The Summer Struggle switches to Nagoya as KENTA and Hiroshi Tanahashi face off in a special main event.
Robbie Eagles, SHO & YOH pinned El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI in 9:19 (**¾)
Ryusuke Taguchi, Rocky Romero, YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto submitted Jado, Yujiro Takahashi, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori in 9:34 (**¾)
Toru Yano & Kazuchika Okada defeated Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb via count-out in 10:52 (**)
Shingo Takagi & BUSHI pinned Master Wato & Tomoaki Honma in 11:44 (**½)
EVIL pinned Tomohiro Ishii in 28:07 (**½)
Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned KENTA in 24:51 (***)
The Dolphin’s Arena in Aichi is our host here for the third of four nights on this run of the Summer Struggle tour…
Robbie Eagles & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI)
We’ve got Eagles vs. Desperado in the Tokyo Dome tomorrow, so you know what that means…
There’s a jump start as Desperado went for Eagles, taking things outside only to get chucked into the guard rails. YOH leaps into Kanemaru with a plancha as the initial flurry died down, and I guess those two are starting as legal, although SHO got a few kicks in too. Kanemaru low bridges YOH back to the outside as we need more guardrails, before Desperado tagged in to put the boots to YOH. And throw him back outside again. Yep, more guard rails, and a snap suplex on the floor followed, as did a back suplex from Desperado before DOUKI came in.
YOH breaks free and tagged out to SHO, who cleared the apron before focusing on DOUKI, charging him down off the ropes. DOUKI’s back with a bridging suplex for a two-count, before Suplex de la Luna was elbowed out of. A spear from SHO leads to tags out to Eagles and Desperado, who trade right hands until an eye rake from Desperado and some blocked headscissors as Eagles needed to dive to the ropes to break the Numero Dos. Guitarra de Angel’s escaped by Eagles, who then wheelbarrowed Desperado into a Ron Miller Special, but Kanemaru quickly stomped it apart. A dropkick-assisted side suplex gets Desperado a two-count… but the match suddenly ends with Eagles getting a lucha roll-up on Desperado, and that’s the win! I’m not used to the “pin the champion” in these warm-ups, but Eagles has some big time bragging rights ahead of the Tokyo Dome… **¾
Post-match, Desperado punched out Eagles, before DOUKI threw some chairs into the ring. Of course Desperado used them on Eagles’ knee, giving his challenger a big disadvantage going into tomorrow’s match.
Ryusuke Taguchi, Rocky Romero, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori, El Phantasmo, Yujiro Takahashi & Jado)
You know the drill. IWGP junior tag title match tomorrow, so here’s the final warm-up…
Taguchi kicks arse to jump start the match, with Ishimori and Phantasmo getting talent to the corners as YOSHI-HASHI and Goto ran elbows into the corner. Almost forever. Taguchi hops up into the corner so ELP could get thrown into his arse… and it actually worked this time. Ishimori’s next, but he blocks it… so YOSHI-HASHI lawndarts him into the arse instead. What am I watching here?
When things calm down, YOSHI-HASHI and Goto double-team Yujiro, then club away on Jado before ELP backed off as he tried to make a save. Yujiro responds by biting YOSHI-HASHI, who then got tripped in the ropes before a hotshot from Yujiro left YOSHI-HASHI laying. Jado’s in with back rakes, while ELP’s spinning back rake off the top continued to annoy. Ishimori’s got a back rake too, leaping off the middle rope for his, before Phantasmo decided to play Taguchi and have YOSHI-HASHI thrown into his arse. Except ELP’s buns weren’t quite as used to that sort of thing…
Staying in the ring, Ishimori’s double knees in the corner led to YOSHI-HASHI countering a suplex into a Bunker Buster, before Rocky Romero tagged in. He eventually lands some headscissors before holding Ishimori up for a hip attack. More follow in the ropes from Taguchi, before Jado and ELP ganged up on Taguchi with back rakes. Yujiro’s Fisherman buster almost gets the win for Jado, who then rolled Taguchi into the OJK crossface… but Romero stomps it apart. ELP stomps on Rocky’s foot with the loaded boot to spark a Parade of Stuff, leading to a thrust-kick-assisted ushigoroshi on Yujiro. Jado gets caught with his Kendo stick, but Taguchi ducked it, hit an enziguiri, then tied up Jado in Oh My Garankle for the submission as ELP’s attempt at Sudden Death was stopped by way of a Rocky hip attack. **¾
Post-match, ELP and Ishimori try to sneak attack their opponents for tomorrow, but it backfires as ELP has to scramble away from Taguchi’s attempt to remove his boot.
United Empire (Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano
24 hours out, they still haven’t announced any names for Toru Yano’s bondage rumble…
We’ve a jump start as Okada chucks his entrance robe at Cobb, then took him outside for a brief trip to the guard rails. In the ring, Yano pulled O-Khan by the braid, walking him like a dog before hitting a chop to the neck. Off comes a turnbuckle pad, but O-Khan just chokes Yano with the same braid of hair… which is pulled on for an escape. Yano swings with the turnbuckle pad, but got caught in O-Khan’s standing submission ahead of a Final Cut for a near-fall. On the outside, Okada and Yano are taken into the guard rails, with O-Khan seemingly trying to handcuff Yano before he was stopped by the ref. Yano makes it back inside, but Cobb tags in to level him with right hands, before choking him in the ropes.
O-Khan’s back to stomp Yano, who tried to fight back ahead of a simple hair pull, which bought him enough time to tag in Okada. Cobb’s back too, but he’s on the defensive as he took a back elbow and a DDT for a two-count. Okada heads up top for an elbow drop,m but Cobb’s up quickly and meets Okada in the corner with a back elbow. A running suplex lands for a two-count for Cobb, before Okada tried to lock in a Money Clip. Cobb resists and rolls free, before he ran into a flapjack. Tags bring in Yano and O-Khan, with the former almost winning on a roll-up, before O-Khan’s boot took down Yano ahead of a claw-assisted abdominal stretch.
Another claw-assisted move has O-Khan ahead, but Okada breaks it up… and got taken outside to get throttled by Cobb. Meanwhile, O-Khan has Yano on the outside, but the tables turn when Yano hits an atomic drop and went under the ring for some handcuffs… he cuffs O-Khan to the ring frame, and apparently beat the count-out (he didn’t). Yano’s declared the winner to zero reaction, so Cobb and Okada have a scuffle afterwards to spice things up. This was running fine, but that finish deflated things massively… **
Luckily, Yuya Uemura has a key and is able to uncuff O-Khan afterwards. Either that or he’s really skilled with a hair pin… for which he gets strangled out with the help of O-Khan’s wrist tape. The ungrateful sod.
Tomoaki Honma & Master Wato vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)
Let’s do this one more time, shall we? This time, with an even more ridiculous entrance mask for BUSHI…
BUSHI and Wato start us off, with a tie-up into the ropes, before BUSHI’s floatover and headscissors had Wato down… for like a second as the pair swing and miss on kicks ahead of an eye rake from BUSHI. Wato’s back with an elbow and a leaping kick, before he cleared Shingo off the apron.
Honma tags in, and he immediately shuffles towards Shingo, who gets the tag in. There’s a DDT on BUSHI, before shoulder tackles failed to move Shingo. A headbutt did though, as Honma knocked down Shingo, then brought in Wato for a double-team that backfired. BUSHI’s back to rake Honma’s eyes ahead of a missile dropkick off the middle rope, while Shingo tagged back to hit a back senton. Chops from Honma are returned in kind by Shingo, before an attempted noshigami’s countered into a suplex by Honma. Tags get us back to Wato and BUSHI, who trade right hands ahead of some headscissors from Wato. He’s lifted outside for the springboard uppercut, before Shingo came in to help… but he’s taken outside and takes a tope con giro with BUSHI.
Wato’s kicks back inside left BUSHI laying, but he’s able to block Recientemente before running into a tiltawhirl backbreaker. BUSHI returns with a DDT, then brought in Shingo for some chops… but Wato’s pop-up ‘rana took Shingo down once again. Honma’s back to help with chops as Shingo’s double-teamed to the mat for a two-count. Shingo’s back with a pop-up death valley driver, then a sliding lariat for a two-count, before a leaping Kokeshi from Honma looked to turn the tables. He again pulls down the knee pad to mimic the Kamigoye, but this time BUSHI chokes Honma to stop a diving Kokeshi, before Wato got killed with a Pumping Bomber for a laugh. He unwisely kicked out… then almost nicked a win as he countered Last of the Dragon into a roll-up, before Shingo countered a kick into Made in Japan for the eventual win. **½
EVIL vs. Tomohiro Ishii
After having attacked Ishii at Korakuen Hall a few weeks back, EVIL’s been hell bent on this match – despite not wanting any part of the trios titles that Ishii holds. In nine prior singles matches, EVIL has never once beaten Ishii… is tenth time the charm?
Ishii jumps EVIL before the bell, taking him outside and into the railings to start, before Dick Togo was thrown into the ring to get laid out with an elbow. Clotheslines follow in the corner from Ishii, before a shoulder block took EVIL back to the outside. EVIL crawls away from a chair that Ishii lobbed his way as the pair headed up the aisle, with Ishii breaking apart some of the crowd barriers to throw on EVIL. Dick Togo attacks Ishii in front of the ref to stop a suplex. There’s no DQ, as Togo instead sparked a brief chase that led to EVIL clotheslining Ishii in the ring. Back outside, EVIL hits a home run on Ishii with some chairs, which almost led to a count-out as Ishii took his time rolling back inside.
EVIL takes it back outside to kill the timekeeper again, before a half-Lion tamer turned into a regular half crab by the ropes. A whip takes Ishii into an exposed, but he charged out to knock down EVIL anyway on the rebound, before chops and forearms knocked EVIL onto his arse in the corner. An eye rake from EVIL bought him some recovery time, as did throwing Ishii outside, as Dick Togo was on hand to throw Ishii into the rails. Back inside, EVIL gets a two-count, before a repeat backfired with Togo getting thrown into the rails, while EVIL became reacquainted with the timekeeper’s table, as Ishii dished out some payback for a grateful Makoto Abe.
Back inside, EVIL heads up top with Ishii and lands a superplex, but it’s not enough for the win. EVIL tries for some referee assistance, but throws him aside so Togo can come in for a Magic Killer for another near-fall, before Ishii escaped a Darkness Falls to throw EVIL into the exposed corner. A superplex from Ishii followed, before EVIL got dumped with a swivelling lariat. Dick Togo’s on the apron again, so EVIL gets thrown into him as a German suplex and a sliding lariat lands for a near-fall. EVIL tries to counter a brainbuster, but gets met with a headbutt before he kicked the rope into Ishii’s Stone Pitbulls. After waiting for Ishii to get up, Darkness Falls lands for a near-fall, before Ishii got taken back to the exposed corner.
The pace quickens briefly as EVIL nails a lariat for a two-count, before Everything is EVIL was countered with a strike as we crossed 25 minutes. That’s the cue for Dick Togo to run in with the garrote wire, but Ishii powers through it and levelled him with a clothesline, before avoiding an EVIL low blow. From there, Ishii hits the ropes and spun EVIL with a lariat, before we have Yujiro come in with his Pimp Cane. Because what’s more interference? A low blow from EVIL leaves Ishii open for a Pimp Juice. To utter silence. Everything is EVIL follows, and I’m done. If you love run-ins and interference, this is your match. It’s not mine. **½
Katsuyori Shibata heads out to ringside for the main event… now you have me interested, even if this heads nowhere beyond “Shibata does commentary.”
KENTA vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
We’ve had three singles meetings between these two, all in the past two years or so… with KENTA holding the slim advantage.
KENTA rolls outside early on, then again after he was locked up into the ropes. After we’re done with the stalling, Tanahashi throws down KENTA from the lock-up, before a springboard crossbody out of the corner and an elbow drop had Tanahashi ahead. KENTA’s back outside, so Tanahashi chases him back in, before KENTA chucked him outside for a double stomp off the apron. An Irish whip hurls Tanahashi into the railings, before KENTA stopped to stare down Shibata on commentary… who got up and took off his headset, but ended up doing nothing as KENTA took the match back to the ring. KENTA grounds Tanahashi with a chinlock, then threw the Ace down as he got back to his feet, before knee drops and a nonchalant backheel wound up Tanahashi.
Another side headlock keeps Tanahashi down, but he roars as KENTA throws a series of right hands, getting back up off his knees before KENTA… rolled him down for a punt to the back. Tanahashi’s back with a leaping forearm and a Dragon screw as he set up for a Cloverleaf, forcing KENTA to scramble into the ropes for a break. KENTA snuck back in with a roll-up for a two-count, before he went for a tornado hot shot… only for Tanahashi to push him away. A scoop slam from KENTA followed, who then went up top to measure up Tanahashi for a flying Kane clothesline, landing it for another two-count. Tanahashi countered out of a draping DDT and lifted KENTA onto the apron, but KENTA capitalises with a stun gun as he then dragged Tanahashi out for a draping DDT off the apron.
Tanahashi staggered into the railings, falling down as he just about recovered to beat the 20-count, but couldn’t avoid the hesitation dropkick in the corner as KENTA pulled ahead. A double stomp off the top leads to another two-count for KENTA, whose Go 2 Sleep got countered into a Dragon screw. The pair trade right hands again, before the camera zoomed so far in it missed the ref getting shoved aside so they could keep throwing. Tanahashi looked to edge ahead, but he gets shoved into the corner as KENTA literally went out of his way to try and charge Tanahashi into the referee. The official managed to get out of harm’s way, as Tanahashi then wore out KENTA with elbows in the corner – a la Shibata – en route to a hesitation dropkick… which KENTA blocked by pulling the ref into the path of it.
A low blow stops Tanahashi, as KENTA rolled outside and retrieved his battered IWGP US title shot briefcase… and put Tanahashi’s head through it. Again. That pissed off Shibata enough to get off commentary, and punt the briefcase into KENTA’s head. Shibata rolls the referee back into the ring, as Tanahashi countered a Go 2 Sleep into a Twist and Shout… following with Slingblades for good measure. A Busaiku knee from KENTA stops Tanahashi’s momentum, and almost wins the match… so KENTA pulls down the knee pads only for a Go 2 Sleep to again get countered, this time with a Dragon suplex. Tanahashi tries the hesitation dropkick, and again lands it as Red Shoes Unno got the hell away from the corner this time, before a High Fly Flow crossbody knocked KENTA down. Another High Fly Flow followed, and that’s your lot! The Shibata stuff didn’t get the reaction I’d have hoped for, even with the muted crowd, but was a nice touch as KENTA ended up losing in the main event. ***
Post-match, Tanahashi shook Shibata’s hand… before KENTA trudged to the back, while Tanahashi threw in a cheeky plea for a title shot tomorrow if Kota Ibushi couldn’t make it.
We’re back tomorrow as the weekend wraps up with the delayed Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome, with Kota Ibushi challenging Shingo Takagi for the IWGP title… unless Ibushi’s ongoing issues force a dramatic late change of plan.
For a “big show”, this was a bizarre one. A mix of a go home show that hit the notes needed ahead of tomorrow’s Dome show… but also at times had all of the atmosphere and energy of a run of the mill tour show. Shoehorn the 2021 New Japan “long match” formula into some outings that really didn’t need it, and you’ve got a show that you really can skip over.