New Japan’s Super Junior Tag Tournament kicked off on Friday at Korakuen Hall, with their Road to Power Struggle show.
Save for the three tournament matches, this looks like your archetypal “Road to…” filler show, so expect a lot of the same if you’ve seen a fair few New Japan shows…
Tomoaki Honma, Teruaku Kanemitsu & Hirai Kawato vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata
Well, they found a new way to get the Young Lions on here, with Tomoaki Honma tagging with New Japan’s latest pairing.
Decent stuff early with Kanemitsu taking the fight to Tenzan, with what I could best describe as “mixed success” before tagging out to Hirai Kawato… who tried a similar tactic with Yuji Nagata. Kawato had more success, before Nagata decided to try and kick young Hirai’s spine out of his body.
Kawato took the rapid-fire chops in the corner from Kojima, then the rarely-hit top rope elbow drop for a near-fall. Honma and Kojima worked for a spell, with the former landing a Kokeshi or two, only to fall to a Koji Cutter.
The youngsters tried to make a comeback, and to some degree they succeeded as they double-teamed to take down Nagata with a dropkick, before Kawato tried for a Boston Crab on Nagata. Of course that didn’t work, as Nagata powered out and nearly won it with an Exploder, before making Kawato tap out to a Boston crab of his own. Decent opening match fare, and at least we’re getting new faces out of the dojo! **½
Yujiro Takahashi & BONE SOLDIER vs. Yoshitatsu & Manabu Nakanishi
There’s something just odd about a stripped down Tokyo Pimp coming out with a guy in a bad halloween mask. I guess the Boner scared off Yujiro’s girls?
This is the extension of the natural Yoshitatsu vs. Boner/Captain New Japan feud, and after seeing their effort in Taiwan, I have zero hopes for this. None. They worked at what can charitably be described as a slow pace, with none of the feeling you’d expect from a blood feud. Tatsu baseball slides Takahashi into the timekeeper’s table, and then we get tags out to the Boner and Nakanishi, who takes a single-leg takedown in super-slow motion.
Nakanishi resists an Irish whip and instead drops Boner with a clothesline, before Takahashi low blows Nakanishi to help his partner escape the Argentine backbreaker. Takahashi lands a Yakuza kick in the ropes on Nakanishi for a near-fall, only to fall to a Mountain bomb. Yoshitatsu comes in to kick away at his former buddy, then slap away at that hideous mask. This time Yoshi’s kicks don’t have the comedic side-effect of lifting up the Boner’s mask every time, and when we get a variation of the old Total Elimination, Takahashi breaks up the cover because this plodding mess must continue!
Boner takes off his belt after press slamming Yoshitatsu off the top rope, then chokes his former ally with it… the referee tries to break it up, and gets thrown to the outside, and there’s our DQ. I kinda want to give this a star out of pity because they at least fixed the Boner’s mask, but this was another DUD.
The result, and the brief post-match belting from the Boner was played out to utter silence. Stick a fork in this storyline and the entire Yoshitatsu act – since his comeback from injury, he’s been a waste of a place on the roster.
Kenny Omega, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Chase Owens vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
Kenny Omega’s briefcase is so battered, his IWGP title shot (which it seems can be easily mistaken for a posh restaurant menu) is easily removed from the case… but hey, at least that match being official means we’ll get over two months of flirtation between the pair in tag matches.
We started with a taster of the tag title match, with Ishii and Loa trading shoulder blocks, but if you’ve seen any New Japan undercard match this year, you’ll know the drill. Everyone tags in and pairs off with each other, and since this was the Bullet Club, we had outside shenanigans, including Kenny Omega sweeping up Goto with a broom.
The Guerrillas of Destiny (Tonga & Loa) worked over Goto for a bit, which was unusual since Goto’s not challenging them for the tag titles next month, but aside from that, the main story was Kenny Omega playing chicken whenever Okada was involved. Truth be told, this match could easily have been just a six-man, as Goto and Owens were largely window dressing, but at least Owens was there to take the pin, as YOSHI-HASHI landed his new Karma finisher (a half-nelson pumphandle driver). Decent match, but forgettable in the scheme of things. ***
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Katsuyori Shibata & Juice Robinson vs. Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI
You know the score here – EVIL and Shibata, Tanahashi and SANADA were the feuds being trumpeted here, and it was the NEVER champion who started off with EVIL in the corners.
Makabe and Naito looked to pair off, but instead it was BUSHI who went to work on the veteran, with Makabe getting left isolated in the ring as the rest of Los Ingobernables fought around ringside. Tanahashi comes in and drops SANADA with a Slingblade, then a flipping senton off the middle rope, before missing a frog splash. Robinson and Naito traded blows for a spell, with Juice landing a nice leaping lariat to take down the Intercontinental champion. Naito took a Jackhammer for a near-fall as EVIL and BUSHI made the save, but BUSHI interfered moments later to prevent Robinson going airborne as he looked to finish off Naito.
Instead, Robinson took a pair of avalanches in the corner, before the Pluma Blanca (Koji clutch) was broken up by Tanahashi. A parade of moves followed from both teams, ending with a sit-out spinebuster from EVIL, before Robinson avoided a double-team press slam from Naito and EVIL. Just as the ten minute mark passed, the match entered its final sprint, ending with Naito connecting with the Destino for the win. Another decent undercard tag, but much like earlier, inconsequential in the scheme of things. ***¼
Will Ospreay vs. David Finlay
Well, this was originally set to be a tag tournament match, but visa issues precluded David Finlay’s partner – Ricochet – from entering the country. Instead, we got a singles match between Finlay and Will Ospreay, which a year ago would have seemed like a filler match… and yes, we’ll pretend that Will didn’t steal some of YOSHI-HASHI’s hair dye.
Surprisingly, Finlay ended up on offence, acting as a base for some of Ospreay’s flashier moves, such as the see-saw kip ups. After returning to the ring from a ‘rana, Finlay kept up the offence, posting Ospreay as they went back to the outside. Will ended up in the front row – the hard way – after being hurled into the crowd, and narrowly beat the 20 count to keep the match alive.
Ospreay finally found a way back into things, and just about took out Finlay with a Sasuke special, before a flying forearm got a near-fall. They went back and forth some more with uppercuts, before Ospreay hit a standing Spanish fly for a near-fall. Finlay tries to hit back with a superplex, but Ospreay counters it with the Cheeky Nando’s kick for another near-fall.
Finlay catches the OsCutter and almost steals a win with a roll-up, but in the end it was the Best of Super Juniors winner who took home the victory after a second OsCutter connected. Fun match, which more than whet the appetite for their eventual tag team encounter. ***½
Super Juniors Tag Team Tournament, First Round: Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) vs. Angel de Oro & Titan
Thankfully, they ditched the “arguments within Roppongi Vice” storyline so we had no distractions here. Similarly, we didn’t seem to have any style clashes here, as the CMLL team worked well away from their usual lucha style.
Angel de Oro teased our first dive, before tagging out to Titan, who also teased going airborne, but instead we got a load of forward rolls from Titan and Romero. Both teams spilled out into the crowd, with Beretta and Titan briefly entering the stands, before we returned to the ring where Beretta and Romero worked cohesively for once.
Romero lit into Titan with the Forever clotheslines, before taking a big boot and a ‘rana out of the corner. Angel de Oro came in for more of the same, including the Golden Triangle moonsault… perhaps Oro was Tiger Mask W and not Kota Ibushi? Or are all three the same person?
Titan and Oro worked together to confuse, then Matrix out of a clothesline from Romero, with a springboard missile dropkick from Oro getting a near-fall. A leaping knee strike from Beretta takes out Oro, before a tornado DDT earned the former Trent a two-count.
Beretta dumps Titan with a release German suplex, but Oro bends out of the way of a knee strike, only to take another Romero clothesline. Titan replies with some satellite headscissors to Romero, as the luchadores flew off the top rope with a pair of Santo-style presses to the floor.
After Oro almost won it, the luchadores launched into Beretta with corner clotheslines, before Titan’s springboard splash got nothing but Beretta’s feet. In the end, Beretta took the win with a Shining Wizard, then the Dude Buster on Angel de Oro, as Roppongi Vice moved into the next round. Nice to see them breaking their losing streak, but I’d have preferred a little ore of the luchadores… ***½
Super Juniors Tag Team Tournament, First Round: Fuego & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tiger Mask
My God, Taguchi came out as a green version of Fuego, with a little sparkly Trilby instead of a Sombrero. Sadly, New Japan World had this in silence, since both guys’ music isn’t licensed. Shame.
Liger went for the seated surfboard early, before Fuego scrambled out to tag in Taguchi, whose hip attacks saw him trap himself in the ropes… and need the referee to free him. Okay, that was funny. Taguchi persisted with the hip attacks, and kept missing, before finding himself trapped in a Romero special courtesy of Liger. Yep, it was all one-way early on, as Taguchi then literally had his backside kicked by the veterans. Fuego finally came in and scored a near-fall with a Quebrada over Tiger Mask, before teasing some hip attacks himself.
Tiger Mask ended those with a tiltawhirl backbreaker, before a Shotei from Liger took down Fuego. A Liger Bomb earned a near-fall, before Taguchi came in and finally connected with a series of hip attacks. Liger had to kick out at two after a springboard hip attack, before a Dodon put paid to Tiger Mask. A second Dodon almost saw Liger take the fall, before getting a two-count of his own with a Thesz press. After a tope takes out Tiger Mask on the outside, Liger again gets a near-fall with a Shotei, then again with a brainbuster, before Taguchi grabbed an ankle hold and eventually forced the veteran to submit in what was a surprising finish to a shockingly good match. ***½
Super Juniors Tag Team Tournament, First Round: Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) vs. ACH & Taiji Ishimori
Some fun stuff early on as Ishimori teased a dive – Mark Haskins style – after sending Matt to the outside with a ‘rana. ACH then mimicked Nick Jackson after the pair tagged in, annoying the ROH and junior tag champion, before a sequence ended with duelling dropkicks. The match continued it’s game of one upmanship as Nick and ACH connected with Asai moonsaults, before Matt Jackson pulled ACH out and into place for a Sasuke special, and finally ended with a moonsault off the top rope from Ishimori.
On the outside, we had the Bucks giving stereo apron powerbombs to ACH and Ishimori… just because, before they went to work on Ishimori’s left arm. A pop-up dropkick from Ishimori looked set to get him breathing space for a tag, but Matt had pulled ACH off the apron, thus keeping the weaker man in the ring. ACH finally tagged in and had his fun with the Bucks, dropping Matt with a clothesline, before a springboard Flatliner into the ring got a near-fall on Nick.
An attempted double-team saw the Bucks knock Ishimori off the apron, before ACH dropped the pair of them with a Flatliner/reverse DDT combo. Ishimori returned to land a pair of doubleknees, then a top rope lungblower to both Bucks at the same time.The Bucks grabbed hands to prevent themselves from taking deadlift Germans – to no avail. A diving crossbody in the corner from ACH missed, as Ishimori got superkicked in mid springboard, setting him up for a rope-hung senton from the Bucks for a near-fall. Ishimori took a bucklebomb/enziguiri after he thought he’d dispatched of Nick, but ACH’s return gave the NOAH team a glimmer of hope, at least until he and Matt wishboned themselves in superkick attempts, leading to all four men going down.
Nick Jackson low-blowed Ishimori after using the referee for a distraction, before ACH took a superkick Doomsday Device on the floor. A springboard splash/standing moonsault combo got the Bucks a near-fall on Ishimori, before stereo superkicks got them another two-count. The comeback started as Ishimori dropped Matt with a reverse ‘rana, before they both went up top… leading to Ishimori and ACH getting crotched. They fought back though, and went for a pair of 450s, which both missed, leading to ACH getting a cannonball/superkick in the corner.
A rope-hung 450 Splash connects and forces Ishimori to break up a cover, but Taiji ended up in place for a Meltzer Driver, only for ACH to make the save with a springboard bulldog. Someone’s seen BOLA Night Two, it seems… After recovering from that, the Bucks were set up for another set of duelling 450 Splashes, and after they connected, ACH and Ishimori scored the win. A decent match, but given that the Young Bucks dominated for so much of it, it felt that the win that stemmed from an intercepted Meltzer Driver is becoming their version of the “slip on a banana peel” finish. ***¾
As an otherwise-throwaway show, this was pretty fun – most of the matches were easily digestible, sub-ten minute affairs, but save for the tag tournament matches, this was a card you’d be forgiven for skipping over.