The last Korakuen Hall stop before Osaka saw Los Ingobernables de Japon put their IWGP tag titles on the line – holding up their end of the bargain ahead of their singles title shots.
Kevin Kelly’s flying solo on commentary for the start of the show at least…
Shota Umino, Tetsuhiro Yagi & Ren Narita vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask & KUSHIDA
Another night, another crack for the Young Lions, and again Shota Umino wants to have the first shot at Liger. This time he goes straight for a tie-up, as the two roll around the ropes before Umino snuck in a chop during a not-exactly clean break. Yeah, it’s quickly repaid with a Shotei as Liger goes back to his suddenly-rediscovered ground game.
Yagi and Narita help break it up, before Yagi forces a tag in against Tiger Mask… and runs straight into some kicks. Tiger Mask busts out what I swear was EVIL’s old Banshee Muzzle submission move, but Yagi’s able to flop himself into the ropes, as Tiger Mask followed up with more kicks as the methodical display continued. Liger even sneaks in some stomps until Yagi’s dropkick gives him a chance to tag in Narita, who takes a receipt from Tiger as KUSHIDA finally gets the tag in.
More kicks from KUSHIDA leave Narita reeling, but the Young Lion somehow finds a way back as he pulls KUSHIDA into a Texas Cloverleaf… but Liger and Tiger break that up, only for the rest of the Young Lions to hit the ring to triple-team KUSHIDA with charges in the corner. Problem was, all Narita can follow up with is the Boston Crab, which gets broken in the ropes, before KUSHIDA broke into life with a cartwheel/dropkick combo. It’s not long before Narita’s caught in a Hoverboard Lock, which he tried to counter with a roll-up, but KUSHIDA’s back with a cross armbreaker for the submission. Perfectly acceptable stuff for the opener – and I’m kinda liking this crop of kids’ attitude. Even though Tetsuhiro Yago was left bloodied by a Tiger Mask, Shota Umino’s going to be the next Kawato, at least in terms of running his mouth and getting beat for it… **¾
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & HIKULEO) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Tomoyuki Oka
Another day, another veteran partner for Oka… and after Tenzan came off the back of a rare singles match (and an even rarer singles win), you might fancy his chances here. Don’t.
Tenzan and Oka actually get the jump on HIKULEO, peppering him with chops and shoulder tackles early, before Oka’s offence ended when he was charged into the turnbuckles ahead of an Oklahoma Stampede-ish slam. That gets HIKULEO a near-fall, as Oka’s left isolated before he countered into a big spinebuster and a tag out to Tenzan. You know the drill with Tenzan – his greatest hits were on show here as he dished out Mongolian chops to HIKULEO, followed up with charges into the corner and a suplex out of it as the veteran seemed to be in control. HIKULEO chopped back though, only to run into a Mountain Bomb for a near-fall, prompting an Anaconda Vise that Yujiro broke up with some stomps.
HIKULEO cuts off another Tenzan charge with a Samoan drop, before bringing in Oka for the final stretch, as he dropped Yujiro with a belly-to-belly for a near-fall. Yujiro tried to set up Oka for the Pimp Juice, but Tenzan breaks it up as Oka manages another comeback, only to run into a uranage flatliner from HIKULEO for a near-fall, before the Pimp Juice DDT finally puts away Oka. Decent enough, and yet another tag win for Yujiro that may lead to something someday… Oka quickly grabbed the ice pack and held it to his jaw, which I hope isn’t indicative of anything too severe. **¾
Katsuya Kitamura vs. Manabu Nakanishi
This latest round of the Trials Series is a rematch from a Lion’s Gate Project show last year… which had a predictable result. Kitamura’s the early aggressor, grabbing a headlock before charging into the immovable object that was Nakanishi, eventually knocking him down!
Nakanishi does return fire with some chops, but Kitamura’s almost offending him with his replies, so they end up on the outside where Nakanishi decides to toss him into the guard railings, before returning to the ring for more chops. A suplex attempt from Nakanishi takes a while, as Kitamura somehow reverses it, and keeps up with another shoulder tackle as the Young Lion tried to force his way in.
A Mark Henry-esque slam gets another near-fall, as does a spear, but Kitamura’s attempt at a jackhammer gets stuffed as Nakanishi fires back with forearms and a short-clothesline. Another lariat drops Kitamura for a near-fall, as Nakanishi looked to be comfortably in control, pulling Kitamura into the Argentine backbreaker for the quick submission. The pace was slow, as you’d expect, but all things considered, another decent outing for Kitamura despite the loss. **
Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO, YOH & Rocky Romero)
The Suzuki-gun merry go round of “which two will challenge for the junior tag titles?” continues in this trios match, which for a change, didn’t have a jump start at least, not immediately.
TAKA and Rocky instantly head outside after a low blow as Kanemaru and Desperado tok on the junior tag champs… with Kanemaru coming off worse early on. Despy has a similar fate, but ‘ranas and clotheslines put paid to him before Kanemaru trips YOH, and it’s back outside for guard rail spots! YOH’s taken into the crowd as Kanemaru Brookes’ him into the seating, while SHO’s getting worn down by Desperado, who rips off some of SHO’s KT tape before shoving him into a propped-up table in the crowd. Yeah, of course the ref’s lost control… but at least Tiger Hattori finally remembers to start counting, prompting Romero to throw YOH back into the ring to save the match.
Desperado tries to crank things up with a stretch muffler to YOH, but SHO quickly breaks it up and gets thrown outside too as Suzuki-gun made a point of targeting YOH’s left knee. Eventually YOH gets the tag out to a fired-up SHO, but his back’s still worn down from all the way back at WrestleKingdom… he’s able to fight through and deliver a German suplex to Kanemaru, before an attempt at the Shock Arrow (Ricola Bomb x package piledriver) was easily backdropped out of by Kanemaru.
More tags bring in TAKA and Rocky, with Romero throwing in some ‘ranas for the hell of it ahead of the Forever lariats to TAKA and Despy… but another ‘rana’s countered into a crossface by TAKA as the rest of Roppongi 3K break it up. Rocky’s left in three-on-one, as a superkick from TAKA nearly gets the win… but in the end it’s a cheeky backslide from Romero that gets the win as Desperado and Kanemaru were trying to stretch SHO and YOH. Pretty decent stuff, and it’s clearly setting the stage for a title match in the not too distant future, especially since after the bell Desperado grabs the junior tag titles as he and Kanemaru continue to stomp down on SHO and YOH’s knees. ***
Juice Robinson, David Finlay & Toa Henare vs. Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
Jay White had a separate entrance – keeping up his lone wolf persona whilst being a part of CHAOS. Of course, Finlay wanted a piece of Switchblade after last night’s loss… but White instantly tags out to Toru Yano instead.
Yano’s straight after Robinson’s dreadlocks, teasing tying them into the ropes before making Yano dizzy with an airplane spin. Dusty punches follow, but Yano ducks and runs away to tag in Ishii, who’s not taking any of this… but Henare’s in to shove down Ishii as those two went at it once again. A series of headbutts from Henare saw him shove down Ishii, then the referee, as the Kiwi was baiting one of the last guys you’d ever want to…
To his credit, Henare found a little success with shoulder charges and the like, but Ishii quickly takes over with some relentless chops and forearms in the corner until the referee pulled the two apart. In the middle of this, Yano’s exposed the turnbuckles as Jay White tags in to keep up the beating against someone whom before this tour he’d only met once… in a three-way match in 2015 (with the third man being a certain Travis Banks. Small world, huh?)
We’re back to Henare and Ishii, with more predictable results courtesy of chops to the throat, before tags give Finlay a chance to lay into Jay White once again. Running European uppercuts take White into the corner for some stomps, eventually dropping his former Young Lion foe with a uranage backbreaker as we’re back to the two Kiwis. Henare takes out Yano with a spear as the ring fills, before Ishii gets a spinebuster…
Juice knocks over Henare for some reason, as White gets bombarded in the corner with a cannonball, as a flying shoulder tackle from Henare leads to a near-fall. In the end though, White gets the win with the crucifix elbows, as referee Marty Asami waves the match off. It’s a slow burn, but White’s slowly getting more comfortable in this role – and those elbows to finish the match give him a nice way of ending matches out of nowhere. ***¼
David Finlay tried to go for White again after the match, but Jay scarpered with his belt… and those two are almost sure to clash again in singles action.
Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka & Taichi)
Before the match, Makabe grabbed the mic and challenged Suzuki for the Intercontinental title… then jumped him before any answer could be given. Makabe went for Suzuki early on with chokes and stomps in the ropes, before they headed through the crowd and to the back, where SUzuki throws a crowd barrier in Makabe’s direction.
They return to the ringside area as the rest of the folks in the match were just incidental… although they were getting beaten down as well around the venue. Makabe takes the Bret Hart bump into the guard railings, before he’s choked with a chair as Suzuki eventually diverted his attention… so he could roll Ryusuke Taguchi into the ring. Taichi’s already going to the shenanigans, hitting Taguchi with the bell hammer as he referee was distracted… but Taguchi’s able to come back with a dropkick, only for Suzuki to kick Makabe off the apron as the tag was looking to be a thing. Suzuki’s wearing Makabe down on the outside with a Kimura, while Iizuka just bites on Taguchi’s foot in the ring… then on his rear.
Despite that, Taguchi lands a hip attack before tagging in Elgin, who scores with a slingshot splash… only for Taichi to hit the ring… and get a clothesline in the corner for his troubles. Elgin returns the biting favours from Iizuka, but we’re back into the shenanigans as Elgin’s forced to block the rope choking attempt as the pair go back and forth with biting instead. Finally, tags bring in Makabe and Suzuki properly now as the pair tee off on each other with forearms, before Makabe’s able to take him into the corner for some mounted punches and a Northern Lights suplex for a near-fall. Suzuki’s back in with a boot and a PK attempt… but Makabe catches it and returns fire, only to get caught in the corner with a hanging choke off the middle rope.
After putting down Makabe a la Goto, Suzuki turned around into a hip attack, before blocking an enziguiri as he went to a heel hook, forcing Taguchi to tap. Once the crowd brawling and shenanigans were done, this settled down into quite the entertaining brawl, but that opening bit was rough. ***
Once the match was over, the beating continued with the Iron Glove from Iizuka, before a Gotch piledriver left Makabe laying… so hopefully someone’ll tell him that Suzuki refused his challenge at the end!
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Will Ospreay, YOSHI-HASHI & Gedo
The first of two LIJ/CHAOS tags to close out the show, and yes, that is Rocky Romero with an ice pack on his head.
Naito went after Milano Collection AT again, as he was on hand for commentary, while Gedo was out with BUSHI’s mask that he ripped off the prior night. Predictably, the match starts out hot, but the camera crew shows Gedo trying to unmask BUSHI again as we hear someone crashing into the guard railings… eventually cutting to show Ospreay and Takahashi chopping each other in the crowd. Everyone ends up outside again for more stuff into the guard railings as the ring was about the only part of Korakuen Hall that wasn’t seeing any action.
When they do remember about the ring, YOSHI-HASHI gets caught in a STF from BUSHI, before Naito tagged in to keep up the beating, tripping YOSHI-HASHI for the slingshot dropkick, then a sliding dropkick as Naito tried to bloody up his foe again. Hiromu tries to add some more offence, but a superkick from YOSHI-HASHI gets him free as we’re back to Ospreay and Takahashi, with Will blasting into Takahashi in the corner ahead of an over-the-top-rope 619 to Hiromu and BUSHI.
The fast pace continues as Ospreay’s overhead kick connects, before a springboard corkscrew senton nearly put away Takahashi, but Hiromu’s able to hit back with a release overhead belly-to-belly into the turnbuckles. Tags get us back to BUSHI and Gedo, with Gedo landing a jawbreaker before running into an overhead kick… a swinging Fisherman’s suplex gets BUSHI a near-fall as the ring filled up briefly, ending when Gedo caught BUSHI with a Downward Spiral.
More tags bring YOSHI-HASHI in as he slipped during a spinning back kick, but he’s able to get a near-fall out of a Bunker Buster to BUSHI… Ospreay throws himself out at Hiromu with a tope con giro to the floor, before YOSHI-HASHI put away BUSHI with Karma, dumping him on his head for the pin. Ouch. An enjoyable, frenetic match, with plenty of, erm, chaos… which usually isn’t a good sign going into the big show! ***¾
After the match, Gedo again steals BUSHI’s mask… man, this camera crew are missing spots tonight! They’re able to catch Naito and YOSHI-HASHI’s latest blow-up, with Naito getting stomped on as he continued to show utter indifference.
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) (c)
Commentary notes that Okada’s not exactly been focused on tag team gold in New Japan, getting only one prior tag title shot (against Luke/Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson in September 2014) and hinting that this was merely a way of softening up EVIL and SANADA ahead of their IWGP and NEVER title shots.
The crowd was hot for this one, with Okada and SANADA starting off trading wristlocks as the pair slowly worked the other into the ropes. An early attempt at the Paradise Lock’s shoved away as Okada gets back into it, countering a hiptoss before tagging in Goto for some double-teaming and another pose-off to plug a sushi restaurant.
EVIL comes in to flatten Goto with a lariat as the champions then looked to take it outside… and hey, EVIL’s got a chair! Goto wears it and gets thrown into the guard railings before he’ stretched ahead of a curb stomp for a near-fall back inside. Chops between EVIL and Goto led to a back senton as the titles were almost retained in short order, but Goto kicks out at two, before Okada gets the tag in to try and wear down EVIL.
Rocky Romero notes on commentary that if Okada wins the tag titles here, he’ll be the first man in 22 years to hold the IWGP and tag titles at once (the last man to do it… Shinya Hashimoto).
We’re back in it as SANADA comes in and lays out Okada with a plancha on the outside, before a springboard back in misses, as Okada slips in the cobra clutch… SANADA escapes and tries for Skull End, but a neckbreaker slam follows instead as Goto and Okada double-teamed SANADA, leading to a Goto bulldog that almost put the match away. Goto tries for an ushigoroshi, but SANADA escapes with a back kick, only for Goto to grab a sleeperhold as the challengers edged further ahead.
After dragging SANADA down with the sleeper, Goto pulls him up for a GTR… but EVIL stops it and instead dumped Goto with a German suplex, only for an Okada dropkick to keep the Parade of Moves going! A TKO and a GTR left all four men down, but it’s SANADA and Goto back to their feet first for more strikes, with Goto knocking SANADA down hard with some forearms.
Just like that though, SANADA’s back in it with a springboard dropkick from the apron, before EVIL’s back in to try and isolate Goto. The Ingobernables look for a Magic Killer, but Okada breaks it up before we get duelling death valley drivers and ushigoroshi as the champions looked to be in trouble as EVIL gets a headbut as he tried to block a GTR. A caught PK only leads to a Fisherman’s suplex as EVIL kept going, following up with the Darkness Falls for a very close near-fall.
One throat-slit later, and EVIL looked to set up for the Everything is EVIL, but Goto elbows away and throws some clotheslines, only for a headbutt and a lariat from EVIL to cause a near-fall. SANADA and Okada come in next, with Okada getting hit with his own move after a frenetic back-and-forth, before Goto eats a Magic Killer and finally the Everything is EVIL as the champs retain. A really good match to close out the show, those final few moments in particular stealing the show. This was easily the best from these two Korakuen shows – SANADA and EVIL keep the belts, but can they repeat this in their singles matches on Saturday? ****
As a go-home show of sorts for Sunday in Osaka, this was another card that was “there”… as with yesterday, only the top two matches should be considered for viewing if you’re short of time… and if you’re really pushed, just make time for the main event!