New Japan returned to the Edion Arena in Osaka as we got the “other” pairings of singles matches ahead of Sunday’s IWGP tag title match.

Quick Results
Jado, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori pinned Ryusuke Taguchi, Rocky Romero & Hirooki Goto in 10:10 (**½)
Tomohiro Ishii, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano pinned Yujiro Takahashi, KENTA & EVIL in 12:29 (**¼)
Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan pinned YOSHI-HASHI & Kazuchika Okada in 12:02 (***)
Shingo Takagi & BUSHI pinned Tomoaki Honma & Master Wato in 12:35 (***)
SANADA pinned Taichi in 23:19 (***½)
Tetsuya Naito pinned Zack Sabre Jr. in 25:01 (***)

We’re at the Edion Arena in Osaka for the second half of this tour stop… again, English commentary is restricted to the on-demand viewing, as only the Tokyo Dome gets live English coverage…

Ryusuke Taguchi, Rocky Romero & Hirooki Goto vs. Bullet Club (El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori & Jado)
This one’s warming up for the junior tag title match at the Dome on Sunday…

Taguchi fakes hip attacks early, and gets attacked from behind for it as the Bullet Club ganged up on their challengers for Sunday. There’s a recovery as ELP and Ishimori get sent outside for dualling planchas, before Goto blew the whistle for back and forth hip attacks and Forever clotheslines. I just got flashbacks to the bleep test…

Ishimori’s kept in the ring… but reverses a throw as he sent Rocky into Taguchi’s arse, and there’s the cue for the outside-the-ring stuff. Returning to the ring, Jado tags in to rake Rocky’s back, while El Phantasmo just hooked away at Rocky’s nose before we headed outside again, as Jado choked on Rocky with a Kendo stick. The back rakes look to return, but ELP fakes us out with a chinlock. Rocky gets free and cleared away Ishimori with a rewind kick, before tagging in Goto to clear house. Spinning heel kicks and bulldogs drop Ishimori for a two-count, before an ushigoroshi’s stopped via eye rake, as Ishimori returned with a handspring enziguiri.

A clothesline from Goto takes Ishimori back down, as Taguchi returned to capitalise with hip attacks… until Jado stopped him in the ropes with a Kendo stick. Jado tags in as he and ELP double-team Taguchi for a near-fall… while Ishimori literally grabbed the ref so Jado could use the Kendo stick again. Goto makes the save to start a Parade of Moves, which included the briefest of Owen Hart “whoos” from ELP, before Taguchi took down Jado for Oh My Garankle… which ELP broke up with Sudden Death, allowing Jado to steal the easiest of pins. **½

Post-match, there’s a Sudden Death for Rocky Romero too, as the champions made their way to the back with ELP claiming he’ll never miss a Sudden Death again after his last miss “caused the draw” at Korakuen Hall last week.

Bullet Club (KENTA, EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
We’ve got the two big singles matches tomorrow, so you know what that means. Yep, undercard build, as we still wait to see who’ll be in the Handcuff Ranbo in two days time!

We have the usual trolling to start, as KENTA and Tanahashi starting ended up being Yujiro and Tanahashi starting proceedings, before Yano came in and tried to handcuff Yujiro. Yup. When the ref says no, Yano just takes off a turnbuckle pad before he bopped Yujiro in the head. EVIL kicks Yano in the ropes, and there’s your turnaround as the Bullet Club rush the ring, clearing the apron while EVIL went to post Ishii on the outside. Of course, EVIL wipes out the time keeper before things calmed down, with Yano being stomped on and thrown back outside for more trips into the guard rails. The chained-up abdominal stretch has Yano in trouble, with Ishii and Tanahashi breaking up a resulting pin, before EVIL chucked Yano into the exposed corner.

KENTA’s in next, and it’s not too long until Tanahashi got the tag in as he finally got his hands on KENTA, landing a leaping forearm ahead of a flip senton out of the corner. Front kicks from KENTA result in the match descending into back-and-forth strikes, stopping with a kitchen sink knee from KENTA. EVIL tags back in to capitalise, but Ishii’s in too, clotheslining EVIL into the corner before a shoulder block took the former double champion down. Ishii stops himself from running into a pimp cane shot, but couldn’t avoid getting tripped by Togo as things broke down. Yano trips EVIL, then Togo, before he helped Ishii take EVIL to the exposed corner… it goes poorly, as Yujiro tripped Yano. Can we not? Yujiro’s in to sweep Ishii’s legs, which led to some triple-teaming on Ishii ahead if a Fisherman’s buster than spiked Ishii for a two-count.

Biting from Yujiro snuffs out Ishii’s attempted fight back, before he went for the pimp cane again… Yano again gets involved, raking Yujiro’s eyes to start a Parade of Stuff, before a Slingblade from Tanahashi and a sheer-drop brainbuster from Ishii led to the victory.
I could have done without so much tripping here, but I’m sure the singles matches tomorrow without the surround bullshit will be better. **¼

Post-match, Ishii chucks EVIL into the barriers, before Dick Togo choked out Ishii… who then got laid out with chairshots that targeted the knee.

United Empire (Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan) vs. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI
After Okada lost while tagging with Hirooki Goto yesterday, will he find better luck with YOSHI-HASHI? Of course on the day of the Olympics opening ceremony, they zoomed in hard on Cobb’s Olympic tattoo…

We’ve a jump start from Okada and YOSHI-HASHI, but Cobb quickly snuffs it out as he clotheslines Okada out of what was left of his entrance gear. Okada returns with a DDT before YOSHI-HASHI tagged in to grab a two-count on Cobb. Right hands and chops sting Cobb, who just pulls YOSHI-HASHI back in for a running back suplex before he dragged YOSHI-HASHI into the corner to tag in O-Khan. Stomps from O-Khan follow, as did a slam, before a head claw left YOSHI-HASHI writhing on the mat. A Mongolian chop gets O-Khan a two-count, with Cobb then returning to ragdoll YOSHI-HASHI back into the corner. O-Khan’s back to take a seat, but YOSHI-HASHI chops back as he eventually took down O-Khan with a low dropkick to the knee.

Okada gets the tag in, and instantly goes for O-Khan with a back elbow, then a flapjack to get a two-count. O-Khan returns with the standing head-and-arm choke, before picking up Okada for a backbreaker, giving him enough time to tag out to Cobb, who was more than ready. Cobb deadlifts Okada off the mat ahead of an Oklahoma Stampede, following up with a dropkick that left Okada in a heap. Cobb mocks the Rainmaker pose, but Okada elbows away from a Rainmaker attempt… only to take a headbutt instead. Okada’s able to return with a neckbreaker slam, having caught Cobb’s splash in the corner, before a tag brought YOSHI-HASHI back in. YOSHI-HASHI’s able to land a Head Hunter on Cobb, then one off the top rope, before Okada cleared O-Khan off the apron so YOSHI-HASHI could go for a Kumagoroshi.

Cobb escapes that and dropped YOSHI-HASHI with a Spin Cycle, while O-Khan returned to throw YOSHI-HASHI back into the corner. A gutwrench suplex out of the corner tosses YOSHI-HASHI into Cobb, who then hits a kick-assisted suplex for a near-fall. Okada has to fight out of a Spin Cycle, but couldn’t avoid a fallaway slam as YOSHI-HASHI was left on his own… eventually landing a Western lariat for a surprise near-fall. From there, YOSHI-HASHI went for Karma, but Cobb switches out and pulled YOSHI-HASHI into a Rainmaker Tour of the Islands for the win. A decent little tag, with Cobb again shining – and with Okada having stuttered wildly lately, I do wonder if a Cobb win would be quite the upset many think? ***

Tomoaki Honma & Master Wato vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)
We’re running this one back then, as Kota Ibushi remains sidelined…

Shingo and Honma start proceedings, but shoulder tackles early on yield no advantage… so BUSHI and Wato get involved, throwing kicks in the ropes before Honma charged down the champion. Wato tags in to throw some kicks, taking Shingo into the corner before an elbow, an uppercut and a leaping spin kick took Shingo back there. Wato pushes on, but gets pulled down by BUSHI as he went for a springboard uppercut, before BUSHI chucked Wato chest-first into the guard rails. Back inside, Shingo marches on Wato’s stomach, before he began to kick away on Wato’s leg in the ropes. A toe hold keeps Wato in trouble, forcing him to wriggle towards the ropes as BUSHI kept Honma at bay.

BUSHI tags in to stay on Wato’s legs with another dropkick in the corner, before Shingo returned and took a crucifix driver and an enziguiri. That was enough for Wato to make the tag back out to Honma, who charges down both opponents before launching in with chops on Shingo. A bulldog leaves Shingo down for a Kokeshi, following up with a suplex for a two-count as Shingo looked rocked. The Shingo combination of the jab, elbow and lariat drops Honma ahead of a sliding lariat for a two-count. Wato’s back to help turn things around, with Honma’s clothesline leading to a two-count of his own, before he pulled down his knee pad and teased a Kamigoye… only to dive in with a Kokeshi for a two-count instead.

BUSHI makes the save and got thrown outside by Wato, as Honma proceeded to head up top for a swandive Kokeshi… but BUSHI intervenes again as Shingo manages to cut off Honma. Instead, a superplex brought Honma down to earth, before a spinebuster/backcracker combo with BUSHI nearly ended things. Wato tries to make a save, but gets taken out for a tope from BUSHI, while Shingo measured up Honma for some clotheslines. Honma tries to fight back, but just gets overwhelmed by Shingo… who shrugged off a headbutt and a Kokeshi before a Pumping Bomber almost ended things… so Shingo pulls up Honma for a Last of the Dragon, and that’s all folks. They kept this short enough, but there’s not too much you can do to build a main event when half of it’s not around… ***

Taichi vs. SANADA
There’s only been one meeting between these two one-on-one in the past, when SANADA beat Taichi in the quarter-finals of last year’s New Japan Cup.

Neither man’s in a hurry to get going, opting to flex their pecs instead and play to the crowd. They try and get Yoshinobu Kanemaru (on commentary) to judge, but he’s hardly an impartial observer, so they go back to the crowd as the first three minutes of this match were more like bodybuilding contests than a wrestling match. SANADA “won”, so he got his prize: choking from Taichi. An Axe bomber attempt’s countered with an atomic drop from SANADA, who then went for a Paradise Lock. It’s pushed away, with Taichi then trying his own before he instead took SANADA down by the ropes, where he tried again, this time with slightly better results. A low dropkick breaks it up, as Taichi then proceeded to take SANADA into the railings, as some more choking followed.

Back inside, Taichi continues to throttle SANADA, before pulling him into an abdominal stretch. SANADA’s back body drop frees him as Taichi was looking for a Last Ride, before SANADA came back with the double leapfrog and dropkick to take Taichi outside for a plancha. A Paradise Lock back inside ties up Taichi, with the resulting low dropkick freeing him for a two-count. Taichi returns fire with a Pele kick, then corner-to-corner clotheslines as he turned it around. My feed dropped here for a moment, but it doesn’t look like I missed much as both men got back to their feet as the stream returned. Kawada-ish kicks from Taichi just earn him some elbows, with the pair trading strikes as Taichi looked to have given SANADA a dead leg.

Front kicks see both men try to knock the other into the ropes, but it’s a hook kick from Taichi that looked to have him ahead… only for SANADA to land a Tiger Driver for a one-count… then take a Dangerous backdrop driver that left both men laid out. Taichi gets to his feet and rips off the trousers, then lands a chokeslam after SANADA looked to have beaten him to the punch. SANADA blocks a head kick in the corner, then backflipped over Taichi looking for a Skull End… only to get caught in a Holy Emperor Cross Mausoleum. That too’s escaped as SANADA gets back to a Skull End, pulling Taichi down to the mat… but there’s no submission. Instead, SANADA lets go and heads up top for a moonsault to the back… then for a second one… but Taichi gets the knees up!

Getting back to his feet, Taichi elbows SANADA, lands an Axe bomber to the back of the next, then a leaping enziguiri, before the Last Ride dumped SANADA for a near-fall from the folding pin. Some back-and-forth lead to some rapid-fire pinning attempts, but in the end SANADA’s able to avoid the double pin he suffered yesterday, as a Japanese leg clutch managed to get the timely three-count. The opening stages of this will be very divisive no doubt, but once they got past the hotdogging, this bloomed into a pretty solid match, with the intensity ratcheting up as we went. Run this one back in the G1 and I probably won’t complain! ***½

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tetsuya Naito
These two have met almost annually since Sabre joined New Japan – with 2019 being the only year their paths didn’t cross in a singles match. Naito’s got the slight advantage, with three wins so far.

Sabre’s left knee was taped up, presumably from the efforts of yesterday’s draw with SANADA, as we had a tentative start with Naito trolling a lock-up. When Sabre did get his hands on Naito, he’s thrown outside as the trolling continued. Sabre returns to the ring, just got thrown outside again, then again, which just riled up the former Rev Pro champion. Naito then winds up Sabre some more, sparking a Benny Hill chase around ringside that ended with a Manhattan drop and a low dropkick from Naito back inside, before he began to stomp on the taped-up knee. Back outside, Sabre’s charged into the barriers, before Naito rolled Sabre in for a Trailer Hitch as they returned to the ring.

Sabre gets to the ropes, but conveniently Naito has trouble breaking the hold, before falling down it for an inadvertent deathlock. Eventually, Sabre manages to catch out Naito with a neck twist, before some headscissors kept Naito on the mat as Sabre just tied him up by the ropes. Naito takes up a fair amount of the count on the floor, and rolled back in as Sabre continued to dictate the pace… until Naito found a way in with another Manhattan drop and low dropkick. A back elbow and a low dropkick has Sabre rocked, as he’s then taken to the corner for a delayed Combinacion Cabron to the knee.

A snapmare rolls Sabre down as Naito went back to that knee, forcing Sabre to reach for the ropes to break the leglock. Zack’s back with another neck twist, then a full nelson as he picked up Naito… before a missed overhead kick to the arm saw Naito fire right back with a scissored leglock. That ends in the ropes, but Naito stays on Sabre with elbows, before Zack returned to roll Naito into a guillotine. That ends in the ropes as both men looked to trade strikes in a bid to pull ahead. Overhand chops from Naito sting Sabre, whose uppercuts didn’t seem as effective, particularly when Naito just kicked out the knee again and again. A swinging DDT from Naito keeps Sabre down, as did a top rope ‘rana, with Naito then pushing in for a Gloria… only for Sabre to counter out. Sabre counters a neckbreaker into a backslide as he against twists Naito’s neck, before he rolled with Naito to the mat ahead of a tied up Dragon sleeper. Sabre looked to move ahead with a Zack Driver, but Naito slips out and hits a dropkick to the back of Sabre’s knee as he then drilled Sabre with Esperanza out of the corner for a near-fall.

Destino follows for a near-fall as we creep towards the 25-minute mark, with Sabre hitting back with a Dragon suplex… while Naito quickly returned the favour. An enziguiri adds to Sabre’s woes, but he rebounds off the ropes with a PK… only for Naito to hit back with Valentia, then wind up for a Destino, folding Sabre back in on himself for the pin right at the 25 minute mark. I just couldn’t warm to this one – the early going with Naito winding up Sabre worked for me, but the longer this went, the more I fell out with this match. The champions “win” the four-match series 2-1-1 going into Sunday’s title defence. ***

Post-match, SANADA and Taichi return to ringside to celebrate and commiserate.

New Japan travels to Aichi tomorrow for the Summer Struggle in Nagoya – it’s a 9am start time in the UK/4am EST – with Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA in the main event. The second night in Osaka was perhaps much of a muchness – perhaps my tired eyes didn’t appreciate the undercard as much as night one’s, but the two main events were certainly on the same sort of level. A “going steady” show as I suspect most are at best going to cherry-pick going into Sunday’s Tokyo Dome card.