New Japan’s last big tour of the year gives us the finals of both the Super Junior and World Tag Leagues, while Hikuleo finally gets his shot at Karl Anderson.

Quick Results
El Lindaman & Alex Zayne pinned Kosei Fujita & Ryohei Oiwa in 6:06 (**¾)
Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls pinned Kevin Knight & KUSHIDA in 6:12 (**¾)
TJP, Francesco Akira, Great O-Khan & Aaron Henare pinned Tiger Mask, Robbie Eagles, Gabriel Kidd & Alex Coughlin in 7:36 (**¾)
Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, DOUKI & Yoshinobu Kanemari pinned Dick Togo, SHO, EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi in 4:54 (**¼)
Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Titan & BUSHI pinned Clark Connors, Ryusuke Taguchi, Hiroshi Tananashi & Toru Yano in 8:40 (***)
Gedo, Jay White & Taiji Ishimori pinned Master Wato, Kazuchika Okada & Tama Tonga in 10:51 (***)
Karl Anderson pinned Hikuleo in 10:16 to retain the NEVER Openweight Championship (**)
Super Junior Tag League 2022 Final: YOH & Lio Rush pinned Ace Austin & Chris Bey in 21:10 (***)
World Tag League 2022 Final: YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto pinned Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis in 28:22 (****¼)

It’s been a while, eh? The World Tag League/Super Junior Tag League tour tends to be a lull in the calendar, where many dropped out of following along – even back when New Japan was “hot in the west.” I’ve tried to keep up, but planned travel and time off has meant I didn’t entertain covering any of the build-up shows…

We’re coming from the Sendai Sunplaza Hall, and sadly, it’s a clap crowd. I’m going to be skipping through a lot of the undercard today, as we’ll be seeing a title match, two tag tournament finals and apparently an addition to Suzukigun.

English commentary comes via Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton via remote studios.

Ryohei Oiwa & Kosei Fujita vs. SAUCEHEARTS (Alex Zayne & El Lindaman)
The SAUCEHEARTS narrowly missed out on the finals, so it’s only right they’re in the opener here…

Zayne looked good against Oiwa early on, scoring an early two-count from a twisting senton, before Oiwa had both his arms nibbled on. Fujita and Zayne tag back in, with the latter eating a dropkick en route to a Boston crab on Zayne… which ended in the ropes. El Lindaman’s back to turn things back around, winning the match with a deadlift German suplex. A short opener, but very much went the way you’d expect. **¾

KUSHIDA & Kevin Knight vs. TMDK (Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls)
Kevin Knight’s gone from Young Lion to full gimmick on this tour, gaining the puffa jacket and shades a la KUSHIDA.

This was somewhat of an openweight match, with TMDK narrowly missing out on the finals, while KUSHIDA and Knight only picked up two wins in their Super Junior Tag League run. TMDK’s on the back foot early on as KUSHIDA and Knight used their speed… but it was Knight who found himself on the defensive until KUSHIDA got the tag in on Nicholls.

Haste tries to cut things off, but eats a cartwheel dropkick before KUSHIDA’s unwise Electric Chair on Nicholls was stopped. Knight’s able to weaken Nicholls with a dropkick before a he hit a second one out of KUSHIDA’s electric chair for a two-count. Knight pushed on with a tiltawhirl backbreaker to Haste, then a pump kick… but TMDK blocked a leaping DDT and hit the Tagbuster for the win. Much like the opener, this was brief but very solid. **¾

Tiger Mask, Robbie Eagles, Alex Coughlin & Gabriel Kidd vs. United Empire (Great O-Khan, Aaron Henare, TJP & Francesco Akira)
The dreams of an all-United Empire final came up short, so they’re mixing up weight classes again here… and this is quite the warm-up tag for Great O-Khan ahead of his tweaked Rev Pro title shot on Saturday. Shout-out to the Anarchist, by the way…

Alex Coughlin overpowers both TJP and Francesco Akira to start, then showed off as he powered up from a seated position for a Chasing the Dragon, with some help from Gabriel Kidd. Show-off. The junior tag champions managed to turn things around on Tiger Mask and Robbie Eagles, but of course Eagles managed to break free as Gabriel Kidd tagged in to charge a path for himself.

Kidd ragdolls TJP and Akira en route to picking up a two-count, before a Tiger Driver on Akira brought in O-Khan to break up the pin. The LA Dojo lads chop O-Khan to the outside, before a pop-up facebuster on Tiger Mask and a Mamba Splash almost won it for TJP. From there, Eagles breaks up a Leaning Tower on Tiger Mask, before TJP snatched the win with a Magistral cradle. **¾

House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, SHO & Dick Togo) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI)
There’d been talk of a Suzuki-gun announcement here – but these sort of things tend to be interference or a post-match deal…

Of course, we’ve got a jump start, but the House of Torture were on the back foot for the early going. Archer dumps Dick Togo onto SHO with a death valley driver, but the House of Torture lads begin to swarm Suzuki, before it became plunder time. Spanners, canes and chairs, oh my, all while Dick Togo was chatting with the referee.

Togo tries to choke out Suzuki with the garrote, but Suzuki breaks free and quickly dispatched of Dick with a rear naked choke and a Gotch piledriver. Thanks for coming. **¼

Suzuki held back in the ring afterwards as he called for the mic, and recapped Suzuki-gun’s history to date, and how far folks in the group have come in its eleven years. From Chris Charlton’s ongoing translations, this was sounding worryingly like a farewell, and sure enough, that’s what it was – at the end of 2022, Suzuki-gun will be no more…

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toru Yano, Clark Connors & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, BUSHI & Titan)
Well, the LIJ intros alone bought plenty of time for the crowd to digest that news as we had the last of our “mashed-up tag leagues” matches here…

Yano’s instantly tripped and tied into a Paradise Lock at the bell by SANADA, as we’re just going straight in with the Greatest Hits. Taguchi calls the plays as SANADA’s met with endless charges in the corner, before SANADA reversed an Irish whip and slung Clark Connors into Taguchi’s arse.

Or course, LIJ jump Taguchi as we build up to BUSHI crotching him by the ring post. Another wacky submission from BUSHI just exposes Taguchi’s arse for a dropkick to the taint, before Titan’s modified Figure Four kept Taguchi in trouble for a while. Tanahashi tagged in to hit a bunch of Dragon screws, while a flip senton gets a two-count on Titan in the corner.

Naito’s trapped in the corner as he’s thrown into a Connors spear for a two-count, before Naito blocked a Trophy Kill attempt. BUSHI’s lungblower begins a Parade of Moves, featuring a flip senton from Titan into the crew on the outside, before a spike DDT from Naito left Connors prone for a Destino for the win. ***

Commentary’s making a big deal of Naito and Tanahashi not having any singles matches for WrestleKingdom in three weeks’ time… special singles match upcoming?

Kazuchika Okada, Tama Tonga & Master Wato vs. Bullet Club (Jay White, Taiji Ishimori & Gedo)
Okada vs. White is the WrestleKingdom main event, while we’ve also got Taiji Ishimori and Master Wato in that four-way for the junior title…

White tosses Okada to the outside early on, but Okada’s right back returning the favour, only for White to charge him into the side of the ring. Okada’s got his right quad taped up, which commentary made a point of calling out, as White chokes him out with a camera cable on the floor.

There’s a lot of wash, rinse and repeat going on with Okada getting thrown outside as the Bullet Club trio were making a point of isolating Jay White’s next challenger. Gedo’s in to take his shots, but he ended up eating a DDT as White dived in to prevent a tag out. An Okada flapjack stops White as Tama Tonga tagged in and went right after White in the corner.

Gedo’s wiped out with a clothesline as he tried to stop Tama, while a Stinger splash and back suplex dropped White for a near-fall. A snap DDT from White buys him time as Taiji Ishimori came in to try and pick at the bones… but to no avail. Master Wato’s in with a springboard at Ishimori, then with a springboard uppercut and a Recientemente for a near-fall.

Wato’s knocked down as Gedo came in for a Complete Shot, sparking a Parade of Moves as White and Okada spill outside… while a Tongan Twist to Gedo, then the RPP from Wato looked to get the win. A Blade Runner breaks up the pin as Jay White then hit a second to Wato, then dragged Gedo onto him for the win. They kept this brief at ten minutes, but I’m not exactly pumped for White/Okada next month… ***

NEVER Openweight Championship: Hikuleo vs. Karl Anderson (c)
Originally scheduled for the Battle Autumn final last month, Karl Anderson instead worked WWE’s Saudi show on the same day… so we’ve got it moved to this show instead.

Hikuleo looked to win with a tree slam at the bell, but Anderson kicked out… then bailed as he looked to get counted out. He’s stopped by Hikuleo, who dropped him throat-first across a crowd barrier. Things headed into the aisle as Anderson took the railings again, with a frustrated Hikuleo choking out Anderson in the crowd as he ranted about the delay he’d had for this match.

Finally hitting the ring, Hikuleo’s sent right back outside by way of a Dragon Screw from Anderson, who puts the boots to his challenger as he looked for a count-out win… but to no avail. After breaking out of a toe hold, Hikuleo looked to fight back, squashing Anderson in the corner with a clothesline ahead of a lariat.

A powerslam from Hikuleo gets a near-fall, but Anderson’s back with a spinebuster for a near-fall. Another powerslam puts the match back in Hikuleo’s favour, before Gedo came out to intervene… he’s chokeslammed into Anderson, before a Hikuleo chokeslam’s countered into the Gun Stun for the flat win. Well that was certainly a match that happened. **

Post-match, Anderson took the mic and bragged about being the best NEVER Openweight champion of all time… then said he’d be a forever champion. Tama Tonga’s out to start a fight, and after Anderson hit a Gun Stun, Karl confirmed that he’ll be defending the NEVER title against Tama at the Tokyo Dome in three weeks.

Super Junior Tag League 2022 Final: Bullet Club (Chris Bey & Ace Austin) vs. Lio Rush & YOH
Both teams here finished top of the league table – with Bey and Austin having lost the head-to-head on November 28…

Austin and Rush spill outside at the bell, as we opened with teased dives before YOH’s neckbreaker set up an accidental DDT from Bey to Austin. Rush tagged in as some double-teaming led to Rush being wheelbarrowed onto Bey for a one-count before Rush and YOH looked to have a falling-out mid-match.

They patch things up, but Bey knocks YOH into Rush as the Bullet Club tandem swarmed, taking YOH into the corner for a step-up enziguiri, an uppercut and eventually a double stomp to the upper back. We’ve some back rakes as Austin then pulled YOH into an armbar… then cut between YOH’s fingers with the playing card.

Bey’s in next to stomp on YOH, then mouth off at Rush as things built up towards the comeback… only for YOH to slump in the corner from some Austin chops. Finally breaking free, YOH’s able to crack Austin with an enziguiri before tagging out to Lio Rush, who runs wild with clotheslines before scoring the Rush Hour springboard stunner for a near-fall.

Rush and YOH double-team Bey ahead of the Final Hour frog splash from Rush… but Austin prevents a cover from being made, only to get chucked outside as some endless inside cradles led to a two-count. An axe kick from Rush leaves Bey laying, as tags bring us to YOH and Austin, with the latter almost losing to a half-hatch suplex.

Austin escapes a Direct Drive, then low bridged YOH to the outside for an apron PK. Bey flies with a flip senton to YOH on the outside, before a low-pe from Rush took out Bey… as Austin’s Fosbury flop took out YOH and Rush to end that sequence. We keep going with a Falcon arrow from YOH on the floor as we cross the 15-minute mark. Nothing came of a teased quadruple count-out, as we resumed with all four men trading blows back in the ring.

We’ve a wacky double-team as Rush was rolled into a clothesline on Austin, before a Rush Hour accidentally took out YOH. Head kicks from the Bullet Club pair leave Rush laying, as YOH then ate a spin-out Dominator and a corkscrew senton for a near-fall. An assisted cutter took out YOH, but Rush charges in to prevent a cover from being made, before a misfire saw Austin take out Bey. YOH’s legal as he scores a near-fall from a 1-2-3K – the old Roppongi 3K finish – after Bey pulled out the ref…

Rush takes care of Bey, then went back in with a Final Hour splash to Austin… before YOH took home the win with the Direct Drive. This match never really clicked with me, and I’m sure had I followed along with the tournament

World Tag League 2022 Final: Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher)
Aussie Open beat Bishamon early on in the tournament – and it’s the head-to-heads that led to these two making it to the finals.

All four men got us going by trading blows, but it’s Aussie Open who drew the proverbial first blood as they isolated Goto in the opening stages. An early attempt at the Dental Plan’s blocked by Goto as the former tag champions began to find their footing in the match.

Davis reverses an Irish whip as YOSHI-HASHI got kicked in the ropes by Fletcher, before Goto finally took his Dental Plan as he went to run in. YOSHI-HASHI eats a Tankbuster out of the corner seconds later, as the Aussies began to put YOSHI-HASHI into the corner with chops. Kyle Fletcher takes his time as he dumped YOSHI-HASHI with bodyslams, while Davis came in to combine chops and clotheslines into the corner to wear YOSHI-HASHI down some more. I’m saying YOSHI-HASHI a lot here, eh?

YOSHI-HASHI elbows his way back into the match, following up with a rear spin kick to Fletcher as Mark Davis’ attempt to squash YOSHI-HASHI ended up backfiring. Fletcher tags back in quickly and knocks Goto off the apron, only for YOSHI-HASHI to reverse a brainbuster… finally buying himself enough time to tag out.

Goto’s spinning heel kick to Kyle in the corner, then a bulldog out of it gets him a two-count, while an ushigoroshi snuffed out a suggested comeback as we crossed the ten-minute mark. Kyle eats a second brainbuster, this time courtesy of Goto for a two-count, before Davis came in to try and stem the tide. A tag brings Dunkzilla in seconds after that, but he’s chucked outside by Goto… who then launched Fletcher onto him as the Aussies were finally able to turn it around with a Super Collider on the outside… following up quickly with a pair of back suplexes onto the side of the ring, then two slams onto the floor. Things can change in an instant.

Out comes a table as Aussie Open looked to hit a Coriolis off the apron through the table… but Goto makes the save and YEETED Fletcher into the guard rails with quite a thud. Goto took the railings himself courtesy of Davis, who then ended up getting met with a low dropkick by YOSHI-HASHI back inside. Another turnaround led to a sliding punch from Davis to YOSHI-HASHI, while Fletcher’s moonsault off the top took out Goto ahead of an Alphamare Waterslide from Davis for a near-fall.

A double-team double-underhook powerbomb nearly puts YOSHI-HASHI away, as we went back to Coriolis… but Goto makes the save once more and began to clear house on his own… until Fletcher’s attempt at a Grimstone was escaped. Goto and Fletcher end up on the apron, but Goto manoeuvred with a wacky GTR off the ropes through the table. Thankfully, the table gave way…

Davis and YOSHI-HASHI trade elbows next, taking us past the 20-minute marker, before Davis’ chops saw him take YOSHI-HASHI down. Going to the knee, YOSHI-HASHI’s able to take down Davis with a Head Hunter, then with a Western Lariat, before superkicks from Goto and YOSHI-HASHI led to a superkick-assisted ushigoroshi. Bishamon go for Shoto after that, landing it on Davis for a near-fall after Kyle Fletcher dove in to break up the pin.

Another Western Lariat from YOSHI-HASHI takes care of Fletcher, who returned with a wild diving kick by the ropes. Goto’s powerbombed into Davis’ uppercut as an assisted/inverted Razor’s Edge dumped YOSHI-HASHI for another near-fall as you sensed this was Aussie Open’s final to lose…

Sandwich lariats trapped YOSHI-HASHI as another crack at Coriolis followed, but it’s countered into a Destroyer on Davis, before an inside cradle nearly put Kyle away. Goto’s back to block a Grimstone, then headbutt Fletcher away ahead of a Shoto attempt… but Davis wipes out YOSHI-HASHI with a dropkick instead. Goto eats a Dunkzilla lariat too, as but Davis ends up taking a Dragon suplex as Kyle arose… and was quickly pulled up for the Shoto. Rather than go for a cover, they pull up Fletcher for another go – this time with a full nelson version of the Shoto – and that’s enough for Bishamon to record back-to-back World Tag League triumphs. It’ll be Goto and YOSHI-HASHI challenging FTR at the Tokyo Dome in three weeks’ time, after a main event that I really, really wish had been in front of a vocal crowd. Not the end to a debut tour that Aussie Open wanted, but something tells that they’ll be a part of New Japan’s tag division for a long time to come. ****¼

Main event aside, this wasn’t a great show – but Tag League finales over the years haven’t been much to write home about. Not helped by the clap crowd, which is something that seems to be taking an age to move away from, large swathes of this show felt super flat. Thank Christ for that Aussie Open and Bishamon final, eh? A lot has been made of New Japan going through changes – with the dissolution of Suzuki-gun being noted alongside Shota Umino and Ren Narita being thrust back from excursions into pretty high roles. The dissolution of Suzuki-gun speaks to that as well, but with attendance numbers seemingly on the up-and-up, it feels like there may be something in the embers, even if things with clap crowds appear wintry-cold on-screen.