The third night of New Japan’s latest Road tour show contained a special surprise – a main event to celebrate the 25th wrestling anniversaries of Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi!

We opened up in the city of Togane, with the man himself coming to the ring for a ceremony. I’m a big fan of the ring announcer not only dying his hair blue, but wearing a t-shirt over his usual gear. Apparently today is the first time Nagata will have had a singles match in his home town… it took everyone long enough! A video package of talking heads runs through Nagata’s career, and hey, Manabu Nakanishi gets some time too!

Monster Rage (Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka) vs. Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Leo Tonga)
Commentary are flat-out calling Oka and Kitamura “Monster Rage”, so I guess it’s all but official now. Kitamura and Tonga try to overpower each other, but a battering of shoulder tackles has no effect… so Leo throws a lariat instead.

The Bullet Club pair keep on top of Kitamura for a spell, with Yujiro coming close from a sliding dropkick, only for Kitamura to suplex his way back into it. Leo tries to get involved, but that gets him a spear as Oka gets a tag in… and it’s not long before Yujiro’s biting away at the Young Lion.

Oka’s got to kick out from a Fisherman’s buster, but he can’t do anything from the Pimp Juice short DDT, as Tonga had Kitamura held at bay outside to prevent the save. Pretty decent opener, and as someone who watches the Lion’s Gate shows, I like how the new stuff those guys are trying there aren’t even being tried here. Basic, but everything went as expected. **¼

Shota Umino, Tetsuhiro Yagi & Ren Narita vs. Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi & El Desperado)
Oh dear. These Young Lions really are being thrown to the wolves. None of these guys can buy a win, even against themselves these day! Of course, it’s close to Hallowe’en, so Taichi’s nymph’s sporting devil’s horns and a pitchfork. Go home, Taichi.

The Young Lions jump their Suzuki-gun opponents at the bell and start to double-team Taichi. Because why not? It doesn’t last though, as Taichi just kicks away on Yagi, before he takes a slam on the outside from Kanemaru. Back inside, Desperado jabs a pen into his eyes during a simple headlock as the Lions eventually make their comeback.

Umino gets the tag, and starts battering Kanemaru with elbows in the corner, and despite a blip, the Young Lions nearly get the win after a double-team dropkick on Desperado. From there, they try for their standard issue Boston Crab submission, but Despy gets the ropes and replies with a spinebuster. Form the kick-out he turns it into a Stretch Muffler, and the ending’s predictable from there. A valiant effort, but this trio of Lions come up short yet again. **½

KUSHIDA, Hirai Kawato, Ryusuke Taguchi & ACH vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask, Dragon Lee & Titan
We’ve got half of the field for the upcoming Super Junior tag team tournament here, so this should be fast-paced. ACH has his name on sticky tape over Taguchi’s on his Taguchi Japan tee… I guess they didn’t have enough time to make his own tee after Ricochet left?

Hold on, commentary’s just called this Taguchi Japan vs. Liger Japan. I kinda like that… KUSHIDA demands to start against Titan, and I’m getting glorious flashbacks to their stunner of a match in London on the ROH tour. Some fluid stuff leads to KUSHIDA getting headscissored to the outside, before Titan fakes out a dive and does a Sabu pose. Must be the mutual chest-scar appreciation society.

Tiger Mask and Taguchi come in next, and yep, it’s hip attack time. ACH tries to call a play like he’s Taguchi, but Tiger Mask nonchalantly kicks away another hip attack. ACH’s bad. Tiger Mask stomps on Taguchi’s arse for a bit, and now in comes Liger to pull him into a Romero special as “Liger Japan” go to town on his rear end. Not like that. Poor Taguchi.

Finally a tag comes ACH’s way, and “Super” ACH lands a massive springboard back elbow to Liger for a near-fall. A superplex gets rid of those two as we go to Dragon Lee and Hirai Kawato… who brought all the fire! Kawato flipped out of a snapmare and brought in a ‘rana… that Lee cartwheels out of before wrecking Kawato with a dropkick.

There’s an awkward spot as Kawato tried to roll out of a Phoenixplex, almost landing on his head, before Dragon Lee decided to forget all that and just plant him with the Desnucadora (vertical suplex powerbomb) instead for the win. Enjoyable stuff, but I’ll be damned if that Kawato stuff at the end wasn’t scary. ***¼

Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka & TAKA Michinoku)
Yano’s still got Suzuki’s belt, so Minoru’s clearly not murdered him for it yet… especially not with the bullrope he came out with.

Yep, we had a jump start, and yes, Suzuki went after Yano with the rope, whilst YOSHI-HASHI and TAKA had it out for each other in the ring. The rope-hung dropkick put TAKA firmly on the back foot, but Iizuka’s liberal interference turned things around as the camera crew focused on Suzuki trying to murderise Yano in the crowd again.

Yano avoids death and manages to walk back towards the ringside area, where Iizuka and TAKA are still working over YOSHI-HASHI, before Suzuki decides he wanted a go. Yeah, it didn’t end well as Suzuki grabs a heel hook… and drags Yano into the hold at the same time! Impressive MiSu is impressive.

Iizuka tries to bite through YOSHI-HASHI’s boots, but YOSHI-HASHI finally breaks through and gets the tag out to Goto, who is more than eager to lay into Iizuka. A backdrop suplex gets Goto a near-fall, but again Iizuka bites his way into it. I wonder if he’s Pete Dunne’s inspiration? We’re back to Yano and Suzuki. Of course, Minoru isn’t playing Yano’s games, throwing him into the exposed corner as Suzuki-gun triple-team him. A rear naked choke looked to be the end for Yano, but he grabs the ref as he tried to mule kick Suzuki… and misses. Plenty of hair-pulling from Yano causes Suzuki to snap as he grabs that bull rope and wraps it around Yano’s throat.

Suzuki throws the ref out of the ring, and that has to be a DQ surely? The bell goes, and yes, the match has been thrown out based on Suzuki trying to hang Yano and/or ref abuse. Whichever you want to see it as. This was fine, but it didn’t light my world on fire – “just a match”, I guess, although it has made me want to see what they do to have Suzuki legally murder Yano. ***

After the match, Suzuki tried to tie the rope onto Yano, but the Master Thief escaped – with the NEVER openweight title. So Suzuki just whips the Young Lions with the rope. Sadism!

Kota Ibushi, Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
We’ve Tanahashi and Ibushi for the Intercontinental title at Power Struggle, so this is a natural-ish fit. Ibushi and Tanahashi open us off with wristlock attempts as the pair nullify each other early on.

Juice and Kojima have a go next, trading shoulder tackles like they were back against each other in the G1, but this time our bread lover just rakes the eyes before David Finlay and gets a weird one-count over Kojima. Regardless, our bread lover is kept isolated for a while as Juice and Finlay work over him, leading to a squashing cannonball in the corner.

Finally Kojima gets the tag out as Tenzan dishes out some Mongolian chops, before falling into a spinebuster from Juice as things remained even. Heck, the crowd were just waiting for the headliners, which we got when Ibushi tagged in… and got headbutted by Tenzan. Tanahashi returns to have another pop at Kota, but runs into a dropkick, then a snap German suplex, before Tanahashi fired back with a Slingblade outta nowhere.

Tags take us back to Finlay and Kojima… with Kojima becoming a one-man wrecking crew with his machine gun chop, before Finlay punches away a TenKoji Cutter. A uranage backbreaker from Finlay nearly gets the win as Ibushi and Tanahashi fight on the floor, but the tide again turns as Finlay eats a Strong Arm lariat for the pin. Decent stuff, but again nothing grabbed me here. It’s almost like everyone was saving themselves for the main event! ***¼

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Gedo & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
Oh come on, an LIJ tag has to be good, right? We’re mashing together the Super Junior tag tournament here as BUSHI and Hiromu are in the blocks alongside Roppongi 3K… oh, and don’t forget the WrestleKingdom main event.

We start with the usual cycling through tags – SHO and BUSHI, SANADA and Ishii… but of course, that’s just a ploy for Naito to attack Ishii from behind to spark some double-teaming. A double leapfrog dropkick puts Ishii down as the rest of the participants spill onto the floor, before we settled down into Hiromu trying to chop Ishii. That didn’t work.

BUSHI and Hiromu just about got Ishii up for a double-team hiptoss/facebuster as a prelude to EVIL working over the legs. SHO’s attempt to make a save got him squashed onto Ishii by way of a back senton, and things took a while to get better for Ishii as he had to escape a tonne of stuff from Naito before landing a scoop slam.

Okada gets the tag in and sent Hiromu into the sky with a huge flapjack, as he them proceeded to overcome the Ingobernables single-handledly. Or at least, three of them. When YOH came back in, he stuttered a little bit before dropping Hiromu with a corkscrew forearm, allowing Roppongi 3K to hit their double-team Dominator for a near-fall.

Takahashi replies by throwing YOH into the turnbuckles with an overhead belly-to-belly, but the tables keep on turning as we headed towards Gedo and BUSHI as a Parade of Moves started out. Ishii’s leaping German suplex gets rid of BUSHI as Naito’s dropped with an Okada dropkick, before a Gedo Clutch is broken up with a Skull End and a Codebreaker for a near-fall. In the end, it’s the MX that does the trick, as BUSHI scores the pin on Gedo to get LIJ the W. Overall decent stuff, but this wasn’t a high-end LIJ tag – but with two weeks left in the tour, there’s plenty of build to come. ***½

Before the main event we had another video package, with some footage of the two veterans chatting away on a park bench. I’m sure there’s an age-related joke to be made here…

Manabu Nakanishi vs. Yuji Nagata
Before the match, Nagata and Nakanishi were presented with bouquets of flowers, and we started off rather tentatively as the feeling out process began in earnest. To be fair, if I’d lost 18 of the 28 prior singles matches against Nakanishi (as Nagata had), I’d not be rushing in either!

After a test of strength, Nagata chops away with some kicks to Nakanishi’s thighs, before throwing some knees… and then Manabu to the outside. He joins him there to throw some forearms as Nakanishi surprises him with a spear on the floor, before throwing some precise chops to the throat. Hey, it’s an effective tactic, I guess.

A big splash from Nakanishi’s good for a two-count, as Nagata gets forced into the corner by way of chops and headbutts, leaving him open for an avalanche clothesline as Nakanishi looked to be firmly in control… except Nagata rushes out with a kick to the thigh as he started to make a comeback. Kicks and forearms reverse things as now Nakanishi’s on the defensive, leading to a running boot in the corner… but Nagata can’t quite get off an Exploder, so instead he has to make do with a stuttering low dropkick. Nakanishi might not be as mobile as he once was, but he’s impressively resolute, only going down when he had no choice to, as Nagata continued to pepper him with kicks to the chest and back.

Nakanishi recovers and took Nagata up top for a rare thing… a freaking superplex from Nakanishi?! This is a special event! Hell, Nakanishi even busts out a plancha, although it did look a little off, before heading back up top for a missile dropkick. Manabu, with all these top rope moves, you’re spoiling us!

Eventually Nagata gets fed up of being landed on as he decides it’s more fun being slapped down repeatedly, as it looked more and more likely that his big anniversary was going to be overshadowed. Nakanishi geed himself up for a lariat, which worked, before Nagata ducks a punch and finally lands his Exploder!

Nagata tries to replay the earlier favour by landing a superplex, but he ends up on the defensive not long after as a German suplex and a Hercules cutter almost lost him the match. Just like that though, Nagata traps Nakanishi with the eye-rolling armbar, eventually pulling it into a cross armbreaker that’s swiftly escaped.

The pair continued to trade strikes as Nagata’s boots earned him a double axehandle and a spear from Nakanishi, whose attempt for another Hercules Cutter is escaped out of. Nagata followed in with some enziguiris and a high-angle brainbuster, but it’s kicked out of at one! More kicks lead to an Exploder – with an awkward landing – and that’s your lot! In his first match in his hometown, Nagata gets the win as it’s his annviersary that gets marked with a W! Well, they rolled back the clock here and bust out a lot of their greatest hits, but in terms of a “moment”, Nagata’s G1 farewell stood out more than this to be honest. ***

After the match, the ceremonies continued as the pair were presented with blown-up photos from their career. Hope they’ve got the wall space for it all! The locker room then emptied out as we had show-closing speeches from both men, and since my Japanese is non-existant, this is where I’ll drop out of the review!

As a show, this was pretty much a “by the numbers” affair, with little standing out. Well, apart from that slip-up from Kawato that nearly went badly wrong! However, this show was only streamed on New Japan World for the Nagata/Nakanishi main event – and while that may have been slow-paced and awkward, it’s the best we could have expected from two who’ve been wrestling now for a combined 50 years!