Hikuleo and Jay White look to send the other packing from Japan as the New Beginning tour wrapped up in Osaka.
Aaron Henare & Great O-Khan pinned Oskar Leube & Toru Yano in 6:37 (**¾)
Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito & SANADA pinned Ryusuke Taguchi, Shota Umino, Tiger Mask & Tomoaki Honma in 8:43 (**½)
Taiji Ishimori pinned Master Wato in 11:18 (***½)
Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned KENTA in 13:57 (***½)
Ren Narita, Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado submitted Yujiro Takahashi, SHO & EVIL in 12:50 to win the NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championships (***)
Hikuleo pinned Jay White in 25:08 (***)
Tama Tonga pinned El Phantasmo in 27:30 to retain the NEVER Openweight Championship (***½)
Kazuchika Okada pinned Shingo Takagi in 32:07 to retain the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (****½)
We’re at the Edion Arena in Osaka for this tour finale, with a sold-out and vocal crowd on hand. Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton are on commentary…
Toru Yano & Oskar Leube vs. United Empire (Great O-Khan & Aaron Henare)
I have a feeling Oskar might be inspecting the lights for this one…
Oskar’s lost to both Henare and O-Khan in singles matches on this tour, and offered to start against Henare here as the early feeling-out process saw Oskar try his luck with shoulder tackles, before he barged down Henare. A springboard enziguiri out of the corner took Oskar down, before Yano tagged into the match.
O-Khan’s in too, stopping Yano from going after the corner pad as Yano did his usual shtick, including playing Bop It with O-Khan’s head. Responding, O-Khan chokes Yano to the mat with the braided hair, before a claw to the stomach took Yano into the corner. Mongolian chops follow to the front, and the back, as O-Khan then took a seat. Henare tags in to punch Yano right in the arse, then followed up with some crossface punches as Yano was in the ropes. A hair pull gets Yano back in it as Oskar tagged in, landing a back elbow, then a slam before O-Khan came in to hit a backbreaker and a Sheep Killer to derail Oskar.
Yano makes the save, chucking O-Khan to the outside before a double-team led to Henare getting booted down for a two-count. The Boston crab followed from Leube, but it’s broken in the ropes as Henare crawled to safety. Oskar tries to Biel Henare out of the corner, but eats a leaping knee before Rampage out of nowhere got Henare the win. **¾
Shota Umino, Tomoaki Honma, Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
We’re keeping Umino vs. Naito going – at least for now – as the tour wraps up… but Shota still keeps his Moxley-inspired entrance.
Eventually we get going with Tiger Mask and BUSHI, with the latter taking a tiltawhirl backbreaker early on as Honma tags in… and wanted SANADA. Honma locks up with SANADA into the ropes, only to get tripped up as SANADA gently placed him into a Paradise lock… which Honma escaped?! Greasy wrists make a fool of SANADA, who accidentally low-blowed Honma after he got tripped up. Naito’s in, having troubles with a greasy Honma, taking him to the corner for a delayed Combinacion Cabron, by way of a shot to Shota on the apron. Honma tries to fight back with a headbutt, eventually landing a leaping Kokeshi as Umino tagged in. Shota runs wild on Naito, scoring a hiptoss and a low dropkick before Hiromu came in and got ‘rana’d to the outside.
BUSHI and SANADA try their luck, but to no avail as SANADA takes a diving uppercut for his woes, before a Fisherman suplex drew a two-count on Naito. Another distraction from BUSHI allowed Naito back in, leading to the see-saw sunset flip and a low dropkick. There’s no cover from Naito, as he instead tagged in Hiromu to clear the apron, only for Hiromu to take a Shota suplex. Taguchi’s in next for a flying hip attack to Hiromu, with triple-teaming leading to a Tiger bomb and a pair of Kokeshi for a two-count. Hiromu rolls out of a Dodon for a near-fall, but is caught in Oh My & Garankle… it looked to morph into another Dodon, but LIJ swarmed the ring as four low dropkicks almost put Taguchi away.
A Hiromu-chan Bomber misses as Taguchi instead eats a superkick, then the Hiromu-chan Bomber. BUSHI’s wild tope con giro takes out Shota at ringside, before Timebomb II put Taguchi away. **½
After the match, the lights went out amid LIJ’s celebration… with Lio Rush’s music and video interrupting. Lio’s here on tape, and is issuing a challenge for Hiromu’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight title. Hiromu accepted the challenge, then sprinted backstage in case Lio was there to attack him…
Master Wato vs. Taiji Ishimori
A special singles match now, with Wato looking to gain a one-on-one win after beating Ishimori in the run-up to WrestleKingdom…
Wato opens up with kicks as commentary mentioned any that stakes this match may have had were now out the window after Lio’s challenge. The pair go for springboards early as Wato instead lands a bulldog that took Ishimori outside. Ishimori slides away from a dive before he lawndarted Wato into the ring post. Ishimori rips off a corner pad as Wato eventually made it back to the ring… only to get his shoulder charged into the exposed corner. A grounded cobra clutch follows, as the submission attempt headed into the ropes with Wato forcing the break. Wato avoids a throw through the exposed corner, returning to take Ishimori outside for a flip senton into the aisle.
Back inside, a springboard uppercut takes Ishimori down, before the Vendeval submission attempt ended in the ropes. Ishimori puts the blocks on a Recientemente, coming in with an eye rake instead before a handspring enziguiri took down Wato. The baseball slide German suplex is next from Ishimori, before an aborted 450 splash ended with him just throwing Wato back into that exposed corner. A hammerlocked shoulderbreaker dumps Wato ahead of the Bone Lock, which was rolled up as Ishimori’s Bloody Cross attempt gets blocked. Wato tries for Recientemente II, then blocked a Cipher UTAKI before he got pulled back into the Bone Lock. Wato counters with a roll-up for a two-count, then a lofty German suplex for a near-fall.
Wato sits down on a wheelbarrow attempt, as he then went for another Recientemente II… a leaping knee from Ishimori stops that, as did a lariat, before the Bloody Cross put Wato away. A spirited effort from Wato, but in the end him going for his big move too many times proved to be his downfall. ***½
KENTA vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
I’ll admit, being out of the loop on New Japan means I don’t get why this is suddenly back on the cards as a special singles match, especially since KENTA has a bigger match in San Jose next week… but I’ll roll with it.
Tanahashi, minus three front teeth, gets going… but the chants are way more evenly-split than you’d expect. The yay/boo stuff ends with KENTA attacking Tanahashi from behind, putting the boots to him in the corner before Tanahashi returned with a crossbody out of the corner. KENTA grounds Tanahashi, showing off the missing gnashers as he proceeded to wear down Tanahashi with elbows. KENTA adds a neckbreaker to get a couple of two-counts, before some kicks ended up getting caught by Tanahashi, who fired back with forearms. An eye rake stops that, but a leaping forearm took KENTA down ahead of a slam and a flip senton out of the corner. Shenanigans with KENTA and the ref led to a roll-up for a two-count… and a ref bump on the kick-out as KENTA scored a DDT.
Heading outside, KENTA grabs a chair and uses it on Tanahashi as the ref stayed down. KENTA puts the chair over Tanahashi and prepared to double stomp through it, but Tanahashi rolled away, then tripped KENTA into the chair… only to get tripped onto it seconds later. The referee returns and gets rid of the chair as the pair fought back to their feet, leading to KENTA taking things to the apron for a Green Killer draping DDT. KENTA pulls further ahead with a stalling dropkick into the corner, before a double stomp off the top went thru Tanahashi for a near-fall. A Go 2 Sleep’s countered into a Twist and Shout by Tanahashi, only for a Busaiku knee from KENTA to find its mark. KENTA lands a second one for a near-fall, but the follow-up Go 2 Sleep’s blocked… KENTA adds some right hands instead, only for the Go 2 Sleep to get countered into a Slingblade.
Tanahashi tries to add to it, landing a regular Slingblade for a near-fall, then the Ace’s High… before a High Fly Flow got the win. A curious loss for KENTA given his NJPW Strong title match next week… ***½
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Ren Narita, Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado vs. House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & SHO) (c)
There was a pre-match announcement that if the House of Torture refused to defend their NEVER trios titles here, they’d be stripped of them.
Narita’s attacked by the House of Torture on his entrance, with Suzuki and Desperado having come out way before him. Suzuki and Desperado try to make a save, but they get run into the guard rails as SHO wiped out Narita with a belt shot. EVIL declared they were ready to defend the titles, as this started as effectively a handicap match with Suzuki and Desperado getting stomped on before EVIL went to work on Desperado’s leg. Suzuki grabs a chair from ringside but is stopped from hitting the ring to use it, before SHO came in and threw Desperado into an exposed corner.
An eye rake through the mask has Desperado on the apron for more cheating, while Suzuki continued to distract the referee in his attempts to go after the House of Torture. Kicks from SHO wear down Desperado, before an eye rake prevented a fightback. Desperado blocks a kick and hits a spinning back suplex, before finally tagging out to Suzuki, whose forearms knocked SHO into the corner. EVIL and Yujiro are quickly in to try and make a difference, but front kicks from Suzuki wiped out all three opponents. A clonking elbow sank SHO before Dick Togo tripped up Suzuki behind the ref’s back. Suzuki’s used to try and wipe out the timekeeper’s table, which took EVIL two tries after getting the positioning wrong.
A front facelock from SHO took Suzuki back into the champion’s corner before Yujiro tagged in to try and put Suzuki away. With increasingly-disgusted looks from Suzuki coming from each kick-out. EVIL’s in for some t-shirt choking to Suzuki, before Ren Narita arose from the dead and took Dick Togo to the rails. EVIL knocks Narita off the apron as the ring began to fill and clear. A forearm from Suzuki drops EVIL, before Narita got the tag in… showing few signs of that earlier beatdown as the nap did a world of good (I kid). Kicks lay out EVIL ahead of a half-hatch bridging suplex for a near-fall…
An eye rake and a thrust kick from EVIL lays out Narita as Yujiro tagged in to boot Narita in the ropes. Cue shenanigans that Narita dealt with, thanks to Suzuki and Desperado taking SHO and EVIL out of the ring, ahead of a Desperado spinebuster, a Suzuki PK and a nice bridging Exploder from Narita that nearly won it. The Cobra twist followed from Narita, but Yujiro bites his way free… only to get caught with it a second time. Yujiro’s tapping as Dick Togo distracts the ref, allowing EVIL and SHO to break up the hold as Yujiro then grabbed his pimp came. Suzuki kicks everyone away as he and Desperado tied up EVIL and SHO in submissions… allowing Narita to apply the Cobra Twist again to force the stoppage. This was a slog at first, but the finishing stretch got good – with the new champions hopefully edging the House of Torture closer to the bin. ***
Post-match, Suzuki announced that himself, Narita and Desperado would simply be known as “Strong Style.” We even got a LOUD Kaze Ni Nare from the Osaka crowd. Nature. Healing.
Loser Leaves Japan: Hikuleo vs. Jay White
These two had an absolute cracker of a match on Strong last year, but this’ll be the last time one of them works in Japan… if the stipulations are upheld. Hikuleo has new music, which I’m trying not to overthink.
This one has a 30-minute time limit, which makes me wonder what happens in a draw… We open with some trash talking before Hikuleo cornered White, forcing him to try and bail between the ropes, before White began to play keepaway. At least until he ate a big boot to the face. Hikuleo corners White for some body blows, before a Biel throw out of the corner had White in trouble. White hooks onto the ropes to avoid a powerslam, then threw Hikuleo over the top to the floor. A chop from Hikuleo lays out White as he eventually headed outside, before Hikuleo tossed White over the guard rails and into the crowd. Hikuleo uses the guard rails like how White uses the side of the ring, launching him into the bars before Gedo begged off… and bought White enough time to escape a powerslam and shove Hikuleo into the ring post.
White throws Hikuleo into the side of the ring, before Hikuleo got launched into the rails once more as Jay then demanded the ref start his 20-count. Timely. Hikuleo easily beat the count, but rolled into the path of some stomps from White. He eventually swats White away, only for a snap DDT to put White back in control for just a one-count. Chops from White just served to upset Hikuleo… who proceeded to hurl White face-first into a corner pad. A throat thrust keeps White down, ahead of a Snake Eyes and a clothesline, before Hikuleo scored a powerslam out of the corner for a two-count. A missed kick into the corner hangs up Hikuleo’s leg, allowing White to chop block the other leg… and there’s the big opening for the former champion.
White charges across the ring to Hikuleo, as a Complete Shot looked to lead to a deadlift German… only for White to switch it up to a Saito suplex. A Bladebuster’s good for a two-count, before Hikuleo elbowed away a sleeper suplex… only to take another chop block to the knee. White stays on Hikuleo’s knees, right as my feed crapped out… it’s back as Gedo distracted the referee as White began to use a chair on Hikuleo. A Kiwi Krusher follows, but it doesn’t put Hikuleo down for the count, as White proceeded to unzip Hikuleo’s top and throw some more chops. Hikuleo’s had enough, as he looked to fight back with chops of his own, bouncing White off the ropes before a double-handed chop took White down.
Hikuleo adds a snap powerslam off the ropes before a goozle from Hikuleo led to him throwing White into the referee. Who misses a low blow before a second snap slam was countered into a Blade Runner. White pulls up Hikuleo for a second one, but Hikuleo goozles his way out before he hauled up White for almost a Last Ride powerbomb for a near-fall. White begins to lay out to avoid Hikuleo, only to get pulled back up as White tried to too-sweet his way out of it. Hikuleo takes it, then chokeslammed White into the mat… and that’s the end of the Switchblade Era in Japan. As far as hitting the key beats to the story, this worked, but going as long as it did felt like a mistake. It’s a big scalp for Hikuleo, and a result that should kickstart his career here, but it comes after a match that the crowd didn’t want to get emotionally invested in, it seemed. ***
White fist-bumped Hiroshi Tanahashi at ringside after the match as Gedo helped Jay to the back… stopping to get a final ovation from the Osaka crowd as the former champion’s time in the country was done.
NEVER Openweight Championship: El Phantasmo vs. Tama Tonga (c)
With Jay White done in Japan, I guess the Bullet Club are on the lookout for a new leader?
Starting slowly, Phantasmo grabbed a side headlock on Tama, dragging him to the mat before Tama scored with a waistlock takedown… only got ELP to get back up as the pair switched between takedowns and escapes. Tama teases a Gun Stun, but it’s blocked as the pair eventually reached a stand-off. A clothesline from Tama takes ELP outside for a plancha, before Phantasmo vaulted over the rails to avoid being thrown into the guard rails. Tama Tonga heads after ELP, but crashes and burns into the secondary rails as he went for Phantasmo, seemingly injuring his wrist as ELP proceeded to throw that into the rails, then a table.
Going for the wrist, Phantasmo takes Tama back to ringside so he could drop his knee onto the hand repeatedly. A finger snapper keeps Tama down as I got visions of that run where ELP was winning with random holds to mask his superkick of doom… ELP springs on the ropes ahead of a ‘rana, before Tama’s attempt at fighting back ended when he threw a punch. Phantasmo had no such issues, before he ran into a Tama clothesline ahead of a Stinger splash into the corner. An Exploder chucks ELP across the ring for a two-count, ahead of a back body drop as Tama looked to have shut down Phantasmo.
Tama’s dropped with a leaping clothesline as we sailed past the ten-minute mark, while ELP added a Manhattan drop, a slam and a Bret Hart-like forearm drop. Sudden Death looks to follow, but Tama ducks it, landing an enziguiri for a two-count, before he took Phantasmo into the corner… only for ELP to hit a springboard crossbody off the ropes for a two-count. Tama bails to escape a Quebrada, but couldn’t avoid a tope into the aisle. Phantasmo heads back up for a moonsault off the top rope into the aisle, before the pair were taken back inside. Hobbling, Phantasmo’s caught in the ropes with a couple of Dragon screws, before a DDT to the leg jarred ELP’s knee some more.
Tama looks for a Sharpshooter, rolling Phantasmo over in the middle of the ring, but ELP gets to the ropes… then went for the back rake as he hit a Tongan Twist of his own. The pair trade elbow strikes, but it’s ELP who looked to pull ahead as this descended into a hockey fight. Minus the jerseys. A big boot from ELP led to him being sent into the ropes for a rolling death valley driver… before Tama headed up top for a Supreme Flow, squashing Phantasmo for a near-fall. Phantasmo blocks a Gun Stun, countering it with hammer elbows before Tama landed a TKO for a near-fall. Tama looks for DSD (Jay Driller), but Phantasmo rolled out and went for a CR2… switching it into a Styles Clash for a near-fall as Phantasmo’s bum knee caused trouble. A floatover into a Bloody Sunday sees the pair continue to hit former Bullet Club leaders’ finishers, with Tama pulling ahead as he went for a Gun Stun… only to run into Sudden Death!
That’s not enough as Tama got his shoulder up in time… which prompted Phantasmo to head outside to grab the NEVER title belt. A teased belt shot is stopped by the ref, but ELP walks into a small package that nearly ended the match, with Tama adding a roll-up and a backslide before ELP countered a Gun Stun into CR2 for another near-fall. A second Sudden Death’s blocked as Tama flips ELP into a Gun Stun, but we’re still going as Phantasmo peeled a shoulder up at two… before a twisting JAY DRILLER finally put paid to Phantasmo’s chances. The Bullet Club go 1-for-2 today, with Phantasmo coming close to ending their day on a high… but it’s not to be as Tama Tonga marked his first defence. ***½
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Shingo Takagi vs. Kazuchika Okada (c)
Shingo’s got a fancy new intro for his music, while Okada-bucks were sprayed skyward for his entrance.
The opening stages saw Shingo and Okada switch from attack to defence, with Okada hammerlocking and cradling Shingo to the mat for an early one-count. A wristlock from Shingo ends with him getting tripped again, before his headlock takedown was similarly escaped. A test of strength has Shingo down to his knees, but Shingo over powers Okada and began to take him into the ropes for some knees to the midsection. A suplex helps Shingo to a delayed two-count, before he chopped Okada into the corner… only for Okada to switch things around, lifting Shingo up top ahead of a dropkick to send him to the floor. Okada uses the crowd barriers to stretch Shingo through, while a follow-up kick drew a smattering of boos from the Osaka crowd… with some more following after Okada refused to break a chinlock in the ropes.
An elbow from Okada rocks Shingo, whose attempt to fight back earned him a Money Clip… which is instantly broken up in the corner. Okada keeps going, but ran into an elbow, jab and clothesline combo, while hammer elbows to the neck of Okada led to a sliding lariat attempt. Okada avoids, but got faked out for a DDT before he was clotheslined to the outside. Shingo runs Okada into the guard rails, then dropped him onto the ring apron ahead of a pop-up death valley driver onto the floor. Okada narrowly beats the count-out, but couldn’t avoid a clothesline in the corner as Shingo took him up for a superplex. A sliding lariat from Shingo gets a two-count, as Okada was very much on the back foot… until he caught Shingo out of the corner with a neckbreaker slam.
Okada tries to scoop up Shingo for a landslide tombstone, but to no avail as Shingo chopped free, sending Okada outside for brief respite. It just earned him more trips to the guard rails before he scored with a tombstone on the floor. Back inside, a Money Clip follows, taking Shingo to the mat… and almost out of the match before Shingo shimmied his way to the ropes to force a break. A top rope elbow drop from Okada’s next, leading to the Rainmaker zoom-out, but Shingo rebounds from a dropkick by clobbering the lights out of Okada with a lariat. Kicks from Shingo just piss off Okada, as the pair begin to tee off on each other with elbows, before a headbutt and a knee drop from Shingo looked to cut off Okada’s response.
A Takagi-style GTR, then a Made in Japan gets a near-fall… before Okada backslid out of a Last of the Dragon… only for his follow-up clothesline to be shrugged off. A Takagi Driver nearly snatches the win, while a sliding punch and a Pumping Bomber looked to have Shingo on-course for the win. Okada escapes a Last of the Dragon again, sitting down on a sunset flip for a near-fall, before landing the Rainmaker. The pace ratches up from there, with Okada landing a landslide tombstone… only for his Rainmaker to get caught and turned into a Last of the Dragon as we’re well and truly in the hot closing stretch, with swings and misses from both men ahead of an enziguiri from Okada. Another landslide tombstone’s teased, but Shingo counters into a German suplex, before a Pumping Bomber got cut off with a dropkick.
Shingo’s Pumping Bomber cuts off a spinning Rainmaker, but a lariat from Okada, then an Cobra Flowsion led to the Rainmaker… and that was that. A main event that played the greatest hits of the house style – a slow burner that increased in tempo throughout… and ended with the crowd forgetting they’d been booing Okada, cheering for him by the end. ****½
Post-match, the Okada promo talked about Battle in the Valley next week in San Jose, where he’ll be defending his title… against a challenger of Okada’s choosing. He calls out Hiroshi Tanahashi for that match… of course the challenge is accepted, and that looks like that’ll be the main event next weekend – particularly since Okada suggested that that’ll be Tanahashi’s last challenge for the title.
Main event aside, this was a show that underwhelmed me – and while the vocal Osaka crowd helped, the house style of the “big matches” having to run long absolutely didn’t help. After Shota Umino fell last last week, Hikuleo fell to a similar fate here, and both of those were extremely avoidable. A notable show for the Jay White departure – but it’ll be the follow-ups to that that will be keenly observed.