We’ve another big show from New Japan, as they headed to Aichi for the second annual Sengoku Lord, featuring EVIL defending the double gold against Hiromu Takahashi.

We’re at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium for this one – with the usual drill for the time being, as English commentary will be added in the days after the show.

Quick Results
Taiji Ishimori submitted Yuya Uemura in 8:00 (**¾)
Togi Makabe, Satoshi Kojima & Ryusuke Taguchi pinned Gabriel Kidd, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano in 10:20 (***)
SANADA, Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI submitted SHO, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI in 10:30 (**¾)
Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Yuji Nagata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Master Wato pinned DOUKI, Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & Yoshinobu Kanemaru in 12:55 (***)
Kazuchika Okada submitted Yujiro Takahashi in 13:40 (**¾)
Shingo Takagi pinned El Desperado in 17:00 to retain the NEVER Openweight Championship (***¾)
EVIL pinned Hiromu Takahashi to retain the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships in 34:00 (****)

We’ve some edits to the card – as Yota Tsuji and Tomoaki Honma were pulled as a precaution after taping a TV show with someone who had gone on to test positive for covid-19…

Yuya Uemura vs. Taiji Ishimori
It’s another test for Uemura, as Ishimori continues his run of singles matches against Young Lions.

They scramble on the mat, albeit to no success as they reach a stand-off before Uemura managed to knock down Ishimori with a shoulder tackle… and got some two-counts out of it all. Ishimori rolls outside, and that suckers Uemura there too as an eye rake and a whip to the guard rails turned things around. Uemura kicks out just after one as they rolled back inside, before Ishimori used a cravat to crank Uemura into a neckbreaker for a two-count. Some choking follows as Ishimori draped the Young Lion across the middle rope, before a snapmare took Uemura into a chinlock, with Ishimori dominating proceedings.

Finally, Uemura finds a way back in with a dropkick, following up with a forearm off the ropes and a back suplex for a two-count. The obligatory Boston crab follows, but it’s way too close to the ropes as Ishimori just reaches out to force the break. A handspring enziguiri gets Ishimori back in, before he traded some pinning attempts with Uemura looking for the upset. A rolling leg clutch dizzies Ishimori on the way to another near-fall, before he steadied himself for a springboard crossbody that gets another two-count. He’ll perfect that in time. A capture suplex looked to follow, but Ishimori rolled free and came back with a leaping knee before a tombstone gutbuster gets a near-fall… as a Yes Lock then forced the submission. Decent enough, and you have to think Ishimori racking up wins is setting up for something. **¾

Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Gabriel Kidd vs. Togi Makabe, Satoshi Kojima & Ryusuke Taguchi
With Tsuji and Honma pulled as a precaution, the advertised eight-man tag became a trios match. Still, that meant that Kidd got to lock horns with Makabe, and they go at it at the bell with a tie-up that saw Makabe back the Young Lion into the ropes.

A quick switcharound sees Kidd throw a chop, before he ran into a shoulder tackle from Makabe. There’s a quick slam too, before Kidd charged Makabe to the corner, where tags bring in Yano and Taguchi. Yano’s not keen on the arse stuff, it seems, and dives for the corner as he undoes a turnbuckle pad. Another offer of a handshake ends with Taguchi going for the turnbuckle pad, but Yano just stops him before he almost got whipped into the corner… with Taguchi instead coming back with a hattrick of hip attacks. Taguchi calls the shots as they gang up on Yano in the corner, leading to him ordering Yano get whipped into his arse… which actually works!

Tags bring in Kojima and Ishii, as we get Machine Gun chops before Kojima headed up top… and actually landed the elbow drop. At this rate, Honma would have batted 1.000 with Kokeshi today! Ishii’s back to block a suplex, but he’s caught with a Koji Cutter as Makabe returned to lay in with mounted punches. Yano’s in to help make the save, throwing Makabe into the exposed corner as the ring begins for fill for the obligatory Parade of Moves. Yano takes another hip attack, before Ishii countered a hip attack into a German suplex. Nice! Kidd tags back in to have a shot at Makabe again, as his shoulder tackles eventually knock down the veteran Makabe…

The pair trade forearms, before Kidd slapped Makabe silly… earning himself a scoop slam off the ropes as Kojima ran in to put him in his place with some help on a double-team suplex. Makabe followed that up by going for a deadlift German, but Kidd elbowed out of it before he almost snuck the win with a roll-up after Yano had hotshotted Makabe in the ropes. Another obligatory Boston crab followed, with Yano again trying to help out, but Makabe powered free… and almost lost to another roll-up, before he dumped Kidd with a clothesline for a near-fall. Makabe goes for the German again, but gets rolled up again before he obliterated Kidd with a lariat, as a bridging German suplex finally gets the job done. A cracking outing from the ever-improving Kidd, but it’s a familiar result for Gabe. ***

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & SHO
Yes, it’s insane that Naito is this low down the card having lost the title barely two weeks ago… there’s no sign of those NEVER trios titles, which remain unresolved… while SHO’s still clinging onto his half of the IWGP junior tag titles.

SHO wants to start things off, and he opens up against BUSHI who avoids a dropkick before running into a knee to the gut. Goto tags in and hits a suplex before grounding BUSHI with a chinlock… which SANADA comes in to break up. This early on, eh? Nevertheless, Goto stays on BUSHI, before Naito came in to help with a see-saw sunset flip/dropkick as LIJ took over. A neckbreaker from BUSHI lands for a two-count on Goto, as we see Naito just YEETING YOSHI-HASHI into the guard rails in the distance, so much so it almost seemed to break the rails. Meanwhile, SANADA ties up Goto in a Paradise lock, before freeing him with a low dropkick. Naito’s back with a dropkick of his own, before a neckbreaker and an armbar brought in SHO to break up the hold… with BUSHI summarily taking care of him.

Double-teaming sends Goto into the corner, but he overcomes it as he caught Naito with an ushigoroshi. YOSHI-HASHI comes in and takes off Naito’s tee, starting some back-and-forth between them, featuring a lot of chops from YOSHI before he draped Naito in the ropes for the dropkick to the arse. That’s enough for a two-count, but Naito fights back with an atomic drop before a swinging DDT gets blocked, as YOSHI-HASHI ends up running into a spinebuster. Tags get us back to SHO and BUSHI, with those two trading elbow strikes for fun, before SHO kicked out BUSHI’s leg amid a barrage of shots. BUSHI’s back with a swinging Fisherman’s neckbreaker, before SANADA came in and looked for a moonsault… but instead went for a ‘rana that SHO blocked. Naito comes in to help, but he’s pushed into SANADA, then dumped with a German suplex as SHO landed another one for good measure.

The ring fills as SANADA’s triple-teamed, leading to him eating a spear from SHO for a two-count. My feed gives out, as SANADA came back looking for Skull End… but he had to block a Shock Arrow before grabbing his take on the Dragon sleeper. SHO counters with a roll-up, before elbow strikes wear down SANADA… who comes right back with an Asai flip into a Skull End, swinging SHO around for fun before dragging him down for the eventual submission. This was fine – but literally the only thing I remembered after the bell was Naito damn near destroying YOSHI-HASHI in the rails. Which happened almost-off-screen… **¾

Post-match, Naito throws referee Marty Asami into the ropes, then held him so SANADA could dropkick him. What dicks.

Cue a video package to hype up the Summer Struggle tour, which starts, erm, tomorrow. It’s leading to a New Japan show in Jingu Stadium on August 29 – a near 100-year old stadium that could see New Japan have about 18,000 fans in under social distancing. It’ll be an open air show, and while the video package showed explosion death matches, I doubt we’ll see a repeat of that match. Then again, New Japan did run one there in 1999…

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Yuji Nagata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Master Wato vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI)
They keep having Master Wato out first… is that the true way to avoid Suzuki-gun jump starts? The answer is no, because Taichi jumped in with his mic stand.

Thankfully, the ring clears so we can get the latest instalment of Nagata and Suzuki battering each other with elbows, before Suzuki kneed away an early attempt at an Exploder suplex, sending Nagata into the corner as Master Wato tagged in. Nagata’s not done with Suzuki though, as he headed outside to deal with him as Wato and Kanemaru took their shots in the ring. Tenzan tries to make a save, dumping Kanemaru with a Mountain bomb, before some Mongolian chops took Kanemaru into the corner. My feed drops here, and comes back as there’s bedlam on the outside, with everyone pairing off how you’d expect. Yes, Suzuki’s throttling Nagata with the camera cord…

We calm down a little as DOUKI took over on Wato… but then tossed him outside so Taichi could throw the Grand Master into the railings. A suplex from Kanemaru follows, as Suzuki-gun continued to quintuple-team him in their corner. Poor Wato. Suzuki and Sabre work his legs on the apron… then go after Tenzan’s as he tried to help. That’ll have much quicker results. Finally Wato got free and tagged in Tanahashi, who launched in with a forearm to Taichi as he was a one-man wrecking crew. Tanahashi turns a boot from Suzuki into a Dragon screw, then dished out some more to Taichi before Ibushi came in to stack up Taichi and Kanemaru for a flip senton out of the corner. Taichi tries to come in with a back suplex, but has more luck with a leaping enziguiri as Ibushi came in to kick his way through Sabre.

Zack had little answer for the combination, short of pulling Ibushi into almost a chicken wing, but Kota stands back up and finds himself in a Cobra twist. Which he hiptosses free of. Ibushi’s standing moonsault lands for a near-fall as the ring fills, then clears, as Sabre tries for a cheeky roll-up, before Ibushi caught a punt kick. More back and forth leads to an overhead kick to the arm as Sabre tagged in DOUKI… who dumps Ibushi with a lariat for a near-fall. The Widow’s peak backslide follows from DOUKI for another two-count, before Ibushi fought out of Suplex de la Luna… only to get caught with an uppercut to the throat. Tanahashi sparks a Parade of Moves as he hits a Slingblade, then a Twist and Shout… while Nagata and Suzuki just leather each other with elbows again.

Nagata lands the Exploder to take Suzuki outside, while Tanzan clobbers Sabre with Mongolian chops. A spinning heel kick lands too, while Wato hits a flying European uppercut to Kanemaru… leaving us with DOUKI and Ibushi. A head kick from Kota drops DOUKI, ahead of a Kamigoye for the win. This was the first time I noticed just how silent the Aichi crowd was here – like, we didn’t even get the polite applause. Acoustics are going to matter a whole lot more in this day and age, I fear. ***

Post-match, more scrapping between Nagata and Suzuki. Can’t we just have a whole show of that?

Yujiro Takahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada
Yujiro’s involvement in Okada’s New Japan Cup final has led us to this… now, will he drag Okada down to his level, or will Okada pull him up? By rights, this should be one-way traffic for the most part, but never discount shenanigans.

Of course Okada doesn’t leap out at the bell, as he instead circled the ring… while Yujiro rolled outside. It’s gonna be one of those matches. Okada followed, but he’s jumped as Yujiro looked for an early Incolle slam on the outside, only for Okada to slip out as they returned to the ringside area, where Okada hurls Yujiro into the railings. Okada charges, but gets tripped into the railings next, ahead of a reverse DDT. Back in the ring, Yujiro mounts Okada for some punches on the mat, before a leg drop, an elbow drop and a falling headbutt helps him get a two-count. A chinlock followed ahead of a low dropkick as Yujiro adds another two-count, before a battle of elbows left Okada in the ropes ahead of a front kick that left him on his knees.

Yujiro gives Okada a Stroke – all the way back to when Jeff Jarrett was in the Bullet Club – but it’s not enough. Right hands from Okada help somewhat, as he gets his boots up to block Yujiro in the corner ahead of a shotgun dropkick. Okada builds up momentum with a sliding back elbow off the ropes, before landing one in the corner as a snap DDT dropped Yujiro for a two-count. Yujiro comes back, but Okada locks in the Cobra clutch out of nowhere… which Yujiro bit his way out of. A leg sweep and a low dropkick leaves Okada down, before another attempt at the Incolle slam was fought out of. Okada flapjacks Yujiro after having his eyes raked, but elbows and boots from Yujiro keep him in it before an Okada dropkick seemingly turned the tables.

A tombstone followed, with Yujiro looking like he was properly spiked… as Okada goes back to the modified cobra clutch, which ends in the ropes. All of a sudden Gedo’s out with a spanner, which distracts the referee as Yujiro clocks Okada with his pimp cane. Now we get the Incolle slam that almost beats Okada, before Okada pushed away from a Pimp Juice DDT… and gets superkicked for good measure. A hattrick of thrust kicks knocks Okada down for a two-count, before Okada missed a dropkick… allowing Yujiro to fire back with a clothesline for another near-fall. Yujiro goes for a powerbomb, which Okada escaped from as Gedo seemingly vanished into the background… before Okada rolled back into the modified cobra clutch. Again, Yujiro bites his way free, before countering a discus clothesline with one of his own. A back body drop gives Okada some hope, as does another dropkick before Okada knocked Gedo off the apron… then went back to the cobra clutch. I mean, he’s risking getting bitten again, isn’t he?

This time, Yujiro fights out, only to get spiked with another tombstone, as the modified cobra clutch gets reapplied for the submission. I mean, yay, they kept it under 15 minutes, but this did absolutely nothing for me. I get they’ve a reduced roster, but when you’ve gone from double champion to 50-50 with a guy who’s been mired in undercard tags for the last few years, it’s hard to get too enthused. **¾

NEVER Openweight Championship: El Desperado vs. Shingo Takagi (c)
C’mon lads, liven this show up!

Desperado had possession of the belt going into the match, but misses a belt shot before the match as Shingo clobbered him from behind. We get going with a suplex from Shingo, who teased a belt shot of his own, before Desperado tried to sneak outside… only to get taken into the corner for a series of chops and forearms. Rolling outside, Shingo throws Desperado into the apron, before the obligatory trip into the guard rails as he seemed irked by the relative silence. Desperado returns the favour, but Shingo shrugged it off… only to get pulled into the ring post as the challenger proceeded to use the railings to his advantage, dropkicking Shingo’s leg in them before using a chair for extra effect.

Desperado grabs the belt again, but it leads to nought as Shingo comes back in with a forearm… only to get stopped with a shinbreaker. Working over the leg again, Desperado wraps Shingo’s limb in the ropes and stands on it, forcing referee Red Shoes to separate and free the champion, who then got caught with a Dragon screw in the corner. Despy’s been watching his running buddy’s matches then! A legdrop to the leg and an Indian deathlock followed, but Shingo scoots his way to the ropes to force the break. Desperado mocks the clapping fans as he pulls up Shingo for a suplex, but instead he kicks him in the leg before getting caught with a back elbow, a jab and ultimately a clothesline. Shingo ups the ante with a double-legged Dragon screw as Despy had held onto the ropes, but he’s able to avoid a sliding lariat as he proceeded to kick Shingo’s bad leg again.

A Figure Four’s pushed away with ease, but Shingo couldn’t avoid a spinebuster before he dragged himself to the ropes to block Numero Dos. The pair trade strikes in the ropes before Desperado rolled out of a noshigami as he tried for Numero Dos again… this time trapping the arm as Shingo had to power out to roll into the ropes. Shingo mounts another comeback with a sliding lariat, following up with noshigami… but his knee’s causing trouble, and that gives Desperado time to roll back outside. A cheapshot surprises Shingo on the outside as Desperado smashes the seat out of the chair against the ring apron. So he just grabs the NEVER title belt and cracks it against Shingo as the referee was preoccupied with the chair. I mean, whatever works, right? Shingo just about dragged himself back inside to beat the 20-count, but a spear from Desperado waited for him, as did Guitarra de Angel… which gets a near-fall.

Desperado follows up with Numero Dos, which he almost used to pin Shingo with, having grabbed control of both arms. Pinche Loco looks to follow, but Shingo pushes away… and ends up taking a double kneedrop to his bad wheel. A headbutt from Shingo buys him time as we reset with the pair of them throwing elbows at each other for fun, until Shingo changed it up with clotheslines. Another kick to the leg from Desperado just fires up Shingo, who jumps back in with Made in Japan for a near-fall, before Desperado almost nicked it with a lucha roll-up. He keeps going, shoving Shingo towards the ref… but a low blow is blocked as Shingo just decks Despy with a clothesline, before Last of the Dragons gets the win. Desperado looked real good here in being competitive and believable – but despite having a solid game plan of attacking Shingo’s knee, it wasn’t enough to dethrone the champion. ***¾

IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental Championships: Hiromu Takahashi vs. EVIL (c)
This may be Hiromu’s dream, but expect a nightmare or two…

Hiromu charged out of the corner at the bell with a shotgun dropkick, before taking EVIL into the corner with clotheslines as another dropkick sent the double champion outside. A shotgun dropkick off the apron took EVIL into the gates, as the white-suited Dick Togo wandered around… and did little to help EVIL avoid a second dropkick off the apron. Back in the ring, Hiromu chops away at EVIL, before Dick Togo got involved, tripping up Hiromu in the ropes. The ensuing distraction allowed EVIL to throw Hiromu outside, where Dick put the boots to him, before EVIL played silly buggers, swinging chairs at Hiromu – aiming for that surgically-repaired neck, of course.

Hiromu rolls inside to beat the count, but gets whipped into an exposed turnbuckle. I must have missed that being done. A chinlock keeps Hiromu down, who gets tripped in the ropes again after elbowing out. At least they’re throwing the Dick Togo interference early, I guess… EVIL throws in a neckbreaker for a two-count, but he misses a follow-up back senton, allowing Hiromu back in with a low dropkick. Kicking the ropes into EVIL, Hiromu keeps building up momentum as he charged in with a tijeras, before knocking Togo off the apron ahead of a sunset bomb attempt… which lands as he threw EVIL into Dick on the outside. Back inside, Hiromu does the deal with a Falcon arrow for a near-fall, only for EVIL to come back with a push-down stomp out of the corner, taking Hiromu onto the apron as he teases Darkness Falls.

Instead, Hiromu escapes and plants EVIL with a death valley driver on the apron, before he headed up top to tease a back senton… but EVIL grabs some Young Lions as a distraction before he teased superplexing Hiromu to the floor. Hiromu fights free, then gets in his back senton as Gabriel Kidd and Yuya Uemura were on hand to cushion the landing some. Heading back inside, Hiromu lands a Dynamite Plunger in the middle of the ring for a near-fall, before he caught EVIL with some more chops. EVIL pulls Red Shoes in the way for a distraction, but can’t quite use the referee for a Magic Killer as Hiromu slips out and returned fire with a shotgun dropkick. EVIL comes back with a suplex to dump Hiromu into the buckles, before a running clothesline splats Hiromu in the corner.

EVIL lifts Hiromu to the top rope and hits a superplex for a near-fall. Everything is EVIL looks to follow, but Hiromu escapes and ends up getting folded in half with a German suplex. He’s right back with lariats and a German suplex of his own though, before EVIL hit another German suplex which seemed to snuff out that momentum. EVIL spams Hiromu with German suplexes to leave him in a heap, but Hiromu slumps to his knees right as Everything is EVIL was coming. Interesting… a second attempt ends with Hiromu charging EVIL into the exposed corner, before surprising EVIL with the D! EVIL wriggles out, but almost gets pinned before Hiromu nailed a nice wheelbarrow Flatliner out of nowhere. Hiromu keeps going with the Victory Royal (an elevated Flatliner – which was what he was going for against Ishii last month that turned into a nasty brainbuster) – but it’s not enough!

EVIL tries to sneak in a mule kick, but to no avail as Hiromu avoids and comes back off the ropes with a lariat for a near-fall. Togo tries to interfere again, but gets knocked down as EVIL’s charged into the corner with a death valley driver, before a Time Bomb is was escaped. EVIL backs into the corner and draws Hiromu into splashing the referee… and here comes the run ins. Dick Togo clotheslines Hiromu and puts a beating to him before he helped out with a Magic Killer. Dick then heads up top… but gets crotched as Hiromu pushed EVIL out of a Darkness Scorpion. Hiromu then surprised EVIL with his own finisher as we sailed past the half-hour mark, right as the referee returned to the ring…

Hiromu went for a Time Bomb, but instead charged EVIL into the exposed corner with a death valley driver, before a Time Bomb landed perfectly for a near-fall! They got me! Time Bomb 2 follows, but Togo pulls out the ref to save the match before grabbing his garotting wire. Of course he chokes Hiromu with it, only for Hiromu to free himself and catch Togo with a superkick. EVIL low blows Hiromu as Dick was about to get Time Bomb’d, and we’re back to the choking. Togo rolls the referee back in as EVIL looked to have this all in order, especially since Hiromu’s friends were nowhere to be seen. Darkness Falls… Everything is EVIL… and EVIL retains. This was long, but didn’t feel as torturous as the Naito match – thanks to Hiromu being Definitely Good™. It’s another big time loss for Hiromu after falling short to Okada in the New Japan Cup, but these losses are building up for a monster reaction when Hiromu’s time to be established as a Top Guy finally comes. ****

Post-match, Taiji Ishimori’s out to attack Hiromu with the Bloody Cross. Do you think Ishimori’s putting himself in line for a junior title shot? Finally Tetsuya Naito wanders out to save Hiromu, but he butts heads with EVIL as they have a staredown. Naito looked to challenge EVIL to a rematch… and I guess that’s going to be in the baseball stadium? The road to Jingu by the way starts tomorrow, with day one of the Summer Struggle tour starting a run of shows at Korakuen Hall.

With the reduced crowds and other regulations in place surrounding live events, wrestling in Japan is having to rely much less on crowd interaction to buoy up their matches. While the Young Lion matches tend to have some emotional investment by the very nature of “up and comers trying to get their first big win”, a fair amount of the midcard lacked this. Especially Okada/Yujiro. Still, with New Japan having announced a “really big show” in a month, at least the upcoming Summer Struggle tour shouldn’t feel low-key – and should really be building up to some monster matches as New Japan looks to bring in the big crowd at the end of August.