We’ve our final Korakuen Hall show of the week as New Japan’s Road to the New Beginning gave us the final build for Saturday’s junior tag team title match.
Will Ospreay & Great-O-Khan pinned Yota Tsuji & Satoshi Kojima in 8:36 (***)
El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori, Gedo & Jado pinned DOUKI, Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru in 10:43 (***)
EVIL, Dick Togo & Yujiro Takahashi pinned YOSHI-HASHI, Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto in 11:51 (***¼)
Tetsuya Naito & SANADA pinned Tomoaki Honma & Kota Ibushi in 13:07 (***¼)
Shingo Takagi, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi pinned Master Wato, SHO & Hiroshi Tanahashi in 14:46 (***½)
We’re back at Korakuen for another go around here – with Kevin Kelly once again calling the action solo.
United Empire (Will Ospreay & Great-O-Khan) vs. Satoshi Kojima & Yota Tsuji
Kojima’s teaming with Tsuji again as he continues to warm up for Saturday’s tag match with a returning Tenzan.
We’ve another jump start that led to Ospreay taking Kojima outside and into the railings, while Tsuji struggled with shoulder tackles. An armdrag takes Tsuji down for a head-and-arm choke, but O-Khan can’t stop him from getting to the ropes… so he hits a gutwrench facebuster instead for an early two-count.
Another head and arm choke puts Tsuji down, but the Young Lion returned with some right hands until he’s met with a Mongolian chop. O-Khan charges Tsuji into the corner so he could have a seat, but this time the referee wasn’t falling for Bea Priestley’s attempted distractions. At least someone’s learning around here.
Ospreay’s in with some elbows to the back of the head, then some knees to the back as a chinlock grounded Tsuji. He gets free and drops Ospreay with a slam, before tagging in Kojima, who cleared house and cornered Ospreay for some brief Machine Gun chops. O-Khan cuts off Kojima’s momentum, but ends up getting pushed into Ospreay before he got spiked with a DDT.
Ospreay returns fire with a springboard forearm for a two-count, but a Koji cutter restored parity. Tsuji comes in and propels Ospreay skyward with a back body drop, with a suplex following for a two-count, before a slam and a leaping splash off the ropes drew another near-fall. O-Khan runs in to try and clear the decks, but he’s caught with a Mongolian chop before knocking Kojima outside with one.
From there, Tsuji looked to take down Ospreay again, but gets caught with a rolling elbow and a lifting reverse DDT for a near-fall. Kojima broke it up, and gets hook kicked to the outside, before Tsuji was blocked a similar kick. A spear downs Ospreay, but a hook kick turned it around before an OsCutter got the win. Another solid opener as we build to the return of TenKoji on Saturday – but questions have to exist around Tenzan’s general fitness. ***
Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori, El Phantasmo, Gedo & Jado) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI)
Third time’s the charm?
Yep, we’ve another jump start as DOUKI and Jado used their weapons at the bell, before going outside as Jado tried to stab DOUKI in the eye with his Kendo stick. In the ring, Phantasmo and Kanemaru went at it, before they used the referee as a human shield en route to Kanemaru landing an enziguiri.
ELP hits back with a loaded superkick to the gut, which dropped the tag champion like a stone, giving the Bullet Club went to work. We’ve back rakes from Jado, who then egged on Suzuki… who ran into the ring and ended up getting caught with back rakes in the Bullet Club corner. That might not have been such a good idea…
Kanemaru elbows out of a chinlock, but gets knocked down by a shoulder tackle before they’re taken outside, with ELP going for a… chest rake? The referee’s lost control of the rest of the match as he focused on Suzuki having a chair, but when Kanemaru did get back into the ring he’s saved by Desperado… albeit briefly. On the outside, Desperado’s given some back rakes on the floor as Kanemaru had his eyes raked by Gedo before finally hitting a low dropkick to get himself an opening.
Suzuki wants in – and he gets it. Right hands and boots take Gedo into the corners, ahead of a PK for a two-count. Jado saves Gedo from a rear naked choke, but ends up getting pulled down into a Fujiwara armbar. ELP makes the save there and gets tripped as Suzuki countered the loaded superkick with a leg lock. Phantasmo scuttles outside as Suzuki went back to Gedo… who’s back with an eye poke before Suzuki locked in a rear naked choke and tagged out to Desperado.
Kicks from Despy see him focus on Gedo… but Jado cracks him in the back with a Kendo stick as Ishimori came in to outfox Despy with his speed. A springboard seated senton lands, but Kanemaru trips Ishimori as the junior tag champions combine to hit a dropkick-assisted back suplex for a two-count.
Ishimori wriggles out of Guitarra de Angel, then landed a bicycle kick as ELPO tagged back in to stomp away on Desperado’s hand. An eye poke is blocked, but Desperado manages to slap the Canadian before a tag brought in DOUKI for what you’d think is the home stretch. Suzuki helps out as they boot away on ELP in the corner, leading to a rear naked choke and a pair of PKs for a near-fall. From there, DOUKI sets up for Daybreak, and actually plants ELP for a near-fall as the ring filled… then emptied as Gedo distracted the ref with brass knuckles. DOUKI blocks a Kendo stick shot with his pipe, before a thrust to the throat stopped Gedo… only for ELP to kill him with a superkick of doom for the win. If you can get past the shenanigans at the start, this became a nice, tidy tag match – and it’s given me some hopes for Saturday’s title match. ***
Bullet Club (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & Dick Togo) vs. Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto
ELP joined commentary for this one, taking shots at the empty Korakuen seats… and other people throwing “love tap superkicks.” Pew pew.
We’re 3-for-3 on jump starts today as EVIL charged at Okada before the bell – with Hirooki Goto being left in the ring for some triple-teaming. Goto gets free and charges down EVIL with a clothesline before the CHAOS lads clubbered away on Yujiro’s back. Goto and YOSHI-HASHI charge down Yujiro, but EVIL runs in to clear the decks as the Bullet Club took things to the outside.
Guard rails and chairs come into play, while Goto’s posted. Things eventually settle down back inside as Yujiro threw some right hands to Goto, then took him down with an eye rake. Dick Togo’s in with a chinlock, before EVIL came in for the delightfully cheat-y chained abdominal stretch, as he hooked onto Yujiro, who then hooked onto Togo for extra leverage. A low dropkick from Yujiro drops Goto for a two-count, before a front kick in the ropes left Goto stunned. A second one’s caught, before a series of clotheslines ended with both men catching each other as Okada finally tagged in. He hits a back elbow off the ropes, then a DDT for a two-count, but a leg sweep and a low dropkick from Yujiro puts him back ahead.
Another Yujiro clothesline gets him free as EVIL tagged in to hit a push-down stomp in the corner. EVIL’s eye rake stops Okada ahead of an attempt at Darkness Falls, but Okada counters into a Money Clip, which is quickly broken in the corner. A neckbreaker slam’s next from Okada, before YOSHI-HASHI came in and dropkicked EVIL in the ropes, leading to another two-count.
Goto returned to look for an ushigoroshi, eventually landing it with the aid of a YOSHI-HASHI superkick for a near-fall. The pin’s broken up, but Okada takes care of things as Togo ran in to break up a GYW attempt… and spark a Parade of Moves. A Western lariat from YOSHI-HASHI drops EVIL, before a Butterfly Lock looked to force a submission, but Dick Togo distracts with a chair, causing YOSHI-HASHI to break the hold. EVIL responds with a low blow, then dumps him with Everything is EVIL for the win. Another pretty solid tag match, and fairly light on shenanigans too as they continue to tease Okada/EVIL in the not-too-distant future. ***¼
Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Kota Ibushi & Tomoaki Honma
We’re still heading towards SANADA vs. Ibushi next month, and those two start us off amid the clap crowd.
They start by trading wristlocks, keeping it simple in the opening moments before they trade escapes as Ibushi finally took SANADA down with a mid kick. In comes Honma, who hits a slam and an elbow drop for a one-count, before he charged after Naito on the apron. A shoulder tackle knocks down SANADA, before Honma and Ibushi missed a Kokeshi attempt. Yep.
Naito throws Ibushi into the railings as SANADA put the boots to Honma back inside, before Naito came in with elbows as he wore down Honma in the corner. A nonchalant pin barely gets Naito a one-count, while SANADA returned to keep it going. Ibushi eventually comes in to break up an inverted cravat from Naito, before a low dropkick took Honma down for a two-count. An Irish whip took Honma into the corner, but he avoids Combinacion Cabron, only to take an inverted atomic drop. Honma retaliates with a leaping Kokeshi, then tagged in Ibushi as SANADA found himself taken down with a back elbow. Ibushi’s standing moonsault gets him a two-count, but a low dropkick from SANADA stems the tide as Ibushi headed to the apron for respite.
Ibushi brings himself in with a sunset flip, but SANADA countered out and tied up the double champion with a Paradise Lock. The low dropkick frees him as SANADA then looked for a TKO, but Ibushi slips free only to take a Magic Screw neckbreaker. Tags get us back to Honma and Naito, with the former landing some stomps before he suplexed Naito for a two-count.
My feed drops, recovering as Honma nails a Kokeshi, before Ibushi returned to double-team Naito with charges into the corner. A rear spin kick has Naito vulnerable for a Honma clothesline, which gets him a two-count, before Honma went up top for a swandive Kokeshi… and promptly gets caught by SANADA. Naito resets Honma on the top rope, but the top rope ‘rana’s countered as Naito had to fight free as SANADA came in to help out.
A pair of low dropkicks squash Honma for a near-fall, as Ibushi helped… then got turfed outside, allowing Naito to go for Gloria. That’s blocked, with Honma going for a headbutt before he got caught with a leaping forearm. From there, Naito winds up Honma for Destino, planting him for the victory… before he threw Honma hard into the railings afterwards for the hell of it. An enjoyable tag match to kick off the second half, but we’ve still got a ways to go to get us properly hyped for SANADA/Ibushi. ***¼
Master Wato, Hiroshi Tanahashi & SHO vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)
Yeah, Hiromu’s had his coffee with extra sugar today.
SHO and Hiromu start us off, with Hiromu landing a shotgun dropkick on the bell, before charging down SHO with a shoulder tackle. He gets one on return as the pace starts off absurdly high, with SHO pushing head with more shoulder tackles before he booted Hiromu into the corner. Tanahashi tags in, and gets some help with Wato landing his part of a double dropkick, before he trapped Hiromu in a Cobra Twist… throwing in some air guitar too.
A tag brings SHO back in, but he’s tripped by BUSHI as LIJ swarm the ring to take over. After a brief flurry, BUSHI tags in and chops SHO into the corner before a slam led to a pretty straightforward two-count. Shingo comes in and drops some elbows on SHO, then faked out a back senton so he could knock Tanahashi off the apron… then throw him into the guard rails as LIJ again swarmed their opponents.
Back inside, Shingo lands the back senton for a two-count, before Hiromu returned and chopped SHO back into the corner. A knee from SHO stops Hiromu briefly, but SHO still had to hit back with a spear before he could make a tag out to Wato. BUSHI’s in too, but he’s caught with a right hand as Wato ends up taking to the skies with a springboard uppercut to BUSHI.
Kicks follow as BUSHI ends up taking a leaping knee for a two-count, before Recientemente was blocked. The pair trade back-and-forth strikes but a dropkick in the ropes from BUSHI stopped Wato ahead of a rewind kick. Wato tried to shrug it off, but ends up taking a Fisherman’s screw as both men were left laying.
Tags bring us back to Tanahashi and Shingo, with those two upping the ante as Tanahashi’s crossbody out of the corner took down the NEVER champion. Shingo escapes a Dragon screw and ends up landing one of his own as LIJ again surged ahead, leading to Shingo teasing a Cloverleaf… but it’s kicked away. A sliding lariat keeps Tanahashi down for a two-count, as Shingo then looked to batter Tanahashi with back-and-forth elbows.
A palm strike from Tanahashi looked to lead to a Slingblade, but Shingo countered eventually with a back suplex off the ropes. Tanahashi pops up and recovers with a Slingblade, before Wato tagged in. He peppers Shingo with kicks, leading to a roundhouse kick as SHO comes in to help out, only for the pair of them to be met with a Shingo clothesline.
Shingo looks to take off Wato’s head with a clothesline, but it’s ducked… unlike the Shingo combination that had Wato down for a two-count. Last of the Dragon looks to follow, but SHO runs in and starts another exchange with Hiromu… then BUSHI as we had a Parade of Moves, leading to BUSHI taking a Dragon screw, then Tanahashi a Pumping Bomber. From there, Shingo goes after Wato in the corner with a clothesline, but a Pumping Bomber’s countered with a crucifix as Wato almost upset the NEVER champion.
Another head kick stops Shingo, but a spinning kick’s caught and gets effortlessly turned into a modified Last of the Dragon for the win. An enjoyable main event with BUSHI for once not taking the fall, as Shingo gets back in the winning column. ***½
While the tour continues on Thursday in Saitama, it’s not making tape – so we’ll be back on Saturday for a rejigged show in Tokyo’s Ota City General Gymnasium, featuring the “comeback” of Hiroyoshi Tenzan, an elimination match, and Bullet Club going for the IWGP junior tag titles.
Easily the best show so far on this Road-to series, this was effectively the “go home” show for Saturday’s beefed-up card as New Japan try to spread big matches across the tour. Yeah, the crowds are down – with the state of emergency, covid and higher ticket prices contributing – but it’ll be interesting to see whether that trend continues when the cards aren’t quite as “throwaway”.