The Road to Tokyo Dome continued – as Friday’s visit to Korakuen Hall gave us the latest step in Hiromu’s comeback.
Just like yesterday, we’re shown the ring announcer guiding people to put some coloured film onto the back of their phone’s flash, except the camera crew showed someone putting it over their front camera lens. D’oh! Still, it meant we got to see the Masked Horse once again. It’s the Christmas tradition we all needed.
Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino are on commentary for a show that New Japan made free for everyone…
Yota Tsuji vs. Toa Henare
Commentary painted this as a “winnable” match for Henare… and they’re not wrong.
Tsuji started off as the aggressor, going after Henare, landing a dropkick early on, then some chops that didn’t really help Henare’s rib injury much. Henare fought back with forearms, but Tsuji responds with a slam, taking Henare into the corner as another dropkick lands for a near-fall. A Samoan drop gives commentary a chance to make an easy dig at someone, as forearms from Tsuji and Henare led to a spear from the Young Lion. That’s followed up with a Boston crab, but Henare gets free and hits a clothesline for another near-fall…
A Toa Bottom’s countered into a small package from Tsuji, but he couldn’t avoid the second as the Kiwi pushed on, landing the move again for the win. Not as clear cut as you’d expect, but Henare looked good in victory here – hopefully 2020 is the year he truly breaks out of the pack. **¾
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Yuya Uemura
It’s a wacky trios match here, as the junior tag champions – on paper, at least – have a big disadvantage…
Uemura and Phantasmo start, and the Young Lion isn’t too keen on sportsmanship, shooting for a takedown as he suspected ELP’s handshake was a ruse. They trade shoulder tackles before Honma tagged in to try and chop through Phantasmo in the corner. A bulldog’s next, but ELP sits up to avoid Kokeshi and the Bullet Club took over as we hear Uemura hitting the guard rails.
Fale’s in next, choking Honma in the ropes, before Phantasmo returned with back rakes. Ishimori joins in too, and nearly gets the win before Honma took over and actually slammed Fale?! The actual hell? That seemed to shock Honma, who tagged himself out so Makabe could build up some momentum, but he’s quickly caught with back rakes… then shrugged them off to do the corner-to-corner clotheslines.
There’s mounted punches for Fale, before tags got us back to Uemura and Ishimori. A leaping elbow drop from Uemura gets a near-fall, but Ishimori’s back with a handspring enziguiri as the Bullet Club proceeded to triple-team the Young Lion. Uemura nearly steals it with some roll-ups, before a capture suplex threw Ishimori across the ring… but Ishimori stops all that momentum with a Bloody Cross for the win. This was fun, albeit with the usual Bullet Club shtick – and another win for the Junior tag champions gives them steam until WrestleKingdom. ***
Uemura needed some help to get out of the ring – hopefully that shoulder problem isn’t too bad…
Tiger Mask, Rocky Romero & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
The countdown to Liger’s retirement continues, as he teams with Roppongi 3K against… their coach? Okay. Taguchi does a half-hearted posedown as the commentary makes another funny about the bodybuilding contest.
Liger and Tiger start us off, locking up before Tiger’s palm strike and rear spin kick had Liger on the ropes. A tope followed Liger outside, but a Shotei provided an instant response, before a Tiger Bomb inside left both men worse for wear. Tags bring in SHO and Rocky, with the latter sidestepping a dropkick, but SHO quickly learns that trick as Rocky and Taguchi tried to run in with hip attacks.
They hit the double hip attack a moment later, as SHO quickly found himself isolated as Tiger Mask came in to pelt him with kicks. Rocky’s in with a dropkick to get himself another near-fall, while Taguchi came in to hit what I can best call a springboard stomp. Or the Turbo Teabag, if you want to go by Chris Charlton’s nomenclature.
Eventually SHO tags out as Liger came in to clear house with Shoteis and backbreakers, before Taguchi ate a top rope ‘rana for a near-fall. Taguchi’s hip attack finally lands, as does another one to YOH, and another one as YOH got whipped into Taguchi’s arse in the corner. It all built up to a near-fall, before a Parade of Moves broke out, ending with jumping knees from SHO & YOH, then a dropkick before Tiger Mask blocked the 3K… only to get put away with a Dragon suplex from YOH. A bit of a surprise, but that’s a win for Roppongi 3K as they look to regain those junior tag straps… ***
After the match, Tiger Mask looked all cut up after his final match with Liger at Korakuen Hall… while Roppongi 3K waited behind to do a posedown. Rocky Romero stayed out too, and got attacked by El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori, leading up to them hitting Rocky with a 3K for additional insult.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & Shingo Takagi) vs. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi)
You know what this is building up to…
SANADA and Sabre start us off, as someone’s told Kevin Kelly to say “Zed-Ess-Jay”… they trade strangle holds early on, as the pair were endlessly reversing each other before SANADA tried to use a Paradise Lock. Sabre countered right out with a cross armbar, which ended up in the ropes after SANADA tried to lift his way free.
On the outside, Sabre boots SANADA’s arm by the guard rails, before a levering armbar in the crowd and an arm breaker kept SANADA on the back foot. Returning to the ring, SANADA can’t get free as Sabre stomps on his elbow, as the pressure only seemed to let up when Taichi came in. At least Taichi wasn’t as relentless, as he laughed off some chops from SANADA before taking a Dragon screw. Sabre’s back to help as Shingo comes in to charge through everyone. A sliding lariat from Shingo doesn’t find Taichi, who kicks back from the bottom, before the trousers get ripped off… and you know what’s next.
Shingo catches a buzzsaw kick and tries for a Last of the Dragon, but Taichi gets out before he ate a lariat. Sabre and SANADA return, with Zack countering a TKO into a Cobra twist, before the ring filled up once more. A suplex from Shingo drops Sabre, before Taichi’s dropkicked to the outside… Zack’s back as we’re in with the roll-ups like last night, but SANADA didn’t fall to it two nights in a row. Instead, Taichi kicks SANADA to stop a backslide, but SANADA caught a follow-up PK before a Zack Driver was countered into a Skull End…except that too is countered, countered and countered, with Sabre falling to a Japanese leg clutch for the pin! They’re trading wins, as the Suzuki-gun pair lashed out at the ref afterwards… along with the guard rails too. Zack doesn’t like blue walls in politics or in wrestling. ***¼
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Bullet Club (KENTA, Yujiro Takahashi & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
The big story here was Finlay’s shoulder, which was back to being taped-up after yesterday’s spear…
Ishii’s got a new t-shirt, which is actually legible… even if the graphic looks like he’s now called “St. Pitbull”. It’s an upgrade. Goto and KENTA start us off, but KENTA instantly tags out as we downgrade to Ishii and Yujiro. Forearms from Yujiro don’t work, so he goes for the eyes instead before Ishii pelted him with forearms. We’ve a kick in the ropes from KENTA as things eventually settle down to Finlay and Tanga Loa.
Well, I say “settled down”… all eight men fought on the outside as we had the obligatory guard rail spots, before Tanga Loa went to work on Finlay’s taped-up arm. Tama elbows the body part, as Finlay found himself isolated in the wrong corner. When he got free, Juice Robinson came in to clear house, landing a back senton to Tama, then a cannonball in the corner.
Dusty punches follow, but Tanga Loa comes in to try a double-team suplex. Finlay makes the save with double clotheslines, before tags got us to KENTA and Goto, with the latter eating a draping DDT a la Jado for a near-fall. Goto’s in with a clothesline for a near-fall, but Jado stops Goto with a Kendo stick shot as things broke down on the floor. Juice gets hurled into the guard rails again, while Goto’s returned and triple-teamed by the Guerrillas and Yujiro. Ishii dives in to break up a pin as the ring began to fill, then clear for a Parade of Moves, culminating in a tease of dual ushigoroshi… with Goto landing one on KENTA before a GTR got the win. By the numbers stuff, but entertaining enough for what it was. ***
Kota Ibushi & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bullet Club (Jay White & Chase Owens)
White tries to talk Ibushi into joining the Bullet Club, which seems futile. When Kota said no, White attacks, and we get going with stomps before Tanahashi calmed things down with a crossbody out of the corner to Chase.
Dual hair pulling has Tanahashi down, although Jay White was the deciding factor as the Ace got pulled outside and into the guard rails, before going after Ibushi, taking him deep into the crowd. Back in the ring, White grounds Tanahashi with a chinlock, but eventually Tanahashi fought back with a Dragon screw on Owens. Tags bring us back to White and Ibushi, and Kota’s unleashing from the off, taking White outside for a plancha, following up with a shooting star press back inside.
Gedo grabs Ibushi’s foot in the corner, and the distraction works as White spiked Kota with a DDT. After countering a Blade Buster, White’s met with a ‘rana… then came right back with a Saito suplex that folded Ibushi in half, as Chase looked to pick up the slack. A clothesline from Chase is good for a near-fall, but Kota’s right back with a Pele kick as Tanahashi planked his way back in with a tag.
Dropkicks have Chase on the back foot, as did a slam and a flip senton, but Chase was able to fight back with a Jewel Heist for a near-fall. Tanahashi escapes a package piledriver and retaliates with Twist and Shout, then with a Slingblade before White intervened… and got his head kicked off. A Bomaye knee from Ibushi leaves Chase down… and prone as a High Fly Flow from Tanahashi ended things. Decent, although I’m curious as to how genuine these teases are. White/Ibushi could be quite good, but that’d mean they’d be doing Okada/Naito with no build… ***¼
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI & Birds of Prey (Will Ospreay & Robbie Eagles)
Hiromu’s comeback continues here, albeit with much less fanfare.
Naito and Okada start, but they don’t rush in as the opening lock-up ended with Okada backing Naito into the ropes for the usual break. An early Rainmaker attempt is ducked, as Naito rebounds with an armdrag and an armbar on the IWGP champion. BUSHI comes in next, but he’s caught with an elbow drop before tags took us to Ospreay and Hiromu.
Hiromu charges in and hits a ’rana… but Ospreay cartwheels out before a second ‘rana found its mark, sending Ospreay outside for a faked-out dive as Hiromu was back to his old ways. Clotheslines keep Ospreay in the corners, before a low dropkick connected for a near-fall. Chops nearly sent Ospreay to the outside, as Hiromu keeps up the pressure, only to get caught with a handspring enziguiri before the CHAOS team cleared the opposing apron. We hear the sounds of bodies getting thrown into railings as Ospreay threw forearms at Hiromu’s neck, before a tag brings Eagles back into play. A double clothesline, leg-splitter and PK gets Eagles just a one-count, before YOSHI-HASHI came in to hit a back elbow on Hiromu for a near-fall. Okada completes the set as he playfully boots Hiromu, who headbutts his way back in before a neckbreaker left him laying.
YOSHI-HASHI’s back with a rope-hung dropkick, before chops led to Hiromu getting his own back with a Dragon screw. Ospreay stops Hiromu from tagging out, but his handspring back elbow’s countered into a German suplex as EVIL comes in to clear house. Chops between EVIL and YOSHI-HASHI ring around Korakuen, before a Western lariat had EVIL on the deck.
Okada’s back, but he’s quickly caught with a thrust kick, before Naito returned with a neckbreaker and a low dropkick. Some stomps keep Okada down, but the champion hits back with uppercuts and a shotgun dropkick got good measure. A rewind enziguiri from Naito and a leaping forearm finds its mark, before Destino’s caught and countered into an eventual flapjack.
BUSHI and Eagles tag in as the Aussie pushed on, only to leap into a boot to the gut as BUSHI hits his spin neckbreaker for a near-fall. Ospreay comes in to hit his half of stereo enziguiri, while Hiromu’s wiped out with a hook kick… BUSHI tries to catch Ospreay, but ends up getting help as EVIL and Naito double-team Ospreay for a near-fall. That looked to set up for the MX, but Ospreay ducks it as a Parade of Moves broke out, ending with Ospreay’s Storm Breaker getting countered into a roll-up for a near-fall.
After the kick-out though, Ospreay’s right back in with a hook kick while Eagles grounds Hiromu… nobody saves BUSHI from a Hidden Blade, before Storm Breaker put the masked man away. A really good tag match to wrap up night two of Korakuen, but all these wins for Ospreay surely point to the feel-good win for Hiromu at the Dome? ***¾
Compared to night one, this was a bit of a step up as everyone seemed to not be holding back on the final shows before Christmas. The main event tag match continues to show Hiromu doesn’t seem to have a speck of ring rust on him, while all of the key feuds going into WrestleKingdom are peaking just in time. Sure, there’s justified complaints about how some key guys are getting lost in undercard tags there, but I’m sure in a little over two weeks time, we’ll all forget about it.