With Osaka calling on Sunday, New Japan started a run at Korakuen Hall with a good ol’ fashioned elimination match!

Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton & Gino Gambino are on commentary… and Korakuen’s got some noticeable empty seats today. We’re not that far removed from the long Fantasticamania run here, and New Japan’s running Korakuen seven times this month alone. Burnout?

Gabriel Kidd vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
It’s another singles match for Kidd, as he starts by trying to work Taguchi’s wrist, only to get tripped to the mat.

Taguchi works a toe hold, but Kidd gets free and returns with a side headlock that Taguchi tried to remove himself from. He did… but took a shoulder tackle before Taguchi made Kidd run the ropes. He wises up and elbow drops Taguchi in the back, only to get caught out with a hip attack for a near-fall. Taguchi’s back with another toe hold, as he was focusing on Kidd’s left leg and ankle. It’s a rather different approach than we’re used to from Taguchi, as he tied up Kidd until the Young Lion made the ropes. A neck crank’s next, but Kidd’s able to get himself free again and finally lands a bodyslam as a slight glimmer of hope appeared.

Shoulder tackles follow, as did a dropkick and a Boston crab, but Taguchi gutted through and dragged himself towards the ropes. A back-and-forth small package trolls the ref for a bunch of near-falls, before Taguchi sent “sod it” and looked for the ankle lock. Kidd counters with a roll through for a near-fall, then landed a blistering chop before Taguchi just flew in with a Bummer Ye for a two-count. From there, Oh My Garankle puts Kidd away, as all the work on the leg earlier paid off. Good effort from Kidd, but this is his lot in life for the time being – he’ll come good though! ***

Yuya Uemura vs. Taiji Ishimori
Another Young Lion singles match here, as Yuya Uemura gets to test himself.

Uemura jumps Ishimori to start us off, prompting the former junior tag champion to bail outside in an effort to frustrate. When Ishimori returned to the ring, he traps Uemura in a cravat, throwing some shoulders to the head too for a near-fall, as Ishimori was simply having his way here. A neck twist has Uemura in agony, but he’s able to fight back in with a dropkick before a Boston crab had Ishimori in trouble.

Of course, Ishimori got to the ropes as Korakuen began to get behind Uemura… but a handspring enziguiri drops him before a Bloody Cross was countered into a series of roll-ups for near-falls. A missed leaping knee from Ishimori led to a Euro clutch from Uemura for a near-fall, but the kick-out just gave Ishimori easy prey as he rolled into a Yes Lock for the submission. Your usual good effort from the Young Lion here, with Uemura giving Ishimori a scare… but in the end the experience was the determining factor. ***

Toa Henare & Yota Tsuji vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
There’s something about these teams that makes me think Henare isn’t leaving with the W here…

Henare started off with a side headlock on Honma, holding on before we got shoulder tackles… which the Kiwi won through on. Tags bring in Makabe and Tsuji, with the latter hitting a shoulder tackle of his own before Makabe just slammed him. There’s intentional comedy as Kevin Kelly talks about tossing off, while Makabe’s back with more slams as Tsuji was getting worn out.

Honma’s in to chop through Tsuji for a near-fall, but Tsuji manages to get free as a fired-up Henare looked to force the issue. A rear spin kick decks Honma, who ends up getting suplexed. Honma’s able to respond with a shoulder tackle and a Kokeshi, before Makabe returned to clear the apron… so he could launch into Henare with mounted punches. Henare comes back with a Samoan drop to stop the momentum, before Tsuji returns with a Stinger splash and another shoulder tackle.

Tsuji clears the apron as he slammed Makabe for a near-fall, following up with a Boston crab that ends quickly in the ropes. Forearms follow between the two before a spear from Tsuji caught out the veteran, leading to another Boston crab as Tsuji then proceeded to go for some roll-ups. Makabe just elbows him after all that, before going for a Boston crab of his own… but Tsuji hand-walks to the ropes, only to drop down and tap as Makabe cranked it in. Your usual good effort here, with Tsuji showing some nice fire, but it’s your usual result for the Young Lions. **¾

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & DOUKI) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi
The Nakanishi retirement tour is winding down, and there’s a change of pace here as he faces everyone’s favourite murder grandpa.

We’ve the obligatory jump start, but things settle down as DOUKI’s double-teamed in the early going. Commentary drops hints that the Guerrillas of Destiny have tied with Kojima and Tenzan’s record number of tag title reigns, which could hint at a direction as things spill outside, with Nakanishi getting thrown into tables. Suzuki stays aggressive, choking Tenzan by ringside, before he’s tagged in to throw kicks and forearms. Tenzan fires back, but he’s dropped with an elbow, before a Mountain Bomb gave him time to tag out. In comes Nakanishi, who throws chops that Suzuki laughs off… only for him to get speared as Nakanishi pushed on.

A clothesline follows for a two-count, before a Torture Rack’s broken up when DOUKI rakes the eyes. Suzuki’s forearm drops Nakanishi once more, but DOUKI just gets turned into a human weapon as his crossbody’s caught… Tenzan’s in with Mongolian chops and a splash in the corner, before a brainbuster dumps DOUKI. Suzuki rushes in to start some double-teaming on Tenzan, before he grabbed a chair… it distracts the ref and Nakanishi, as DOUKI tries to use his pipe. It doesn’t work as he ends up taking a spinning heel kick, before a uranage and an Anaconda Vise proved to be enough to make DOUKI tap. A somewhat rare win via the Anaconda Vise for Tenzan, as DOUKI continues to eat the losses like it’s a Monster Morning. **½

Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Robbie Eagles vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi)
Warm-ups for the NEVER trios title match continues here, with the challenger team taking on a slightly-different LIJ trio.

We pick up where we left off with shoulder tackles as the New Japan caption maker somehow gets Hiromu and Negro Casas confused. Shingo and Goto interfere with kicks on the apron as all six men ended up in the ring, which sort of played into LIJ’s playbook as the focus seemed to be on wearing down Goto. Shoulder tackles from EVIL and Shingo drop Goto for a two-count, while Hiromu came in to clobber Goto with a clothesline and a low dropkick for another near-fall. A snapmare from Shingo leaves Goto down, but he made a beeline for Ishii… which gave Goto time to get up and make a comeback of his own… before he clattered into Shingo with his half of a double-clothesline.

Robbie Eagles springboards in to take care of Hiromu as the big lads stay in, leading to a back elbow and a jab from Shingo… who then took a scoop slam from Ishii. Boots from Ishii just toy with Shingo, who responds with a Violence Party in the corner, as things really began to break down, with Ishii and Shingo showing us all why we need THAT match in our veins. Right now. For the belt. Shingo tries to get free for a Pumping Bomber, but instead gets met with a back suplex… he’s back up to hit a discus lariat though, as tags finally change the pace as Eagles and Hiromu come in. They swing for each other as a low dropkick puts the Aussie down, but Eagles is right back in with a leg lariat before EVIL came in to help Hiromu turn it around with some swift double-teaming on the way to a near-fall.

Eagles elbows out of a Time Bomb and found his way in with a Turbo Backpack for a near-fall, before a Ron Miller Special looked to force a stoppage. The ring fills and clears as Eagles stays on top, going for the leg again with a springboard dropkick to the knee, but a second attempt at the Ron Miller Special is blocked as Hiromu snatches a roll-up for the win. Some big intensity here, as Shingo and Ishii becomes the next match we all want to see… and they’re going to make us wait, aren’t they? ***¾

The New Japan graphics guy is having a ‘mare today, flashing up the wrong name, then the wrong winners…

Bullet Club (KENTA, Jay White & El Phantasmo) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI)
We’re building up to Osaka on Sunday, and hopefully the red flags we saw in Sapporo at the weekend start to die down.

Naito and White look to start, but Naito wants KENTA instead… even holding the ropes for him. He gets the tag in, but we’re instantly in Larry Zbyszko territory as KENTA rolls outside and stalls for time. In the end, El Phantasmo comes in, as does BUSHI, as we continue to wait for any kind of offence. ELP has to cartwheel out of a ‘rana as he clears the apron… which prompted Jay White to come in for some double-teaming… but BUSHI gets free with a dropkick/bulldog combo. KENTA rushes in to take Naito off the apron as they brawl into the crowd, knocking Naito onto the English commentary table before bouncing Naito off a wall at the back of Korakuen Hall.

They go for a wander towards the lobby… while BUSHI found himself isolated in the Bullet Club corner ahead of a Gas Pedal. Naito and KENTA are back at ringside, with the latter taking the guard rails again before KENTA actually took to the ring to crack BUSHI with a knee to the midsection… stopping to mock Naito’s pose as well. Back rakes follow for BUSHI as the Bullet Club began to shithouse LIJ, but BUSHI gets free with a double ‘rana to ELP and White, giving him time to make the tag out to SANADA. I’d legitimately forgotten he was in this thing. A dropkick from SANADA to KENTA makes sure he doesn’t forget him, while ELP springboarded in… and got wrapped up in a Paradise Lock.

Gedo tries to interfere, but gets the ropes kicked into his crotch, before Jay White pushed away a Paradise lock as he pulls down SANADA by the hair. White keeps going with a DDT before an attempt at a brainbuster was resisted… so he just chops SANADA before he found himself in the path of a Skull End attempt. SANADA keeps going with a back suplex, before KENTA and Naito tag in. A low dropkick has KENTA in the corner for Combinacion Cabron to the knee, with a Figure Four following as Naito looked to weaken KENTA’s kicks ahead of Sunday. A rope break saves KENTA, who returned with a tornado hot shot, dropping Naito neck-first on the top rope before a Kane-like clothesline off the top finds its mark.

KENTA looks to confuse with a clothesline, but instead finds form with some kicks before a low boot from Naito managed to take out the knee. A trio of dropkicks connect on KENTA, as BUSHI of all people looked to find a way through… but ELP stops him as a Parade of Finishers is attempted, leading to a rope-assisted Magic Killer from SANADA on White. BUSHI stays in with KENTA, but quickly dives outside to wipe out ELP, returning double-team KENTA… but there’s a late swing around as KENTA overpowered BUSHI on the way to a Go 2 Sleep for the eventual pin. This was a weird one to watch – with the pacing going all over the place, starting out as a wild brawl, before it slowed down almost to a crawl. I’m still a little worried for those matches on Sunday, but the fears I had around KENTA/Naito aren’t as bad as they were before. ***

Elimination Match: Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr., El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
We’ve not had one of these for a while it seems, and these almost always go long, with eliminations coming battle royal-style, as well as your usual pinfalls and eliminations and what-have-you.

Okada and Desperado start offhot, as the former champion hits a slam and a slingshot senton early on. Incidentally, the tape’s gone from Okada’s neck, so the effects of his match with Taichi barely lasted 48 hours… YOH’s in as Roppongi 3K double-team Despy, then Kanemaru, before Ospreay and Sabre raced in to pick up where they dropped off on Sunday. Headscissors from Ospreay have Sabre on the deck, before a handspring enziguiri is neatly caught and turned into an ankle lock. They roll outside to break it up as all eight men brawl around ringside – there’s no eliminations as nobody went over the top, but that doesn’t stop the bedlam.

Taichi uses a camera cable to choke out Okada by the ring post, while the action returned to the ring as Kanemaru tries to blast through Ospreay with a dropkick. Sabre tries to get the elimination, but Ospreay fights free as Okada tags in to smash into ZSJ with an elbow… but quickly finds himself getting double-teamed as Kanemaru and Desperado hit the ring. A neckbreaker stops Despy, but Sabre’s back to try and pop-out Okada’s arm using his legs. Taichi returns to focus on the arm with kicks, before a head kick in the corner left Okada down. Off come the trousers, but Okada’s able to stop Taichi in his tracks with a dropkick before a Rainmaker’s ducked, with Taichi teasing a back body drop that lifts Okada to the apron… before a kick got the first elimination! There’s a shock!

SHO tries to level it up with a roll-up, but Taichi kicks out and tries to powerbomb SHO to the outside… it’s blocked, as SHO lands on the apron, then tries to suplex Taichi to the floor, but instead takes him onto the apron before a low dropkick took Dangerous T out of it. Kanemaru and Desperado try to gang-up on SHO for an elimination, only for YOH to make a save… but he couldn’t stop Kanemaru using the whiskey mist as Desperado finally broke SHO’s grip of the ropes as we had another elimination. YOH’s left in there as Kanemaru goes for a DDT, only to get pushed away as he’s low bridged onto the apron. Kanemaru gets free and gets hold of his whiskey bottle… the lid’s off as it spills on the canvas, and we’ve an elimination as YOH tosses out Kanemaru. Desperado tries to get a quick elimination too, but he’s tossed out behind the ref’s back, so it doesn’t count as Kanemaru had distracted the official.

YOH keeps going with a DDT for a near-fall, but Desperado is able to rebuild as he looked for Pinche Loco. It’s blocked as YOH almost snatches an elimination with a roll-up, then with a backslide, before headscissors were blocked as both men ended up spilling to the floor! We’re down to Ospreay and Sabre as the last men on both teams, and they pick up with forearms and uppercuts.

Sabre’s dumped with a forearm from Ospreay, but avoids a dropkick before he rolled Ospreay into a modified grounded Octopus. A rope break makes Sabre snap as he tries to toss out Ospreay, but it’s stopped as Will has to cling onto the ropes… then did a Kurtis Chapman, hooking onto the bottom rope with his boots as he had to fight back in for a springboard forearm. An OsCutter looked to land, but Sabre counters with a cross armbar attempt. Ospreay powers up and tries to powerbomb Sabre to the outside, as both men land on the apron after going over the top rope. The eliminated Suzuki-gun guys are on hand to try and keep Sabre on the apron as Ospreay uses forearms to knock him off, before they headed back in as a shooting star press almost got the win.

From there, Ospreay finds Sabre’s face with a hook kick, but a Hidden Blade is countered into another armbar attempt, which Ospreay counters with a roll-up on as a series of pinning attempts almost eked out a win. Sabre boots Ospreay out of the corner, but finds his PK blocked as a Storm Breaker looked to follow, only for Sabre to escape… but he leaps into a backslide that’s turned into Storm Breaker, and there’s the win! Ospreay finally gets one over ZSJ as CHAOS win the day – and that was a pretty fun elimination match, even if Okada going out first does make me wonder if his descent away from the title picture is going to be a steady one? ***¾

Post-match, Ospreay grabs the Rev Pro title belt… is that what they’re gunning for at Rev Pro’s next York Hall show? Will issues the challenge, and names York Hall as the place for High Stakes on February 14!

The first of three Korakuen Hall shows this week perhaps showed some signs of crowd fatigue, especially going by the crowd numbers here, but it was a solid show that built up the key matches for Osaka on Sunday. It’ll be interesting to see if Naito keeps going for KENTA’s legs to try and reduce the effect of the kicks… and whether it’s enough to keep the titles remains to be seen.