New Japan return to Korakuen Hall for the start of their first proper tour since January’s Road to the New Beginning, as the Summer Struggle begins!

At the end of last night’s Sengoku Lord, Taiji Ishimori laid out Hiromu Takahashi and seemingly laid the foundations for a title challenge… while Tetsuya Naito arose from his slumber and asked for his belts back from EVIL. We’re still running with just Japanese commentary – Kevin Kelly will be working overtime on this tour to backfill…

Quick Results
Satoshi Kojima, Togi Makabe & Ryusuke Taguchi pinned Gabriel Kidd, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano in 9:10 (***)
Shingo Takagi & SANADA pinned YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto in 9:00 (***)
Minoru Suzuki & DOUKI pinned Yuya Uemura & Yuji Nagata in 11:10 (***)
Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru submitted Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Master Wato in 13:35 (**½)
Kazuchika Okada & SHO submitted Gedo & Yujiro Takahashi in 10:25 (**¾)
Taiji Ishimori, EVIL & Dick Togo pinned BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi in 13:00 (**¾)

Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Gabriel Kidd vs. Togi Makabe, Satoshi Kojima & Ryusuke Taguchi
Gabriel Kidd gets another crack at Makabe – which makes me wonder… are they building up to a singles match? In Jingu? With explosions? That last part is probably the least likely…

Those two start off here, with Kidd grabbing a side headlock, before clattering into Makabe with shoulder tackles. Kidd eventually knocks him down, but quickly gets slammed by an angry gorilla called Makabe, who tagged out to Kojima for some brief double-teaming… which Kidd elbowed away from. Kidd’s preoccupied with Makabe, and gets caught from behind by Kojima as the New Japan Dads hit their double shoulder tackle. Taguchi wants in, but Kojima wants to stomp away on Kidd first… and for some reason Taguchi wanted to face Ishii instead. There’s some feinted hip attacks as Taguchi tried to get under Ishii’s skin. Taguchi spams Ishii with hip attacks that eventually wear him down, before Yano came in and turned a hip attack into an atomic drop.

Taguchi tries to call the shots, but Kidd rushes back in as he wanted another piece of Makabe… which ended with Kidd getting thrown into the guard rails. Ouch. Back in the ring, Taguchi’s still spamming hip attacks, ending with Ishii forearming him in the arse ahead of a German attack. Taguchi really needs to add to his arsenal today. Pun intended. Yano and Makabe come in… but it ends badly for Yano as he eats some mounted punches in the corner. Raking the eyes barely bought him time as Makabe just charged him down with a clothesline, before some hair pulling got Yano free… and Kidd back into the match. Kidd slaps away at Makabe, which wakes him up, as a shoulder tackle charged down the Young Lion.

Kidd keeps going, but runs into a powerslam, as Kojima tagged in to give him a taste of the Machine Gun chops. The corner clothesline follows, but Ishii clocks Kojima on the top rope to stop the elbow drop… Kojima knocks Ishii down, which gave Kidd time to press slam Kojima off the top before landing a suplex for a near-fall. The standard issue Buston crab follows, but Makabe breaks it up as Taguchi cleared the apron with hip attacks… only for Kidd to dropkick Makabe away. Uppercuts from Kidd keep Kojima… ah nevermind, Kidd’s destroyed with a Cozy lariat, and that’s all folks! Good showing from Kidd, but in the end that one lariat did him in. ***

Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & SANADA)
Nothing obvious is in play here, as we start with Shingo and Goto trading shoulder tackles… then elbows… before Goto landed a hiptoss and a shoulder tackle to edge ahead.

YOSHI-HASHI tags in and helps with a double shoulder tackle before he got hiptossed onto Shingo for a delayed two-count. From there, Shingo trades elbows with YOSHI, then chops, before he pulled ahead… taking YOSHI into the corner with an arm-wringer as SANADA tagged in. A desperation headbutt from YOSHI-HASHI has no effect, as SANADA snapmares him and rolls into a triangle armbar, ending when YOSHI rolled into the ropes. A suplex from Shingo gets a two-count, with Goto breaking up the pin. That seemed to give YOSHI-HASHI some impetus as he caught SANADA with a Bunker Buster, before Goto tagged back in to pick up the pace with shoulder tackles and a clothesline. Goto knocks Shingo off the apron too, before taking SANADA into the corner for a spinning heel kick… then out of it with a backdrop suplex for a near-fall.

SANADA flips out of a German suplex as he began his comeback, tripping Goto into a Paradise Lock. Except Goto pushes away, only to get caught with a low dropkick. Shingo’s back to batter Goto with a clothesline, but that offence ends with an ushigoroshi as he and Goto stayed finely balanced. Then YOSHI-HASHI tagged back in. Oh boy. Clotheslines from YOSHI-HASHI led to him going for a running powerbomb, which plants Shingo for a two-count. A Western lariat from YOSHI-HASHI has Shingo down, but SANADA rushes in for a Skull End, handing him off for some elbows from Shingo on the road to a dropkick-assisted Saito suplex. From there, a Pumping Bomber drops YOSHI for a near-fall before Made in Japan gets the win. Those Goto/Shingo exchanges were far more even than you’d have guessed coming in – which makes me wonder if that’s a direction they’re teasing going forward. ***

Post-match, referee Kenta Sato looked very tentative as he was scarred from the beating LIJ gave him the prior night in Nagoya. He needn’t had worried here.

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & DOUKI) vs. Yuji Nagata & Yuya Uemura
Boy, it sure looks like they’re giving us Suzuki vs. Nagata again, eh?

Of course, they couldn’t help but get into it at the bell as they start off with those delicious elbows. Now that’s what I call acoustics! An eye rake from Suzuki takes Nagata into the corners, as somehow they finagle their way into tagging in DOUKI and Uemura… but they continue to scrap on the outside instead. Glorious. Suzuki takes the guard rails a la Bret Hart – chest-first – while DOUKI and Uemura went at it in the ring. Eye rakes from DOUKI just earn him a shoulder tackle from the beefed-up Uemura, before he lifted Uemura to the outside. Hey, that means guard rails visits for Uemura and Nagata, as bedlam ensued again, with Nagata getting choked out with the ring announcer’s microphone cord. With the microphone on the other end of it then getting ground into Nagata’s eye for good measure.

Uemura (unwisely) tried to lay into Suzuki on the outside… but he had to in order to save the match. He heads back inside, but gets cornered quickly as Murder Grandpa came in for revenge. Uemura tried to throw chops, but they’re laughed off as Suzuki chopped him back down. DOUKI returns with a running stomp for a near-fall, before Suzuki rolled into Uemura with a Kimura. Suzuki lets go so he can bring DOUKI back in, but Uemura eventually plants him with a suplex as tags bring us back to Suzuki and Nagata. All the elbows! There’s even a front kick from Nagata, but he can’t get the Exploder off as Suzuki kicks back… only for a PK to get caught as Nagata got right back in. Suzuki laughs off the elbows as he warmed up for the CLONKING shots, then a headbutt, and ultimately a rear naked choke.

Nagata looked to fade, but he counters the attempt at a Gotch piledriver with an Exploder, before they got back up to tee off once again. A front facelock takes Nagata into the corner as Uemura tagged back in to try his luck on Suzuki again… and while his elbows worked, he was getting waffled by singular shots. DOUKI comes in to double-team, but Uemura clears the path with dropkicks as Nagata helps out on a cornered Suzuki, leading to the capture suplex for a near-fall for Uemura. Running forearms from Uemura keep Suzuki down, as did a small package, but Suzuki eventually responds with a boot and a clonking elbow that took Uemura to his knees. From there, a stalling Gotch piledriver awaited for Uemura, and that’s all folks. Solid effort from Uemura, but in the end those goddamned elbows were the difference maker as they continue to tease us with Suzuki and Nagata in another slugfest. ***

After the match, Nagata and Suzuki go after each other again as they brawl to the back…

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Master Wato vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr., El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
The road towards Wato vs. Kanemaru seems to be a long one – and we’re in for many variations of this match, I feel…

There’s no jumpstart, but Suzuki-gun all powder the outside… so Tanahashi just air guitars instead. We finally get going with Tanahashi and Taichi, but it seems Taichi would rather face Ibushi instead. That’s just a ruse for the ring to fill up as we go the long way around to the jump start, settling down with Taichi and Tanahashi trading elbows and kicks in the ring. An Irish whip takes Tanahashi into the corner, from where he springs out with a crossbody before he slammed Sabre… then places Taichi on top of him for a stacked-up flip senton. Taichi baseball slides to the outside as the match ground to a halt. Kanemaru and Wato tag in, and things pick up briefly as Wato’s taken into the corner before he caught Kanemaru with a high kick and a wacky spin-out back cracker.

An eye rake stops Wato briefly before he’s tripped by Desperado on the outside… and there’s the cue for more Suzuki-gun bedlam on the outside. Taichi’s got the timekeeper’s mallet, which he drags across Tanahashi’s face, while we return to the ring with Taichi and Desperado wearing down Wato. The Suzuki-gun lads trap Wato in the corner before Taichi just throttles him as my feed drops. Lovely. We’re back with Ibushi clearing house for a brief second, before a double overhead kick took care of Kanemaru and Desperado. Sabre’s in, but gets pelted with kicks before he got his knees up to block Ibushi’s standing moonsault… and that turns the match back around briefly, before Kota just decked Sabre with a forearm. Another head kick drops Zack, before Tenzan came in to push on.

Mongolian chops take Sabre to the corner for a headbutt, with a clothesline following before a suplex gets Tenzan a two-count. Sabre’s triple-teamed in the corner as he’s then fed into a Mountain Bomb, before Wato joined in with a springboard uppercut that gets Tenzan barely a two-count thanks to some interference. Sabre tries to come back with a submission, but an Axe bomber from Taichi begins a Parade of Moves, taking us back to those Mongolian chops on Sabre… before the referee got distracted, missing Kanemaru clocking Tenzan with the bottle of whiskey, allowing Sabre to get the win with a modified armbar. This did nothing for me – as they looked to be moving away from the tag match they did at Dominion, yet they’re continually targeting each other too. It’s a weird one, but I’m starting to get bored of this particular combination around the tag team titles. Freshen it up, lads. **½

Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Gedo) vs. Kazuchika Okada & SHO
I guess we’re still on the rematches part of the undercard, unless they’re hell bent on giving us more of Okada vs. Yujiro? Is that really the “controversial idea” Okada had??

Those two start, locking up with Yujiro getting taken into the ropes ahead of the mockingly-clean break. A boot from Okada cuts off a response, but Yujiro bites back ahead of some chops and a running kick… Okada replies in kind before scoring with a low dropkick, as he proceeded to tag in SHO. SHO peppers Yujiro with kicks, before reversing a suplex attempt as the junior tag team champion stayed on top. Gedo kicks SHO in the ropes, only to get knocked down as Yujiro capitalises with a reverse DDT. They head outside as Yujiro posts Okada, then flung him into the railings before returning to the ring with a legdrop on SHO for a two-count. Gedo tags in and throws SHO into a conveniently exposed buckle as the Bullet Club tandem did well to bring the pace of this down to a crawl.

A fist drop to the head from Gedo gets a two-count, before throwing SHO into that still-exposed top turnbuckle. Gedo’s charge into SHO is caught, but Yujiro hits back to avoid anything coming of it before a double spear took down the Bullet Club cronies. In comes Okada to save the day, sliding in with a back elbow before a snap DDT dumped Yujiro for a two-count. Yujiro responds with a hot shot into the top rope, before a clothesline drops Okada for a two-count. Another low dropkick from Yujiro gives him time to tag in Gedo, who gleefully goes for Okada with a jawbreaker before a Fisherman buster from Yujiro helps on the way to a two-count. Gedo goes for his brass knuckles, but a back cracker from SHO stomps him, before a leaping knee takes Yujiro outside.

Okada’s back with a dropkick before that goddamn modified cobra clutch actually forced the submission at the first time of asking. This was aggressively fine, but this is another combination that I’m struggling to find myself caring about. **3/4

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Bullet Club (EVIL, Taiji Ishimori & Dick Togo)
While not officially announced, it sure looks like they’re building up to Naito vs. EVIL at Jingu Stadium. Is THAT the exploding death match? (Okay, I’ll stop the joke…)

Naito and Ishimori start us off, but Naito makes a beeline for EVIL, knocking him off the apron and taking him into the railings. Hiromu chokes away on Ishimori in the ring, before BUSHI tagged in to choke away on Ishimori with his t-shirt. Red Shoes Unno did not approve. A more standard chinlock follows, before Hiromu returned and found himself getting chopped away by Ishimori. Hiromu’s taken into the corner as EVIL tags in, throwing more chops, before whipping Hiromu into a conveniently-exposed turnbuckle. Togo’s brought in to throw Hiromu shoulder-first into that same corner, before a chinlock was elbowed out of, with Hiromu coming back in with a tijeras. Naito’s begging for a tag, but Togo drops an elbow as Hiromu crawled over, cutting off all that before Hiromu slipped out of a suplex and got that tag anyway.

EVIL’s back too as he and Naito trade elbows, before Naito ducked a lariat and hit a neckbreaker. A low dropkick followed as Naito keeps going with another neckbreaker, before he rolled EVIL into a version of the Rings of Saturn that Togo quickly stomped. Naito just throws Togo out, but EVIL comes back with a thrust kick and a hair pull before a Darkness Falls was escaped. Togo trips Naito in the ropes, allowing EVIL to apply a Darkness Scorpion while Ishimori trapped Hiromu in a Yes lock. Dick’s got no submissions over in New Japan yet, so he’s having to just hold BUSHI back on the outside… but BUSHI breaks free and kicks apart that Scorpion deathlock. Ishimori tags back in to put the boots to Naito… and I buffer. Somewhere in here, BUSHI tags in, coming into Ishimori with a missile dropkick before a double ‘rana takes EVIL and Togo to the outside… with BUSHI following up with a tope suicida for good measure.

Naito returns to help with a low dropkick after BUSHI pulled up Ishimori with a sunset flip… before a swinging Fisherman’s neckbreaker almost ended things. A tombstone gutbuster – the Cipher Utaki – gets a near-fall for Ishimori, before EVIL planted Naito with Darkness Falls. From there, Ishimori dumps BUSHI with a Bloody Cross as Togo held Hiromu outside, and that’s all folks. There’s a Bloody Cross for Hiromu after the bell, marking an end to a perfectly serviceable, if not inspiring show. **¾

It’s back to Korakuen Hall tomorrow for another live stream on the Summer Struggle tour – then there’s a non-televised show on Wednesday in Shizuoka, before a run of five straight Korakuens in nine days. Today was a perfectly serviceable show on paper, but this was always going to be a lame duck of a show, coming right after Sengoku Lord with little in the way of new feuds to build to. Curiously, New Japan only has announced cards for this and Monday’s Korakuen show – which could indicate something’ll happen on Monday, or they’re going to do more than slightly shuffle the cards as the tour rolls on.