We’re still on the road to Dontaku as the Sendai Sun Arena played host to the final New Japan show of the Heisei era.

With ceremonies underway elsewhere in Japan to mark the proverbial changing of the guard, this kinda feels like an afterthought. Then again, I swear last year we weren’t getting as many of these shows streaming… Kevin Kelly and Gino Gambino are back on commentary for this show in Kagoshima. Gino’s been shockingly good on this little run.

Yota Tsuji vs. Shota Umino
These two have been having scraps throughout the tour so far, but you’d expect Umino to leave with the win today.

Tsuji tried to restrain Umino with a headlock early on, but after a few shoulder tackles Umino has Tsuji grounded with a sleeperhold, forcing a rope break. Some boot choking keeps Tsuji in the corner, before the pair traded some forearms and elbows. That flurry ended with a dropkick as Tsuji started to string together some strikes, including a leaping forearm into the corner, then a shoulder charge.

A back body drop’s good for Tsuji, but he’s quickly caught with a spinebuster before a Boston crab led to Tsuji getting dragged into the middle of the ring before he hauled his body into the ropes. Umino looked to finish him with a Fisherman suplex after that, but instead had to make do with a dropkick before the Fisherman suplex got the win. Exactly how you’d expect, but not as energetic as other Young Lion outings. **¾

Rocky Romero & Ren Narita vs. Tiger Mask & Yuya Uemura
Rocky’s got new music, but he starts on the apron as the Young Lions locked horns early, with Uemura quickly ending up on the back foot as he found himself taken down for a low dropkick when Romero came in.

Another dropkick to the knee puts Uemura back on the mat as Narita came back in, trapping his fellow Young Lion in a single leg crab as Rocky played guard, stopping Tiger Mask from making a save. Forearms from Narita keep Uemura by the ropes ahead of a back body drop, which finally prompted Tiger Mask in, before a dropkick from Uemura finally gave him a breather. Tiger Mask makes a tag in and catches Narita with a head kick, then a butterfly suplex for a near-fall before a cross armbreaker forced the Young Lion to reach for the ropes. A leg grapevine’s next from Tiger Mask, who’s reminding us that he’s more than a lackey for Liger ahead of Best of the Super Juniors next month, as the knee bar forces Narita back to the ropes.

Somehow Narita’s able to land a dropkick as he gets the tag back out to Romero… who just runs into a tiltawhirl backbreaker. That was the cue for Uemura to beg for a tag in, much like how Umino did so back in the day… and Yuya’s brought back in to charge down Rocky. A running dropkick catches Rocky in the corner as Tiger Mask comes in for a Tiger driver, allowing Uemura to come achingly close to the upset with a capture suplex.

Rocky makes his way back in with kicks before a Blue Thunder Backbreaker nearly ended things, before a Shiranui gets the win. A heck of an effort from Narita and Uemura, with Rocky perhaps looking the least impressive out of this quartet… which doesn’t bode well for BOSJ! ***

Suzuki-gun (TAKA Michinoku & El Desperado) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Ryusuke Taguchi
Minoru may not be in this match, but don’t expect his lackeys to go light on Liger here.

We start with Taguchi leaping into the knee of Desperado with an early hip attack, as both men tried to fake each other out. Liger comes in next, quickly tossing Desperado outside for a baseball slide dropkick into the guard rails, before Liger cleared TAKA off the apron so they could double-team Desperado. In the loosest sense of that term possible.

After collapsing through exhaustion, Liger just rolled Taguchi out of the ring (with a hefty splat on the landing) before pulling Despy into a Romero special… which TAKA quickly broke up. Desperado makes a comeback, trying to unmask Liger in the corner, while TAKA just looked to try and rake his eyes. The story stays the same when Taguchi comes in, with TAKA almost snatching the win with a roll-up out of Dodon before Taguchi strung together hip attacks… finishing off TAKA with a Bummer-Ye for a near-fall as Despy made a save. Liger turfs out Desperado after that, while Taguchi countered TAKA’s crossface with Oh My Garankle… then rolled him up into a Dodon for the win. Short, straightforward, and a popular result for this crowd. ***

Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Tomoaki Honma and Mikey Nicholls vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Hikuleo & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa))
We’ve a jump start here as the bad blood from yesterday’s tag title match continued to linger.

Yano’s in there doing his stuff with the Guerrillas, ducking a double clothesline before he managed to untie a turnbuckle pad… but he was able to dive away from a Hikuleo chop to bring in Honma instead. Honma’s brief flurry ended with a Kendo stick shot from Jado, as the Bullet Club targeted Honma’s neck and throat, with Tama taking him into the crowd for good measure. Back in the ring, Hikuleo gets a hold of Honma with some chops, which seem to be his calling card, before Tama Tonga came in and misses a Kokeshi as he got a little too relaxed. Honma slips out of a suplex and manages to catch Tanga Loa with a Kokeshi, before the crowd roared as Makabe came into play, nearly taking the win with a Northern Lights suplex.

A collision that was meant to be a spear from Tanga took Makabe down. Mikey Nicholls comes in, but quickly took a dropkick from Tanga as Hikuleo returned… Nicholls manages to land a clothesline as the NJPW World feed buffered badly… and after Nicholls dealt with Jado’s attempt at interference, a Mikey Bomb puts Hikuleo away. This was fine, but the jury’s starting to return less-than-favourable verdicts on Mad Mikey… **½

The crowd roared for the announcement of a Destruction in Kagoshima show on September 16. There’s a lot of water to go under a lot of bridges before then…

Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Jeff Cobb, YOSHI-HASHI & Toa Henare
Yay, another jump start!

YOSHI-HASHI tries to settle things down against Suzuki with chops and dropkicks… even catching him with a Bunker Buster as there was definitely the facade of Suzuki being on the back foot. Heck, there’s even a dropkick in the ropes thanks to Henare holding Suzuki up, as YOSHI nearly ended this one early.

The match spills outside, and yes, YOSHI-HASHI’s made to pay for all of that, but the cameraman shows Taichi throwing a chair into Jeff Cobb before he somehow got hold of his two title belts and choked Cobb with them. Meanwhile, YOSHI-HASHI’s forced to beat a count-out… and return into the arms of a sadistic Suzuki, who tagged in Kanemaru for some more action on the outside, including a slicing legdrop on the guard rails. Suzuki gets involved again with a hanging armbar off the apron to YOSHI-HASHI, before a PK gets caught… with YOSHI-HASHI daring to fight back with a Western lariat. Tags take us to Cobb and Taichi, who kick and throw at each other… Taichi blocks a Tour of the Islands and instead responded with a Buzzsaw kick to Cobb for a near-fall.

Off come Taichi’s trousers, but he misses a superkick and gets met with a clothesline as Henare tagged in… and knocked Suzuki off the apron. Taichi’s taken down with a leaping shoulder tackle, but the next NEVER title challenger manages to rebound with an Axe Bomber before Cobb saved Henare from a Stretch Plum. After Taichi got rid of Cobb, it’s right back to the hold, as Henare was forced to tap. Well, Taichi’s building up a lot of steam going into his shot, but I just can’t get over the goose eggs he’s laid in the past. **¾

Bullet Club (Jay White, Taiji Ishimori, Chase Owens & Gedo) vs. Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay, Juice Robinson & Dragon Lee
We start with Ishimori and Lee trading holds before they raced into a stand-off… Will Ospreay tags in, but instead of Ishimori, he gets Chase Owens… and an attack from behind by Gedo.

Ospreay tries to fight back from the 3-on-1 offence, throwing Gedo outside before headscissors took Owens outside ahead of a faked-out dive. Problem was, Ishimori was still live, and after he caught Ospreay, he turned his sights back on Dragon Lee, looking to remove his mask, before Gedo came in to choke away on Ospreay in the ropes.

Jay White comes in to catch Ospreay with a back elbow for a near-fall, before Chase Owens looked to continue the work… only to get caught with a Stundog Millionaire. Tags bring us back to Goto and White, with the latter taking some kicks and clotheslines from a frustrated Goto, before Gedo ran in to uneven the odds. Goto cleared the ring, but quickly gets caught with a snap Saito suplex from White, before a running knee strike almost got Chase the win.

Owens teases a package piledriver, which Goto escaped… a lariat from Goto leaves both men down as Juice gets the tag in to go back through Chase. A crossbody off the top is ducked, as Owens instead backslid Juice into a bicycle knee strike… leading to Gedo coming in to try and snatch the win, who got a two-count from a superkick. Jay White throws in some brass knuckles that Gedo barely caught in time, but Ospreay’s springboard forearm stopped him from using the knuckles as the Bullet Club were cleared out… Dusty punches from Juice find the mark, as does the Left Hand of God, before a simple Pulp Friction gets the win. Decent enough, but those flashes of Ishimori/Lee were too fleeting to get any kind of hype going. **¾

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi, Tomohiro Ishii & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
Once again, it’s down to LIJ and CHAOS to brighten up an otherwise pedestrian show.

Naito and Ibushi start the match, but their quick flurry ended as we got tags to EVIL and Ishii who charged into each other with shoulder tackles and elbows. EVIL tries to go for a Scorpion Deathlock early, but Ishii gets to the ropes before Shingo tagged in and tried his luck on the larger Ishii as we were firmly on the revolving door of tags… and sometimes, non-tags, as it felt like we were getting lucha rules for a spell.

SHO & YOH manage to dispatch BUSHI and Shingo with dropkicks, before SHO and Shingo began to clatter into each other with clotheslines and forearms. Eventually Shingo nails SHO with a lariat as the match spilled outside with EVIL and Ishii chopping each other into pieces, while Naito took Ibushi and threw him… towards chairs, but Ibushi opted to fly into the guard rail instead. Back inside, SHO found himself at BUSHI’s mercy… then at the feet of EVIL… then Shingo, as the junior tag champ was in big trouble. A spear from SHO’s caught by Shingo, but he’s able to land it at the second attempt after ducking a Pumping Bomber. SANADA comes in to try and stop SHO from tagging out, but he can’t quite get it done as Okada makes his way in with elbows to put SANADA down.

SANADA blocks a flapjack and instead trips Okada into a Paradise Lock, turning him over before the low dropkick… and after getting free, Okada doesn’t take long to put SANADA down with the flapjack. Tags bring us back to Ibushi and Naito, with the latter taking a missile dropkick and a plancha from the Intercontinental champion. Back inside, a slam and a springboard moonsault nearly gets Ibushi the W, but Naito’s able to make a comeback with an atomic drop and a tornado DDT off the ropes. A top rope ‘rana from Naito puts Ibushi down for a two-count, before Naito took a snap German suplex, following that up with a spiking reverse ‘rana.

BUSHI tags in and nails another missile dropkick to Ibushi, who’s triple-teamed in the corner before getting the tag out to Ishii… who of course went for EVIL as a big ol’ Parade of Moves broke out. Ibushi’s double backflip kick puts LIJ on the back foot before he resumed focus on BUSHI, getting a near-fall with a running knee before shrugging off an enziguiri to clothesline BUSHI as a Kamigoye got the win. A nice win for the hometown star, to cap off a show that was otherwise run of the mill. ***½

I know the aim isn’t for “everyone to watch every show”, but if New Japan’s going to be putting up the lion’s share of “road to…” shows on these tours, would it kill them to switch up the cards a little? Especially since we’re now in the habit of tours having big matches scattered throughout – keeping the “build up” matches after the blow-off just feels like a waste.

As for this show, you can guess the way this went: decent in-ring action, but little stuck its head out over the pack outside of that main event. Without it, this tour could well have been a write-off…