The Road to Wrestling Dontaku tour continued with another Korakuen Hall stop – this time headlined with a title match as the junior tag straps were on the line!
A late injury saw Tetsuhiro Yagi drop off the card due to a fractured forearm – meaning a replacement would be needed for the Young Lion’s trios match on the show… which ended up being Ren Narita, as he got shuffled out of the opener. He’d be replaced by Yuya Uemura as the latest products of the New Japan Dojo faced each other for the first time.
Yuya Uemura vs. Yota Tsuji
These two were meant to face off at the Lion’s Gate Project show next month, but that’s been brought ahead, with Tsuji already showing a little bit of attitude in shoving Uemura before the bell.
After Tsuji tried to be the early aggressor, Uemura took him to the mat with a hammerlock, but when he was back on his feet, Tsuji reversed roles, going for the leg and grapevining it on the mat. It remained pretty even, with Uemura escaping and wrenching onto a headlock, before Tsuji returned fire with a toe-hold as he continued to bend bones. Truth be told, it’s typical fare between two Young Lions at the same level – given neither of these guys have had enough matches to push ahead. Tsuji was showing his aggression throughout, working the leg… but not enough to stop a Uemura dropkick, which gave his fellow Young Lion the opening to take down Tsuji with a wristlock on the mat.
Again, Tsuji escapes and take over with a slam for a near-fall, before rolling Uemura over into a Boston crab, dragging him away from the ropes for good measure… but Uemura’s able to crawl and force the break. Out of nowhere, Uemura lands a back body drop as he picked up a two-count, then an inside cradle, before rolling Tsuji into a cross armbreaker… holding onto it when a roll-up was attempted as time ran out on the pair. Usual fare, but a fun draw between the latest class (even if Uemura tried to make a cover well after the bell!) – and given them enough time, these two will continue the lineage of entertaining Young Lion feuds for show openers. **½
Tomoyuki Oka, Shota Umino & Ren Narita vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Usually, we have one of the Young Lions eager to fight “for their dads”, but this time it was Oka who relished the chance to start out against Nakanishi.
You know the drill, shoulder tackles and the like, before the rest of Oka’s team-mates had to save him from an early Argentine backbreaker attempt as the kids stomped over Nakanishi. Umino and Tenzan are next, but Umino’s quickly clobbered with a Mongolian chop before the kids again rush the ring to triple-team their elder. Tenzan charges down Narita with a shoulder charge before Nagata tagged in to issue a taste of their own medicine, by way of stomps, but Narita’s back up with forearms, before a cross armbreaker attempt from Nagata’s quickly stopped when the kids flood the ring again. As much as I admire their game plan, it’s not really working, this teamwork lark…
Nagata goes to work with kicks, booting Oka and Umino off the apron, before taking shots at Narita again. Nakanishi returns to run through chops and slams, as Narita was probably wishing he’d been left in the opener, since he’d been left in there for a long time with all three of the veterans picking their shots. Tenzan headbutts take him into the corner, but eventually Narita gets back in it with a dropkick, before making the tag back out to Oka, who cleared house with forearms.
Tenzan’s peppered with triple-teams as an elbow drop and a running flip senton put him down for a two-count, before a Slingblade-like neckbreaker from Oka barely gets him a one-count as the ring filled up. A spinning heel kick from Tenzan drops Oka pretty soon after, as Nagata got the tag back in to try and finish things off, but he’s surprised with a Judo throw from Oka, who brings in a fresher Umino to pick up the pace.
A back elbow from Umino had the desired effect as he flew around the ring, taking down Nagata with a missile dropkick for a two-count, before he’s caught in an armbar from Nagata once again. The tables turn as the veterans get caught in triple Boston crabs, but it was more of an annoyance than a threat as they all powered out of the hold, before Nagata brushed off some slaps from Umino and went back to the kicks.
Nagata quickly turned it up a notch with an Exploder though, then put the match to bed with a Nagata Lock II crossface, forcing Umino to tap out. Thanks to the pace of the Young Lions, this was a breeze to watch, even if the outcome was never in any doubt. **½
Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Roppongi 3K (Rocky Romero, SHO & YOH)
Oh God… this match last week was a chore to sit through, and they’re doing it again.
Again, we had a jump start, as Iizuka looked to bite YOH in the arse, while TAKA gave some fans in the front row an even closer view of SHO. In the ring, Taichi’s right in with eye rakes to SHO, before the former junior tag champs worked together to take out the Suzuki-gun members one-by one, as Rocky Romero finally appeared to land an axehandle smash to Taichi.
Forever lariats follow to TAKA and Taichi, with the latter being outsmarted as Rocky finished with a ‘rana, before Iizuka rushed into choke him with some rope. From there, we’re into the crowd, as these Suzuki-gun matches are want to do, with Iizuka throwing chairs at Rocky so hard he popped the seat off. Somehow, Rocky beat the count and walked straight into some triple-teaming, as Iizuka kept up the tactics by biting SHO in the head, all while the ineffective ref did nothing but count.
Eventually Romero gets his team a breather with a reverse heel kick to Taichi, before YOH got the tag in, taking out TAKA and Taichi with Dragon screws before low bridging Iizuka to the floor. The tables quickly turned the other way though as YOH’s taken into the other corner for more biting, but YOH’s rebounding after he was booted out of the ring, skinning the cat using the bottom rope for a change.
TAKA becomes isolated as a measure of revenge, with Iizuka making the save as a bridging German looked to put him away. A spear from SHO gets Iizuka out of the ring as TAKA’s double-teamed with a back cracker and a dropkick, but Taichi sneaks in, shoving the referee into an attempted 3K before he was taken outside… and we’re not long before there’s the trademark Crap Finish™ when Iizuka hit SHO with the Iron Fingers as the Shock Arrow cross-armed piledriver was attempted. This wasn’t as offensively bad as last week, but these trios matches are doing nobody any favours. *
Hey look, Sweaty Taichi’s back on commentary.
Juice Robinson, Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin, Toa Henare & KUSHIDA vs. Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & Will Ospreay
It’s another one of those “mash up feuds” undercard tags, and we’re straight off with Henare and Ishii picking up where they’ve been leaving off for a while. Luckily, the two get each other without the annoyance of tag partners on tomorrow’s Korakuen Hall card!
We quickly cycle through tags as KUSHIDA’s in, working on Will Ospreay’s arm as a precursor to a hopeful Hoverboard lock, but Ospreay takes him to the floor with a ‘rana before his faked out pose almost backfired, as the ring fills and empties just as quickly. Ospreay managed to regain the upper hand, taking KUSHIDA into the corner for a Shibata-ish dropkick for a near-fall, before YOSHI-HASHI took over, landing a brainbuster for a one-count as Michael Elgin nonchalantly wandered in to push him off.
Toru Yano tags in to try and troll everyone, and it works as he’s able to peel off the turnbuckle padding, but in whipping KUSHIDA into that corner, he puts on the brakes and knocks down Ospreay instead as KUSHIDA finally got free…. Except there’s nobody to tag as the CHAOS team had cleared the apron. Finally he makes the tag into Juice Robinson and his Booty Man-inspired gear, as the feudal pairings went a little wonky for a bit, settling down again when Juice busted out some Dusty punches to Goto.
Juice keeps Goto in the corner for a high-speed cannonball, collecting a solid two-count from it, before attempting a Pulp Friction, as the counter to the counters ended with a spinning ushigoroshi from Goto. Robinson’s quickly back in with a fireman’s carry gutbuster to YOSHI-HASHI, as Michael Elgin rushed in to switch a handspring from Ospreay into a German suplex.
A tornado DDT from Elgin takes down Ishii as Big Mike looked to stand tall, heading back to YOSHI-HASHI with a gorilla press slam. More tags take us to Yano and Makabe, with the latter’s lariat getting a rather nonchalant two-count as some double-teaming with Makabe and Elgin almost leading to the win. Instead, Yano’s clobbered in the corner with a clothesline as Makabe teases a spider German, but first he has to fend off YOSHI-HASHI before Yano misdirects the referee, nails a low blow and cradles Makabe for the win. Not the finish I was expecting, but this match was fine – it did little for me, but it served its purpose of building up those feuds for later in the tour. ***
Hiroshi Tanahashi, David Finlay & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kazuchika Okada, Jay White & Gedo
With Finlay and White meeting in tomorrow’s main event, we get the split-entrances here, while Okada decides to leap onto the stage for his entrance.
From the off, White and Finlay went at it, with the US champion quickly getting dropped with a back suplex as Finlay tried to isolate him early on. Taguchi helps out with, erm, repeated pokes to the eye, before directing traffic as Finlay and Tanahashi charged into the cornered White. Things backfire as usual when Taguchi’s rear comes into play, and the CHAOS trio wait for him to realise, as Taguchi finally drops down and tries to laugh it off, before he’s jumped. Eventually he’ll learn…
Taguchi’s cornered for a spell as Okada trapped his arm in the ropes while the CHAOS team had a go at slapping his arse (that is not a typo). Eventually Taguchi tried to fight back, but he was taken down with a side Russian legsweep as White worked his way into a submission attempt, before Gedo resumed the attacks targeted at the arse.
When one hip attack finally met its mark, Taguchi tagged out as we got Okada/Tanahashi, with the latest world title challenger getting the upper hand with a Dragon screw and a swinging neckbreaker. Okada manages to break free with a dropkick, before hurrying his way into a tombstone as the Rainmaker seemed to loom on… but David Finlay kicks it away as we got back to Finlay and White once more.
Finlay looked to have the upper hand with a running uppercut, then with a bridging German suplex, but White broke free again with a uranage… White gets the tag out to Gedo, but that quickly proved to be a bad idea as Finlay just hits him with a Stunner for the win. Huh.Well, it puts over the Stunner as death – at least to a certain level – but this was your usual undercard tag that seemed to end abruptly. ***¼
Post-match, David Finlay co-erced the Young Lions into giving him Jay White’s title belt… the Kiwi was far from happy at that, and ended up sending them in to retrieve his property, while Tanahashi seemed to need a worrying amount of ice and help to get to the back.
Another Bone Soldier threat follows. We still don’t have a date..
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.)) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA)
Sometimes my eagle eyes spots things… like Davey Boy Smith Jr. wearing what looked to be, at the very least judging by its appearance, a jacket heavily inspired by his father’s Hart Foundation jacket.
Of course, we have a jump start, with EVIL and Archer staying in the ring to keep up the expected pairings. EVIL took Archer down with a bulldog out of the corner before bringing in SANADA with some dropkicks, as he found that Archer perhaps had figured out the Paradise Lock. Suzuki gets involved with a hanging armbar in the ropes to SANADA, before taking Naito into the crowd as the Suzuki-gun trio looked to take control of the match.
A stalling suplex from Smith gets a near-fall on SANADA as the pace of the match was slowed down, leading to Smith doing the fake “he tapped out” thing. You know, like how TAKA used to do the fake pin count with Taichi… except TAKA had oodles of charisma doing so. Suzuki-gun continue to cycle tags to keep SANADA isolated, although Minoru had time to kick Naito off the apron, before SANADA finally nailed a low dropkick.
Finally Naito tagged in and was a little less than Tranquilo with his attacks of Suzuki, sitting him down for a low dropkick before hitting a neckbreaker so he could stand on his face. That’ll go down well!
The pair tee off on each other, with Naito throwing slaps, but he’s quickly pulled down into an Indian deathlock/knee bar variation as Suzuki again targeted his legs. Eventually, Naito was able to drag himself to the ropes to force the break, but he couldn’t get back to his feet before Suzuki did the job for him… but it did give Naito the chance to hit an enziguiri and a tornado DDT as both men tagged out.
EVIL’s in with a back senton to Smith, but Archer breaks up the cover… he’s sent out as Smith instead takes a double suplex from EVIL and SANADA. Archer’s back with a Bossman Slam to EVIL as both teams looked to counter each other’s moves, but SANADA’s swiftly down with a Killer Bomb. EVIL’s able to fight out of another one, but after Everything is Evil is blocked, he’s given the Killer Bomb… only for Naito to make the save!
Except Naito’s again neutralised with a knee-bar from Suzuki, leaving nobody to save EVIL as he was sized up again… this time for a Magic Killer, as the champion team’s own finisher was used against them. The focus after the bell was quickly put on Suzuki and Naito, as that knee bar was held in… with Young Lions getting wiped out left right and centre as they tried to break it up, leaving the ring full of downed bodies. As a match, this was fine – it was over and done with pretty quick, but I wouldn’t read too much into any results here as there’s more warm-ups to go before the title matches. ***
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c)
We’ve one more LIJ vs. Suzuki-gun match to finish us off today, and it’s for the junior tag titles as we’ve finally got a straight-up tag match. No three-way malarkey!
BUSHI had his mask again with the cute mini title belts hanging from it, as he had another crack to win the junior tag titles for the first time. It was BUSHI who started us off with Kanemaru, as Taichi was still watching on ominously from the commentary desk, right as BUSHI had his eyes raked as he was taken into the corners.
Tags took us to Hiromu and Desperado, who happily unloaded on each other with forearms and overhand chops, before Kanemaru’s attempt to get involved backfired as he was used to “accidentally” ‘rana Despy. The challengers kept up the offence, until Kanemaru dragged out Hiromu, and sent him into the guard rails for a huge flying knee. BUSHI got similar treatment, with a scooping reverse DDT laying him out as the match slowly spilled into the crowd, where Hiromu’s piled under some chairs.
Back in the ring, Kanemaru scores a big boot and a suplex to Hiromu, before throwing him to the outside as the pace slowed down again, with that throw to the outside again being the cue for interference, as Taichi left the commentary desk to drill a chair into Takahashi. Hiromu beat the count back into the ring, but he was quickly double-teamed with boot chokes before Kanemaru’s camel clutch tried to force a submission.
Hiromu finally broke free, but had nobody to tag out to as the champions had knocked BUSHI off the apron… luckily Hiromu’s able to reverse a suplex, just as BUSHI got back up… but Kanemaru pulled him down just in time! Finally, Hiromu hit lucky with a Dragon screw before tagging out to BUSHI, who scored with a ‘rana before Desperado hit the ring. Not to worry, it’s just another body as BUSHI ‘rana’d the pair of them at the same time.
Another ‘rana from BUSHI gets caught and turned into the Numero Dos stretch muffler by Despy, as more double-teaming almost put away the challengers. A DDT from BUSHI gets himself another window of opportunity, and he takes it, tagging Hiromu back in to land a running lariat on Desperado, followed by a low dropkick as Hiromu kept up the offence with a running knee to Kanemaru, and a shotgun dropkick off the apron to Despy.
My feed wobbled a little here, as I returned to seeing BUSHI’s rewind heel kick to Desperado in amid a parade of moves, ending with a pop-up powerbomb from Hiromu to Kanemaru as all four men ended up on the mat, with referee Red Shoes just standing above them with his hands on his hips. Desperado and Takahashi trade right hands, but Despy runs into a superkick and an enziguiri at the same time as LIJ looked to take over, dropping him with double lungblowers for a rather anticlimactic near-fall.
The finish looked to come when Kanemaru’s whiskey mist sprays away BUSHI’s MX attempt, before Desperado just about got up Hiromu for a Vertebreaker, getting a near-fall out of all of that. Despy tries for Pinche Loco on Hiromu, but it’s escaped and met with a superkick, before BUSHI sprays the deadly black list at Kanemaru to get him out of the picture. That just leaves us with Desperado and Hiromu… and with a little help from BUSHI for a sunset bomb/German suplex in the ring, Hiromu puts away Despy with a Time Bomb… for just a two count!
Keeping up the pressure, Hiromu lawn-darts Desperado into the turnbuckles before going for another Time Bomb, but Despy pulls down the referee instead, before he uses a title belt… then dumped Hiromu onto it with a Pinche Loco for the victory. Deflating, perhaps, but this was a solid main event – albeit not in the style we’ve come to expect from junior tag team matches. ***¼
The ninth night of the Road to Wrestling Dontaku tour wasn’t a throwaway show, but nor was it “must see” viewing either. Although we’re nowhere near the levels of those CHAOS/LIJ tags from the end of last year, we’re at a tipping point in terms of how long you can keep pairing up the same feuds on shows. It’s like a mixture of styles – these tours are not meant to be consumed in full, hence a lot of repetitive matches, but when so many of these shows are being streamed, perhaps you need to switch it up a little, and not have so many wash/rinse/repeat undercard tags. Yes, Roppongi 3K vs. Suzuki-gun, I’m looking at you!
Tuesday’s Korakuen Hall show is notable for two big matches – Ishii and Henare finally going one-on-one, before David Finlay looks to get another crack at Jay White, this time with White’s US title on the line.