It’s more of the same from New Japan, as Korakuen Hall played host to another Road show, with a better-than-usual main event!
Shota Umino & Katsuya Kitamura vs. Tomoyuki Oka & Hirai Kawato
They got a tick under eight minutes here, and we started with rapid-fire grappling from Black Shoes and Kawato, who learned that giving a noogie is apparently illegal in New Japan. Kawato scored with a shoulder tackle for a near-fall, before Oka squashed Black Shoes Umino in the corner.
Umino gets a dropkick before bringing in Kitamura, and yes, we got Oka and Kitamura leathering each other. And it was glorious, albeit brief. It actually forced Kitamura to tag out, but that proved to be the beginning of the end as Oka withstood a barrage from Umino before taking him down with a spinebuster. Umino escaped a Boston crab from there, but Oka quickly slammed him down and reapplied it, forcing the submission. Good stuff from this batch of Young Lions, who look really composed for their lack of experience. **¾
Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Will Ospreay & Jado
Building off of the interactions with Ospreay and Desperado yesterday, we started with Ospreay and TAKA… who countered Will’s see-saw kip-ups with a poke to the eye!
We quickly move to the Suzuki-gun trope of brawling outside the ring, where Desperado choked away on Ospreay with a chair before returning to the ring to continue the beat down on Jado. Eventually Ospreay gets tagged in and takes down Desperado with a handspring overhead kick, before a Shibata-esque corner dropkick earns a near-fall.
Desperado takes Ospreay off the top rope by flinging the referee into the ropes, but the Suzuki-gun double-teaming eventually backfires as Jado pulls Desperado out of the ring, and it’s just a matter of time as Will hits the springboard forearm and OsCutter for the win. Given the time they had, and the injuries some are carrying, this was really good, especially since they’re building to little in particular here. ***
Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & David Finlay
As you’d expect, the crowd was hot for Tenzan, even more so when the Guerrillas of Destiny combined to attack the former tag champions from behind at the start of the match. They shook it off though, as Tenzan came back with a suplex on Tonga for a near-fall, but it was the Guerrillas who had the upper hand early on.
A Ten-Koji Cutter to Yujiro firmly put the ball away from the Bullet Club though, before a uranage backbreaker got Finlay a near-fall. Yujiro almost won it with the Miami Shine, a move that’d have Hiromu Takahashi watching on keenly, before his regular finish, the Pimp Juice DDT, earned the win. This was fine, nothing out of the ordinary, but nothing horrible either – your typical undercard Bullet Club tag with a Yujiro W. **¾
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi) vs. Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano & Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta)
I bet you can’t guess what this match featured a lot of. Yup, ringside brawling! Oh, and a jump start the second the first syllable of Hirooki Goto’s forename was said.
Of course, despite Beretta killing the bell hammer with a chair shot on the Saturday show, it’d recovered enough for Taichi to try and use it in the opening minute… and yet again, Beretta catches him, and yet again, Beretta was caught by the ref. At least they moved on from that and took down Taichi and Kanemaru with dropkicks after distracting them with said hammer.
A chairshot from Iizuka ends Beretta’s offence, and we’re back to the crowd as Goto’s thrown by Suzuki into some chairs, before then using one to choke him next to some eagerly watching fans. Iizuka chokes Beretta with that rope again, before the former Trent had his chest blistered by some chops from Suzuki.
Minoru busts out his knee bar to Beretta and Goto, but the NEVER champion Goto stood up and engaged in some back-and-forth forearms before eventually getting caught in a guillotine, which he switched into an ushigoroshi to break free. Then we had Yano and Iizuka for some reason, with Yano again doing the beard pull spot with Tiger Hattori, before Yano’s head is almost kicked off by Taichi.
Iizuka teases hitting Yano with his Iron glove, but Roppongi Vice stop him with a pair of high knees, before a low blow and a roll-up from Yano scored the win. Well, that was nowhere near as bad as I was fearing – and yes, we had Suzuki and Goto brawl in the crowd afterwards as some of the Young Lions put themselves in harm;s way by trying to separate them. ***½
Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi & Yoshitatsu vs. Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA & BUSHI
Yoshitatsu’s 2017 has been weird as hell – having originally been rumoured to be going to Mexico for a lengthy excursion, he ended up going there for a less than noteworthy fortnight, before making his New Japan return at this weekend’s Road shows. Given how rudderless (and, storyline-wise, useless) his character has been since the BONE SOLDIER feud ended, I’m surprised he’s so high up the cards.
After only managing to do a small Japanese flag yesterday, Yoshitatsu had half of his face painted with the flag, which is a weird look for sure. We start with Hiromu and Ricochet, and first blood goes to Ricochet, who drills Takahashi into the guard railings with a fast tope. We then get the polar opposite with Yoshitatsu, who slows things down with a surfboard stretch and a side legsweep for a near-fall, before Taguchi lays waste with a load of hip attacks.
Yoshitatsu tries to orchestrate a triple dropkick to Takahashi… which flops miserably. Taguchi’s then made to run the ropes until he falls down with exhaustion, as SANADA almost gets the win with a cover from that, before we go back to Takahashi and Ricochet for a spell. Hiromu ducks a Benadryller, then catches a springboard and turns it into a German suplex, and we’re back to Yoshitatsu as he sent BUSHI flying with a spinning heel kick.
Yes, the Pedigree was attempted, but Takahashi lands a superkick before it could be pulled off. A hiptoss knee strike and a front suplex nearly see Yoshitatsu steal the win on SANADA, but he’s pushed off the top rope by BUSHI before getting caught in the Skull End for the win. Another decent undercard tag from the Ingobernables, and I for one was shocked at just how decent Yoshitatsu was here, despite him having some goofy tendancies (at least, in how he’s booked…) ***½
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Kenny Omega & Chase Owens) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
With Okada/Fale and Ishii/Omega being the spotlit feuds, a lot of the focus was on those pairings – and yes, we started with Okada being bullied around by Fale, with the memories of a tombstone piledriver still fresh in the minds.
As usual with these matches, they cycled through tags pretty quickly, with Ishii managing to outlast all three opponents for a moment, until a pair of superkicks knocked the Stone Pitbull down. Omega picked his spots as Ishii was left laying, enlisting the help of teammates to pull off a pair of wishbone leg splitters, before landing a springboard axehandle smash.
Ishii gets bloodied up by the attacks, so he spits blood at Omega, before deadlifting him up into a brainbuster. Owens accidentally booted Omega, which continued the Ishii comeback, only for him to reply to a ‘rana with a lariat to leave both rivals laying. We go back to Fale and Okada next, with attempted interference from Owens, but that doesn’t stop an Okada slam to the big guy. Fale pulls Okada off the top rope as he went for an elbow drop, instead giving him a Samoan drop for a near-fall.
Okada gets back into things with a flapjack on Owens, which was the cue for YOSHI-HASHI to come in and try for a Bunker Buster – but Chase avoids it and hits a leaping neckbreaker instead. Fale squashes YOSHI-HASHI in the corner before Okada narrowly broke up a cover from a fireman’s carry gutbuster, as YOSHI-HASHI catches Owens in a Butterfly lock.
Omega broke that up, only to get planted with a German suplex by Ishii, but the Bullet Club ended up on top as Fale broke up an attempt at Karma, then dropped Okada with a Grenade. YOSHI-HASHI takes a lariat for his troubles, then a tombstone, as Fale throws Owens onto him for the win. Oh my God, they’re going to have Okada reverse a tombstone to win, aren’t they? This was pretty solid, and I’m now asking myself: is Fale going to win? Just think how ridiculous that would have sounded even three months ago! ***½
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Juice Robinson vs. Tetsuya Naito & EVIL
Yes, it’s only one Korakuen Hall show (for now!), but I’m sure I’d have been in the group of people who’d have laughed at the idea that CJ Parker from NXT would ever be main eventing as a babyface in New Japan. That’s how much his stock has risen – and deservedly so!
Juice looks on in disgust as Naito used his foot to shuffle the Intercontinental title to the ring… so Robinson hits a plancha to start the match. Hey, I’d be mad too… They pair off as you expect, throwing each other into the guard railings before Juice picked up that belt and tenderly handed it over to Milano Collection AT on commentary.
A series of corner clotheslines dump Naito on his rear, before Robinson and Tanahashi combined for a double-team hiptoss powerbomb and elbow drop as the Ingobernable pair were firmly on the defensive… at least until EVIL’s interference provided a distraction and led to both men being dragged outside. Score one if you had “EVIL played around with a chair”, as he put one on Tanahashi’s neck and charged him into the ringpost with it, which led to Robinson having to take a beating as Naito toyed with him, pulling Juice away just as he was about to make the tag to Tanahashi.
Robinson slumps away to avoid the outside-in corner dropkick from Naito, and somehow withstands EVIL to make that tag out as Tanahashi clears house! Tanahashi grabs an abdominal stretch yet resists air guitaring on EVIL before reversing a neck breaker and taking down Naito in the middle of the ring. A big cross body off the top rope nearly gets the win for Juice, as does a falling powerbomb, before Naito pushes away a Pulp Friction and ends up landing a tornado DDT.
The Ingobernable pairing enjoyed a period on top from there, ending when Juice turned a Destino into a gutbuster. The tide turned again with a fireman’s carry into a spinebuster from EVIL, and that pressure was kept up until Tanahashi countered an STO… only for Naito to rush in for some brief double-teaming that almost got them the win. Things ratchet up as we headed the final sprint, as a swinging neckbreaker from Tanahashi countered a Fisherman’s suplex from EVIL, before a Hart Attack-style Slingblade led to an attempted High Fly Flow… but instead we had Naito cut it off.
In the end, Pulp Friction and a High Fly Flow onto EVIL got the win, as that made it two main events in as many days where we had someone picking up an unusual win going into their big match.This got me really hyped up for the Juice/Naito and EVIL/Tanahashi matches in Beppu on Saturday’s Wrestling Toyonokuni card. Those two matches are headlining, and so they should based on this performance! ****¼
Whilst the pair of Korakuen shows were eminently skippable, the main event from the Sunday show is one that you ought to go out of your way to see. Even if you make a rule to avoid “Road To…” shows, make sure you see this main event, a fitting end to what was easily the best of the weekend shows from New Japan.
There’s another Road To… show live on New Japan World, this time from Hiroshima on Thursday, before Saturday’s Wrestling Toyonokuni show (April 29) and next Wednesday’s Wrestling Dontaku!