BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi look to win tag team gold in the main event, as the Road to Power Struggle went through Korakuen Hall once more.

Quick Results
Yuya Uemura pinned Yota Tsuji in 6:34 (***)
Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Toru Yano pinned DOUKI, Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi in 9:51 (***)
Great-O-Khan & Will Ospreay pinned Gabriel Kidd & Kazuchika Okada in 12:27 (***¼)
Chase Owens, Jay White & KENTA pinned Tomoaki Honma, Kota Ibushi & Hiroshi Tanahashi in 13:19 (***)
Tetsuya Naito & SANADA defeated EVIL & Dick Togo via disqualification in 11:48 (**)
El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru pinned BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi in 28:26 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships (****)

We’re back in Korakuen Hall for the first of two nights here for the final shows on the Road to Power Struggle. It’s just Japanese commentary for the live shows, but Kevin Kelly and friends return for Power Struggle on Saturday…

Yuya Uemura vs. Yota Tsuji
Tsuji’s still got the edge in the head-to-heads, leading 12-8-22. We get going here with Uemura and Tsuji looking for a waistlock, before they span free…

A lock-up leads to a wristlock from Uemura, who’s starting to become an arm-guy, but Tsuji countered with a hammerlock… only to end up back in the wristlock. Tsuji switched out into a side headlock, taking his foe to the mat, but Uemura eventually gets free and came back in with a leapfrog, an armdrag and an armbar. Uemura goes in for a short scissored armbar, but Tsuji’s able to roll into the ropes for a break, only for Uemura to come back wringing the arm. That wristlock takes Tsuji down again, but an elbow helps Tsuji free himself before a back body drop got him some space ahead of a suplex that left Uemura down.

Tsuji adds a powerslam for a near-fall, before he stretched Uemura with a bow-and-arrow hold – making sure not to roll too far back to risk the usual “flip out and get pinned” escape. Unfortunately he lets go to go for a Boston crab, but Uemura gets to the ropes and made a comeback with a dropkick. A capture suplex looks to follow from Uemura, but Tsuji blocks it as the lads went back-and-forth with chops… until Uemura snuck in an elbow that decked Tsuji. There’s a quick response as Tsuji then set up for a spear, but he’s taken down with an armdrag… and when he tried to headbutt his way free, Uemura grabbed the arms and snatched the win with the Capture suplex. Really good stuff this, with Uemura slowly chipping away at that win/loss record – can he sneak a spot in the Best of the Super Junior field that’s announced tomorrow? ***

Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Toru Yano vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI)
Some build to tomorrow’s main event, as Goto and YOSHI-HASHI challenge for the IWGP tag titles tomorrow…

Of course, the Suzuki-gun lads jump start the match, which led to an exasperated “oh, you guys” look from the referee as the match started on the outside. Sabre’s trying to rip off Yano’s ears for whatever reason, before they hit the ring, with Yano grabbing the ropes before some standing switches led to him charging into the corner in a bid to take off the turnbuckle pads… except Sabre grabbed his arm to stop him. Second time was the charm though, but Yano quickly got caught with a choke hold as Sabre then went to put the pad back on. Except Yano undid another pad as Zack was having troubles figuring it out. Sabre leaps over some swipes with the turnbuckle pad as the referee disarmed Yano, then charged into Yano with a guillotine as they looked to end this pretty damn quick.

Yano’s taken into the corner for some choking and eye raking, with DOUKI getting in on the act with his pipe as Sabre had fun whipping the referee with the turnbuckle padding’s straps. When we got going again, Taichi’s all about choking Yano, before Yano finally got free, pulling down Sabre by the head… but he stops to do his pose and got wrapped up in a wacky ankle lock from Sabre… which of course ended in the corner as Yano again tried to get that pad. A Manhattan drop and a rebound belly-to-belly off the ropes finally buys Yano some time as tags bring in Taichi and YOSHI-HASHI, with the latter trying for a German suplex before finding more luck with a Head Hunter for a near-fall. The pair trade kicks and elbows for a while, before YOSHI-HASHI was taken into the corner for a gamengiri.

My feed drops out, returning with Goto coming in to catch DOUKI with a bulldog out of the corner, before an eye-rake from DOUKI opened the door for some triple-teaming that set up a springboard stomp for a near-fall. From the kick-out, DOUKI rolls Goto into the Italian Stretch #32, but Yano stomps it apart before he got dragged outside into a leglock by Sabre. A Daybreak DDT from DOUKI is blocked, but he manages to catch Goto with a throat thrust before running into a GYW/sitout powerbomb combination with YOSHI-HASHI for the win. A solid trios match, although I can see some being a little annoyed with all the turnbuckle pad loving… ***

Post-match, Sabre and Taichi instantly pounce on their opponents tomorrow, but the CHAOS lads managed to rebound and send them packing… while Yano threw Goto and YOSHI-HASHI the IWGP tag titles to pose with. Then, for some reason, Taichi tosses referee Kenta Sato into the guard rails. Everyone gets a go!

The Empire (Will Ospreay & Great-O-Khan) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Gabriel Kidd
We’ve a jump start here as Ospreay went after Kidd… but Okada makes a save and took Will into the corner for clotheslines and elbows, before a slam and a back senton saw the Okada/Kidd combo get an early two-count.

A knee drop from Kidd gets him a one-count, but Ospreay’s right back with elbows, only to get knocked into the corner. O-Khan’s in to catch Okada with Mongolian chops, then threw him outside as Ospreay continued to isolate Kidd. Tagging in, Great-O-Khan keeps Kidd down with forearms, before O-Khan just sat on Kidd, with Ospreay and Bea getting involved for shits and giggles. Ospreay’s back in to hit a pendulum backbreaker on Kidd for a two-count, before a grounded chinlock gave Kidd something to fight out of. A whip takes Kidd into the corner, but he fights free from O-Khan and Ospreay, eventually catching the latter with a dropkick before he made the tag out to Okada.

Okada sprints in to deck Ospreay with a back elbow off the ropes, before propelling him up for a flapjack that gets a near-fall. A boot from Ospreay’s caught, but he’s able to swing Okada down in a neckbreaker before O-Khan came in to hang Okada in a Tree of Woe, following up with a baseball slide dropkick for a two-count. Back-and-forth elbows follow, but O-Khan’s Mongolian chops knock Okada down for a two-count before O-Khan backed into the corner to escape a Money Clip. Okada’s back with a neckbreaker slam, before his tombstone attempt ended with O-Khan grabbing the ear… but Okada gets back with a dropkick.

Tags bring Kidd in, knocking Ospreay off the apron as he went to light-up O-Khan with elbow strikes. Shoulder tackles barely budge O-Khan, who then gets knocked down with a running elbow as Kidd then teased a suplex… but O-Khan blocks it. Kidd gets free, only to run into a flapjack as Ospreay knocks Okada off the apron, leading to some more double-teaming as a hook kick from Ospreay and a Skull Crushing Finale from O-Khan got a near-fall. Okada made the save, but was quickly knocked flying with a rolling elbow from Ospreay, as O-Khan was shoved into Ospreay… then almost lost to a roll-up. Kidd keeps going with a double underhook suplex attempt, but O-Khan back body drops free before landing a pump kick, an inverted suplex and finally the Eliminator (claw slam) for the win. Kidd got a fair amount of offence in towards the end, but in the end it was a dominating (ahem) win for the Empire. ***¼

Bullet Club (Jay White, KENTA & Chase Owens) vs. Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomoaki Honma
We’ve got build for the two “title shot defences” at Power Struggle, and also the Japanese return of Chase Owens, who did the Tracy Smothers FBI stuff for his introductions. Meanwhile, Jay White was being a shit-house by blocking the ringside camera crew for Ibushi’s introductions.

KENTA and Tanahashi start us off, but of course he tags out before he even locked up, as we cycled through to White and Ibushi… and finally, Owens and Ibushi. Except it’s a ploy as White distracts Kota, allowing Chase to attack, only for Ibushi to catch him with a back elbow before tagging in Honma. Honma and Tanahashi gang-up on Owens, taking him to the corner for boots, elbows and splashes before they hulked it up. An elbow to the head from Honma has Chase down, before a slam set up for… yeah, a missed Kokeshi. That opened the door for Chase to come back with some palm strikes in the corner, before White came in with uppercuts to keep Honma at bay.

KENTA’s in to trap Honma with shoulder charges as the Bullet Club kept control. White’s back with a neckbreaker for a near-fall… then threw Honma outside so KENTA could take him into the guard rails. White’s back to ground Honma, then “tag” Ibushi… but that tomfoolery cost him as Honma hit a suplex before making the proper tag out to Ibushi. Elbows from Ibushi and a diving leg lariat has the Kiwi down, before another mid kick and a standing moonsault gets a near-fall. White grabs the ropes to avoid a German suplex, then came back with a Manhattan drop and some hair pulling before a Blade Buster dropped Kota for a near-fall. A spike DDT stops Ibushi’s brief attempt at a comeback, as tags bring us to KENTA and Tanahashi.

Tanahashi takes KENTA to the corner for a Dragon screw, before a Cloverleaf was countered into an inside cradle for a two-count. KENTA pulls Tanahashi down, but can’t lock in Game Over before Tanahashi got to the rope, but Tanahashi’s back in with a Twist and Shout to stem the tide. Honma and Owens tag back in, with White coming in to help out… only to get caught with a DDT as Chase ate a Flatliner too. Triple Kokeshi follow for Chase, before Gedo distracted the referee. That means he saw nothing as White swung and missed with Ibushi’s G1 briefcase, while KENTA’s attempt at the same also bore no fruit, as Honma came back with a leaping Kokeshi to knock down Owens.

Heading up top, Honma misses a swandive Kokeshi, then gets caught with a knee strike as a package piledriver gets the win for the Bullet Club. Solid enough, but I could do without two teases of briefcase shots… although Jay White’s attempts to smuggle Ibushi’s G1 briefcase away by wrapping it in a towel was amusing at the end. ***

Bullet Club (EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA)
Yup. It wasn’t a fever dream – we’re getting this match again.

Naito and EVIL start things off, as a side headlock from EVIL gets pushed off for a resulting shoulder tackle. An armdrag from Naito gets him back in, but Yujiro kicks him in the ropes… only for SANADA to trip EVIL as LIJ worked together to neutralise that early threat. In the background, Yujiro’s untying the turnbuckle pad for later, as SANADA went to work on EVIL, throwing some right hands before an arm wringer and a double-handed chop knocked EVIL down. Naito’s back with a hair-assisted snapmare on EVIL that led to a chinlock, but EVIL uses the hair to free himself before an Irish whip took Naito into a conveniently-exposed corner.

SANADA rushes in to meet the same fate, as the Bullet Club crew took over, with Naito getting thrown outside so Togo could throw him into the guard rails. Back inside, EVIL tries to get the easy pin, but the referee refuses to count it, so Yujiro tags in and tries to put away his former tag team partner with a low dropkick… but barely gets a one-count. A double-team shoulder tackle, followed by a leg drop and a back senton gets EVIL a two-count as Naito continued to get worn down. EVIL looks for a Fisherman buster, but Naito gets free as tags bring in SANADA and Yujiro – with SANADA finding a way through with a low dropkick. Yujiro blocks a Paradise Lock, but ends up getting tripped into one away as SANADA got his wish before taking out Goto and EVIL with planchas.

Eventually a low dropkick frees Yujiro to get a near-fall, but Yujiro bites back, prompting SANADA to nibble as well as EVIL comes in to work on the arm again. SANADA manages some respite with a low dropkick, before tagging Naito back in to hit a delayed Combinacion Cabron on EVIL in the corner. Togo’s on the apron with his garotte wire, but he gets dragged inside by Naito… Togo uses the wire in full view of the referee, who’s then tossed outside for the DQ. Post-match, a belt shot from EVIL lays out Naito, who’s then dumped with Everything is EVIL, and I cannot wait for next Sunday when we’re done with this match. **

After the match, Shingo Takagi left the commentary booth to check on Naito – at least they’re selling the garrote wire as something deadly, rather than just a throwaway spot that it’s quickly become in EVIL’s matches.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c)
We’ve a jump start here from the Suzuki-gun lads, but it’s overcome as the challengers take them outside, with Desperado meeting the guard railings chest-first.

In the ring, Hiromu puts the boots to Desperado, before BUSHI came in for some t-shirt choking and a shirt-assisted neckbreaker. Hiromu’s tagged back on to chop Desperado, leading to a mini battle that ended with an eye rake. A shotgun dropkick from Hiromu sends Kanemaru into Desperado in the corner, with the pair then heading outside as Hiromu crashes and burns with a shotgun dropkick off the apron. Oof. Back inside, Kanemaru tags in and stomps away on Hiromu, then threw him out so he could be re-acquainted with the guard rails ahead of a suplex on the floor. A spinebuster from Kanemaru takes down Hiromu, albeit not as cleanly as he’d have hoped, before Desperado returned for a suplex that earned a near-fall. Desperado’s half crab forces Hiromu into the ropes, as knees to the back from Kanemaru and a camel clutch continued the one-sided affair.

BUSHI tries to run in to help, but Desperado just throws him outside as Hiromu had to drag himself to the ropes for a break. Eventually Hiromu made his own luck, avoiding a running back elbow into the corner from Desperado, before catching a kick and turning it into a Dragon screw. A tag brings in BUSHI, tho takes Despy out with some tijeras, but a tope suicida’s stopped by Kanemaru’s trip… but BUSHI avoids more double-teaming, coming back with a bulldog/dropkick combo. A missile dropkick from BUSHI finds its mark, taking Desperado outside for a plancha/tijeras to the outside, before a swinging Fisherman neckbreaker back inside drew a two-count. Desperado uses the referee as a human shield to buy him time ahead of a low dropkick to BUSHI, before Kanemaru came in… and hit a similar move to take BUSHI down to the mat. BUSHI evades a knee breaker and manages to tag out to Hiromu, who gets whipped into the corner, before he came back with a lariat and a dropkick for a two-count.

Kanemaru’s taken into the ropes as another dropkick and a Falcon arrow… didn’t do the deal, with Kanemaru kicking out at two. BUSHI’s in to help out with a double-team, but Kanemaru thwarts it, shoving BUSHI into Hiromu before Desperado came in for a dropkick-assisted side suplex. That gets Kanemaru a two-count, as does a scooping reverse DDT, before a running satellite DDT was caught by Hiromu… who just ends up eating a Saito suplex instead. A slam from Kanemaru sets up for a rare (for him) moonsault, which gets him a little closer to the win, before he went back up top for a Deep Impact DDT… but Hiromu superkicks it away. Hiromu looks for a Time Bomb, but Kanemaru escapes and responded with a tiltawhirl DDT instead, before he went back up the ropes to plant Hiromu with a Deep Impact… but BUSHI makes the save to break up the pin.

Desperado takes care of BUSHI again as Kanemaru looks for a suplex, but it’s countered with a small package for a near-fall, before a lariat from Hiromu left both men down. BUSHI rolls back in to help out with duelling superkicks, before a suplex/powerbomb combo almost led us to new champions. Kanemaru kicks out at two, before BUSHI and Hiromu looked for the LAT… but Desperado makes a save, only for BUSHI to dropkick him into the ropes, sending him outside for a tope suicida. Staying inside, Hiromu picks up Kanemaru for a death valley driver into the buckles… then almost fell to a wheelbarrow roll-up. Hiromu resumes with a Time Bomb, but Kanemaru grabs the referee, then ate a pair of superkicks before a Victory Royale from Hiromu got him another near-fall. A Time Bomb 2 looked to follow, but Kanemaru countered with a brainbuster, as both men needed to tag out once more.

In come BUSHI and Desperado to trade blows, but a stomp to the foot from Desperado stops BUSHI’s momentum. An elbow returns the favour before Desperado’s spinebuster gets a near-fall, leading him into Numero Dos as BUSHI quickly scrambled into the ropes to force a break. Guitarra del Angel followed from Despy for a near-fall, who then went for Pinche Loco… but BUSHI back body drops his way free. With both men in the ropes, BUSHI nails a springboard ‘rana to take down Desperado, following that up with a snap Destroyer for a near-fall. From there, BUSHI heads up again, looking for the MX… but Desperado pulls the referee into harms way, and I think Red Shoes is done. With nor referee, Desperado punches out BUSHI while Young Lions scraped Red Shoes out of the ring so Tsuji could give him a piggy back to the back.

Desperado grabs one of the title belts, but in comes Marty Asami to disarm him as we have another referee… just in time for Desperado to block a lungblower and counter it into Numero Dos. Kanemaru pounces Hiromu to the outside as he tried to make the save, but Hiromu’s able to break free and break it up. Ducking a punch, Hiromu sets up for a sunset-flip assisted German suplex, leaving Desperado down for the LAT… but Kanemaru breaks up the pin in the nick of time. He’s taken outside by Hiromu, as BUSHI then went back up top in search of the MX. He doesn’t hit the referee this time, but doesn’t get much of it on Desperado, who quickly hits back with Pinche Loco for the win. This was a really good main event, but for me it lacked that one key thing – I never really felt like the LIJ lads were ever really threatening to win, with their spells of offence always getting being cut-off. That gripe aside, Hiromu’s got to continue quest for the junior tag belts, as the Best of the Super Junior tournament comes up later this month. ****

It’s back to Korakuen tomorrow for another Road to Power Struggle show, this time headlining with Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI challenging for the IWGP tag titles held by Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi. We’ve also got the Best of the Super Junior announcement there – and the fact they’re holding off the World Tag League field tells me there may be something happening tomorrow (or at Power Struggle) that they don’t want to give away!

Until the main event, this was very much a pedestrian Road-to show – plenty of build for matches at Power Struggle this coming Saturday, but very little to blow you away. I’ll be glad once they’re done with EVIL vs. Naito, because they’re beyond squeezing all the juice out of this one…