We’re back to Korakuen Hall for another Road-to show – featuring more build for Ibushi vs. SANADA next month.

Quick Results
El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI pinned Yuya Uemura, Yuji Nagata, Tiger Mask & Togi Makabe in 10:07 (**¾)
Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Great-O-Khan & Will Ospreay ended in a no-contest in 3:40 (NR)
EVIL, Dick Togo & Yujiro Takahashi pinned YOSHI-HASHI, Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto in 10:14 (**¼)
Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi pinned Tomoaki Honma & SHO in 16:38 (***)
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi & Master Wato submitted BUSHI, Shingo Takagi & SANADA in 14:26 (***)

We’re a day removed from yesterday’s souped-up show, so we’re back for some reruns at Korakuen Hall! Kevin Kelly’s once again flying solo to do live English commentary on this – and yes, I do feel like him sacrificing a holiday season to fly out, do quarantine and tour with New Japan for a month is flying under the radar…

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI) vs. Togi Makabe, Yuji Nagata, Tiger Mask & Yuya Uemura
After Suzuki didn’t get to tag in at all in his team’s win yesterday, something tells me he’ll relish renewing some rivalries here. Existing and perceived!

We’ve a jump stuart as Uemura went for Suzuki as soon as he hit the ring… and he capitalises as he took Suzuki outside and into the railings. In the ring, Nagata fights off Kanemaru and Desperado, flinging the latter with an overhead belly-to-belly, before tagging in Tiger Mask… who went for DOUKI with a rear spin kick. More kicks knock DOUKI into the corner, before a back body drop was kicked away by Tiger Mask, who threw some elbows too. A tiltawhirl backbreaker’s next, before the referee got distracted by Suzuki, allowing DOUKI to jab Tiger Mask with the pipe. Cue shenanigans. Suzuki nearly breaks the guard rails with Uemura, as the ringside furniture was rearranged.

Suzuki leaves Uemura laying on the floor as things calmed down (relatively speaking), with DOUKI getting a two-count on Tiger Mask. In comes Desperado to lift Tiger Mask up top as he went to remove the hood. That came to nought, with Suzuki then tagging in to slap around Tiger Mask, following in with some elbows in the corner as the veteran was firmly on the back foot. A running boot from Kanemaru keeps Tiger Mask down, with a low dropkick getting a two-count, before Tiger Mask hit back with a Tiger Driver. Makabe’s suddenly around and tags in, charging through Suzuki ahead of some mounted punches in the corner, with the Northern Lights suplex after it getting a two-count. Makabe goes for a lariat, but Suzuki ducks and pulls him into a Fujiwara armbar that ends in the ropes before the pair trade elbows back-and-forth.

YEP! We get the clonker!

Makabe shrugs it off and throws some back, before Suzuki came in with a rear naked choke to drag Makabe into the corner. Desperado tags in, but eats his half of a double clothesline. Uemura’s back in to knock down Despy with a leaping forearm, then again with a dropkick before Uemura’s back suplex was quickly broken up. The ring fills, then clears as Uemura looks for a Kanuki suplex, but Desperado headbutts free… then ran into an inside cradle as Uemura pushed his luck. Guitarra del Angel is countered into a roll-up, before he beat Desperado to the punch. The ref’s used as a human shield as Despy lands the punch, then a Pinche Loco to get the win. A decent enough opener, as Kanemaru and Desperado get back on the board after last night’s loss. **¾

United Empire (Will Ospreay & Great-O-Khan) vs. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Last night, Tenzan got himself disqualified – will it be the same again tonight? O-Khan and Ospreay stormed out, sans ring gear, as they wanted payback for payback…

There’s a jump start as the Empire meet Tenzan and Kojima on the outside, taking them into the rails as we get a delayed bell to start. The referee Kenta Sato’s already down as Tenzan’s whipped into the rails, then into the English commentary desk (which had gained itself an El Phantasmo for this match…) Finally hitting the ring, O-Khan has Tenzan under his knee, before a head claw wore down Tenzan for a while. Tenzan fights free and hits some Mongolian chops, only to get some in return as they go back-and-forth on those. With increasingly-shrill yelps from O-Khan.

Still the referee’s not back in the ring as Kenta Sato’s on the outside, watching on as Ospreay attacked Tenzan from behind with a chair. More chairs hit the ring, with Ospreay throwing one right as Tenzan’s head before throwing him into the ring… and that’s what gets the match waved off. After the match, O-Khan looks to hit an eliminator onto the chairs, but Kojima makes the save before lariating away a chair that Ospreay was swinging. More an angle than a match, but felt wild – and perhaps a touch dangerous. Just ask Tenzan with that chair…

Bullet Club (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & Dick Togo) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
Yep. We’re still doing this.

Yujiro and Goto start us off, with a side headlock from Goto being bitten away. YOSHI-HASHI comes in too and gets nibbled at as well, before recovering with a chop to Yujiro, then a shoulder tackle as Goto then hiptossed him onto Yujiro for a two-count. There’s some clubbering heading Yujiro’s way, but Yujiro gets back, low bridging Goto to the outside as the Bullet Club took over on the floor. Yujiro gets his pimp cane while EVIL chokes Okada with YOSHI-HASHI’s staff. Back inside, EVIL tags in and rakes Goto’s nose, before throwing him into the exposed corner. Togo’s in to kick away on Goto’s leg, following up with a toe hold as Goto needed the ropes to force a break.

Yujiro’s back as Goto tries to fight out of the Bullet Club corner, eventually doing so as he and Yujiro clattered into each other with clotheslines, before Goto finally hit one on his own. Okada tags in to clear house, leading to a DDT on Yujiro for a two-count, before he looked to stomp the ring boards back place. That’s a joke. Right hands from Yujiro see him fight back with a leg sweep and a low dropkick. EVIL’s in and gets booted in the head after he blocked a whip into the exposed corner, before YOSHI-HASHI tagged in to try and chop his way through the former double champion. A neckbreaker lands for a two-count, before Goto tripped EVIL in the ropes as they set up for a side Russian legsweep/Headhunter combo.

Togo broke it up, but got thrown outside as EVIL remained inside, and fought back in with shoulder tackles before distracting the referee. Yujiro swings his cane, but YOSHI-HASHI ducks and superkicks him away… then grabbed the pimp cane. That brings in Dick Togo for the garrot wire, handing him off to EVIL as things ended with Everything is EVIL. This felt rather disjointed, with minimal Okada/EVIL tease – which was fine from a “subtlety hammer” perspective, but what was left behind just didn’t gel with me. **¼

Tomoaki Honma & SHO vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi)
The train for SHO vs. Hiromu keeps going, while Naito longingly stared at Hiromu’s belt before the bell. He misses those.

LIJ jump start things, taking it outside as Naito chokes Honma with his hoodie, while SHO got thrown into the barriers by Hiromu. Naito and Honma hit the ring for some back-and-forth elbows, before Honma’s back elbow set up for… a missed Kokeshi. Hiromu dives in to get his shots in as we then head back outside, with SHO bouncing off the rails. Honma gets the same treatment before they finally return to the ring, with LIJ retaining their focus on Honma. Hiromu’s in to rake at Honma’s eyes, then snuffed out Honma’s attempt to fight back as a low dropkick gets a two-count as SHO was barely stirring from having his spine realigned earlier. Naito’s back in, still smarting from losing the final fall in that eliminator match yesterday, landing a double sledge to the back before a vague relative of the Anaconda Vise wore Honma down.

Another tag brings in Hiromu for a double sledge to the back, before Naito’s headscissors on the mat forced Honma to scurry to the ropes while Hiromu played guard dog to stop SHO from breaking it up. Eventually Honma got his foot on the rope to force the break, and began a fight back with elbows… only to get raked in the eyes. A suplex from Honma finally buys him time as tags bring us to Hiromu and SHO. SHO’s on top with a clothesline into the corner, before kicks wore down the junior champion. A shoulder tackle keeps him down as SHO then barges Naito off the apron, before a spear took down Hiromu for a two-count. Hiromu tries to reply as he sparks some more back-and-forth elbows, leading ELP to bemoan a lack of camera cuts before the pair got up and battered each other with clotheslines. A pop-up powerbomb has SHO down as tags get us back to Naito and Honma. Those two tee off with elbows in the corner, before Honma pulled ahead with a bulldog and a Kokeshi that actually landed. On the top rope, Naito avoids a superplex but can’t quite come back with a sunset bomb, with Honma clinging onto the ropes. Naito gives up on the hold, then lands a neckbreaker before Hiromu came back with his part of a double clothesline and a double dropkick to get Naito a two-count.

Naito looks for Gloria, but it’s elbowed away as Honma cracks him with a leaping Kokeshi. A second diving Kokeshi knocks down a seated Naito for a near-fall, before Naito escaped a Kokeshi Otoshi, coming back with elbows before hitting a Manhattan drop and an enziguiri. Hiromu’s back to help with a superkick, knocking Honma down, as Naito then picked up the rather straightforward win with a roll-through pin. That was more of a struggle than you’d perhaps expect, but Naito leaves with the pinfall win – without having to hit either of his regular big moves. That’s going to continue to the New Japan Cup, you’d think. ***

Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Master Wato
We close out today with another familiar multi-man tag, and we open with SANADA and Ibushi trading holds.

They go back-and-forth on a wristlock, before Ibushi took SANADA down for a side headlock… but the headscissors from SANADA led to an escape and a reset. SANADA hits the ropes, ducking an elbow from Ibushi before rolling through a sunset flip to tease a Paradise Lock… which Ibushi escaped as he tried one of his own. A dropkick from Ibushi leaves SANADA down, before Master Wato tagged in – knocking BUSHI off the apron – before he managed to catch SANADA with a tiltawhirl backbreaker. Tanahashi tagged in after that, but he gets distracted by Shingo… who trips and pulls him to the outside as the NEVER champion popped him up onto the apron.

On the outside, a nerve hold from SANADA keeps Ibushi down, while Shingo elbowed away at Tanahashi. Back inside, Shingo clobbers Tanahashi with a clothesline in the corner, before a combination of chops and punches wore down the Ace. A jab makes him sink like a stone, before BUSHI came in and wore down Tanahashi with a chinlock. Shingo’s back as he and Tanahashi teed off on each other with elbows. Tanahashi tries to sneak in with a Dragon screw, but Shingo spins free… only to take it moments later. A roll-through from Tanahashi gets a two-count, with him tagging in Ibushi from the kick-out… SANADA’s in too, but gets kicked and met with a standing moonsault for a two-count, before a double leapfrog/dropkick knocks Ibushi outside for the obligatory plancha.

SANADA gets a two-count back inside, before he went for a springboard… that’s aborted, but he goes for a Skull End, which Ibushi slipped out of, replying instead with a head kick. Tags bring in Wato and BUSHI, with the former hitting a gamengiri before a springboard uppercut was avoided. A back elbow and a leaping rear kick stops BUSHI, as did a leaping head kick, and got Wato a two-count in the process. Wato looks for the Tenzan Tombstone Driver, but BUSHI slips out and dropkicks Wato in the ropes. They trade kicks, leading to a rewind kick from BUSHI, who then paintbrushes Wato with palm strikes, only to get caught with a spinning enziguiri. Tags bring in Tanahashi, who stops BUSHI from tagging out… Shingo comes in anyway, but gets knocked down before LIJ flooded the ring to triple-team Tanahashi.

A back cracker from BUSHI lands for a two-count, but Tanahashi clears a path back in with a Twist and Shout. He followed that up with a Slingblade, then a Cloverleaf as Shingo came in to try and break it up with some elbow strikes and headbutts… before Wato slipped on his attempt to break up the break-up. Wato eventually gets rid of Shingo as BUSHI ends up submitting. Things got a little loose at the end, but the body of this match was largely good – and keeps things going as we wait for the big matches in Nagoya and Hiroshima. ***

If it wasn’t for the heated Tenzan & Kojima/United Empire segment, that first half would have been one of the most skippable halves of New Japan shows for quite some time. The second half did pick up somewhat, but running the same building so often with similar cards leads to this sort of malaise. There’s a few gems scattered here and there in these shows, such as ELP’s run on commentary, but this run is perhaps only for the die-hards and completists among us. Just the *eleven* more Korakuen shows before the end of next month… including one tomorrow!