The path to crowning new NEVER trips champions started in Korakuen Hall, as the Summer Struggle continued.

Last week, New Japan vacated those NEVER trios titles, which were on ice since EVIL jumped from Los Ingobernables de Japon to Bullet Club. Eight teams have been put into a tournament, running across this four-day stretch of shows at Korakuen Hall – and the first two quarter-finals are tonight…

Quick Results
Yuji Nagata submitted Gabriel Kidd in 8:10 (**¾)
Master Wato & Hiroyoshi Tenzan pinned Yota Tsuji & Ryusuke Taguchi in 9:50 (***)
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI pinned Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Satoshi Kojima in 9:10 (**¾)
Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi pinned Yuya Uemura, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi in 9:25 (**¾)
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship Tournament Quarter-Finals: SHO, Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano submitted Jado, Gedo & Yujiro Takahashi in 12:00 (**½)
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship Tournament Quarter-Finals: SANADA, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI submitted DOUKI, Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado in 13:40 (***¼)

Gabriel Kidd vs. Yuji Nagata
The result may be one we all predict, but it’s all about the journey for young Gabriel Kidd.

There’s some trepidation at the start as Nagata took Kidd into the corner, before Kidd responded with a tie-up into the ropes for a clean break. Korakuen Hall looks a little fuller today, I notice…

Nagata takes Kidd to his knees from a knuckle lock, but again Kidd overpowers him into the ropes… and this time throws in a chop at the break. He’ll pay for that. Kidd keeps in with a side headlock, before we got to shoulder tackles, which took Nagata down for barely a two-count. They head into the corner where Kidd lays in chops, but a single forearm knocks him down before Nagata just punted Gabe in the back.

Nagata focuses on Kidd’s arm, yanking it into an arm breaker before another kick earned a near-fall. A cross armbreaker ends in the ropes as Nagata seemed to have set his sights on that limb, stopping to trade strikes with Kidd… who fought back with a dropkick that bought him some time.

Kidd comes back with elbows and shoulder tackles, stopping to roll out of an armbar attempt before he dumped Nagata with a suplex for a two-count. The obligatory Boston crab gets pushed away before Kidd caught a boot in the corner, stopping to take down Nagata in a Boston crab that ended in the ropes. Nagata’s back with another kick as we go back to the strikes, with the pair trading elbows, before Kidd just paintbrushed Nagata on the way to a near-fall.

We’ve more elbows, but Nagata pushes through with kicks that nearly end the match, before an Exploder and the Nagata Lock II forced Kidd to submit. A perfectly fine opener, with the loss benefiting Kidd in more ways than you’d think. **¾

Ryusuke Taguchi & Yota Tsuji vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Master Wato
Master Wato is finally out of those Suzuki-gun tags… for now!

Wato wants to start against Taguchi, who of course is mocking Wato’s hand sign, and we open with Wato taking down Taguchi into a knee bar attempt that ended with the former junior champion rolling away. A wristlock’s escaped by Wato, who’s back with an armdrag, before a lock-up sees him go back to the arm with a Corning hold. He loses his footing on a flipover as he took Taguchi down for a two-count, before they go a little lucha with roll throughs ahead of a tijeras that took Taguchi outside… with Wato faking out a dive as Taguchi dropped down to save himself.

Tags take us to Tsuji and Tenzan, who gleefully trade elbows before Tenzan’s headbutts took Tsuji into the ropes, only for the Young Lion to rebound with a shoulder tackle. Mongolian chops have Tsuji back on the deck, before a falling headbutt takes us to Wato coming back in as he puts the boots to Tsuji in the corner.

A snapmare and a kick to the back gets Wato a two-count, before Tenzan’s back in to hit a spinning heel kick… but he’s met with a spear as Taguchi returned to go wild with hip attacks. That gets a two-count on Tenzan, who’s then met with more arse strikes before Taguchi went for the Three Amigos… and of course the third one’s reversed.

Wato tags back in to try his luck with kicks, but he’s smashed with a leaping hip attack as he came off the ropes. Tsuji’s back too, and the big lad’s charging through our favourite new karate guy as he set up for a slam and a running flip senton, then a splash for a near-fall. Tsuji really can move for a big guy…

The obligatory Boston crab is next, but Wato gets to the ropes with ease as Tenzan returned to help. He feeds Tsuji into Wato for another kick that prompts Taguchi in to break it up, before a running dropkick from Tsuji got him back in it. After getting a two-count, Tsuji ran into a rear spin kick, before a corkscrew roundhouse kick set up Wato for the RPP (Spiral Tap) for the win. This was much better from Wato, early slip aside, and these regular tags will do much more for establishing him than being lost in the shuffle… but I do worry that this gimmick isn’t a good fit. ***

Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Satoshi Kojima
This is almost a carbon copy of tomorrow’s match, with Ryusuke Taguchi swapping for Kojima tomorrow in their NEVER trios title tournament outing.

Goto and Makabe start us off, with a headlock from Makabe leading to him throwing Goto to the mat, before he charged him into the corner with some forearms. It’s too soon for the mounted punches, so he whips Goto into the opposite corner before taking a bump as a hiptoss gets reversed. A shoulder tackle’s next out of Goto, as he takes Makabe into the corner, which led to YOSHI-HASHI and Tomoaki Honma tagging in.

Elbows from YOSHI-HASHI and chops have Honma on the back foot, but a shoulder tackle squares things off as Honma then went and did something stupid. Yes, he misses a Kokeshi. Way too early., Kojima and Ishii hit the ring as we have a Parade of Moves that put the CHAOS lads ahead, leading to Makabe getting pelted with a sandwich of PKs and a thrust kick for good measure. We calm down with YOSHI-HASHI chopping Honma into the ropes, before Ishii tagged in to keep the chop party going. Honma tries to elbow his way out of the corner, but Ishii isn’t budging, and instead he levels Honma with an elbow of his own before they resume in the middle of the ring with chops. A double-handed chop has Ishii down, with Honma able to follow up with a Kokeshi.

Kojima tags in and quickly traps Ishii in the corner for Machine Gun chops, but he has to stop to knock Ishii back down as he teased going to the top rope. We don’t ge the elbow drop, as instead they trade elbows ahead of an eventual suplex from Ishii. Kicks and chops from Ishii offer some response, before he elbowed out of a DDT… but couldn’t offer any resistance to a Koji cutter.

Makabe’s back in, as is Goto, and we go straight to the Mounted Punches in the corner, before a Northern Lights suplex gets Goto out of it for a near-fall. A swivelling lariat has Goto down as YOSHI-HASHI of all people comes in to run wild with a Western Lariat and a Head Hunter, before Honma cleared the decks with Kokeshi.

Honma and Makabe set up Goto for the sandwich clothesline, but Goto ducks and made a comeback with the help of his partners… eventually catching Makabe in a rear naked choke before rolling him on the mat for the pin. Yeah, Makabe wasn’t bumping for a GTR… not today! This was pretty decent, and sets up the CHAOS lads as perhaps top contenders for the ongoing tournament… but will Honma and Makabe fare better tomorrow with Taguchi on-board? **¾

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi & Yuya Uemura vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
For the last of our undercard tags we’ve got… oh joy. Another go around of this. Last time around, Ibushi teased in the post-match promos that he was done with Tanahashi. Will that spark something in the Ace, or will he continue to take a kicking?

Of course we get a Suzuki-gun jump start as Yuya Uemura tried to tell the big boys he wanted to start… and despite taking a kicking at first, he was able to bounce back as he single-handedly cleared house. A slam and some stomps to Kanemaru offered some hope, but then Tanahashi tagged in and missed a charge into the Suzuki-gun corner, where Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr. were more than happy to start twisting his limbs. Oh Ace, will you learn?

Sabre torques the leg of Tanahashi on the apron while Taichi’s dealing with Ibushi on the outside… Tanahashi’s rolled back in as he ended up on the defensive. A familiar role that only intensified when Sabre tagged in and went for a heel hook. Taichi’s in, but he holds onto the ropes to save himself from a Tanahashi dropkick, before Uemura came in to make sure Taichi ate someone’s boots.

Uemura offered encouragement as Tanahashi crawled over to tag in Ibushi, who cleared the Suzuki-gun apron before he knocked down Taichi with strikes. A PK misses, but the standing moonsault doesn’t, as the pair resorted to trading strikes back and forth. Taichi’s high kick rocks Ibushi into the corner, but he’s able to duck an Axe bomber to return with a high kick of his own.

Tags get us to Kanemaru and Uemura, with the Young Lion doing well with dropkicks before a suplex drops Kanemaru for a near-fall. The obligatory Boston crab ends in the ropes, and things threaten to take a turn for the worse when Sabre interfered… and so it came to pass as a punt to the back and a diving dropkick from Kanemaru drew a near-fall. Suzuki-gun retained control, despite Sabre dropkicking thin air as he made a move for Tanahashi, whose bid to be a one-man wrecking crew backfired.

In the end, Kanemaru came close with a reverse DDT on Uemura, while Taichi and Sabre had Tanahashi and Ibushi held at bay… allowing Kanemaru to get the win with a Deep Impact DDT. Pretty by the numbers stuff, and them holding off on the shenanigans tells me we’ll get that in the main event. **¾

After the match, Sabre and Taichi continue to lay the boots into Tanahashi and Ibushi – but it’s Tanahashi who they focused on, as he was left in a heap in the ring as the tag team champions left. Yet again the Ace is left a shell of his former self… which is leaving Kota Ibushi feel very conflicted about where he goes next. Those losses are hurting him as well…

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship Tournament Quarter-Finals: Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, Gedo & Jado) vs. Kazuchika Okada, SHO & Toru Yano
Set your expectations to low with this one, folks! But hey, Jado actually moved at a pace for his entrance, so maybe all is not lost?

Yujiro and Okada start us off, with a tie-up that ends in the ropes… providing cover for Gedo and Jado to attack from behind. Okada shrugs it off as he overcame a three-on-one beating, culminating with a flapjack to Yujiro for good measure. The numbers game comes back into it as my feed dropped out, with Gedo swinging for Okada with a belt… while Yujiro had the referee distracted,

The crowd not being able to boo really hurts this.

Gdo rolls Okada back into the ring as Yujiro took his shots, oh and look, the Bullet Club’s adjusted the turnbuckle in their corner to expose the top buckle. Jado’s in as Okada’s taken into the exposed steel, before some ground and pound probably left Okada wishing he’d been able to get out of this. Gedo’s in to rake his eyes, while Yujiro returned to boot Okada in the ropes for a near-fall.

Yujiro bites his way out of a comeback from Okada, who eventually hit back with a shotgun dropkick, before Toru Yano tagged in. He tries for the turnbuckles, but Gedo pulls the hair to stop him… only for Yano to tug at the beard in retaliation. The hair pulling hijinx continues until referee Red Shoes Unno inadvertently gets involved, before Yano removed the turnbuckle pad.

Gedo’s back with an eye poke before he got caught with an inverted atomic drop from Yano… then got sent into the corner as our merry go around came to an end. Gedo pratfalls as he tries to clothesline Yano from behind, and now we get SHO in to hopefully take us over the line. Kick sform SHO keep Gedo at bay, but a Kendo stick shot from Jado turns it back around as Jado and Yujiro come in to land a double-team back supex for a near-fall on SHO.

Jado keeps going with a draping DDT on SHO for a near-fall, before Gedo distracts the referee to cover for an attempted Kendo stick shot that’s blocked. SHO throws the stick to the outside as Yano drags Gedo outside too, prompting a brief Parade of Moves that ends with a spear from SHO for a near-fall on Jado, before a key lock prompts the submission. At least it’s over, but shock of shocks, the Bullet Club trio weren’t very good. **½

Post-match, Okada takes the mic and offered his stipulation for his KOPW qualifier: a one-on-three handicap match against Yujiro, Gedo and Jado. I mean, that’s great, but which of those three get into the final if they win?

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship Tournament Quarter-Finals: Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & DOUKI) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, SANADA & BUSHI)
So LIJ start all over again in their quest to regain the NEVER trios titles – and I have a feeling we’ll have a lot of wackiness here. Although sadly nothing approaching the level of the explosion death match that Shingo seems to have proposed for Jingu Stadium…

You’ll be shocked and appalled to learn that Suzuki-gun jumped their opponents before the bell, largely heading outside as Desperado and BUSHI remained in the ring. Some tijeras from BUSHI are blocked as Desperado tried to counter back, but instead ended up eating a ‘rana of the middle rope. Suzuki’s in and catches BUSHI’s overhead kick in the ropes, instead turning it into a heel hook as we all head outside, with Suzuki and Shingo pelting each other with elbows.


Back in the ring, BUSHI remains in trouble as he’s choked out with his own football shirt, before DOUKI caught him with a back elbow off the ropes for a two-count. Suzuki keeps the pain going, but BUSHI tries to chop his way back in… only to get blistered with a palm strike instead. Suzuki massively torques BUSHI’s leg as he gives us a real life exhibition of bone bending before he went for a cross armbar, as Suzuki-gun kept a laser-focus on BUSHI.

Desperado’s back in, but he gets stopped with an enzigiuri from BUSHI… who then got stomped by DOUKI again as they prevented him from making the tag out. Finally BUSHI gets to his corner and brings in Shingo, who goes slam happy. They’re damn sure teasing that Suzuki match, eh? A double clothesline drops the Suzuki-gun masked men, as my feed again drops out. It’s back with Suzuki having tagged in, giving and receiving chops with the NEVER champion before he elbowed him into the corner.

A running boot from Suzuki would have led to a PK, which connects at the second attempt for a two-count. They trade shots again, going back and forth on elbows, with Shingo more than matching the murder grandpa, until a CLONKING elbow led to a rear naked choke from Suzuki that Shingo tried to counter out into a Last of the Dragon. Suzuki’s front facelock gets him free, but a suplex levels things out as tags bring in SANADA… who eats a knee to the midsection almost immediately.

DOUKI returns with a clothesline for a near-fall, before he countered a floatover from SANADA into a Widow’s Peak – complete with a backslide for another near-fall. A springboard stomp in from the apron gets another two-count after some help from Desperado, before Suplex de la Luna was blocked by SANADA… who then ate another enziguiri. A quick turnaround from LIJ sees DOUKI eat a DDT and a low dropkick for a near-fall, as SANADA then went for a Skull End… but Suzuki slips in to break it up as Shingo returned to trade more elbows. Here comes the boom. Or should I say, here comes the CLONK?

A rear naked choke from Suzuki is quickly countered with a back body drop as their skirmishes lead to a Pumping Bomber from Shingo, while BUSHI dives into Desperado on the outside… but DOUKI almost steals a win with a small package on SANADA. DOUKI keeps pushing, coming even closer with a lucha roll-up, before he got caught out as SANADA moonsaulted in with a Skull End for the submission. Now that’s more like it – a lively main event, but one made all the more tantalising with the singles match that sprung up from within. ***¼

After the match, Suzuki briefly snatched that NEVER title, and seemed to issue the formal challenge to Shingo. I keep joking, but Shingo has talked about wanting to do a “Blast Current” match (effectively an exploding death match) in Jingu Stadium…

Tomorrow we get the other side of the draw, with Ibushi/Tanahashi/Wato vs. Sabre/Taichi/Kanemaru and Makabe/Honma/Taguchi vs. Ishii/Goto/YOSHI-HASHI in the other trios tournament quarter-finals. Unfortunately, this was very much a run-of-the-mill Korakuen card, albeit one with slightly-more-fans than we’ve seen before. New Japan’s really being exposed with their restricted roster at the moment, and while the NEVER trios tournament is offering some spice, some of the line-ups offered today were far from enticing. Still, this is well worth a watch if only for the Shingo/Suzuki exchanges in the main event…