Our final Korakuen Hall show of the week sees a rare Korakuen singles match, as an injury scare gave us SANADA vs. Yuji Nagata in the semi-main.
Jeff Cobb, Will Ospreay & Great-O-Khan pinned Gabriel Kidd, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hiroshi Tanahashi in 11:39 (***)
Jay White, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Chase Owens vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Toru Yano ended in a no-contest at 11:42 (*¾)
Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI pinned Yujiro Takahashi, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori in 8:49 (**¾)
SANADA pinned Yuji Nagata in 12:00 (***¼)
SHO & Kazuchika Okada submitted Dick Togo & EVIL in 11:52 (***)
We’re halfway through the Road to Castle Attack – with Sunday’s spot show in Fukishima being canceled turning this into an eight-date tour. Tetsuya Naito dropped off the card due to a knee injury (somewhat ironic given the body part he’s targeted during the Ibushi tags), so there’s a late reshuffle, with EVIL & Dick Togo vs. Kazuchika Okada & SHO becoming the main event.
The show opens with Naito addressing the crowd, as he asked Ibushi to explain why he wanted to unify the two titles… but rather than this turn into Raw on Wednesday, Naito says his piece and leaves.
United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Will Ospreay & Jeff Cobb) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Gabriel Kidd
We get the jump start as O-Khan snuck in on Tanahashi before the bell, as Ospreay stated behind with Tenzan.
Tenzan flings Ospreay into the corner, then kicks him onto the top rope as we get some stuff out of the 90s Shawn Michaels playbook, before O-Khan came in to help Ospreay as we buffer. When we resume, Tenzan short-circuits as he instinctively went for a Mongolian chop, before O-Khan had no such problem.
Tanahashi makes a save as Ospreay gets triple-teamed, taking an elbow drop and a falling headbutt for a two-count, before Cobb came in and took Tenzan into the corner. A face claw restrains Tenzan as O-Khan returned with Mongolian chops, then tagged Ospreay back in to keep Tenzan on the ropes. Kidd’s in to break up a cover, but Tenzan gets taken back into the corner before he fought back with a suplex on O-Khan. A tag brings Tanahashi in for leaping forearms, before a slam set up O-Khan for a flip senton out of the corner as my stream buffered once more. It returns with Tanahashi going for a Cloverleaf, before he had to fight out of another face claw and an Eliminator attempt. Aw, O-Khan ruffled the hair.
The pair trade elbows before a palm strike from Tanahashi led to him going for a Slingblade… only for O-Khan to duck it and fling Tanahashi with a release flip back suplex. Cobb tags in next, but Tanahashi manages to land a Twist and Shout before he got the tag out. In comes Kidd, who looked to make an impression on proceedings, elbowing Cobb into the corner before landing a dropkick.
Tanahashi and Tenzan come in to help out, charging Cobb into the corner before throwing Cobb into a slam by Kidd, with a back senton next for a two-count. O-Khan breaks up the pin and sparks a Parade of Moves, including Ospreay getting launched with a Mountain Bomb, before Kidd resumes on Cobb… Cobb tries to recover with an Oklahoma Stampede, but Kidd slips out and nearly win with a roll-up, before a German suplex and a pull into the Tour of the Islands gets Cobb the relatively simple win. He had to fight for it though, as Kidd continues to develop with these outings. ***
Bullet Club (Jay White, Chase Owens & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)) vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Toru Yano
Jay White’s campaign to Make Young Lions Clap Again continued by teaching a rather unwilling Yuya Uemura…
Goto and Tama start us off, by attacking the opposite apron before turning their sights on each other. A clothesline from Goto takes down Tama, only for Tanga Loa to come in to help out, but Tama’s leaping neckbreaker is side-stepped as YOSHI-HASHI ran in to help with a shoulder tackle before getting hiptossed onto Tama.
The War Drums follow, while Ishii went after Gedo at ringside… but Jado’s hanging around with his Kendo stick, cracking YOSHI-HASHI in the back to stop more double-teaming. Tama’s back with a headbutt to YOSHI-HASHI, before a senton atomico from Tanga Loa crushed YOSHI-HASHI ahead of some choking on the mat. Chase Owens comes in to hold YOSHI-HASHI for a punch, before Jay White came in to berate the referee to not making Ishii hold the tag rope. All of that bought YOSHI-HASHI time to recover, then make the tag out to Ishii, who blasts through White with forearms before the Guerrillas came in… prompting Goto to clothesline them away.
After that calmed down, a Blade Buster gets White a two-count, before they burst into their usual exchange of attempted moves and escapes. A DDT from White stops Ishii, as Chase Owens came in, strap in hand. He swings for Ishii, but misses as Yano came in and grabbed the strap…
Yano’s tomfoolery in the ropes lets Gedo grab the strap, then pass it to Owens… so Yano starts on the turnbuckle covers. He gets one, but Owens grabs it and gets strapped in the back, prompting Yano to shove the referee into a corner pad so he could choke away on Owens some more. The ring fills as the rest of the Bullet Club try to make the save, but it’s Jado with his Kendo stick that was the turning point as the referee lost all control, waving this off as a no-contest. Deep sigh. This one never seemed to click, nor get going, as the Bullet Club parade of interference – and Yano’s desire to choke out Chase – led to this being thrown out. *¾
Post-match, Uemura’s got to give Ishii a piggy back to the back…
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
ELP’s wearing Hiromu’s gifted cardboard belt – “the gift of foreshadowing,” as ELP put it earlier.
BUSHI and Ishimori start us off, with BUSHI’s tijeras being flipped out of as Ishimori tries to pull ahead… but ended up getting caught with a Hiromu dropkick for a two-count. Ishimori returns with a neckbreaker, albeit with the help of BUSHI’s mask, which he then tried to undo in the corner.
Phantasmo tags in and slams BUSHI, getting a two-count before pulling up BUSHI’s shirt. You know what’s next. Some of the back rakes. Ishimori’s knee drop gets a two-count, before another neckbreaker gets another two-count as BUSHI was getting worn down in the early exchanges. BUSHI recovers with an enziguiri as tags bring up Phantasmo… but not Hiromu, as the Canadian came in in time to try and delay things.
Of course, Hiromu eventually tags in, taking down ELP with a dropkick for a two-count. A tijeras is cartwheeled out of by Phantasmo, who then came in with a DDT as Hiromu was left laying. Shingo and Yujiro are in next, but Ishimori helps out with a springboard seated senton before a running kick from Yujiro, and double knees from Ishimori led to a Fisherman buster for a two-count.
Shingo recovers with the jab, punch, lariat combination, before a sliding lariat looked to set up for a Last of the Dragon. ELP runs in, but face-plants from a Hiromu low dropkick, while Ishimori took a lungblower. That leaves Yujiro all alone to take a pair of superkicks, then a Pumping Bomber for the win. Simple. When I got past the buffering, this was a pretty solid trios match, as we inch towards next week’s junior tag title defence. **¾
Post-match, ELP tries to nail Hiromu with the Sudden Death. He misses, then ripped up the cardboard belt in disgust.
SANADA vs. Yuji Nagata
I’m somewhat shocked this match never happened in a New Japan Cup or G1 before – their only prior outing came in 2011 All Japan, when Nagata won the Champions Carnival over (then) Seiya Sanada. Almost ten years later, unexpectedly, they’re back at Korakuen doing it again.
This one started off with some grappling as SANADA’s wristlock was countered with an overhead suplex, before SANADA returned the favour. Nagata’s taken down with some headscisors, but he rolls up and slips free before forcing SANADA to lean back to avoid taking a PK.
Nagata keeps going with a cravat, but SANADA flips out and tries to tie up Nagata with a Paradise Lock. The first time’s pushed away as Nagata came back with kicks, which led to him getting caught with a Dragon screw. That takes Nagata outside, where he’s met with a plancha before SANADA took him back inside for a Figure Four.
SANADA blocks as Nagata tries to roll over the hold, ending with Nagata breaking in the ropes instead. Elbows from SANADA offer some fight back, but a kitchen sink knee to the gut spins SANADA down ahead of a double underhook suplex that got a near-fall. SANADA tries to come back with a TKO, but Nagata escapes and counters a Skull End attempt into a Nagata Lock 2, before an Exploder landed for a near-fall.
Nagata can’t keep the pressure up, and ends up taking a Magic Screw before he looked to force a way back in with elbows. SANADA keeps the exchange going, until a rolling elbow looked to have Nagata ahead… as did a brainbuster,which almost gets him the win. A crossbody from SANADA looks to get him back in, before he backflipped into Nagata, dragging him down as he lost and regained a Skull End. Of course, SANADA lets go… but he connects with the moonsault off the middle rope, and that’s enough for the win. A resounding win for SANADA, but those holes remain in that game plan, most of them around that Skull End… ***¼
Bullet Club (EVIL & Dick Togo) vs. Kazuchika Okada & SHO
Our unexpected main event opens with Togo and SHO locking up, but that came to nought as Togo then went for a sunset flip… but SHO countered with a cross arm bar before taking down Togo with the kitchen sink.
SHO keeps working the arm, but EVIL pops up to trip SHO in the ropes while also taking care of Okada as the Bullet Club pair looked to push on. On the outside, EVIL walks around to find the timekeeper… then charges Okada into him through the railings. Yeah, the camera crew misses it, opting to focus on SHO getting choked on the floor.
Settling down, EVIL tags in and throws SHO into the corner he’d exposed by removing a pad, but Red Shoes Unno won’t count a pin from that. So in comes Togo to drop a fist on SHO for a two-count. A pair of shoulder tackles and back senton greet SHO for another two-count, before SHO fought back with a suplex on EVIL.
That gave him enough time to crawl over to Okada in the corner, who almost took off EVIL’s head with a big boot as that sliding back elbow was avoided. A flapjack from Okada keeps EVIL on the back foot, but Togo breaks up the cover before Okada looked to go back for a neckbreaker slam, only for EVIL to pull the hair and hurl him into the exposed corner. A Fisherman buster followed for a two-count, before Okada took EVIL into the corner… but couldn’t immediately follow up, as Togo trips him ahead of a Darkness Scorpion from EVIL. Okada gets to the ropes, but Togo then tags in to take his shots, only for Okada to catch him with the neckbreaker as SHO returned to the fray.
SHO charges EVIL off the apron, then went for Togo with right hands and kicks, dropping him for a two-count. Shoulder charges keep Togo down for another two-count, before SHO rolled in for a Key lock… but EVIL breaks it up, before getting dispatched, as a SHO spear ends up getting caught by Togo. The suplex from Togo comes to nought as SHO slips out for a back cracker, before the spear gets a near-fall, as SHO then looked for a Shock Arrow… but EVIL runs in and ends up taking a tombstone from Okada.
That clears the way for SHO to go back to Dick Togo, but the Shock Arrow’s countered with a jack-knife cover for a near-fall, before SHO pulls Togo into the cross armbar for the submission. A decent enough main event given the circumstances, as SHO gets a win after his disappointment in Hiroshima last week. ***
The tour continues – away from NJPW World – on Friday in Iwate and Saturday in Yamagata. Sunday’s show in Fukushima is off after last week’s earthquake, so they return to Korakuen again on Monday (then again on Thursday) for the final shows before Castle Attack in Osaka. There’s perhaps more questions than answers coming out of today’s show – most of which surround Naito and his knee injury. Time will tell on the severity of it, but if speculation is anything to go by, the “worst case” scenario could see SANADA getting another crack at Ibushi, this time for just the Intercontinental strap. There’s better ideas… and we may need next week’s shows to get those aired.