It’s a second night in Hokkaido as YOH looks to unseat Hiromu Takahashi as the junior heavyweight champion.
Will Ospreay, Francesco Akira, Great-O-Khan & TJP pinned TAKA Michinoku, DOUKI, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru in 10:11 (***)
Ren Narita, El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki & Yuto Nakashima submitted Yujiro Takahashi, Dick Togo, EVIL & SHO in 10:19 (**½)
Taiji Ishimori & KENTA pinned Master Wato & Hiroshi Tanahashi in 10:41 (**½)
Jado, Hikuleo & Tama Tonga submitted Gedo, El Phantasmo & Jay White in 12:58 (**¾)
Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano, Ryusuke Taguchi & Shota Umino pinned SANADA, BUSHI, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito in 11:03 (**¾)
Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI pinned Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste in 15:13 to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships (***½)
Zack Sabre Jr. pinned Tomohiro Ishii in 14:38 to retain the NJPW World TV Championship (***¾)
Hiromu Takahashi pinned YOH in 29:42 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship (****¼)
I’m watching this on a delay since there was no way I could watch this live on Sunday, nor squeeze it in on the day. We’re coming from the Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center Hokkai Kitayell in Hokkaido. Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton are ringside for English commentary…
Just 4 Guys (TAKA Michinoku, DOUKI, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan, TJP & Francesco Akira)
We’re adding O-Khan and TAKA to the two matches between these groups yesterday…
DOUKI and Akira start this one where things left off in the tag title match yesterday, just with a little more tequila in Akira’s system apparently. The junior tag champions had the upper hand early, at least until Kanemaru’s blind tag in allowed for a turnaround as double dropkicks took care of Akira. TJP’s knee remained a focal point, at least until the United Empire cleared the ring and took their foes into the rails. TJP and Akira combine to take down Kanemaru for a near-fall, before Ospreay tagged in to keep it going.
O-Khan sits on Kanemaru in the corner, then took him down with Mongolian chops… Kanemaru fought back with a tiltawhirl DDT to O-Khan though, before tags got us back to Taichi and Ospreay knocking lumps out of each other. Taichi edges ahead, only to get caught with a handspring enziguiri as the United Empire again took charge.
An OsCutter’s caught, but Ospreay escapes a Dangerous backdrop before getting cracked with a gamengiri in the corner. Kanemaru, TAKA and DOUKI come in to help as TAKA tried to get an unlikely win with a Just Facelock, but the Empire stomped it apart before a Parade of Moves broke out. TAKA nearly nicks it with a cradle, then with a Michinoku driver… but Ospreay switches back and almost won with a Michinoku driver of his own, before a Hidden Blade put away Just 4 Guys. ***
Ren Narita, El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki & Yuto Nakashima vs. House Of Torture (EVIL, Dick Togo, SHO & Yujiro Takahashi)
We’re still teasing Minoru Suzuki and El Desperado working with Ren Narita…
The obligatory House of Torture jump start gets us going, as we settled down to SHO trying to put away Yuto Nakashima early on. Yujiro Takahashi tries as well, while Dick Togo ended up running into a bodyslam from Nakashima.
Desperado’s in to suplex and stomp on Dick, before the usual House of Torture playbook was run, taking things outside as Minoru Suzuki gets charged through the timekeeper’s table. Back inside, Togo tries to mop up with a lateral press on Suzuki, then with some choking before SHO raked the eyes of Suzuki in the corner.
We’re back outside with more House of Torture beatdowns on Suzuki, but it didn’t lead to the win. Again, the conflicted Ren Narita refused to tag out to Suzuki, but then came in to stomp apart EVIL’s t-shirt choking before he finally took the tag. Kicks from Ren lay waste to EVIL, ahead of a half-hatch bridging suplex that almost won it.
An eye rake from EVIL allows him to shove Narita into an exposed corner, leading to another House of Torture mugging featuring Yujiro and Dick… it ends with a Fisherman buster from Yujiro, which doesn’t put Narita away. SHO tries to run in with his spanner, but gets kicked away as Yujiro’s then thrown to the former Suzuki-gun wolves, before Narita spun Yujiro into the Cobra twist for the submission. **½
Post-match, Narita hugs Suzuki, then shook Desperado’s hand… as the formal challenge for a NEVER trios title match was laid out by Suzuki. That’s since been confirmed for Saturday in Osaka, in spite of EVIL’s claim that the titles have been retired.
Bullet Club (KENTA & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Master Wato
The English commentary was building up KENTA vs. Fred Rosser at Battle in the Valley with this one…
KENTA and Tanahashi play to the crowd before tags got us to Wato and Ishimori – with Wato having had Ishimori’s number in recent times. Ishimori pulls off a corner pad as Wato charged into it, while Tanahashi found the same corner moments later…
The Bullet Club duo were using that exposed corner as a third man, leading to Ishimori going after Wato’s eyes by the ropes. KENTA’s in to take advantage, stomping away on Wato before Wato managed to get the tag to Tanahashi, who plays the greatest hits. There’s plenty of Dragon screws before a schoolboy from KENTA nearly surprised Tanahashi.
After more Dragon screws, Tanahashi tagged out to Wato, who went right for Ishimori, landing a flying uppercut for a near-fall. The ropes save Ishimori as Wato locked in the vendaval submission, while Recientemente almost won it for Wato… KENTA’s taken out with a plancha from Tanahashi on the outside, before Ishimori’s attempt at a Cipher UTAKI was blocked. Wato ends up getting run into the corner, and a roll-up from that proves to be enough to end a fairly pedestrian outing. **½
The Bullet Club beat down Wato afterwards, before Tanahashi made the save…
Bullet Club (El Phantasmo, Gedo & Jay White) vs. Guerrillas Of Destiny (Hikuleo, Jado & Tama Tonga)
We’re building up to Jay White and Hikuleo in a loser-leaves-town match next week – while Tama Tonga’s NEVER title defence against El Phantasmo seems to be going under the radar too.
It’s those two that get us going, with ELP drawing first blood, before a hiptoss and dropkick got Tama Tonga back in it. Hikuleo tags in, as did Jado, as ELP’s arm was focused on, much like how the Bullet Club would do it with leaps out of the corner. Things eventually break down with the Bullet Club swarming the ring to take control for a moment, only for tags to bring us back to White and Hikuleo.
Jay plays keepaway for a moment, before Gedo and ELP tried to help… and got laid out by the big guy. Back inside, White chops away on Hikuleo, only to get booted down before Gedo’s attempt to help out earned him a clothesline. White finds a way through as he traps Hikuleo in the corner, before countering a chokeslam into a DDT.
Tags get us back to Tama and ELP, with Phantasmo getting taken into the corner ahead of a series of clotheslines from Tama. The Stinger splash lands, before Tama’s slam left Phantasmo down ahead of a Stun Gun that was countered into a roll-up for a near-fall. Duelling crossbodies see champion and challenger crash into each other, as Gedo and Jado tagged in to have a go.
Jado’s Green Killer DDT is stopped as a Parade of Moves breaks out… it ends with Gedo missing a brass knuckles shot as he’s caught with a Gun Stun, before a Jado crossface forces the submission. **¾
Post-match, El Phantasmo lays out Tama Tonga with the NEVER title belt… then scarpered as Hikuleo hit the ring.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano, Ryusuke Taguchi & Shota Umino
Okada and Shingo is the build here, after we already had what felt like a half-speed main event on Saturday… and apparently Taguchi’s taken to imitating Gedo of old, with a “bandana” that at this point may as well cover his entire head.
Shota starts with a shotgun dropkick to Naito as he fired away on Naito in the corner – and shoved the ref away. More fire than the singles match then? SANADA looks to make a save, but gets met with a tijeras for his effort, before Naito found a way through to land a neckbreaker on Umino.
A Fisherman neckbreaker from BUSHI’s avoided as Umino pushed him into a Taguchi hip attack, before Toru Yano tagged in and removed a corner pad. BUSHI’s bopped in the head, then run into the exposed corner before Okada came in to hit a slam and a senton atomico. Taguchi tags in to throw some hip attacks, before tags got us to Shingo and Okada.
Shingo clears the apron… except for Shota, as he tore through Okada with a suplex, before a sliding back elbow from Okada stopped that flow. A dropkick from Okada earned a swift retaliatory clothesline from Shingo as SANADA tagged in… Okada blocks a back suplex, only to get taken outside for a SANADA plancha.
Back inside, a flapjack stops SANADA as LIJ gets cleared from the apron… they return to break up the pin from a neckbreaker. Okada follows up with a Money Clip to SANADA, which is broken and countered with a Skull End that Umino came in to stomp apart. Naito comes in to take care of Shota with a delayed Combinacion Cabron, while Taguchi’s sent into the railings by way of a BUSHI tope.
SANADA heads up for a moonsault… it misses as he and Okada trade Skull End attempts. Okada switched his into a a tombstone, before a couple of Rainmakers got the win – just as Shota Umino slung Naito into the barriers in the background. A decent enough undercard tag, but now it’s time to get to the real meat of the card. **¾
IWGP Tag Team Championship: TMDK (Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste) vs. (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) (c)
These teams met in last year’s World Tag League… with TMDK losing to the eventual winners of the tournament.
Goto and Nicholls start us off, locking up into the ropes as the early going led to a snapmare and a dropkick to the back of Goto’s head. YOSHI-HASHI comes in to assist, before things spilled outside with TMDK regaining the upper hand… with Nicholls throwing Goto against the side of the ring for good measure.
YOSHI-HASHI gets hurled into the rails, as did Goto, as the champions found themselves on the back foot when things returned to the ring. A neck crank ends in the ropes, before Nicholls threw Haste onto Goto for a two-count. Goto’s cornered as Nicholls yelled at him… then got knocked back into the corner before he fought free. A huge Irish whip sent Nicholls hurling over the top rope to the outside, but he’s able to return… only got Shane Haste to tag in and prevent a tag being made.
Finally YOSHI-HASHI gets the tag in, crashing into Haste with a low dropkick before a suplex draped Haste over the top rope for a dropkick to the back. Haste’s dumped with a neckbreaker for a two-count, but recovered to catch YOSHI-HASHI on the top rope ahead of the Olivier Newton-Bomb – a Doomsday suplex/powerbomb combo that almost won the match.
Chops from YOSHI-HASHI earned him a death valley driver, then a sliding lariat from Nicholls, before Goto tagged in to run wild over TMDK with clotheslines. A spinning heel kick to Nicholls led to a double bulldog out of the corner, before Goto and Nicholls traded blows once more. Nicholls runs into an ushigoroshi for a near-fall, before a TMDK turnaround led to a Goto escaping a Tagbuster, with the help of YOSHI-HASHI.
From there, Nicholls is thrown into a Goto for the Shoto… but Haste breaks it up as the Aussies hit the Tagbuster for a near-fall. YOSHI-HASHI’s taken outside and into the barriers as TMDK looked for a finish, but YOSHI-HASHI returned to clothesline Haste away… then trade blows with Nicholls. It’s Nicholls who looked to win out, before he was baited into a clothesline from Goto… which in turn led to an elevated GTR, before Shoto secured the win for the champions. An enjoyable title match, but save for the Tagbuster threats at the end, TMDK never looked to be too close to a win… ***½
NJPW World Television Championship: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (c)
This was the first ever defence of the World TV championship – and remember, we’re still dealing with 15-minute time limits. Sabre and Ishii have had six prior singles matches, splitting three wins apiece, including the pair bouncing the Rev Pro title between them between 2018 and 2019.
Ishii surprises Sabre early on, going for a heel hook as Sabre was perhaps expecting to be hit – not stretched. In response, Sabre goes for the arm, but Ishii trades hammerlocks before he took down Sabre for a kick to the back. Ishii’s met with some of those in return as Sabre tried to bait Ishii into a striking game.
That allowed Sabre in with some grounded headscissors as Sabre’s search for a submission ended in the ropes as we crossed the five-minute mark. You know, these matches really could use an on-screen clock, if only to make them stand out from the pack.
A suplex from Ishii dumps Sabre, before chops from Ishii took him into the corner ahead of a backdrop suplex out of it. Sabre goes for Ishii’s ear as he looked to strike away a submission attempt, succeeding as he took down Ishii for a stomp to the elbow, following up with a pop-up into a cross armbar that Ishii rolled his way out of, kicking Sabre in the head to break the grip as he went.
Kicks from Ishii earned a forearm from Sabre, who then had his arm jarred as Ishii left his usual comfort zone. It left the pair on the deck, trading kicks benfore Ishii opted to go back the strikes, before Sabre responded to a headbutt by throwing Ishii down with a suplex… following up with a PK before a bloodied Ishii finally barged Sabre down to the mat.
Sabre manages to catch Ishii with a levering armbar, forcing Ishii to the ropes as we entered the final five minutes. Ishii manages to add a manjigatame in return before… CODE RED?! The smile on Ishii’s face after he pulled that off was a joy, wasn’t it?
A follow-up clothesline ends with Ishii getting tripped into a Euro clutch for a near-fall, before the pair traded German suplexes. Ishii’s clothesline took us into the final 180 seconds, but Sabre’s able to flash back in with a Euro clutch that almost won it as both men were going for flash pins. Another Ishii headbutt rocked Sabre, only for Zack to land a Dragon suplex for a near-fall…
Ishii’s missed enziguiri earns him a PK as Sabre looked to be in control… hauling up Ishii for a Zack Driver. It’s blocked as Ishii hits an enziguiri, only for a crucifix to get a near-fall for Sabre, who had to absorb a headbutt and a sliding lariat from the challenger, before Sabre spun his way into a Zack Driver for the win. The final minutes of this were lovely and frenetic, the first ten clearly not as so – and one thing I’ll say now… this absolutely needs to avoid being the title known for the hurry-up in the final minutes, lest fans tune out like they do Iron Man matches. ***¾
Post-match, Sabre tells the English commentary crew he’s got a new singles theme coming… then issued an open challenge for the current generation of “whingy little shits” to come and find him for a title shot.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: YOH vs. Hiromu Takahashi (c)
Hiromu won his fifth junior title back at WrestleKingdom – but save for his first reign, he’s not had much luck, recording three successful defensives from the last three reigns (admittedly, two of those reigns did end with injury.)
Opening with a lock-up, YOH didn’t go after the knee of Hiromu that he’d attacked on night one, as the pair struggled into the ropes. After the break, Hiromu dodged a shot to the leg, instead taking YOH into the ropes before a drop toe hold and low dropkick sent Hiromu to the outside. Hiromu avoids a trip to the rails as YOH ate the bars, then got chopped through the gate as Hiromu measured up for a series of chops ahead of a return to the ring.
A running clothesline into the corner, then a low dropkick earns Hiromu a two-count as some headscissors keep YOH grounded. After a break in the ropes, the pair trade chops before Hiromu’s headscissors in the ropes led to them going back outside, where YOH’s reacquainted with the guard railings, then the floor, courtesy of a snap suplex in the aisle.
YOH narrowly beats the count-out, only to get met with a shallow slingshot as Hiromu’d folded the legs into a Cloverleaf position. A modified armbar’s next as Hiromu began to poke at YOH, who responded with right hands and a dropkick after he’d shot Hiromu into the ropes. YOH follows Hiromu outside with a flip senton into the aisle, before he rushed Hiromu back inside for a missile/shotgun dropkick that picked up a solid two-count.
Hiromu fought out of a Dragon screw, then caught YOH with a pop-up powerbomb before a Falcon arrow from the challenger stopped that comeback in its tracks. The duelling chants looked to be edging more in YOH’s favour, before a shotgun dropkick sent the challenger awkwardly flying backwards into the corner pad. A low dropkick from YOH finds Hiromu’s knee for the first time in this match, leading to a knee bar that forced Hiromu to claw his way into the ropes to force a break.
Heading up top, YOH looks for a superplex, but Hiromu fights free as we crossed the fifteen-minute mark… before YOH ran in and hit a Dragon screw as Hiromu was tied up on the top rope. YOH heads back up to land the superplex, then went back to the leg as another submission attempt was switched into a grounded Dragon screw after Hiromu had to be pulled from the ropes. A Figure Four’s next, but again Hiromu finds his way to the ropes to force the break.
A frantic exchange led to a headbutt from Hiromu, then a rebound German suplex… which YOH looked to have escaped from, only to get charged down with a clothesline seconds later amid the duelling chants. YOH rolls out of a Time Bomb attempt as he returns with a wild lariat at Hiromu, which eventually looked to lead to a Direct Drive… but instead YOH opted to batter Hiromu with forearms, having pinned both of the champions’ arms back.
YOH looks for a Dragon suplex, but instead goes back to the knee of Hiromu… except this time Hiromu looked to block a Dragon screw, which caught everyone out, including the referee who was tardy to making a count. More pinning attempts from Hiromu get us closer, before YOH kneed his way out of a Time Bomb… only to get caught with the Victory Royale DDT. A reverse ‘rana and a superkick from YOH sends Hiromu flying, but it’s not enough to get the three-count… before a Dragon suplex earned a similar near-fall as the crowd sensed a title change.
Direct Drive looks to finish things, but Hiromu rolled out and plants a Time Bomb for a near-fall, with Hiromu unable to grab a leg on the cover. From there, Hiromu steels himself for a Time Bomb II, which YOH tries to kick away, eventually landing a lifting reverse DDT onto the knee. Direct Drive is next, but again Hiromu escapes, coming back with a Stunner and almost a Jay Driller for a near-fall.
Hiromu picks up YOH, but a Hiromu-chan Bomber’s sidestepped as a Five Star Clutch took YOH agonisingly-close… while a headbutt from YOH eventually earned him a Hiromu-chan Bomber. A second one followed off the ropes, before YOH was hauled up and put away with the Time Bomb II. YOH had me biting on those near-falls at the end – and while he came away without any hardware, these kind of losses will serve him well if – and when – he finally comes away with the gold. ****¼
If you’re skipping the undercards, the meat on the proverbial bone was tastier on night one than here, but that’s not to say that this is a show to be sniffed at. The top three matches all worth your time, but with the showpiece matches of this tour awaiting in Osaka next Saturday, this is absolutely a card to cherry-pick from.