The road to Power Struggle kicked off in Korakuen Hall – as New Japan became their latest Super Junior Tag League!

The tournament format is more akin to PROGRESS’ recent Thunderbastard series, instead of having blocks, everyone’s in one big round robin league. Eight teams, 28 matches… with the top two teams facing off at Power Struggle on November 3. Not every show in this tour will be streamed live, but all tournament matches will be available in some form – nice preparation for next month’s “heavyweight” World Tag League.

The end of the tour, on November 3, is due to see Will Ospreay challenge Taichi for the NEVER title… however, we’re not going to get the traditional undercard tag match build for this, after Ospreay injured his rib this past weekend on Rev Pro’s Global Wars UK show. Taichi’s been pulled from the Road shows too, but neither were originally scheduled for this show.

Kevin Kelly’s joined on commentary by a how-the-hell-is-he-not-jet-lagged Rocky Romero, fresh from wrestling at Rev Pro on Sunday.

Ayato Yoshida, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura vs. Toa Henare, Shota Umino & Ren Narita
Our traditional Young Lions’ opener has some talk on commentary about Tetsuhiro Yagi’s decision to leave New Japan, and we start with Uemura and Narita scrambling for a hold early on.

We’re quickly flipping through tags as we switched to Henare and Tsuji, who keep it basic too with a headlock, headscissors and escape, before they start trading shoulder tackles, roars and chops. Henare eventually knocks him down before Umino gets the tag in for a spot of triple-teaming on the New Japan Dojo’s most recent “big hoss”.

Narita’s in to ground Tsuji with a chinlock, but we get a rope break before Umino returned to slam the big guy for a two-count. Henare tags in and does the same, then goes back to strikes until a dropkick from Tsuji got him some breathing room… and a tag out to Yoshida, who instantly boots Umino off the ring apron. Yoshida keeps up on Henare with a bulldog and a kick to the chest for a near-fall, before Umino came in and gleefully traded forearms and elbows with Yoshida in the corner. I love this sort of intensity with the Young Lions! Umino edges ahead with a missile dropkick off the middle rope for a near-fall, before Yoshida came close with a PK.

We’re back to the elbows, before a spinebuster snuffed out Yoshida’s kicks… and both men are down and in search of a tag once more! In come Narita and Uemura, and MY GOD those forearms rocked. A huge back body drop nearly gets Narita the win, before a Boston crab followed. Uemura escapes and applies one of his own, but it leads to nought as Narita’s right back in with a belly-to-belly suplex then another Boston crab gets the win for Ren Narita. A hell of a fun opener, with plenty of fire from the Young Lions! ***½

Bullet Club Elite (Kota Ibushi, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
Ahead of WrestleKingdom, it looks like Ibushi’s playing proxy for Kenny Omega – which is probably a good thing. I think we all got fed up of those Naito/Okada tags last year.

Ibushi and Tanahashi get us going, but their opening exchanges are pretty muted before Honma and Owens tag in. Chase goes for a cravat/knee combo early, but ends up taking some chops before Yujiro interferes to prevent a Kokeshi. Honma’s dragged outside and charged into the apron as Ibushi keeps up the beating in the ring, throwing some kicks to the chest as Honma was literally forced to fight from the bottom.

They keep up on Honma, with Owens teasing a package piledriver, but Honma fights out as Owens just mocks Tanahashi instead. Yujiro’s in with a sidewalk slam for a near-fall, but Honma eventually fights back, reversing a suplex before he tagged out to Makabe, who charges through Owens and Yujiro with shoulder tackles. There’s one for Ibushi too, before a huge lariat wiped out Yujiro for a two-count. Yujiro bites his way back into it, before scoring with a reverse DDT on Makabe. Ibushi’s back in to unleash a flurry of strikes and a standing moonsault for a near-fall. Makabe tags out to Tanahashi as we finish how we started, this time with Tanahashi going low with a dropkick ahead of a flip senton off the middle rope for a near-fall. Ibushi catches Tanahashi with a Pele kick, then brings Chase back into the fray… and Chase almost knees off Tanahashi’s head! He doesn’t go for the pin, and instead follows in with a back breaker for a near-fall, before Tanahashi countered back with a Twist and Shout.

That sparks a big Parade of Moves, culminating in a Slingblade to Owens, then a Kokeshi and a High Fly Flow as Tanahashi and co take the win. Fun stuff, but this did start to drag a little in the middle. ***

Bullet Club OG (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & Best Friends (Beretta & Chuckie T)
So after the events of last week’s King of Pro Wrestling, the Bullet Club OG have swelled their ranks – and gained an air horn to boot. Yay, that was always my least favourite part of wrestling crowds back in the day.

Okada wants to start with White, but instead it’s Tama Tonga who opens up for the Bullet Club. There’s a cheapshot from Okada, but that left him open for Tama to catch him. Okada outsmarts the Bullet Club early, shoving Fale into Tama, before Gedo tried to provide a distraction… which sort of worked as Jado caught Okada with a Kendo stick from the floor.

Jay White grabs the stick and uses it on Yano on the outside too, before he turned his attention back to Okada, charging him into the ring apron. There’s no guard rails here, as I guess we’re following the Fantasticamania precedent of removing guard rails to give us more flips. Okada remains in as the Bullet Club continue to wear him down, as well as mock him (although to be fair, it was mostly Tama Tonga doing that). Tanga Loa’s in with a legdrop and some push ups as the taunting continued, before Okada finally go the tag out to Beretta, who crashes into Tanga with a crossbody off the top. He slips out of a slam before hitting a springboard sunset flip out of the corner for a near-fall, before Tanga headed outside… and ate a tope con giro that went deep into the crowd!

Jay White tags in but quickly gets thrown to the outside as Chuckie T tags in and hits a plancha. Hey, leave some dives for the juniors! A moonsault follows, but White moves away as Chuckie instead nails a leaping knee, before a Falcon arrow draws a solid two-count. Tama starts a Parade of Moves as he hits a Tongan Twist as Chuckie went for a piledriver… and the Parade continues through a Gobstopper from Beretta and all the way through to an Okada dropkick to Switchblade! We’re back to the Chuckie T piledriver, but Gedo comes in with brass knuckles… he’s caught, but it’s a cover for a low blow from, White, then the Blade Runner as the Bullet Club get the win. Plenty of shenanigans, but we’re establishing this new line-up so I guess it’s okay? It’s at least miles above the crap we had during the G1 “establishing” phase… ***

Super Junior Tag League: Bullet Club OG (Taiji Ishimori & Robbie Eagles) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask
It’s a New Japan debut for Eagles, if you don’t count the Australia tour from earlier this year…

Liger and Tiger came up short a week ago in their shot for the junior tag team titles at King of Pro Wrestling, and it’s Liger and Ishimori who open us up. We’re in the ropes for a quick break, before Eagles and Tiger come in, but the Marshall X lookalike takes a snappy tiltawhirl backbreaker as the New Japan veterans took him to task with a baseball slide dropkick from Liger.

Back in the ring, there’s a Romero special to Eagles, but Ishimori quickly breaks it up as the Bullet Club pairing started to isolate Liger. Eventually Liger shoves the Bullet Club pair into each other, before hitting a tiltawhirl backbreaker of his own, tagging out to Tiger Mask, who crashes into Ishimori with a crossbody off the top for a near-fall. A kick to Ishimori sends him crumbling into the corner… where he’s lifted up top… and gets met with a running dropkick as Eagles’ bid for a save went awry. Tiger finally flies with an armdrag off the top rope for a near-fall, before he pulls Ishimori into a double armbar, but the Bone Soldier gets his foot to the rope to force a break. More kicks follow as Tiger continued to focus on the arms, but Ishimori’s able to hit a handspring overhead kick off the ropes.

Tags bring in Eagles and Liger… and yeah, Eagles continues to struggle as he ate a Shotei and a powerbomb for a near-fall. Ishimori makes a save as he drags out Tiger Mask, but can’t save Eagles from a lucha roll-up and a Shotei that made the Australian flip inside out… but it’s still only enough for a near-fall! A brainbuster looked to be next, but Eagles slips out as Ishimori springboards in with a seated senton to Liger, before a running Meteora into the corner cracked Liger hard.

Liger’s down, but ends up taking a backpack Falcon Arrow, then a 450 to the knee before he’s rolled over into the Trailer Hitch/inverted figure four… and with Tiger Mask being kept at bay, Liger was forced to tap. This could have been a rough start, but Ishimori and Eagles shrugged off those miscommunication issues and picked up a W to kick the tournament off. ***½

Super Junior Tag League: Soberano Jr. & Volador Jr. vs. Ryusuke Taguchi & ACH
Soberano and Volador are here representing CMLL, and there’s a slip from Soberano as he tried to vault into the ring. Uh oh. Volador recently lost a hair match in CMLL, while ACH and Taguchi were fully repping the Japan 2019 rugby union world cup gimmick.

Volador starts the match in the mask, but he wants to face Taguchi instead of ACH. That doesn’t happen, as ACH gets taken into the ropes, before we burst into some pacey offence en route to a stand-off… and a mask-off as Volador showed off his shorter locks. ACH scores with a heavy hip attack a la Taguchi, having originally feinted a kick to the back, before Taguchi played coach for the barrage of charges into Volador in the corner. He just directed traffic as ACH tired himself out… then put himself in the ropes as Volador looked to get whipped into the arse. It worked, too!

Taguchi keeps up on Volador with an Arabian clutch, before some headscissors saw the pair roll into the ropes. The pair continue to work over Volador, who couldn’t even begin to dream of a tag out… not least when he’s getting hit in the ropes with hip attacks. He eventually evades one, countering it into an atomic drop as Soberano comes in and scores with a Doomsday crossbody for a near-fall on Taguchi.

Soberano makes up for his earlier slip, catching Taguchi with a gamengiri before a tornillo off the top scores for a near-fall. Taguchi and Soberano trade kicks to the gut, but Soberano handsprings into an atomic drop from Taguchi… then returns the favour as the arse attacks left all four men down. ACH and Volador return, but there’s a monstrous kick from Volador that sees ACH collapse into a heap for a near-fall. There’s a brief Parade of Moves that turns into dives, courtesy of a Fosbury flop from Soberano, before ACH returns the earlier favour, thrust kicking Volador ahead of a deadlift bridging German suplex for a near-fall. ACH tries to head up top, but eats a gamengiri from Volador, who then heads up for a top rope ‘rana, and that’s enough to put away ACH! They brought the flips, but my God, Volador got busted open there as some stitches in his ear gave way – bringing some juice. That may well be a common feature this tour… ***¼

Rocky Romero departs commentary here, and is replaced by Beretta for the remainder of the show.

Super Junior Tag League: Chris Sabin & KUSHIDA vs. Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado)
Well, add KUSHIDA to the jet lag club – he wrestle on Sunday, and is in action a little over 36 hours later. That’s some David Starr journey right there…

The junior tag titles aren’t on the line in these tournament matches, and them being Suzuki-gun, we’ve got a jump start! Sabin and KUSHIDA manage to outsmart them, taking the junior tag champs outside as they launch into them with cannonballs off the apron, as Korakuen was on their feet. Not literally. Back in the ring, there’s a series of arm wringers as KUSHIDA harkened back to his time in the Time Splitters days – swapping out Alex Shelley for “the other Machine Gun”. Sabin takes Desperado into the ropes, only to get low bridged as Kanemaru pulled him off the apron, and now it’s time for some brawling as Sabin’s kept rather isolated.

A boot stops a charging Desperado in the corner as Sabin charges into him with a kick… and here comes a springboarding KUSHIDA as he unloads with a series of body slams. There’s a handspring back elbow to Kanemaru, before a double-team took Desperado into the corner. Kanemaru’s back, but gets double-teamed again, before KUSHIDA catches Desperado in a cravat. Somehow Desperado escapes and throws KUSHIDA outside, as we’ve got more brawling, with KUSHIDA getting thrown into the crowd while Sabin has a chair smashed onto his knee on the floor.

Yuya Uemura’s used as a human weapon as Kanemaru slams him onto KUSHIDA on the floor. Back in the ring, the boots are put to KUSHIDA, who then takes a big back body drop before he’s put in a Boston crab… which eventually gets broken via the ropes. Desperado comes in to keep up on KUSHIDA, who finally manages to break the flow of play by slamming Kanemaru on the outside, before catching Desperado with an enziguiri… and in comes Sabin!

A crossbody off the top takes down Desperado, while an apron PK wiped out Kanemaru. There’s a tope to keep Kanemaru down too, before a springboard tornado DDT from Sabin almost puts Desperado away. Desperado goes to the eyes next, but KUSHIDA’s back for some double-teaming, saving himself from a slip as a Muta lock/low dropkick connects. Kanemaru’s back for some double-teaming too, taking a Muta lock/cartwheel dropkick for his woes, before the focus goes back onto Desperado. A neckbreaker/moonsault’s avoided as Kanemaru gets involved, while Sabin and Desperado stayed in the ring to counter each other’s offence, ending with a Sabin lariat, then an enziguiri, and finally the Hail Sabin Samoan Driver… but the ref’s pulled out to keep the match alive!

Behind the ref’s back, Kanemaru spits whiskey at Sabin, allowing Desperado to hit a spear and Pinche Loco to score the win. Shenanigans as always from Suzuki-gun, but this wasn’t too bad a match – and a hell of an outing for whatever KUSHIDA and Sabin are going to call themselves. Especially considering jet lag! ***½

Super Junior Tag League: Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
A week after debuting, Shingo Takagi’s thrust into action as part of the Super Junior Tag League, teaming with BUSHI… and I’ve got to think “this was the Hiromu role”.

Just to annoy me, SHO and YOH and wearing 50/50 tights, but it’s SHO and Shingo who start us off, trading right hands before we got shoulder tackles. Shingo won out easily on those. YOH’s in with BUSHI, as Roppongi 3K started to find their feet, isolating and double-teaming BUSHI for a spell, before things turned around. Shingo’s back to try his luck with SHO, but in the end he’s able to blast through both halves of Roppongi 3K with corner-to-corner charges with ease. Things head outside as SHO’s charged into the apron, while BUSHI takes YOH into the crowd. Shingo takes inspiration from that as Roppongi 3K were thrown into the East/West signs in Korakuen Hall, before we headed back to ringside.

Finally back in the ring, SHO’s head is stood on as the Ingobernables duo continued to maintain control. A suplex from Shingo eventually gets a near-fall, before he laughs off a series of chops from SHO, before returning those favours… and then some! Finally SHO hits back with a spear, before bringing in YOH to try and turn it around with some dropkicks. He has some success with those, before scoring with Dragon screws.

Shingo tries to stem the tide with Dragon screws of his own, but it’s BUSHI who continues the fightback with a double ‘rana to SHO and YOH at the same time. A swinging Fisherman’s suplex doesn’t come off as Roppongi 3K lays in the double teams, dropkicking Shingo to the floor before duelling tope con giro left LIJ on the floor. Roppongi 3K continue on BUSHI, whipping him into the corner as a step-up back elbow saw them go all Hardy Boyz before Shingo intervened.

We’ve a brief Parade of Moves as all four men are laid out. SHO and BUSHI trade palm strikes before a deadlift German suplex has BUSHI on the mat. YOH’s tagged back in… but Shingo’s also back as Roppongi 3K needed to double-team him… and did so with a suplex! The focus goes back on BUSHI, who takes a back cracker and a dropkick, before he fought out of 3K and hit back with a nasty looking dropkick. There’s a DDT to SHO too as Shingo returns, charging into YOH with an avalanche clothesline. The pair go head to head with elbows from there, but Shingo edges ahead there, before he ducked a superkick and caught a ‘rana as BUSHI smashed into YOH with a dropkick. From there there’s a Gory special that’s countered into a backslide that almost gets the win… before a spinebuster/backcracker combo almost put YOH down for the count!

BUSHI catches SHO with a Cherry Mint DDT on the apron, while Shingo lands a Gory Bomb and the Pumping Bomb lariat… but it’s still not enough to put SHO down! The Last of the Dragons follows – the swinging Fireman’s carry into a Falcon arrow – and that’s finally enough for the victory. Wow. Easily the best match of the night – and a rather dominant showing by Shingo after BUSHI took the lion’s share of the beating here. ****

So after one round, this is how the Super Junior Tag League stands:

Bullet Club OG (Robbie Eagles & Taiji Ishimori); Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Shingo); Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru); Volador Jr. & Soberano Jr. (1-0 / 2pts)
ACH & Ryusuke Taguchi; KUSHIDA & Chris Sabin; Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH); Tiger Mask & Jushin Thunder Liger (0-1 / 0pts)

We’ve got another round at Korakuen Hall tomorrow, and then we’re doing on-demand matches until the tour comes back around to Tokyo at the end of next week.

This was a really good show from New Japan – perhaps lacking a “jaw dropping” match, but we started with a really hot Young Lions’ match, and the show continued on that same vein. If this is what the rest of Road to Power Struggle is going to be like, I’m going to be all in on this tour!