The Road to Castle Attack continued as Tetsuya Naito locked horns once more with Kota Ibushi at Korakuen Hall…
YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto & Yuya Uemura submitted Jado, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa in 8:57 (**)
Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan & Will Ospreay pinned Yota Tsuji, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 9:28 (**¾)
SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI submitted Yujiro Takahashi, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori in 9:55 (**½)
Dick Togo, EVIL, Jay White & Chase Owens pinned SHO, Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano in 14:28 (**)
Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi pinned Yuji Nagata & Kota Ibushi in 16:26 (**¾)
After injuring his elbow in the opening minute of his debut yesterday, Yuto Nakashima is going to miss the remainder of the Castle Attack tour – which means those pre-show matches are off.
Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Yuya Uemura vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Jado)
Uemura wants to start against Jado, and gets it as he took Jado into the ropes, then kicked away a telegraphed back body drop before hitting a slam.
Goto and YOSHI-HASHI storm the ring to knock the Guerrillas off the apron for a quick session on the war drums, but Jado gets on top by pulling Uemura in for some forearms to the lower back. Tanga Loa tags in to hit a slam, but Uemura tries to fight back out of the Bullet Club corner, only to get swarmed. Another slam from Tanga Loa leads to Tama Tonga tagging in, flinging Uemura with a snap suplex for a two-count. Uemura tries to fight back again, but Tama sidesteps a dropkick… then avoided a second before finally falling to a third. Hirooki Goto tags in but gets caught from behind by Tanga Loa… only to get taken down with clotheslines as Goto followed in with a spinning heel kick and a bulldog to Tama for a two-count.
YOSHI-HASHI is in to get hiptossed onto Tanga Loa, before a chop stung Tama… who then slips out of an ushigoroshi and shoves the pair into each other. Jado’s back in as triple-teaming led to a back suplex on YOSHI-HASHI for a two-count, before a Green Killer DDT almost gets the win. Jado tries to crack YOSHI-HASHI with a Kendo stick, but Uemura runs in with a dropkick to break it up, sparking a Parade of Moves that cleared the ring, before a Western lariat gets YOSHI-HASHI a near-fall. From there, YOSHI-HASHI ties up Jado in a Butterfly lock for the tap out. The sparse crowd isn’t helping, but this felt horribly low-energy for an opener. **
United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Will Ospreay & Jeff Cobb) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Yota Tsuji
This lot sparked some life into the show yesterday… can they do it again? This time with added Tenzan mocking?
Tanahashi faked out attacking O-Khan before the bell, and instantly paid for it as he was taken outside into the guard rails after the jump start. Ospreay starts in there with Tenzan, but Tenzan charges him down with a shoulder tackle as the good guys gang up on Ospreay, culminating in a Kokeshi-like falling headbutt from Tenzan for a two-count. Ospreay kicks Tenzan as he was looking to do a Mongolian chop. Go on, do the DQ finish on that. I dare you. A dropkick takes Tenzan down for a two-count, before Cobb tagged in and tried to headbutt Tenzan. O-Khan’s in to apply a nerve hold, then hit Tenzan with a pair of Mongolian chops as he added insult to injury by trying to pin Tenzan with a foot on his chest.
Cobb’s in again for Mongolian chops, getting a two-count, before Ospreay tagged in to complete the trolling. Tenzan breaks free though, and caught Ospreay with a spinning heel kick before tags bring in Tanahashi and O-Khan to lay into each other. Back-and-forth elbows take us past the five minute mark as O-Khan’s Mongolian chops get slapped away, with Tanahashi hitting one of his own ahead of O-Khan rolling him down into a knee bar. Another tag brings Cobb back in, but he catches Tanahashi’s attempt at a crossbody before falling to a Dragon screw. Tsuji comes in and takes out Cobb with a dropkick, before some more triple-teaming led to a Tenzan headbutt and the Mount Tsuji splash for a near-fall. Despite having his leaping crossbody caught, Tsuji slips out and manages to roll Cobb into a Boston crab, only for Cobb to make it to the ropes.
Tsuji tries for a bulldog, but he’s caught and countered with a Spin Cycle for a near-fall as Tanahashi and O-Khan exchange face claws. O-Khan’s won out, as Cobb then took Tsuji into the ropes for a big Tour of the Islands for the win. This had a bit more zip to it, but it’s another win for the Empire… and a chance for O-Khan to boom out a declaration to the Korakuen crowd. **¾
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
After dicking around with a new t-shirt, ELP starts things by attacking BUSHI from behind – when Ishimori was legal.
A whip into the ropes sees BUSHI lift ELP to the apron, before Ishimori showed fantastic accuracy in raking the one exposed eye hole in BUSHI’s mask. Hiromu’s in to restore order though, before things went outside, with LIJ getting taken into the railings. Back inside, Yujiro slams BUSHI for a two-count, and then we’re into back rake territory. More dicking about with clapping push ups and side rolls sees ELP rake BUSHI’s back, before Ishimori leapt off the middle rope for another. Another eye rake from Ishimori leads to chops in the corner, before a tijeras from BUSHI didn’t buy him time to make the tag out to Hiromu… as ELP came in for another back rake.
An enziguiri from BUSHI clears the way as Hiromu comes in to take ELP into the ropes, following with a shotgun dropkick. A ‘rana takes Ishimori into the opposite corner for a series of lariats, ahead of a second shotgun dropkick that gets him a two-count on Phantasmo. Hiromu tries to remove ELP’s boot, but to no avail as he got pulled into a whirlibird neckbreaker attempt, only to hit a clothesline as Hiromu slipped out. SANADA tags in and goes for Yujiro… but a TKO’s bitten out of as SANADA then played Yujiro at his own game. The Paradise Lock looks to follow, but Yujiro pushes away, then swept the leg and hit a low dropkick as a Fisherman buster nearly got the upset. A German suplex is flipped out of by SANADA as LIJ rushes the ring for low dropkicks on Yujiro, before Yujiro rolled out of a Skull End attempt. In the end, SANADA pushes out of a Pimp Juice, then O’Connor rolled Yujiro from the ropes and into a Skull End for the submission. You know when people hand-wave something as “house show” effort? That was the vibe here. At least ELP seemed to be interested here, even if it was so he could gift Hiromu a t-shirt. I bet it wasn’t his size. **½
Bullet Club (EVIL, Jay White, Chase Owens & Dick Togo) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & SHO
I still have no idea if Chase’s Texas Heavyweight title is a gimmick belt… at the very least, the belt itself looks newer than you’d expect.
The Bullet Club quartet seemed to attack the ring announcer during the introductions, then bailed as the CHAOS lads hit the ring. They speed things up as Yano and Owens start, with Yano removing turnbuckle pads while Chase strapped up and whipped Yano in the back. Yet again the camera crew misses Okada being charged into the timekeeper’s table by EVIL – to the point where I’m thinking that’s now a deliberate choice. Returning to the ring, Owens punches Yano, then tagged in Togo, before EVIL came in to clear the apron. He throws Yano into an exposed corner, before Owens and White team up to restrain Yano for some kicks to the gut. White stops to knock Ishii off the apron before sending Yano outside as Owens strapped him up to take some shots.
Yano throws Owens into the guard rail, but Chase stops him from doing much back inside as the referee tries to remove the strap. Instead, the referee removes the strap from Chase’s wrist… allowing Yano to whip him as White tagged back in. Yeah, Yano’s still down, and while everything on commentary from Taichi was referring to Texas, this feels as cold as Texas is right now. The ring begins to fill as the CHAOS team neutralised any interference as it boils down to White and Ishii. White runs into a scoop slam, then tried to make a comeback as we get the usual doe-see-doe attempts and escapes ahead of a DDT on Ishii. Knees to the gut of Ishii are shrugged off, as he then countered a suplex into one of his own.
Tags bring in EVIL and Okada, with the latter landing a sliding back elbow off the ropes before rolling up EVIL into a diving uppercut. EVIL takes over with a clothesline and a Fisherman buster for a two-count, before Okada looked to backslide EVIL down… but he can’t follow up and has to fight out of a Darkness Scorpion. A clothesline out of the corner from EVIL takes Okada down, but interference from Togo doesn’t work as planned as Okada’s able to come back with a DDT. In comes SHO, who I’d forgotten was even in this, as he peppered Togo with kicks on the way to a two-count. He tries to hoist up Togo for a German suplex, but instead he has to make do with a shoulder tackle after some misdirection before Owens ran in to break up a Kimura.
Yano takes care of Chase as Togo’s cornered for some four-on-one, leading to a spear from SHO for a near-fall. From there, SHO pulls Togo into a cross armbar, but EVIL stomps that apart, before he dropped SHO with Everything is EVIL. A lariat took care of Okada as Togo dragged himself over SHO’s body to score the pin. Once again EVIL’s shenanigans outwit Okada and friends, in what was a match that was dryer than it should have been. **
Post-match, Gedo chokes out Ishii with a towel while Jay White decided to put a sleeperhold on Gabriel Kidd. Just because. White goes after Ishii some more as Okada just nonchalantly looked to walk away… only to get caught in a Sharpshooter as this would have gotten boos, had the crowd been allowed to make noise.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi) vs, Kota Ibushi & Yuji Nagata
Looking for SOMETHING, Naito trips the ring announcer during his entrance, while I was just praying that Nagata did a jig during his entrance. He at least teased it.
Ibushi and Naito start, going into the ropes as Naito almost refused to engage, before the pair headed to the mat, with Naito looking for a leg lock. Ibushi does so too, but Naito escaped and applied an overhead wristlock, before armdragging Ibushi to the mat. Returning with a headlock takedown of his own, Ibushi looked to control things, but Naito rolls free. Nagata and Shingo tag in as I beg for the ante to be upped. They lock up and head to the ropes, where Shingo caught Nagata with a chop. It’s shrugged off as Nagata rolls Shingo down and kicked him in the back, before the pair went into some elbow exchanges. Shingo pulls ahead, thanks to an assistance from Naito, who ran in, took out Nagata, then made a beeline for Ibushi, throwing him into the rails as Nagata was grounded with a side headlock.
Naito comes in to keep the chinlocks going, before Shingo returned with headbutts. Nagata fires up, but gets kneed into the ropes before he caught Shingo with the kitchen sink knee. Ibushi and Naito return, with the latter getting caught with a diving kick, before he returned with kicks to Ibushi’s knee. Naito runs into another kick from Ubushi, before a standing moonsault gets a two-count. A Manhattan drop and a low dropkick puts Naito back in control as he brought Shingo back in, but Shingo’s work on the leg is quickly stopped as Ibushi caught him with a ‘rana. Nagata’s back to kick Shingo into the corner, then meet him with a front kick as an Exploder’s blocked. The double underhook suplex works though, getting Nagata a two-count, before a Dragon screw looked to lead to Shingo mocking a Nagata lock… but Nagata gets up and kicks Shingo some more.
A back elbow and a jab from Shingo looked to have him ahead, but he gets met with an Exploder before landing a Pumping Bomber, before they went back to the elbows. An enziguiri and a sliding lariat keep both men down. Naito gets the tag in though, and caught Nagata with a Combinacion Cabron, before a Gloria’s countered into Nagata Lock 2. Shingo tries to break it up, but Ibushi goes after him… only to get pushed into another low dropkick. Nagata takes some enziguiris and a Pumping Bomber as Naito tries to nick the win with a roll-up, before eventually doing so with the Destino. **¾
These shows have become hard to watch, and I get that there’s plenty of reasons why: the pandemic. The clap crowds. The state of emergency in Tokyo. The limited roster and match card they can run. In recent memory – since NJPW World made the product more widely available – I don’t feel like there’s been a time where these New Japan shows have been as dour as this. They’ve “run Korakuen into the ground” before, but this feels like a new level of that, perhaps out of necessity, but when you’re seeing things like Elimination matches and time limit draws (outside of Young Lion openers) being wheeled out, you perhaps get the feeling that the creative well is dry.
We’re back tomorrow as we’ve got four more live Korakuens before hitting the double-header in Osaka at the end of the month. This one was a brisk, but low energy show. If you’re watching these matches with an analytical eye – perhaps looking to dissect spots or for other training purposes – but if you’re watching this for entertainment then you probably are going to be disappointed.