New Japan completed their trio of shows at Korakuen as Jushin Thunder Liger celebrated 30 years of wrestling!
Once again we’ve got Chris Charlton and Kevin Kelly on the English language call.
Yuji Nagata, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura vs. Satoshi Kojima, Shota Umino & Ren Narita
After a bunch of “veterans versus Young Lions” matches, we’re getting the New Japan Dads with their kids looking to make them proud.
There’s a weird dynamic here as Nagata’s got the less experienced of the Young Lions here. We started with Narita and Uemura quickly reaching a stalemate, so Umino tagged himself in… as did Yota Tsuji, who booted Kojima off the apron. Tsuji’s fire is quickly extinguished by Kojima, but a shoulder charge puts him right back on top. Narita’s back to try his luck with a sleeperhold, which he clung onto despite Tsuji getting to the ropes, before Kojima came in and got some payback with a bunch of machine gun chops. A DDT followed after a brief scare, before Umino returned to send Tsuji packing with a series of forearms.
Tsuji’s right back with a dropkick as he was in dire need of a tag – as in comes Nagata to put some boots through everyone. Umino tries his luck with forearms, but Nagata just shrugs it off and elbows him to what looked like certain doom, only for Umino to land a missile dropkick to save himself.
Kojima’s in with more machine gun chops, but a Cozy Lariat’s blocked when Nagata landed an Exploder instead, before tags got us back to Uemura and Narita, who just blasted out of the corners and into each other. Uemura wrecks Narita with a running dropkick in the corner, before the Boston crab looked to lead to a finish… but Narita’s able to get to the ropes to save himself. A release capture suplex almost puts Narita away, but the tables quickly turn as Narita lands his suplex – with a bridge – for the win. Your usual enjoyable slice of Young Lion fare here, and we didn’t have the customary slump when the New Japan Dads got in too, which is always a bonus! ***
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Rocky Romero, YOSHI-HASHI & Tomoaki Honma
We’ve got the pissed off Sabre again, and an even more dismissive TAKA, who thought that the same match as yesterday would yield the same result.
We don’t have a jump start for once, as instead TAKA and Honma trade shoulder charges… but it’s not long before we headed into the crowd. It almost led to an expedited count-out as Taichi’s stomping nearly got Honma counted out… but the match remained one-way traffic in favour of Suzuki-gun for a while after. Honma tries to fight back against Sabre, blocking a Cobra Twist before he hiptossed his way free. YOSHI-HASHI tags in and goes after Sabre, only to have to catch a PK before landing a rear spin kick to take down the Rev Pro champion.
Commentary trolls us with talk of a possible YOSHI-HASHI/ZSJ Rev Pro title match as Sabre made a comeback with a Fujiwara armbar, before an eventual PK had YOSHI back on the mat. Tags take us to Taichi and Rocky Romero, with the latter landing a series of ‘ranas to TAKA and Taichi, following up with Forever clotheslines.
Taichi gets free and worked his way into a Stretch Plum on Rocky, only for YOSHI-HASHI to break it up… so Taichi goes for a Last Ride instead, before he nearly got upset by a backslide. A Gedo clutch gets a similar result for Rocky, before a Sliced Bread was blocked as an Axe Bomber to the back of the head and a Last Ride finally put Rocky away. A pretty good outing, but in spite of what commentary had you think, there was little doubt with this result. ***
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi
This marked the 30th anniversary of Jushin Thunder Liger in wrestling, coming thirty years to the day that the Jushin Thunder Liger character debuted against Kuniaki Kobayashi.
Suzuki came out with MMA gloves in hand, before he stopped the ring announcer from introducing Liger. Suzuki wanted a singles match with Liger, and tried to talk his way into it… but after throwing some gloves to Liger, we get the jump start as Liger and Tiger Mask attack Suzuki in the corner. Taguchi gets side-eyed as he went in with hip attacks on Suzuki… and of course, Suzuki goes right back for Liger, whipping him into the guard rails before sending him into the crowd for a chair-assisted armbar. Back in the ring, Suzuki continued to fight through Taguchi while staring a hole at Liger… and after tagging out to Desperado, he made a beeline for Liger on the apron.
That distracts the ref as those two stared each other down with chairs in hand, meaning that he was completely oblivious to Kanemaru landing a guillotine legdrop to Taguchi on the outside. Eventually the crowd begin to get behind Taguchi, and it worked as he got a tag as we got back to Liger and Suzuki chopping the heck out of each other… the beatdown continued with some ground and pound on Liger, with the ref getting shoved aside. Heck, even El Desperado couldn’t contain it as he too got shoved down, with Liger eventually getting free as he clocked Suzuki with a Koppo kick. Tiger Mask is back to try a Tiger superplex on Kanemaru, before an armdrag off the top and a Bummer-ye from Taguchi led to a near-fall. Yeah, Liger and Suzuki were brawling again on the outside as Desperado held the referee to stop Kanemaru from getting pinned with a Tiger Driver.
In among all of the shenanigans, we get a whiskey spray from Kanemaru on Tiger Mask, as Desperado then whipped off the mask to allow Kanemaru to win with a roll-up… meanwhile, Suzuki lays waste to Liger with a chair… oh, and Yota Tsuji too, as he unwisely tried to break it up. Vicious Suzuki is back, but it’s just a shame this match felt way too disjointed outside of the Suzuki/Liger interactions. **¾
Post-match, Shota Umino tastes the chair as Suzuki continued to attack Liger… and that finally seemed to flick a switch inside Liger, who seemed to accept Suzuki’s challenge. Even if it meant turning it into a chair duel before they threw down. Well, until they got split up…
Even in another language, this post-match stuff was absolute fire – with Liger bringing the heart and the passion to it all, while Suzuki left the trail of bodies in his wake.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Juice Robinson, Mikey Nicholls & Dragon Lee
We’ve staggered entrances again here, as we started with Chase Owens forcing Juice into a brief Test of Strength.
Juice works free and manages to take Chase into the corner for a cannonball – while everyone missed the kerfuffle on the outside as everyone else was being thrown into guard rails. Bad Luck Fale tries to stop Juice on the top rope, but a double sledge just takes the big guy down… while opening the door again for Owens, who couldn’t wait to capitalise as Fale was able to throw the US champion into the railings.
Everyone stands on Juice’s back in the ropes as they tried to wear down his injured back… it didn’t quite work as Ishimori’s crossbody was caught and turned into a fallaway slam moments later, as Dragon Lee gets the tag in. The Shibata-ish dropkick – and a Shibata-like pose – followed as he cracked Ishimori in the corner, before back-and-forth strikes led to a rebound German suplex on Ishimori, then a lariat that saw the Bone Soldier land on top of the man who delivered the move.
Tags bring us back to Owens and Nicholls, with Bad Luck Fale clearing the apron as Mikey took some triple-teaming for a near-fall. Nicholls counters out of a package piledriver with a back body drop and a folding press for a near-fall, before a Mikey Bomb got the win. This was fine in flashes, with the Ishimori/Lee sequences standing out, but on the whole this never really got into gear for me. **¾
Hirooki Goto, Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Toa Henare vs. Bullet Club (Jay White, Hikuleo & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa))
With both teams having a “pin eater” that sticks out like a sore thumb, this match isn’t perhaps as clear-cut as you’d think.
The Bullet Club team jump the match, as everyone pairs off as you’d expect… with Hirooki Goto being an unexpected aggressor on Jay White, taking him into the crowd early on. Things settled down a little as Henare threw some right hands at Hikuleo, before running into a Kendo stick shot from Jado as the match suddenly turned on its head.
Jado gets involved again, this time taking out Makabe as a brief comeback was snuffed out… just in time for Tanga Loa to trap Henare in a Gory stretch. It left Henare’s chest exposed for long enough for Hikuleo to chop him, before Jay White tagged in to try and steal a pin. Henare manages to hit back with a suplex on White, before making the obligatory tag to a more measured Goto… who just kicks away at White before taking him into the corner. A quick clothesline of the ropes nearly gets the win, but White kicks out at two before he tried to block an ushigoroshi… and eventually landed a uranage instead.
Tags get us back to Hikuleo, as Toru Yano comes in and does Yano things with the turnbuckle. Things break down a little as Makabe came in and clotheslined the Guerrillas, before things swiftly ended with a low blow and a roll-up from Yano on Hikuleo. Exactly what you expected, for better or for worse. ***
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & BUSHI) vs. Kota Ibushi, Tomohiro Ishii & YOH
You know the score here – they’re mashing up matches again, and we start with YOH and BUSHI going after each other with forearms, perhaps trying to one-up their partners’ more hyped story?
They quickly step out as Ishii and EVIL come in to trade shoulder tackles, but the other four guys in the match quickly spill into the crowd as Ibushi and Naito head into the crowd… before Naito returned to help stomp away on Ishi for a while. EVIL’s back to trade chops, but it’s a short struggle as Ishii was put down ahead of a Sharpshooter attempt that was resisted. We eventually end up with Ibushi missile dropkicking into Naito after both men tagged in, with those two taking it back outside. Naito finds a way through with a spiking DDT, before Ibushi recovered and scored with a high kick to end another exchange. We’re back to YOH and BUSHI, with the latter taking a Falcon arrow for a near-fall.
EVIL’s back in to plant YOH with Darkness Falls, before Ishii’s involvement sparked a wild Parade of Moves that almost led to YOH upsetting EVIL… but in the end BUSHI’s back in to help as a big lariat from EVIL almost did the job. From there, a tope suicida from BUSHI lays out Ishii outside, as EVIL finally gets the win with the Sharpshooter. A much better match than it sounds here, as I was having to fight with buffering, but this did a grand job of building up to the relative matches later on. ***½
Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & Shingo Takagi) vs. Kazuchika Okada & SHO
Unlike yesterday, Korakuen was hot for the tease of Okada and SANADA here… and we start with the pair keeping each other at close quarters with Okada trying a surfboard stretch that forced SANADA to roll out for freedom.
Already in those exchanges, you could see SANADA shaking his hand, trying to get some feeling, before tags got us to the more firey exchanges between SHO and Shingo. You could tell they’d gotten used to each other as SHO wasn’t having it all his own way, especially when they headed outside as Shingo tried his level best to demolish the crowd barriers while using SHO as a human wrecking ball.
Back in the ring, SHO’s easily slammed as Shingo was having all his own way, especially when he caught SHO with a lariat in the corner. Some chops from SHO looked to offer some resistance, but a spear’s caught and met with some knees as Shingo ended up running into a dropkick and a spear afterall. Shingo has a brief flurry with Okada, before he’s forced to tag in SANADA whose instant attempt at a Paradise Lock was thwarted… but he lands it at the second try. SANADA tries a Skull End, but Okada pushes free before we get tags back to SHO and Shingo. A dropkick from SHO edges him ahead as the pair clubber each other with clotheslines, leading to a big lariat from SHO for an aching near-fall.
SHO continues to inch ahead with a back cracker into a cross armbreaker, but it’s broken up as SHO decided to pepper Shingo with elbows. Shingo manages to get free and land almost a Pumping Bomber. A Parade of Moves broke out, as SANADA runs into an Okada dropkick, surely opening the door for SHO to finish him off with a Shock Arrow, but SANADA struggled free and dragged SHO into a Skull End that Okada had to break up.
Okada tries to catch SANADA with a Rainmaker, but ends up eating a missile dropkick as SANADA looked to finish off SHO with a tombstone and a Skull End as Okada couldn’t make the save this time. An excellent main event for these shows, as we had some nice teases of SHO hanging with SANADA – perhaps tipping him as a dark horse for the Best of Super Juniors… and a little further down the line? ***¾
Perhaps three live shows in as many days is hitting the limit when it comes to “Road to…” shows that largely had the same card. While the in-ring here was fine at worst, it was the post-match “afters” that stole the show, particularly the Liger/Suzuki stuff that really whetted the appetite for a match that has yet to be announced.
Thursday is a day off for New Japan as they travel to Hiroshima on Friday for a special stop on the road to Wrestling Dontaku. We’ve then got more live shows with Wrestling Hi no Kuni on Monday from Kumamoto (a 7am start in the UK), two more Road shows on Tuesday and Wednesday, before Dontaku wraps up with a pair of shows next Friday and Saturday in Fukuoka. Given how badly New Japan World’s been buffering this week, I sure hope to hell that the service manages to stay stable for those big shows..