The first Korakuen Hall show of the week gives us another singles match, as an injury-ravaged card leads us to SANADA vs. Tomoaki Honma in the semi-main.
Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan & Will Ospreay pinned Gabriel Kidd, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 8:24 (**¾)
YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano & SHO submitted Jado, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Chase Owens in 11:29 (**)
Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo pinned BUSHI & Shingo Takagi in 9:05 (**½)
SANADA submitted Tomoaki Honma in 12:45 (**¾)
EVIL & Jay White pinned Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii in 16:26 (***)
For some reason, despite shaking up the cards for their touring shows this past Friday and Saturday, we’ve got a line-up that’s scarily similar to what we saw for last week’s Korakuen stretch… complete with another singles match, at Tetsuya Naito’s knee injury means he misses another show, so SANADA ends up facing Tomoaki Honma. Hiromu Takahashi’s shoulder injury also forces him off the card – with New Japan revealing online that he’s injured his left pectoral, and will put him out of action until late summer. That’s rotten timing, and not least for the two title matches Hiromu was meant to be in in the next seven days.
We open with Promo Time with Naito. He announces that he’ll be able to wrestle on Thursday, but not tonight…
United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Will Ospreay & Jeff Cobb) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Gabriel Kidd
Kidd and Tenzan charged to the ring as they tried to jump their opponents – so much so that Tanahashi was barely out through the curtain when they got going.
Despite Tenzan looking to have gotten ahead, he’s quickly swarmed as O-Khan grounded him with a nerve hold. Tenzan gets triple-teamed in the corner, before Ospreay ran the ropes and trolled us with a chinlock. My feed gives out… and recovers with Tanahashi charging at O-Khan with a dropkick in the corner, before a suplex led to a two-count.
O-Khan recovers with an Iron Claw-assisted Cobra twist, but Tanahashi escapes and looked for one of his own… only to tug at O-Khan’s beard. Another hair pull gets O-Khan free as he busts out a side Salto suplex, before tags bring us to Kidd and Cobb. Kidd wrecks Ospreay with a dropkick, then dished out similar treatment to Cobb, before Tenzan came in to help out with a double-team suplex.
A Parade of Moves breaks out from there, but Kidd’s crossbody’s caught as he’s almost met with an Oklahoma Stampede, but Kidd slips out and tries some roll-ups for near-falls… before he got pulled into a Spin Cycle for a near-fall. From there, Cobb pulls him up for a Tour of the Islands, and that’s all. Somewhat short, but they packed a fair amount into this one as I fear a time-limit draw in the main… **¾
Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa), Chase Owens & Jado) vs. Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, Toru Yano & SHO
We’ve got two titles matches this weekend among this lot – but it’s those in the tag title match that start us off, with the Guerrillas taking control early on before Goto and YOSHI-HASHI worked their way in, with Hiromu getting hiptossed onto a Guerrilla.
Jado’s thrown in to get beaten on, before things settled down as SHO clotheslines Tanga Loa in the corner. Kicks from SHO get countered into a powerbomb, before things broke down on the outside as Owens chops and chokes Yano. Back inside, SHO’s held in a Gory special as Jado chopped him, before an old-school eye rake across the top rope and a chinlock on the mat kept SHO at bay.
Tama Tonga’s in to hit a back body drop and an elbow drop on SHO for a two-count, before a clothesline from Chase gets a similar result. A barrage of strikes and an Irish whip take SHO into the corner, but he escapes a charge and tries for a German suplex, before having more luck with a spear on Owens.
Yano tags in and instantly goes for a turnbuckle pad. Chase straps up, but then gets bopped on the head by Yano as the referee tries to disarm him. Owens shrugs it off and looks for a package piledriver, but Yano escapes as tags bring us back to Tama Tonga and YOSHI-HASHI. Chops and kicks from YOSHI-HASHI have him ahead, but Tanga Loa comes into help as neckbreakers drop Goto and YOSHI-HASHI, before Jado tries to get a cheeky win with the OJK crossface… but YOSHI-HASHI gets to the ropes.
Jado keeps going, draping YOSHI-HASHI in the ropes for a kick before Yano came in to save YOSHI-HASHI from a Green Killer. That sparks a Parade of Moves, leading to a thrust kick from YOSHI-HASHI… then a kick-assisted ushigoroshi before a side-Russian legsweep/Headhunter almost put away Jado. From there, YOSHI-HASHI traps Jado in a Butterfly lock, and there’s the submission to a match you’ve probably already forgotten about. **
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori)
A match that suddenly has lost lustre, thanks to Hiromu’s injury – this was meant to be the “go home” build for Thursday’s IWGP junior tag title match. Meanwhile, ELP’s got a boo-boo face on him…
We’ve a jump start from ELP and Ishimori, who targeted Shingo early on with eye rakes before he burst back out with slams. Shingo shrugs it off and blasts them both with clotheslines as the LIJ pair began to take some control. Phantasmo’s whipped from corner-to-corner, but interference from Ishimori leads to ELP hitting almost a Sudden Death to Shingo’s shoulder – with the Bullet Club targeting the arm.
Back rakes to Shingo follow, while ELP just stands on him in the ropes as Shingo was virtually pinned into the Bullet Club corner. Some pogo stick-like stomps from Ishimori keep Shingo down as my feed buffers. I tell you what, these live streams aren’t as reliable as they were even three months ago…
Phantasmo tags in and backflips out of the corner as Shingo reversed an Irish whip… but the springboard crossbody and Quebrada combo gets ELP a two-count. Shingo fires back with a pop-up death valley driver, as tags then bring in BUSHI and Ishimori. An overhead kick in the ropes from BUSHI catches Ishimori ahead of a missile dropkick… but Ishimori uses misdirection to find a way back with the springboard seated senton.
BUSHI’s bulldog/dropkick combo gets rid of Phantasmo, with a tope suicida making sure the Canadian stayed outside. BUSHI keeps pushing on, going for a Codebreaker, but Ishimori blocks it… so BUSHI goes for Terrible… which a nipple twist stops. It’s always the simplest counters, eh? BUSHI thought he’d won it with a backslide, but Ishimori blocks it as ELP came in with Sudden Death – and that’s the easy win. Quite flat all things considered, but it’s no surprise… **½
Post-match, ELP gets the mic and calls out for Hiromu… mocking him for “getting surgery on his torn titty.” ELP brags about having no opponents for Thursday, but that’s the cue for El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru to come out… they punch out Ishimori, before Kanemaru brainbusters ELP. I guess we have a rematch for Thursday then.
SANADA vs. Tomoaki Honma
Just like with Nagata last week, SANADA’s prior matches with Honma were an age ago… and also happened in All Japan, with a match in the GAORA TV title tournament… then a title defence by SANADA. He won both of those – while Honma’s recent form has been shaky, as his recent singles matches have been limited to the opening rounds of the New Japan Cup and international tours. Yes.
We open with a lock-up as Honma looks to work over the arm early, with the pair trading wristlocks. A break in the corner allows Honma a chance to hit a Flatliner into the corner, before a neck crank kept SANADA down. Elbows to the back get a one-count, before the pair headed to the corner and traded elbows.
A low dropkick from SANADA helps take Honma outside for a plancha, before a knee breaker back inside saw SANADA start to focus on Honma’s left leg. Honma counters out of a back suplex, and found a way through with a Kokeshi, then a DDT. SANADA replies with a springboard missile dropkick and a back suplex for a near-fall, before a Skull End’s rolled out of for a near-fall.
SANADA shrugs it off to hit a TKO for a two-count, before he slammed Honma and went up top… but Honma’s up and catches SANADA on the top rope with a leaping Kokeshi to the back. From there, Honma clotheslines SANADA for a two-count, then looked to get the win with a STF… but SANADA gets a hand to the ropes.
The pair fight on the top rope, but SANADA floats over to the mat and hits Honma in the back… then caught him as he fell back to the mat. That looked to lead to a Skull End, but Honma rolls up SANADA for a two-count, before a Fireman’s carry takes Honma into the Skull End for the eventual, meek, tap. This wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but Honma largely being kept out of singles matches going up against the last double title challenger made this virtually a Young Lion’s gulf in class, with a similarly expected result. **¾
Bullet Club (EVIL & Jay White) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii
This had better not keep the recent tradition of Korakuen draws in the build to big shows… although they’re cutting it very close with how late the entrances are going.
White and Ishii start… but Ishii expects White to bail and slides out with him as they play chicken before ending up in the ropes. Eventually White bails again, heading to the floor with EVIL.
Tags bring in EVIL and Okada, but Dick Togo snaps at Okada’s leg from the floor, causing a distraction that Okada shrugged off ahead of a DDT. We head outside Jay White baits Ishii as EVIL homed in on the timekeeper’s table once more. Back inside, EVIL works Okada’s arm, but doesn’t throw him into the exposed corner as Jay WHite instead tagged in and pulled Okada down by the hair ahead of an armbar.
EVIL returns to throw Okada into the exposed corner as we crossed the five-minute mark, with White taking advantage of a distraction by throwing Okada into some guard rails. Back inside, White berates the referee before a chinlock – with some eye raking – keeps Okada on the deck… while also baiting in Ishii into the ring.
White’s a step ahead of Ishii, knocking him through the ropes as he left the ring, but couldn’t escape a big boot from Okada. Ishii tags in and drags White away from the ropes as White was incessantly screaming for the referee like a soundboard that was broken. He sneaks back in with some knees, but Ishii stares through White’s shots and went after the Kiwi.
Chops sting White into the corner, before he dragged Gedo into the match so he could throw him at White. Ishii then misses a charge into the corner, allowing White to chop his way back in before a Blade Buster got a near-fall. Ishii tries to respond with a brainbuster, before we get the doe-see-doe reversals and a scoop slam from the Stone Pitbull.
EVIL tags in, and throws Ishii into the exposed corner before he could do anything else. A second one’s reversed as EVIL Bret Hart’s into the corner, then took a back suplex as Okada returned with a sliding back elbow off the ropes to EVIL. A flapjack from Okada gets a two-count, before EVIL came back with a push-down stomp in the corner that turned the tide.
Okada’s double-teamed ahead of a Fisherman buster for a two-count, but Okada’s able to respond with uppercuts and a rolling lariat as we heard someone going into the barriers. A Money Clip followed to EVIL, as Ishii stopped White from sliding back into the ring… when he did, that started a brief flurry of offence as Dick Togo’s knocked off the apron, before Okada went back to the Money Clip.
It’s broken up as Gedo distracts… Dick Togo’s on the apron with the garrote wire to choke out Okada in the corner, letting go so EVIL can swat Okada with Everything is EVIL… and my word, we’re done! A decisive (yet not-clean) win for EVIL ahead of his match with Okada on Saturday – while Jay White choked out Ishii some more after the match. ***
New Japan returns for the go-home show to Castle Attack, with what looks to be a new IWGP junior heavyweight tag title defence for El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori following tonight’s events. El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru’s challenge today would give us a WrestleKingdom rematch – but there’s still the question over what happens to the junior singles title as well…
This was a very muted show, and one that was overshadowed by the news of the big injury that wrecked two title feuds in one go, forcing New Japan to think on their feet. Of course, the much-discussed thin roster (and the lack of defined challengers outside of “who’s next”) continues to hamstring the promotion – at least we’ve got a replacement tag title match for Thursday, but there’ll be more keen eyes for what happens Sunday in Osaka than anything else.