New Japan’s run at Korakuen continued as the finalists in the NEVER trios title tournament were determined.

Korakuen Hall is going to be half-full for the time being, with Japanese legislation allowing for crowds up to 50% of capacity (as long as regulations and such like are followed).

Quick Results
Taiji Ishimori submitted Yuya Uemura in 8:10 (***)
Yujiro Takahashi & Gedo pinned Gabriel Kidd & Yota Tsuji in 7:50 (**¼)
Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & Yoshinobu Kanemaru submitted Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Yuji Nagata in 10:30 (***¼)
Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Ryusuke Taguchi pinned DOUKI, Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado in 9:40 (***)
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Final: Toru Yano, Kazuchika Okada & SHO beat BUSHI, Shingo Takagi & SANADA by count-out in 13:00 (***½)
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Final: YOSHI-HASHI, Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto pinned Master Wato, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Kota Ibushi in 17:10 (****¼)

Yuya Uemura vs. Taiji Ishimori
Okay, they somehow managed to intersperse a second or two of El Phantasmo’s music into Ishimori’s entrance…

Uemura came charging out of the blocks as he looked to one-up things from Sengoku Lord two weeks ago… he lays into Ishimori with forearms, but ends up getting caught in the ropes, before he’s taken outside and into the guard rails. Ishimori hot shots him on the guard rails too, then rolls in to break the ref’s count as he sensed Kenta Sato was fast-counting on the floor. Ishimori rolls Uemura back in for a nonchalant two-count, before the pair traded chops in the ring. Some grounded headscissors keep Uemura in trouble, especially as Ishimori added more torque… a chinlock keeps Uemura down as things remain efficient. Uemura goes for a back suplex, but Ishimori counters out into a crossbody for a two-count, before the Young Lion finally hit back with a dropkick.

Uemura manages to land that back suplex, before going for a Boston crab… but Ishimori rolls him up for a near-fall before he got caught in the hold. Ishimori threatened to tap, but he’s able to drag himself to the ropes before a handspring elbow’s countered into an O’Connor roll with a neat bridge for Uemura. The Capture suplex looks to follow, but Ishimori sandbags him and headbutts his way free, before a front kick and a leaping knee dropped Uemura for a near-fall. From there, the cipher UTAKI (tombstone gutbuster) lands for a near-fall, before Uemura’s made to tap out to the Yes lock. Well, he lasted ten seconds longer than two weeks ago… ***

Yota Tsuji & Gabriel Kidd vs. Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Gedo)
Kidd and Tsuji seem to have an interesting relationship, going by their post-match interviews… of course, the Bullet Club need a third man, with Jado out with a Kendo stick that at first I mistook for a plastic light sabre.

Tsuji wants to start, but there’s a brief shoving match with Kidd over that whole thing. Gedo opens up for the Bullet Club team, and he’s immediately caught in a side headlock from Tsuji, who takes him down to the mat… the obligatory fight up and push off sparks some shoulder tackles from Tsuji, who then stared at Gedo’s plea for a time-out… and got jumped by Yujiro. Kidd’s quickly in to clear things up, before he grabbed a wandering Gedo and threw him back inside. Gedo turns it around by throwing Tsuji outside, into the clutches of Yujiro who charges him between the apron and guard rails. The low effort Jay White tribute. Back inside, Gedo rakes the eyes before tagging in Yujiro. Tsuji’s thrown outside again, where he’s whipped by Gedo’s belt, with one nasty-looking shot to the gut, which draws a two-count when they finally make it back inside.

Gedo tags back in and stands on Tsuji’s head, getting a two-count after all that, as apparently the belt stuff’s a reference to the lumberjack match that Yujiro wants against Okada. Tsuji begins a fight back with some right hands, but he’s instantly elbowed down as Yujiro runs in to again knock Kidd off the apron. A double spear from Tsuji clears the decks as the welts on his back begin to rise… and he finally manages to tag out to Kidd! Gabe clears house as he lays into Yujiro with elbows, before catching him with a dropkick for a near-fall. The obligatory Boston crab follows, but an eye rake from Gedo breaks it up. A thumb to the eye stops Tsuji briefly too, before a dropkick took care of him, as Kidd looked to pick up again with an O’Connor roll… Yujiro kicks out and sends him into a Jado Kendo stick shot for a near-fall, for the hell of it.

Tsuji makes the save, but eats a reverse DDT for his woes, before a Fisherman buster and Pimp Juice puts Kidd away. Very by the numbers and somewhat flat, as the Young Lion team were snuffed out in order to get over the Bullet Club’s dream of a lumberjack/belt whipping match against Okada. **¼

Post-match, Gedo continues to belt-whip Tsuji… then Kidd, before exiting stage left.

Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Yuji Nagata vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
I think they may have hit Togi’s overdub a touch too soon… and to the shock of nobody, the Suzuki-gun lads jumped their opponents the second Taichi stopped singing.

Nagata shrugs it off and boots Kanemaru in the corner, before sidestepping a low dropkick as Nagata outsmarted the “Heel Master”. An armbreaker’s next, but after Kanemaru caught a kick from Nagata, Sabre’s in to do a Tanahashi on the New Japan Dad, as the Suzuki-gun lot begin to work over Nagata’s legs. On the outside, Taichi chokes away on Nagata with the camera cable, while Sabre throws in some kicks for the hell of it, before he torqued away on Nagata’s leg on the apron. Sabre tags in to restrain Nagata with a cravat, before he switched things up into a Cobra twist. Nagata hiptosses himself free, but couldn’t get out of the corner before he hit a stuttering dropkick and an Exploder suplex to Sabre. Makabe tags in next, charging everyone down, which led to mounted punches on Sabre in the corner… and a Northern Lights suplex too for a near-fall.

Sabre tries for an Octopus stretch, but Makabe loses his footing instantly as Zack applies it on the mat, holding it on until Nagata and Honma make the save. Taichi tags in next, but quickly falls to a swivelling lariat, as Honma comes in to try and chop his way through the crooner, taking him into the corner for good measure. A bulldog from Honma sets up for Kokeshi, but of course it misses. After an eye rake, Taichi’s ganged up on as Makabe and Nagata trap him in the corner before throwing him into a leaping Kokeshi from Honma. A second Kokeshi lands, before Taichi blocked a Kokeshi Otoshi, and instead teased a Dangerous backdrop driver. Honma elbows out of that, before landing a lariat, but a quick turnaround from Suzuki-gun almost leads to the win via a buzzsaw kick from Taichi.

Nagata and Makabe make the save, before they’re pulled outside, as Taichi measured up for an Axe Bomber… but Honma stands firm. A Dangerous backdrop driver quickly follows for a near-fall, so Taichi goes for the neck again and forces the submission with a stretch plum. I feared the worst when the opening stretch was Nagata playing 2020 Tanahashi, but this managed to blossom into a pretty decent trios match with minimal BS. ***¼

The hell… they’re doing a G1 Climax this year?! Starting September 19 in Osaka, then wrapping up in Sumo Hall on October 18, it’s a full 19-day Climax, same as last year. It’ll be very interesting to see who’s in the blocks, especially since they seem to be aiming for the two-blocks-of-ten format as in recent years.

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & DOUKI) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Ryusuke Taguchi
Our final non-tournament match of the day, and this time, Suzuki-gun held off jumping their opponents before the bell.

Tenzan and Desperado start, as we hold off the Kojima-gun clash for a little while, as Desperado takes Tenzan to the ropes… then poked him in the eye. Tenzan finds his way back in with a shoulder tackle, before he puts the boots to Despy ahead of some Mongolian chops… which drew in DOUKI to take some as well. DOUKI and Desperado double-team Tenzan, sliding to the outside to trip and pull him into the post, before they whipped him into the ropes. Cue the Suzuki-gun bollocks, this time with Minoru going after Kojima with a chair. Old habits die hard. Back inside, Tenzan’s cornered as there’s hair pulling and face raking, before Suzuki tagged in to take part in some triple-boot chokes. Seems elite.

Kojima tries to make a save, but he gets caught in a double knee bar with Tenzan as Suzuki was yucking it up, before a front kick to Tenzan looked to set him up for a PK… but it’s caught as Tenzan’s back with Mongolian chops before Taguchi tags in and went wild with hip attacks. Suzuki eventually gets back in, but those hip attacks are irresistible for Taguchi, who cleared a way back to Kojima, who tagged in against his long-time nemesis. Machine gun chops just seem to piss of Suzuki, who withstands them before his goons come in to triple-team Kojima in the corner ahead of a springboard stomp from DOUKI.

DOUKI ties up Kojima with Italian Stretch #8, but Tenzan stomps it apart… before Suzuki held Kojima so DOUKI could nail him with the pipe. It comes to nought as Tenzan’s back to help with a TenKoji Cutter on Suzuki that sparked a wild Parade of Moves. A punch from Despy has Kojima out, allowing DOUKI to build some momentum with en route to an uppercut and a wacky lucha roll for a near-fall. After kicking out though, Kojima quickly finds his way back in with a Cozy Lariat, and that’s that. A fun trios match that didn’t outstay its welcome, and who doesn’t like Suzuki throwing a temper tantrum after matches? ***

Post-match, Kojima took the mic and issued a challenge for the KOPW qualifiers… he wants Desperado, and we wait for whatever stipulations they dream up.

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Final: Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. Kazuchika Okada, SHO & Toru Yano
Our first semi-final match sees LIJ on their quest to regain the belts they never really lost.

SHO and SANADA start us off, scrambling on the mat for a hold to no avail, before a waistlock from SHO got him something of an advantage, as he moved into a front facelock, rolling into a cravat before finding his way in with a cross armbar that SANADA swiftly escaped… a bow and arrow hold from SANADA’s quickly escaped, and that spot of chain wrestling ends with the pair tagging out. In come Yano and BUSHI, who trade roll-ups… including one that came as Yano stopped himself running towards Shingo. All that excitement’s too much for Yano, so he tags in Okada… who goes against Shingo – a pairing I desperately want to see in the G1. Shingo’s shoulder tackles knock down Okada, before the pair trade elbows… Shingo knocks a distracted Yano off the apron, while BUSHI kicks Okada in the ropes as LIJ took over.

BUSHI’s neckbreaker drops Okada for a two-count, while Shingo returns to land a suplex that barely gets a one-count on Okada. SANADA’s back to tie up Okada in a Paradise Lock, but it’s pushed away as SANADA ends up taking a flapjack to buy Okada some time. SHO tags in and peppers SANADA with kicks, leading to a deadlift German suplex attempt… but SANADA gets free before a missed standing moonsault led to him headbutting the mat as he tried to flip out of the German suplex.

SANADA whiffs on another moonsault out of the corner as he was going for a Skull End, but he wriggled to the ropes to free himself from a cross armbar. SHO stays on him, only to get scooped up into a Skull End as they go the lond way around to that hold. SHO escapes, but his spear’s caught and eventually countered into a rope-assisted Magic Killer. Tags get us to Yano and BUSHI again, but they head outside so BUSHI can try and dive onto Yano… who just ducks. Back inside, Yano removes the turnbuckle pad, but gets rolled up for a near-fall, before he pulls BUSHI down by the mask for another two-count. Shoving BUSHI towards the ref allows for a roll-up… but it’s BUSHI who counters that and almost wins it, as LIJ proceed to triple-team Yano, sandwiching him with dropkicks for a near-fall.

BUSHI goes for his tope suicida, but Yano pulls Yota Tsuji into harms way instead as BUSHI ends up getting thrown into the guard rails… as Yano finds some wrist tape under the ring. I think you can see where this was heading… as Shingo tosses the tape into the crowd… so Yano just tied BUSHI to the guard rails by his mask, and makes it back inside to beat the count. CHAOS make the finals, courtesy of some classic Yano trickery that ended a pretty great trios match. ***½

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Final: Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi & Master Wato
So, the winners of this face the Okada-CHAOS team tomorrow – could it be an all-CHAOS final?

Again, Tanahashi wants to start things off… and so he does, as there’s much less of a discussion than there was yesterday. Goto’s on the other side, as they open up with a side headlock from Tanahashi which is held onto, before Goto got his way free with a hiptoss. An Irish whip takes Tanahashi into the corner, but he rebounds with a crossbody before Tomohiro Ishii’s attempt to run in saw him eat an Ibushi dropkick. YOSHI-HASHI has similar bad luck, eating a double hiptoss before a low dropkick from Wato took him outside. Red Shoes Unno’s almost lost control here, as things are going perhaps too well for the former IWGP tag champions. Wato tags in, and kicks Goto in the chest before he’s met with a shoulder tackle. Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI return to triple-team our favourite blue man, sandwiching him with PKs before a thrust kick from YOSHI-HASHI kept the madness going.

Ibushi takes a clubbing, as things settle down to YOSHI-HASHI eating a Wato dropkick. A leaping rear spin kick takes YOSHI down again, as another low dropkick nearly ends the match. More kicks from Wato force YOSHI-HASHI to fight back, but a bicycle knee takes Wato ahead before he ran into a goddamn superkick. Tags bring in Ishii and Ibushi just to troll me while typing. Kota blocks a German suplex before landing a drop toe hold… Ishii avoids a standing moonsault before the pair went for each other’s throats to start some back-and-forth elbows. The strikes make Kota dizzy, but he kicks back before the standing moonsault lands for a near-fall.

More elbows from Ibushi fire up Ishii, who tries for a suplex before he got dumped on his head with an Ibushi German suplex… he’s right back up for a shoulder tackle and a powerslam too, as both men were left laying. Goto returns to knock Ibushi down, as Tanahashi tagged back in… and quickly took down Goto and Ishii with Dragon screws. Goto’s legal and gets caught in a Cloverleaf, but YOSHI-HASHI stops it… and gets met with a flying uppercut from Wato for his troubles. Goto makes a comeback with clotheslines, a spinning heel kick and a suplex out of the corner for a near-fall on Tanahashi, before a Head Hunter-assisted side-Russian legsweep nearly got Goto the win.

The ring fills up for a Parade of Moves as Ibushi tried to keep his team in it, but a pair of Goto lariats knock him on his arse (and head) as Tanahashi had to fight back. A headbutt stops those plans as a reverse GTR followed, but Tanahashi counters a GTR into some rolling Twist and Shout neckbreakers, only to run into an ushigoroshi attempt. An Ibushi kick turns that affair into a crucifix pin, which Ishii almost didn’t break up in time. This is bubbling away! Ibushi and Tanahashi team up for the double Side Effect – the Golden Blade, as they call it – before Tanahashi misses a High Fly Flow! Master Wato tags back in from there, booting YOSHI-HASHI in the face ahead of some headscissors… but Wato misses a charge into the corner and eats a rear spin kick. A Bunker Buster follows after a wild set up, but it’s not enough for the win, as another Parade of Moves broke out, with Ibushi getting dumped by an Ishii German suplex.

Double-teaming on Wato leads to a lungblower and a German suplex, which left the door open for YOSHI-HASHI, who scored a running powerbomb for the nearest of near-falls! A Western Lariat follows from YOSHI-HASHI, but it’s still not enough as an increasingly-panicked looking Tenzan watched on from ringside… the Kumagaroshi is escaped as Ibushi and Tanahashi fought back to clear the ring. Tanahashi holds YOSHI-HASHI in place for some high kicks from Wato and Ibushi, before the Master missed the RPP!

YOSHI-HASHI gets the boot up to Wato, but can’t avoid a corkscrew enziguiri as Wato almost got the win with what looked like an gutwrench driver? What the hell was that?! From the kick-out though, the CHAOS lads bombard Wato, leading to a Meteora for a near-fall from YOSHI-HASHI… and we’re still going… but not for much longer though as YOSHI-HASHI plants Wato with a Kumagaroshi for the win. After an age of middle-of-the road matches, this was bloody immense – sure, it was Wato’s first loss, but after a match this good, you almost don’t mind. ****¼

After the match, Ishii seems to be a little wound up with Tanahashi, while YOSHI-HASHI and Ibushi also seemed to exchange words. To the point of Ishii suddenly chopping Ibushi in the corner. Well, if that team doesn’t win tomorrow, I guess we’ve got something set up for the KOPW qualifiers?

Tomorrow sees the finals to crown new NEVER trios champions… with two CHAOS teams in the final, and then that’s it for two and a half weeks! Yep, no New Japan World streams until the days before the Jingu Stadium shows, as the final Korakuens look to decide on the KOPW challengers. It’s no coincidence that as we hit the business end of this part of the tour, things picked up. Matches with stakes suddenly make things feel important. Who knew?! If you’ve skipped a lot of the tour so far, make sure you at least check out the main event – as the dream of YOSHI-HASHI finally holding a title inches ever close.