It’s back to Korakuen Hall for a quick look at the latest stop on the Road to Wrestling Dontaku.
Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & Minoru Suzuki pinned SHO, YOH & Gabriel Kidd in 10:00 (**¾)
Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga & Jado pinned DOUKI, Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi in 8:40 (**¾)
EVIL, KENTA, Yujiro Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori submitted Tomoaki Honma, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI in 14:26
Gedo & Dick Togo pinned Toru Yano & Hiroshi Tanahashi in 11:14 (**)
Jeff Cobb, Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare pinned BUSHI, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito in 16:16 (***¼)
For the next little while, we’ll be keeping reports of road-to shows and similar cards brief…
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) & Gabriel Kidd
We’re building up to YOH vs. Desperado down the line…
If you like Minoru Suzuki facing off against Young Lions, well, this is the match for you! YOH and Desperado get us going, but it’s not long before everyone else is brawling on the floor and being taken into the guard rails. Of course, YOH’s knee is the initial focal point, with the Suzuki-gun team homing in on it, before Suzuki faked out and pulled YOH into Fujiwara armbar.
Gabriel Kidd’s in, coming close with a suplex after dishing out a surprise amount of offence, but Suzuki’s elbow in response was almost as if Suzuki blamed him personally for THAT photo of him at a WCPW merch table all alone. If you know, you know. SHO and YOH manage to mount a comeback after Kidd tagged out, but SHO ends up falling to a pop-up low blow and a roll-up as Kanemaru steals the win. A decent opener, with a lot of focus on YOH ahead of his match down the line. **¾
Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI) vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Jado)
We’re running this one back from Saturday as we continue to build to a ladder match for the funky oven glove…
We’ve got choking to start as Taichi went for Tama Tonga, but things don’t take too long to hit the obligatory brawl on the outside. Back inside, Jado and Tanga Loa keep Taichi at bay, with the latter indulging in some choking of his own. Tama takes part too, choking Taichi into the corner before Taichi booted away a charge.
That opened the door for Taichi to make a tag out, with Zack Sabre Jr. restraining Tama with a Cobra Twist. It’s broken up, with Tanga Loa doing the honours ahead of a sidewalk slam for a near-fall after he’d tagged in. A mounted Octopus stretch from Sabre quells Tanga, as did a mounted rear naked choke, before DOUKI flew in with a missile dropkick to spark a flurry of activity.
Headscissors from DOUKI take out Tama for a tope, but the Daybreak DDT’s blocked as Taichi comes in to help out. Taichi heads outside after that, which meant DOUKI’s on his lonesome as Tanga Loa countered more headscissors into Apeshit for the one-hit-kill. An enjoyable finish, and one that didn’t go too deep into the tropey stuff. **¾
Bullet Club (EVIL, KENTA, Yujiro Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Tomoaki Honma
Such is the lack of depth in the roster right now, EVIL’s been thrown into this tag – and is letting the Bullet Club managers do the dirty work later on…
We’re building to Ishii, Goto and YOSHI-HASHI defending the NEVER trios titles against KENTA, Yujiro and Ishimori later in the tour… so that addition of Tomoaki Honma makes me wonder if he’s in the mood for eating pins. The early going was full of everything you expect out of Yujiro, including a weird moment where Goto and YOSHI-HASHI looked to go for their double-team “I’ll hiptoss you onto him” spot, but Yujiro looked to be out of position momentarily, so they just stomped on him instead.
A Bullet Club turnaround focuses on YOSHI-HASHI, so that means KENTA comes in… or rather, goes out as they scrapped around ringside. KENTA’s still got YOSHI-HASHI’s bo staff, but it’s just propped up against the ring as EVIL came in to rake away on YOSHI-HASHI. Honma’s in to break it up, but he’s taken care of, as we circle back to KENTA poking his boot at YOSHI-HASHI. A Falcon Arrow gets KENTA a two-count, but YOSHI-HASHI’s Western lariat keeps it even as tags get us to Ishimori and Goto. That flurry ends with a handspring enziguiri from Ishmori before EVIL came in to land a push-down stomp on Goto.
We’ve a turnaround, but EVIL’s clearly watching for someone to run in as Yujiro makes the save on a Kokeshi, which sparks a brief battle between Ishii and Yujiro. Honma nails a second Kokeshi, but EVIL’s back with a superkick as the Bullet Club swarm the ring. That leads to the seemingly mandatory Parade of Moves as everyone gets their stuff in, leading to EVIL finishing off Honma with a Scorpion Deathlock for the submission. This was fine, but with that NEVER trios title match next Tuesday, I’d have expected more juice than the post-match beating… **¾
Bullet Club (Gedo & Dick Togo) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano
You know, 5-10 years ago, this match would have gotten people buzzing. I mean, it’s only five years ago that Dick Togo was a part of WrestleMania weekend doing EVOLVE shows… yet here we are today, with Togo acting as a proxy for EVIL (who isn’t in this match for… reasons) and Gedo as not-Jay White.
Gedo got the early advantage on Tanahashi, but as soon as a crossbody landed out of the corner, Yano wanted in for his fun and games. Dick Togo got involved as Yano tries to put a blindfold on him, which led to hair and beard pulling. Yano’s thrown under the ring for some reason, I guess because darkness, before Gedo raked his eyes. Again, because blind-fold.
Gedo tries to win by countering a Slingblade into an inside cradle, before some shenanigans ended with Yano and Tanahashi sandwiching the ref as they got low blowed. Yano tries to win with the blindfold, but the lights go out… and come back up with EVIL at ringside, with a hooded Gedo on top of Yano for the pin. So if EVIL turned the lights out, who turned them back on? Yes, I’m thinking way too much about this. **
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & SANADA) vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan, Aaron Henare & Jeff Cobb)
We had the elimination match on Saturday, so here’s a regular tag.
Shingo barges Ospreay to the outside in the early going as we did the usual thing of “everyone who sort-of has a feud going gets the first tags”. Poor BUSHI being the odd one out with Jeff Cobb again…
While LIJ controlled those opening stages, the Empire took over five minutes in with an O-Khan head claw… softening up Naito for the arrival of Henare, who kicked out Naito’s leg ahead of a heel hook attempt on the mat. There was a surprising amount of offence on Naito, at least until he offered resistance to a Mongolian chop as he came back with a swinging DDT off the ropes.
That gets us back to Shingo and Ospreay, with the latter countering a noshigami attempt into a Stundog Millionaire. Henare’s in, but is quickly charged down by a double clothesline as SANADA came in for his double leapfrog, dropkick, plancha combo. A spinning sidewalk slam/Blue Thunder Bomb has Henare back on top though, before tags got us to BUSHI and Cobb.
BUSHI tries to stave off the inevitable with a missile dropkick and a DDT, but the Empire rush the ring as a Spin Cycle from Cobb almost gets the win. Headscissors from BUSHI looked to offer a fightback, but instead sparks a Parade of Moves, with Ospreay taking a pop-up death valley driver before Cobb ate a spinebuster/back cracker combo. That’s not doing it, and when Shingo Pumping Bombers Ospreay to the outside, BUSHI quickly ends up falling as Cobb countered a swinging neckbreaker into a Tour of the Islands for the win. A perfectly fine tag to close the show out, although they continue to give Cobb the dominant falls rather than the newcomer Henare, which isn’t what I’d be doing. ***¼
This is the new normal for New Japan – and it’s reflected in the gates too, with 347 fans watching as they ran Korakuen Hall for the 21st time this year. A run of the mill show for completists that just about ticks boxes ahead of the slightly-bigger matches that are coming down the line.