The Road to the New Beginning wrapped up with a NEVER trios match on the last stop before Osaka.
We’re back to Korakuen Hall – a building you’ll need to love the sight of this month! Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino provide your English soundtrack for today.
Yuya Uemura vs. Yota Tsuji
These two have a stories history, going back to their series of draws that started when they broke in almost two years ago.
Uemura gets the upper hand with a wristlock, before Tsuji’s brief escape led to them just going hold-for-hold. A toe hold from Tsuji has Uemura down, but that too is escaped with headscissors… but Tsuji counters back with a leg spreader. When Uemura gets free, he’s quickly back on the deck with a shoulder tackle, but throwing some forearms looked to have perhaps set off Tsuji’s bad shoulder.
Uemura capitalises on that with boots to the shoulder, then with an armbar that forced a rope break. Staying on the sore arm, Uemura dives in… but Tsuji’s able to power free before throwing some chops and a back body drop for a two-count. A Boston crab’s next, but they’re right by the ropes, so Tsuji knocks him back down with forearms – which led to another break because they were by the ropes.
Finally a dropkick stops Tsuji in his tracks, then a capture suplex… but a second capture suplex with a bridge gets Uemura the win as their long-running record’s now tied at 6-6 (with 21 draws). A fine opener, although you do wonder if Tsuji’s shoulder was fine, how’d it have gone? ***
Gabriel Kidd vs. El Phantasmo
A rematch from Sapporo – can Kidd get the upset here?
Kidd tries to scramble with ELP to start with, but it comes to nought… especially when ELP pulls the ear to break up a toe hold. Hitting the ropes, Kidd charges down Phantasmo, then landed a hiptoss for just a one-count as Kidd continues to push on. A dropkick from ELP acted like a reset button as the Rev Pro cruiserweight champion took control, teasing a KENTA-ish dropkick only to stretch Kidd’s groin in the corner. Back rakes follow in the ropes, then a chinlock, but Kidd gets free and looked to go for a Boston crab, only for ELP to kick him away. Not to worry, Kidd gets a half crab on instead, wrenching back as Phantasmo ended up grabbing the bottom rope to free himself.
Stomps follow, then chops, but ELP just drops Kidd with a superkick before he hit a big splash off the top… and pulled up Kidd at two. Just so he can go for a win with the CR2, but Kidd rolled up ELP for a near-fall as he burst into the usual Young Lion roll-ups, before the CR2 finally landed for the win. By the numbers stuff, and exactly the result you’d expect. Hopefully this isn’t the end of Kidd’s singles matches – but I have a feeling he’ll be in with New Japan dojo members for the next little while. ***
Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi
The Nakanishi retirement tour continues, and we start with him and Henare trading forearms before Henare actually got the big man off his feet in the search for an Argentine backbreaker.
Nakanishi avoids the hold though and comes back in with a spear, before Tenzan and Honma came in to trade shoulder tackles. Mongolian chops come next from Tenzan, before Nakanishi charged in to knock Henare off the apron… taking out the referee in the process. Henare’s back to break up a pin after a Kokeshi from Tenzan on Honma… then he tags in to come close with a bodyslam on Tenzan. Chops come next, with Henare mocking the Mongolian chops before he got taken out with a spinning heel kick. In comes Nakanishi, who charges Honma off the apron then chopped Henare silly ahead of a clothesline. An Argentine backbreaker’s next but Honma breaks it up before Henare easily reversed a suplex attempt.
Tags get us back to Tenzan and Honma, with the latter pulling ahead with more chops, before a bulldog setup for a Kokeshi. It actually connects! A high-low followed for a near-fall as Nakanishi came in, then was sent outside, before Honma looked to put Tenzan away with a top rope Kokeshi…
…and of course it misses. Nakanishi picks up the pieces with a clothesline before he went up top for a rare spot of flying… a chop to the head off the top finds its mark, while Tenzan drew inspiration with a moonsault, kneeing Honma in the hip on the way down, and that’s enough for the win. That looked to take it out of EVERYONE, but was probably the best of the Nakanishi tags this week. **½
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Will Ospreay & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
Everyone’s getting entrances here, since we’re dealing with two title match builds.
We’ve got a jump start, but it comes from the good guys as they attacked Suzuki-gun before the bell, with Sabre and Ospreay brawling by the commentary teams. Sabre gets bounced off of the EAST sign, while Kanemaru and SHO controlled things in the ring as some semblance of normality broke out. Kanemaru remained isolated for a spell as Ospreay and Roppongi 3K had him cornered, but a trip and a low dropkick from Kanemaru resumed the bedlam, as crowd brawling broke out once again. Sabre takes Ospreay towards the WEST sign as he twisted Ospreay in the crowd, while Desperado dropped SHO knee-first on a chair.
Returning to the ring, the focus stayed on SHO’s knee as Kanemaru jumps on it, then came flying in with a dropkick as a Figure Four almost forced a stoppage. Eventually SHO got to the ropes, but Kanemaru keeps stomping away on the knee, before tags finally brought in Sabre and Ospreay. Those two up the pace, with Sabre’s guillotine eventually getting thrown aside as a standing shooting star press almost gets Ospreay the win.
A Cheeky Nando’s is avoided as Sabre manages to grab a rear naked choke on Ospreay, before Sabre switched up for a Euro clutch that’s blocked and turned into some back-and-forth near-falls. YOH and Desperado tag in next, trading forearms as YOH looked to pull ahead, landing a bridging German suplex for a near-fall.
Desperado’s spear stops all that momentum, before some double-teaming looked to get Roppongi 3K back in. Jumping knees drop Desperado, but it seemed to buckle SHO’s knee on the landing… and yes, Kanemaru goes back for it before spraying whiskey at YOH. A chairshot from Desperado gets the DQ, and that’s going to continue the shenanigans going into Sunday – a decent enough match here, although I had suspected this would end with a story rather than a result. ***
Ospreay dives in for the save and superkicks away Desperado before he was left standing tall with Sabre’s Rev Pro title belt.
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & DOUKI) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Togi Makabe & Ryusuke Taguchi
This feels like filler, given that the only big match among these six on Sunday involves Suzuki… against a Jon Moxley who’s not even in the country. It’s the first time Okada’s tagged with Togi Makabe since last year’s New Japan Cup undercards, which just feels like a “eh, who’s left?” partner.
Weirdly there’s no early jump start, but we do instantly spill to the outside before Suzuki-gun opted to single out Makabe with some triple-teaming. Even if it did instantly backfire as Makabe charged through them all ahead of some mounted punches to Suzuki in the corner. Okada and Taguchi come in to triple-team Suzuki, but a Makabe slam only gets a two-count before he got caught with a hanging armbar in the ropes.
We’re back outside, with Suzuki laying out Makabe with a chair while Okada was taken into the crowd by Taichi. Back in the ring, Makabe’s ripped apart in the Suzuki-gun corner, as we had the unusual sight of Makabe being on the defensive for an extended spell. A running boot from Suzuki in the corner looked to set up for a PK, Makabe caught it before back dropping out of a Gotch piledriver. A swivelling lariat gets Makabe free, as tags bring in Okada and Taichi – with the latter quickly falling to a back elbow. Taichi fought back, but couldn’t avoid an Okada dropkick as Taguchi came in to try and get the match over the line. He rips off Taichi’s trousers against his will, then got met with an axe bomber as Taguchi quickly became double-teamed.
A PK from Suzuki and a springboard stomp from DOUKI gets a near-fall… before an Italian Stretch looked to force a submission, only for Makabe to stomp it apart. DOUKI’s back as he looks for Suplex de la Luna, but Taguchi rolled him up for a near-fall, before he pushed ahead for a Bummer-Ye and a Dodon for the win. A solid win for Taguchi, as they did just about enough to keep other stuff simmering for their… undercard tags in Osaka. ***¼
Bullet Club (KENTA, Jay White & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & Hiromu Takahashi)
With the other half of LIJ defending the NEVER trios titles, this is what we’ve got left for the semi-main.
Of course we’ve got stalling, and it leads to a jump start as the Bullet Club trio mug Naito from behind before he’s thrown outside. Guardrails. KENTA and Naito scrap in the crowd. Red Shoes saves Naoru the cat when Jay White threatened to rip it, but accidentally tossed it into the ropes rather than back into the crowd. It spun beautifully.
Some more brawling outside led to Red Shoes refusing to count a pin on Naito – for the obvious reasons – so Jay White followed in with a half crab by the ropes. KENTA’s in after the rope break to drop Naito on his head with a draping DDT for a near-fall, following in with a hesitation dropkick and a double stomp attempt… but Naito avoids it and comes back in with a spinebuster.
Tags bring in SANADA and White, with the latter getting taken down with a back elbow before a low dropkick caught him in the back. White heads outside, where he’s teased with a pescado as SANADA instead ties up Gedo in a Paradise lock before dropkicking him free. D’oh. White’s hurled into the guard rails, but was able to escape another Paradise lock as he ended up pulling SANADA down by the hair.
When SANADA got back up, we had a battle of Blade Runners and TKOs until SANADA hit a rope-assisted Magic Killer. Tags bring in Hiromu and Ishimori, but it’s Hiromu who pushes on, catching a handspring before teasing a Time Bomb… only for Ishimori to get free and land a handspring enziguiri.
White and KENTA slide in to triple-team Hiromu, using a Blade Buster and duelling superkicks for a near-fall, only for Hiromu to change the complexion of the match with an overhead belly-to-belly that sent Ishimori into the corner. Naito’s in next with a neckbreaker before a top rope ‘rana almost put away Ishimori…
Naito teases a Destino, which brings in KENTA to start a long ol’ Parade of Moves, ending with a trio of low dropkicks to Ishimori before Gloria and Destino got the win. Decent enough, but this left me feeling cold at times. Does anyone really buy KENTA as more than a challenger in this role? ***
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Robbie Eagles vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, EVIL & BUSHI) (c)
After these teams had been scrapping for the last week or so, can Goto regain a NEVER title?
EVIL and Goto start us off with the big lads shoulder tackles, before the ring filled as BUSHI and Eagles opted for headscissors and more flippy stuff. At least until EVIL kicked away Eagles’ leg, that is… and that started a spell of dominance for LIJ, with Shingo hammering away on Eagles with some elbows.
A neck crank from Shingo’s broken up when Ishii kicks him away, but that just prompts Shingo into taking Ishii outside and into the railings. BUSHI takes over with a missile dropkick onto Eagles, before a shirt-assisted neckbreaker led to the referee refusing to make a count.
EVIL’s back to trip Eagles into the corner for a Bronco Buster, while Shingo just chops through Eagles as things were looking rather convincing for the champions. Of course that’s the cue for Eagles to make a comeback… elbowing out of a Fireman’s carry ahead of a leg lariat that took Shingo down. Ishii tags in, but he’s clotheslined before he can even get in, with his knee bending back awkwardly against the ropes.
Ishii recovers and sparks some back-and-forth strikes with Shingo, elbowing the NEVER champion down to his knees before Shingo zombie’d up and issued a receipt. Ishii doesn’t let sleeping dogs lie though and responds with a barrage of left-right elbows before Shingo came in with a slam, a suplex… and eventually a clothesline.
A suplex from Ishii leaves both men down as we end up with the other four men going for double suplexes… with Goto and Eagles winning out there. Goto keeps pushing on with a back suplex on EVIL for a near-fall, before he ignored a tonne of misdirection plays to clothesline EVIL. An ushigoroshi looks to follow, but EVIL’s out and comes in with a clothesline as the ring stayed full… clearing when Eagles was taken outside for a tope suicida from BUSHI.
EVIL looks to close the door on Goto with Everything is EVIL, but it’s escaped as Goto teases a GTR before he landed an ushigoroshi. Ishii’s back with a sliding lariat as a double-team reverse GTR nearly puts EVIL away, while a headbutt from Ishii took Shingo outside with some force. Kicks from Goto try to force a win, as got a GTR, but Darkness Falls was an efficient counter as once again the ring fills… then clears.
BUSHI and Eagles are legal, with the latter having to kick out from a back cracker… before he wiped out BUSHI with a tope con giro into the railings. Eagles goes back for BUSHI with a missile dropkick to the leg, then with a Turbo Backpack, before a kick-out took BUSHI into a Ron Miller Special…
Shingo’s in to clothesline the hold away as another Parade of Moves broke out, leaving all six men down. Eagles comes back with a MX of his own, before a 450 splash to the knee looked to set up for a Ron Miller Special… but EVIL sprays Eagles with mist as the referee was distracted. It leads to a near-fall from the roll-up, before the blinded Eagles got taken out with an MX… and that’s all folks! A wild trios match to bring this road to a close – and while the CHAOS team pushed LIJ hard, the belts stay where they were. ****
Post-match, Toru Yano and Ryusuke Taguchi come out and steal the NEVER trios titles… so there’s your next challengers! But Shingo’s got something else to worry over: Tomohiro Ishii calling his shot to challenge Shingo Takagi for the NEVER title. How do I get that in my veins quickly?
The seventh and final night of the Road to the New Beginning was another solid show, capped off with a cracker of a trios main event – but with a lot of these tags “warming up” matches we’ve already had, you’d be forgiven for cherry picking from these last few days. Roll on Osaka!