El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori get a shot at Suzuki-gun’s junior tag team titles in the main event of the latest round of the Road to the New Beginning.
DOUKI & Minoru Suzuki pinned Gedo & Jado in 9:28 (**¾)
Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI submitted Yujiro Takahashi, EVIL & Dick Togo in 9:59 (***)
Great-O-Khan & Will Ospreay defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima via disqualification in 11:53 (***¼)
Tomoaki Honma, Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, SHO & Master Wato win the elimination match over Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI at 24:22 (***½)
El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori pinned Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado in 23:07 to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships (***¼)
We’re… not at Korakuen Hall, just for today mind you. It’s Tokyo’s Ota City General Gymnasium for today’s show, with Kevin Kelly once again on the call.
Bullet Club (Gedo & Jado) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & DOUKI)
They didn’t dig up Gedo and Jado’s old theme. They don’t know the combination…
We have a jump start, complete with the New Japan production team switching cameras as Jado swung his Kendo stick at DOUKI. The pipe blocked it as we really began with some double-teaming, with Suzuki choking out Jado before Gedo tripped DOUKI in the ropes. Things spill outside briefly, then return to the ring as DOUKI’s head is stood on in the corner. A choke keeps DOUKI down as Suzuki kept distracting the referee, leading to an eventual two-count from Gedo.. who then threw him outside so Jado could crack DOUKI in the ribs, right in front of Taichi, who was on Japanese commentary. Suzuki’s just getting angrier, watching on as DOUKI got to the ropes from an armbar, before Gedo tagged right back in.
DOUKI finally fought back with a drop toe hold, which bought him enough time to crawl for a tag… but Jado’s in to knock Suzuki off the apron as they continued to build to their doom. There’s a back suplex from Jado on DOUKI for another two-count, as a chinlock then slowed it down… but DOUKI gets free and hits a low dropkick to reset. Once again he goes for a tag, but Gedo tags in first and tries to knock Suzuki off the apron… but Suzuki grabs him for a hanging armbar before hitting the ring. The ref takes a good bump as Suzuki threw down Gedo for a PK, leaving him laying so DOUKI could pick up the scraps, in the form of a running Goomba stomp for a two-count.
On the outside, Suzuki throttles Jado as DOUKI clotheslined Gedo for a two-count. Gedo slips out of the Gory bomb before lifting DOUKI to the apron… right where Jado’s waiting to neutralise DOUKI with another Kendo stick shot to counter Daybreak. A Gedo clutch should have gotten the win, but Suzuki pulls him out and looked for the Gotch piledriver, before the resulting melee led to DOUKI winning with a seatbelt pin. I don’t think Suzuki ever tagged in, but did most of the heavy lifting within the confines of those five-counts. Oh, and after the match as he tried to remove arms from Young Lions. **¾
Bullet Club (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & Dick Togo) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
EVIL tries to stall, so Tomohiro Ishii demands to start with Dick Togo instead as they hit the ropes. A right hand from Togo caught Ishii out, before some quickness led to a snapmare and a crucifix as Togo tried for an early win.
EVIL sneaks in to attack Togo from behind after the kick-out, drawing in Okada… and you know the score. The ring fills, then empties, before YOSHI-HASHI came in to wring Togo’s arm. An eye poke stops that, before YOSHI-HASHI was thrown into the corner… whose pad was removed just in time as Ishii and Okada met a similar fate as the Bullet Club trio took over. A snapmare and a fist drop from Togo lands for a two-count on YOSHI-HASHI, with Yujiro coming in to keep YOSHI-HASHI in the corner, where EVIL raked away on the eyes. Yujiro goes back to the eyes as YOSHI-HASHI tried to fight out of the corner, then brought in EVIL as we got the chained-up abdominal stretch. I love that spot.
YOSHI-HASHI gets free and tags in Okada to clear house, leading to a DDT on EVIL for a two-count, but EVIL recovers with some help from an unwitting referee. A kick in the ropes from Yujiro leads to a Darkness Scorpion from EVIL, but the hold’s quickly broken. Yujiro’s in to boot Okada in the ropes, following up with a Fisherman buster for a two-count. The referee’s distracted as Yujiro tries to swing for Okada with the pimp cane, but YOSHI-HASHI makes the save with thrust kicks as an Okada DDT almost gets the win. Togo broke that up and gets tossed outside by Ishii as Okada followed in with a Money Clip… which is thrown away.
Yujiro catches a boot and returned with a clothesline before the Incolle Slam was countered into a Money Clip. Okada lets go so he could drag Yujiro back away from the ropes for a backbreaker, then reapplied the Money Clip for the submission. A solid enough trios match, as they continue to play the long game and tease the Okada/EVIL rematch for this year’s New Japan Cup. ***
United Empire (Will Ospreay & Great-O-Khan) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima
Two and a half weeks ago, Tenzan was stretchered out of the Tokyo Dome City Hall after Great-O-Khan gave him his own Tenzan Tombstone Driver. This was his comeback match from that as there’s hell to pay…
We’ve a jump start as Tenzan and Kojima charged their opponents, and of course we start with Tenzan chopping away at O-Khan. Just the regular chops, before headbutts had O-Khan on the deck. Kojima’s taking care of Ospreay on the outside, having usually been thrown into the railings by this point. O-Khan blocks Mongolian chops and hits some of his own on Tenzan, before Tenzan returned the favour. Some choking followed, but O-Khan comes back, ripping off the tape on Tenzan’s neck so he could go in with a nerve hold. Tenzan’s charged into the corner so O-Khan could have a seat… which then led to Ospreay tagging in to restrain Tenzan with a cravat.
Tenzan gets free and buys him time with a spinning heel kick, which led to Kojima coming in to clear the decks, taking Ospreay to the corner for the Machine Gun chops. The top rope elbow followed for a near-fall, but Ospreay’s right back with a handspring enziguiri for a two-count. The springboard forearm misses, with Kojima side-stepping before he hit a DDT… only for a rolling elbow and a suplex from Ospreay to put him right back on top. O-Khan tags back in for some more Mongolian chops, only to go to the well once too much as Kojima countered with a Koji cutter. Tenzan returned to charge through O-Khan, following in with more Mongolian chops and headbutts into the corner, setting up for the brainbuster that gets him a delayed two-count.
O-Khan quickly regains the advantage with a head claw, but Tenzan breaks free for some more Mongolian chops as the pair give and receive them back-and-forth. Eventually Tenzan pulls ahead, but Ospreay runs in to knock him down as Kojima tries to equalise, only for Ospreay to bite him… and get a Koji cutter in return. There’s double-teaming on O-Khan, leading to a Ten-Koji Cutter – the first of those in a LONG while – before Tenzan tried to submit O-Khan with an Anaconda Vise… but O-Khan’s able to stand up… and gets thrown back down for a near-fall. We see Bea Priestley slide Ospreay’s title belt across the ring as Tenzan heads into the corner…
Tenzan’s caught with a chair shot from Priestley as he climbed the ropes for a moonsault. They grab a second chair, but Tenzan takes control of it, and ends up losing his temper, wearing the chair out on O-Khan’s back, as the obvious disqualification was obvious. Ospreay tries to make the save as Tenzan went to use the chair to choke out O-Khan, but he gets a lariat as Tenzan continued to wreck the remnants of the chair on O-Khan afterwards. Some great fire in this here match, and especially after-the-bell, as the veterans got some payback for two weeks’ ago. ***¼
Elimination: Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tomoaki Honma, SHO & Master Wato
Time for some chaos in the semi-main, and no, I don’t mean the stable! Elimination here is by pinfall, submission, DQ or by going over the top.
Tanahashi wants to start with Shingo, and gets his wish as they open with a lock-up into the ropes. Shingo misses a chop as he swung on the break, then got taken down by an armdrag as the pair switched back and forth from side headlocks, before Shingo teased throwing Tanahashi over the top… but Tanahashi needed help from his partners as the rest of LIJ tried to pull him out. Tanahashi eventually gets free, then looked to throw out Shingo as we reversed roles, but Hiromu and BUSHI broke the pile to save things. A West Side Story square-off followed while things calmed down. Tags bring in Hiromu and SHO to lay into each other with elbows, then with shoulder tackles, before Hiromu got battered into the corner by SHO, who was blind-tagged out.
Ibushi’s in, then Honma, as Hiromu’s chopped by the ropes. A slam leads to a Kokeshi tease, but Honma stomps to knock Naito into the railings, allowing Hiromu to get back up… only to be elbowed down as the Kokeshi misses. LIJ floods the ring to keep Hiromu on top, as they end up taking Honma to the corner so Naito could come in with some elbows. BUSHI’s in with some t-shirt choking before a shirt-assisted neckbreaker gets a dubious two-count. SANADA’s in to trade right hands with Honma, before a back suplex drew a two-count. Naito’s back to swing for Honma, but instead a DDT/Flatliner combo from Honma gets Naito and SANADA down. Tanahashi’s in to start a Parade of Dragon Screws, before we got back to SANADA and Ibushi, with the latter’s leaping mid kick taking down his challenger for next month.
More kicks from Ibushi keep SANADA down for a two-count, before SANADA tried to throw Ibushi out. The double champion saves himself, before he pushed SANADA over the top while he was preparing for a moonsault… but Ibushi then went for the elevated German suplex, with BUSHI then taking advantage, throwing him onto the apron as BUSHI then got thrown into the pair of them by Master Wato for our first eliminations at the 12:25 mark. Wato stays in there with BUSHI, but gets lifted to the apron. BUSHI shakes the ropes as he tried to eliminate Wato’s springboard, but the springboard uppercut eventually landed. BUSHI’s rewind kick caught Wato, but the running lungblower’s blocked as BUSHI’s taken over onto the apron, where he dragged Wato before a kick knocked BUSHI out at 13:43. Hiromu dives through the middle ropes (I like that detail) and hits an apron powerbomb that knocked Wato to the floor at 13:53 as we’re quickly down to 3-on-3.
Hiromu and SHO trade right hands, but then head into the corners as SHO edges ahead with clotheslines and shoulder tackles. He clears the LIJ apron, then blocked a Hiromu ‘rana before he got caught in the D. SHO tries to power free, but ends up lifting Hiromu onto the apron, going over as well, before a teased Time Bomb to the floor ended with SHO slipping back inside as he swept the leg and knocked Hiromu to the floor at 16:15. Shingo’s in with SHO, trading rights. Shingo stops to knock Tanahashi off the apron, before SHO caught Naito with a spear… then a suplex before SHO’s lifted to the apron. He tries to suplex Shingo from the ring to the floor, but instead eats a clothesline at 17:40 to get knocked to the floor for the next elimination. Tanahashi’s in to have a pop in the corner, following in with a flip senton out of the corner to Shingo for a near-fall. Tanahashi runs into a back elbow, but counters back with a Twist and Shout, before a Slingblade’s countered into a Twist and Shout from Shingo.
Shingo throws Tanahashi over the top and onto the apron, but Tanahashi low bridges a charge as both men end up on the apron. Headbutts from Shingo look to set up for an elimination, but Tanahashi slips back in and catches Shingo with a Dragon screw between the ropes at the 20:00 mark. I guess that counts because Shingo didn’t have his feet back in the ring. We’re down to Tanahashi and Honma vs. Naito, and seemingly some double-teaming as the referee didn’t feel like enforcing tags. Honma throws Naito into a Slingblade, before he tried to hold Naito in place for a High Fly Flow. Naito pushes Honma into the corner, crotching Tanahashi before Naito went to push him off the apron… but Honma makes a save. A low dropkick from Naito at 21:50 eliminates Tanahashi, before a schoolboy almost got Naito the win seconds later.
A leaping Kokeshi from Honma takes Naito down, following up with a regular one… but going up top was too much to ask for as Honma’s caught by Naito, who press slammed him back into the ring. Naito heads up next, but he’s caught with a leaping Kokeshi and is crotched across the buckles before a superplex brought Naito back into the ring. Naito recovers with elbows, then cracked Honma with an enziguiri before Honma got the upset with a clothesline, sending Naito over the top to the floor! This was a little long before the first elimination, but the build between him and Naito on the Korakuens seemed to pay-off here… and may well lead to something more in the New Japan Cup down the line. ***½
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c)
After losing the tag titles 18 months ago, ELP and Ishimori get a new shot at the junior tag titles here, as Bullet Club look to control both sets of tag titles.
ELP and Kanemaru start us off, with Kanemaru looking to rip off Phantasmo’s boot in the opening minute. That’s stopped as they go for some lucha-inspired stuff, stopping with Kanemaru going for the boot again before ELP rolled away and went to shove him. Tags bring in Desperado and Ishimori, with Ishimori getting backed into the ropes as Despy pokes him in the eye. We slip and slide as Ishimori outfoxes Desperado in the corners, before Kanemaru kicked Ishimori in the ropes, leading to some double-teaming that’s quickly neutralised. Ishimori throws Desperado shoulder-first into the corner, then uncorked a back rake as the tempo began to slow down somewhat. All the back rakes!
ELP shows off with a back-flipping back rake to Desperado, then slingshotted his throat into the bottom rope for the hell of it. A punch is blocked, but Desperado poked Phantasmo in the eye as he managed to tag out to Kanemaru… who walks over ELP to knock Ishimori off the apron… but Ishimori is quickly in as ELP then stayed on top with some knee drops. Ishimori’s in to twist away at Kanemaru’s neck for a two-count, before Kanemaru was hung up in a Tree of Woe. Ishimori’s baseball slide dropkick gets followed up with the Gas Pedal as the cameraman zoomed in on Kanemaru’s groin for… reasons. Kanemaru continues to have a bad time, taking double knees in the corner from Ishimori before hitting back with an armdrag and a low dropkick.
ELP tries to stop Desperado from tagging in, but does not as the tag’s made with Desperado’s back elbow knocking Ishimori down. Extending the knee in the corner allowed Desperado to set up for Numero Dos, but ELP breaks it up, allowing Ishimori to return with a Yes Lock. Desperado rolls out and manages to transition the hold back into Dos, but it led to nought as both men end up tagging out. Kanemaru’s caught with a knee from Phantasmo, but a low dropkick face-plants the Canadian again. Remember to water your face-plants, kids! A satellite DDT from Kanemaru has ELP down for a two-count, before a Figure Four gave Kanemaru a chance to undo ELP’s boot as the mystery of the Superkick of Doom grew. Phantasmo gets free as a Codebreaker from Ishimori held Kanemaru down as a moonsault out of the corner from ELP almost led to the title change.
ELP and Kanemaru use the ref as a human shield, which leads to ELP killing Red Shoes Unno with the Sudden Death superkick. With no ref, a scooping reverse DDT gets a huge visual pin as Ishimori tries to break it up with a belt shot. Desperado makes the save as ELP’s clocked with said belt as the referee’s carried out. They take their sweet time sending out a replacement, with Marty Asami struggling to get past the closed gate as he counts a sure win… but Ishimori pulls him out and threw him into the barrier. Paging Kenta Sato! Ishimori clocks Kanemaru with the belt as Desperado tries to equalise… but a leaping knee from Ishimori stops that as Desperado eats another belt shot. Kanemaru ducks a second and hits Ishimori with the whisky, before ELP gets a low blow in as a delayed count from the returning Asami led to a two-count.
ELP looks for CR2, but it’s countered to an inside cradle for a two-count, before a second Sudden Death killed Marty Asami. A low blow from Kanemaru gives me time to wonder how they can finish this tour with only one referee… Kenta Sato’s out to try and tidy things up, first of all removing all the flotsam from the ring. Except he missed a belt, and threw it to ELP before pulling an Eddie Guerrero. ELP kicks out of a roll-up as he tried to stop the DQ, then again after a moonsault, before a brainbuster plants Phantasmo in the middle of the ring. Kanemaru leaps off the top for Deep Impact, but he’s caught with a punch to the dick, before Sudden Death led to the pin and new tag team champions. That middle stretch with the ref killings and all the shenanigans will be polarising – for me, it was starting to get massively overdone, but when the build for this was “who can cheat the most,” perhaps we shouldn’t have been too shocked. ***¼
As a show, this felt like what we used to get from big Korakuen Hall shows, before they ran that place way too much. Remember, this was still a “road to” show, so expectations were tempered going in – but this did feel like the first notable stop on this tour. We’ve some more Road To’s before hitting Nagoya for the first big show next week – and this tour is finally feeling a little warm!