Zack Sabre Jr. provided the opposition for Kota Ibushi’s first defence as New Japan rolled into Nagoya.

It’s a new show on the docket here – Sengoku Lord – and it’s yet another big stop on the Wrestling Dontaku Tour. We’re coming from the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya. Commentary is from Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero, while Not Louis Theroux is back as translator.

Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura vs. Ren Narita & Shota Umino
After having spent the tour so far trading wins, Tsuji and Uemura’s having to team up against a more experienced pair of Young Lions.

Despite having the early offence, the newer of the newcomers were on the defensive as Narita and Umino eased into a lead, as Yota Tsuji was taking a kicking. A big back body drop gets Tsuji back in it as Uemura was able to get tagged in to enjoy some brief offence. Tsuji’s brought back in rather quickly, as he watches Uemura clocking Narita with a dropkick ahead of a Boston crab.

Umino manages to come in to break that up, but he too eats a pair of dropkicks as Uemura nearly won it with an overhead suplex… only for Narita to nick the win out of nowhere when he caught Uemura with a running overhead belly-to-belly… bridging it for the win! A sweet finish with Narita showing that he’s got a finish he can truly hit out of anywhere. A good opener, and typical Young Lion fare. **¾

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Satoshi Kojima, Toa Henare, Tomoaki Honma & Yuji Nagata
You can probably guess how this starts…

Yep, jump start and everyone has a brawl on the outside. We quickly settled down with Honma chopping and landing a Kokeshi on TAKA, but we’ve got a bigger tease as Liger and Suzuki squared off. They’re in a trio’s match on Wednesday to celebrate Liger’s 30th anniversary, but first they chop the heck out of each other before they go into the crowd as Suzuki dumps guard rails on Liger.

Oh, and a chair too. Properly bouncing them off of Liger. Ow. It led to Liger almost losing via count-out, but when he stayed in the ring he almost had his mask removed by Taichi. Liger fires up against Kanemaru, before hitting that tiltawhirl backbreaker to Desperado, who ran in for the hell of it.

Liger finally gets out as we begin to swap tags, leading to the hits being played: machine gun chops, boots from Suzuki, and a Koji Cutter all in the melee. Henare has a go too, landing a stalling suplex for a near-fall as the ring filled… then cleared, before Taichi turned the match on its head with an enziguiri to Henare in the corner. Off come the (partially torn) pants, as a buzzsaw kick nearly gets the win, before he survived a scare with a roll-up only to get folded in half with a superkick as a Stretch Plum gets Taichi the win. Hey, a Suzuki-gun tag with the usual shenanigans that wasn’t a chore? That’s a win for me! ***

Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)) vs. Dragon Lee, Togi Makabe & Toru Yano
We’ve got two feuds smashed into one here – as we’ve got champions x challengers on both sides… and hey, the Guerrillas managed to recover their IWGP tag titles, while hiding the ROH straps in a bag, not unlike how Jake The Snake used to carry Damien around.

We’ve another jump start, signalled by Jado’s airhorn, and we’ve a strong start as Dragon Lee caught Ishimori in the corner with a Shibata-ish dropkick. The junior champion’s quickly derailed by Jado’s Kendo stick shot, as Ishimori tried to wear him down by… unmasking him? Well, that’s one way to heavily pump the brakes. The Guerillas come in to wear down Dragon Lee some more, allowing Ishimori to come back in with a baseball slide German suplex. Dragon Lee retaliates with a rebound German suplex before both men tagged out, allowing Makabe to do some mounted punches before he weathered a storm and clotheslined Tama. In comes Yano… straight for the turnbuckle pads/

Both men run into the exposed corner, but Yano gets triple-teamed before Dragon Lee makes a save. He takes out Ishimori with a tope con giro, which left us with our tag title “match”… albeit in the form of double-teaming. Yano tries to fight back, but in the end he needs some help from Makabe as he rolled up Tanga Loa for the win after a Makabe lariat. This started out hot, but quickly died off I’m afraid. Poor Yano suffered for this, marking up his back badly getting run into the corner… **¼

Chase Owens vs. Mikey Nicholls
Mikey has been solid since arriving in the New Japan Cup, but he still feels oddly out of place… like he’s treading water. A singles match with Chase could well be the tonic to hit that proverbial home run performance.

There’s an assist before the bell as Jado cracked Nicholls in the back with a Kendo stick, leading to him being dismissed before we got going. There’s brawling on the outside as Owens throws Nicholls into the guard rails, then again with a side Russian legsweep into the railings. A neckbreaker draping off the apron to the floor has Nicholls in bigger trouble, leading to another countout tease.

Back inside, a short-arm clothesline gets Owens a near-fall, before an Irish whip led to a Shawn Michaels bump from Nicholls, who flipped over the top to the outside, complete with an awkward bump on the apron. Owens keeps up the pressure with a rope-assisted abdominal stretch, which the ref finally breaks up. Nicholls finally mounts a comeback with a DDT, and continued to race ahead with a death valley driver and a sliding lariat for a near-fall, before Chase pumped the brakes, clobbering Nicholls with a lariat. A big knee leaves Nicholls laying as a package piledriver was on the cards, but instead a modified Jewel Heist dropped Mikey for a two-count, only to run into the Mikey Bomb for the loss. I wasn’t a fan of Nicholls being on the back foot for so long, but this come-from-behind win shows he’s still a threat… even if we’re still waiting for the breakout performance here. ***

Bullet Club (Jay White & Hikuleo) vs. Hirooki Goto & Ryusuke Taguchi
It’s early days, but White’s post-title run is very curious to see. Keeping him in the midcard while he seethes perhaps isn’t what most people would have done…

White instantly tags out so we have Hikuleo against Goto… only to return and attack Goto from behind as it looked like he was enjoying the upper hand. Taguchi evens things up, despite being made a player, rather than his usual coach, before Hikuleo caught Taguchi and Goto from behind. That led to a crowd brawl, with a weird production choice almost fooling you into thinking Goto had given up on a count-out tease. Except it was Taguchi who was legal, and he manages to beat the 20 with ease. Taguchi tries a hip attack, but White stopped it with atomic drops only to eat it anyway as Taguchi brings Goto in to lay into White.

A Saito suplex from Goto’s good for a near-fall, but the Bullet Club get back in as Hikuleo nearly won with a swinging neckbreaker. Hikuleo keeps up with a powerslam after catching a Taguchi hip attack, but in the end, after some failed interference from White, Goto gets the win with an ushigoroshi and a GTR. Decent, but this painfully lacked any kind of urgency or pace. **½

Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
Commentary continued to push how much Naito was at a loose end on this tour…

There’s some shoving before the bell, but we eventually get going as Red Shoes Unno plays some imaginary bongos early on. YOH outsmarts Shingo in the opening stages, then we got EVIL and Ishii throwing bombs at each other, raining down elbows with the crowd clapping along before EVIL finally got rocked. Shoulder tackles follow, before YOSHI-HASHI came in to try and chop EVIL, but he’s quickly overwhelmed with a shoulder tackle before Ishii ran in to try his luck again.

A Head Hunter from YOSHI snaps EVIL down, as Roppongi 3K began to try and double-team EVIL. Things broke down into a scrap outside the ring, but we’re quickly back with Naito in against SHO… albeit briefly, as Shingo took the opportunity to light him up with a stinging chop. Shingo keeps that going with some stiff elbows as I continue to wait for the (hopefully) mandatory meeting in the Best of the Super Juniors, before the pair collide with clotheslines, only for a SHO spear to finally take down the Dragon. Okada and SANADA come next, with a spiking DDT to SANADA, who manages to make a brief comeback with a low dropkick after a couple of near-misses.

We keep going as BUSHI countered a 3K with a double ‘rana, before YOSHI-HASHI came in and tried to claim a scalp on Naito. He lands a ‘rana, then a stinging chop, before he had a Bunker Buster elbowed away… right as the ring filled up. Some quadruple-teaming nearly led to Naito losing, as did a Western Lariat from YOSHI-HASHI, but one last LIJ fightback led to Naito snatching the win with Destino. This started out real hot, and threatened to peter out at the end… but I’m still living for the eventual Shingo/SHO encounters! ***½

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Bad Luck Fale vs. Juice Robinson (c)
We have another jump start as Fale attacked Juice before the bell, looking to make the most of the size advantage from the off.

There’s a brief flurry on the outside from Juice, who ends up getting run into the ringpost, then slammed into some chairs in the crowd. Juice narrowly beats the count-out, but Fale’s right on top of him with a bear hug as Fale seemed to be on a one-way road to victory. A sweaty, one-way road to victory, that is… A big back body drop from Fale that keeps Juice down, as the Tongan keeps up focusing on the US champ’s lower back. Juice manages to get a window of opportunity, but Fale easily powered out of the Pulp Friction before the champion managed to take him down in the corner for a cannonball… which hits Fale flush.

Juice flies, but has to block a Grenade before he looked for a slam… Fale shrugs it off, so Juice decided to take out the knee. Second time wasn’t the charm as the champ fell back mid-bodyslam, but you’d better believe the rule of three applied here, but not before Juice almost fell to a big splash, a leaping spear and a Grenade. Juice has to squirm out of a Bad Luck Fall before hitting a Left Hand of God and a crossbody… THEN that slam that took the big man down, before Pulp Friction sealed the win. There was some great fire from Juice here, who made Fale look like the threat he ought to be – but at the end of it all, Juice’s run continued with another successful defence. This probably could have done with being a tad shorter though… ***¼

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kota Ibushi (c)
Ibushi’s first defence saw him go straight for Sabre’s legs with kicks as the champion was trying to knot up Zack’s hamstrings to have him stalling before he could get going.

Back in the ring, Sabre grounds things, tying up Ibushi in knots as the champion needed the ropes, as the two seemed to have set their stalls out: Ibushi was being quick with kicks, while Sabre was looking for the submission. Even if it were a hanging headscissors over the guard railing that almost led to Ibushi landing on his head.

Yep. It’s a Kota Ibushi match. Expect lots of head drops!

Back inside, Sabre continued to focus on Ibushi’s head, before he tied up Ibushi’s legs and arms in a bid to force a pin. Sabre keeps up the pressure with a cravat, only for Ibushi to bodyslam his way free. It gave him brief respite as Sabre came right back with a tied-up single leg crab, which again forces Ibushi into the ropes for the break. An overhead kick to the arm looked to begin a new offence, but a dropkick from Ibushi stopped him in his tracks as Zack was taken outside for a pescado.

Ibushi takes Sabre back inside for a springboard missile dropkick, then a running powerslam before he moonsaulted into Sabre’s knees as a snap triangle had him back in danger. An escape led to a quick exchange of pinning attempts as Ibushi looked to catch Sabre with Kamigoye… only to get caught in a submission out of nowhere. Ibushi has to scoot on his rear into the ropes, but it’s not long before Sabre dumps him again with a bridging half nelson suplex as many recoil in horror.

Sabre’s resorting to toying with Ibushi, using kicks to rile him up… and it worked, as the pair exchange chops before Ibushi trapped Sabre in the corner with kicks. Including some cheeky back heels as the referee tried to pull him away. There’s an instant reply from Sabre, who sparks a slap battle that ended with a lariat/shotei strike to the midsection from the champ. Ibushi manages to haul up Sabre by the neck to powerbomb his way out of a triangle armbar, only to get dropped on… you guessed it… from a Zack Driver. Ooft.

Zack again goes back to the head and neck as the match descended into a striking battle, with Ibushi edging ahead as he prepared for a springboard German suplex off the apron… but Sabre slipped out and choked Ibushi through the ropes until the break was called. It seemed Kota played possum as a backflip kick caught Sabre, ahead of a Nakamura pose… which backfired as Ibushi’s Bom-a-ye knee misses, before he pushed away a Euro clutch to superkick Sabre away.

Another crack at Kamigoye almost backfired as Sabre slipped out into an Octopus stretch… but Ibushi manages to get free and come back with a version of a Go to Sleep before he grabbed Zack’s wrists… pulling him into a Kamigoye for the win. This was a joy to watch – while some may think that Sabre’s style doesn’t mesh with some at this level, this is so not an issue against Kota Ibushi, as these two worked magic against each other. On a show that has been largely skippable… watch this main event! ****½

Post-match, Tetsuya Naito ties up his own loose ends by coming out and offering himself as a challenger for Ibushi’s title. Of course Ibushi accepts… and I guess that’ll be happening at a Dontaku show later in the tour.

Sengoku Lord in Nagoya was a largely skippable show to be fair – although that main event is a match you need to go out of you way to see. Like that’s a big shock, eh?