The first of three big New Japan shows in the next week saw us pull over on the road to Wrestling Dontaku for a main event with Hirooki Goto and Minoru Suzuki.

Also called “Aki Sengoku Emaki”, just because, the fifth day of the Road to… tour came from Hiroshima, and was pretty much a standard Road show with some high profile matches on the card.

Tiger Mask, Katsuya Kitamura & Shota Umino vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Hirai Kawato & Tomoyuki Oka
Erm, why is Liger teaming with the one Young Lion who’s gotten in his face so much? The two veterans start out, with Liger taking the first big bump as a tope sends him into the guard railings, before we started cycling through the Young Lions.

Umino showed plenty of fire against Kawato, before the much larger Kitamura came in and nearly caved in his chest with some chops. Of course, that led to Disappointed Dad Liger coming in and stomping on Kawato as he continued to absorb lots of stiffness, before the never-ending love story between Liger and Tiger resumed. Umino returns to score a near-fall with a dropkick on Oka, only to be forced into the ropes with a Boston crab attempt. In the end though, it was another Boston crab that ended the match as Oka dragged Umino from the ropes as his partners were restrained, giving the rookie no choice but to tap. A fun opener, but nothing more. **½

Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Toru Yano & Will Ospreay
Well, this is a weird tandem… but hey, I’m sure Will’s back is strong enough to carry this! He busts out the see-saw kip ups early, before pulling Desperado into a splits as they built up to… him and Yano doing the double Assassin pose.

On the outside, Desperado stabs Ospreay in the eye with a pencil (just because), before TAKA poked him in the eye for the hell of it. Despite the eye pokes, Will fought back, hitting a handspring overhead kick to the Suzuki-gun pair, then tagged in Yano did did what he did best… untying the turnbuckle pads! TAKA and Despy sold pad shots, before Yano pulled the ref in to give TAKA a mule kick.

Yano then tagged in Will to win the match, landing an OsCutter… and my God, this was a really entertaining pair. The match was a short one with some comedy in, but I’d love to see those two tag up more regularly, even if it can’t lead to much. **½

Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Chase Owens) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & David Finlay
Bullet Club vs. Bread Club! We have a jump start, but the Bullet Club quickly end up on the back foot as Tenzan and Kojima dish out Mongolian chops.

My stream buffers and recovers to see Finlay getting thrown into the crowd by Owens, who then started a series of Mongolian chops to mock their opponents. Heck, they also mocked the rapid-fire Kojima chops too, but we ended up getting the real thing when Kojima tagged in. Machine gun chops for all! Tama Tonga comes in to take a Koji Cutter, before Owens gets some Mongolian chops, only for Tenzan to get triple-teamed for a near-fall as the Bullet Club came back briefly. Owen falls into a TenKoji Cutter though, before an Anaconda Vice earns Tenzan the snap submission. Short and sweet, but they didn’t really get a chance to do much other than mock and get a payback… **¾

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c)
The champions swap tags early on in a bid to frustrate, before Taichi gets caught going for the bell hammer… but this time it’s a ruse to have Desperado and Kanemaru attack Roppongi Vice from behind as the ref was distracted.

Beretta saved Romero from a double-team suplex before the challenger’s attempt at a dive was delayed by Desperado… only for Beretta to hit the tope con hilo without crashing and burning like he did earlier in the year. The match stayed outside for the usual Suzuki-gun trope of crowd brawling, whilst Taichi’s valet slapped Romero for some reason.

With them getting as sick of the crowd brawling as I did, Gedo and Jado headed to ringside to chase away Desperado. Somehow, that let Taichi get the bell hammer again, but he swung and missed as the challengers started to get back into the match, leading to Romero’s Forever lariats. A rewind enziguiri gets a near-fall for Rocky, before he’s forced to kick out moments later when Taichi drilled him with a superkick.

Just like that, a series of jumping knees put Roppongi Vice in the driving seat, before Kanemaru should have lost to a knee drop from a torture rack… but Taichi pulled out the referee to save the title. We see Taichi tape the bell hammer to his boot, which sets up for an assisted head kick to Beretta that apparently hurt Taichi too… despite that, Beretta kicks out after a moonsault from Kanemaru.

The champions try for their uppercut/powerbomb combo, but somehow it switches into a Tower of Doom spot, with Romero powerbombing the champions (and shaking the ref to the mat in the process), before a headscissor takedown leaves Romero and Taichi on the floor. Beretta took a German suplex in the ring, then a satellite DDT from Kanemaru for a near-fall, before Romero returned to give Kanemaru a top rope ‘rana! Another tope takes out Taichi, leaving Kanemaru open for the Strong Zero as Roppongi Vice regained their belts! A slow starter, but when this got going, this match was pretty decent. Yet another junior tag title change though, which makes me wonder, what happened to those unification plans? ***½

After the match, Romero called out the Young Bucks for their first defence, which makes me think those belts will remain hot potatoes!

Juice Robinson, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi & Yoshitatsu vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI)
A monster pop for Naito here, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone these days… and for once, the babyface team were smart to a jump start. Except they weren’t, as the Ingobernables took them to the outside, but it seemed like the babyfaces edged ahead as Naito and Takahashi were on the receiving end of things before Taguchi did his usual rain conductor spiel in the ring, with BUSHI eating a bunch of corner attacks.

Unfortunately, the tide turned as Taguchi turned around into a 1-on-5 attack, which ended up with SANADA tying him up in a ball. He escaped, but only into the path of an assault from Takahashi, ending with a Taguchi enziguiri, and a reversed suplex as EVIL was left laying. Ricochet gets the hot tag for a brief bit of fun with neckbreakers, before rapid kicks see him clear out pretty much every Ingobernable en route to a corner 619 on Takahashi.

We switch up to Tanahashi giving EVIL a Dragon Screw, only for SANADA and Taguchi to interfere from the apron. Juice has a spell in with Naito, landing a uranage backbreaker and side Russian legsweep for a near-fall (with help from Ricochet), before a spinebuster leaves Naito laying. A falling powerbomb follows for a near-fall, but Naito rebounded with a tornado DDT.

The pace quickens as everyone goes in search of a winner, ending with a missed hip attack from Taguchi and a Space Flying Tiger Drop from Ricochet, before Robinson flipped out of a Skull End and twice went for the Pulp Friction. In the end though, a lariat and a Pulp Friction were enough for Juice to go into Saturday’s title match with all of the momentum. A fun ten-man tag, with the usual Ingobernables fun… ending with Naito leaving his title belt behind for Juice to take care of. ***½

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
We looked to open with a big mis-match with Okada and Yujiro, but that just acted as a set-up for Fale to attack Okada… who quickly recovered.

Kenny Omega comes in with Ishii, trying to use the pimp cane but to no avail as Omega needed Yujiro’s distraction to help land a Kotaro Krusher on Ishii. My stream stuttered again and recovered as Yujiro’s got Ishii in a rear chinlock, before Omega set up for a springboard axehandle to the back. Ishii tries to mount a comeback and earns himself some forearms from Omega… which barely faze him.

There’s a brief back and forth that ends violently as Omega’s ‘rana attempt is turned into a powerbomb, before we go back to Okada and Yujiro, with the latter firmly on the defensive end of things. Yujiro escapes a neckbreaker slam and manages to land a brainbuster on Okada, before the champion insanely tried to tombstone Fale. It didn’t go well.

A Samoan drop gives Fale a near-fall on Okada, before he’s forced to deal with YOSHI-HASHI, whose running Blockbuster leads to a Butterfly lock as the ring filled up. Fale gets knocked down with a left-arm lariat from YOSHI-HASHI, before responding with that tombstone for the win. This was fine, but it felt more of a cool down match ahead of the main event than anything else. The Sunday Korakuen show did more (for me, anyway) to build up Fale as a threat than anything that happened here. ***¼

After the match, Omega continued to choke away on Ishii using Yujiro’s pimp cane, whilst Fale stood over Okada with his title belt in hand.

NEVER Openweight Championship: Minoru Suzuki vs. Hirooki Goto (c)
Yes, it does feel weird that this is on a Road show, rather than any of the two major cards…

A tentative start saw Goto take Suzuki into the ropes – then sneak in a chop rather than break cleanly – only to get a pretty swift receipt. From there, Goto literally kicked Suzuki into the apron, where he walked into a rope-hung armbar from his challenger, before they headed into the crowd as Suzuki buried him in some chairs. Referee Tiger Hattori marched the Suzuki-gun leader back to the ring, but was oblivious to El Desperado’s attack as Goto remained in the crowd – yet Suzuki was happy to take a count-out loss and not win the belt?

Regardless, Goto beat the count, only to get turfed back outside again for a spell, as Goto opted to just wrench away on every one of his limbs in search of a submission. Once Suzuki got an armbar though, Goto was too close to the ropes, forcing a break as the pair fought out a little more evenly in the corner.

A lariat from Goto left both men on the mat, but it was Goto who edged ahead with a back suplex and a guillotine choke. Of course, Suzuki powered back with a Yakuza kick and a PK – laughing evilly whilst doing so – to collect a near-fall, before a Fujiwara armbar forced Goto to scuttle towards the ropes… or risk breaking his arm!

Eventually Goto fired back, sparking a series of back-and-forth forearms that ended with Goto pulling Suzuki back over a knee in what was almost, but not quite a GTR. After escaping a submission and an ushigoroshi, Suzuki headutts Goto, before a receipt and a top rope elbow gets a near-fall, only for Suzuki to leap into a guillotine that switched from counter to counter to counter as they avoided rear naked chokes, ushigoroshis and Gotch piledrivers.

In the end, Goto got his ushigoroshi after powering out of a Gotch piledriver, but in the end he had to shove Desperado hard into the railings to ensure he could go for a GTR… but Suzuki escaped and landed a high dropkick on the champion. Suzuki snapped from there with punched and kicks to Goto… who then got waffled with a Japanese chairshot from Desperado (with the chair cushion popping out) as Suzuki had the referee tied up.

Another barrage of shots left Goto on the ropes, before he fell to the Gotch piledriver as Minoru won the belt! Well, this was slow and deliberately-paced, but this was a thing of beauty. I wasn’t sold on the headshots, nor the Desperado interference, but this was classic Minoru, whose title win adds a layer of legitimacy to the Suzuki-gun faction… almost four months after they returned! ***¾

For a Road show, this was pretty much as you expected – both title matches were worth watching, but the remainder of the card was business as usual. The “bigger” matches come on the Tonoyokuni and Dontaku shows on Saturday and Wednesday respectively, and should be just as good as the spotlight bouts today.