The Road to the New Beginning took a stop off at Sendai as our last show before Sapporo saw the NEVER trios titles on the line.
This leg of the tour is in the Sendai Sunplaza Hall, and once again, Kevin Kelly and Andy Boy Simmonz are on commentary. Man, that still feels weird to type…
Ayato Yoshida & Shota Umino vs. Toa Henare & Yota Tsuji
Our opening Young Lion contest starts with Tsuji working over the wrist of Umino, only for Shota to get free and land a shoulder tackle.
An armdrag from Tsuji’s next, as the pair continue to go tit-for-tat, with Tsuji keeping Umino at bay before Henare came in to help. A fast, falling chop from Henare gets a two-count on Shota, before Tsuji’s back to earn a two-count with another slam on Umino, who’s kept isolated as frequent tags meant he hardly got a look in here.
Henare comes close again with a Samoan drop, but a dropkick from Umino buys him some time as he tagged out to Yoshida, who charges down Henare with forearm strikes. A trip from Yoshida sent Henare flying after a chop battle, before a diving dropkick earned Yoshida another two-count, before tags brought Tsuji and Umino back in.
There’s a crushing dropkick from Yota, as he tried to blast through Umino once more, following up with a Boston crab… but Umino got free and replied with a Boston crab of his own, before Tsuji could drag his way to the rope. Umino responds with a missile dropkick as Tsuji got back to his feet, before a Fisherman suplex got Shota the win! Hey, that feels super rare, and somewhat monumental as Umino has himself a finisher! This wasn’t exactly full of fire, but Henare didn’t exactly respond well to the loss. **¾
Manabu Nakanishi & Tiger Mask vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Ren Narita
Oh dear, Ren…
He sets the pace, dropkicking Tiger Mask out of the ring as Tenzan and Narita looked to focus on the veteran Nakanishi early on. Narita managed to slam Nakanishi early, before a running flip senton got him a near-fall as the Young Lion tried to make his mobility pay dividends. Nakanishi hits back though, knocking Tenzan off the apron before Tiger Mask tagged in and slapped Narita silly for his earlier misdemeanours.
A dropkick took Narita down next, with a follow-up suplex getting a two-count before Nakanishi tagged in and got his receipts in too, stinging Narita with chops. Nakanishi misses a knee drop as Narita managed to crawl over and tag in Tenzan, who made the most of this with some Mongolian chops to Nakanishi. Tenzan’s suplex gets another two-count, but Nakanishi hits back before he brought Tiger Mask back in… who runs into a Mountain Bomb.
Narita’s back with a belly-to-belly on Tiger Mask for a near-fall – with no bridge, sadly – before a Boston crab to Tiger Mask was held on despite Nakanishi’s chops. Narita deal with Nakanishi with a dropkick before Tenzan put paid to him, only for Tiger Mask to hit back out of nowhere as he rolled up Narita into a knee bar, with Tenzan eventually breaking up the hold. A roll-up from Narita and a backslide helps him get some more near-falls on Tiger Mask, who in the end catches him with kicks ahead of a flying chop from Nakanishi, which set up for a Tiger Driver as Narita ultimately came up short. A hell of an effort, but Narita’s not getting that win until he drops the black trunks! **¾
Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Shingo Takagi
Ahead of Sunday’s junior tag title match, we’re getting a pair of singles matches – and don’t be shocked if these are the old “Heyman specials” that bleed into each other…
Commentary talked up a potential ankle injury that Shingo picked up the night before, and of course, we’ve a jump start as Kanemaru leapt into Shingo at the bell. Things head outside as Shingo chopped Kanemaru, before an Irish whip towards the rails stopped mid-flow, with Kanemaru instead returning the favour before Shingo ended up taking a reverse DDT on the apron.
Another whip into the guard rails, followed by a leg drop from Kanemaru keeps Shingo on the back foot, as we were looking at the embodiment of what happened in the junior tag title match at WrestleKingdom – except whereas Kanemaru found himself tagged out early then, he just made sure Shingo couldn’t get into any kind of gear here.
Boots to Shingo are eventually cut-off as he fought back with a chop, only to have to counter a reverse DDT into a suplex. A Gory bomb attempt from Shingo’s slipped out of as Kanemaru comes back with a low dropkick to the injured knee, before Kanemaru looked for the whiskey mist. Shingo ducks it and nails a death valley driver instead, but can’t immediately follow up because of the knee as he hobbled into a Pumping Bomber instead. The Last of the Dragon’s attempted, but El Desperado comes in with a chair for the cheap DQ… this was fine, but the injury meant that they had to hold back quite a lot. Shame, really. ***
Sure enough… Heyman special!
El Desperado vs. BUSHI
Before the bell, the suited-up BUSHI manages to nail a double ‘rana to clear the ring of Kanemaru.
BUSHI uses his belt to whip Desperado with, before he tried to unmask Desperado. Maybe he’ll find Namajague under there? It’s all your favourite (?) BUSHI tropes, as we head outside with Desperado getting whipped into the guard railings, with BUSHI raking the eyes of Desperado before they returned to the ring.
Kanemaru gets involved behind the refs back, pulling BUSHI off the apron before he’s thrown into guard rails. A body slam keeps BUSHI down as Shingo has the referee distracted like it were a tag match, before Desperado grabbed a chair and used it on his opponent. Another Irish whip takes BUSHI into the guard rails as Andy Simmons on commentary looked a little jittery… he’ll find the Jay White apron spot fun later, eh?
They go into the crowd, where Desperado tries to unmask BUSHI as they teased another count-out. BUSHI returns to the ring and into a single leg crab, before he’s forced to slip out of Guitarra de Angel and come back with a DDT as he found a second wind. A missile dropkick of the top sends Desperado back outside, but Kanemaru gets in the apron to stop the dive… except it doesn’t work as a tope suicida from BUSHI finds its mark!
Back inside, Desperado’s charged into ahead of a swinging Fisherman buster, before another BUSHI ‘rana’s blocked and turned into the Numero Dos (stretch muffler). BUSHI escapes and lands a lungblower for a near-fall, before he headed intro the ropes for a MX… Desperado avoids BUSHI, but quickly whips off his mask as the match gets waved off for the DQ. We’re in Mexico now? Fortunately the Young Lions dove in to cover BUSHI’s head, but BUSHI’s able to spray Despy and get some revenge as he whipped off Desperado’s mask too. Well, story-wise, this told a hell of a story, but the in-ring action left me wanting a whole hell of a lot more. ***
Bullet Club (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Tomoaki Honma & YOSHI-HASHI
It’s another outing for the New Japan Dream Team – who haven’t quite managed to get any results together.
We get a jump start as White leaps into Tanahashi as he was posing to the crowd, and it’s bedlam from the off as White’s early attacks were cut-off by Okada. The Dream Team work together to drop White with a pair of back elbows, before tags took us to Chase Owens and YOSHI-HASHI as the pace quickly dropped off.
An elbow from Owens barely gets him a one-count, with YOSHI-HASHI scoring with a Head Hunter running Blockbuster before Honma tagged in to keep up the pressure. Honma goes for Kokeshi, but of course he misses, as the Bullet Club swarm the ring to prevent anyone from making a save, as Owens continued to put the fists to Honma on the outside. Owens teases a package piledriver, but Honma blocks it and ends up taking some chops from Yujiro as the Bullet Club continued to isolate the weaker Honma.
A neckbreaker from White’s good for a two-count, before Fale comes in and elbows YOSHI-HASHI off the apron. He rolls Honma to the ropes so he can stand on him, before an unwise attempt to slam Fale ended with Honma falling back for a near-fall. Somehow, Honma’s able to avoid a Fale charge in the corner, before he scored with a headbutt as he finally tagged out to Okada.
Okada’s tag sees him having to sidestep Fale ahead of a DDT, before he hauled up the Tongan for a body slam. Fale returns with a bear hug, before White comes in to capitalise with a suplex on Okada into the corner for a near-fall. A neckbreaker slam from Okada stems the tide, as Tanahashi comes in to try his luck with the Switchblade, catching a boot and taking the Kiwi down with a Dragon screw.
A Cloverleaf from Tanahashi’s next, but White gets to the ropes and quickly chops out the bad knee of Tanahashi, before a Blade Runner’s countered, with White having to make do with a uranage instead. Yujiro comes in to try for an unlikely win with a Fisherman buster as Chase Owens comes in to help out too, as Fale’s charge proved rather more effective. Okada makes a save as Yujiro looked to finish of Tanahashi… only for another Fisherman buster to get turned into Twist and shout.
White’s back with a Dragon screw to Tanahashi, before he runs into a Western lariat from YOSHI-HASHI, sparking a Parade of Moves that ended with Okada dropkicking away a Fale Grenade. From there, an Okada tombstone, before he handed him over to Tanahashi for a Styles Clash, with an Okada top rope elbow and a High Fly Flow from completing the barrage of finishers as the Dream Team FINALLY get a win! Hey, that’s what Yujiro’s there for, and it finally stopped the tidal wave of wins that the Bullet Club had been piling up here. ***½
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA)
In among all of the cards, I totally missed that Sabre and Suzuki were challenging for EVIL & SANADA’s tag titles on Sunday. Merging the Rev Pro and IWGP titles, is it?
Everyone got separate intros here, and we didn’t have a jump start as we opened with EVIL just booting Zack Sabre Jr. in the gut. Sabre tried to hit back with a PK after a back senton misses, but EVIL’s able to boot him away as tags took us to Naito and Taichi. There’s not as much venom in this, but Naito does spit at Taichi, who responds in kind before running into an armdrag as Naito followed in with headscissors and a shower of spittle.
Naito keeps up the pressure with an atomic drop and a low dropkick to Taichi, before the tables turned as the match spilled outside, with Suzuki jabbing SANADA with the bell hammer and a chair, before Naito was sent chest-first into the crowd barriers, then deep into the crowd as we got a good old-fashioned Brookesing from Suzuki-gun. Ayato Yoshida gets whacked with a chair as Taichi looked to take the count-out win… but Naito dove back in just in time to keep the match going.
Suzuki and Sabre brutalise Naito next with a series of arm wrenches ahead of an armbar from Suzuki, all while Taichi mocked Naito. Taichi returns to take advantage, clocking Naito with a gamengiri in the corner before… the trousers come off! Naito cuts him off at the pass with a superkick after avoiding one from Taichi, before SANADA took down Suzuki with a Dragon screw. Sabre’s attempt at a save ended with him taking a back senton from EVIL, before Suzuki found himself in a Skull End, which he escaped by grabbing at the referee.
Out of nowhere, Suzuki traps SANADA in a rear naked choke, but a Gotch piledriver’s stopped when SANADA backdropped free. EVIL and Sabre are back in, with Sabre taking a superkick and a Fisherman buster, before a clothesline was countered into an Octopus stretch… which they tried to reverse endlessly until Sabre reapplied the hold. Double team PKs from Sabre and Suzuki left EVIL down for a near-fall, only for LIJ to return the favour on Zack as Suzuki needed to make a save to stop a Magic Killer.
The match broke down into a Parade of Moves, ending with a sidewalk slam to Taichi and a lariat from EVIL to Sabre, only for Zack to slip out of Darkness Falls and snatch a two-count with a Euro clutch, before he avoided Everything is EVIL and shocked the tag team champion with a Victory Roll! Once again, Sabre’s still got EVIL’s number, and if that happens on Sunday, then there’ll be new champions in Sapporo. ***½
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Taguchi Japan (Ryusuke Taguchi, Togi Makabe & Toru Yano) vs. Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c)
Oh hey, the New Japan overdubber was asleep at the wheel… so you know what that means. Immigrant Song for Makabe! This was a rematch from New Year Dash, as the interference of Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi kinda spoiled things.
What it also meant was that Ryusuke Taguchi had two shots to take titles from Taiji Ishimori in less than a week…
Taguchi and Ishimori start off here, with Ishimori raising the tempo as he escaped a wristlock, only to get caught with shoulder tackles before he rolled back into an ankle lock. Ishimori’s old Sailor Boys routine’s again mocked by Taguchi, as tags took us to Tama Tonga and Toru Yano, who argued over Tama’s moral character before Jado tried to crack Yano with the Kendo stick.
Tama argues with Yano, as we continue with the Yano shtick, before the rest of his team flooded the ring as the Bullet Club took advantage, even if Tama’s conflicted throughout. Tanga Loa comes in and has no qualms with throwing Yano into the exposed turnbuckles, before a second try at that ended with Tama Tonga holding the turnbuckle pad up to save his opponent.
The padding’s dislodged when Loa runs into the exposed corner, as comedy hour ends with Togi Makabe coming in to slam Ishimori. Makabe keeps up with a double clothesline to Tama and Tanga, before corner-to-corner clotheslines gave way to mounted punches in the corner, ahead of a Northern Lights suplex that earned Togi a near-fall. A powerslam from Tanga Loa stops that, before Taguchi and Ishimori return… with the new Bone Soldier easing past Taguchi this time around.
Running knees into the corner misses from Ishimori, as he ends up taking some rolling suplexes ahead of a Bummer-ye from Taguchi for a near-fall. Taguchi tries to follow up with a Dodon, but he has to make do with an enziguiri before the Dodon landed for a near-fall – with Jado pulling out the referee to keep the match alive.
Chase Owens runs out from the back to attack Taguchi, but Yano’s low blow stops the package piledriver as Makabe’s back to blast the Guerrillas of Destiny with another double clothesline. From there, Taguchi goes back to Ishimori with an ankle lock, only for Ishimori to roll through and send Taguchi into the referee… right as Bad Luck Fale wanders out to interfere. Kazuchika Okada comes out to make the save as Taguchi was about to take a Grenade, and so wave two of the interference comes to an end… just as Jay White comes in for round three, with Tanahashi making the save. This feels very “go-home RAW” like, but we resume with Ishimori’s handspring enziguiri putting Taguchi down, before a kick-out from an O’Connor roll from Taguchi earned him a Kendo stick shot from Jado.
Somehow Taguchi kicked out, much to the delight of his hometown crowd, before he countered a Bloody Cross into an ankle lock… dropping an elbow across the knee before wrenching in the hold as Ishimori was forced to tap! We’ve new champions, as Ryusuke Taguchi ensures he leaves his home town with some gold… and with some momentum ahead of the belt he really wants to collect later in the tour! This was a pretty good match, but that “western influence” at the end kinda dragged it down for me… and hey, we’ve a weird mixture of the old Most Violent Players and Taguchi Japan as champions. Is this the Most Violent Taguchi then? ***½
The fourth round of the Road to the New Beginning was mostly about building momentum, as we saw Okada and Tanahashi finally get a win over the Bullet Club, while Ryusuke Taguchi picked up a meaningful win over Taiji Ishimori… but it wasn’t all about ending streaks though, as Zack Sabre Jr. continued to frustrate EVIL ahead of his shot at the heavyweight tag titles.
“Ratings wise”, this wasn’t a high-rating show, but this was all kinds of fun to watch, and the seven match card flew by in a little over two hours. A solid thumbs up just for that!