New Japan returned to Korakuen Hall for a build-up show for next month’s Sakura Genesis special.

Formerly known as Invasion Attack, this year’s Sakura Genesis show features a rather varied line-up of matches, including War Machine getting a shot at the IWGP tag team titles, and Zack Sabre Jr. attempting to add a fourth belt to his haul, with a shot at Hirooki Goto in the cards. Oh, and the small matter of Katsuyori Shibata going for Okada’s IWGP title!

Tomoyuki Oka vs. Bad Luck Fale
Splat. Oka tried his best, and actually took down Fale with a shoulder tackle for a near-fall, but a clothesline wiped him out. One Grenade later, the inevitable happened. Less than 90 seconds – which is how this should have been.

Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask & Hirai Kawato
The lessons continue to be dished out for Kawato, whose race to the ring earned him a beatdown from Suzuki-gun at the start. When Kawato looked to be getting back into it, Desperado rushed the ring and we hit reset as the arena brawling continued with Iizuka and Desperado against Kawato’s partners.

Desperado mocks Liger by holding out Kawato’s arm for a tag, but the youngster’s nowhere near the corner and he ends up getting whipped by Iizuka’s leash whilst the referee was distracted. He then gets beaten up BY HIS OWN PARTNER as Liger grew increasingly disappointed in him. God, I love that spot.

Again Liger rushes in to break up the Suzuki-gun advantage, but Kawato can’t capitalise, and he quickly ends up in a modified crossface from TAKA. Tiger Mask breaks that up eventually, but we’re back to the Young Lion beating, exacerbated by him missing a dropkick… he hits it at the second attempt and finally brings in Tiger Mask, who kicks his way into the match.

A crucifix gets Tiger a near-fall, before he leaps over a charging Desperado and gets another two-count with a Tiger Driver on TAKA. Some interference from Iizuka helps TAKA get back into it, but Liger makes a tag and immediately drops Desperado with a tiltawhirl backbreaker. The Romero special into a Dragon sleeper follows, but Iizuka comes in again only to be quickly dispatched as Liger and Desperado head outside.

Liger actually whacks a chair on Desperado in the crowd, but his attempt to finish off Despy’s ruined by Kawato demanding to be tagged back in. The veteran relents and brings the Young Lion back in, and to be fair he does land a flying elbow to score a near-fall. We even get some babyface triple teaming before a Kawato sunset flip almost won it.

Kawato lands a missile dropkick after Iizuka blasted Liger with a chair, then got another two-count with a roll-up… but the numbers came took over as a spear and enziguiri from TAKA and Desperado got Suzuki-gun a near-fall, before Desperado’s spin-out powerbomb – Guitarra de Angel – got the win. This was fine, dragging a bit at the start, but it blossomed quickly. Kawato’s getting a good run as the plucky, intense Young Lion whose inexperience is rapidly annoying the veterans. **¾

War Machine (Rowe & Hanson) & David Finlay vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Togi Makabe
So, War Machine’s own theme can’t be used in New Japan? Hiroyoshi Tenzan’s apparently could be though, as they’ve stumped up the money for the rights for the first time since the G1…

War Machine jump their more experienced opponents, and immediately go after the champions with avalanches, only for that to backfire. Rowe gets targeted early with Mongolian chops, then the diving headbutt/elbow drop combo before he tags in Finlay to face Makabe.

Finlay succeeds with a diving European uppercut for a near-fall, but quickly finds himself on the back foot when Tenzan comes in. He’s then outnumbered as Rowe slams Hanson onto Tenzan for a two-count, and it’s all quick tags in and out as Tenzan gets cornered for a spell. A leaping crossbody to a seated Tenzan almost wins it, as do some Mongolian chops from Finlay, but Rowe forgets… you can’t headbutt Tenzan, and the comeback is on from there. Briefly.

Rowe cuts off some offence from Makabe, but the former tag champ overwhelms War Machine with a series of corner clotheslines as he followed up with the mounted punches. Hanson cartwheels from an obscenity and clotheslines Makabe, then brings in Finlay for more punches, only for the youngster to take a clothesline too. Kojima comes in to clear house with the rapid chops on Finlay, but War Machine get involved again with a pop-up slam for a near-fall as Tenzan makes a save.

Rowe holds up Makabe outside for a tope from Hanson – but Makabe sidesteps as War Machine wipe each other out. That left Finlay alone to take a TenKoji Cutter, then a Strong Arm as the tag champs picked up the win. War Machine are always fun, and in this setting they look to be rejuvenated – even in a brief six-man tag. Hey, New Japan stumped up the cash for Kojima’s music too! ***

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Hirooki Goto, Gedo & Jado
This one started exactly how you’d expect – a jump start with Taichi/Kanemaru pairing off against Gedo and Jado whilst Goto somehow lost track of Minoru as we started with some brief triple-teaming.

A backdrop suplex from Jado takes down Kanemaru, but he’s quickly tripped by Taichi as we go to the gimmicks. The mic stand goes into Jado’s midsection as Suzuki finds Goto and takes him into the crowd for a chairshot… and also some choking with a fan’s umbrella. Of course, Taichi’s commandeered the bell hammer, and he uses it as Desperado appears for some reason to distract the referee.

TAKA’s also at ringside, just to do the mock three-count after Taichi knee drops Jado below the belt, but Taichi takes too long to set up for a kick, and he quickly finds himself in a crossface after Jado sweeps out his leg. Things turn around when Suzuki catches Jado and Goto in a double leg-lock – something which’d apparently be a DQ for Suzuki holding a move, rather than Goto for being in the ring…

Goto finally comes in legitimately and heads for Suzuki… who wriggles out of an ushigoroshi then rushes in with a Yakuza kick… but a PK’s caught and met with some elbows from the NEVER champion. Those get returned, but then Goto comes back in with a headbutt before a suplex is avoided. So too is a Gotch piledriver, and now Suzuki tags out as we go to Kanemaru and Gedo.

Taichi tries to break up some double-teaming from the junior heavyweight tag title challengers, but that fails as Kanemaru runs into an ushigoroshi, before a superkick from Gedo is broken up by Suzuki. A Gedo clutch pin’s broken up by a Taichi superkick, and we end up with a convoluted ref bump as Gedo escaped a double-team powerbomb, then kicked Kanemaru low as he leapt off the top rope – sending him flying into the referee.

With no official, Taichi takes another clothesline, but rolls towards the tag title belts as Suzuki and Goto slug it out again. Eventually, Taichi uses his mic stand on Jado, before Gedo ducks the same shot… he then uses it to get rid of Desperado, only to turn around into a belt shot as a top rope Kanemaru DDT gets the Suzuki-gun trio the win. A fun six-man tag – thankfully light on the usual Suzuki-gun hijinks which seem to have been dropped in favour of building to a match! ***¼

Bullet Club (Kenny Omega, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Beretta
Toru Yano started off, so you know what he went for straight away… he didn’t manage to undo the turnbuckle padding, so instead he just pulled down Yujiro as we started to cycle through the team members.

Beretta knocks Owens to the outside after a clash with Yujiro… and from there we see Beretta fly off the top with a tope con hilo into the pile below. Chase hits back with a fireman’s carry gutbuster back inside, before Omega hits a springboard falling forearm onto Beretta for a near-fall.

Yujiro returns with a basement dropkick for a near-fall, before Beretta finally makes a comeback attempt, getting a knee up to crotch Omega as he leapt on his back. Beretta eventually takes down Kenny with a tornado DDT before bringing in Ishii to clear the ring with power slams. Ishii and Omega worked well together, like that should be a shock, but save for a Finlay roll and a moonsault, this was like an opening portion of their match at the New Japan Cup.

Ishii comes back with a backdrop suplex, then tags in Yano who goes in for some comedy spots with Omega based around hair pulling. We finally see Yano remove the turnbuckle pad, but he immediately gets raked in the eyes by Owens before pleading for a break… which just gets him choked by Yujiro’s pimp cane. Omega hits a Kotaro Krusher for a near-fall as the ring filled up, before Yano ends up running into the exposed turnbuckle. Owens plays switcharoo with Yano, who hits a mule kick before winning with a schoolboy from an Ishii lariat. Perfectly acceptable graps, nothing outstanding, but nothing overly offensive to the senses either. ***

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi & KUSHIDA vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI)
Taguchi Japan reunites! There’s the usual jump start, which gets a bit tiring the third time you see it, but things quickly settled down to Naito vs. the World. Which ended badly as he ated a load of avalanches as Taguchi wound everyone on.

Naito dropkicks Taguchi as he was thrown in for a hip attack, and the Ingobernables flood the ring, leading to an attempted sunset bomb on KUSHIDA by Takahashi… but he has to settle for an apron powerbomb instead. They settle down in the ring with a rear chinlock, but KUSHIDA fights free and eventually sidesteps a charge from Takahashi, sending him into BUSHI before throwing him outside… but the Ingobernables hit the ring again to stop him from tagging out.

After a while, KUSHIDA tags in Nakanishi, who swats away BUSHI with ease before going after EVIL with an Argentine backbreaker. Tanahashi comes in and keeps up the tussle with EVIL, hitting a Slingblade but ended up getting crotched on the top as EVIL pulled the ref into the ropes to avoid a High Fly Flow.

Taguchi gets to do his lazy hip attack as he stood in the corner and had BUSHI whipped into him, but BUSHI came back with a swinging Fisherman’s suplex as Taguchi brought in Juice Robinson for the first time. Juice quickly took a beatdown, being forced to kick out of a back suplex from SANADA, who then followed up with a Skull End… which Tanahashi put on him as things got a little hectic with a parade of moves.

Juice takes a TKO for a near-fall, but he rolls out of a Skull End and hits the Pulp Friction on SANADA for the win! A better than usual Ingobernables tag, but they quickly put the spotlight on Naito vs. Juice as we saw a hair-assisted surfboard stretch from Naito in the post-match beatdown. ***¼

Katsuyori Shibata & Yuji Nagata vs. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI
We start off with Okada and Shibata as a tease for their Sakura Genesis outing, but it’s predictably cagey before Okada takes him into the corner and brings in YOSHI-HASHI. Of course, YOSHI doesn’t want Shibata, so we get a slightly more energetic Nagata/YOSHI-HASHI series, going back and forth with headlocks and counters.

Shibata and Okada finally get tangled up as they head almost all the way back to the locker room as Okada chops him in the face whilst Nagata and YOSHI brawled closer to the ring. Back in the ring, Nagata forces free of a chinlock, then tags in Okada, who hits a slingshot senton then mocks Shibata’s cross-legged pose. Kazuchika’s got a death wish, no?

Okada’s forced to break up a crossface from Nagata, then he comes back in to take on Yuji, only to get thrown over with a belly-to-belly suplex. Shibata comes in to pick apart at Okada with leaping boots in the corner, before a single underhook suplex gets him a near-fall. A flapjack turns things back around, before an Okada DDT set up Shibata for a diving uppercut that earned the champion a near-fall.

Okada has to abort an elbow drop and ends up missing a dropkick… but still having enough around him to avoid a PK as he managed to connect with the dropkick at the second attempt. A pair of tags take us back to Nagata and YOSHI-HASHI… and Nagata busts out a swinging rope-hung neckbreaker of all things! The running Blockbuster neckbreaker gets YOSHI-HASHI back into it though, as does his dropkick to a rope-hung Nagata, but the veteran comes back with his armbar… until Okada broke it up.

A spinning heel kick from Nagata leaves him and YOSHI-HASHI laying. Shibata tags in and immediately boots Okada off the apron – eventually dragging the champion into the ring for some more fisticuffs. YOSHI-HASHI capitalises with a clothesline and a powerbomb for a near-fall, before Shibata’s forced to elbow free of Karma and eventually drag YOSHI-HASHI down with a sleeperhold.

With YOSHI-HASHI down, Okada gets booted off the apron as Shibata completes things with a PK and earns the win. A pretty decent main event, but nothing earth shattering – much like the card as a whole. ***

This Road to Sakura Genesis show was perfectly fine, but nothing you need to go out of your way to see. Plenty of build to upcoming matches, but it was what it needed to be: just a show.