The last stop before Sakura Genesis on Sunday saw New Japan head back to Korakuen Hall!

It’s a bit of a shorter tour, this “Road to Sakura Genesis”, but when you had half your roster over in Long Island a week ago, it kinda makes sense. English commentary here’s handled by Kevin Kelly, Don Callis and Rocky Romero, making for a crowded commentary desk…

Ren Narita vs. Tetsuhiro Yagi
These two have had quite a few matches in the past, and this time there’s a little bit of jealousy at play as Narita had to stay at home for the more recent US tour, while Yagi got to go.

Commentary spent a lot of this match summarising what happened in the main event at Strong Style Evolved…just like Nitro back at the day, eh? As for the match, it was your usual Young Lion’s outing – lots of fundamentals, a lot of work around headlocks, with both of the black-trunked rookies keeping it simple.

From there, Narita and Yagi traded off forearms in the corner as the intensity increased – waking up the commentary crew. Yagi threw plenty of bombs in the form of chops, but Narita took it back to the basic moves as he nearly won out… before a huge dropkick from Yagi turned things around. He’s really big into his chops, to the point where that could become a calling card once he graduates. Yagi goes to a Boston crab as he smelled blood, but Narita clawed his way to the ropes and earned himself more of a beating, ending that with a dropkick of his own! From there, Yagi comes back as he lands a belly-to-belly for a near-fall as the clock ticked down, then a one-count after a simple chop – with Narita grabbing the rope – before a Boston crab was applied… only for Narita to make it to the ropes again!

In the end, despite going for covers in the final minute, Yagi was unable to get over the line, putting more pressure on in the form of a Lion Tamer-esque Boston crab, but Narita held firm to claim the craw. A slow start, but this turned into a hell of a contest from what was being perceived as the “weaker” of the current batch of rookies! ***¼

Shota Umino vs. Yuji Nagata
Yeah, there was a huge gulf in class here, as Nagata’s quarter of a centure of experience looked to breeze past Umino here.

Nagata’s all over Umino with suplexes and kicks early, but that just fires up Umino as he took the veteran into the ropes. Yeah, that wasn’t smart, as Nagata hit hard, taking Umino down for a Nagata Lock II crossface before a key lock forced another rope break. It’s just as one-sided as you’d expect when Nagata is on offence, but he did give Umino a few windows of opportunity, with a dropkick from the rookie being one such shot.

A couple of missile dropkick is only good for a two-count for Umino, who then goes for a Boston crab, only for Nagata to get free and reply with a running knee to the gut. That looked to be the end of Umino’s chances, as he was forced to kick out from a kick to the chest, before an Exploder and the Nagata Lock IV forced the submission. A valiant effort from Umino, but this was a match that went to form… and led to some measure of respect from Nagata after the fact. **¾

Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi & Tomoyuki Oka vs. Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin & Ryusuke Taguchi
As soon as you look at the line-up, your instant thought is “who’s pinning Oka?”, especially since the Taguchi Japan (?) trio have a NEVER six-man title shot on Sunday.

Taguchi tried to sucker in Nakanishi early off, faking a knee injury and cradling the big man for a two-count from the start. It was almost ridiculous enough to work… not giving a damn that Nakanishi used to be a trios champion with him, Taguchi continued to lay into him, landing hip attacks and then giving him a stinkface of sorts.


That annoyed Nakanishi, who brought in Oka to… forearm Taguchi’s rear end. Oka had a lot of offence, albeit basic, before Tenzan came in to charge at Taguchi in the corner. A suplex followed for a near-fall, but a hip attack seemed to counter a Mountain Bomb as Makabe got the tag in to give us some fighting dads. Nakanishi feels left out and joins in too, but he’s quickly shooed as Makabe finally got in his Mountain Bomb.

Both men tagged out as we ended up with the red headed step child of the Young Lions (Oka) and that relative you don’t want to talk about… Elgin throws chops at Oka, then a German suplex after catching a kick as the ring filled up for the Parade of Moves. It calms down as Oka fought back, nailing a belly-to-belly that shocked Elgin for a near-fall, before Elgin kicked away from a Boston crab. From there, Elgin comes back with a buckle bomb and an Elgin Bomb, and Oka lost to that family member you want to forget. Basic stuff, but it got the challenger team some steam, so it did its job. **½

Juice Robinson, David Finlay & Toa Henare vs. Jay White, Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii
At the Strong Style Evolved special, David Finlay challenged Jay White… so for once the spotlight is on him! Well, more of it than usual…

It’s White and Finlay who start, and it’s a pretty even start with Finlay just about being the early aggressor, shoving down referee Marty Asami in a fit of rage when he was stomping away at White. A dropkick from Finlay finally puts Jay down, before Henare came in – and made a beeline for Tomohiro Ishii on the apron as their little deal continued… leading to Ishii dragging the recently-graduated Young Lion to the outside and throwing him violently into the crowd.

After getting thrown back in, Henare’s gotta kick out from White before Ishii tagged in for more of the same – including a quick chop to the throat. Henare tries to fire back, but he’s instantly taken down so Hirooki Goto can tag in and keep up the pressure… but it’s not long before he tags out to Juice as we go back to that particular pairing, with Juice landing a nice backdrop suplex and a cannonball for good measure.

From there, the pair clatter into each other with clotheslines, only for Goto to nail a spinning heel kick into the corner, before countering Pulp Friction into an ushigoroshi. We get a brief parade as David Finlay dove into Goto with an uppercut, only for him to get taken out with a spinning back suplex from White as tags got us back to Ishii and Henare for the final stretch, exchanging plenty of forearms in the process.

Shoulder blocks from Ishii don’t faze Henare, who manages to land a Samoan drop for a two-count, before Ishii’s chops have their desired effect. Finlay rushes in with a dropkick to the Stone Pitbull before a uranage backbreaker to White keeps that Parade of Moves going, ending with a big spear from Henare… who then got dumped by an Ishii lariat for a near-fall! Ishii has to kick out from a Henare lariat to keep the match alive, and that was Henare’s last hope as he quickly fell to the sheer drop brainbuster as the CHAOS trio took home the win. ***½

Post-match, David Finlay went right back at Jay White, taking him down and stomping him on the floor amid a brief pullapart…

Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) & Toru Yano vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA & Tiger Mask
Despite apparently stepping down as Roppongi 3K’s “producer” earlier in the show, Rocky Romero was still accompanying them to ringside.

Toru Yano and Tiger Mask start us off… but Yano quickly tagged into SHO as he got scared by an slowly-encroaching Tiger Mask. He’s alright for cheating, but Yano gets knocked off the apron as he tried to hold Tiger Mask, which meant that SHO had to go it somewhat alone… until the pair crossbodied each other at the same time.

KUSHIDA and YOH came in next for a fun exchange, with KUSHIDA passing over a headscissor attempt onto the ref, just so he could kick away YOH’s arm. SHO’s back in to take out KUSHIDA as they looked to isolate the ace, and doing so pretty well, keeping him down and in the corner with a variety of strikes. Eventually KUSHIDA broke free and nailed YOH with a hiptoss/dropkick before tagging in Tanahashi, who cleared house, slamming both halves of Roppongi 3K ahead of a double elbow drop.

YOH superkicks away a Slingblade attempt though, only to get taken down with a rolling neckbreaker before a Tiger Driver almost put YOH away. An avalanche Tiger Driver’s teased next, but it’s avoided as Tiger Mask instead goes to the mat for a trapped armbar attempt… which Toru Yano of all people broke up. From there, Yano tried to whack Tiger Mask with the turnbuckle padding, then got whipped into that exposed corner ahead of a top rope crossbody that almost ended things. In the end though, Yano blocked a Tiger Driver, before a dropkick-assisted crucifix forced a near-fall, as the Yano special of a low blow and a roll-up ended up getting the win. By the numbers stuff, but with nothing happening between any combination of these guys, this was just a match. **¼

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Hiromu Tanahashi) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.))
Billed as “EVIL’s return”, this was the tag champion’s comeback after a recent facial injury, while Don Callis legitimately ran away from the announce table and into the crowd to avoid being sprayed with Lance Archer’s water.

There’s a few moving parts here – Naito and Suzuki seems to be a direction after the Chris Jericho feud looked to be put on ice… the Killer Elite Squad reckon they have a claim on EVIL & SANADA’s tag titles, while BUSHI & Hiromu feel like they were cheated out of the junior tag titles. Maybe that’s why the last match was so meh… so much was thrown into this one?

The pre-match mind games led to Suzuki and Naito trolling each other, as Desperado and Hiromu finally got us going trading forearms from the off. Of course there’s plenty of interference, with Kanemaru getting involved first as he tried to double-team Hiromu, only to get used for an accidental headscissor on his tag partner. Poor Desperado was left in there as EVIL and SANADA picked over him, but when Naito came in, all hell broke loose as Suzuki took his shot, taking Naito into the crowd as Don Callis again did a runner.

Probably shouldn’t had spat at Minoru, eh?

Naito narrowly beat the 20-count, but he was right into the path of a shoulder block from Archer as the KES took over. The hope-hanging armbar from Suzuki kept Naito on the back foot, as the rest of Suzuki-gun picked their proverbial shots, leading to a PK from Suzuki and a heel hook as the Ingobernable looked to be well and truly on the rocks. It turned into a pinning predicament that the ref didn’t touch, as Suzuki eventually worked his way into a Gotch piledriver, only to backdrop his way free.

Eventually Naito fought back with a flying forearm, then tagged out to SANADA who cleared the apron before going after Lance Archer with low dropkicks. A Paradise Lock doesn’t succeed, as Archer gets free and just POUNCES SANADA! Meanwhile, Naito takes Suzuki into the guard rails as payback for earlier. Tags bring in the juniors, with Desperado taking a nasty spill to the floor from a backdrop in the corner, before returning to spear BUSHI as he missed the MX.

Everyone headed to the floor again apart from the juniors, as Hiromu makes a save from a backdrop suplex on BUSHI, while Naito and Suzuki brawled all the way to the interview set in the back! Not to worry though, as EVIL stayed behind, nearly beating Kanemaru with the Darkness Falls, then again with a lariat, before the Magic Killer almost put away the junior tag champ. The KES made the save, only to get dumped outside with a plancha from SANADA, as EVIL stayed behind to nail Kanemaru with the Everything is Evil for the win! A fun war, which did its job of building up the three matches that’ll be on tap between these factions in the weeks ahead. ***½

Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) vs. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI
The prophecy has come true! When ZSJ joined Suzuki-gun last year, he joked that it was so that he didn’t have to wrestle against Taichi…

We had the battle of hype men too, as Gedo did his best TAKA impression to introduce Okada, before we opened with Okada and Sabre as a tease for Sunday’s main event. It’s as cagey as you’d expect, with Sabre taking Okada to the mat for a little grappling, restraining Okada with a relatively simple cravat. Okada comes back with a hold of his own, angering Sabre, so we get both men tagging out as YOSHI-HASHI and Taichi faced off for… reasons. Taichi throws a kick to YOSHI’s taped-up shoulder, but gets met with a series of moves, including the running blockbuster as Sabre ran in just to tie-up Okada in an Octopus. Meanwhile, the cameraman completely misses taichi using his mic stand on YOSHI-HASHI…

Sabre keeps up on the “Rainmaker” arm as Okada’s taken outside, while Taichi uses a chair on YOSHI-HASHI on the other side of the arena. So much torque from Sabre, and that continues on YOSHI-HASHI back inside, whose attempt at a fightback’s swiftly cut-off with a spinning back kick from Taichi. YOSHI-HASHI catches a superkick, but it’s for nought as he’s taken down again before finally landing a back kick of his own as Okada gets tagged in to go to work on Taichi. Forearms and back elbows leave him rocked ahead of a DDT for a near-fall, only to get caught with something close to an Octopus in the ropes as Okada shifted his focus onto Sabre.

That led to Sabre tagging in as the pair traded shots, before the cobra twist forced Okada into the ropes yet again. Sabre keeps up with his submissions as Okada looked mighty vulnerable, but a PK’s blocked only for Sabre to go right back to the “Rainmaker arm”, forcing Okada to land a dropkick instead. YOSHI-HASHI’s back into surprise Zack with a dropkick of his own, before a Bunker Buster was avoided… as Sabre just gets double-teamed with a slingshot DDT for a near-fall.

YOSHI-HASHI keeps up with the Western lariat for another two-count, but the folding powerbomb’s countered into an octopus by Sabre… who held on despite Okada’s attempt to break it up. That octopus is turned into a wrenching armbar whilst YOSHI-HASHI is upside down… and that leads to the submission! A bit of an odd out-of-nowhere finish, but it showed how dangerous Sabre was going into Sunday. ***¼

Post-match, Sabre kept up on Okada’s arm, trapping and wrenching it between his legs as the final image going into Sakura Genesis was of Sabre standing tall. It doesn’t look good for Okada, but with history in his sights, you’d not bet against him retaining.

Another typical Korakuen Hall show for New Japan – a pretty mixed bag of action, and when the Young Lion’s opener was one of the evening’s best matches (granted, because of how intense it was), you kinda have a show that isn’t must-see viewing going into Sunday.