After Thursday saw two titles change hands, it was a similar showing as Wrestling Toyonokuni was a two-match card last Saturday.
It’s another mixture of “Road” show tags and PPV-quality matches, so adjust expectations accordingly!
Tiger Mask, Katsuya Kitamura & Shota Umino vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tomoyuki Oka & Hirai Kawato
You know what to expect here – another outing for four of the latest crop of Young Lions, who are being popped off of the figurative dojo production line at an alarming rate. Especially compared to another company whose trainee system invites comparisons on a regular basis.
Liger and Tiger start out as they resumed their on/off rivalry, but it was Tomoyuki Oka who seemed to get the most ring time as he found himself cornered by Tiger Mask, who then invited Umino in to beat away on a downed Oka. He replied with a belly-to-belly, only for Tiger Mask to drag him back in so Kitamura could chop him apart, before Liger came in and stomped on Oka through sheer disappointment.
That spot is never not great!
A shoulder tackle gets Kitamura a near-fall, as does a brainbuster, before Umino and Tiger Mask throw in a very brief bit of double-teaming. Kawato miserably fails as he tries to break up a Boston crab from Umino, but Oka retaliates with a spinebuster after making the ropes, then gave a receipt as the Boston crab forced Umino to tap. Fun while it lasted, especially given that these Young Lions are really raw. **½
Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) vs. Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta)
Vice’s newly-won Junior Heavyweight tag titles aren’t on the line, presumably because Desperado is seen by someone as a downgrade on Taichi as a partner. I’d like to know who made that call…
We started with Romero landing a couple of ‘ranas as the new champions started out on top. I had to check to see if my PC wasn’t stuttering as this felt somewhat slow paced, at least until the match went outside where Kanemaru landed a step-up seated senton onto Beretta on the guard railings.
The pace slows again back in the ring, where Desperado jabs Romero with a pen he’d commandeered from the announcing crew, before an OLD SCHOOL ROPE RUN TO THE EYES left Rocky down. Kanemaru ducks a reverse enziguiri, but ends up falling to a clothesline as Romero finally brings in Beretta, who manages with a standard enziguiri before a tope con hilo wipes out the Suzuki-gun pair in the aisle.
Back inside, Desperado interferes to prevent a Strong Zero finish, which led to a brief flurry as a tornado DDT and a spear gets a near-fall on Beretta. There’s some cringeworthy referee distraction so Desperado can use a chair, but Beretta ducks as Desperado falls to a pair of leaping knees, as the Strong Zero finished him off. This was utter filler, and while I get that New Japan don’t do willy nilly title defences, why have the new champions in a straight tag match if they’re not putting the belts on the line? **
Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi & Yoshitatsu
Speaking of filler… this started with Yoshitatsu getting attacked from behind before shrugging off the Ingobernables pair as Taguchi took down BUSHI with a double-handed chop. SANADA got one too, but he rebounded by tying Taguchi ina ball in the ropes whilst Yoshitatsu was choked with a t-shirt.
After getting freed, Yoshitatsu’s taken down with a dropkick, but Taguchi comes back with plenty of hip attacks before a reverse and standard DDT took down both opponents at once. Taguchi tries for the Three Amigos, but BUSHI avoids the third… then avoids a hip attack we get a lot of swinging and missing.
Yoshitatsu returns and looked for a hiptoss neckbreaker on SANADA which succeeded to some level, as did the hiptoss knee strike and a Pedigree for a near-fall. SANADA uses a headlock to escape a back suplex, before a low dropkick nails Yoshitatsu after he was tripped by BUSHI. Taguchi sails out of the ring as he went for a hip attack and was met promptly with a tope suicida from BUSHI, before SANADA eventually locked in a Skull End for the submission. This was just a match, nothing enticing or worth sticking around for unless you’re a die-hard fan of any of these guys. *¾
Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Chase Owens) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & David Finlay
We’ve seen this match done before and done better, I’m afraid. David Finlay appears to be stagnating in this rudderless role, but you could say that about a lot of the New Japan crew who aren’t in or around title pictures. Apparently Finlay is wrestling Cody at Dontaku, which makes this an even weirder way to build him.
After a jump start from the good guys, things quickly revert to form, with Kojima barging Tama Tonga down, before Mongolian chops keep down the guy who’s seemingly merged the ring gear of Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. As weird as it sounds, I preferred the long johns, but at least this seems to offer more protection to Kojima’s machine-gun chops. Kojima gets caught in the wrong corner so everyone can mock his chops, but Tenzan comes into give some retribution, with Mongolian chops and a suplex to Tonga for a near-fall.
Tonga tries a headbutt, but it doesn’t faze Tenzan, who comes back with a Mountain Bomb and an Anaconda Vice that Yujiro breaks up. A Tama Tonga spear takes down Tenzan, but he’s able to bring in Finlay for the final sprint, before Yujiro took an awkward landing from a TenKoji cutter. The end came pretty quick after that, when a sit-out tombstone from Tanga Loa ensured that Finlay went into his match with Cody on the back of a loss. A weird outing, but these guys have done better, so I’m chalking this up to an off night before anyone else in this match blocks me! *¾
Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku)
One of the many downsides of spreading out one PPV-quality card across three shows is that we get lame duck matches like this. Goto lost the NEVER title to Suzuki at a Road to Wrestling Dontaku show last week, but he’s now facing Suzuki in an undercard tag like he’s about to challenge for it.
Anyway, the former champion jumped Suzuki at the bell as Suzuki-gun were taken to the outside for that not-at-all-passe brawling around the ring. When they did make the ring, YOSHI-HASHI dispatched of TAKA and Taichi with a rope hung dropkick and a running Blockbuster respectively, before letting himself get caught with a Minoru rope-hung armbar. That was the cue for more brawling outside the crowd, where Suzuki wrapped Goto’s arm around a bit of crowd barrier, whilst Taichi somehow got hold of the bell hammer and used it on YOSHI-HASHI.
Minoru has his shot at YOSHI-HASHI, who’s taken a beating in this, but an enziguiri finally gets him some breathing space as Goto gets tagged in to lay into Minoru. A spinning heel kick in the corner and a running kick to the chest sets up for a back suplex that nearly gets Goto the win, but Suzuki hits back hard with a forearm to start some back and forth there. Goto blocks a kick and turned it into an ushigoroshi attempt, before we got some tags out to TAKA and Ospreay.
Will blocked an eye poke but was still sent into the corners before taking a pair of PKs for a near-fall. Ospreay tried a comeback but he quickly ran into a rear naked choke from Suzuki, only for Goto to make the save and leave the scene clear for a springboard forearm, corkscrew kick and OsCutter as Ospreay earned the win over. TAKA. Not bad considering how lame duck this was, but it’s nice to see Will getting a win given how close Best of Super Juniors is… ***
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Kenny Omega & Chase Owens) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
With two obvious matches to build to for Wednesday’s Wrestling Dontaku, this started out hot as Fale attacked Okada before he’d even taken off his robe. That backfired as Fale took a trio of avalanches in the corner before a simple neckbreaker earned a delayed two-count over the big guy.
Toru Yano runs over his “break” shtick and ends up backing into an attack from Fale, who decided the best way to get rid of the annoyance… was by throwing him into the guard rails. The outside-the-ring brawling sees Kenny Omega use the ring announcer’s folder of notes to beat over the head of Okada and Yano, whilst Toru was thrown back into the ring to keep on taking a beating.
Yano manages to recover and untie the turnbuckle padding, but he accidentally strikes down the referee with the cover, leading Omega to act like he’d killed the official. Once that died down, we had Tomohiro Ishii killing Owens and Omega, before falling into a Finlay roll and springboard moonsault that got Omega a near-fall. Some brief back and forth leaves both guys on the mat, before we go back to Okada and Fale… with the former trying a tombstone piledriver. It didn’t work. Neither did a Rainmaker, as Fale countered it into a Samoan drop, before a Downward Spiral and Kotaro Krusher combo earned Owens a near-fall over the IWGP champion.
Tomohiro Ishii comes in to save Okada from another Fale tombstone as the ring filled up, leading to Okada somehow dropping Fale with a neckbreaker slam, before Owens took a tombstone and a Rainmaker for the win. This was fine, but it really does feel like they’ve done this build-up backwards – why not have Fale hit a tombstone and pin Okada at the end of the build, rather than at the start? ***
After the match, Okada planchas onto Fale on the outside, before taking a slam on the floor, which pales as a “final message” compared to what we could have seen…
Ahead of the next match there’s a video package building up Ricochet, who namedropped some junior heavyweights including Wild Pegasus, Owen Hart and Finn Balor. In that name. Someone could read a lot into that… There’s also a shot of Hiromu Takahashi playing with mini mannqeuins, because he’s creepy like that.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Ricochet vs. Hiromu Takahashi (c)
Ricochet burst out of the blocks with a big boot and a tope as he tried to end this early, before a Space Flying Tiger and a 450 Splash… but we didn’t get a repeat of Hiromu’s squash of KUSHIDA!
Takahashi ducks a Benadryller before countering a handspring back elbow into a German suplex as the champion finally got into it, taking Ricochet to the outside before dropkicking him into the guard rails like a madman. Back inside, a trapped-arm Dragon Screw took down Ricochet for a figure four.
A 619 in the corner and a flying uppercut gets Ricochet back into it though, only to be caught on the ropes as he went for a springboard off the apron… but at least he blocked a sunset bomb with some headscissors to save his bacon! Ricochet then blocks a wheelbarrow driver off the top rope, and plants Hiromu with a facebuster off the top, only to be thrown with ease into a brutal death valley driver on the apron.
The diving armbar off the apron’s blocked as Ricochet catches him with a Northern Lights suplex that rolled into a vertical suplex on the floor, forcing both men to narrowly beat the 20 count to make it back inside as they started to exchange strikes with increased venom, until an enziguiri led to another pair of rolling suplexes from Ricochet… which Takahashi countered into a pair of Germans for a near-fall.
Ricochet escapes a corner death valley driver before planting Takahashi with a reverse DDT for another near-fall. His shooting star press crashes and burns into Hiromu’s knees, before he takes an overhead belly-to-belly into that corner. A modified Time Bomb gets a near-fall, before Takahashi charges Ricochet into the corner with a death valley driver, only for another Time Bomb to be escaped.
The pace quickens as Ricochet lands some bicycle knees and a Benadryller, but it’s only good for a two-count, before Ricochet crashed and burned again as he went for a 630 Splash. Out of nowhere, Takahashi plants Ricochet with an Essex Destroyer, before another death valley driver into the corner and a Time Bomb saw him successfully defend yet again. Takahashi’s had four defences now and is looking unshakeable as champion, despite those moments where he looked scared as all hell in the build ups. Remember how petrified he was of Taguchi’s ankle lock? Now that move doesn’t even exist… I cannot recall a single bad Takahashi match, singles or otherwise, since his return last November – those excursions worked! ****½
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. EVIL
EVIL’s traded down laser fingers for a laser torch it seems, and he was left on his backside before he entered the ring as Tanahashi took him out with a plancha before the bell.
An Irish whip into the guard rails has such force that EVIL managed to not only move a table, but clear it entirely, like that magician trick where they pull off the table cloth and leave everything intact. Only without the “leaving everything intact” part here! EVIL recovered back in the ring, clotheslining Tanahashi off the apron, before a clothesline took him into the crowd, giving EVIL enough time to grab some chairs… and you know what happens when EVIL gets a chair.
A curb stomp of sorts gets EVIL a near-fall, as does a back senton, but Hiroshi came back with a Dragon screw, only to be pulled off the middle rope as he looked to land a back senton of his own. Referee Red Shoes gets used to hold Hiroshi’s leg inadvertently as EVIL keeps on top, then heads up top for a diving elbow for a near-fall before the pair traded eye rakes.
Tanahashi skins the cat to take EVIL to the floor, then springs to the top rope to flatten EVIL with a High Fly Flow to the floor. We move to back-and-forth forearms as Tanahashi looked to stay ahead, only for an EVIL lariat out of the corner to put him down for a two-count as the match stayed in flux. Another Dragon screw is blocked and turned into a rear chinlock as Tanahashi’s forced to scramble for the ropes.
Tanahashi rebounds with a Slingblade before going up for another High Fly Flow, but he’s knocked off by BUSHI as EVIL gets some Ingobernable help. SANADA’s out too, but Taguchi comes out and leaps onto them with hip attacks to get rid of them… and yes, one man managed to neutralise two using his arse and a pair of headlocks, if we’re going to take a dim view of this. We get a bridging Dragon suplex, but Tanahashi’s stupidly not noticed the lack of the referee, so it was for nought.
He releases the pin and goes for another High Fly Flow, but EVIL’s knees block it as he comes back with a sit-out Spinebuster for a near-fall, only to run into a John Cena-esque sit-out hiptoss. Another High Fly Flow takes him down, before a third connects as Tanahashi secured the win – a match that was technically fine, but really hurt by the needless run-in. It wasn’t like EVIL was struggling until that point, and somehow they managed to neuter as many as three guys in one run-in. Cheers for that. ***½
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Juice Robinson vs. Tetsuya Naito (c)
April 29, 2017 – Juice Robinson main eventing a New Japan show for a title. A far cry from where he was three years earlier, on a random NXT house show in Florida beating Solomon Crowe (better known as Sami Callihan), but such has been the career rise of the former CJ Parker… a veritable lesson on “always bet on yourself”.
We’ve your typical Naito big match start, as he tries to get inside Robinson’s head by faking out a dive and doing whatever he could to buy time. When he did get in, he was quickly dropped with a back senton before Juice charged him into the guard railings. Those favours were quickly returned as Juice had his leg wrapped around a guard railing, before the gate was kicked onto his leg like it was Mick Foley’s head in a cage. Sorry if I’ve got anyone thinking of the Smashing Pumpkins there!
That gives Naito an easy target, as he wears down on Juice’s knee, driving it into the mat before using an Indian deathlock to wrench away on it some more. A figure four helps, but Juice somehow catches the outside-in dropkick and drills Naito with a double-knee gutbuster that also took it out on the challenger’s knee. Juice keeps up the pressure with a spinebuster, butt Naito rolls away from a cannonball in the corner to keep things even.
Some mounted punches in the corner are almost countered with a powerbomb, but Juice resists and lands a Booker T-esque leg lariat instead, before connecting with a diving clothesline off the apron, only for Naito to come back to that knee. There’s an attempt to nearly kill Juice with a German suplex into the guard railing, only for Naito to get elbowed away and caught with a spinebuster onto the corner of the apron. The one time that move is exactly as advertised!
Juice follows up by whipping Naito into the barricades for a successful cannonball attempt, but Naito rebounded with another tornado DDT back in the ring. A knee breaker and a low dropkick follows as Naito connects with a chop block, before he takes down Juice with a knee bar to try and force a submission… only for Juice to finally grab the ropes at the third attempt.
Robinson countered a top rope rana into a powerbomb that looked like it damaged Naito big time… so he rushes in with a falling powerbomb for a near-fall as Juice sensed blood. Naito counters Pulp Friction with a Koppo Kick, before he’s clotheslined onto his damned head for another two-count. Another Pulp Friction is avoided, but Naito finally countered that into a Destino. It happens again as a tiltawhirl’s turned into a Destino for another two-count by Naito, before a third Destino’s countered into a roll-up as the pace quickened some more.
Naito escapes another Pulp Friction and rolls into another near-fall, before Juice lands a uranage backbreaker… and a straight left hand! Unfortunately, Naito escapes further Pulp Friction, then countered with one more Destino, and that’s an end to an epic contest. Simply wonderful stuff as Juice Robinson’s coming out party continued – albeit without any gold to show for it. ****½
Well, the card was just as expected – a two match showing, with a LOT of fluff on the underneath. Wednesday’s Dontaku show is expected to be a little better on paper, but this really is a show where you can skip the first half, and in all fairness, everything but the two title matches.
It’s a shame, but when New Japan spread out one card across multiple events, we end up with a lot of filler that does no favours for those watching.