The United Empire has a go at Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi in the main event of today’s New Japan show.

Quick Results
Chase Owens pinned Yota Tsuji in 8:34 (**½)
Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI submitted Yujiro Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori in 9:45 (**¼)
Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa pinned Master Wato & Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 12:44 (**)
Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI pinned Ryusuke Taguchi, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto in 17:21 (***¼)
Kota Ibushi & Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb in 15:53 (***½)

We’re back at Korakuen Hall after 280 fans attended yesterday. That’s what running on a weekday evening in the middle of a State of Emergency will do…

Yota Tsuji vs. Chase Owens
This is the third of Tsuji’s mini trial-series, and I’d expect the result to be no different than usual today…

Tsuji came out swinging as the pair went to shoulder tackles early. Owens tries to fake out Tsuji, but got caught with a side headlock on the mat before we went back to the shoulder tackles. Owens nicks in by pulling Tsuji into the ropes, arm-first, before whipping Tsuji chest-first into the buckles. Someone’s been watching their Bret Hart tapes…

A bodyslam drops Tsuji, giving Chase time to head up top for a fist off the top that gets him a two-count. Tsuji blocked a second with a shot to the gut as he landed a slam of his own, but couldn’t follow it up quickly, eventually adding a dropkick and a suplex for a two-count.

Owens takes Tsuji to the corner for an elbow and a clothesline, before he set up for a package piledriver. It’s blocked by Tsuji, who elbows away… Owens tries some clotheslines but gets caught with a sunset flip that Tsuji rolled into a Boston crab, only for the hold to end in the ropes.

Tsuji tries his luck with a spear, but Owens ducks as Tsuji sent himself outside. A headlock driver back inside gets Owens a two-count, before a knee strike was caught and turned into a powerslam from Tsuji. That gets him a two-count, but Tsuji’s search for a spear sees him run into a knee strike as Owens proceeded to put him away with a package piledriver. A perfectly fine match, but again with weirdly little in the way of fire from Tsuji. I’d be expecting a whole lot of that tomorrow against Shingo… **½

Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI)
Taichi’s not doing commentary today, but revealed yesterday that he’d had a bout of covid… so that explains these lineups.

Ishimori and DOUKI start us off, with leapfrogs and roll-throughs quickly taking us through to a DOUKI dropkick. DOUKI’s sent to the outside as Ishimori charges to the ropes, breaking up a waistlock… and DOUKI’s quickly send into the guard rails as those came into play. Back inside, Ishimori and Yujiro worked over DOUKI, with the latter hitting the repeated elbow drops for a two-count.

DOUKI’s thrown into a suddenly-exposed turnbuckle, while Ishimori proceeded to chop down DOUKI after tagging in. Yujiro’s back to choke DOUKI in the corner as the Bullet Club pair kept things slow and deliberate. A German suplex attempt from Ishimori’s escaped as DOUKI finally broke free with an enziguiri, before a tag brings in Sabre, who tied up Ishimori in a bow-and-arrow hold.

A deathlock pin nearly gets the win for ZSJ, as did a Muta lock, but Ishimori got to the ropes to force the break. A handspring enziguiri takes Sabre down, as Yujiro returned to boot Sabre in the ropes before a Miami Shine was countered with a front guillotine. Nevertheless, Yujiro countered that into a Fisherman buster for a two-count, before Sabre hit an overhead kick to the arm.

Yujiro and Ishimori gang up on Sabre with a back suplex/neckbreaker combo, but DOUKI breaks up the pin before Sabre almost snatched it with a Euro clutch on Yujiro. A low dropkick from Yujiro misses, before he tried a Pimp Juice, but Sabre avoids it and pulls down Yujiro with a move dubbed the “Barry from Eastenders” for the submission. I hope to God that isn’t a dodgy translation from the New Japan site. This felt torturously slow for the first half, but picked up towards the end as we wait for something to happen with the tag division. **¼

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Master Wato vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
After coming up short with Tomoaki Honma yesterday, can Tenzan have more luck with Master Wato against the Guerrillas?

Tenzan and Tanga Loa start us off with headlocks, which lead to their close relation of the push-off and shoulder tackles before Tenzan dropped Tanga with Mongolian chops. Master Wato’s in for a drop toe hold, while Tama Tonga’s quickly sent packing as Wato followed him outside for a plancha.

Wato tries the same on Tanga Loa, but he’s just caught and charged into the ring post as the Guerrillas then took him into the ring for some double-teaming. Tama Tonga tags in for a dropkick, before he elbowed Wato from above. A suplex sets up for a senton atomico from Tanga Loa, before Jado looked to give Master Wato a noogie in the ropes. Yup.

We’ve a back body drop from Tama to Wato, while Tanga Loa’s Oklahoma Stampede nearly wins things. Tenzan manages to make the tag in and clears house, catching Tanga with Mongolian chops in the corner ahead of a brainbuster. An Anaconda Vise followed on the mat, but Tama stomps it apart as Tenzan eventually gave him some Mongolian chops too.

Some more of those follow for Jado, before Tanga Loa’s shot to the gut took Tenzan to the ropes. Tags take us back to Tama and Wato, with Wato finding luck with a leaping rear kick and a leaping back elbow of the top. A leaping neckbreaker gets Wato a two-count too, before the Guerrillas began to double-team him again in search of a Super Powerbomb.

Tenzan breaks it up, but gets taken care of as the Guerrillas seemed to take an age to set up Wato for a Magic Killer… but he pushes out of it and nearly wins with a jack-knife pin… except Tanga Loa breaks it up. A roundhouse enziguiri takes care of Tanga, while a ‘rana nearly put Tama away… before he countered Recientemente into the Guerrilla Warfare for just a one-count (with Tenzan breaking that up).

From there, Tanga Loa takes Tenzan to the outside again as a Magic Killer dropped Wato for the win. The expected win for the tag team champions as Master Wato continues his poor form. **

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Ryusuke Taguchi
After yesterday’s altercations, we might be able to say that as many as five from this match want a crack at whatever’s planned for the vacated IWGP title… with Ishii and Naito being top of the list.

We’ve a jump start as Ishii and Naito went right for each other… and I hope someone finds a way to turn off BUSHI’s blinking mask that’s flickering away on the ring post. Naito and Ishii trade elbows to start, before a lariat from Ishii dropped Naito for a quick two-count. Shingo intervenes as Ishii went for a suplex, before he took Naito’s place in the Great IWGP Elbow-Off, until a drop toe hold and a low dropkick from SANADA cleared the way.

BUSHI’s mask continues to flash away like a glowing codpiece as Ishii got chopped and punched into the corner by Shingo, before a shoulder tackle and a suplex gets Shingo a two-count for himself. BUSHI’s in next to choke away on Ishii with his shirt, only for Ishii to respond with a brainbuster as things stayed even.

YOSHI-HASHI comes in to elbow down BUSHI, before the dropkick in the ropes led to a near-fall. BUSHI recovers with a back elbow in the corner, then a Fisherman screw for a two-count, before SANADA tagged in to trip YOSHI-HASHI into a Paradise Lock. Taguchi intervenes, but gets met with an atomic drop from Shingo… before his hip attacks saw him crash and burn next to YOSHI-HASHI. Oh, and placed into a Paradise Lock too.

A low dropkick breaks it up, before YOSHI-HASHI found a way out, tagging in Hirooki Goto… who eventually fell to a springboard missile dropkick from SANADA as everyone else spilled outside. A Skull End from SANADA’s broken up as Ishii dove in to keep the match alive, but Goto’s still kept in danger as Shingo tagged in as my feed buffers.

Taguchi manages to get the tag in as he measured up Shingo and BUSHI in the ropes for hip attacks, before a Bummer-ye knee crashed into Shingo for a two-count. From there, Shingo’s caught in an ankle lock, which Naito nonchalantly breaks up before Shingo came back in with a sliding lariat for a two-count.

A Western Lariat from YOSHI-HASHI saves Taguchi as we start a big ol’ Parade of Moves, which led to Taguchi trying his luck with a Dodon, before a wheelbarrow roll-up almost got him the win. Taguchi stuns Shingo with a hip attack, then with an enziguiri, before he was dumped with a clothesline, as Shingo then put him away with the Made in Japan for the win. This was nice and heated in parts, as the bigger names look to make a claim for themselves to be factored into the title picture. Heck, Ishii and Naito continue to elbow each other after the match, as Yota Tsuji had to try and separate them. ***¼

United Empire (Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan) vs. Kota Ibushi & Hiroshi Tanahashi
We’re still building to Ibushi vs. Cobb, as I suspect neither of them are being factored into the title picture. Meanwhile the Golden Aces have gotten a new remix theme, which feels weird given they formally split up ages ago…

Ibushi and Cobb unload on each other to start, before Cobb leapt over Ibushi… then caught the return from Kota as the pair swung and missed at each other. Tags bring us to Tanahashi & O-Khan, who work over wristlocks before O-Khan rolled Tanahashi into a knee-bar. Cobb and Ibushi scrap on the outside to prevent a save, so Tanahashi needed to drag himself to the ropes to keep things going.

Cobb returns with his standing backbreakers on Tanahashi for a nonchalant two-count, while O-Khan tagged in to capitalise by sitting on Tanahashi in the corner with the double armbar for good measure. Mongolian chops follow, but Tanahashi eventually blocks them and took down O-Khan with a Dragon screw, before tags got us back to Cobb and Ibushi.

A springboard missile dropkick took Cobb outside, with a plancha quickly following. Back inside, a standing moonsault gets Ibushi a two-count, before a Kamigoye attempt ended with Cobb charging him into the corner. Cobb keeps going, clattering into Ibushi with a dropkick for a two-count, before his standing moonsault flattened the former champion for another two-count.

An overhead kick from Ibushi buys him enough time to make the tag back out to Tanahashi, but he just runs into a Spin Cycle as Cobb countered a bulldog attempt with ease. O-Khan clotheslines Naito into the corner, then set up for the Tree of Woe and baseball slide kick. A facebuster’s next for a two-count, as Cobb took care of Ibushi’s save, while O-Khan’s claw-assisted Cobra Twist kept Tanahashi at bay.

O-Khan tries to slam Tanahashi out of it, but Tanahashi slips out into a Slingblade, before Ibushi tagged in to liay into O-Khan with kicks. One of them’s caught as O-Khan counters with a knee bar, but that also ends in the ropes as Ibushi came right back in with a diving leg lariat on O-Khan.

Tanahashi and Ibushi gang-up on O-Khan, with a head kick laying out O-Khan before Cobb came in to threaten a Cobbi-goye on Tanahashi. Ibushi lays down O-Khan as he went for his… but Tanahashi gets rid of Cobb with a Dragon screw, theoretically allowing Ibushi a clear path. He had to break free of an O-Khan wristlock though, before staring a hole through Cobb as a Kamigoye put O-Khan down for the pin. Hey, something they’re building to here – and it’s a little something to sink your teeth into on this card. A solid tag match to close our the show, as the second half of the card again dragged the show up. ***½

We’re back tomorrow with the final show on this run, with Tetsuya Naito & SANADA facing Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI in the main event. Skip the first half of this card, as the house show vibes shone through here. Hopefully the cards for next week provide some clear directions – particularly since Dominion in Osaka is rapidly approaching!