin on the apron, which gives KUSHIDA a chance to land a running dropkick after he maneuvered the referee out of position. Eventually Naito has enough and comes in to help Takahashi wipe out KUSHIDA, which leads to a spell of brawling on the floor, whilst Takahashi forces KUSHIDA into the ropes with an armbar.

The offence continues towards KUSHIDA as EVIL flattens him with a back senton, before moving away as Tanahashi tries to make a save… so he drops him with a back senton too! Naito tags in and keeps up the pressure on KUSHIDA, who eventually breaks free and brings in Elgin to give us a sneak peek of that particular match. A big boot from Elgin knocks Naito down, and Takahashi gets a similar treatment courtesy of a delayed German suplex.

Naito flies into the path of another German after his clothesline misses, allowing Elgin to land some avalanche clotheslines and a sit-down Bossman Slam for a near-fall. They trade forearms for a spell, before Naito ducks a clothesline and goes for a tornado DDT, but Big Mike catches it… only for his suplex to be caught and turned into that DDT after-all! BUSHI comes in for a dropkick to Elgin, then an eye rake, before Elgin catches a crossbody and turns it into a Falcon arrow.

Nakanishi comes in and lays out BUSHI, only for SANADA to jump him as the ring fills up, which leads to a Codebreaker on Nakanishi for a near-fall. BUSHI looks to go up top for the MX, but KUSHIDA makes the save with a dropkick to the perched BUSHI, and we’re back to the parade of spots before a Slingblade takes down BUSHI. That leaves him prey for an Argentina backbreaker from Nakanishi, but he rakes the eyes to free himself as SANADA impressively dumps Nakanishi with a TKO for a near-fall. SANADA gets the Skull End on, but Nakanishi counters out into the Argentine backbreaker… before SANADA grabs the referee for long enough for BUSHI to spray Nakanishi with mist. One more Skull End was then enough for Nakanishi to give up, whilst the referee didn’t stop to think how Nakanishi’s face got so coloured so quickly… Your usual decent Ingobernables tag match with plenty of stuff happening, but somehow not memorable. ***½

After the match, Elgin mocks Naito’s Tranquilo pose whilst Taguchi lovingly massaged his bald head. There’s some material for “find a woman who loves you like Taguchi loves Elgin…” memes!

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, TAKA Michinoku and Taichi) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Rocky Romero & Beretta)
This incarnation of Suzuki-gun were far more restrained than the trio we had earlier, and we started with Taichi doing his best to avoid locking up with Romero.

Oh yeah, I’d forgotten how hideous Taichi was during the J-Cup last year. Repressing memories can work out for the best in wrestling!

TAKA Michinoku jumps in to jump Romero, and now Taichi wants in, but Romero walks away as Taichi charges into the corner, knocking down TAKA as Beretta shoves Romero knees-first into a cornered Taichi. We get a pair of topes as TAKA and Taichi ended up on the floor, and somehow we end up with Okada against Taichi. For like a second, as Okada whips Taichi into the corner to force Suzuki into the match.

They’re cagey about tying up, but when they do they take each other into the ropes as Okada does his usual mockingly clean break. Eventually, Suzuki decks Okada with a knee before leaping into a cross armbreaker which needs Romero to break it up… then Beretta as Suzuki just will not let go. Beretta takes his shots at Suzuki next, and that sends the Suzuki-gun leader into the rope, but it’s a ruse as he just catches Beretta in a triangle armbar in the ropes.

TAKA Michinoku comes into pick up the pieces as Okada and Suzuki head into the crowd, where a chair’s used on Okada’s back – not for a DQ, since I presume the referee was distracted elsewhere, and therefore wasn’t able to see Suzuki choking Okada with the chair. Suzuki returns to the ring to lay out Beretta with kicks, then tag TAKA back in to keep up the offence whilst Okada and Romero were on the floor recovering.

Taichi comes in and uses his microphone stand to attack Beretta with whilst the cameras focused on Suzuki choking Okada with his own title belt. That mic stand is spiked into Okada by Suzuki, who then bitch slaps some young boys for the hell of it, all whilst Taichi and TAKA stood on Beretta once more.

TAKA follows up with a couple of knee strikes, but Beretta hits back with a tornado DDT as Okada finally comes back in. Okada takes down Minoru with an elbow, before landing his spike DDT for a near-fall. The top rope elbow drop doesn’t connect as Okada has to abort the move, before a Yakuza kick from Suzuki and a PK gets him a near-fall. Suzuki gets a rear naked choke before he tries for a Gotch-style piledriver, but Okada finally avoids it. They trade forearm smashes back and forth, but Suzuki stays on top with a knee to the midsection before bringing Taichi back in.

A flapjack from Okada takes down Taichi, before Romero gets tagged in to take down TAKA with a missile dropkick as TAKA and Taichi take some Forever lariats. Taichi pushes away from a Shiranui, but falls to a spinning kick from Romero as Roppongi Vice look to end Taichi with a rope-hung dropkick… that doesn’t even get a count as TAKA runs in. Michinoku’s dispatched of with a knee strike off the apron that sends him into the crowd, before Desperado causes a distraction on the apron as Beretta and Romero looked to go for the Strong Zero. Suzuki takes advantage by punching Beretta to free Taichi from the belly-to-back piledriver, and the ring fills up briefly so Okada can dropkick Suzuki. Romero goes after Taichi in the corner, but Yoshinobu Kanemaru’s on the apron for a distraction, which allows Taichi to get a belt shot in for a near-fall.

Double superkicks get rid of Beretta, before Okada’s caught in a rear naked choke from Suzuki. TAKA holds Beretta in a crossface, which leaves Taichi free to powerbomb Romero – and with nobody free to make the save – that was enough to get the win. Well, at least the Suzuki-gun A-team won, but aside from the Okada/Suzuki sequences, this was a tough watch! ***

I’d been warned that Suzuki-gun weren’t exactly setting NOAH on fire – and from the evidence of today’s matches, we may be in for an arduous year in terms of watching the product. Hopefully New Japan tone back on the “insane, oh my god, what’s going on” brawling that made the first CHAOS/Suzuki-gun match nigh-on unwatchable. Let’s see where this goes, because right now, Suzuki-gun vs. CHAOS is locking out two other factions – with one of them (Bullet Club) not even on the cards!

As for this show… if I were to call it, it’d be a thumbs-in-the-middle affair. Some good moments, particularly the Ospreay/Shibata exchanges in that eight-man tag, but this was fodder for completionists only.