Ahead of Monday’s New Beginning in Osaka, we’ve got one more Road show as the Bullet Club took on the Dream Team and Friends in an elimination match.
We’re in Osaka – at the smaller Edion Arena – with Don Callis back in Japan alongside Kevin Kelly on commentary for this rapid-fire show.
Ayato Yoshida & Shota Umino vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Yota Tsuji
On paper, this ought to be a gimme for Tenzan’s team, but this tour has seen Yoshida and Umino improve massively.
Tsuji tried to pick a fight from the off, shoving down the more experienced Umino and Yoshida… but instead, it was Tenzan and Umino who started us off, with Umino heading into the ropes before he cheapshot Tenzan. Shoulder tackles looked to follow, eventually knocking Tenzan down, only for the veteran to retaliate with Mongolian chops. Tsuji’s in next to help with a double shoulder tackle, but Umino tags in Yoshida, who eats a back elbow for a quick two-count. Yoshida turned it around, taking Tsuji into the corner for some boots, before a forearm knocked the Young Lion down as Umino tagged himself back into play.
A slam from Umino’s good for a near-fall as Tsuji found himself in deep trouble, wandering into the wrong corner for a chop as Yoshida reared back on Tsuji with a chinlock that ended in the ropes. Eventually Tsuji got free and tagged in Tenzan, who went back to those Mongolian chops on Yoshida, then a corner clothesline and a suplex for a near-fall. Yoshida and Tenzan go back and forth for a spell, with Tenzan quickly wiping him out with a Mountain bomb, only for Yoshida to hit back with a hanging clothesline. Umino’s back in to capitalise, but he’s clipped with a spinning heel kick, before Tsuji comes in and lands a big back body drop on Umino for a two-count. Tenzan’s back to whip Umino into a Tsuji dropkick as a Boston crab followed, but Yoshida snuck in to break it up in double-quick time.
Tenzan’s sent outside as Tsuji tried to fight the numbers game… it backfires as he ends up taking a missile dropkick for a two-count, before Umino hit a Boston crab of his own. Tsuji gets to the ropes, before he took a head kick as Umino’s beautiful Fisherman’s suplex got the win. Make a note of that – it’s not every day a team with a New Japan veteran loses to a Young Lions pairing. Some good stuff here, as Umino and Yoshida continue their progression. ***
Ren Narita vs. YOSHI-HASHI
This was something of a tune-up match for YOSHI-HASHI, perhaps to test him ahead of the New Japan Cup, having missed a lot of ring time due to injury at the end of 2018. Then again, this could well be the proverbial banana peel of a match for YOSHI-HASHI…
Narita jumped YOSHI-HASHI at the bell, rocking him with forearms and chops as the Young Lion looked to strike while the iron was hot. Boots and forearms continued to catch YOSHI-HASHI before he could get into gear, but Narita took him into the corner and ended up getting caught with a forearm for his troubles. YOSHI-HASHI’s back with a back elbow for a two-count, before some chops had Narita rocked, with a camel clutch-like chinlock adding some extra pressure. A rope break saves Narita, and YOSHI-HASHI just stood there as he seemingly invited Narita to fight back… which of course happened, before YOSHI-HASHI dropped him with a forearm. YOSHI-HASHI whips Narita into the corner for a stiff chop, before he suplexed him onto the ropes for the hanging dropkick. Nevertheless, Narita tries to chop his way back, before he cracked YOSHI-HASHI with a dropkick as he began to find his way back into the match. A suplex from Narita gets him another near-fall, before a Boston crab had YOSHI-HASHI in fresh trouble.
A rope break saves YOSHI-HASHI, but he’s still in bother, as Narita teases the bridging belly-to-belly… the grip’s broken, so Narita just plasters YOSHI-HASHI with palm strikes before he ran into a chop. YOSHI’s back with a superkick for a two-count, then a slam and a single-leg crab, switching it into a full Boston crab, only for Narita to scramble into the ropes. From there, YOSHI-HASHI tries for a Bunker Buster, but it’s countered into a small package as Narita was looking for flash pins, before a rear spin kick and the Bunker Buster connected for a near-fall… leading to YOSHI-HASHI trapping him in a Butterfly lock for the win. Technically, this was good, but if the plan for this match was to re-establish YOSHI-HASHI… well, this was a big fail. Against a Young Lion, YOSHI-HASHI looked in grave danger at times as he sleepwalked through this match, showing all the form that was responsible for his dire G1 showing last year. ***
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare
Save for the odd blip, the Bullet Club have been unstoppable on this tour, and it threatened to be more of the same here.
Honma started out, clattering into Chase Owens with shoulder tackles before Chase scurried outside to avoid a Kokeshi. He’s back in to tag Yujiro in, with Henare following, only to get his hair pulled as he had to outsmart Yujiro… which didn’t quite work as Yujiro pulled away at, then bit, Henare’s fingers. Henare hit back with a shoulder tackle, before he sent Chase Owens to the outside. Henare’s quickly outside too, as Chase whipped Henare into the guard rails before rolling him back in so Yujiro could claim a two-count. Owens tags in next, but offers a back rake to Henare, as the Bullet Club went after the least experienced of their opponents, albeit in a totally lackadaisical and far-from-urgent manner.
A Fisherman buster from Yujiro’s countered with a suplex from Henare, before Honma came in and instantly slammed Yujiro. No Kokeshi yet, as he picked up Yujiro and chopped him into the corner before we got a bulldog out of it and… a missed Kokeshi. Never change Honma, never change. That miscue allowed Yujiro back in with a big boot and a low dropkick for a two-count, before a clothesline allowed Owens back into it. Chops from Owens rock Honma, who tries to fight back, but a hiptoss seemingly aggravates the neck, as he has to tag in Henare, who finds his mark with a shoulder tackle to Owens. A clothesline dropped Owens in the corner, before Henare looked for Samoan drops, eventually dropping Yujiro after he was used as a Terry Funk ladder.
Honma’s back in to help on Owens, assisting with a Kokeshi ahead of a falling chop that almost gets Henare the win. A rugby tackle spear from Henare nearly wins it, but Yujiro breaks up the cover as some double-teaming from the Bullet Club looked to turn it around. Henare back body drops out of a package piledriver, before a headbutt cracked Owens. Chase is right back though with some kicks and a Jewel Heist short lariat, before the Package Piledriver gets the win. Huh. This was okay, but this felt like an exhibition match with everyone going through the motions. Shame. **¾
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI)
This was one of those matches you get when a tour has a big stop in the middle – where we’re kinda continuing feuds that, on paper, were already settled.
Of course, we’ve a jump start, but LIJ quickly overcame that as BUSHI found his groove, choking away on El Desperado as the two continued to fight over each other’s masks. Suzuki gets involved, dragging BUSHI outside before he chucked him into the guard rails… there’s similar treatment for EVIL too as those two brawled into the crowd, with the usual stuff getting thrown onto EVIL. Don Callis scuttles away because Suzuki kicks the guard rail near him, and we’re back to square one as Suzuki hung BUSHI on the apron with an arm bar. BUSHI tries to fight back, but he’s easily knocked down as Suzuki goes for a Kimura, before Kanemaru came in and continued the beating. A hammerlock-assisted slam added to BUSHI’s pain, before a splash from Desperado gets a near-fall while Kanemaru and Suzuki cleared the apron on the other side.
Desperado looks for a Kimura of his own, but BUSHI got to the ropes quickly, then hit back with a swinging Fisherman’s suplex before Suzuki tagged in to prevent a tag out. Well, more like “delay”, since BUSHI managed to get over and tag in SANADA, as those two renewed their rivalries. Kanemaru comes in but gets locked in a Paradise Lock, before SANADA whiffed on a dropkick… only to catch a quick PK and turn it into a Dragon screw. Yep, SANADA didn’t learn, and he tried to catch Suzuki in a Paradise Lock… he’s quickly caught and turned into a cross armbreaker though, before a Gotch piledriver attempt was countered courtesy of a back body drop. A dropkick from SANADA stops Suzuki in his tracks, as EVIL then gets a tag in… only for him to get caught out with a rear naked choke as Suzuki-gun flooded the ring.
Some triple-teaming led to EVIL getting caught with a dropkick-assisted sidewalk slam and a PK for a near-fall, before LIJ returned the favour. Kanemaru’s the focus of those triple-teams, and despite Suzuki’s attempts to make a save, the ring quickly clears, with BUSHI wiping out Desperado with a tope suicida as a Magic Killer then put away Kanemaru for the three-count. Solid and entertaining – it’s just a shame this was just continuing something that’d already been paid off. ***¼
Suzuki-gun (Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi)
Much like the prior match, this played off of a match we’d already seen the conclusion to, but at least there was something fresh in TAKA vs. Shingo. Naito was selling the injuries he picked up a week ago, having both knees and his arm taped up heavily. He was also wearing several layers of merch to keep him somewhat warm…
The opening stretch was a little odd, as Naito and TAKA opened up… before TAKA tagged out, giving Naito his wish of facing Naito, as all they did was… Tranquilo and tag out. TAKA and Shingo come in next, with TAKA eating some forearms before he just poked Shingo in the eye. He tries for a second punch, but Shingo just punches him out before Naito came in to help with a reverse DDT/spinebuster combo as TAKA was kept on the back foot. Naito makes a beeline for Taichi, but on the floor Taichi sneaks in a mic stand shot before returning to the ring to choke out Shingo with it, all while TAKA had the ref distracted. Taichi ups the ante on the outside, throwing Naito into the commentary table before throwing a chair on him, all while guest commentator YOSHI-HASHI just sat there in confusion.
Taichi wrecks the barriers with another Irish whip to Naito, as Shingo’s just rolled back in for TAKA to claim a near-fall. A crossface from TAKA quickly ends in the ropes as Shingo showed signs of life, only for a step-up knee in the corner to get a near-fall, before TAKA went back to the crossface as Naito again ate the barriers. After getting to the ropes, Shingo’s able to hit back with a slam as both men tag out, giving us some legitimate Naito/Taichi exchanges, including the Combinacion Cabron, before Taichi hit back with a buzzsaw kick for a near-fall. Off come the trousers as Taichi keeps up the momentum, only to run into a dropkick before both men eventually tagged out. TAKA tries to exchange chops, but instead just pokes Shingo in the eye before some double-teaming led to TAKA almost pinning him. Naito returns to help level things, before Shingo’s pop-up spinebuster nearly left TAKA laying… Taichi makes a save from the Last of the Dragon before Naito helped out, as a Pumping Bomber obliterated TAKA ahead the Last of the Dragon. Pretty elementary from there, as we had a pretty fun tag match that saw LIJ pick up another win over Suzuki-gun. ***¼
Elimination Match: Bullet Club (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale, Taiji Ishimori & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Kazuchika Okada, Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi
Cue some howling from Don Callis as Jado wielded his Kendo stick at the English commentary crew. At least Andy Simmonz only did a brief Peter Griffin “owww, tsss” when he had the table charged into him earlier in the tour!
It’s one of those “over the top, pinfall, submission and DQ” elimination matches, starting with Tanahashi trying to throw White out over the top, complete with some help from the rest of his team as the Bullet Club flooded the ring to make the save. Hey, did we ever find out who from CHAOS was a traitor, or has that been dropped because of all of the exits from New Japan? A lock-up from White sends Tanahashi into the ropes, before another elimination attempt is stopped with the help of Okada, as we get some posing from the pair. Tama Tonga and Ryusuke Taguchi come in, with Tama still claiming to be a good guy, hugging a rather upset Taguchi, before heading outside to hug some colleagues, who were equally dismissive. Ishimori tags in next, and gets barged down by Taguchi, before a hip attack sent him outside for a faked out dive… because Taguchi still has to humiliate Ishimori with his old Sailor Boys stuff.
Someone really needs to fill in the English commentary on that. I’m no expert, but if I can read Chris Charlton’s tweets…
Back inside, Jado cracks Taguchi with the Kendo stick after a pinning attempt was broken up, and now everyone’s outside for the mandatory melee. Back in the ring, Jay White picks apart Taguchi, Dragon screwing his leg into the mat before a chinlock keeps Taguchi down. Tanga Loa’s in next to keep up the pressure, dropping Taguchi with a backdrop suplex for a near-fall, before trying to coerce Tama Tonga into getting in. A sneaky Kendo stick shot to the rear from Jado helps, but Tama seemed overly timid before an apologetic dropkick put down Taguchi for a two-count. Fale’s in to rake Taguchi’s eye on the top rope, before handing him over for Ishimori to get a rather lackadaisical two-count. Ishimori tries to keep up, but he just crashes into Taguchi as the pair went aerial at the same time, before tags brought in Makabe and Tanga Loa. Ishimori tries to interfere, but runs into a slam before Tanga Loa ate some mounted punches before Loa returned with some clotheslines. Makabe resists, but ends up taking a slam too… then makes a comeback, before Fale pushed him off the top rope amid a King Kong kneedrop attempt. From there, Tama Tonga comes in to try his luck, but a trip from Jado led to Makabe getting distracted as Tanga Loa just lifts him over the top for an elimination.
Toru Yano’s in next, but Tama Tonga has to be forced into double-teaming as he’s whipped into Yano in the corner before a back suplex/neckbreaker combo… doesn’t go anywhere as the ring filled in. Jado’s involved again to slip in a Kendo stick, but Tama Tonga refuses to use it… and that led to Yano rolling up Tanga Loa for the elimination. That seemed to be too much for Tama though, who was offered the Kendo stick and finally used it, going back to his “Bad Boy” roots when he cracked Yano over the head with it as he effectively eliminated himself. The Young Lions try to escort Tama to the back, but he just cracks them with the Kendo stick as the match resumed, with Jay White picking up an easy W with a Blade Runner on Tory Yano. Tanahashi’s in next to pick up on Switchblade, landing a low dropkick and a Dragon screw before he missed a flip senton… allowing White to go after Tanahashi’s leg again, smashing it into the ring apron repeatedly. Everyone else spills outside again, before the Bullet Club again focused on Tanahashi’s leg, with Ishimori working over it before Fale just sat on the limb.
Tanahashi found a way back with a crossbody out of the corner to White, before he tagged in Okada, who scored with a flapjack to clear the ring, as he wanted to score some retribution over White. A DDT gets a near-fall, before Okada motioned to throw him out… only for Fale to block as White comes back with the Saito suplex. Fale tags in and blocks a slam, only to get taken down at the second attempt. Fale goes for a Bad Luck Fall in retaliation, but instead makes do with a shoulder tackle and a big splash for a near-fall. Attempts at the Grenade get shoved away by Okada, who tries to clothesline Fale to the outside, only to get lifted onto the apron as he instead comes back in and ‘ranas his way out of a Grenade, with Okada taking Fale over the top to the floor, with a cheeky tug from Fale taking Okada out too.
Ishimori and Taguchi follow, with Ishimori grabbing a quick ankle lock before Taguchi escaped… then found himself lifted onto the apron before a struggle on the apron ended with Ishimori running into a hip attack as both men fell to the floor for the elimination. We’re left with White and Tanahashi, who try for an over-the-top elimination straight away before Tanahashi edged ahead with a slam… he climbs up top as Gedo threw in a steel chair to distract the ref. It worked, as Gedo threw Tanahashi off the top and onto the apron, before Tanahashi recovered and pulled himself back inside. White aims to the bad leg again, ahead of a uranage slam and a death valley driver for a near-fall. An attempted Blade Runner’s countered into Twist and Shout by Tanahashi, before a Slingblade was countered, only for Tanahashi to throw White over the top, with a Dragon screw in the ropes keeping Jay on the apron.
White low bridges Tanahashi onto the apron as he charged at the Kiwi, which led to some back-and-forth strikes on the apron as both men were in danger… ending quickly when Tanahashi nailed a Slingblade on the apron to send White to the floor. That felt somewhat anticlimactic, but Tanahashi technically leaves as the sole survivor going into Monday’s big title defence against White. ***
Post-match, White runs in again and chop blocks Tanahashi’s knee from under him, following up with a Dragon screw and the TTO as the Young Lions broke it up as the show came to a rather odd end.
Watching this show in two sessions, the final stop on the Road to the New Beginning felt very lacklustre for me. Not that there wasn’t anyone trying, but this felt very low-energy, with folks perhaps saving themselves for Monday’s finale in Osaka. This wasn’t a bad show, but nothing on here was must-see. One purely for the completists…