SANADA gets his shot at claiming the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles, as he challenges Kota Ibushi in the main event of the second night of the New Beginning in Hiroshima.
Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi & DOUKI submitted Gabriel Kidd, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura in 8:52 (**½)
Master Wato, Tomoaki Honma & SHO pinned Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & Minoru Suzuki in 8:06 (*¾)
Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI pinned Yujiro Takahashi, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori in 9:54 (**¼)
EVIL & Dick Togo vs. Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano went to a double count-out in 1:29 (DUD)
Kazuchika Okada defeated EVIL via disqualification in 5:40 (**)
YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii pinned Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga & Jay WHite in 27:03 to retain the NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship (**¾)
Kota Ibushi pinned SANADA in 27:51 to retain the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships (***¼)
For the final show (for now), we’ve live English commentary inside Hiroshima’s Sun Plaza Hall from the voice of Kevin Kelly…
Yota Tsuji, Yuya Uemura & Gabriel Kidd vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI)
After yesterday’s self-inflicted defeat, Sabre and Taichi might not be in such a good mood…
DOUKI and Tsuji start us off, with Tsuji dumping DOUKI in the corner as he had eyes for Taichi. He gets him too, and launches in with elbows as soon as Taichi went through the ropes, before a dropkick off the ropes took the keeper of the Iron Fingers down. Uemura’s in to try the same, having luck with elbows before he got throttled by Taichi. Taichi loses grip and gets knocked down though, before he went back to the choke. A kick to the back keeps Uemura down as DOUKI tagged in to do some boot choking while Taichi dispatches Tsuji and Kidd.
We’ve a backbreaker from DOUKI for a two-count, before a missed dropkick from Uemura left him prone for a Goomba stomp to the arse. I’m sure there was a meme for that this week… Sabre tags in as Uemura tries to fight back, but Sabre snapmares and ties up Uemura in a cravat… but Uemura gets free then brought in Kidd. Kidd and Sabre turn up the pace, with Kidd’s shoulder tackle finding the mark before a roll-up got a near-fall. Some back-and-forth leads to Kidd rolling in with a Boston crab, but Sabre frees himself and transitions to an armbar… that’s broken up with a Mount Tsuji splash. The Young Lions again gang up on a Suzuki-gun guy, much like they tried with Suzuki last night.
Dropkicks from Tsuji and Uemura clear out Taichi, but Sabre recovers with an overhead kick to Kidd’s arm before more see-saw pins nearly led to the upset. An uppercut decks Sabre, before a waistlock attempt was spun out of, with Sabre countering it into a guillotine choke… but Kidd suplexes his way free! Kidd keeps hold and rolls up into a butterfly suplex attempt, but Sabre pulls him down into an armbar, torquing the fingers and wrist until Kidd tapped. Those exchanges between Kidd and Sabre were pretty fluid (it’s almost like they’ve wrestled before…) as they looked to give Sabre a “hey, I’m still here” fall going into the upcoming New Japan Cup. **½
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Tomoaki Honma, SHO & Master Wato
Honma and Suzuki start us off here, with Honma teasing an early Kokeshi, but Suzuki just up-kicks him in the head.
Suzuki throws Honma to the outside as the guard rails come into play, while SHO got posted. Honma’s thrown into the barriers by Kevin Kelly, then takes a chop. Back inside, Desperado tags in and joins Kanemaru in choking Honma with his boot in the corner, before Suzuki returned to clear the apron. A CLONKing elbow from Suzuki barely fazed Honma, who shrugged off a headbutt to land a Kokeshi, before bringing in SHO. Desperado’s in too, as SHO charges him down, then pulled him in for a German suplex, but Despy’s roll-up gets a two-count. Desperado looks for Pinche Loco, but SHO slips out and starts another elbow exchange… then clotheslined Despy to the mat.
Kanemaru kicks SHO in the ropes ahead of a Desperado spear… Kanemaru tags in and tags a spear in return, then tagged out to Master Wato, who goes straight for Suzuki before the team triple-teamed Kanemaru. A back elbow and a headbutt from Honma set up for a springboard uppercut that barely got Wato a two-count as the ring filled up. Wato’s ganged up on next, ahead of a dropkick-assisted back suplex for a two-count, before a Deep Impact DDT almost got the win. SHO broke up the cover before Wato’s response saw him tiltawhirl into the most hard fought jack-knife pin you’ll ever see. That needed some covering on English commentary, as Wato unfortunately showed flashes of what his critics bring up. *¾
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
I think Kevin Kelly might have told ELP to go play on a freeway after what happened yesterday…
We’ve a jump start as ELP went right after Hiromu, while BUSHI and Ishimori stayed in the ring. An overhead kick in the ropes and a missile dropkick has BUSHI ahead, before Ishimori just pulled him outside for some stomping from Yujiro. Ishimori takes off BUSHI’s shirt as we start the back rake portion of the match, building up to a cartwheeling back rake that got there eventually. Yujiro’s in with a snapmare and a low dropkick for a two-count, before the Gas Pedal from ELP and Ishimori kept BUSHI in a Tree of Woe. Yujiro pushes on BUSHI’s groin for the sake of it, as ELP then whipped BUSHI from corner-to-corner, before getting caught with a flying headscissors off the middle rope.
Hiromu tags in and clears the apron before going for ELP, but he’s kicked in the ropes by Ishimori as a brief double-team is outsmarted. Going corner-to-corner, Hiromu lands a series of clotheslines before a shotgun dropkick took the junior tag champions into the buckles. A Falcon arrow drops Phantasmo for a two-count, before ELP responded with a whirlibird neckbreaker. Tags bring in Naito and Yujiro, with the latter eating Combinacion Cabron in the corner, but a neckbreaker’s bitten away from as Yujiro returned with a reverse DDT. It gets a delayed two-count as Yujiro looked to have a busted lip, before a quick Parade of Moves led to Ishimori taking a pair of enziguiri. Naito gets Yujiro again in the end, landing an enziguiri then a quick Destino to get the win over his former No Limit partner. Save for the ELP/Hiromu exchanges, this felt like a low-energy, “after the Lord Mayor’s show” tag – some bright spots, but otherwise it was running in place as we wait to see when that junior tag title match occurs. **¼
Bullet Club (EVIL & Dick Togo) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano
We’re still looking at Okada trying to bait EVIL into a singles match…
Okada attacked EVIL as he tried to avoid starting the match… while Toru Yano flung Dick Togo into the railings in the background. EVIL’s taken outside and into the railings, before a teased tombstone on the floor was stopped as EVIL just threw Okada into the rails… they lose track of the count as EVIL grabs chairs out from under the ring, and we have a double count-out. As a match? An almighty DUD… but After the match, Okada attacks EVIL in the aisle with a chair, then challenged EVIL to that singles match. EVIL accepts for right now, and we’ve a special bonus match.
Kazuchika Okada vs. EVIL
Okay, I guess they’re not waiting for the New Japan Cup!
Okada hits the ropes for a sliding back elbow, before a DDT out of the corner draws a two-count. Pulling the hair, EVIL takes down Okada, but Okada replies with the neckbreaker slam for a two-count, only for EVIL to return with an eye rake. A dropkick from Okada opens the door again as the Money Clip keeps EVIL in the middle of the ring, but EVIL manages to maneuver his way to the ropes. Okada grabs the wrist and walks up EVIL for a Rainmaker, but EVIL swats it away and comes in with a clothesline of his own before Okada wriggled out of Darkness Falls.
A second clothesline drops Okada, before Darkness Falls drew a two-count, as EVIL rolled Okada in for a Darkness Scorpion. Dick Togo walks down to ringside with his garrot wire, AS EVIL WAS WINNING, then began stomping on Okada for the DQ as Toru Yano made the save. Well, this started out real hot, but going for big moves so early on – and getting them – gave away that this wasn’t going to end clean. Welcome to Raw! **
After the match, Togo chokes out Okada with the wire after Toru Yano’d made a save.
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Bullet Club (Jay White & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)) vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI (c)
A recent addition to the card, and we’re circling around that Jay White/Tomohiro Ishii skirmish at New Year Dash that ballooned into this following Jay’s return last week.
The champions attack first, but we settle down to White chopping Ishii in the ropes before YOSHI-HASHI and Goto returned to help triple-team. Three kicks keep White down, as Tama Tonga gets hiptossed… then Tanga Loa’s beaten like a drum. YOSHI-HASHI takes down Tama with some headscissors… but Tanga Loa kicks YOSHI-HASHI in the rope and held him for some rights from Tama. Goto trips Tama, which leads to the crew going outside, with White throwing Ishii over the railings and nearer to the crowd. Back inside, sentons atomico drop YOSHI-HASHI before Jay White pulled him outside and into the English commentary table. Tanga gets YOSHI-HASHI again for a vertical suplex, then a Blue Thunder driver as the Bullet CLub were again putting YOSHI-HASHI through the wringer.
White claps YOSHI-HASHI’s hand to get the crowd going, before he looked to put away YOSHI-HASHI with a chinlock. Throwing back YOSHI-HASHI, White then looked to poke the bear that was Tomohiro Ishii… and it worked too, as Ishii’s annoyance distracted the referee as the Guerrillas were able to drag YOSHI-HASHI back into their corner. YOSHI-HASHI finally offered some response, hitting back with a Bunker Buster to Tama Tonga before tagging out to Goto. A clothesline from Goto drops Tama, but he’s unable to suplex Tanga Loa onto him… more clotheslines follow before a spinning heel kick and a bulldog took out Tama for barely a one-count as Jay White was playing hit-and-run. Tama nails a Tongan Twist on Goto for a two-count, before Goto came back in with a neckbreaker, pulling Tama over his knee.
Tags bring us back to White and Ishii, giving us swings and misses before Ishii landed a clothesline into the corner. A scoop slam followed, before Ishii threw punches at White in the corner. Gedo distracts… and White capitalises, bringing Ishii through the ropes with a DDT as he tried to go after Gedo. White throws Ishii outside and charges him into the Japanese commentary table, right by Tanahashi and Liger, before returning to the ring to get a near-fall out of a Blade Buster. White stays on Ishii by Dragon screwing his leg into the mat, before YOSHI-HASHI’s attempt to make a save sees him take a dropkick from Tanga Loa. See-saw shoulder tackles lead to Tanga and Ishii getting tripped up, as Tama came in with a dropkick to Goto before an attempted pair of ushigoroshi led to Ishii and Goto just getting clotheslines.
The Bullet Club lads isolate Ishii, nailing Guerrilla Warfare before a Kiwi Krusher from White nearly put Ishii away. YOSHI-HASHI runs in to save a sleeper suplex, but that just sparks a Parade of Moves, featuring a Saito suplex and a sleeper suplex from White, before Ishii countered out of a Blade Runner and eventually hit a headbutt. More twisting back-and-forth sees White reply with a uranage. YOSHI-HASHI and Tanga Loa tag in and trade clotheslines, leading to a Head Hunter from YOSHI-HASHI, who then maneuvered his way in for a Butterfly Lock. Tanga powers free with a running Samoan drop as Tama returned to help with a back suplex/neckbreaker on YOSHI-HASHI for a two-count. A Magic Killer is pushed away by YOSHI-HASHI, who just gets slammed as the Guerrillas head up for a swandive headbutt and a frog splash that needs Goto to make a save on.
Goto pushes off a Gun Stun as another skirmish broke out, before his attempt as a GTR was turned into a GYR with help from YOSHI-HASHI. A running double knees from YOSHI-HASHI nearly gets a win, before Jado distracted the referee… it allows Jay White to hit a low blow to YOSHI-HASHI before the Bullet Club trio looked for the Super Powerbomb. Ishii and Goto make a save before a superplex from Ishii dropped Tama Tonga. Tanga Loa takes a Goto plancha on the floor, before White’s taken out with a German suplex. Loa’s back inside to fight off a Butterfly Hold from YOSHI-HASHI, but that just draws in Gedo as Jado cracks YOSHI-HASHI with a Kendo stick. A clothesline from Tanga Loa followed for a two-count… and then out of nothing, YOSHI-HASHI nicks the win with a roll-up on Tanga Loa. They came close to breaking the record for the longest NEVER trios title defence, but stopped themselves as the focus seemed to be on setting up Goto and YOSHI-HASHI as the next tag title challengers. Twenty seven minutes here, and outside of the snap finish and the White against Ishii stretches, this meandered a fair bit. **¾
Kevin Kelly’s joined on commentary by Zack Sabre Jr. for the main event…
IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental Championship: SANADA vs. Kota Ibushi (c)
Big time main events like this are wholly dependent on the wrestlers – or the artists, if you will – to use their blank canvas to their advantage. I’m hoping that SANADA’s canvas isn’t oleophobic and can actually be used for something here…
We’ve a sixty minute time limit here, and they start by absorbing the crowd’s reactions… so yeah, expect this to go somewhere as long as their 35-minute outing at last year’s G1 finals. The English commentary track disappears as SANADA and Ibushi go to the mat, trading holds as SANADA tying up Ibushi’s legs got broken in the ropes. SANADA stays on Ibushi, wringing the arm before Ibushi went after his leg, moving up into a side headlock that’s countered with headscissors ahead of a stand-off. A shoulder tackle from SANADA makes Ibushi kip up before a mid kick took the challenger down and out, before some swings and roundabouts led to SANADA eventually using the guard rail for a Magic Screw.
Heading back inside, Ibushi kicks out at one from the pin, as SANADA keeps control, grounding Ibushi with a chinlock, then with a Figure Four headscissors before Ibushi scooted his way to the ropes for a break. A diving kick from Ibushi buys him some time as we crossed the ten minute mark with Ibushi switching waistlocks. A double leapfrog/dropkick from SANADA took Ibushi outside for a plancha… before we returned inside for Ibushi to hit his dropkick to take SANADA outside for a returned plancha. Ibushi rolls SANADA back inside, following in with some headscissors that took SANADA into the corner… but SANADA backflips over him and hits headscissors of his own as they continued the tit-for-tat. They trade elbows as they were on their knees, fighting back to their feet where Ibushi just kicks SANADA back down.
SANADA goes for a German suplex, but Ibushi flips free and returned with a half-and-half, before a Last Ride powerbomb gets a two-count. Yeah, there’s no way this was finishing in 15! A tease of a Kamigoye sees SANADA blast Ibushi with one first, before he lawn darted Ibushi into the corner. SANADA keeps going with a superplex… then rolls it through for a Magic Screw for a near-fall as he continued to build momentum… and ruined it all with a Skull End. Especially since Ibushi was able to slip out of the hold relatively easily. SANADA reapplies it, then lets go of the hold to go for and miss a moonsault. SANADA goes back to the Skull End, but Ibushi counters out and returned the lawn dart from earlier as both men ran through their playbooks. The deadlift German suplex was next, but SANADA counters with what was meant to be a TKO to the floor… complete with a replay.
They return to the ring as SANADA gets a near-fall from a Tiger suplex… then almost gets rolled up, before Ibushi dove in with a Bomaye knee. A Kamigoye followed, but SANADA countered into a pop-up cutter before a moonsault to Ibushi’s arse landed. The second moonsault is blocked by Ibushi’s knees as we cross 25 minutes, as SANADA looked to hit Sliced Bread… only for Ibushi to push away and hit a backflip kick. An O’Connor roll from SANADA is blockers as Ibushi rolled him back around for a Kamigoye to the back of the head, before a second Kamigoye drew a near-fall. The crowd ate that near-fall up, as SANADA then burst back in for roll-ups out of another Kamigoye, coming real close with a leg clutch pin. They up the pace as Ibushi rolled SANADA up for a head kick, a bicycle knee and a Kamigoye… and that’s the win for Ibushi. This was really a match of two halves. The first 15-20 minutes were fine for them going back-and-forth, doing each others moves… but after that point things got shaky with “didn’t quite get all of it” becoming a by-word for a lot of stuff. This wasn’t as good as the G1 final, but I’m not going to complain about this match being over and done in under 30 minutes, especially given the fears going in. ***¼
Ibushi shakes SANADA’s hand after the match, then gets interrupted by Tetsuya Naito who wandered out. He issued a challenge… but for only one belt: the Intercontinental title. That’s what happens when you don’t unify them quickly enough, Kota. But hey, at least it opens up the possibility of having two top singles belts without going around the houses. Hey, remember when Naito treated that Intercontinental belt like dirt? He must have had a change of heart…
New Japan returns on Sunday for some Valentine’s Day action… why yes, it is at Korakuen Hall, what made you guess that? It’s the start of the Road to Castle Attack – with the Castle Attack double-header being at Osaka-Jo Hall at the end of the month.
For a big show, this was underwhelming. Whereas yesterday’s show had a solid undercard and built from there – even if the length or finish of some matches wasn’t to your taste – today’s show had a shaky foundation and struggled from there. At this point, if you didn’t get the hint, it’s safe to say that this absolutely is no longer the New Japan that won a lot of us over a few years ago. Yeah, it’s an all-hands-on-deck time in terms of the roster, and while any of these things in isolation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, New Japan is slowly picking up too many cues from a more western product for some fan’s liking. It is what it’s become, and I strongly suspect there’ll be a section of fans who at the very least will be going on a New Japan diet for the time being…