New Japan’s late-spring shows are on the horizon, so of course, it’s back to Korakuen for another Road to… show.
You know the format of these shows at Korakuen Hall – plenty of multi-man tag matches as New Japan build up to their Wrestling Dontaku and Wrestling Toyonokuni shows, so there’ll be a LOT of glossing over here.
Shota Umino vs. Hirai Kawato
The Korakuen debut of “Black Shoes” Umino (son of referee Red Shoes)! Basic stuff early with Kawato taking the upper hand, wearing down on Umino with a headlock, before scoring with a shoulder block to pick up some near-falls. Kawato’s learned a new submission hold – the camel clutch – but Umino gets free and catches Kawato in a hold of his own… a single-leg crab that lasts about as long. In the end, it was the crab that won it, with a Lion Tamer-esque Boston crab getting Kawato the win in a fun, but basic Young Lions’ outing. **½
Tomoyuki Oka vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Oka’s up there with Kawato in the current crop of Young Lions, but he had to start on the back foot, defending against a wristlock before using his strikes to edge ahead. Unfortunately for him, YOSHI-HASHI was equally keen to throw some chops back in, which leads him into the rope hung dropkick… but Oka managed to surprise YOSHI-HASHI with a delayed spinebuster!
An overhead belly-to-belly gets Oka a near-fall, before he goes to the Boston crab. The hold’s escaped though, and YOSHI-HASHI fires back with a left-arm lariat and a superkick for a near-fall, before a single leg crab forces Oka to crawl to the ropes for a break. Some more strikes followed, but it was YOSHI-HASHI who snatched the win with a butterfly lock that forced Oka to tap. Pretty good stuff as they continued to showcase Oka whilst keeping YOSHI-HASHI around – and there’s a guy who needs something to do soon after floating around the card as of late. **¾
Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Toru Yano & Jado
Of course this had a jump start, with Iizuka making a beeline for Yano… and of course Iizuka didn’t listen when Yano screamed for a “break”.
We moved to TAKA and Jado, the latter of whom threw in some chops before Iizuka dragged him to the outside, and we’re back to the brawling. Jado’s bald head gets targeted with a pen (yep) and the teeth of Iizuka, who’s clearly not being fed well! Iizuka chokes away on Jado with that rope he always carries, but he finally gets free and tags in Yano… who instantly unties the turnbuckle padding.
Iizuka runs into the exposed corner then fails with a couple of rope-line attempts before Yano grabs at Iizuka’s beard. All four men hit the ring, which somehow led to TAKA getting caught in a crossface by Jado, before Jado sets him up for a rope-hung DDT. Iizuka uses the Iron Glove to jab Jado in the throat whilst the ref was down, and that’s enough for the Suzuki-gun pair to win. This was short, but at least it wasn’t horrendous – the Suzuki-gun B and C teams haven’t resonated with me at all since their return. **½
Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura
Chase Owens thought he’d start a posedown with Kitamura… yeah, it was like chalk and cheese, physique-wise, and the Bullet Club try to run through him, with little success. It took Yujiro to hit him from behind to take the rookie down, before he got caught in the wrong corner as the Bullet Club cycled tags to take turns in beating him down.
Chase made another bad call in trying to lay into Kitamura… and that earned him a swift receipt before Hiroyoshi Tenzan came in to take his shots, including a swift Mountain Bomb for a near-fall on Owens. David Finlay struggled when he came in, as Owens, then Tanga Loa had their way with him, before Kojima went ballistic with machine-gun chops on the Guerrillas of Destiny.
Kojima found himself isolated as the rest of the Bullet Club charged at him, before making the tag to Kitamura… who went at the Bullet Club with shoulder charges. Takahashi absorbs some chops, before Chase Owens helps set up Kitamura for the Pump Juice short DDT for the win. Kitamura looked really good in the time he was in this match, no doubt helped by the fact that his size made him stand out from just about everyone else in the bout. ***
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay & Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero)
Yep, there was a jump start, with people pairing off as you’d expect for the now traditional outside-of-the-ring brawl. In the first minutes of the match, Taichi tried to use the bell hammer on Beretta, to no avail as Roppongi Vice double-teamed Taichi to get the early upper hand.
The match went back outside again, where Goto found himself sandwiched between a table and a Minoru, whilst Will Ospreay somehow ended up on a raised area with Desperado…before Suzuki decided to wrap a chair around his leg. When they decided to make use of that ring again, it was Rocky Romero who was cornered. He tried to fight back, but Minoru laughs it off, only for an enziguiri to finally take him, down as Goto made the hot tag.
A back suplex from Goto takes down Suzuki for a near-fall, but Minoru shocks Goto on the ground with a knee bar. It’s more of the same as Goto makes the ropes, only to take a PK and another knee bar that Romero broke up. The pace quickened somewhat after both men tagged out, with Ospreay and Desperado coming in for the final sprints, featuring Desperado almost scoring the win with a spear… only for Will to come back with a springboard forearm, the revolution kick and an OsCutter for the win. A really fun outing, despite the threat of things going all wonk with Taichi’s shtick in the opening moments… and I’d like to see more of Ospreay and Desperado down the line! ***½
After the match… of course Suzuki grabbed a chair and wiped out some of the Young Lions with it. Beretta did the same to that bell hammer that Taichi loves to use, but I bet it’ll not sell!
Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ricochet & Yoshitatsu vs. Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI
Yes, Yoshitatsu is back. Like a bad penny. He’s got the Japanese flag on his cheek, in a slight not to one of his last repackages in WWE for some reason.
This time, our Ingobernables tag match went under ten minutes, after Naito had gotten done kicking his Intercontinental title around the ring like a football. When we got going, it was the good guys who jumped their opponents, with Taguchi and Yoshitatsu double-teaming Naito in the early exchanges, before Taguchi played conductor en route to the top-rope hip attack spot.
After running into Taguchi’s rear end, Naito snapped and pulled Robinson back into a stretch using his own dreadlocks, and from there the pace quickened briefly before Tanahashi was worked over with some stomps from EVIL. Tanahashi makes a comeback with a double dragon screw to EVIL and SANADA before he’s able to bring Juice back into the match.
Ricochet comes in to increase the tempo further, helping with a boot-assisted side Russian legsweep to Naito, who then took a standing shooting star press as Ricochet went full-on Ricochet – impressively so given he missed some European bookings last week with a neck problem. Takahashi superkicks away Ricochet though, and now we get Yoshitatsu back in as he avoids some triple-team attempts. A Pedigree gets a near-fall over SANADA, but the numbers game quickly overwhelms him as a Skull End forced the submission. This was fun, energetic and a breeze to watch – like the Ingobernables tags of old! ***¾
After the match, Takahashi taunts Ricochet with a pair of mini artist’s mannequins that he’d brought to the ring – one of which sported Ricochet’s name on the back…
Kenny Omega & Bad Luck Fale vs. Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii
After initially being squashed by Fale, Okada managed to break free and isolate Omega for a spell, only for the CHAOS tandem to get flattened with a double clothesline. Omega calls for, and hits, a springboard axehandle for a near-fall as Ishii started to absorb a lot of punishment… and a sit-out splash from Fale!
All of a sudden, Ishii goes Samoan as he rebounds from having his head rammed into the corners, before a spike DDT leaves him laying. Somehow, Ishii manages to turn a suplex attempt into a DDT to give him some separation from Fale, and also to tag in Okada who hits a DDT of his own before slamming Fale to the mat. That spot will never not pop a crowd.
That also seems to have been the turning point, as a neckbreaker slam to Omega puts him on the back foot, at least until a double Kotaro Krusher take down his opponents. An over-the-knee brainbuster has Ishii rocked, as do some chops, before Omega makes up for a missed Kotaro Krusher with a snap Dragon suplex.
A V Trigger gets Omega a near-fall after he rebounded from a hard German suplex, before we go back to Okada and Fale, with a big splash getting Fale closer to the win after he almost stumbled into the ropes. Okada misses on a dropkick as Omega held onto the ropes, but still he was able to kick out after another big splash, before a Rainmaker (yes, Fale did one), and a tombstone earned the big man the surprise victory. That shocked the crowd, and me too, given how much they avoid having guys facing each other at the big shows getting a decision over each other. As a main event, this was fine for a Korakuen show, but outside of the result, it hardly built intrigue for their upcoming matches. ***¼
After the match, Omega gives Fale the title belt before cutting the post-show promo with Fale squashing Ishii for good measure.
Well… it was a Korakuen show. It’s not one that should be entirely skipped, but it’s also one that you can absolutely get away with skipping. I’m not quite sure why New Japan ran back-to-back dates at a building that it feels they’ve saturated this year… but they did. Wrestling Dontaku and Toyonokuni (as well as the latter Road shows) do have some interesting matches, but it looks like we’re in for another few weeks of picking and choosing as those matches are being spread across several shows, rather than the traditional “all on one show” supercard.
If you were nonplussed by this… at least Sunday’s card was better!