Hiroshima was the venue for the latest round of – sort-of – the Road to Wrestling Dontaku tour. Hope you like those infernal Roppongi 3K/Suzuki-gun matches!

Yuya Uemura vs. Ren Narita
The traditional Young Lion show opener started with Narita all over Uemura, slapping and slamming him in the early going as he tried to end the match early.

Uemura manages to slip in with a dropkick as the tide changed briefly, before Narita resisted a slam and started a forearm battle instead. Yuya won out there as his palm strikes toon Narita into the corner, only to get charged down with a dropkick as the newer of the Young Lions found it hard to chain offence together.

Narita’s Boston crab quickly ended in the ropes, but he takes Uemura right back down with a back body drop for a two-count, before rolling him into a Boston crab for the submission. Short (at just under five-minutes), sweet and by the numbers! **

Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Yuji Nagata, Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino
Days after his 50th birthday, Yuji Nagata’s got a bit of an uphill battle as he’s got the Young Lions on his side against three relative veterans.

Oka and Tiger Mask got us going, keeping it basic as Oka looked to try and rile up Tiger Mask… but when his slam to Tiger Mask was lost, Oka had to rely on a shoulder charge to knock the veteran down. A suplex followed for a near-fall before Liger tagged in and instantly threw Oka to the outside for a baseball slide dropkick. The Romero special’s next, but Nagata stomped it away before he too was thrown to the outside, as Liger really wanted to do his move!

Shota Umino broke it up this time, and met the same fate as Liger changed things up, going into Oka with a big Shotei! Taguchi tagged in to catch Oka with hip attacks, then mini Shotei that looked rather like pokes to the eye… but his bid to leap into Oka backfired as he was caught and dumped with an overhead belly-to-belly.

In comes Nagata, who boots away Liger and Tiger, before unleashing with kicks towards Taguchi… which invariably led to the over-excited Umino wanting in. It sort-of worked too, as Taguchi took some of his triple-team offence ahead of a missile dropkick from Umino for a near-fall. A Boston crab on Taguchi’s kicked away by Tiger Mask, but he’s back in with a La Magistral cradle as the shock looked to be on the cards… but let’s be realistic, that was never happening, and Umino was soon put away with a Dodon. Fun stuff, as these Young Lions x Veterans tags tend to be, but ultimately just about meaningless in the grand scheme of things. **¾

Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO, YOH & Rocky Romero)
I’m having nightmares about this match. There’s the traditional jump start, but YOH’s quickly in the lead with Dragon screws to Taichi and TAKA as they seem to have cut out the early shenanigans, with Rocky Romero tagging in sharpish fro his Forever lariats.

Abe Miho’s there with Taichi, and shes on hand for her usual slap as they just rearranged the shenanigans, as we have some crowd brawling then the Iizuka biting shtick. Rocky and YOH get tasted, but sadly my prediction of Iizuka catching the referee didn’t come to pass. We’re back to Taichi and Rocky, with the latter getting decked with a knee to the gut, before missing an enziguiri as Rocky found himself cornered.

Eventually he tagged in to SHO, who dumps TAKA with some rolling German suplexes, only for his bridge to get kicked away. SHO and YOH come back in as they measure TAKA for the 3K, but the pop-up Flatliner’s stopped by interference from the outside, and we’re back to the status quo as Iizuka grabs his bag and teases the Iron Fingers.

He shoves the ref down, and manages to low blow SHO with them as Marty Asami was recovering. Somehow SHO kicked out from an Iron Fingering, before a repeat was blocked by way of dropkicks from YOH and Rocky, who keeps up with a dive to Taichi on the outside before SHO picks up the Iron Fingers…

…and uses them on Iizuka! There’s no bell so the ref didn’t catch him, as TAKA charges into a 3K, and Roppongi 3K get the win. Well, the pay-off of those DQs wasn’t quite as rewarding as I hoped, but at least it was a comeuppance. Shame the match preceding it was still unpalatable. *¼

David Finlay, Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin & Toa Henare vs. Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI
Given we’ve already had the “pay-off” for the two feuds in this match, this feels like a bit of a dead rubber…

Yano instantly goes for the turnbuckle pads and his shtick when he started against Makabe… who had two fingers for that act. Henare’s in to try and take advantage, but he still wanted a piece of Ishii, and that self-imposed distraction almost cost him as Yano capitalised… before Jay White snuck in and threw Henare into the exposed corner for some Kiwi-on-Kiwi violence.

In the middle of that, YOSHI-HASHI tagged in and set up Henare for a dropkick in the ropes, before Ishii got the tag and picked up where he left off with Henare… trading chops to the throat! Henare uses the exposed corner, but Ishii shrugs it off and nails a back suplex before going back to the chops as Henare drops him with a lariat.

Tags take us to White and Finlay, with the latter avoiding the exposed corner to drop White with a running uppercut as the pair swing and miss, leading to an awkward uranage backbreaker from Finlay. More tags get us to Elgin and YOSHI-HASHI, with the latter’s ‘rana blocked as he’s forced to come in with a spinning heel kick and a running Blockbuster instead.

Elgin gets quadruple-teamed for a spell, leading to a Western lariat that Henare’s forced to make the save on, before everyone neatly headed outside and fought on the same side of the ring. Perfect for Elgin to wipe out with a tope con giro! He followed that up with an apron powerbomb to YOSHI-HASHI, before rolling him back inside for a wicked lariat, ahead of a buckle bomb and an Elgin bomb for the win. A good finishing sequence, but this was a throwaway outing as we wait for a new tour and new directions. ***¼

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer), El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Now, we’ve had a lot of these matches, but unlike the Suzuku-gun C-team, these haven’t been absolute dross.

On the plus side, everyone in LIJ having separate entrances means this is as good as an intermission, returning for the loud pop for Tetsuya Naito’s arrival… and the return of the silver masked man. Remember when they teased him about two years ago, and it just went nowhere? Except this time it was Jay Jackson, a player from the Hiroshima Carp baseball team. More hometown pops!

Cue the new Suzuki-gun gang theme, which is going to need plenty of listens for it to grow on me, and yeah, we’ve a jump start as Suzuki went right for Naito, taking the match outside only to get dragged chest-first into the guard rails. In the ring, BUSHI dropped Kanemaru and Desperado with a double ‘rana, as the junior tag champions were made to stay in the ring against their last challengers, with Hiromu scoring an early two-count from a shotgun dropkick.

Kanemaru’s had enough and drags Hiromu to the floor for another guard rail visit, as it seemed like Suzuki-gun just wanted those barriers gone, with Suzuki tossing guard railings onto Naito – right in full view of the honorary LIJ member Jackson. When we eventually returned to the ring, it was Lance Archer wiping out Hiromu, as the KES were making exceedingly light work of their smaller foe. Suzuki keeps up the same path, then goes back to Naito as he threw his challenger into the crowd, as Takahashi finally got himself some breathing space… only for KES to clear the apron as they looked to finish him off with a Hart Attack.

Hiromu ducks and tags in EVIL though as the heavyweight tag title boys went at it, with Davey Boy Smith Jr. reversing a double suplex attempt, before EVIL’s wiped out with a spinebuster. SANADA’s next, taking a Hart Attack for a near-fall, before rebounding with a springboard missile dropkick, as tags get us back to Naito and Suzuki, this time in the ring!

Suzuki’s PK gets a near-fall, before he blocked Naito’s outside-in dropkick to wear him down with a kneebar… trapping the arm too a la Zack Sabre Jr! Naito gets free and tries to respond with some strikes, but Suzuki snuffed it out as he went for a rear naked choke, only to get taken down with a tornado DDT instead. Naito ends up getting quintupled-teamed by Suzuki-gun, with Kanemaru’s DeepImpact DDT almost putting away Naito… but LIJ turn the tables, triple-teaming Kanemaru as Destino puts away the Suntory lover. A fun undercard tag, even if the junior tag element was redundant… but the intensity between Suzuki and Naito continues to tease us towards what should be a hell of an IC title match in the near future. ***½

Post-match, Naito antagonised Suzuki on the mic… poor Tomoyuki Oka tried to restrain Suzuki and lead him to the back. There was no chair handy, so Oka’s life was spared.

Stop threatening us with Bone Soldier! Although if the rumours are to be believed, it’s going to be a different guy under the hood…

NEVER Openweight Championship: Juice Robinson vs. Hirooki Goto (c)
After having a run of shock results, but not in title matches, can Juice Robinson claim his first piece of gold in New Japan here?

They keep things slow and measured in the beginning, with Juice and Goto both working over a headlock, before we led off to the shoulder tackles and the stalemates. Juice quickly shifts into gear, taking Goto outside for a plancha, followed by a whip into the guard rails… but Juice doesn’t go in all guns blazing with a cannonball, only to get lifted into the crowd as Goto used the rails for a variation of the GTR.

A hanging neckbreaker off the top rope followed as Goto’s gameplan became obvious, grounding Juice with a neck crank, then some headscissors and some elbow drops for good measure. Juice hits back with a spin kick, before duelling lariats saw the pair clobber each other ahead of one diving clothesline from Robinson. More lariats follow from the pair, until Goto missed a spinning heel kick in the corner, allowing Juice to fire back with a cannonball for a near-fall.

Juice kept up the pressure, landing a crossbody off the top for another near-fall, before he teased Pulp Friction… but Goto shoves away and tries for an ushigoroshi as instead he falls to a back suplex… then popped right back up for a Fighting Spirit Lariat! Juice tries to do the same too, but that ushigoroshi awaits as both men crashed to the mat.

They’re back to trading strikes, with Juice aiming a little high with a chop to the throat, before his dropkick just led to another Fighting Spirit recoil, with Goto’s kick to the chest succeeding. Another spinning heel kick in the corner sent Juice loopy, ahead of a Saito suplex… and another, before hitting one more ushigoroshi for a near-fall. It’s a painfully slow-paced match, but the deliberate nature of this is connecting with the crowd at least, as they OOH’d for Juice’s kick-out there.

Goto tries for an exclamation mark, but his top rope ushigoroshi is blocked, as Juice tries a powerbomb instead, before switching it up into… a reverse GTS! A lariat followed as Juice racked up another two-count, then again after a GOD DAMNED NASTY sheer drop brainbuster.

With Goto loopy, Juice went for Pulp Friction, but it’s countered into a sleeper, which Juice tried to counter out of a la Dirty Dragan… but Goto watched Shotgun too and pulls him away, then switches it into a Dragon sleeper. Juice snapmared out though, only to get caught with a reverse GTR…. before countering a massively delayed GTR into a small package. The tempo rockets up as Juice keeps going for the Pulp Friction, before punching out Goto as he took the NEVER champion’s limp body… and lost Pulp Friction as Goto held on, almost winning with a Shouten Kai.

Somehow, Juice had it in him to kick out, but Goto just levels him with a PK before one more GTR left Robinson down for the win. My God… this started off almost painfully slowly, which made sense as they went 26 minutes, but when it got into gear, this was really great. Another fantastic outing in defeat from Robinson, who you have to wonder… is it going to take a change in attitude for him to convert those performances into big match wins? ****¼

Post-match, Michael Elgin’s out to check on Juice… then eye up Goto. There’s our next title feud, I guess. Except it isn’t, because Taichi wanders out with similar intentions, decking Goto with his mic, before escaping the clutches of Elgin. So… a three-way title feud it is then!

Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA vs. Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay
There’s separate introductions for everyone, and we start with Ospreay and KUSHIDA, with the latter being taken into the ropes as Will has learned from his leader Okada.

KUSHIDA seemed to have Ospreay’s number early as he was wise to his wristlock reversals, as we kept heading towards a stalemate. Eventually Ospreay managed to grab the foot of KUSHIDA for a toe-hold, but he’s quickly grounded with some headscissors as they went back-and-forth with escapes and takedowns.

After getting free, Ospreay burst into life, taking KUSHIDA outside before the faked-out dive… and this time KUSHIDA headed into the crowd, rather than try to charge back at Ospreay, as we headed towards tags for Okada and Tanahashi. Okada looked for an early Rainmaker, but instead hit a DDT as they went outside, with Tanahashi being forced to block a tombstone in the aisle.

Instead, Okada whips him into the guard railings, before channelling Suzuki by throwing Tanahashi into the crowd, while Ospreay and KUSHIDA fought elsewhere, with KUSHIDA being shoved nastily into a mobile whiteboard. Back in the ring, Ospreay had his turn, working over Tanahashi’s arm as he and Okada kept the Ace isolated in the corner, exchanging frequent tags as that arm became a focal point.

Eventually Tanahashi mounted a comeback, but he ended up charging into a tombstone piledriver from Okada, as Ospreay took out KUSHIDA with a Sasuke special to the outside. A Cobra clutch followed, but Tanahashi held on, at least until KUSHIDA hit the ring to break it up with a low dropkick. KUSHIDA avoids some double-teaming that came his way, then gets the tag in as he went to work on Okada with kicks, including the hiptoss/low dropkick combo, before wiping out Ospreay with a flip senton to the floor!

Back inside, KUSHIDA keeps up the tempo with a tornado DDT as he tried to catch Okada in a cross armbreaker… that doesn’t work as my feed gave out for a while, returning with Ospreay getting a near-fall with a standing shooting star press on KUSHIDA. Some knees to the face end that bit of offence, as Ospreay tries for a Cheeky Nando’s only to get shoved away and ultimately met with a Pele kick.

A DDT from KUSHIDA led to the threat of a tag out, but despite Okada’s intentions, Tanahashi was able to make it in, as he laid out Ospreay with a neckbreaker and Slingblades for a near-fall. It’s not long before Okada’s back as he teases another tombstone on the floor, only for Tanahashi to counter out with a Slingblade, before returning to the ring as a hook kick and a diving corkscrew kick from Ospreay looked to set up for an Oscutter, but that too is blocked as KUSHIDA returns into a Hoverboard lock!

With KUSHIDA not being the legal man, all he can do is wear down Ospreay for a High Fly Flow… and that’s all folks! I wasn’t expecting anyone from the CHAOS team to lose, but having Ospreay lose to a heavyweight – let alone the Ace – isn’t going to do him any harm. A fine main event, but I’m still curious as to why this closed the show, and not the title match. ***¾

As has become the norm for this tour, this round of the Road to Wrestling Dontaku tour was fine, with the “feature” match (weirdly in the semi-final slot) delivering as expected. I fear that by the time this is done in May, I’ll have a weird aversion to Roppongi 3K given their matches… not their fault, but they’re stuck in an awful series that makes me weirdly appreciative of all the cherry-pickers out there!

Come for Goto/Robinson, stay for the match either side of it, and get ready for an early start on Sunday, all willing!