It’s the final stop before Jingu Stadium, as the final build to Saturday’s super show took place at Korakuen Hall.
Yota Tsuji submitted Yuya Uemura in 9:10 (***¼)
YOSHI-HASHI, Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto submitted Tomoaki Honma, Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata in 9:40 (***)
SHO, Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano submitted Gedo, Jado & Yujiro Takahashi in 12:10 (**)
SANADA, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI submitted DOUKI, Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado in 9:20 (***)
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi & Master Wato pinned Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. in 11:20 (***¼)
EVIL & Taiji Ishimori pinned Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito in 12:00 (***)
We’re still running with only Japanese commentary, as for some reason the intro video today played up the matches we’re seeing… on Saturday.
Yuya Uemura vs. Yota Tsuji
This is the 34th time these two have had a singles match – with Tsuji having the better of a 7-5-21 record (yes, 21 draws) going back to April 2018.
We’ve still got the hair dryer fake crowd noise, but it’s heavily toned down here. Uemura and Tsuji scramble at first, but it’s Tsuji who gets the opening hold as they go back and forth on a wristlock, before Tsuji managed to grab a side headlock. Uemura pushes him away and comes back with a hattrick of armdrags, then with a cravat as he looked to wear down his larger foe. Tsuji easily slams his way out of that cravat though, and then sparked a battle of elbows, ending with a back body drop for a two-count. A cravat from Tsuji follows, before he snapmared Uemura down for a camel clutch. I mean, sure, that’s the long way around, but it works. He lets go so he can splash Uemura’s back, then went for a Boston crab, but Uemura scrambled to the ropes before the hold could be applied.
In the corner, Tsuji throws some chops as he lit up Uemura… but a turnaround followed with elbows from Uemura, then a drop-sault in the corner. Shoulder tackles and a leaping elbow drop gets a two-count, before he rolled Tsuji into a half crab… sitting down on him for extra leverage as Tsuji had to strain to get to that bottom rope for safety.
Uemura measures up for a Capture suplex, but Tsuji got to the rope… and earned himself some more elbows and chops before he fought back with a dropkick. More elbows between the pair follow, then palm-strikes, as the crowd clapped along in time, before a spear took down Uemura for a two-count. Instead of a Boston crab, Tsuji pulls off a Giant Swing – which gets a pop out of me – before the Boston crab… but the dizzied Uemura doesn’t tap immediately. He tries to pull himself towards the ropes, but Tsuji sits down deeper just as Uemura was about to get it… and there’s the tap. Absolutely fantastic stuff from these Young Lions – basic, but sometimes it’s the simple stuff that connects the most. ***¼
Yuji Nagata, Tomoaki Honma & Satoshi Kojima vs. Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
Well, this is definitely a step up in opposition for the NEVER trios champions – but of course, it’s non-title, as you’d expect for the second match on a run of the mill Korakuen show.
Nagata and Goto start us off, with Yuji working the wrist and Goto rolling to free himself as they ended up in the ropes. Goto’s right back with a side headlock, before he’s shot off into the ropes for a shoulder tackle that seemed to annoy Nagata, who rolled past him into a low dropkick. A running front kick drops Goto too, as YOSHI-HASHI ran in and found himself bounced around… but he’s still smart enough to avoid a Kokeshi from Honma.
Ishii comes in and… avoids Kokeshi. So instead, Nagata and Kojima try to double-team Goto, but that too backfires until Kojima slammed Goto… who also avoided a Kokeshi, despite Kojima holding his legs. I laughed. Honma tries to make a comeback as the concept of the legal man was a forgotten thing, but he’s met with a trio of thrust kicks as the ring finally empties. Goto goes back to Nagata in the corners, landing a spinning heel kick and a back suplex for a two-count, before YOSHI-HASHI tried to hassle Nagata with chops… and succeeded, as he pinned Nagata into the wrong corner for some triple-teaming.
Eventually Nagata got free and went for an armbar, but Ishii’s in to slap him around. Finally, Nagata snaps and slaps Ishii, before whipping him into the corner as a tag brings in Kojima. Hey, he can legally lariat today! Machine Gun chops pile up the NEVER trios champs in the corner, with everyone getting a dose before the numbers game threatened to work against him.
Kojima manages to come back with a DDT on Goto as we got back to Kojima/Ishii, with the pair trading elbows. A struggle over a suplex sees Kojima land one, before he wandered into a powerslam from Ishii, as tags get us to YOSHI-HASHI and Kojima. A big chop from YOSHI stings Kojima, who lands another Koji Cutter, before Honma tagged in to try and push the match over the line.
Honma’s extra raspy today as he throws elbows, but he’s able to bulldog YOSHI out of the corner… and of course he misses another Kokeshi. The numbers game comes into play again, but Honma outsmarts the CHAOS lads as it led to triple-teaming on YOSHI-HASHI, who FINALLY took a Kokeshi for a near-fall. A second, leaping Kokeshi lands for a near-fall, as the ring then filled up with the CHAOS lads restoring order, leading to YOSHI-HASHI lariating Honma for another near-fall, before he forced a submission with a Butterfly Lock. Entertaining enough – and I’d really love to see this around again as a title match – especially given how prestigious the NEVER trios straps aren’t, regular defences shouldn’t be an issue. ***
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, Gedo & Jado) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & SHO
…yeah, because the big issue with yesterday’s match was that it was a handicap match. Curiously, SHO’s no longer holding the IWGP Junior tag team title belt here. Maybe it’s in the wash?
Okada and Yujiro start things off, locking up as they headed into the ropes for a clean break… but Yujiro throws in a sucker punch as my feed dropped out. It’s back with Jado tagging in to chop Okada by the ropes, but Okada recovers and tags in SHO to help him club away on Jado’s back. Yujiro gets it too, but Gedo drops off the apron… only to get thrown in as Yano helped out too.
Corner clotheslines from SHO catch Jado and Yujiro in the corner, but the numbers game means that SHO’s quickly overwhelmed by the pair of them… until he shoved Jado into Yujiro, before Gedo tripped and pulled him to the outside. Here comes the belting from Gedo, before Jado then went old school by raking SHO’s eyes on the top rope. It’s the same slow-ish pace as yesterday’s main event, but thankfully SHO tries to raise it up… only to get tackled down by Jado again.
SHO’s tossed outside as Gedo proceeds to whip him some more, before Yujiro tagged in for some ground and pound. Gedo’s in to rake SHO’s back, then the eyes, before he threw SHO into Jado’s boot. Yujiro gets a two-count on SHO as I’m reaching for my coffee, before a struggle over suplexes led to SHO landing his.
Okada tags back in to clear house and to save this, taking Yujiro into the corner for a back elbow, then a DDT for a two-count. Yujiro returns fire with a Fisherman buster for a near-fall as Yano interjected himself… he’s tossed outside though, as Yujiro then looked for the Miami Shine on Okada, only for it to fall apart as he instead came back with a lariat. Gedo’s back to try and steal the win, landing a jawbreaker, but a thrust kick is caught as he instead raked Okada’s eyes.
A front kick drops Gedo again, as SHO tagged in to bounced Gedo into the corner before he unloaded with a series of kicks. The deadlift German suplex follows, but Gedo elbowed free and ended up eating a spear instead for a two-count. SHO turns into a key lock from there, but that just drew in Yujiro to break it up as the ring fills up…
Another deadlift German ends with SHO backing into the ropes as Jado cracks him with a Kendo stick, before Gedo again tries to nick it with a superkick. Gedo tries to go for the brass knuckles, but the ref stops him as Yano also interfered… low blowing Jado out of the equation before things settled down, with SHO quickly tapping Gedo with a back cracker and a cross armbar. This was all over the place, and while it was thankfully slightly pacier than yesterday, this is a cursed feud that really needs to be put to bed. **
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & DOUKI) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, SANADA & BUSHI)
We’re building up to Suzuki vs. Shingo on Saturday – in what’s disappointingly not a blast current explosion match or anything like that. Hey, BUSHI’s breaking the magician’s code!
You’ll be appalled to learn that Suzuki-gun jumpstarted the match, but it backfires as Shingo took Suzuki chest-first into the guard rails. In the ring, BUSHI’s stomping away on DOUKI, before he ducked an enziguiri… but a kick in the ropes from Desperado turned things around as all six men ended up having a scrap on the outside. Suzuki trades chops with Shingo by the guard rails, before things settled down with Desperado getting a two-count out of a slam on BUSHI. A tag brings in Suzuki, who wrenches away on BUSHI’s wrist in a hammerlock, then went for the other one as Shingo ran in to make a save. An elbow dispatches Shingo, before DOUKi returned with chops… only to get caught with flying headscissors as BUSHI mounted a comeback.
Shingo and Suzuki tag in to batter each other with elbows, before Shingo’s elbow and jab combo had Suzuki laying ahead of a brainbuster. Mocking kicks just anger Suzuki, and really were unwise, as the murder grandpa came back with elbows and a front kick, before he punted Shingo with a PK. The pair go back and forth with elbows, then clotheslines before Suzuki finagled his way into a rear naked choke, before a Gotch piledriver was countered away.
A second rear naked choke restrains Shingo, and almost led to the stoppage, before a Gotch piledriver’s swiftly countered into a death valley driver. SANADA and Desperado tag in next, to build up the KOPW stuff… and Desperado has to avoid an early TKO before he was rolled into a Paradise Lock attempt. That came to nought, as did a backflip into a Skull End, as Despy uses the ref as a human shield to mask a punch. DOUKI’s back next to help out, landing a springboard stomp after a Despy spinebuster for a near-fall. The Daybreak springboard DDT’s good for a near-fall, as the ring began to fill up… with Suzuki trying to pull of Shingo’s arm, while DOUKI dropped SANADA with a backsliding version of the Widow’s Peak.
After that, DOUKI goes for Suplex de la Luna, but SANADA escaped, then landed an elbow before he backflipped into a Skull End, swinging DOUKI around before the inevitable submission. A nice sprint of a match at under ten minutes – but this didn’t give away too much for the Shingo/Suzuki match either… at least until the post-match pullapart. ***
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi & Master Wato vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Thankfully the memory of Hiroshi Tanahashi having his arse handed to him in these tags earlier in the tour is a distant one – and he’s since strung together a long run of wins that seems to have erased any doubts from Kota Ibushi’s mind.
OF COURSE there’s a jump start. Kanemaru came through the crowd and attacked Wato before anyone else could get to the ring. I mean, good, because that match for Saturday has been lost in the shuffle. Kanemaru dragged Wato to the apron for a running dropkick on the floor, before he got hurled into the guard rails along with Tenzan, as Tanahashi and Ibushi seemed to be chasing shadows.
Taichi catches Ibushi by the rails and chokes on him, while Tanahashi and Sabre continue their never-ending scrap as well. The bell has gone, by the way, so this is technically a match… and it continued with Wato being thrown back into the ring as he tried to fight from the bottom against Kanemaru. Taichi comes in with a side headlock, before he dumped Wato throat-first on the top rope. Sabre’s in with a cravat as Wato was being torn apart. Wato tries to fight back with kicks to Kanemaru, eventually finding a way through with a dropkick before tagging out to Ibushi, who cleared through Taichi with a kick. A standing shooting star press lands next for a two-count, before Taichi found his way in with kicks, but Tanahashi comes in and restores order.
A slam on Taichi looked to set up for a flip senton, but Taichi rolled away and tagged in Sabre, who kept Tanahashi at close quarters. They struggle over a backslide, then a Cobra twist, but Sabre edged ahead with an Octopus stretch that Wato of all people broke up. He’s taken outside as Suzuki-gun dispatches the referee too… and Ibushi’s in to save Tanahashi as Sabre and Taichi tried to tear off his leg again.
This time though, they reverse it, with Tanahashi and Ibushi working together to try and pop out Sabre’s knee with a Dragon screw. Kanemaru tags in and keeps on Tanahashi though, with the help of Taichi as a pair of buzzsaw kicks sandwiched the Ace for a near-fall. Kanemaru reaches for his whiskey bottle, shovign aside the ref… but Master Wato makes the save with a swandive uppercut, before a gutwrench driver dropped Kanemaru. From there, Kamigoye dumped Kanemaru, before a High Fly Flow eventually came off for the win, with Wato and Ibushi restraining Sabre and Taichi. The W’s keep piling up after another match that started scrappy but ended up becoming half decent by the end. ***¼
What’s this, we’re up to the main event after 90 minutes, with an interval?!
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Bullet Club (EVIL & Taiji Ishimori)
Our main event is building up the two singles title matches on Saturday, after we had neither hide nor hair of this on yesterday’s card.
EVIL & Naito start us off as the crowd went wild with clapping, but Naito pulls a trick and knocks Ishimori off the apron so LIJ could double-team EVIL in the early going. Going to ground, Naito uses the hair to help stretch EVIL, while Ishimori reversed a whip to throw Hiromu into the guard rails as both sides were having mixed fortunes.
Stomps from Naito trap EVIL in the corner, but Dick Togo’s interference puts the brakes on as the Bullet Club finally took control. The camera cable’s used to choke out Naito on the floor, which drew booing from the remotely-controlled crowd, before the referee started counting in anger at how things were falling out of control. Eventually EVIL threw Naito back inside, before he threw Naito into an exposed corner as the early corner cutting from LIJ was being thrown back at them with some interest. Naito finds his way back in with a Manhattan drop on Ishimori, before he tagged in an eager Hiromu, who again went for EVIL before he took down Ishimori with a tijeras.
A dropkick off the apron’s next as Hiromu found EVIL and Ishimori, before making Dick Togo back off. Ishimori lands an enziguiri back inside as he hung up Hiromu in the ropes for a baseball slide German suplex, before the Cipher Utaki was countered out of… but Hiromu couldn’t land a Dynamite Plunger as the pair instead went for clotheslines.
A pop-up powerbomb dropped Ishimori before tags take us back to EVIL and Naito… and it’s the former double champ who pulls ahead, landing a neckbreaker before he pulled EVIL into the Pluma Blanca. An eye rake form Naito keeps him ahead, as do some elbows to the neck and a low dropkick into the corner, before Naito took EVIL up top… and ended up getting pulled down as Dick Togo capitalised on a distraction.
EVIL builds anew with a Fisherman suplex for a near-fall, but a DDT stops EVIL in his tracks. Hiromu’s back with a dropkick to EVIL, but a Dynamite Plunger doesn’t come off… so he runs in with a clothesline instead. Another one in the corner sets up for a sandwich of low dropkicks on EVIL for a two-count… but an errant shotgun dropkick from Hiromu finds Naito, and allowed Ishimori to go in for the kill with a snap armbreaker on Hiromu.
Ishimori distracts the ref as EVIL comes in with a chair, which he swings at Hiromu’s back and shoulder, before he put the junior champ away with Everything is EVIL, with referee Red Shoes Unno begrudgingly counting the pin. Decent enough, but things began to fall flat at the end as it seems Hiromu’s going into Jingu with a bum shoulder. ***
After the match, Dick Togo chokes out Naito with the wire as the automated boos filled the hall – with the last image of the show being EVIL standing tall over Naito’s body.
…and that’s Summer Struggle! Well, almost. While this hasn’t been a “road to” tour, it may as well have been since all roads now lead to Jingu Stadium on Saturday for a six-match spectacular, with four titles and the KOPW “title” on the line. Oh, and Master Wato vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru in the opener, in a match that’s kinda been forgotten about.
This was a marked improvement on yesterday’s show – although the inherent “house show” ceiling remains in terms of match quality. Breezing by at under two-hours in length makes this for a mostly fun and easy watch. The removal of the hairdryer crowd noise was a blessing, in that it wasn’t a constant drone, and made for a much more watchable show. If you’re picking and choosing, come for the Young Lions’ match, and then hang around for the post-match stuff in the second half of the show.