After the opening night of the tour took place in a not-exactly-full Korakuen Hall, I’m happy to say it’s business as usual this time, with the main event here being an Elimination match between Los Ingobernables de Japon and Suzuki-gun.
Yota Tsuji vs. Ren Narita
This was Tsuji’s second match, having debuted at the Lion’s Gate Project show earlier in the week, and he started off well, going back-and-forth with Narita in the opening stages, swapping wristlocks back-and-forth.
Eventually Narita took Tsuji to the mat and started putting boots to him, before using a grounded surfboard as he tried to force Tsuji away from the ropes. Heck, we even got an old school toe hold, before the newcomers fired back with some overhand chops… but Narita’s got those too, and almost gets a win with it.
Narita tries a single-leg crab, but Tsuji’s way too close to the ropes, and after breaking free he hits a sweet dropkick. That’s a class I want to see, given how many of these Young Lions are landing those beautifully these days… He’s back to the chops too, before hiptossing Narita out for a near-fall, and then slaps the godddamned taste out his mouth. Dear GOD that was loud. There’s another one that decks Narita for a near-fall, and that’s gotten the crowd on his side, but Narita’s back with a dropkick and a back body drop for near-falls, before turning the rookie into a Boston crab as Narita took the win. Holy hell, that escalated real quick, huh? I love how after only two matches, Tsuji’s showing an edge – and if his development goes well, he’s going to be a real hoss. **¾
Shota Umino vs. Yuji Nagata
From the newbies, to perhaps the cream of the current class, especially after recent excursions and departures.
Umino started out by putting the boots to Nagata in the corner, catching the veteran off guard, before taking him down for some ground and pound. It’s an aggressive start from Umino, but Nagata’s quickly firing back, kicking him in the back and legs as he took over with some venom.
A Fujiwara armbar attempt forced Umino into the ropes, as Nagata went to work on the arm, following with a key lock as another rope break was called. Umino tried to fight back, but it was a case of throwing many shots with little effect before getting decked with one… and met with many more kicks as Nagata measured the rookie on the mat. To his credit, Umino kept fighting back, landing a missile dropkick for a near-fall before… trying a cross-arm breaker? Yeah, that was easily escaped, but he surprises Nagata with a German suplex after a boot into the corner misses… ahead of one more missile dropkick as Nagata looked to be on the ropes.
To cue, Nagata fires back with elbows and forearms, shrugging off forearms from Umino in the process before catching him with an Exploder. Umino popped right back up and gets kicked straight back down for a near-fall, before Nagata caught him in the Nagata Lock II crossface for the win. Gotta love firey Young Lions, even if more often than not their guts cost them in the end. **¾
Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tomoyuki Oka vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Tiger Mask & Tetsuhiro Yagi
Euphemistically, this was labelled “take your kids to work day”, and of course, the dads were convinced to start on the apron as Oka and Yagi got us underway… and quickly headed to a stalemate.
Yagi tried to get the upper hand on the mat, but Oka fights free as he’s convinced to tag out… so the revolving door took us to Tiger Mask and Ryusuke Taguchi. You know what follows… missed hip attack, kick to the arse, and then the hip attacks start to fly. Those quickly get snuffed out when Tenzan busts out the Mongolian chops.
There’s quick tags as everyone tries to take a shot at Taguchi, with Tiger Mask’s spinning back kick to the gut almost putting him away, before Tenzan wrenched away on Taguchi’s face as Nakanishi complained from the apron. A suplex kept Tenzan ahead, but a hip attack out of nowhere gets Taguchi back in it… as he tagged in Nakanishi to go to work with chops on Tenzan.
Nakanishi slowly clears the apron as he built up towards the lariat, but his attempt at an Argentine backbreaker prompted Tiger Mask to run in for the save, which gets shrugged off as Nakanishi lands a spear instead. We’re back to Yagi and Oka next, with Oka being the aggressor, at least until he ran into a dropkick as Yagi gets off a fallaway slam before going to the Boston crab… forcing Oka to make it to the ropes. After that, Oka charges into Yagi with a back elbow, and from there it’s straightforward – belly-to-belly for a near-fall,while Taguchi wiped out Tiger Mask with a hip attack from the apron. Yagi nearly shocks Oka with an inside cradle, but a spinebuster and a Boston crab force the submission victory for Oka. Fun stuff in places, but the pace suffered tremendously when Nakanishi was in. **½
Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO, YOH & Rocky Romero)
I swear that Rocky Romero was no longer associating himself with Roppongi 3K, yet he’s somehow become the focal point of things here. Yeah, we had a jump start, with Iizuka biting YOH in the arse as they were in the posing for the crowd, and we’re instantly on the floor for biting, choking and all your least favourite Suzuki-gun tropes.
Rocky Romero and Taichi made it to the ring next, where the former landed a ‘rana out of the corner before setting up TAKA and Taichi for some Forever lariats. Iizuka blocks some with biting, and we’re back outside again, yay! I have a feeling my sarcasm isn’t coming across well here…
Iizuka uses a chair on Rocky in the crowd, while SHO gets thrown into a different part of the crowd, before Rocky gets chokes into the Suzuki-gun corner by Taichi. At least Toru Yano’s shtick is funny at times, but this is just “hey, let’s do all the cheating we can in front of the referee, and watch him count and do nothing else”. Good to know that I get repeated 5-second allowances to bite people before the referees think about doing something else! This is getting boring now, but at least Iizuka moves to YOH and SHO for his snacks, who finally get the tag in to mount a comeback… except TAKA poked YOH in the eye ahead of a Falcon arrow as the crowd started to wake up.
Taichi’s triple-teamed into a German suplex that almost ends things, before somehow Taichi takes down the ref as he took a back cracker. What in the world? Iizuka’s got his funky oven glove and jabs it at a springboarding Rocky, as the Suzuki-gun trio put the boots to SHO. I’m getting bored again as he mounted a comeback, only to get knocked down by a Taichi headkick… and now he remembers about his rip off pants, as SHO gets shoved into a superkick for the win. Thank CHRIST that is over. I get this was two heavyweights and a junior against three juniors, but even Young Lions get more offence in than this! This wasn’t good, and if I never have to speak of this match again, it’ll be too soon. DUD.
Post match, Taichi heads to the commentary booth… fortunately he puts on a t-shirt and shorts before the next match.
Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano vs. Togi Makabe & Toa Henare
I heard you like seeing Ishii killing recently-graduated Young Lions?
The overdubbing for Makabe’s theme is a little iffy, as we hear more than a little Led Zep underneath it, and it’s Makabe who starts, reacting to Yano’s shtick by whacking him in the back of the head. He even spoofs it, before tagging out to Henare, who only had eyes for Ishii.
He’ll learn one day. Today wasn’t that day, as he went straight at him with forearms, before popping up from a brainbuster as Ishii… sent him flying with a shoulder barge. To his credit, Henare’s right back up as he took Ishii outside for a whip into the guard rails, before he’s sent there himself. Yano takes the time to undo the turnbuckle padding as Ishii and Henare almost fought to the back, before returning as Henare was isolated in that exposed corner.
Henare’s almost begging to get chopped as Ishii began to toy with him, but things go wrong when Yano’s back in as Henare manages to mount a comeback. Makabe’s in for the mounted punches, and nearly wins with a lariat, before tagging Henare in to try and finish the job. That’s a short night’s work, eh? Henare ends up getting taken into the ropes by Yano as Ishii punches him from the floor… and the motif continues as Ishii chops and forearms him into oblivion.
Of course, Henare’s got fight left in him, and he replies with a little Violence Party of his own in the corner, only to get tripped as Ishii and Yano tried a double-team, ending with a backdrop suplex from Ishii and a Boston crab, almost to mock the former Young Lion. Ishii turns it into a Lion Tamer of sorts before Makabe stomped it away, then nails a couple of lariats as he whipped Ishii into a flying shoulder tackle as Henare almost took the shock W.
That was about the end of the Kiwi’s offence though as Ishii blasts him with a lariat… before a brainbuster’s turned into a cradle for a near-fall. A spear gets another two-count for Henare, but in the end a headbutt and a sheer drop brainbuster dumped Henare for the win. As much as I’m loving these tags (and the interplay between Henare and Ishii), this needs to escalate into something soon… although the fact they’ve not announced any singles match between these two on this tour tells me this is more of a feud for seasoning Henare than anything else. ***¼
Another Bone Soldier return promo. I can wait.
Juice Robinson, David Finlay, Michael Elgin & KUSHIDA vs. Hirooki Goto, Jay White, YOSHI-HASHI & Will Ospreay
We’re back to the staggered entrances here as we’re getting title match teases. Unless you’re Michael Elgin and YOSHI-HASHI, in which case you’re out last.
White and Finlay looked to start, but the mind games saw Jay tag out to Ospreay and his taped-up neck… before attacking Finlay anyway. Fair enough! Those two go back and forth, until White powdered to the floor when he took a dropkick. Ospreay and KUSHIDA got the tags in, and Ospreay lit up KUSHIDA in rapid fashion, taking him outside… before a gamengiri and a slingshot DDT from KUSHIDA turned the tide in equally-quick fashion, as the match ground to a halt as Ospreay looked to have tweaked his already-knackered neck.
KUSHIDA takes advantage by booting Will in the head, before tagging out to Elgin, whose slingshot Blockbuster nearly put Ospreay down. Will’s kept in for a while as the “home team” worked over him with quick tags, before KUSHIDA turned a block from a sunset flip into some headscissors as the targeting of the neck continued.
Eventually Ospreay fought back, and after taking down Juice and Finlay with a handspring overhead kick, he tagged in Goto, who cleared the apron. KUSHIDA takes a suplex onto Juice, as we got a tease of the NEVER title match, culminating in a full nelson slam from Juice as both men crashed to the mat. It’s Elgin and YOSHI-HASHI next, with the latter landing a running blockbuster before propping Elgin on the ropes for a dropkick, but the “home team” rush the ring to triple-team YOSHI-HASHI ahead of a press slam from Elgin for a near-fall.
Ospreay flies in to save YOSHI-HASHI from an Elgin bomb as the ring fills up, leading to Juice teasing a Pulp Friction before YOSHI-HASHI’s Western lariat almost put Elgin away. From there, Elgin catches a crossbody and bucklebombs YOSHI-HASHI, before the Elgin Bomb gets the win. Not crazy on the finish, but the stuff that’s actually leading to important title matches was good stuff, as they always tend to be in these mash-up undercard tags. ***½
Elimination Match: Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.), Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado)
More staggered entrances, as we had the IWGP tag, junior tag and Intercontinental title champions and challengers all in the same, efficient elimination match.
Of course, there’s a jump start, as everyone paired off the way you’d expect… and there’s even help from Taichi, who took a break from commentary to use his chair on EVIL, all while Suzuki and Naito traded right hands in the ring. Suzuki blocks a tornado DDT and tries to throw Naito over the top, but Naito clings on and saved himself as the match finally descended into something resembling normality.
As quickly as it settles down, it broke apart again as Davey Boy and EVIL stayed in the ring, while Naito gets a chair smashed off him by Suzuki, before he’s thrown into a table so hard it pixelates the feed! Somehow Suzuki’s gotten hold of the bell hammer and does his ode to Taichi with it, as they brawled through the entrance curtain… right as the KES double-teamed EVIL with something the production crew misses.
We settle down again as Suzuki tried to submit EVIL with a single-leg Lion Tamer, before Naito ambled in and broke it up… only to get tossed out through the ropes as Suzuki tore apart on him on the floor again. Finally we break into the match again as Kanemaru’s forced to kick out from a double-team reversed hiptoss, before a dropkick/sidewalm slam from the junior tag champs almost puts away BUSHI… who then cradled Kanemaru for another near-fall before Kanemaru shoves away the ref, low blows BUSHI and small packages him for our first elimination.
He instantly tries the same with Naito, but SANADA breaks it up before a shot from EVIL allowed Naito to roll-up Kanemaru for the next elimination. Suzuki tries a knee-bar on Naito, but a rope break saves that as Naito tried to mount a comeback, taking Suzuki up top only to get pulled onto the apron where Naito teases Destino… only for Suzuki to tease a Gotch piledriver instead as a dropkick from SANADA puts Suzuki on wobbly legs, allowing Naito to pull him off for the elimination, sacrificing himself in the process. Tranquilo.
We’re back to SANADA & Smith now, with the latter catching a leapfrog and turning it into a slam as Naito and Suzuki brawl to the back in the most conspicuous way possible… including Suzuki whacking one of the new Young Lions (Uemura?) with a chair. Back in the ring, SANADA moonsaulted into a Skull End, only for Smith to reverse out as he tried to send SANADA over the top rope… but SANADA clings on with some help from EVIL, who got sent into the guard rails before a Dragon screw from SANADA eliminated Davey Boy!
Dropkicks from SANADA have Archer wobbly as the Ingobernables had the upper hand, but SANADA’s Paradise Lock is shoved away, before SANADA was thrown out over the top. EVIL tries to take Archer out the same way, only to hit a release Fisherman’s suplex for a near-fall, as Archer came back with a Black Hole Slam for a near-fall of his own. After going for Everything is EVIL, Archer tried to take EVIL out with a Killer Bomb… but he too is low-bridged onto the apron as Archer takes EVIL down… and we’re left with Hiromu against El Desperado and Archer. Oh boy.
Archer uses bully-boy tactics on Hiromu, but his powerbomb elimination attempt led to the two of them going onto the apron, and an eventual elimination when Hiromu dropkicked him off… before Desperado rushes in to try and finish off the Time Bomb with Pinche Loco. It doesn’t work, so he tries for Guitarra de Angel, before instead nailing Hiromu with a spinebuster as Guitarra de Angel gets him a near-fall. Another crack at Pinche Loco’s blocked as Hiromu tries to fight back, landing a clothesline, then a superkick and a Time Bomb… but Desperado kicked out!
Another Time Bomb’s stopped when Kanemaru gets on the apron for a distraction, spraying whiskey in Hiromu’s eyes, which allowed Despy to cradle Hiromu for the win. Once we got back the opening moments of Suzuki-gun trademark brawling, this became quite the decent eliminator, straying from the regular format of everyone taking falls being in a feud with each other. Bring on the title matches! ***¾
A massive improvement on night one, night two of the Road to Wrestling Dontaku tour was another breezy show from New Japan, with the Young Lions’ matches and the title match feuds really clicking. The only negative to the Dontaku tour is that the big matches have been thinly-spread across the tour – great for those whose towns may not usually get any note-worthy matches, but not so good for those who watch to keep up with developments!