We’ve got the final build to tomorrow’s NEVER trios title match, as we have the champions and challengers facing off in singles matches at Korakuen Hall.

Quick Results
Toru Yano, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomoaki Honma pinned Dick Togo, Gedo & EVIL in 8:54 (**½)
Jeff Cobb, Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare pinned BUSHI, Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito & SANADA in 7:43 (***)
Tomohiro Ishii pinned Yujiro Takahashi in 15:17 (***¼)
Taiji Ishimori pinned Hirooki Goto in 12:08 (***½)
KENTA pinned YOSHI-HASHI in 26:07 (***½)

Of course, after my gripe yesterday about New Japan “grenading” interest, they drew a crowd of 641 – a little bit below the NOAH show that ran there hours earlier, but it almost doubled the attendance for Thursday’s show, and was New Japan’s highest crowd since the New Japan Cup quarter-final show. Oh, we’re back to the reduced hard camera side for this…

Bullet Club (EVIL, Dick Togo & Gedo) vs. Hiroshi Tananashi, Toru Yano & Tomoaki Honma
We’re building to a NEVER title match and a blindfold-on-a-ringpost match here. Gedo…

A jump start allows EVIL to take Yano and throw him out under the ring, where we hear panicked screaming. I can relate. Honma misses a Kokeshi and falls flat on his face. I can also relate.

In the ring, Togo chokes on Honma in the corner, before Gedo tossed him outside as some double-teaming awaited Honma on the floor. The offence on Honma ends with a hiptoss as he finally hits a Kokeshi to Gedo, before Tanahashi came in to light up Gedo with some body blows and a back senton.

A springboard crossbody out of the corner drops Togo, and allows Yano to come him for his usual shenanigans. EVIL smacks Yano with a corner pad in the ropes, before he puts a blindfold on Yano, allowing Togo to roll him up for a two-count. Back sentons squish Yano for a two-count, but in the end Yano blindfolds Togo, low blows and rolls him up for the win. It was a match, as I fully expect more blindfold shenanigans as we approach the title match. **½

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI) vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan, Aaron Henare & Jeff Cobb)
Our only other undercard tag match for the day, and it’s LIJ vs. United Empire to primarily build up Ospreay/Shingo next month.

We’ve a jump start as LIJ were going for their fist bump, which means “everyone outside.” When things settled down, Henare and Ospreay tried to double-team Shingo until he countered a suplex, then made the tag to SANADA, who tried to take Henare outside for a plancha, only for Henare to return for a sidewalk slam as O-Khan’s standing vice stretch looked to put SANADA out.

Tags bring us ot O-Khan and Naito, but there’s a lot of double-teaming as LIJ take the initiative, with Naito using O-Khan’s braided hair to try and pull him into a neckbreaker. O-Khan escapes with chops, but can’t avoid a neckbreaker as we get to BUSHI actually having some offence on Cobb, rolling him down with a Magistral cradle for a near-fall.

BUSHI’s flash pins go nowhere, as he gets charged into the corner for another Empire mugging, leading to a Spin Cycle for a near-fall. A powerbomb from Cobb’s blocked as Shingo sparks a big ol’ Parade of Moves, featuring an elevated Flatliner from O-Khan, before he popped up BUSHI into a Tour of the Islands… and that’s your lot. Pretty brief, but fun, with a very GIF-able finish to boot. ***

Tetsuya Naito again commandeers someone’s laptop after the match to write his report, and has the same look I did halfway through WrestleMania weekend.

Yujiro Takahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
We’ve history between these two, dating back to 2014 when they traded the NEVER (singles) openweight title. Save for that first match, Ishii’s never lost to Yujiro in one-on-one action.

Yujiro hangs up Ishii in the ropes as the match spills outside early on, and he keeps the upper hand with a series of elbow drops back inside to get a one-count. An eye rake keeps Ishii down, but he charges back through Yujiro, taking him into the corner for chops and forearms as the ref had to break it up.

Biting back into it, Yujiro follows up with a slam before Ishii invited a series of elbows, which ends with Ishii getting German suplexed into the corner ahead of a Fisherman buster from Yujiro. An attempted pull into an Incolle slam’s blocked, with Ishii eventually countering back with a suplex, then a powerslam as Yujiro tried to shrug it off.

Boots from Yujiro lead to him taking a backdrop suplex, before Ishii took him up top for a superplex that gets a near-fall. The referee’s used as a human shield as Yujiro eventually counters a powerbomb into an Alabama Slam, before an Incolle slam almost puts Ishii away. A lariat dumps Ishii for a near-fall, but Ishii then slips out of a death valley driver to land an enziuiri.

Another exchange of elbows leads to Ishii returning the favour from earlier, hitting a lariat ahead of a folding powerbomb for a two-count, then a sliding lariat for another near-fall. An exchange of counters leads to Yujiro planting Ishii with a DDT, seemingly doing something to Ishii’s shoulder in the process as a reverse DDT and a Miami Shine almost gets the win.

Yujiro just throws Ishii down, but finally Ishii snaps with a headbutt and a lariat for a two-count, before the sheer drop brainbuster gets the win. A thoroughly refreshing change from the usual diet of undercard tags, but a match that looked to take a lot out of Ishii by the end. ***¼

Taiji Ishimori vs. Hirooki Goto
All this seemed to start with Ishimori pinning Goto earlier in the year on one of the many undercard tags…

They came charging out of the blocks as Goto elbowed Ishimori into the corner… but misdirection got the former junior heavyweight champion in it, confusing Goto ahead of a shoulder tackle that Ishimori came out worse for. Ishimori powders outside as we got a game of cat and mouse with Goto, sparking a Benny Hill chase that ends in the ring with Ishimori arm whipping Goto on the mat.

Heading outside, Ishimori focuses on the arm, but gets thrown into the rails, before he went back to the arm, tying Goto in the rails as his designs of a count-out win fell short. Ishimori stays on the arm, as we see Ishii returning to ringside to cheer on his tag partner. A PK gets Ishimori a two-count as the arm work looked to be paying off, but Goto was able to block a Cipher UTAKI attempt, before he was caught with a low dropkick.

Ishimori keeps Goto on the deck with a Rings of Saturn that ends with Goto getting a foot to the ropes, before a Flatliner took Goto back into the corner. Goto finally finds a way back in with a clothesline for a two-count, before he nearly wins with an ushigoroshi… but Ishimori snatches the win with a backslide seconds later as Goto fell again to the Bone Soldier. An enjoyable match that perhaps highlighted Goto as the weak link of the team going into tomorrow, having lost twice to a junior in this run. ***½

KENTA didn’t come out with the bo staff here, which makes you think it’ll be in use later…

KENTA’s stalling for time as he rolls outside to neutralise YOSHI-HASHI’s aggression. It backfires as YOSHI-HASHI caught KENTA with a baseball slide through the ropes, then threw him in to hit a Head Hunter, only for KENTA to powder outside again. He’s followed… but that just suckers YOSHI-HASHI into the path of a DDT in front of the commentary crew.

Back at ringside, KENTA pulls the mic out of the timekeeper’s hand in a bid to stop the count-out… and I think it worked too, as the count stopped as KENTA chucks YOSHI-HASHI into the guard rails. In the ring, up-kicks from YOSHI-HASHI just serve to aggravate KENTA, who kicks back before pulling off a corner pad.

YOSHI-HASHI’s chucked into the exposed corner as KENTA keeps the upper hand, at least until YOSHI-HASHI drew him into a slap exchange. A kick’s countered by YOSHI-HASHI into a Dragon screw, with YOSHI-HASHI throwing some more strikes as he chops down KENTA. A neckbreaker’s next, as KENTA builds up into a stalling suplex… only for KENTA to return with a kitchen sink knee to the gut.

A tornado stun gun drops YOSHI-HASHI as KENTA follows with a flying clothesline, as a STF almost gets the win… but YOSHI-HASHI dragged himself to the rope to force the break. The Green Killer follows for a two-count, before YOSHI-HASHI was taken into the corner for a hesitation dropkick as KENTA stayed on course for a win.

A double stomp off the top crushes YOSHI-HASHI for a two-count, but a Go 2 Sleep’s blocked as the pair begin to trade strikes once more. YOSHI-HASHI looks to pull ahead, rolling KENTA down with a Dragon suplex, before a headbutt kept KENTA down. A slingshot takes KENTA to the exposed corner, with a Western Lariat next for a near-fall, before a butterfly hold led to a back cracker and a running double knees. YOSHI-HASHI throws in a kumagoroshi next, but KENTA’s up at two, before he shoved YOSHI-HASHI into the referee.

YOSHI-HASHI puts on the brakes but ate a DDT for a two-count… with KENTA then kicking the referee to the outside. Cue the bullshit? Yup, KENTA rolls outside and pulls the bo staff from under the ring, only for YOSHI-HASHI to retrieve it, with KENTA pulling the referee into the ring to disarm him as YOSHI-HASHI threatened. KENTA charges at the pair, giving us another ref bump – and an opening for KENTA to retrieve the staff, clocking YOSHI-HASHI with it before a roll-up nearly nicks YOSHI-HASHI the win.

A Go 2 Sleep is escaped as we head towards the 25 minute mark, with YOSHI-HASHI landing a superkick and a roll-up for a two-count, before KENTA charges YOSHI-HASHI into the exposed corner and paintbrush him with strikes ahead of a Busaiku knee. It’s still not enough, but a Go 2 Sleep sure was as KENTA made sure the Bullet Club trio won the warm-up matches 2-1 – with refreshingly little nonsense until the finish. That makes me worry about tomorrow… big time! ***½

We’re back at Korakuen Hall again on Tuesday as the NEVER trios titles are defended – with KENTA, Yujiro Takahashi and Taiji Ishimori looking to unseat Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI after 254 days of holding those belts…

Not an earth-shattering show, but “for a house show,” this was a good change of pace from the steady diet of tag matches we’ve sat through… and was something different to build up tomorrow’s trios title match. I’d like to see New Japan throw in the odd singles match onto these shows every now and then, and not necessarily as part of a feud (like we saw earlier this year when Naito’s injury gave us some otherwise out-of-canon SANADA singles matches).