The final night on the road to Wrestling Dontaku saw New Japan open up the Reiwa era with a pair of elimination matches in Beppu.

Commentary from the B-Con Plaza comes from Kevin Kelly and Gino “Pizza Sock” Gambino.

Toa Henare, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura vs. Tiger Mask, Shota Umino & Ren Narita
With Tiger Mask firmly in “I gotta get tuned up for Best of the Super Juniors” mode, this trios match shouldn’t be too much of a drag, right?

Uemura and Narita were raring to go at each other, and were largely even in the opening skirmishes as we went through the usual quick exchange of tags. Yota Tsuji charges at Umino with a dropkick as he was still smarting from that loss yesterday, but Umino’s able to respond as he quickly had Tsuji on the mat for some stomps.

Tiger Mask is in next to slap away on Tsuji, following up with a butterfly suplex and a cross armbar that forced Henare and Uemura in to break it up. They’re quickly dealt with as Umino returned to continue working on Tsuji… who trades places as he blasted Umino with forearms in the corner. An uppercut from Umino does the trick before he ran into a back body drop, as Henare finally tagged in to unload on Umino.

Chops and a leaping shoulder tackle from Henare have Umino in the corner, but Ren Narita’s in to cut him off as Umino needed to land a dropkick before bringing in Tiger Mask. Tiger runs into a Samoan drop as Henare gladly took Uemura’s offer of a tag… but Uemura had to resist a knee bar from Tiger Mask, before he found himself in the path of a Tiger Driver for a near-fall. An avalanche butterfly suplex followed, and that was that! Solid stuff, that was just about in line with the regular “Young Lion x main roster” tags. **¾

Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Rocky Romero & Ryusuke Taguchi
Firmly tagged as a teaser for Best of the Super Junior, I don’t think any of the finalists will come from this match. Stranger things have happened though…

Rocky looked to take the upper hand early as he went mad with armdrags… including to his own man. They don’t make a meal of it as Rocky and Taguchi work a play, charging into Desperado in the corner, before throwing him head-first into Taguchi’s arse. There’s a turn around as Kanemaru comes in and makes Rocky overly familiar with Taguchi’s rear, before the painful realisation sank in.

The match spilled outside as Rocky tas taken into the guard rails for a slicing legdrop, following in with a running dropkick on the apron as the former junior tag champs were firmly in control. Rocky barely breaks the count-out, and eventually gets himself free with a rear spin kick to Kanemaru as Taguchi gets a tag in.

A hip attack catches Kanemaru ahead of suplex attempts that both men blocked. Instead, Taguchi hip attacks himself into an atomic drop before he lands that suplex. Rocky’s back in with headscissors to Desperado ahead of some Forever lariats as he maintained the advantage, almost winning with La Magistral before Kanemaru broke up the cover… and while Desperado got himself ahead with a punch, he found himself quickly on the losing end as a Pinche Loco was turned into a headscissor roll-up for the pin. This was fun, but exactly what you’d expect from the four names involved. Dependable, but not overly exciting. **¾

Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Tomoaki Honma vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Jado)
Yup, we’ve another jump start as Toru Yano instantly gets the turnbuckle pad loose… clocking Tama Tonga with it for good measure.

Tama tries to retaliate, but Yano ducks the pad shot before he got caught with an an atomic drop. A tag’s made to Honma, who’s caught in the back by Jado’s Kendo stick as he went for a Kokeshi, before Jado threw Honma into the crowd, wrecking a guard rail in the process. We’re back in the ring as Jado continued to have Honma isolated… they get a little too arrogant as Tama Tonga misses a Kokeshi, allowing Honma to tag out.

In comes Makabe with mounted punches for Tanga Loa, before a spear from Tanga left both men down. Tama’s back in as Makabe’s triple-teamed, leading to a crossface from Jado that ends in the ropes. The ref’s distracted with Tama, but Makabe’s able to block a Kendo stick shot as we miss a double low blow from Yano, which allowed us to roll back the clock to Great Bash Heel, with a Kokeshi and a King Kong knee drop getting the win. It was what it was, but since we’ve already had the title match, this felt pointless. **½

Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Jeff Cobb, Jushin Thunder Liger & YOSHI-HASHI
The Suzuki-gun jump start’s quickly shrugged off here as YOSHI-HASHI’s able to catch Taichi with a Head Hunter… before he unwisely started to throw chops at Suzuki.

Yep, Suzuki catches him with an armbar in the ropes before taking him outside and into the guard rails. He should know better. Deep in the crowd, Suzuki throws chairs and guard rails on YOSHI-HASHI, before Suzuki took aim at liger, holding him in an armbar on the Japanese commentary table before taking a bite out of Liger’s hand for good measure.

Suzuki tries to take a chair to Liger, but the referee stops him as YOSHI-HASHI resumed a comeback in the ring. A chop from YOSHI-HASHI stuns Suzuki, as does a rear spin kick, before Liger came in and tried to chop his way through Suzuki. Of course, it just led to back-and-forth chops before Liger caught him with a Shotei in the corner… only for Suzuki to come right back with a cross armbar.

A PK from Suzuki gets caught as Liger goes back in with a brainbuster, as tags finally take us to Taichi and Cobb. There’s a Samoan drop from Cobb, who went on to miss a standing moonsault… eventually Taichi rips off the trousers, but doesn’t connect on the buzzsaw kick as Cobb manages to come back with a standing moonsault. Missed clotheslines from both men end with Taichi landing an enziguiri though… my feed gives out briefly, and recovers in time to see Taichi take an Athletic-plex before TAKA’s taken on a Tour of the Islands for the win. This was fine for what it was, but while the exchanges between Liger and everyone’s favour Murder Dad Suzuki, this sure did have that “end of tour” feel to it. **¾

Elimination Match: Bullet Club (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, Hikuleo & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Hirooki Goto, Juice Robinson, Will Ospreay, Dragon Lee & Mikey Nicholls
Eliminations occur when you’re thrown over the top rope, pinned, submitted or disqualified.

Hirooki Goto wanted to start with Jay White – but the former IWGP champion didn’t want to play ball because he’d already beaten him. Valid point is valid. Instead, it’s Ishimori and Dragon Lee who start, with Ishimori quickly looking to unmask the IWGP junior champion before the pair broke into a striking exchange. Leaping knees continue the strikes before a Cactus clothesline led to both men going over the top for eliminations.

Not to worry, they keep fighting as Ishimori whips off Dragon Lee’s mask afterwards before running to the back.

Now we get White and Goto charging into each other, but things quickly broke down into White having to cling onto the ropes as Goto looked to throw him out. Goto fights off Hikuleo and Owens, suplexing Chase onto him as the match broke down with all eight men brawling around the ringside area. Things settled down a little, but not in a good way for Goto, as Hikuleo, Chase and Fale stand on his back, before an assisted abdominal stretch continued to bring the pain.

Eventually Goto got free, but Will Ospreay had to flip out of a uranage as the Bullet Club swarmed him. A handspring double backflip kick rights things, but he’s quickly flipped again courtesy of a Hikuleo clothesline that nearly led to his elimination. Ospreay tries to respond with a Storm Breaker, but Hikuleo back drops his way free before he clotheslined Ospreay onto the apron. Nicholls and Juice catch Will as he was almost booted to the floor, so he’s still alive, allowing him to come back with a Robinson special and an OsCutter as Hikuleo took the L.

Fale quickly charges through and tosses out Ospreay for an elimination, as Mikey Nicholls came in and looked to suffer the same fate. Chase Owens comes in and ended up being pulled into Fale’s path before Nicholls threw out the big Tongan. Chase dumps out Nicholls to take us back to 2-on-2, with Juice and Goto against White and Chase. Dusty punches have Owens rocked, before Juice hit a hotshot in the ropes… then missed a leap off the top.

Chase tries to eliminate Juice, but the US champion skinned the cat and dragged him onto the apron as the pair saved each other, pulling up onto the apron only for the Left Hand of God to knock Owens to the floor. White instantly comes in to capitalise, but Juice frustrates him with a clothesline, before a snap Saito suplex led to Juice being sent over the top and to the floor, as we’re left with Goto and White as the final two.

In the end, Goto low bridges White onto the apron, but White recovered… only to take an ushigoroshi. The tables turned as White looks for a Blade Runner, which Goto countered with a headbutt before a reverse GTR gets a near-fall. That’s the cue for Gedo to appear on the apron, distracting the referee – who didn’t see White get thrown out… White runs back in and low blows Goto, before throwing him out as the crowd howled in disapproval. Hey, this was a pretty good elimination match that didn’t go to the trope of “lone opening part then everyone rushes out”, and I guess we’ll be continuing Goto/White after Best of the Super Junior concludes? ***½

Elimination Match: Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Kota Ibushi & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
Same rules… and hopefully a lot more energy in this one!

EVIL and Ishii start us off, trucking through each other with shoulder tackles in the opening exchanges, with Ishii drawing the proverbial first blood. YOH tags in, but EVIL sneaks in a shoulder tackle to annoy Ishii some more before BUSHI came in to start a chop exchange with YOH.

SHO tags in to keep up the pressure on BUSHI, but LIJ flood the ring to turn the tables as the match spilled outside, with a lot of folks taking a lot of guard rails. Shingo finds SHO and drops him across the guard rails, before throwing SHO back inside as the junior tag team champion quickly found himself isolated. Some chops from SHO saw him try to mount a fightback, but Shingo struck back and nearly took the elimination with a simple punch/clothesline combo.

Okada’s in next as a sliding back elbow drops Shingo ahead of a DDT for a near-fall, before he had to block a Noshigami attempt, only to take a suplex from Shingo. Yeah, I’d expect those two to be foes sooner rather than later! SANADA’s in to capitalise with a Paradise Lock, but Okada shoves it away… only for his ‘rana to get rolled through into the Paradise Lock anyway. Ah well.

After getting freed, Okada took down SANADA with a flapjack as Ishii’s brought back into play. EVIL quickly returns with a bulldog, before he sparked a chop battle with Ishii, winning out with a double-handed chop and a back senton for a near-fall. They head up top next, but EVIL’s knocked onto the apron before Ishii’s attempts to eliminate him ended when he got low bridged onto the apron, as another strike battle led to Ishii getting knocked down, before Ibushi dropkicked EVIL to the floor.

We go from hard hitting to fast-paced next as Ibushi kicks through Naito before a standing moonsault nearly led to the next exit. Naito retaliates with a dropkick for a near-fall, before Destino was blocked, so he instead lifts Ibushi over the top and onto the apron for a modified Combinacion Cabron dropkick. Ibushi clings onto the bottom rope and pulls himself up, leaping over a Naito dropkick before a ‘rana took both men to the floor and out of the match.

Back in the ring, YOH and BUSHI resume acquaintances, with BUSHI’s neckbreaker being thwarted as YOH struck back. A Dragon suplex from YOH’s countered into a DDT from BUSHI, who then throws YOH onto the apron… Shingo tries to help, so SHO breaks it up as BUSHI then had to fight the numbers game, eating a pair of leaping knees. Those bring in Shingo, who took a suplex, before a double ‘rana from BUSHI saw him try to throw out YOH, eventually succeeding after he got dropkicked off the apron.

SHO tries his luck, lifting BUSHI onto the apron before a leg sweep and a low dropkick get rid of the masked on. We’re finally back to SHO and Shingo as part of the final four, and yes, they trade clotheslines back and forth with some venom. Those eventually ended with SHO tagged in Okada, but a DDT from Shingo stops the IWGP champion briefly. Both men miss charges into the corner until Okada lifts Shingo to the top rope, then dropkicked him to the floor.

We’re left with SHO and Okada against SANADA… can the IWGP title challenger beat the numbers?

Okada and SANADA trade elbows for a spell, before a Rainmaker’s ducked and met with a Skull End attempt, as we sailed past the 25 minute mark. SHO dives in to break it up as SANADA dragged Okada to the mat, but it’s not long before Okada countered… and lifted SANADA onto the apron, only to get eliminated when Okada got low bridged to the floor!

It’s SHO and SANADA as the final two, with SHO looking for a deadlift German from the off. He lands it, then teases a Shock Arrow, only for SANADA to counter into a Skull End. That too gets countered into a small package as SHO nearly got the upset, but in the end a swinging Skull End led to the inevitable as SANADA was your last man standing. This was a lot more like your usual New Japan elimination match, with a lot longer before the eliminations started rolling… as we end with SANADA beating the numbers game to give him some more oomph going into his title shot on Saturday. ***½

Of course, there’s some afters following the final decision as everyone’d hung back after their eliminations. Was today eminently skippable? Sadly, yes, but the two elimination matches were a welcome break from the same old matches we’d had served up, so there’s always that!

So after a long, long tour, most of which ended up being live streamed, we’ve a day off before the headline Dontaku shows in Fukuoka. Friday headlines with Dragon Lee vs. Taiji Ishimori, which should be really special if their brief flurries throughout the road shows are anything to go by, while Saturday is main evented by Okada defending against SANADA.