We’ve two elimination matches as the long road to Wrestling Dontaku begins today in Yokohama.

Quick Results
Yota Tsuji submitted Gabriel Kidd in 8:18 (***)
Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru submitted Yuya Uemura, SHO & YOH in 13:08 (***)
Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI submitted Jado, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa in 11:57 (**½)
KENTA was the last man standing in an Elimination Match at 23:13 (**¾)
Shingo Takagi was the last man standing in an Elimination Match at 23:21 (***½)

It’s a second appearance at the new Yokohama Budokan for New Japan, after they stopped by during last year’s G1 Climax… and yes, this is a rare road-to show that’s not at Korakuen Hall. We’ve five matches on tap today, with a pair of elimination bouts as the road to Wrestling Dontaku at the start of next month gets going in earnest.

Gabriel Kidd vs. Yota Tsuji
It’s a return to Tsuji’s hometown here…

The pair scramble early on, but to no avail as Kidd grabs a wristlock, which Tsuji countered in kind. He takes it to the mat, but Kidd looks for a cross armbar that’s quickly broken with a roll-up, with Kidd then grounding Tsuji with a side headlock on the mat. That’s rolled out into a pin attempt, but Kidd clings on before they head to the ropes for a break. Kidd switches around and chops Tsuji in the ropes, before another lock-up was pushed off, with shoulder tackles and armdrags from Tsuji earning him an advantage. Elbows from Tsuji take Kidd into the corner, before a stump puller was rolled into a pinning attempt… only for Kidd to return with a big dropkick.

A back senton from Kidd lands for a two-count, as did a suplex, as the pair then transitioned to elbow strikes, before a spear from Tsuji left Kidd down for a Boston crab, pulling Kidd away from the ropes before the eventual submission. A nice win for the hometown kid, with Tsuji chipping away at Kidd until he was able to go to his finisher. ***

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) & Yuya Uemura
We’re building to YOH vs. Desperado…

Those two start us off, but of course there’s a sneak attack as Kanemaru atacks YOH from behind. YOH tries to fight back, but Suzuki elbowed him before Uemura made the save, still hell-bent on dying at the hands of Minoru Suzuki. In the ring, SHO & YOH combine on Desperado, then dropkick Kanemaru away. SHO works over Desperado’s arm with a Cornish Hipe, then tripped him down for barely a one-count. Uemura’s in to drop Desperado with a bodyslam, before YOH returned with uppercuts before Suzuki-gun turned it around, taking everyone outside and into the rails.

Back inside, Kanemaru’s low dropkick spins YOH to the mat as they begin to target that previously-injured knee. Suzuki stretches YOH with a surfboard while tying up the legs, but eventually YOH gets free and clocks Desperado with an overhead kick. SHO tags back in and charges down Kanemaru as they head to the corner, following up with a clothesline and some kicks. An enziguiri from Kanemaru stops all that, albeit after a distraction from the ref, and we’re back with Kanemaru fighting over a suplex. SHO reverses it, but can’t avoid a Kanemaru dropkick. Suzuki’s in, but he’s knocked back as Uemura comes in to try his luck with elbows… eventually knocking down Suzuki for a two-count.

A release Kanuki suplex from Uemura gets a two-count, but that prompts the ring to fill up for a quick Parade of Moves, until Suzuki fought back with elbows. He evades a dropkick and leaps on Uemura with a leg lock, scissoring the leg as Uemura eventually got to the ropes for the break. In the end though, Suzuki goes back to the hold, having faked out a rear naked choke, before a half crab ends up getting the submission. I liked Suzuki faking out the rear naked choke to fool Uemura into thinking he was going for the usual finish, as the Young Lion continues to cheat death against Suzuki. ***

Post-match, YOH’s sandwiched with Figure Four leglocks and headscissors while Suzuki restrained SHO.

Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI) vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Jado)
Believe it or not, this is building up to New Japan’s second-ever ladder match, with Tama and Taichi fighting for the funky oven glove.

We’ve a jump start as DOUKI and Jado stay in the ring, with the latter hitting a cane shot. A second one’s ducked as DOUKI rolls Jado with a DDT… but Jado’s quickly back on top as he raked DOUKI’s eye on the ropes. DOUKI’s taken outside as Tanga Loa just throws him onto the ring apron as the Bullet Club trio were just wearing him down. Tanga Loa’s senton atomico squashes DOUKI, who’s then choked on and headbutted by Tang before Jado came in and repeatedly punched DOUKI in the head. A chinlock keeps DOUKI down until he fought out and… bounced off of Jado. Tama tags back in, but he nearly loses to a roll-up after DOUKI slipped out of a suplex.

Annoyed, Tama rains down punches from above before Tanga Loa took DOUKI into the corner… only for DOUKI to come back with a crossbody. An enziguiri takes Tanga to a knee, before Zack Sabre Jr. finally got the tag in and was charged down with a shoulder tackle. Zack tries his luck with a Cobra twist, but Tanga hiptosses free… only to get cough twitch an Octopus stretch. Tanga powers free and slams Sabre down, before tags get us to Tama and Taichi. Choking. Lots of choking. Oh, and rapid counting from the referee to try and break it up. Jado’s in to get throttled, before Taichi hits some Kawada-ish kicks to take Tama into the corner. An Axe bomber follows, then a rear spin kick as my feed drops out.

It’s back with Jado going for the OJK crossface, but Sabre breaks it up… Tanga Loa quickly dispatches of him as Tama tries to come in with the tag title belts. It distracts the ref as Jado looks to hit Taichi with a Kendo stick, but the choke stops that. The Guerrillas try for a Magic Killer, but Suzuki-gun break it up as a trio of submissions – including the DOUKI Chokie – lead to the finish, with a Stretch Plum from Taichi getting the stoppage. This felt a little unfocused, with the early heat on DOUKI taking over half of the match. I’m not at all looking forward to the ladder match at this point… **½

Elimination: Bullet Club (EVIL, KENTA, Yujiro Takahashi, Taiji Ishimori & Gedo) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
You know the rules here: over the top rope, pin, submission or DQ leads to elimination.

Jay White’s not in the country, so instead we’re building to the NEVER trios title match later in the tour. Yano wants to start against EVIL, and has a blindfold hood ready to go. Of course we get the usual turnbuckle removal by EVIL, before the Bullet Club ganged up to throw Yano over the top rope… and only then did his team mates come in to help out. They’re all thrown outside – through the ropes – before Yano took a kicking. Arm wringers led to Yano reversing a whip as EVIL was taken into the corner, before tags give us Goto and Ishimori, before the ring started to fill as Yujiro’s attempt at interference backfires.

Ishimori’s charged down and sandwiched with a trio of superkicks by the NEVER trios champions, who then do the war drums on Yujiro and KENTA for the lols. Gedo gets it too, before EVIL was thrown in for a beating. When we calm down, YOSHI-HASHI stops himself from being hit by his own bo staff, only to get taken outside and into the railings. Back inside, YOSHI-HASHI gets punched by Ishimori before he was choked on in the ropes. Yujiro’s legdrop gets a two-count, before Gedo tagged in to rake the eyes. Gedo busts out a Texas Cloverhold to wind up Tanahashi with, but lets go of it early as the Bullet Club then gave everyone on the other team another kicking.

A knee drop from Gedo gets a two-count on YOSHI-HASHI, as a chinlock slows the pace down even more. YOSHI-HASHI fights free, but got… caught in the ropes? Nevermind. His rear spin kick takes down Gedo as Tanahashi came in to clear the apron ahead of a Slingblade to Gedo… before Dragon Screws keep the momentum going. A slam and a flip senton’s next for Gedo, but the pin’s broken up before Tanahashi skinned the cat and hit a Slingblade as Gedo celebrated way too soon. From there, a Texas Cloverhold rolls Gedo over for the first elimination at 11:08. EVIL wanders in and tries to throw Tanahashi out, but Dick Togo pulls Tanahashi down in mid cat-skinning at 11:28 for another elimination, before EVIL threw Yano into the exposed corner ad nauseum. Eventually it’s reversed, but Yano charges into the corner again and falls to a Fisherman suplex for a two-count.

Yano comes back as he tries to put the blindfold hood on EVIL… but a switcharoo sees Dick Togo hold Yano in the ropes. They fight over the hood as EVIL lifts Yano over the top rope before Yano low bridged him onto the side of the ring… there’s a second hood (because of course there is), before EVIL low blowed Yano and sacrificed himself for a double elimination at the 14:00 mark. Ishii and Yujiro are in next, with the former scoring with a shoulder tackle before Yujiro bites away. A reverse DDT lands as the Bullet Club again storm the ring, before Goto clotheslines away people as Yujiro went for a Pimp Juice short DDT. A Codebreaker from YOSHI-HASHI and a backdrop driver from Ishii gets a near-fall on Yujiro, before Yujiro’s attempt to clock Ishii with the pimp cane saw him get thrown over the top.

KENTA and Ishimori save Yujiro, before YOSHI-HASHI and Goto saved Ishii on the apron. They did it again after duel clotheslines nearly causes a double elimination, before Yujiro booted Ishii off the apron at 17:25. Goto hits the ring to go for an ushigoroshi, but Ishimori makes the save… Yujiro’s tossed out at 18:18… Goto’s pinned seconds later by Ishimori as they’re trying to turn up the pace to wake us up, before a roll-up on YOSHI-HASHI gets a near-fall. YOSHI-HASHI lifts Ishimori over the top and onto the apron, but Ishimori’s pushed out at 19:00 as he tried to springboard back in… and that leaves us with YOSHI-HASHI and KENTA. KENTA catches YOSHI-HASHI between the ropes as the pair exchange right hands, before an eye rake from KENTA leads to YOSHI-HASHI returning with a running Head Hunter.

A chop keeps KENTA at bay ahead of a neckbreaker from YOSHI-HASHI, who followed with a powerbomb attempt that’s escaped. Heading up top, KENTA hits a tornado gun stun to YOSHI-HASHI, before getting caught on the top rope again. YOSHI-HASHI kicks KENTA as he came in the ropes… but a low dropkick knocks KENTA onto YOSHI-HASHI’s bo staff… so that’s NOT an elimination. Cute. KENTA gets back in and boots YOSHI-HASHI before an exchange of chops led to a Western Lariat for a near-fall for YOSHI-HASHI. A superkick sees YOSHI-HASHI snap back in, but KENTA escapes Karma and just tosses YOSHI-HASHI to the outside for the win. They got a little cute with the bo staff at the end, but this was perhaps the first elimination match I’ve seen in a long while that’s just DRAGGED. Turns out there is such a thing as bad pizza. **¾

There’s more fighting after the bell…

Elimination: Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI) vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan, Aaron Henare & Jeff Cobb)
Two elimination matches? On the same house show? Never let it be said that this company’s run out of ideas…

The Empire jump-start the match during the LIJ fist bump, as things mostly spill outside. Henare’s in with SANADA and takes a ‘rana, before LIJ came in to put the boots to him. O-Khan trips Naito to the outside as he and BUSHI looked to team up on Henare, and things go outside again with Shingo going into the rails while Ospreay returned to keep up the pressure on BUSHI. O-Khan’s in to sit on BUSHI in the corner, before Cobb whipped BUSHI back into the same corner for a nonchalant two-count. BUSHI’s beaten on outside as Cobb then stood on him back inside ahead of a bear hug, with BUSHI being ragdolled around into the corner. Ospreay’s in for a stomp to a hung-up BUSHI for a two-count… but BUSHI finds a way back in with a double ‘rana to Ospreay and Henare before tagging in Shingo.

Shingo charges through everyone and slams Ospreay… a slam followed for a two-count, before the pair traded strikes. An elbow and a jab stop Ospreay, who returns with a handspring enziguiri as tags bring us to Naito and O-Khan to trade elbows. O-Khan pulls ahead with a head chop, only for Naito to pull O-Khan by his braid to take him into the corner… but Combinacion Cabron gets stopped with a head claw and a backbreaker. A chinbar wears down Naito some more, before an elbow drop nearly gets an elimination. Naito tries to reply, but misses an enziguiri before SANADA ran in to help out with a low dropkick… they end up on the apron after my feed dropped, with Naito and O-Khan trading Mongolian chops before an Eliminator attempt was blocked by Naito, who instead gets kicked off the apron at 13:56 for the first elimination. SANADA dropkicks O-Khan off at 14:10 to level it up, before Henare’s wild PK swing misses, only for Henare to come back with a Blue Thunder bomb for a near-fall.

SANADA slips out but can’t get an O’Connor roll off as Henare ends up taking dropkicks before a Cactus clothesline eliminates both men at 15:25. Cobb and BUSHI hit the ring next, with the latter fighting out of a powerbomb to hit a rewind kick… then a swinging Fisherman neckbreaker for a two-count. BUSHI heads up top for the MX, but Cobb ducks it… only to take a Codebreaker for a near-fall as Ospreay breaks it up. A roll-up from BUSHI gets a two-count, but he’s quickly blasted by a Cobb lariat before a Tour of the Islands eliminated BUSHI at 16:53. It’s two-on-one on Shingo now, who kicks out of a Spin Cycle before Ospreay handed him off for a Tour of the Islands. That goes nowhere as Ospreay’s propelled with a back body drop, before Cobb ate a Shingo combination. The handicap leads to Ospreay going for an OsCutter, only to get pushed off as Cobb wins an eventual trading of clotheslines.

Shingo tries for a death valley driver, but lifts Cobb onto the apron, then clotheslines him down at 19:24 after an errant shot from Ospreay… and what do you know? They’re the last two standing! The pair trade right hands before an enziguiri from Ospreay led to him floating over a Pumping Bomber… but Shingo lands it at the second attempt. More back and forth leads to a standing Spanish Fly that nearly puts Shingo away, before both men low bridge the other onto the apron. Ospreay teases a Storm Breaker to the floor, but Shingo blocks it and headbutts Ospreay to his knees… before pulling him up for a noshigami attempt. A Chelsea Grin drops Shingo to his knees, before an OsCutter off the turnbuckles was caught, with Ospreay then landing a hook kick after slipping free. He waits for Shingo to get up, but the Hidden Blade’s caught as a pop-up slam sees Shingo dump Ospreay to the floor for the final elimination. Easily the better of the two Elimination matches, as Shingo leaves with first blood going into his title match with Ospreay next month. ***½

New Japan’s back on Tuesday as they hit Korakuen Hall for the third night of the tour with another LIJ/Empire main event. A stop in Shizuoka tomorrow’s not making tape, for those keeping score…

On a weekend with plenty of wrestling to be live streamed, this was certainly a show. With interest in New Japan clearly waning among the non-hardcore international fans, it wouldn’t surprise me if few knew, nor cared, about today’s line-up… and if they did, the line-ups were very much screaming “skip”.