We’ve two new Young Lions debuting as the Summer Struggle tour picks up once again at Korakuen Hall.

Quick Results
Kosei Fuijita & Ryohei Oiwa fought to a time limit draw in 10:00 (**½)
Satoshi Kojima & Master Wato pinned Tomoaki Honma & Tiger Mask in 10:29 (**¾)
Chase Owens & Jado defeat Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi via disqualification in 9:01 (*½)
Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan pinned Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Kazuchika Okada in 12:53 (***)
Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Robbie Eagles pinned DOUKI, Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi in 23:42 (***)

We’re back at Korakuen Hall for the start of another run of shows, and since we’ve still got folks on the sidelines recovering from covid (and the associated protocols), we’re still dealing with a razor-thin roster. A bit of a worry given that the G1 Climax is starting to appear on those upcoming show graphics…

Kosei Fujita vs. Ryohei Oiwa
Not counting Yuto Nakashima’s ill-fated debut – or any of the LA Dojo lads – these are the first debuting Young Lions since April 2018. Nearly three and a half years in the making, and these two will be facing each other A LOT, since there’s no bugger else around following Uemura and Tsuji leaving for excursion.

We’re running with ten minute time limits for these matches, so expect draws. The early scrambling saw neither Oiwa nor Fujita get an advantage, before they battled over holds on the mat. A toe hold, a cross armbar, a side headlock, then the eventual escape as we reached another stand-off.

A lot of back-and-forth continues as some headscissors on the mat were escaped, going back to headlocks as Fujita looked to be having a brief advantage. Except Oiwa slips free and grabbed a side headlock on the mat, making it clear their limited arsenal in these early days.

A double wristlock ends in the ropes, as Fujita was really busting out the submission attempts, with commentary saying he was patterning himself after Minoru Suzuki. Uh oh.The pair trade elbows from there, but it’s Oiwa who looks to pull ahead, stomping Fujita to the mat ahead of a leg lock. The ropes save Fujita as we hit the seven minute mark, where he’s rolled into a half crab, before a rope break allowed Fujita to hit back with a dropkick. Wash, rinse, repeat for a two-count, before he fought to grab a Boston crab, with Oiwa getting to the ropes.

Stomps take us into the final thirty seconds as Fujita tries another Boston crab, but it’s time that saves Oiwa as we hit the ten minute draw. Exactly what you expected out of a pair of debuting Young Lions – the draw was nailed on from the start, but some good effort here as they take their first steps. If you held me at gunpoint to pick a winner, I’d say Fujita just about edged this, but there’ll be plenty more water to come under the bridge between these guys. **½

Tomoaki Honma & Tiger Mask vs. Satoshi Kojima & Master Wato
I get the feeling that if this was an American indie, some of these matches could well be tagged with a “Lethal Lottery” gimmick…

Kojima works over Honma’s wrist early on, before he took things to the corner for some clubbing forearms and knees. Honma’s back out with a shoulder block, as tags take us to Wato and Tiger Mask, with the latter landing a shoulder block before Wato’s elbow and leaping spin kick put him ahead.

A springboard from Wato comes to nought as Tiger Mask kicked him away, before Honma seemingly had his boot up for nothing. Honma tags in and chops Wato down as Tiger Mask returned to throw some kicks for another two-count. Wato’s held in a camel clutch as Honma played guard as my feed drops.

We’re back with Kojima tagging in, clearing house as he cracked open Machine Gun chops on Tiger Mask. The top rope elbow’s stopped with a rear spin kick from Tiger Mask, before Honma came in to take Kojima down for a Kokeshi. They trade strikes, then struggle over a suplex that Honma just about gets off, before a Tiger Driver leaves Kojima down for another Kokeshi, which Wato barely breaks the cover on.

Honma follows up with clotheslines, but Kojima swatted him away for a Koji cutter, before Tiger Mask was met with a plancha on the outside. A brainbuster from Kojima to Honma nearly wins it, before a Honma headbutt and lariat sets up for a diving Kokeshi. Kojima kicks out at two from that, before a kick from Wato led to a Cozy lariat for the win. **¾

Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Jado)
So we’re getting an I Quit match for the KOPW trophy in just under two weeks’ time…

Chase Owens has (presumably) had someone write out a long intro for him in Japanese, to troll Yano with. Yano attacks before the bell as things quickly spill to the floor, where Yano meets the guard rails. Hard. Back in the ring, Owens puts a leg-trap cravat on Yano on the mat as Jado grabbed the mic to hit the I Quit stipulation a little.

…and then it’s back outside as Chase is sour his strap match didn’t win the vote. He whacks Yano with it, while Jado distracted the ref… masking an arse whipping on Taguchi. A genuine arse whipping. Knee drops from Owens keep Yano down, while a leg lock from Jado ends in the ropes. Somehow this isn’t even four minutes old, yet I feel like this match has already been going on for a week.

Owens leaps on Yano’s leg in the ropes as he kept pushing the I Quit narrative. Yano runs into the exposed corner, but returns by pulling Owens by the hair, before Taguchi tagged in to put his arse to work. Hip attacks in the ropes, that is. The Three Amigos land on Chase for a near-fall, but Taguchi misses a Bummer-Ye and gets rolled up for a near-fall.

A springboard hip attack misses, with Owens’ knee strike leading to a package piledriver attempt, but Taguchi jack-knifes for a near-fall, only for Owens to come right back with another knee strike. Yano runs in to stop a package piledriver, slingshotting Owens into the exposed corner before the referee took a spill to the outside.

That’s because Yano’s got handcuffs from the last Dome show… but Owens rakes the eyes and takes over the cuffs, tying up Yano’s wrists and holding him for a Kendo stick shot. Yano manages to duck it and low blow Jado, then go wild with the Kendo stick, as the referee suddenly calls for the bell. No Chase, there wasn’t much comedy tonight, nor much of anything to write home about… *½

United Empire (Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
We’re getting Cobb vs. Okada at the Dome, as the United Empire really seems to have lost much of their focus without Ospreay.

Cobb and Okada look to start, with an early suplex from Okada obviously not going anywhere as Cobb countered, only to get met with elbows. A shoulder tackle has Okada down and out, before tags got us to Tenzan and O-Khan. They quickly break in the ropes as a battle of Mongolian chops briefly had Tenzan ahead, only for things to head outside as he’s taken into the rails.

Cobb’s back to throw Tenzan aside, before he mocked Tenzan with some Mongolian chops. Tenzan hits back in kind, only to get charged back into the corner as O-Khan tagged back in to land some more of those. Okada’s able to get the tag in, knocking down O-Khan with a back elbow, then a DDT for a two-count.

From there, Okada moves into the Money Clip, which Cobb slides in to break up… but Okada stays on O-Khan with a neckbreaker, before an over-the-knee neckbreaker’s blocked. A leg sweep has Okada down as O-Khan’s side Salto suplex chucks him across the ring, before Cobb returned for a running back suplex for a two-count.

My feed stalls, returning as Tenzan’s landing Mongolian chops to Cobb in the corner as a precursor to a brainbuster. Cobb’s up at two as Okada ran in pre-emptively to make the save, while an Anaconda Vise drew in O-Khan for the save. Okada’s been taken out as O-Khan’s head claw weakens Tenzan, who’s sandwiched with kicks for a two-count.

Cobb manages to muscle up Okada for a tombstone to stop his involvement, while Tenzan’s Mongolian chops get stopped by O-Khan. From there, a Spin Cycle from Cobb, and a ripcord Tour of the Islands puts Tenzan away as the United Empire mostly dominated this tag. ***

Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Robbie Eagles vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI)
We’re building what they can for the three-way tag title match at the MetLife Dome next month…

When things eventually get going, we’ve Goto and Sabre starting, locking up into the ropes as Taichi lurked on the apron. The pair trade Cobra twists before they end up in the ropes, where Sabre snaps in with an uppercut, before YOSHI-HASHI came in for some double-teaming and clubbering.

A boot choke nearly pushes Sabre to the outside, before YOSHI-HASHI came in to trade strikes with the Brit. More boot choking keeps Zack in the corner, before Robbie Eagles tagged in to add his boots to the mix. Goto’s back with a bulldog… but Sabre pushes free and twists Goto’s neck as part of the bargain, before things headed outside and into the railings.

DOUKI chokes Eagles with his battered pipe as the ref begins to start the count-out, but Goto narrowly beats the 20-count, only to get sandwiched between three boots in the Suzuki-gun corner. Goto tries to fight back, but Sabre trips him and tied him up with a Deathlock & cravat combo that drew in YOSHI-HASHI to break it up… except YOSHI-HASHI just gets a double wristlock for his woes.

Taichi’s in with some choking that riles up Goto, who caught a front kick and returned a clothesline as we went past the ten-minute mark. YOSHI-HASHI tags in to chop Taichi in the corner, following up with a Head Hunter before he dealt with Sabre and DOUKI’s attempted run-ins.

A suplex hangs Taichi in the ropes for a YOSHI-HASHI dropkick, then a low one for a two-count. YOSHI-HASHI goes for a powerbomb, but Taichi’s attempt to block earns him an elbow, before an enziguiri left both men down. Taichi’s back with clotheslines before his backdrop driver’s blocked… but the Holy Emperor Cross Mausoleum’s quickly broken up as Eagles tries to keep the match alive.

Eagles gets thrown to the outside as a Parade of Moves breaks out, including Divorce Courts and lariats that leaves everyone laying. Tags get us to DOUKI and Eagles, with the Aussie’s diving kick putting him ahead before DOUKI blocked a Turbo Backpack. DOUKI gets met with a springboard dropkick to the knee as Eagles went for the Ron Miller Special, then dragged DOUKI away from the ropes as Sabre kicked away the hold instead.

A superkick decks Sabre as DOUKI ends up taking the Turbo Backpack for a near-fall, before Eagles went up top for a 450 splash… but DOUKI gets the knees up! From there, a swinging Northern Lights suplex gets DOUKI a near-fall, but a Suplex de la Luna’s rolled out of as Eagles ends up taking a lariat instead.

DOUKI nearly snatches a rare win with Suplex de la Luna as he then had to deal with YOSHI-HASHI, taking him outside for an Asai moonsault. Back in the ring, a springboard stomp misses as Eagles tagged out to Goto, who absorbs clotheslines and dropkicks before DOUKI’s springboard stomp leads to a two-count. Italian Stretch #32 – the DOUKI CHOKI – gets us past the 20-minute mark as Goto almost loses via stoppage…

The ropes save Goto, who’s able to block a Daybreak DDT as another Parade of Moves broke out. At the second time of asking, Daybreak lands for a near-fall, before another Suplex de la Luna’s countered out of, with an ushigoroshi leaving DOUKI down. A throat thrust and an enziguiri gave DOUKI hope, but he runs into a GTR as Goto snatches the win… only to get swarmed by Taichi after the three-count. This was good, but began to hit that “we’re running out of ideas” territory towards the end. ***

Post-match, YOSHI-HASHI makes the save to help lay out Sabre and Taichi with the three-letter double team moves they do that I can never get right.

We’re back tomorrow for a somewhat similar card, featuring an elimination match in the main event spot. I hate to say “this was a bad show,” because it wasn’t – there’s a difference between “bad” and “bleh.” What it was, except for the Young Lions debut, was mostly the definition of non-essential, as whatever momentum New Japan may have had going into next month’s Dome shows threatens to evaporate.