After the NEVER openweight title changed hands yesterday, today’s the turn of the Rev Pro British Heavyweight Championship to be put on the line, as Will Ospreay and Zack Sabre Jr. squared off.
We’re back at the Hokkai Kitayell in Sapporo, with the usual trio of Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino on the English language call.
Yota Tsuji vs. Toa Henare
This ought to be a gimme for Henare, who started by trading wristlocks… then shoulder tackles as the Kiwi pulled ahead.
Chops from Tsuji earn the predictable response, before some boots in the corner led to Tsuji getting rolled into a chinlock. It’s elbowed away, but a suplex drops Tsuji for a near-fall as Henare opted to roll over the Young Lion for a Boston crab, but it’s almost instantly broken up in the ropes. More elbows from Tsuji block a slam as he hits one of his own, then another as a Boston crab similarly ended in the ropes… but Tsuji’s offence quickly ended when he missed a charge in the corner… although he was able to counter a Samoan drop into a Boston crab, only for his back to give out on him. Henare quickly responds with the Samoan drop, only for Tsuji to surprise him with a roll-up and a Boston crab… and this time the back holds!
Another rope break saves Henare, as Tsuji unloads with elbows to the head, with the crowd clapping along in time as Tsuji was relentless… eventually landing a spear that almost got the upset. Those Young Lion near-falls keep getting you… but then Henare responds with a clothesline as the crowd turned on him! A rugby tackle spear’s next for Henare, then a Toa Bottom, and that’s it. A lot more competitive than I expected, but a by-the-numbers win for Henare, who had a heck of a scare here. ***
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi & Tiger Mask vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Yuya Uemura
Very similar to the trios match from yesterday, we opened with Uemura starting against the soon-to-be retiring Nakanishi.
Nakanishi resists Uemura with shoulder tackles, before chopping away a way-too-early slam attempt. Thanks for coming, Yuya! Honma’s in for similar treatment, but he’s able to catch Nakanishi with a slow DDT before a Kokeshi missed. Of course. Tenzan’s in for Mongolian chops, before he hit his own Kokeshi while a Nakanishi splash drew a two-count. Tenzan throttles Honma on the mat, before Tiger Mask came in to keep up the offence with kicks to the back. Another tag brings in Tenzan for more Mongolian chops, then a brainbuster as Honma was taking a pounding here… with a spinning heel kick not helping matters. Another Kokeshi from Tenzan misses, with Honma landing his own before tagging out to Makabe.
Makabe clears the ring, but gets attacked from behind by Nakanishi. It doesn’t go well for him as corner clotheslines await Nakanishi and Tenzan, before the latter took some mounted punches. Tenzan at least blocks the Northern Lights, then hit a Mountain bomb as Nakanishi returned to the fray, having to chop away at Honma and Makabe. There’s a chop for Uemura too, before a Nakanishi clothesline gets a near-fall ahead of a torture rack on Makabe. Tenzan grounds Honma with an Anaconda Vise, while Uemura’s trapped in a Cobra Twist… so Makabe had to free himself before tags bring in Tiger Mask and Uemura. A dropkick from the Young Lion finds its mark, before a Boston crab from Uemura’s eventually chopped away by Nakanishi. Regardless, Uemura keeps pushing on, looking for the capture suplex, but he’s damn near KO’d by a Tiger Mask head kick as a Tiger superplex should have gotten the win, were it not for Makabe.
Not to worry, Tiger Mask goes for a Tiger Suplex instead… and that’s all folks. Some good heart from Uemura here, but otherwise this was a Legends match with the pace you’d expect as Nakanishi went out in Sapporo on top. **½
Gabriel Kidd vs. El Phantasmo
C’mon Gabriel! Making his New Japan televised debut against a man he genuinely wrestled two years ago to this day – but we’re not in Coventry anymore…
The opening tie-up ends in the ropes before an arm drag allowed Gabe to show off his potty mouth. You can take the lad out of Nottingham… Phantasmo responds with a takedown of his own, before a side headlock gave Kidd something to fight out of, as he shot ELP into the ropes, and responded with some frustrating shoulder tackles. ELP charges down Kidd eventually, but Kidd’s got more of his own before ELP slid to the outside. Phantasmo’s stalling, but he comes back in to stomp on Kidd’s hand and elbow, before ELP went for a rope-walk ‘rana, taking down Gabe for a near-fall. Back rakes follow, as did the Gas Pedal, before Kidd fought back with some forearms and a body slam.
A running uppercut in the corner has Kidd back on top, as did a running back elbow, but ELP took to the air to make his way back in with a springboard crossbody. He misses a Quebrada as Kidd went for some flash pins, only to get his eyes raked… as Kidd replied with a dropkick! The Boston crab’s next, but it ends quickly in the ropes, as ELP begged off in the ropes, but a Boston crab from Phantasmo’s neatly powered out of, only for the Rev Pro cruiserweight champ to come back with a superkick and a big splash to get the win. It’s day one (ish) for Kidd, but he looked solid in his singles debut for New Japan… keep an eye on him, because there’s a tonne of potential ready to go in that, erm, kid. ***
Post-match, ELP lays out Kidd with a CR2. Just because.
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Robbie Eagles vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, EVIL & BUSHI)
A preview of Thursday’s NEVER trios title match here, and Hirooki Goto’s looking a few pounds lighter after his loss yesterday.
EVIL and Ishii start us off, trading shoulder-tackles as EVIL drew first blood before a tease at Everything is EVIL had Ishii scurrying into the corner… perhaps too quickly, as he looked to catch his head on the way. Tags bring in Eagles and BUSHI for a brief skirmish, before Goto came in to stomp away at BUSHI… only to get stopped by Shingo on the apron. Everyone spills outside as a chop drops Ishii on the ramp, while BUSHI took over on Goto, with EVIL teasing a Darkness Scorpion… but Ishii’s back to break it up, only to be felled with another chop. Shingo returns, as he trades clotheslines with Goto, who shrugged off a jab to drop Shingo with a lariat. Ishii’s back, but EVIL rushes in to take a back suplex.
Ishii makes a beeline for Shingo, and I want this hooked up to my veins! Endless forearms in the corner are replied to as Shingo punched out Ishii. A back suplex from Shingo has Ishii down again, but it’s not long before we’re back to the forearms only for Ishii to suplex Shingo… who pops up to respond with a swivelling lariat! BUSHI and Eagles tag back in, but Robbie’s able to catch BUSHI with a leg lariat, before a rewind enziguiri stopped the momentum. EVIL rushes in to neutralise Goto as BUSHI pushed on, but a 619 to the knee started some double-teaming as Goto helped Eagles on the way to a 450 splash to the knee as the Ron Miller Special followed. Eagles keeps it on despite LIJ attempts to break it up, but they’re thwarted by duelling ushigoroshi as BUSHI eventually taps! That’s a LOT of momentum behind Eagles, but can this makeshift CHAOS team win when it matters on Thursday? ***½
Commentary revealed here that the Guerrillas of Destiny had regained the IWGP tag team championships from Juice Robinson and David Finlay in Atlanta a few hours ago. Surely that wasn’t plan A?
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI) vs. Jon Moxley, Ryusuke Taguchi & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
It’s going to be a rolling joke for a while, but imagine being told 12 months ago that Dean Ambrose is tagging with Ryusuke Taguchi…
Suzuki rushed the crowd to meet Moxley on his way to the ring, and there’s your twist on the jump start! We start with a crowd brawl as Moxley hadn’t even been able to take off his US title belt, eventually doing so as he tossed Suzuki into some barriers ahead of some choking with his ring jacket. He pulls Suzuki onto the timekeeper’s table, but they have to leap off as the table was threatening to buckle underneath them. In the ring, Desperado holds the ropes to avoid a YOH dropkick, while Suzuki wrapped Moxley’s arms around the guard rail as another table came into play. Moxley gnaws at Suzuki, which definitely ranks high in the list of bad ideas, as things threatened to settle down with Roppongi 3K in the ring against Despy and Kanemaru. They’re caught in a simultaneous Boston crab and the Numero Dos, while we hear the sound of Jon Moxley getting caught with a chair.
Staying in the ring, a stomp from DOUKI gets a two-count on YOH before Moxley and Suzuki finally tagged in to light each other up. Suzuki’s able to get the edge as he rolled Moxley down for a PK, but after kicking out Moxley’s forced to escape a Gotch piledriver before we went back to the forearms from the two men. Suzuki laughs off Moxley’s efforts, before both men connected with duelling front kicks as they had tot ag out. In comes DOUKI and Taguchi, as the good guys cleared the ring. DOUKI’s triple-teamed as Taguchi called the shots, but he’s too preoccupied with having Moxley part of it that he was oblivious to the change of momentum as DOUKI, Despy and Kanemaru came into triple-team him. A spinebuster from Despy and a springboard stomp from DOUKI looked to be enough, but the match continued, even after a sliding Widow’s Peak from DOUKI.
Suplex de la Luna doesn’t come off as Taguchi elbows free… but he misses a hip attack as a big ol’ Parade of Moves breaks out. Suzuki and Moxley are back to trade shots, stopping to boot away Taguchi, which makes me chuckle, and that almost led to DOUKI snapping his losing streak, but Taguchi kicked out! A hip attack connects seconds later, as did a Bummer Ye, before DOUKI was forced to tap to Oh My Garankle. Solid stuff, although your mileage will vary on the early part with the crowd brawl and what have you. Suzuki and Moxley is going to be intense next week! ***½
They announced a July tour of Hokkaido, I guess to get around the Olympics being in Tokyo… some of the towns they’re hitting haven’t been visited by New Japan *this millennium*, according to Chris Charlton!
Bullet Club (KENTA, Jay White & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & Hiromu Takahashi)
Yesterday’s version of this match was a little rough… can a rejigged line-up freshen it up?
We’ve a jump start as KENTA caught out Naito, while Ishimori and White looked to go after Hiromu, who instead caught the bad guys with “accidental” headscissors. White attacks Hiromu after he’d faked out a dive, while the match spilled outside with everyone taking the crowd barriers. KENTA spikes Naito with a DDT on the floor, while the Bullet Club looked to focus on Hiromu back inside the ring. An elbow from KENTA saw him knock down Hiromu, buying him time to slide outside to throw Naito into the rails, before White kept Hiromu grounded with a waistlock.
Eventually Hiromu fought back with a Dragon screw, before tags brought in KENTA and Naito to trade forearms, but a draping DDT from KENTA stops Naito in his tracks. KENTA followed in with a running boot, then with his hesitation dropkick before a double stomp crushed through Naito for a near-fall. Naito responds with a hanging neckbreaker in the ropes, then with a swinging DDT before SANADA and White tagged in. White’s instantly tripped, but Gedo provides a distraction as it’s Ishimori who ended up getting rolled into a Paradise Lock. Gedo’s back and gets dropkicked off the apron, before White returned to run into a TKO attempt. He slithers out and lands a DDT, before a death valley driver almost put SANADA away. There’s a quick response as a backdrop driver from SANADA bought him time… but Ishimori tags in first and keeps SANADA isolated for a spell, landing a handspring enziguiri for good measure.
Ishimori came close with a tombstone gutbuster, before SANADA shoves away a Bloody Cross to spark some triple-teaming, with low dropkicks sandwiching the Bone Soldier. A Parade of Moves breaks out, ending with SANADA’s Skull End being turned into a small package before a tiltawhirl from Ishimori’s stopped as the Skull End got the flash win. A decent finishing stretch, but this trios match did little for me – as hated as KENTA is, I wonder how many people truly buy him as a championship threat? ***¼
Rev Pro British Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (c)
This match has some history behind it – and Ospreay’s had a Rev Pro title shot before, losing just over two years ago in Walthamstow. Prior to that, this match has been in some pretty noteable tournaments: last year’s G1, the Battle of Los Angeles, 16 Carat Gold, Super Strong Style 16… it’s gone around the world!
A quick exchange of wristlocks ended with no result as the feeling-out process began in earnest, but Sabre restrains Ospreay with a simple Corning hold… something Will tried in vain to break with a headlock. Sabre switches into an armbar as he neatly neutralised Ospreay’s attempt to break free, before Will used the referee to give himself some separation. Ospreay tries to push ahead with a knuckle lock, but Sabre swivels out and bridges up… Ospreay breaks it momentarily, before he got taken down with a monkey flip as this was just so buttery smooth. Sabre was looking frustrated, but he keeps going as Ospreay caught him with a toe hold, but Sabre manages to reverse and counter with one of his own, before he pushed away a fake-out dive from Ospreay… dragging him outside, which looked to be a bad plan, as Ospreay rolled past him en route to a pescado.
Back inside, Ospreay chops Sabre into the corner, before Zack came straight back with a Cobra Twist that almost instantly ended in the ropes. A neck twist follows as Sabre looked to go after Ospreay’s historical weak spot, leading to some wacky submission attempts that served to undermine, rather than be an attempt at victory. A cravat followed as Sabre rolled Ospreay back to the mat, but Ospreay manages to flip free en route to a handspring enziguiri that bought him time. A forearm from Ospreay led to him going outside – with some assistance – as a springboard forearm misses… with Sabre instead countering a lifting reverse DDT into a mounted rear naked choke. Ospreay flips him down though, and eventually found his way into… a Gargano Escape?! That’s quickly escaped as Ospreay instead went for a Figure Four, baiting Sabre in with slaps that just served to pull Zack away from the ropes, before Sabre was forced to roll into the ropes for a break. How is this only 15 minutes in?!
Ospreay’s back up with kicks to poke the bear, then with a knee breaker that took Sabre down for a standing shooting star press, as the challenger looked to be increasing his dominance. A springboard forearm’s good at the second attempt, before a back body drop almost saw Sabre Sabu himself. Zack’s back with the Euro clutch (we’re still calling it that), but Ospreay counters before his hook kick got caught… he’s more luck with a backslide before finally kicking Sabre down. It’s perhaps a bit soon for an OsCutter, as Ospreay’s caught with a rear naked choke, then with a half nelson suplex that folded him in half. Sabre begins to build with some PKs to Ospreay, punting through Ospreay with a hattrick of them for a near-fall, but somehow Will’s able to come back, suplexing himself out of a guillotine before planting Sabre with an OsCutter… but Zack smartly rolls outside to avoid being pinned!
Ospreay goes out to throw Sabre back in… but Zack’s learned from Toru Yano as he rolls all the way to the other side, only to get caught with a Sasuke special! Back inside, the hook kick connects, but Ospreay plays too long for the Hidden Blade and gets caught in a knee bar… which he somehow lifts himself out of as the hook kick connects again. Now here’s the swing for the Hidden Blade, but Sabre ducks and goes for a trapped arm armbar, but Ospreay’s luckily in the ropes to save himself. Sabre tries to throw a Zack Driver, but it’s blocked… so he goes for a front guillotine before Ospreay flipped into a reverse Bloody Sunday for a near-fall. Storm Breaker looked to follow, but Sabre’s out and into a Euro clutch for a near-fall, before Ospreay rolled through a PK to get up and level Zack with another head kick. A Liger Bomb’s next for Will, who gets another two-count before going up top for a shooting star press which still doesn’t get the three-count!
Another Storm Breaker attempt ends up in a Cobra Twist as Sabre pulls Ospreay to the mat, which looked to have the challenger out like a light… and that’s enough for the stoppage. Absolutely sublime mat-wrestling, as Sabre somehow escaped with his title as the game plan of working the neck ultimately paid dividends… right as it looked like he was done for. Will Ospreay’s crusade for that title must continue… ****¾
Taichi vs. Kazuchika Okada
Yesterday, Taichi assaulted Okada after their tag match, which led to a tease here of Okada perhaps having to forfeit the match in Taichi’s home town (ish).
Luckily for the black lights that New Japan’s bought, Okada wasn’t about to forfeit, although he was sporting some tape on his neck, which we saw as Taichi jumped him to start the match. A buzzsaw kick to the neck opens it up as Taichi instantly reached for the Iron Fingers, but Okada boots it away and catches Taichi with a low dropkick instead. They’re outside, with Taichi going over the railings ahead of a crossbody that took both men into the second set of railings. Taichi’s back in the railings when Okada reversed an Irish whip, but back in the ring Taichi’s able to surprise Okada with a backdrop driver, sending the former IWGP champion to the outside, where Taichi followed as he used the camera cable to choke at Okada again. Back inside, an abdominal stretch grounds Okada, before Okada got free… only to telegraph a flapjack as Taichi kicks him away. Taichi tries to pin Okada with a foot on his throat, but referee Red Shoes won’t count it, as Okada ends up retaliating with a DDT.
Okada manages to build on that with a neckbreaker slam to Taichi out of the corner, but Miho Abe’s used as a human shield as Okada teases going off the top. It works too, as Taichi’s able to sucker Okada in with a whip into the guard rails, before they headed up the aisle, only for Okada to hit a shotgun dropkick to roll Taichi back towards the ring. A dropkick awaits Okada back inside as he gets his Rainmaker zoom out, but Taichi backs away to avoid a Rainmaker. Taichi goes for an axe bomber, but instead gets met with a flapjack. A second shotgun dropkick takes Taichi into the corner, where he’s back in the clutches of the Iron Fingers, but Taichi misses again as Okada dropkicks him to the floor.
Instead, Okada grabs the Iron Fingers and hands them off… as Yoshinobu Kanemaru comes out to reclaim the hardware. Meanwhile, Taichi’s got a chair that he jabs in Okada’s back… before he popped the seat off of Okada’s head. Somehow, Okada kicks out, but off comes Taichi’s trousers ahead of the buzzsaw kick, as a Stretch Plum in the middle of the ring looked to get the win. Taichi stops to rip off the tape on Okada’s neck as the hold’s reapplied, but Taichi can’t get a submission, nor a pin as my feed died. Yay. It’s back as Okada’s landed a German suplex, then hit a dropkick when his Rainmaker couldn’t land, before the Stretch Plum was back on as Okada kept going for the Rainmaker. The Dangerous T backdrop driver lands next, but Okada’s able to respond with a desperate tombstone as both men looked to be running on fumes.
Boots get exchanged as we sail past the 25 minute mark, as Taichi again pushes on with a right hand, only to get caught with a backslide as Okada rolled him into a Rainmaker. He keeps hold of the wrist though, landing a second Rainmaker before Taichi grabbed the ref to avoid a third… it masks a low blow as a Gedo clutch almost got the massive upset! A Last Ride powerbomb followed, but not even a folding pin with Taichi on top could get the three-count. Taichi goes for the Black Memphisto, but Okada wriggled out and lands a spinning Rainmaker, before another Rainmaker almost got countered back into the Black Memphisto… but it’s blocked as Taichi has to make do with ahead kick, before a superkick is neatly countered into a spinning tombstone. One Rainmaker later, and Okada finally picks up the win! This didn’t need to be over half an hour long. Following the Sabre/Okada match hurt the crowd in the early parts… and truth be told, while going half an hour with Okada in defeat helps Taichi’s credibility as a singles threat, at least incrementally, there was no need for this to be quite as long as it was with this result. Hopefully that’s not a sign of Okada going off the rails like he did last time he lost the gold… ***¾
Second night, same as the first when it came to overall quality. The highs were high, and the lows were not-so-low – but if you’re looking for causes of concern, the LIJ vs. Bullet Club tag that built to next Sunday is throwing up some red flags when it comes to the bell-to-bell… we’ve got a hattrick of Korakuen shows next week, with elimination matches headlining two of those dates, before we’ve got four (well, technically five) titles on the line at Osaka Jo-Hall next Sunday.