You know the drill – it’s the last “Road to…” show ahead of this weekend’s Sakura Genesis event, so we’re back to Korakuen Hall for a better-than-usual show!

Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Manabu Nakanishi & Hirai Kawato
You know the drill here – Kawato flew down to try and get a jump start, but ended up getting beaten down by Desperado this time. Takashi Iizuka decides to throw a bunch of empty chairs at Liger… and a few that weren’t quite as free, before this settled down somewhat.

If by “settling down” we can all agree that Desperado whipping Kawato with a leash is settling…

Liger comes in to break up a cover from TAKA, and then stomp on Kawato out of anger as the Suzuki-gun trio go back to cheating as Iizuka uses a bit of rope to choke Kawato. Once the referee noticed, he refused to count, so Iizuka just bites on Kawato’s taped-up shoulder. Finally Kawato’s able to break free, and that brings in Nakanishi to batter Iizuka with corner lariats, eventually collecting a two-count after a lariat off the rope.

Iizuka comes back with an atomic drop before Liger makes the tag and nails Desperado with the tiltawhirl backbreaker. Nakanishi fends off TAKA as he and Liger apply some submissions, but Kawato couldn’t keep Iizuka at bay. Liger then heads out and grabs a fan’s chair to whack Desperado with, as he then invited Kawato in to finish off the job. After shrugging off a trip, Kawato fired back with a missile dropkick to TAKA as part of a long series of agonising near-falls for the rookie, but just like that, TAKA trips him in a crossface for the submission. The parts with plucky Kawato were fun, especially the closing stretch, but otherwise, this is something you’ve probably seen already. **¼

Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Yuji Nagata & Tomoyuki Oka
Bloody hell, New Japan’s sprung for the classic themes here – it took me a while to remember Nagata’s “proper” song!

Oka starts out pretty strong, shrugging off kicks to charge down Yujiro before he gets sent outside and takes a shot with Takahashi’s pimp cane. Back inside, Chase Owens keeps up the pressure with a dropkick as it becomes Nagata’s turn to slap down a disappointed tag partner. Eventually Oka hits a spinebuster and tags in Nagata to kick away at Yujiro, before an Exploder gave the veteran a near-fall.

Takahashi hits back with a surprise Fisherman’s buster, but Nagata replies with an armbar that showed off his shiny fillings, and we move to some two-on-one onto Owens, who was forced to kick-out to Oka. Owens gets caught in a Boston crab, but of course Takahashi breaks it up, only to get dispatched to the outside… which allows Owens to hit a superkick for another near-fall. All that was left for Chase though was a package piledriver, and the rookie chalks up another L. Pretty good as an undercard match – and while it’s weird to say this for a guy who’s losing all the time, Oka does seem to be getting protected more, at least in terms of what stuff he’s doing. **½

War Machine (Hanson & Rowe) & David Finlay vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Tiger Mask
Well, we started with War Machine shoving off with Kojima and Tenzan whilst a smug Finlay watched on from the apron. Some Mongolian chops put the impending title challengers in their place for now, before we got some tags that saw Tiger Mask just about edge ahead of Finlay.

There’s a spot of triple teaming as Finlay, then Hanson get slammed onto Tiger Mask for a near-fall, but the masked man came back with a Tiger Driver… but couldn’t make a cover. Tenzan comes in for a suplex on Finlay, who was also sporting War Machine-esque face paint – before a spinning heel kick took down Rowe. Kojima tags in to light-up Rowe’s chest with the machine gun chops, with that top rope elbow getting him a near-fall.

Rowe blasts Kojima with a rolling elbow, before a springboard clothesline-assisted German suplex nearly ended things. Hanson throws in the corner-to-corner lariats for a spell, then easily catches a crossbody from Tiger Mask as things break down a bit, ending with a TenKoji Cutter on Finlay. In the end though, Rowe kills Finlay with a knee strike before Fallout ended the tag team champions. A really good six-man that helped build to Sunday’s title match – establishing War Machine as a major threat. ***

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi) vs. Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano, Gedo & Jado
Bloody hell, Zack Sabre Jr’s racking up those air miles, having flown from Orlando to make it to Japan for this show. Anyway, Zack’s presence here means that the odd one out in this tag is… Suzuki, who’ll be pairing off with Toru Yano, most likely. Poor sod.

Jump start! Whilst everyone else is out on the floor, we get Jado and Kanemaru in the ring, and it’s Jado who’s the early aggressor with a back suplex. Of course, Taichi’s in this match, so we get his gimmicks with the mic stand and bell hammer, but thankfully the camera decides to focus on Sabre tying up Goto in a guillotine on the floor.

Suzuki laughs off Goto’s attempt at a comeback, and kills him with an open hand slap to the chest. Moments after, Taichi does his bell hammer thing, before Gedo lands a clothesline… but Kanemaru clears the apron to prevent a tag from being made, before he leaps into Gedo’s knee. We get a glimpse of Sabre and Goto, the former utilises some wacky rope running to confuse Goto en route to an Octopus hold that gets turned into an ushigoroshi!

Toru Yano tags in and loosens the turnbuckle pad, which is perhaps a bad idea against Suzuki… but Minoru briefly plays along with the Yano shtick before booting him in the back. Yano gets trapped in the corner as seemingly all of Suzuki-gun charge into him, but that doesn’t lead to a cover as the ring fills up. Yano goes his point-to-self pose, but gets caught in a rear naked choke by Suzuki before Taichi’s attempted use of a mic stand gets him crotched, then rolled-up for the win. Pretty decent undercard fodder, not too heavy on the Suzuki-gun shtick, and it served well as build-up for Sunday. **½

Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Bad Luck Fale ) vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Beretta
Beretta started off being ragdolled by Fale, before Omega comes in and scores the first near-fall with a backbreaker.

A Finlay roll from Omega leads to him missing a moonsault off the middle rope, which allows Ishii to come in… but his offence comes to a shuddering halt when he faced Fale. Omega gets thrown into the path of a Fale clothesline before the big man’s clotheslined to the floor, where he takes a tope from Beretta. A back suplex from Ishii gets him a near-fall on Omega, before an Ishii clothesline helps Beretta complete a sunset flip on Fale. Why you’d try that in the first place… heaven knows. Fale throws off a tornado DDT and splashes on Beretta to almost win it, but a Grenade moments later finishes the job. Fairly short and sweet, but really good while it was going. ***

KUSHIDA & Juice Robinson vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi)
The cameras totally miss a dive from KUSHIDA onto Takahashi as the latter was making his way to the ring… so Juice decides to go after Naito too. KUSHIDA dropkicks Naito through a gate, whilst Naito barges Juice, then KUSHIDA into the railings as this starts rather violently.

A straight right hand from Robinson takes Naito down after some offence, but Hiromu rushes the ring to stop KUSHIDA from making the tag, only for him to take a lariat from Robinson. KUSHIDA comes in with a handspring elbow to Naito, then a hiptoss into an armbar on Hiromu that forced the champion to scramble towards the ropes. A wheelbarrow roll-up almost wins it, before a roll-through into an armbar keeps KUSHIDA on top.

Robinson comes in with a spinebuster and a cannonball to Naito, but the Ingobernables quickly double-team Juice, leading to Naito hitting his outside-in dropkick.Things turn up a notch when KUSHIDA’s handspring’s turned into a German suplex by Takahashi, before Juice slipped out of a Destino and clotheslined Naito to the mat. A falling powerbomb nearly gets Juice the W, but Hiromu gets involved and allows Naito to kick Juice low before the Destino gets the win. I really enjoyed this tag match – a welcome change to the multi-man Ingobernable tags we’ve been used to. ***½

After the match, Naito pulls back on Robinson using his dreadlocks whilst KUSHIDA ate a sunset bomb to the floor as the Ingobernables underscored their victory.

Katsuyori Shibata & Togi Makabe vs. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI
So we started with Shibata and Okada exchanging blows, much like we did ahead of Shibata’s match with Will Ospreay earlier in the year.

Heck, in the early going Shibata just laid waste to the CHAOS pairing, before bringing Makabe to have some fun himself, giving YOSHI-HASHI corner punches before YOSHI slipped free and knocked Shibata down for some brawling with Okada on the floor. Needless to say, Shibata got very familiar with the guard railings as Okada and YOSHI-HASHI were left to team-up on Makabe for a spell.

Eventually Makabe lands a clothesline to YOSHI-HASHI then brings in Shibata… who kicks Okada off the apron before doling out more of the same to YOSHI. Okada comes back in, having grown tired of being kicked off the apron, but his DDT just earns him and instant German suplex from Shibata, who’s not taking any of his usual shtick.

A boot from Okada sends Shibata into the corner for a tag out, which allows Makabe to charge into the IWGP champion with clotheslines, only for some CHAOS double-teaming to set-up for a slingshot into a DDT for Okada. Okada hits his top rope elbow to Makabe, then fends off Shibata with a neckbreaker slam, but it’s a lariat from Makabe that takes the champion into a death valley driver for almost a shock result.

Makabe follows up with a bridging German for a near-fall, but he clings on for a Dragon suplex attempt, only for YOSHI-HASHI to try and stop it with a lariat. It failed, but a Codebreaker then a pair of Okada dropkicks set up for the eventual finish… Rainmaker! A bloody fun tag-match, with Shibata and Okada going all-out against each other… can it be Sunday yet? ***½

After the match, Okada decided to mock the Shibata cross-legged pose… so he gets a PK from a wild Shibata, before replying with a tombstone.

NEVER Openweight Six Man Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, BUSHI & SANADA) (c)
Originally this was meant to be a rematch from The New Beginning in Osaka… but Ricochet subbed for Nakanishi, which is an improvement no matter how you spin it.

The champions largely enjoyed the better of the early going, with Taguchi starting off a chain of hip attacks between himself and Tanahashi, constantly ignoring Ricochet’s request for a tag… but when he did get in, he didn’t disappoint with the hip attack, but he did end up on the receiving end of some Ingobernable offence for a spell.

When Ricochet did break free, the offence started to come thick and fast – a RKO to SANADA off the ropes (called as such), before Taguchi returned to… a ring full of lifeless bodies. Which he dealt with as only he knows how: with hip attacks! Taguchi then forgot how to tie up SANADA in a ball, and that leads to SANADA showing him before quickly dropkicking him free. Apparently that was a Milano Collection AT spot, so I’m guessing that’s another match they’re teasing that they can’t deliver?

EVIL gets caught with a Dragon Screw out of the corner, before a Texas cloverleaf from Tanahashi is rapidly broken up as the ring filled. A Slingblade takes down EVIL for a High Fly Flow, but BUSHI breaks up the cover to keep the champions in it, before EVIL switched a Dragon suplex attempt into a STO. Ricochet gets the tag next and he just kills BUSHI with a roll-through into a DDT, before SANADA takes a diving forearm and a Space Flying Tiger Drop.

My word, for a man who did the Orlando-to-Tokyo flight hours before this, Ricochet is on fire!

After catching a springboard, BUSHI drops Ricochet with a swinging Fisherman’s suplex, then a back cracker for a near-fall. Some hip attacks from Taguchi quickly go wrong as he’s dropkicked to the outside, before a Codebreaker cuts off a Benadryller attempt from Ricochet. EVIL pulls Red Shoes out of the ring, but BUSHI accidentally mists his own man as the referee returns to see Ricochet hit a a Northern lights floating into a brainbuster… but EVIL breaks up that pin too!

More back and forth sees BUSHI nearly win with a backslide, before Taguchi hip attacks the masked one into a knee strike from Ricochet. One Benadryller later, and we still don’t have a title change as BUSHI somehow kicked out at two! Some more Ricochet kicks lead to a uranage-assisted STO, and that’s enough – yet again, we have new six-man champions! This was a refreshing change of pace from the usual fodder on these Korakuen shows, and a massively enjoyable main event. ****

Well, this show was a step up from the usual Road to… shows that make New Japan World. Helped by the fact that we had more snappy, two-on-two tags than the usual cluster of multi-mans helped this breeze along; but I’d still say you only “need” to see the main event if you’re pushed for time.