New Japan began a four-day run at Korakuen Hall, with their first retirement show of the week as longtime ref Tiger Hattori called it a day.
English commentary’s from Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton, as we wrap up with the ceremony… but beware, the live feed had bad labelling, as the English audio was actually on the Japanese track.
Yota Tsuji, Yuya Uemura & Gabriel Kidd vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare
Kidd and Henare start out, as we start with a lock-up with Kidd cheapshotting Henare in the ropes.
Kidd goes for a leapfrog, but he gets slammed as Tsuji and Makabe come in to charge at each other like bulls. Tsuji has luck with a dropkick, but can barely get a one-count as Honma came in to hit a slam and an elbow drop for a near-fall. Henare’s back as he tries to chop through Tsuji, as did Honma, as it’s looking really one-sided.
Of course, that’s the cue for Tsuji to power up as he hit a spear, before Uemura came in and eventually hit a slam on Makabe. A suplex waits for Honma too, as the Young Lion nearly got the upset, before an attempted deadlift German suplex was fought out of. Honma’s back with a leaping Kokeshi before Kidd tagged back in with Henare. The Young Lions gang up on Henare, catching him with a hattrick of dropkicks before Kidd and Henare swung at each other… before a clothesline spun Kidd down for a near-fall. From there, Toa Bottom drops Kidd, and there’s the win – a lot closer than you’d have thought, but in the day it’s yet another pin racked up for Henare. ***
Post-match, Yota Tsuji got into it with Togi Makabe, before he was nonchalantly thrown outside… where the fight resumed.
Ryusuke Taguchi, Rocky Romero & Tiger Mask vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) & Will Ospreay
It’s a tease for the junior tag title match tomorrow – and it’s a first sight of the newly-crowned Rev Pro British Heavyweight champion Will Ospreay.
Rocky tries to roll-up SHO at the bell… then dove out for a tag when it didn’t work. YOH returns the favour on Taguchi as the pair trade near-falls, tiring out referee Kenta Sato. From there, Taguchi makes YOH run the ropes, before that favour’s returned, leading to a drop toe hold and a low dropkick as Taguchi was laid out for a near-fall. Ospreay’s in with a chinlock on Taguchi, before a forearm knocked him into the corner. SHO’s back to boot away on Taguchi, while YOH continued to slow the pace. Interestingly, Roppongi 3K focused on Taguchi, blocking hip attacks until Taguchi landed an enziguiri. Rocky Romero’s propelled into the rafters for a big ‘rana on Ospreay, before he turned his sights on SHO with Forever lariats in the corner.
A knee from Rocky almost KO’s SHO, but a lariat turns it back around as tags bring in Ospreay and Tiger Mask. Ospreay’s dropped with a crossbody as Tiger mask was full of piss and vinegar, following up with a tiltawhirl backbreaker for a near-fall. A handspring enziguiri knocks down Tiger Mask, only for him to catch Ospreay on the top rope with a butterfly superplex for a near-fall.
The ring fills, then empties to break up that pin, as Ospreay was forced to fight out of a Tiger suplex, before a crucifix pin almost got the win. From there, Ospreay traps Tiger in the corner for a Cheeky Nandos, before a hook kick and Storm Breaker completed the elementary win. Solid enough – and I can see some degree of confliction between Roppongi 3K and Rocky Romero tomorrow, based on this. ***
After that match, Ryusuke Taguchi went after YOH’s ankle as the challengers looked to create an advantage for themselves tomorrow.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Juice Robinson, David Finlay & YOSHI-HASHI
We open with criticism of referee Marty Asami’s driving, while Hiromu attacked Juice Robinson from behind to get us going.
A crossbody from Juice takes down EVIL and Hiromu, before David Finlay came in to help with a double-team bulldog on Hiromu. The former tag champions keep the momentum for a while, until EVIL began to work over Finlay’s left arm, wrenching wringing it as we heard the sounds of bodies getting thrown into guard rails.
BUSHI comes in next, then Hiromu, as Finlay was isolated and trapped in the corner with some chops. A clothesline and a sliding dropkick has Finlay down for a near-fall, before Finlay finally fought back with uppercuts to EVIL… then with a back suplex too. YOSHI-HASHI gets a tag in as he tried to make an impact, dropping EVIL with a Head Hunter before hanging Hiromu in the ropes for a dropkick. Chops to EVIL and a Bunker Buster get YOSHI-HASHI a near-fall, before EVIL retaliated with a Fisherman buster for a near-fall. A double-team hiptoss attempt on YOSHI-HASHI doesn’t come off, as he gets free, then tagged in Juice Robinson… who ran into an overhead kick as BUSHI nailed a missile dropkick. Low dropkicks from BUSHI and Hiromu nearly put away Juice, as did a rewind kick, before Finlay returned to help flapjack BUSHI.
From there, the Left Hand of God, a Prima Nocta and Pulp Friction puts away BUSHI as the former champions get back on track. Solid stuff as we continue to build to an as-yet-unknown New Japan Cup field next month. ***
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata
The Nakanishi retirement tour continues here, and yeah, we’ve a jump start as the ring empties at the bell.
Nakanishi’s able to hurl El Desperado into the crowd barriers, but he’s quickly stopped by Suzuki… who takes the railings too. Wash, rinse and repeat with Kanemaru while Taichi put the boots to Tenzan in the ring. Nakanishi’s in to splash on Taichi for a near-fall, but Suzuki kicks him in the back to save Taichi from a clothesline… and with the referee distracted, Taichi’s able to get a chair, which he uses on Nakanishi.
Red Shoes Unno turns around to see Taichi choking Nakanishi with the chair, which somehow isn’t a DQ, and we’re back outside again as Taichi choked on Nakanishi by the railings. That almost led to a count-out, but Nakanishi gets back in… and gets stretched again as Suzuki caught him in the corner with an armbar. Quadruple-teaming comes next on Nakanishi, but he eventually gets free and brings in Nagata, whose flurry was stopped by Suzuki as the pair trade shots for win. Kanemaru’s in, but gets caught with an Exploder before Kojima took over with Machine Gun chops. Nakanishi’s back to hit a double-suplex that got rid of Desperado, before a Cozy lariat spun Kanemaru to the mat for the win. This was a match – you know what you’re getting here with the New Japan Dads, but at least it didn’t outstay its welcome. **½
Tiger Hattori’s referring the final two matches for his farewell…
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Colt Cabana & Toru Yano vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa), Jay White & Bad Luck Fale)
I think Tiger may have his hands full.
We start with Colt and Yano arguing over who should go first, but instead they both get jumped by Fale and Jay White. You know the shtick, even though it’s been a while. They cling to the ropes, then hit a double tag to Ibushi and Tanahashi, who have to figure out who’s legal.
Ibushi and Tanahashi focus on Tama Tonga, before a pair of standing moonsaults almost put Tama away. Of course, we’ve got the obligatory Kendo stick shot as the referee was distracted, as the Guerrillas of Destiny worked over Tanahashi in their corner. It woke up Korakuen though, as the Bullet Club domination began in earnest. Tanahashi tries to fight back on Jay White, but he ends up getting caught in a half crab as the Bullet Club retained control. Fale stands on Tanahashi’s leg for the hell of it, before Tanga Loa dropped some elbows. Tanahashi fight free, dropkicking Fale off the apron before he had to skin the cat… and does so, dragging Tama to the outside.
Tanahashi finally tags out to Ibushi, who lays into Tama Tonga with kicks before a scoop slam and a springboard moonsault found its mark for a near-fall. Kota keeps going, building up to a Kamigoye… but Tanga Loa hits a German suplex to stop him in his tracks. A double backflip kick from Kota stops the champions, before tags bring in Colt Cabana and Jay White. Eclectic.
Colt’s rana takes down White, as did a Bionic Elbow and a Flying Asshole… before Colt flew and landed a double-jump splash for just a two-count. Yano looked to come in next, but Colt’s DDT’d as Fale comes in to try and squash Colt… but he comes away and tags in Yano, who promptly craps himself at the prospect of Fale. Clubbing lefts and rights trap Yano in the corner, but he gets free to slap Fale’s head… then got charged down as the ring filled up with Bullet Club guys. An elbow drop from Fale nearly puts Yano down, before Fale swapped Grenade teases between Colt and Yano. In the end, a Bionic elbow-assisted low blow and backslide surprises Fale, and that’s enough for the win! Some comic relief to spice up this show, which was dragging. ***
Post-match, Gedo argues with Tiger Hattori… and gets kicked low. Jado does the same, threatening with a Kendo stick, but gets the same result.
Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & SANADA)
This really is Tiger Hattori the Final – so it’s as close to an all-star match as you can get within current stories. Okada’s taking selfies before the match, and how grumpy does Ishii look here?!
Ishii and Shingo start out with a battle of the hosses, locking up as they proceeded to batter each other with a barrage of elbows. Ishii cuts through with a shoulder tackle, before he cornered Shingo with forearms and chops as Okada eventually made the tag in. Elbows from Okada keep Shingo down, as does a slingshot senton, before Hirooki Goto came in to keep the pressure up.
Shingo blocks a Saito suplex attempt, then got a boot up as the rest of LIJ swarmed the ring to take out Goto. Staying in the ring, Shingo made a beeline for Ishii… to no avail, as that just brought in Big Tom to throw some shots before Shingo had to clothesline his way past Ishii and Goto. Naito’s back as LIJ triple-team Goto some more, before Naito held Goto in the corner with a cravat, allowing SANADA to come tag in.
SANADA has some luck with Goto, but the brakes get put on on a suplex as Goto comes free and ends up clotheslining SANADA to the mat. Naito’s back to clear the apron, but a Combinacion Cabron’s aborted as Goto instead pulled him into a neckbreaker. Okada’s in next to launch in with an elbow and a DDT on Naito, only to get caught with a ‘rana as Naito fought back. Naito keeps going with a hanging neckbreaker before Okada slipped out of a superplex and teased a neckbreaker, only to get caught with an enziguiri.
Okada blocks a swinging DDT as he muscled up for a neckbreaker slam, before tags bring us back to Shingo and Ishii. Yes please! They charge at each other some more, with a backdrop driver from Ishii giving him some headway, at least for a moment. Shingo’s back as he toyed with Ishii with some boots, before some elbows had no effect… with Ishii walking through them before he slammed Shingo to the mat.
The pair trade clotheslines before Shingo punched out Ishii, and we’re back to the stiff-sounding lariats. Ishii responds with elbows, but another thunderous lariat drops him as Goto and SANADA return. Elbows and hiptosses have SANADA down, before an ushigoroshi was blocked… with SANDA trying to flip back in. A low dropkick stuns Goto, who comes back with a clothesline before an ushigoroshi was escaped again.
Problem was, LIJ swarmed the ring again to attack Goto, sparking a Parade of Moves as we entered the closing stretch. Goto’s way too close as SANADA went for a springboard missile dropkick… and he gets pulled into an ushigoroshi before he almost got the win with a wacky crucifix roll… before SANADA snuck the win out of nowhere with a Japanese leg hold clutch. A decent main event to close out the show, with SANADA racking up the fall… they still have plans for him, even if he’s bombing in singles matches. ***
The show closes with Tiger Hattori joining the LIJ fist bump before we got the ceremony, with Tiger Hattori pinning Okada. Typical Tiger – going out on top! Much like the Liger ceremony, everyone came out in groups, with Rocky Romero notably not part of the CHAOS stable here, and we also got the referees coming out to present a signed ref’s shirt, along with New Japan and Bushiroad management. We also had surprise appearances from the Great Kabuki, Hiroshi Hase, Keiji Muto and Riki Choshu before video messages from Genichiro Tenryu and Antonio Inoki led us towards Chris Charlton translating his heart out with the speeches.
The Tiger Hattori retirement event wasn’t about great matches – the undercard served as a starter to the ceremony at the end, and in truth, that’s all that mattered.