With Dominion this coming Sunday, New Japan made their customary trip to Korakuen Hall for their “go home” show… just in case we forgot Omega/Okada II was coming up!
Shota Umino & Tetsuhiro Yagi vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku)
The Young Lions rushed their more experienced opponents at the bell, with Yagi slapping the hell out of TAKA in the opening minutes. A missed dropkick quickly turned things around though, with the Suzuki-gun tandem just stomping on Yagi in the corner as TAKA kept going for a single leg crab. Finally Umino gets tagged in, and he launches into Desperado with back elbows in the corner, but the more experienced man snapped back with a spinebuster, then a Stretch Muffler as TAKA’s crossface prevented Yagi from making the save… leaving Umino no choice but to tap. Basic, but exactly what you’d expect from a Young Lions’ squash. **¼
Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Manabu Nakanishi, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Katsuya Kitamura vs. Togi Makabe, Yuji Nagata, Tiger Mask, Tomoyuki Oka & Hirai Kawato
An interesting “legends plus young lions” tag, as these are apparently the three lions nearest to graduating away from the black trunks look. I’m not surprised that Kitamura’s gotten a fast track…
Oka and Kitamura started off by blasting each other with shoulder tackles, before we cycled through tags as the veterans had their go, with Tiger Mask finally flipping out of a tiltawhirl backbreaker from Liger and then bringing in Kawato to have his go. Maybe it’s small man syndrome, but Kawato was like a wild cat, screaming as he came in on Liger with a missile dropkick, but Liger managed to turn things back around, whipping the youngster into the guard railings.
Kawato gets lit-up with Kojima’s machine-gun chops, but he returned the favour with a vicious dropkick to Kojima, before the more experienced lads had their spell. Tenzan’s Mountain Bomb dropped Nagata, before Kitamura came back in to bull down Nagata ahead of an Argentine backbreaker. Kawato – of all people – made the save, as Nagata quickly hit the Backdrop Hold to score the pin over the massive Kitamura. A fun outing, with a lot of the focus being on how the Young Lions have progressed, but aren’t quite there yet… **½
Bullet Club (Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Gedo
Poor Yujiro was taking the brunt of everything early on, at least until he figured out that he could restrain Gedo by yanking his beard, which allowed Hangman Page to come in and take over on the “Raintaker”.
Page impressively deadlifted Gedo from the mat into a bridging, pumphandle fallaway slam for a near-fall, before missing a Quebrada that gave Gedo the chance to tag out to Ishii, who had no issue going back to bulldozing the Bullet Club. Things switch around when Page drilled Ishii with a piledriver, but Ishii fought on and brought Gedo back in to pepper Yujiro with some Dusty punches.
Once Page got rid of Ishii, Yujiro nearly snatched a win with a Fisherman’s buster, before Ishii returned to German suplex Yujiro out of a Pimp Juice DDT. Page slingshotted himself into the ring for a double clothesline to take Ishii outside for a shooting star headbutt, before Yujiro hit the Pimp Juice anyway for the win. Decent stuff that’s perhaps useful in highlighting Hangman Page ahead of next month’s IWGP US title tournament, but otherwise… another undercard outing that you’ll forget tomorrow! **½
Bullet Club (Cody, Bad Luck Fale & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Michael Elgin, David Finlay & War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe)
I think this might just be the first time Cody’s been in a Bullet Club tag like this… it’ll go some way to resolving that issue I’ve had with him being a “glory hunter”, wearing the shirt but not doing the dirty work!
Everyone apart from Fale and Finlay were building up to their matches at Dominion – with Fale in the NEVER six-man title gauntlet match, whilst Finlay’s back with the Young Lions for a night. Cody started out by being held in a long, stalling suplex by Elgin as we went through the usual cycling of tags whilst those not named Cody or Hanson were taken to the outside. Poor Hanson found himself isolated in the Bullet Club corner for a long time, before Rowe finally came in and blasted Tama with a bicycle knee… only for Cody to cut that off instantly.
Big Mike returns and deadlifted Cody into a German suplex, before Cody leapt into a uranage as Elgin mocked his carefree poses. Finlay decided to have a go, and out-paced Tonga to a dropkick as the match broke into crowd brawling again, with the Guerrillas and War Machine fighting to the back. Finlay’s uranage backbreaker forced a near-fall out of Cody, but a Cross Rhodes seconds later was enough for Cody to get the win as the Bullet Club too home the win. Entertaining enough, with plenty of interactions between those who are paired off and this did its job of getting everyone ready for Dominion on Sunday. ***¼
Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & Jado vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi)
I’d guess that Zack Sabre Jr. is a little more upbeat today given the UK General Election results… and yes, he’s wearing his Jeremy Corbyn t-shirt!
We’ve got the jump start as Suzuki made a beeline for Goto, whilst Toru Yano went all Yano, placing himself between the ropes to avoid Taichi. I’d do the same too. Taichi mocked Yano’s “break”, which led to some arguing, before Yano just buggered off and tagged in YOSHI-HASHI. Yeah, we had some more crowd brawling as Goto was thrown into the bleachers by Suzuki, whilst Taichi used his mic stand on YOSHI-HASHI.
Back in the ring, Suzuki and Sabre tore away with delightfully vicious arm bars and kneebars on YOSHI-HASHI at the same time, but YOSHI-HASHI’s able to get free and bring back Goto to go after Suzuki some more… and take a big boot in the head. A Saito suplex from Goto’s gotten him a near-fall, as did the top rope elbow, but Suzuki’s able to turn things round briefly only for his Gotch piledriver attempt to get blocked.
More rear naked chokes from Suzuki allow him to bring in Zack Sabre Jr, who lays into Goto with some force, only for Goto to hit back with an ushigoroshi out of nowhere. Goto comes back to save Jado from a rear naked choke as he and Suzuki brawled out of the ring again, but that just left Jado vulnerable to an armbar from Sabre that morphed into a double armbar for the only result imaginable: a submission. Fun stuff as the usual Suzuki-gun stuff was toned well down, and I’m wondering how long it’ll be before we get a lengthy Sabre run in New Japan? ***½
KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi, Ricochet, Juice Robinson & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, SANADA & EVIL)
Tanahashi was added back to this match after “recovering from injury” – by which we mean Tanahashi’s wearing a big white sleeve on his injured bicep. I wonder how that worked out for Hideo Itami…
We started with Naito instantly targeting Tanahashi’s arm, which led to a tease of a count-out in the early moments as Tanahashi rolled to the floor for cover. After that tease, it was the usual cycling through of tags as we wound up with BUSHI taking the “train conductor” offence from Taguchi Japan, before BUSHI dropkicked Taguchi’s rear end as he was to be thrown into the “Funky Weapon”.
In the ring, Taguchi gets squashed with a back senton from EVIL before he recovered to tag in KUSHIDA as we got a brief glimpse of Dominion as he and Takahashi went head-to-head, slugging at each other with an endless supply of forearms before a cartwheel kick knocked down Hiromu. Naito tried to cut that off, and took a hiptoss/dropkick before KUSHIDA looked for a Back to the Future and instead had to make do with a slap to Hiromu instead. Next up was a wild cannonball from Juice to EVIL in the corner, before a side Russian legsweep and a hip attack set up for a Ricochet shooting star press that almost won it, before we went back to the one-armed Tanahashi. They actively called out Tanahashi as being hurt, with a dropkick to the arm not helping… nor did a four-way dropkick to the Ace!
Once we had our usual parade of moves, featuring a missed hip attack, Tanahashi got caught with an outside-in dropkick from Naito, then a TKO as SANADA picked up a near-fall, before Tanahashi survived and snatched a win with a schoolboy – with the Ingobernables quickly pouncing on him after the pin to try and damage that arm some more. Another good Ingobernables tag, but I’m not sold on the whole Tanahashi injury – worked or otherwise, especially given his history! ***¾
Despite that, Tanahashi recovered and air guitar’d his way away from Naito’s handshake as the pair posed off. So, is that arm badly hurt or what?
Bullet Club (The Young Bucks (Nick Jackson & Matt Jackson) & Kenny Omega) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta)
Nick Jackson enraged Beretta early on with his “suck it” taunts from the ground, but that quickly earned him some solid chops and a Northern Lights suplex as the Young Buck found himself cornered.
It’s a similar story between Matt and Rocky, with the latter’s attempt at a Shiranui almost turning into a Meltzer Driver attempt as both sides were evenly matched, before we went to Okada and Omega for a spell. You know the drill, everything here worked really well – including a spell where Okada and Roppongi Vice blocked the Terminator dives before faking out their version of them.
Yep, there’s plenty of shades of the Elite’s European six man tour matches, as they threaten to walk out on the main event… to they’re followed to the back just as the Elite headed back in through another entry way and snuck under the ring. Eventually Red Shoes starts counting everyone out, as the CHAOS trio returned to the ring just in time to turn around and eventually take a trio of superkicks.
From there, something resembling a regular match started as Beretta took a bunch of axehandle smashes, before the Elite worked up to that “four boots” spot in the corner. They teased “six boots”, with Cody running out dressed in his suit… throwing his cowboy boots up to the Bucks to help them get the half-dozen. Yeah, Kenny took them… Red Shoes then took control of those cowboy boots as Cody and Gedo headed into the ring to interfere/prevent it, but Gedo took a basement uppercut as Cody then tried to clothesline Beretta, only to take one himself. Somehow only ten minutes had passed when Okada took a superplex from Omega, only for Romero to batter the Elite with a selection of Forever lariats.
Omega comes back with some snap Dragon suplexes to all, before Romero ate a trio of superkicks for a near-fall. The CHAOS trio came back into it as Romero took a near-fall after Okada’d given Nick Jackson a neckbreaker slam, but it wasn’t long before the Bucks switched back to their usual slick offence, with Nick’s springboard facebuster and a Asai moonsault into a tornado DDT taking down Roppongi Vice within seconds.
A blocked top rope ‘rana just left Rocky open for a superkick, then an Indytaker, then a One Winged Angel as the Elite swept the board here. A really different take on the usual “everyone faces off ahead of the PPV” warm-up tag, and although at times it was very patterned, enough of it was different for it to be not just a repeat of what Europe was given when the Elite came to town. ****
After the match, the Bucks superkick’d Okada as Omega was looking for a handshake, before Omega teased a One Winged Angel through a table… just like ahead of WrestleKingdom! This time though, Omega spared him as he declared that he wanted to beat Okada at 100% and leave the champion with no excuses.
This was a really easy watch for New Japan, who warmed up more than set-up things ahead of Dominion on Sunday. It’s a really loaded card in Osaka, with every title on the line… and with Tetsuya Naito threatening to retire one title by destroying the Intercontinental strap if he’s not beaten for it. Whilst there’s nothing “must see” here, it’s certainly not a bad show to sit down to this weekend.