We’re back to Korakuen Hall for another stop on the Summer Struggle tour – this time with a cracker of a main event between Minoru Suzuki and Yuji Nagata. Singles, no tag!
No, you’ve not missed a night. Wednesday in Shizuoka (“night three”) didn’t make tape, so we’re back to Korakuen Hall again. Yay. Of course, it’s Japanese only commentary for the live feed, but Kevin Kelly has been getting real quick with his turnarounds…
Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI pinned Yota Tsuji, Gabriel Kidd, Satoshi Kojima & Ryusuke Taguchi in 10:00 (**¾)
SANADA & Shingo Takagi submitted Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe in 11:00 (**¾)
El Desperado, Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr., DOUKI & Yoshinobu Kanemaru pinned Yuya Uemura, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Master Wato in 14:10 (***)
SHO & Kazuchika Okada submitted Gedo & Yujiro Takahashi in 10:40 (***)
EVIL & Taiji Ishimori submitted BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito in 9:50 (***)
Minoru Suzuki pinned Yuji Nagata in 20:30 (***¾)
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Satoshi Kojima, Ryusuke Taguchi, Yota Tsuji & Gabriel Kidd
There’s no Makabe in the opener this time, so Gabriel Kidd will have to wind up someone else. Big Tom? Of course!
Kidd calls out Ishii to start out the match, and had some luck with forearms and shoulder tackles early, surprising Ishii off the ropes before eventually getting charged down. A kick to the back just annoys Gabe, who throws more elbows before he just got chopped into the corner as Ishii broke out a Violence Party of forearms and chops on him.
Goto tags in, but eats his half of a double dropkick as Kidd tried to stay alive, charging down Ishii too before going for Goto. A tag brings in Taguchi, who feints with hip attacks before he instead opted for a simple side headlock, which grounded Goto ahead of a hip attack. Of course, Taguchi tries to spam them and lands on Yano’s knee before recovering to trap Goto in the corner for our regularly scheduled spot of triple-teaming.
A turnaround sees a whole lot of clubbing on Taguchi’s back as Goto gets help en route to a suplex, before YOSHI-HASHI tagged in to take over. Chops keep Taguchi in the corner, before a comeback led to Taguchi eventually landing a hip attack with his broken arse. Kojima’s in next to chop YOSHI-HASHI in the throat, leading to those Machine Gun chops. You know what’s next… and he even gets the top rope elbow in for a near-fall.
A rolling elbow from Kojima’s ducked as YOSHI-HASHI returns with a Head Hunter on his way to a near-fall. Kojima’s back with a DDT, but can’t avoid a Western lariat from YOSHI-HASHI as tags take us back to Yano… who instantly undoes the turnbuckle pads. The referee catches him out, but that corner’s still exposed… and Yano runs into it ahead of a Koji Cutter. Tsuji comes in to try and force an unlikely win, leaping into Yano with a forearm in the corner before Goto and Ishii came in to try and stem the tide.
Kidd helps out as dropkicks take care of Goto and Ishii, while Yano ran back into a slam ahead of a flip senton and a standing splash that almost got Tsuji the win. Cue a Parade of Moves after Yano escapes a Boston crab, before Tsuji ran into the exposed corner… recovering to land a spear for a near-fall. A Manhattan drop from Yano gets him back in before he shoves Tsuji into the ref… low blow, roll-up, and we’re done. An easy ten minute opener, as Yano outfoxed the Young Lion to get the win. **¾
Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & SANADA)
It sure does look like they’re testing SANADA and Shingo as the new heavyweight LIJ team, eh?
Shingo and Makabe start proceedings, locking up before we got the obligatory shove off and shoulder tackles. Makabe just about edges ahead, especially when Honma came in to help, as elbows to the back of Shingo’s neck had the NEVER champion in a bit of bother. Then Honma went for a Kokeshi, and missed. It’s always that.
Things head outside as Honma and Makabe get thrown into the guard rails, before Shingo used the ring post to squeeze Honma’s head with a side headlock. Unique, but it got the job done. Back inside, a knee drop got a two-count on Honma by the ropes, while SANADA tagged in to keep the momentum going, dropping Honma with an uppercut for a near-fall. A chinlock keeps Honma down, but it’s broken in the ropes, so Shingo comes back in and looked for a suplex… but it’s escaped as Honma lands an elbow… then missed a Kokeshi. He’ll never learn. Honma wants more, so he gets clobbered with a clothesline before reversing a suplex, as tags get us back to Makabe, who clears house and corners Shingo for the mounted punches.
A Northern Lights suplex gets Makabe a two-count, but Shingo’s right back in with a Pumping Bomber, before SANADA returned to the fray. Honma’s brought back in as he continued his search for Kokeshi, but the ring fills as Honma ends up hitting a DDT/Flatliner combo on LIJ as he finally lands his Kokeshi! Well, it made him happy… SANADA kicks out at two, before wriggling out of Kokeshi Otoshi… but the Skull End is blocked, as Makabe came in to try and turn things around. In the end, Makabe and Honma land a double-team suplex to LIJ, before they sandwiched SANADA with clotheslines… cue a diving Kokeshi for a two-count, before Honma got over confident, slamming SANADA for a swandive Kokeshi.
Of course it misses. Shingo’s back to clobber Honma with a lariat, before a suplex led to a low dropkick from SANADA for a two-count. With Shingo taking care of Makabe on the outside, SANADA goes for a Skull End, but it’s countered into a roll-up for a near-fall, before a backflip into another Skull End went wonky… but it got the job done as he drags Honma down for the eventual submission. A decent enough tag until that finish, with LIJ keeping things ticking on. **¾
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Master Wato & Yuya Uemura vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr., El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI)
Master Wato’s not getting his individual entrance here… not sure if that should be read into.
After a long time gone, we get the Suzuki-gun jump start, as Taichi led the charge to send everyone outside and into the guard rails. DOUKI stayed in the ring with Tenzan, going for his throat ahead of a snapmare and a double stomp to the gut. Mongolian chops from DOUKI seem designed to wind up Tenzan, who responded with a spinning heel kick before things calmed down with Taichi and Tanahashi in the ring.
They lock up but head into the ropes, where Taichi switched around, raking Tanahashi’s eyes for fun, before Tanahashi whiffed on a crossbody out of the corner. Tanahashi misses a leaping elbow drop as the Suzuki-gun lads seemed to be a step ahead… with a Dangerous T backdrop driver underscoring things. Scornful kicks to the back of Tanahashi follow from Taichi, who then stepped back to let Tanahashi tag out to Ibushi… but instead the Ace tried to fire back, and just got charged into the Suzuki-gun corner for a mugging. DOUKI’s back in to keep the pressure up, while Zack Sabre Jr. came into play with a cravat. Yeah, they’re really putting a beating to Tanahashi here, before Yuya Uemura had enough and ran in to dropkick Sabre down… then drag Tanahashi to tag in Ibushi.
Not sure if that’s legal, but who cares – Ibushi clears house, then peppered Sabre with kicks before a standing moonsault landed fine for a near-fall. Kota keeps on kicking Zack’s leg out of his leg, before Sabre ran in with a guillotine to take down Ibushi, rolling him to the mat for a triangle armbar. Ibushi powers out, then found a way back in with a high kick before tags get us to Wato and Kanemaru.
Wato tries to clear the Suzuki-gun apron, but he’s quickly swarmed by Kanemaru and DOUKI… which gave him a chance to fight back as he took both men outside for a tornillo. Back inside, Wato lands a springboard uppercut for a two-count on Kanemaru, but couldn’t follow up as Kanemaru lifts him away ahead of an eventual dropkick. Desperado tags in next, and he goes for Wato’s legs before he ate a knee lift from the Grand Master. Uemura wants in, and gets it after Taichi knocked Tanahashi off the apron. Everyone gangs up on Desperado as Uemura built up to a Capture suplex for a two-count, before Desperado returned fire with a spinebuster and a Numero Dos that almost forced the submission. A Parade of Moves ensues as Tanahashi broke up the hold, only to eat a Zack Driver before Ibushi again cleared house, setting the table for Uemura to try and snatch victory with a suplex.
Uemura goes for a German suplex, but can’t get it off as he get shoved towards the referee, allowing Desperado to punch him out as Pinche Loco gets the win. This was better than these Suzuki-gun tags have been lately, with the long-term story of Tanahashi unable to overcome the gang beatdown seemingly putting his Ace status in doubt. ***
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Gedo) vs. Kazuchika Okada & SHO
Earlier in the week, Okada announced the gimmicked KOPW “title”… and while we’ve got about three weeks before we have any of the qualifiers, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say he’ll be involved in some form.
Jado’s at ringside too, so expect shenanigans. Either that or they’re saving him the hassle of running out later. We start with Okada and Yujiro, while Gedo wanders in to distract… and that works, as Yujiro attacked Okada from behind, before the former champion cleared house en route to a neckbreaker.
A slam sets up Yujiro for a slingshot senton, getting himself a two-count before tagging in SHO, who lands a knee to the midsection and a kick to the back for a two-count of his own. Yujiro grabs the ref to make sure he doesn’t see Jado cracking SHO in the back with a Singapore cane… and then we head outside as Okada and SHO got taken into the guard rails. Gedo’s gotten the timekeeper’s hammer and uses that on SHO for the hell of it, before rolling him back inside to break the count-out.
Somewhere in here, the turnbuckle pad’s gone missing, which Yujiro makes use of as he throws SHO into the exposed corner. Gedo tags in for more eye rakes, which drew in Okada to protest… but he just ends up distracting the ref as SHO again go thrown into the exposed corner. Yujiro’s back to boot Okada off the apron, which agitates Okada some more, and does SHO no good as the punishment keeps coming, leading to a reverse DDT attempt that SHO countered out of with a suplex.
Finally SHO makes the tag to Okada, who cleared house before landing a flapjack on Yujiro for a two-count. A neckbreaker slam is blocked a first, as Okada ends up getting hot shotted in the ropes, ahead of a Fisherman suplex… things turn around when Gedo returned, and not in a good way for him as he gets peppered with kicks from SHO for a near-fall.
A Gedo Clutch is countered out of as SHO bounced back with a spear for a two-count, before he rolled Gedo into a key lock… Jado pops up on the apron to distract the referee with a Kendo stick, as a freed Gedo goes out for his brass knuckles. Toru Yano of all people come out to stop him with a low blow, allowing SHO to trap Gedo in a cross armbar for the submission. A wacky, rushed submission, as it seems tha the CHAOS lads are actually sticking together?! ***
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI) vs. Bullet Club (EVIL & Taiji Ishimori)
The shoulder injury that Hiromu picked up on Monday kept him out of this match – and I’m kinda feeling sorry for BUSHI right now. Outside of Young Lion matches, never before has a pin-eater seemed more obvious…
EVIL and Naito start us off, but an attack from behind by Ishimori offers a distraction as the Bullet Club lads take things outside, with EVIL chopping Naito by the guard rails… only to find himself getting whipped back into said railings ad nauseum. Naito begins to stalk Dick Togo, who was at ringside, before stopping to charge EVIL back into the railings some more. Back inside, BUSHI tags in and lands a neckbreaker for a two-count, before a trip in the ropes from Togo sparked a turnaround. Largely because Togo dragged BUSHI outside and took him into the guard rails… and of course, the referee refuses to acknowledge the pin when BUSHI got rolled back inside.
Ishimori comes in and unties BUSHI’s mask, then goes in for some choking before BUSHI fought back… only to get taken down for a neck twist. EVIL’s back in to rake BUSHI’s eyes, which is impressive given that it’s through a mask, before BUSHI slipped out of a neckbreaker and came back in with a DDT. Naito’s in to go for EVIL with a ‘rana and a low dropkick for a near-fall, before he put the boots to his former running buddy.
Elbows to the side of EVIL’s head follow, before EVIL pulled one of his usual tricks out, sending the leg of Naito towards the ref ahead of a thrust kick. A clothesline in the corner follows before Naito came back with a Manhattan drop and a quick enziguiri, before dropping EVIL to the mat for the Pluma Blanco – a wacky headscissors/choke combo from Naito’s olden days. Ishimori’s quickly in to stomp that apart, before a tag brings in BUSHI for a missile dropkick to EVIL.
BUSHI lifts Ishimori to the outside so he can focus on EVIL… just kidding, he dives out with a tope suicida as Naito’s attempt to take control ended with Togo pulling him outside. That left BUSHI behind to take a Darkness Lariat for a near-fall, before he rolled BUSHI into the Darkness Scorpion for the rapid submission. All in all, a pretty straightforward win as they continue the build to EVIL/Naito in a month’s time. ***
Minoru Suzuki vs. Yuji Nagata
Glory be! My favourite match from New Japan’s brief empty-arena period continues to rumble on, leading to this singles match.
Suzuki’s restrained enough to not jump Nagata at the bell, as they instead had a staredown before launching in with boots and elbows. ALL THE ELBOWS, LADS! They switch it up to front kicks, sending them back and forth into the ropes like a Newton’s cradle, before they put on the brakes and changed tactics.
Nagata goes for a standing armbar on Suzuki, taking him down to the mat… but Suzuki rolls through, dragging Nagata to the apron for a hanging heel hook that took both men to the outside. Nagata reverses an Irish whip as he took Suzuki into the guard rails, but the follow up boot is caught as Suzuki trapped Nagata’s leg in the rails ahead of an eventual kick… after the referee stopped Suzuki from using a chair.
Suzuki keeps the leg work going as he ties up Nagata in the rails again, and it’s quite clear that in the first five minutes, Suzuki’s got his heart set on removing Nagata’s leg. Back in the ring, Suzuki keeps that motif going, using the ropes in the corner to keep tweaking Nagata’s right knee as he used every second of Red Shoes Unno’s count. All of them.
A running front kick keeps Nagata in the corner before he caught a PK… and began to fight back on Suzuki’s own knee. Kicks take Suzuki into the corner as the Murder Grandpa began to show some signs of weakness, as a front kick took him down for just a one-count. Nagata tries his luck with elbows, but Suzuki digs deep for the CLONKING strikes in response as we go back to one of their staples: elbowing brain cells out of each other.
A swing from Nagata is ducked as Suzuki tries for a rear naked choke, but he quickly backs up into the corner to force a break… and we’re back to the elbows. Suzuki’s staggering back into the ropes, but he’s back with more CLONKING elbows which rang around Korakuen, before Nagata seemingly elbowed the snot out of him with a reply. They keep going, but they’re both so dazed they slump to their knees… and of course, Suzuki’s laughing as he wants more. So much more. Junkyard Dog-like headbutts from his knees follow as Suzuki kept the fight going, but Nagata wasn’t afraid to return the favours as they clonked heads to the point of them falling back to the mat.
Once they get back to their feet, Suzuki sparks another battle of elbows as he seemed to now be set on detaching an ear from Nagata’s head. Hey, Nagata manages to get a smacking elbow shot in as commentary was loving every one of these shots. THWACK. Another missed clothesline from Nagata opened him up for a rear naked choke, but he escapes and hits an Exploder to ensure Suzuki couldn’t pull ahead.
A shot to the midsection has Suzuki doubled over, prompting Nagata to go for a Backdrop Hold that Suzuki did his damndest to block. The simple struggle over such a hold was a sight as we crossed the 15 minute mark, with Suzuki eventually headbutting his way out of the predicament. Suzuki puts his hands behind his back to invite more elbows from Nagata, and of course there’s receipts as they trade away, before Suzuki moves onto palm strikes. Of course Nagata slapped back, as the crowd clapped along in time, but Suzuki began to chain together a long series of unanswered slaps, before an elbow dropped Nagata to the mat. From there, Suzuki pulled up Nagata for a stalling Gotch-style piledriver… and that was too much for Yuji Nagata. Minoru Suzuki avenges his New Japan Cup loss. This didn’t quite hit the heights of that Cup match, but was still pretty damn good. ***¾
After the match, Suzuki mocked the fans, saying he didn’t need “their claps”, and vowed to move on beyond Nagata. Of course, he doesn’t tell us what his plan was…
Buoyed by the main event that was exactly what you thought it’d be, this was your run of the mill Korakuen show that continued the build towards Jingu Stadium in a few weeks time. As it stands, we’ve not got line-ups for the tour as it resumes next week, but you’d have to think that with Suzuki moving on from Nagata, we’re largely done with the current formats, no? We’ve the best part of a week off now, returning on Thursday for a run of four straight Korakuens in as many days. Enjoy!