We’re back on the Road to Power Struggle, and the Super Junior Tag Tournament kicked off with another round in the long-running skirmish between Hiromu Takahashi/Dragon Lee.

Korakuen Hall is the venue today as Kota Ibushi’s challenge for Hiroshi Tanahashi’s Intercontinental title continued to gather steam, and of course, the WrestleKingdom 12 main event is also set for more hype as Tetsuya Naito and Kazuchika Okada continued their collision course.

Shota Umino & Tomoyuki Oka vs. Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Leo Tonga)
If the Elite are on one end of the scale, then surely Yujiro and Leo are the opposite end of the scale in terms of the Bullet Club? At least these two are for purists, I guess?

We opened with Tonga and Oka throwing bombs at each other, with the camera crew showing us that Tonga had a taped-up and padded knee. Apparently he’s coming off of a knee injury, although a lariat from Leo gave him bigger problems in the early going. Yujiro kept the motif going, but he was soon caught in a spinebuster after Oka took a pounding.

In comes Umino for a barrage of back elbows into the corner, and the Young Lions actually looked good for a spell, with Umino actually slamming Tonga. WHY?! I know it’s early in his career, but big guys shouldn’t have their mystique touched by being taken off their feet by someone “at their level”. Nevertheless, that slam took too much out of Shota, who quickly fell to the Pimp Juice DDT. A basic opener, but at least Leo got some of his heat back afterwards, attacking Oka after the bell. **

Hmm, World Tag League pairings are TBC, but are they planning for an Oka/Tonga scuffle?

Ryusuke Taguchi, ACH, Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku)
Kanemaru brought out one of Tiger Mask’s hoods, back from when Suzuki-gun were collecting masks for fun, and yes, it’s a jump start.

This was a melding of the other half of the Super Junior Tag Tournament field, so there was at least more than just a win at stake here as everyone looked to get some momentum ahead of their tournament matches on Sunday. Kanemaru tried to unmask Tiger Mask yet again, and was stopped by Liger… or at least delayed by him.

I’m not sure why Taichi thought rubbing his backside against the back of Tiger Mask’s head would help, but it was a thing he did as the loose-masked Tiger finally broke free and hit a Tiger Driver on Desperado. Problem was, the veteran good guys struggled to get much momentum going, and it was only when ACH hit the ring that the tables turned as the former Troll Boy exploded… into TAKA’s big boot.

A Stunner/Flatliner combo nearly gets ACH the win though, before a vicious knee to the face got TAKA back in it. Taguchi completes the set, tagging in to throw his arse into Taichi, who then ate a barrage of avalanche offence in the corner for a near-fall. Despite some brief flashes though, Taichi was firmly on the defensive, until he jammed his mic stand into a hip attack from Taguchi. Somewhere in the melee a chair came into play, but another mic stand shot ended up getting the win as Taichi used the Gedo clutch for the win… and in the post-match beating, Suzuki-gun managed to rip the hood off of Tiger Mask once again. Heck, they even went after Liger, but I guess he had his mask tied up too tight? The carnage ends with the ref eating a chairshot, just because. This match had its moments, but you know where the weaknesses in this laid. **¾

Good God, I did not need to see the hole that Taichi’s mic stand had torn into the crotch of Taguchi’s tights…

Toru Yano & Hirooki Goto vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka)
The “Suzuki tries to kill Toru Yano” tour continues! Minoru’s got the bullrope, whilst Takashi Iizuka appears to be unsupervised in the crowd. Who the hell scheduled back-to-back Suzuki-gun matches without having someone free to control him?!

Suzuki starts by going straight for Yano, and it’s all on the floor at the bell as murderous Minoru is back. Goto’s hardly having a better time of it, as Iizuka’s stomping on him, but rightly the focus is on Yano getting kicked and beaten on. Oh, and Milano Collection AT somehow got knocked out of his chair by Suzuki…

In the ring, Yano tries to go through his usual stuff, and he still doesn’t learn that Suzuki doesn’t give a stuff about acting shocked when Yano turns around on him. It’s all so one-sided, I almost begin to feel sorry for Yano… and it’s not like Goto was of any use to him during this either! Suzuki grabs a Kimura, with Goto comically being dispatched of by Iizuka before he can break it up, but Yano finally gets a foot to the ropes as Suzuki ran through the different ways to bend an arm.

Yano finally gets in some offence! Albeit a beard pull to Iizuka, before an inverted atomic drop finally got Goto in. Well, he can prove he’s not entirely useless here, throwing in a spinning heel kick and a backdrop suplex for a near-fall. Yano tries to get involved, but he’s dragged outside with a rear naked choke by Suzuki… just in time for Iizuka to try and bite his way out of a GTR.

Iizuka can’t do anything with an ushigoroshi though, and this time the GTR lands for the win as Suzuki remains too busy focused on the destruction of the Sublime Master Thief. Yes, Yano escapes with the belt again… This wasn’t horrible, but they went so heavy on “Suzuki kills Yano” it makes you wonder if Yano’s not going to pull out an upset? **

Jesus Christ, Suzuki hung Ren Narita with the bullrope afterwards!

Kota Ibushi, Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe & Katsuya Kitamura
Call me cynical, but I have a feeling Kitamura’s here to give David Finlay a break from counting the lights…

This time, Ibushi and Tanahashi grapple from a tie-up, with Tanahashi sneaking a cheap shot in the ropes as Kota kept bouncing back up like a rubber ball. That inspired Kitamura to come in at least, and his polar opposite, David Finlay, came in too to try his luck with shoulder barges. It didn’t work.

Juice had a bit more luck, before Kota came in to take several hard chops from the Young Lion. Nothing a swift kick to the chest won’t stop though, as the match became rather more even. Makabe comes in to give Finlay the mounted punches, before a swift lariat dumped Ibushi on the back of his neck.

Guess who wanted in then? Yep, Tanahashi flies in with crossbodies into the corner, before a senton off the middle rope earns a near-fall. Ibushi kicked and flipped his way back for a near-fall, only for some more of those kicks to get caught and turned into a Dragon screw. We’re back to Kitamura and Juice now, with the monstrous Young Lion raging at Robinson, charging in with elbows and shoulders… but Juice leapfrogs over a spear and ends up hitting a cannonball instead.

Juice tries for Pulp Friction, but Tanahashi just slaps him out as the ring filled for a Parade of Moves, clearing back down to Juice and Kitamura… and a massive spear almost got the shock win! Instead, Robinson’s lifted up for a Jackhammer, which he slips out of before hitting a front DDT for another near-fall. After planchas from Finlay and Ibushi cleared the plate, Juice had to fight off some more chops from Kitamura, before he and Finlay hit a double-team flapjack… but still Kitamura wouldn’t stay down!

A simple right hand dropped Kitamura though, and a dose of Pulp Friction proved to be enough as a rather entertaining trios match closed out the first half. Slowly but surely Kitamura’s edging towards graduation – and the fact that he’s holding his own in these matches has to be a good thing. ***¾

After interval, the Switchblade video played again – we’ll find out in less than two weeks!

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
Unusually, we didn’t start with any shenanigans from the Ingobernables, as SANADA opened the match and was on the back foot. When he tried to turn things around, Ishii just absorbed some chops and threw plenty more back, as everyone else in the match decided to get involved around the ringside area.

Ishii struggled a little bit with EVIL, who landed a curb stomp for a near-fall, then had similar problems with Naito… at least until he whipped him into EVIL and followed with a German suplex. Tags get us to Okada and Naito for a spell, with a racing back elbow almost spinning Naito onto his head in what would have been an awkward landing.

With Naito on the outside, Okada found himself in familiar territory against EVIL, eventually hoisting him up for a flapjack. YOSHI-HASHI and SANADA were next, with the latter taking a lungblower and a Bunker Buster for a near-fall, before a double leapfrog into a dropkick evened things out. SANADA takes some double-teaming as he’s forced to kick-out from a sliding double-knees from YOSHI-HASHI… and finally Naito hits the ring to liven things up for a bit.

The left-hand lariat from YOSHI-HASHI keeps things in check, but his attempt at Karma’s quickly switched into a Skull End, before some double-teaming with Naito led to a TKO for a near-fall. After that, SANADA goes back to the Skull End, and eventually forces the submission. I don’t know what it is, but so far on this tour these Ingobernables trios matches have been a little flat. Hopefully when we get nearer to the Tokyo Dome, things will pick up, but it seems that outside of Naito/Okada, these matches are doing little for the crowds. ***¼

Super Junior Tag Tournament 2017 – Quarter-Final: KUSHIDA & Hirai Kawato vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
Hang on a minute, is that Rocky Romero with a fire extinguisher? With Roppongi 3K rocking the old Matt Hardy V1 hand sign?

Kawato jumped the tag champions as he continued his search for a major victory, working over YOH in the opening stages. SHO turns things around though, putting the Young Lion on the back foot with a series of slaps, before grinding an elbow into the side of Kawato during an abdominal stretch.

Back to YOH now, and Kawato continued to struggle as the pace was kept deliberate. His attempt to come back with a dropkick ended when SHO clung onto the ropes, but the second try worked as Kawato finally brings in KUSHIDA, who goes to down on SHO with kicks before landing his hiptoss/dropkick combo.

SHO swiftly responds with a sleeperhold as he tried to keep the former IWGP junior champion grounded, before powering out of a mounted Kimura attempt and dropping KUSHIDA with a sit-out Dominator. The KUSHIDA fightback continued though, aided by a big missile dropkick and a tope con hilo from Kawato, before SHO was trapped in the middle of the ring in a Hoverboard lock.

KUSHIDA switches the Hoverboard lock into a cross armbreaker, but SHO rolled him up for a near-fall to force a break before Kawato pleaded to be tagged back in. He gets his wish, and drops SHO with a forearm, before peppering YOH with kicks, as SHO then was caught in a triangle armbar! What the hell?!

SHO powerbombed his way to freedom with ease, but YOH found himself in a similar predicament as Kawato blasted him with a spinning enziguiri. That win was still not forthcoming though, and moments later Kawato was trapped in a rolling single crab that KUSHIDA was forced to break up. Double leaping knees get rid of KUSHIDA, and it’s just a matter of time before Kawato’s double-teamed and outclassed, as the 3K elevated flatliner gets the win. This started off really slow, but got real good – Kawato’s getting agonisingly close to that first win, but he’s getting in a lot of improvement in the meantime! ***½

Roppongi 3K go through to the semi-finals next Monday, where they’ll face the winners of today’s main event…

Super Junior Tag Tournament 2017 – Quarter-Final: Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Dragon Lee & Titan
Given how many times Dragon Lee and Hiromu have stolen the show, I was expecting a lot here.

Of course, we opened with BUSHI and Titan, with the latter scoring some headscissors that forced Red Shoes to climb onto the ropes to avoid getting taken out. From there, Takahashi and Dragon Lee slap the ever-loving you-know-what out of each other as they teased us with some flashbacks. And slaps. Lots of slaps to the chest.

From there, the CMLL pairing head outside with plenty of flip topes, before looking ti isolate BUSHI, working him into the corner for a pair of diving dropkicks. Hiromu tries to help, but gets caught in a pair of submissions as the luchadores took control, before the Ingobernables dumped them outside as they looked for some payback.

Some brawling around ringside saw the fated pair of Hiromu and Dragon go deep into the crowd, as did Titan and BUSHI. Problem was, the lack of cameras meant we saw most of this from a zoomed out hard camera, which wasn’t ideal. So the Ingobernables head back to the ring where they try to unmask their opponents, with Hiromu almost pulling off our second mask of the night.

We settled down into a “normal” match from there, with the Ingobernables tying up Titan in dualling submissions. A rope break gets Titan free as he Matrix’d away from a clothesline… but with Hiromu standing on Dragon Lee outside, there’s nobody for him to tag, so BUSHI finally takes off his t-shirt and uses it to choke the luchador. Finally Dragon Lee comes in and blasted Hiromu with a dropkick in the corner, but we’re nowhere near done here!

A snap German suplex off the ropes from Dragon Lee sparks a series of those things, with scarier and scarier landings, ahead of a standing Spanish Fly that left both he and Hiromu down. Tags get us back to BUSHI and Titan, with a springboard crossbody getting a two-count, only for BUSHI to hit back with a ‘rana off the middle rope. BUSHI thought he’d been clever pulling down Titan by his mask, but a kip up leads to a wacky pair of dives, as Dragon Lee’s high-speed tope and an Asai moonsault left everyone in a heap on the floor.

Inside again, the CMLL tandem crash and burn, before we hit a parade of moves, including the Desnucadora from Dragon Lee, before BUSHI just slaps Titan and levels him with a Destroyer for a near-fall. The pace intensifies between Dragon Lee and Takahashi, with Hiromu getting a pop-up Destroyer before BUSHI’s MX misses. Titan tries to capitalised, but a folding backslide sees that backfire as BUSHI came close once more.

A double lungblower nearly does it, before a Doomsday MX leads to some screams on commentary – and finally the pin as the Ingobernables now take on Roppongi 3K next Monday!

That finishing stretch was quite the thing, but the slower lucha stylings really took me out of the match in the opening stages. ***¾

Well, the first half of the show was a little flat, but had some moments – as gruesome as they were… to be fair though, these set of “Road” shows have been built around two things: the Nagata/Nakanishi anniversary, and the Super Junior Tag Team Tournament. Aside from those, this was another run of the mill show as New Japan trundles into Power Struggle.