The road to Wrestling Dontaku headed through Hiroshima for a special stop headlined by a junior tag title match!

We’re at the Hiroshima Green Arena, with Kevin Kelly being joined on commentary by Gino Gambino, who hopefully won’t be baring his rear end like last time I saw him!

Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura vs. Shota Umino & Ren Narita
Commentary tells us that Ren Narita’s coming in with a shoulder injury, which perhaps contributed to Uemura’s early offence, as a shoulder tackle knocks Narita down.

Narita tries to respond by tripping Uemura up, but a leg lock ended in the ropes pretty quickly before Narita managed to restrain Uemura with a cravat. Shota Umino came in to keep Uemura at bay, getting a near-fall out of some strikes before Uemura fought back with a dropkick… which led to the tag out to Tsuji… who runs in with a dropkick of his own. A leaping forearm into the corner from Tsuji looked to have Umino reeling, as did a back body drop. Uemura came in short with an elbow drop as Umino was rolled into a Boston crab… a hole that Narita quickly came in to break up as the more experienced Young Lion team began to double-team Tsuji.

It led to Umino rolling Tsuji into a Boston crab, and with Ren Narita having taken care of Uemura on the outside, the struggle eventually led to Tsuji hand-walking his way into the ropes for a break. So Umino just dumps him with a Fisherman suplex, and that was enough to put him away. Perfectly fine graps to start the show with – and you can insert the usual “there be some stars in the making here” line that we seem to make from all of these matches! ***

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) vs. YOSHI-HASHI, Tiger Mask & Toa Henare
There’s no Jushin Thunder Liger on this show, so Minoru Suzuki doesn’t have a specific target for his grumpiness…

Yup, we have a jump start, which led to YOSHI-HASHI getting whipped into the crowd barrier by Minoru Suzuki. You know what’d be the best troll of all? If we ended up getting YOSHI-HASHI vs. Zack Sabre Jr. in Rev Pro, and basing YOSHI’s qualification for a title shot off the time he beat Pete Dunne…

Suzuki changes his focus with a hanging armbar on Tiger Mask in the ropes, before YOSHI-HASHI went back into the rails… then the crowd, as commentary was more worried about Yoshinobu Kanemaru’s onslaught. YOSHI gets placed against a seat carrier as Suzuki throws whatever he can find at him, before we got El Desperado back in the ring trying to remove Tiger Mask’s mask back in the ring.

Suzuki’s in to wear down Tiger Mask with a Fujiwara armbar, only for YOSHI-HASHI to (unwisely) break it up. You know what’s next… strikes! We’re back to Tiger Mask, who nails Desperado with a tiltawhirl backbreaker, before YOSHI-HASHI got a tag in… and he shines too, catching Kanemaru in the ropes with a dropkick for a near-fall. That shine ended when Suzuki returned, booting YOSHI-HASHI before seeing a PK of his get caught, as a rear spin kick gave YOSHI enough time to squirm over to the corner for Toa Henare to tag in. Henare catches Suzuki with a leaping shoulder tackle, before a rugby tackle takedown almost led to a win… only to get caught with a rear naked choke and the Gotch piledriver as Suzuki had enough and ended it just like that. Perfectly fine, but on the whole… short. **¾

Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Juice Robinson, Mikey Nicholls & Tomoaki Honma vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, Jado & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa))
You can probably guess how this started – a wild brawl on the outside, while Yano and Tama went at it in the ring.

We get our favourite turnbuckle offence, with Yano whacking Tama with a turnbuckle pad off the ropes, only for Tama to get instant revenge. Tanga Loa pulls out Honma as he went for a Kokeshi, so Yano quickly finds himself isolated. Even Jado gets involved, somewhat legally, as he was in the match, before Fale comes in to whip Yano into the exposed corner.

Yano manages to get free as Juice Robinson and Mikey Nicholls came in to double-team Chase… then direct a Fale charge into Owens in the corner. Chase manages to rebound, countering Pulp Friction into a roll-up, before Makabe came in to lock horns with Tanga Loa again. Mounted punches trap Tanga in the corner, only for the Bullet Club to turn around and triple-team Makabe, leading to Jado almost stealing the win from a Fale shoulder charge.

The ring clears, and with the referee tied up, Jado looks to whack Makabe with the Kendo stick. Yano stops it, then manages to low blow Jado and Tama, which leads to a leaping Kokeshi from Honma… who rolled the clock back with another Kokeshi to Jado as Makabe’s King Kong knee drop gets the win. That’s some more steam for Makabe going into his tag title shot later in the tour, and at least they kept this match brisk and free of (too much) shenanigans. Yeah, Yano runs off with the hardware again afterwards. **¾

Suzuki-gun (TAKA Michinoku & Taichi) vs. Jeff Cobb & Ryusuke Taguchi
This was Jeff Cobb’s first outing in New Japan since he beat Will Ospreay for the NEVER title at Madison Square Garden – and he’s straight into the fire as he’s tuning up for Taichi later in the tour.

We start with Taichi and Cobb, but it’s all mind games as Taichi just tags in TAKA for the wind-up. Taguchi comes in too, but he mostly directs traffic as he has Cobb running into TAKA in the corner before the roles reversed. Coach Cobb, eh? Things take a turn as Cobb and Taichi end up in the crowd, of course with Taichi mangling a chair to choke Cobb with, before Taichi returned to the ring… with Cobb’s belt in hand, all to mask TAKA choking on Taguchi in the corner. The Suzuki-gun pair continue to wear down Taguchi before we got the inevitable tag to Cobb, who finally took Taichi into the corner for a leaping elbow.

A Samoan drop’s next from Cobb, as was a standing moonsault that would have led to the win… had TAKA not broken up the pin on. Taichi clings to the ropes to avoid a Tour of the Islands, and it helped turn things around as off come the trousers… but Taichi has to use the referee as a human shield as Cobb tried to catch him with a German suplex. Taguchi’s knocked off the apron as TAKA and Taichi double-team Cobb, leading to a near-fall, before Taguchi returned to take out Taichi with a hip attack… leaving the path clear for a Tour of the Islands to put away TAKA. Which somehow led to Taichi’s music playing… whoops. This wasn’t as bad as I feared, but I wasn’t a fan of Taichi doing the mind games on their first encounter here. **¾

Post-match, Taichi lays out Cobb with the mic stand before he tossed the belt aside.

Bullet Club (Jay White, Taiji Ishimori & Hikuleo) vs. Hirooki Goto, Dragon Lee & Will Ospreay
They bring back memories of the old Bone Soldier here. I wince.

We’ve a jump start as White attacked Goto from behind, as Hikuleo and Ospreay were left in the ring amid the brawling on the outside. Ospreay manages to dropkick Hikuleo off the apron, but before he can even tease a dive, Ishimori and White attack him from behind as the Bullet Club went to work on the former NEVER champ. Hikuleo drops Ospreay with a suplex for a two-count in the Bullet Club corner, before Ishimori tagged in to try and keep Ospreay at bay. They both go for handsprings, but it’s Ospreay’s handspring enziguiri that connects before Dragon Lee comes in to stomp away on Ishimori… following that up with a low single-leg dropkick.

The Shibata-ish dropkick follows in the corner as the pair proceeded to trade pump kicks before a snap half-nelson suplex from Dragon Lee flowed into an Ishimori Destroyer as both men were left laying. Tags bring us back to White and Goto, with the latter landing some kicks to pin White into the corner ahead of a Saito suplex for a near-fall. Hikuleo and Ishimori return to help triple-team Goto, ahead of Hikuleo’s Tongan Swing neckbreaker for a near-fall. A Parade of Moves broke out, but Ospreay’s springboard forearm’s caught and turned into a slam by Hikuleo, who then looked to finish off Goto… who instead caught him with a clothesline.

White tries to interfere, but takes a clothesline too, as Goto found his way back to Hikuleo with a GYR, then a GTR for the win. Decent enough, and I’ve a feeling that the Ospreay/Ishimori stuff here may have been more than just a tease… ***¼

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Kota Ibushi
You know what you’re getting here, and indeed, we start with some flash sequences between Naito and Ibushi before EVIL and Ishii just walloped each other with elbows, before the tags completed with Okada almost telling EVIL to bring SANADA in.

Those two slow down the pace as SANADA worked his way into an armbar on Okada, before an early attempt at Skull End was countered with an Okada roll-up. EVIL trips Okada from the floor as LIJ took control though, with Ibushi and Naito wandering up the aisle for a slam on the ramp.

LIJ return to the ring to triple-team Okada, with SANADA almost snatching the win a backdrop driver on Okada, only for a missed dropkick to allow Okada back in as he rolled up SANADA into a neckbreaker slam. Ibushi tags back in as he locked horns with Naito, catching him with a slam and a springboard moonsault out of the corner for a solid two-count, only for Naito to retaliate with a hanging neckbreaker off the ropes.

A top rope ‘rana follows, dumping Ibushi to the mat as Naito followed through to sit on him for a near-fall. EVIL’s in to try his luck with Darkness Falls, but Ibushi wriggled free to return with a dropkick, as Ishii begged for the tag in… and of course, he got it. There’s a Saito suplex from Ishii to EVIL, but another triple-team had the former Rev Pro champion in trouble as Ishii ate a Combinacion Cabron, then a clothesline as EVIL almost took the win.

EVIL followed that up with a Scorpion Deathlock, which ended in the ropes as a Parade of Moves burst into life around EVIL and Ishii, ending with a low dropkick from SANADA to Okada before Ishii was forced to counter a Magic Killer with a suplex. Ishii continues the comeback with a clothesline to EVIL for a near-fall… but they keep on at it, with EVIL eventually landing Everything is EVIL on Ishii for the win. They’re trading falls back and forth on this tour, and as you’d expect here, this was absolutely fantastic stuff – all of the interactions clicked marvelously. I can’t wait for these singles matches to land. ****

IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship: Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) (c)
It is a bit damning that the junior tag division now seems to be the same three teams on loop – and even more so when the biggest story in this match was more the potential singles match between Shingo and SHO down the line. Yoshinobu Kanemaru was on Japanese commentary, which sets off another red flag…

SHO and Shingo start off like bulls in the proverbial china shop, charging into each other as they tried (in vain) to knock the other down. Eventually SHO won out, but the champions couldn’t maintain an advantage as they got taken outside, with SHO and YOH taking the guard rails in different ways. That signalled a turnaround as YOH became isolated with Shingo and BUSHI targeting him back in the ring. Yeah, we’ve the t-shirt choke from BUSHI, along with a series of chops as YOH looked to be in serious trouble. A STF nearly puts YOH away as the challengers were in firm control – helped when YOH whiffed on a dropkick… but a second one connects, only for the challengers to thwart any chance of a tag out.

A Dragon screw from YOH manages to give him a breather as SHO comes in… going straight for Shingo, who had to be saved by BUSHI before both men ate a spear. SHO and Shingo keep up, trading corner clotheslines before SHO reversed a suplex… then used that as a base for a deadlift German suplex. Shingo elbowed free, then ran into a spear as a Pumping Bomber missed. That seemed to give SHO some focus, as he tried to work on Shingo’s arm, but he’s quickly caught with the other arm as a powerbomb nearly led to the finish from Shingo. Some more double-teaming from Shingo and BUSHI nearly put SHO away again, before the challengers teased Rebellion… but YOH comes in to make a save, giving SHO enough time to get up and dropkick Shingo outside. Shingo’s back with a double clothesline, as he again focused on SHO, giving and receiving hard elbows to the jaw as their own tussle continued… before a Shingo headbutt seemed to give him an advantage.

SHO tries to chop down Shingo with lariats, who replied in kind before a leaping knee cut off a Pumping Bomber… ahead of another lariat that finally left Shingo down. A second lariat, dubbed a Golden Bomber, puts him back on the mat for a near-fall, as did a deadlift bridging German suplex as SHO was surging ahead… teasing a Shock Arrow, only for a back body drop to send Shingo free. The offence from SHO continued with some kicks, before he ends up ducking a Pumping Bomber… Shingo manages to hit a lariat, before another crack at the Pumping Bomber was countered. SHO’s got his number, and both men end up tagging out so the fresher YOH and BUSHI could come into play.

A backbreaker/neckbreaker combo from YOH gets a near-fall on BUSHI as the pace fell a little. An overhead kick in the ropes from BUSHI finds its mark, as did a missile dropkick, but SHO’s back to even things up with some charging clotheslines into the corner ahead of a Dominator/neckbreaker combo that almost got the win. Shingo returns to charge his way through the champions, sending SHO flying over the top to the outside with a clothesline as a tope suicida from BUSHI keeps SHO on the floor… leaving YOH all alone…

YOH can’t avoid a Pumping Bomber, and gets folded inside out for his troubles, before BUSHI returned with the Rebellion on YOH for yet another near-fall. A superkick from YOH looked to make a difference, but Shingo ends up going for another Pumping Bomber… this time clocking SHO who took the bullet before the champions landed a pair of leaping knees and the 3K on Shingo… then built up into a 3K attempt on BUSHI, who fought free.

A ref bump leaves the ref in the corner, meaning nobody saw the low blow as a bridging backslide nearly led to new champions. BUSHI returns with a running lungblower on YOH, which still isn’t enough as SHO and Shingo were otherwise busy on the outside, before BUSHI’s MX missed… which led to the 3K, only for Shingo to make a last ditch save! It wasn’t to be for the challengers though, as YOH quickly came in with a bridging Dragon suplex, and just after the 25 minute mark… we have a winner! This started off hot, but was really a match of two halves for the most part. SHO and Shingo knocked it out of the park, while YOH and BUSHI couldn’t match the pace and intensity, but in the end it was a long, hard-fought defence that keeps Roppongi 3K on top of the pile.  For my taste, it went a little too long, and was a little too unbalanced when it came to the pairings, but this was an excellent title match to close out the show. ****¼

Hey, Shingo didn’t eat the pin. Add more fuel to the “outside bet for Best of Super Juniors” fire – especially if you’re inclined to think that Hiromu Takahashi’s return will see him eased in with tag matches a la Honma. On the whole, the ninth stop on the road to Wrestling Dontaku was a show that was “just okay” until the final two matches. This Dontaku tour is perhaps the thinnest New Japan has spread matches out on, which has created more one match shows than usual… still, at least none of the undercards have had anything rotten on them, but still… this is one for the cherry pickers.