– Michael Richards vs Yuya Uemura – Young Lion Cup
– Karl Fredericks vs Ren Narita – Young Lion Cup
– Satoshi Kojima, Clark Connors, and Alex Coughlin vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Shota Umino, and Yota Tsuji
– G.O.D, and Chase Owens vs Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI, and Toa Henare
– Birds of Prey, and Tomoaki Honma vs El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori, and Yujiro Takahashi
– Minoru Suzuki, ZSJ, DOUKI, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs R3K, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Hiroshi Tanahashi
– Hirooki Goto, Rocky Romero, and Kazuchika Okada vs Shingo Takagi, BUSHI, and SANADA
– Jay White and Bad Luck Fale vs Tetsuya Naito and EVIL
Michael Richards Def. Yuya Uemura in ~9m 15s with a Boston Crab (***)
I’ve not seen anything of Michael Richards before and so this was one of my first experiences of him and I can definitely say he impressed, solid in-ring skills and a decent look that I believe will become something big in the future for NJPW.
This match is very back and forth with a lot of mat wrestling, something Uemura is more than competent at. Richards has the strength advantage and uses it often with shoulder tackles and throwing Uemura at times. Richards gets the advantage early on with some brutal lariats in the corner followed up by some chops. Brutal forearm exchange by the two with Richards’ looking much more brutal until Uemura hits a dropkick. Uemura follows up with his signature running dropkick in the corner and proceeds to stomp a mudhole in Richards. Uemura with a version of a lion tamer before getting the dreaded Boston Crab locked in but Richards survives. Great Lariat by Richards gets him back in control as he hits a brainbuster. Yuya tries to fight but is eventually put in a Boston Crab. Uemura gets to the ropes only to be put back in the hold and submitted.
Really good opener by two great young lions, this Young Lion Cup is going to make the Road To shows this year must see.
Ren Narita Def. Karl Fredericks in ~7M 5s with a sharpshooter (***1/2)
Two of my favourite Young Lions in this match, both Ren and Karl have such high ceilings which is mental considering how good they are now.
Unlike the previous match this one starts out with a brutal striking contest which Fredericks gets the upper hand with a great standing dropkick, one of the best in the business. Karl with the early advantage peppering Narita with kicks slams and strikes. Karl with a great jumping Elbow on Narita. However Narita fights back by dodging a corner attack and connecting with a Shotgun Dropkick. Karl stops the Belly to Belly attempt and turns it into a spinebuster and into a Single leg Boston Crab which was great.
However it wasn’t the end as Narita gets to the ropes. Overhead Belly to Belly by Narita which was beautiful but with no bridge means it didn’t end the match. However it was now Narita’s turn to lock in a single leg crab which he rolls into his inverted version of the sharpshooter which was as smooth as butter. This manages to get the better of Karl, who taps.
Great match which really showcased these two great young talents.
Kojima, Connors, and Coughlin Def. Tenzan, Shota, and Tsuji in 11m 50s with Kojima pinning Tsuji with a Western Lariat. (**½)
This next match confused me quite a bit as I rarely ever see Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan on opposite sides of a tag match nowadays. Still, it should be good with the talent in it.
Kojima and Tenzan start, still weird for me to say that. Kojima refuses the clean break and chops Tenzan who then goes into a chopping battle which evolves into Mongolian Chops by Kojima who is run down by Tenzan who then does some Mongolian Chops of his own. Clark Connors and Shota Umino tag in and immediately start attacking each other with an intensity that young lions are known for. Shoulder tackle war is won by Shota who floors Connors. Clark and Shota tag out to Alex Coughlin and Yota Tsuji respectively. A collar and elbow tie up is brought to the ropes where Tsuji also refuses the clean break deciding to chop Coughlin instead.
Clark, Satoshi, and Alex take turns tagging in and beating up Tsuji until Tsuji gets the better of Coughlin with a dropkick and manages to tag in Tenzan who slowly begins to clean house. OK BRAINBUSTA. Coughlin is being destroyed by Tenzan until he himself manages to separate himself with a dropkick and tag in Clark Connors. Umino is also tagged in and these two continue their intensity from before. Brainbuster by Shota for the near fall. He tries for the Fisherman but its blocked.
Connors manages to connect with a brutal spear which leaves both of them down with Tsuji and Kojima tagging in, Kojima goes for his ICCHAUZO BAKAYARO but is stopped by Tsuji before he can hit his elbow. Triple team by Tenzan’s team gets Kojima down for only a 2. Kojima fights back by hitting a Koji Cutter followed up by a brutal LARIAT on Tsuji which ends the match.
Tomohiro Ishii, Yoshi Hashi, and Toa Henare Def. G.O.D, and Chase Owens. In ~9m7s when Tomohiro Ishii pinned Chase Owens with a Brain Buster. (**¾)
Bullet Club attack before the bell, as they always do. Isolating Yoshi Hashi(YH)as you should. Ishii comes in to save and takes out GOD for YH. Henare and Chase are the first proper men to start the match with Henare getting the upper hand to begin with before Chase outsmarts Henare to reverse momentum. BC isolate Henare before Tama mocks Ishii by yelling out comically “BwainBustaaaaah” this annoys Ishii who beats the hell out of Tama before Tama gets the upper hand. The time away from Henare allows him to recover though and hit Tama with a Samoan drop to get the tag to YH who cleans house.
YH tags in Ishii who walks slowly towards a praying Tama Tonga, before Ishii can do anything however Tanga Loa and Chase save Tama and go to work isolating Ishii, not the best idea. Henare with a double spear before getting hit with a final cut by Chase. Ishii and Chase with a nice sequence which results in Chase hitting multiple roll ups to try and steal one on Ishii, all of which are unsuccessful. Ishii kicks out of a great Shining Wizard by Chase. Ishii counters a Package piledriver attempt and hits a Brain Buster for the win.
El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori, and Yujiro Takahashi Def. Birds of Prey, and Tomoaki Honma in 10 minutes and 27 seconds. When Yujiro pinned Honma with Pimp Juice. (***)
Birds of Prey(BoP) in Japan feelsgoodman. Ospreay and ELP start out with ELP getting the early advantage with an old school Rana. BoP with some great double team including a top rope double stomp to the arm. Honma joins in with a Kokeshi to the arm. Followed up by a regular Kokeshi! BC attack the faces and isolate Honma, smart decision. Honma takes everything from BC before reversing a Ishimori suplex and tagging Robbie Eagles in. Eagles takes out the heels and does a great diving drop kick and kip up. Eagles has incredible kicks, bottom rope 619 followed by springboard dropkick to the leg incapacitate Ishimori.
Eagles takes out ELP and Ishimori with some creative attacks. Robbie Tags in Ospreay for some great double team moves. ELP stops the BoP from doing their signature double spanish fly from the top by holding onto Eagles. Ishimori with a Poison Rana makes the both of them reset tag to Yujiro and Honma respectively. Another KOKESHI! That makes it 2 for 2. The faces triple team Yujiro and set him up for Bret’s rope KOKESHI! However, Yujiro will not allow Honma to get the hat trick, as he moves out of the way. One more Kokeshi miss and some Pimp Juice will end the match.
R3K, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Ryusuke Taguchi Def. ZSJ, Minoru Suzuki, DOUKI, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru in 12m11s when SHO pinned DOUKI after 3K.(**½)
A pre match attack by Suzuki gun starts this one off, who would have guessed it! The main story here is obviously Tanahashi vs ZSJ as they battle on the outside. In the ring, Taguchi and Suzuki are facing off as Taguchi catches a PK from Minoru and manages to get the upper hand, the faces come in and do a Taguchi train while Coach shouts instructions from the by-line. However Taguchi does not realize when his comrades have been taken from him by SZK Gun. The only person left to greet Taguchi when he turns around is the sadist himself, who proceeds to beat the hell out of the Funky Weapon. Suzuki SABU’s Taguchi and he only barely gets back in at 19. Lots of shenanigans in this one.
The heels isolate Taguchi and beat on him until he manages to hit his hip attack on Kanemaru and makes the tag to The Ace the same time ZSJ tags in. Tanahashi gets the upper hand with basically everything they do including submission wrestling which was surprising. SHO and DOUKI have a striking fight until SHO goes insane and beats up DOUKI without much opposition. The heels once again get the upper hand by taking out Tana and friends and having a 4 on 1 advantage against SHO. DOUKI hits an incredible spits knee breaker into a backslide for a near fall, DOUKI’s great. DOUKI goes for his Dragon Suplex but is denied, at this point the match has devolved into everyone getting their moves in. This finishes with R3K hitting 3K on DOUKI out of nowhere for the win.
Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada, and Rocky Romero Def. SANADA, BUSHI, and Shingo Takagi in ~9m when Hirooki Goto pinned BUSHI with GTR
Semi-Final is a good one with 2 previewed matches in it, those being SANADA/Okada and Shingo/Goto which are happening on Destruction shows later in the month.
SANADA and Okada start, much to the delight of the Korakuen crowd. The first minute or so of this match is them judging the crowd, as they do, to find out which one is more popular in a particular city. In Tokyo it sounds like Okada has a slight edge. Okada gets the upper hand early on with a low dropkick to a seated SANADA. Rocky gets tagged in and hits some smooth Rana’s before getting caught by Shingo and drop kicked by SANADA. This gives LIJ the ability to isolate Rocky. Before that however SANADA manages to get Okada in a paradise lock to the cheers from the crowd and the jeers of myself. Rocky gets attacked by LIJ for a few minutes before hitting a beautiful pop up Rana on Shingo to get some space which he takes full advantage of tagging in Hirooki Goto.
Goto goes straight after Shingo until he is stopped by SANADA and the double team begins. Only for a second though before Goto takes all 3 LIJ members out. A little exchange by Goto and Shingo filled with Lariats, forearms, and Saito Suplex’s makes me very very excited for their rematch from the G1. BUSHI gets tagged in and does his signature BUSHIrooni and the perfect triple teaming by LIJ commences on Hirooki Goto. BUSHI goes for MX but Goto moves out of the way and Rocky takes BUSHI out. Everyone is getting their stuff in and building to matches, Okada gets rid of SANADA, Goto gets rid of Shingo after some Brutal and Beautiful lariats from the two, until its just BUSHI and Goto left. BUSHI cannot connect with his neckbreaker, and instead is hit with an Ushigoroshi and a GTR for the win.
Tetsuya Naito and EVIL Def. Jay White and Bad Luck Fale in ~17 minutes when Tetsuya Naito pinned Bad Luck Fale with Destino. (***½)
Your main event of the evening is an interesting one to say the least. 3 of the very best in the world and Bad Luck Fale should make this a fun one.
A lot of showboating and Naito chants start this match. Naito with his signature slow start seems to not faze Jay White as he takes the early advantage over the Stardust Genius. Naito with his Tranquilo tope suicida seems to have fazed Jay though as he rushes into the ring and gets attacked by Naito. Then double teamed by LIJ. Bad Luck Fale stops the Cabron Combination as he drags Naito to the outside and throws him into the railings. Jay and Fale does this multiple times and the bumps Naito takes look disgusting, however this should surprise no one. Jay and Fale isolate Naito and start going to work.
“Going to work” in Fale speak, is standing on top of someone making scary sounds for 20 seconds. White again takes Naito to the outside and drills him against the rails and ringside again. White cheerleading for Naito as he tries to get to his feet was hilarious. The boo’s afterwards were great. Jay White is just the best. White and Fale go for multiple Jericho foot on the chest pins but red shoes is having NONE of it. Naito finally gets a break by dodging one of Fale’s elbow’s. Naito goes for a freaking German Suplex on Fale but thinks better and ends up dropkicking his knee and tagging in EVIL who takes out the big man. EVIL also goes for a slam on Fale but White stops it.
BC goes for a double team but EVIL reverses it. Fale takes down EVIL and now BC is back in control. EVIL with a ref assisted superkick and tags Naito in who hits a beautiful Rana on White. Naito gets White on the top rope and looks to hit a top rope rana but is blocked by White who crotches him on the top rope. White drags Naito down from the top and tries to hit a head and arm suplex on Naito but settles for a brutal Uranage. Fale is tagged in and falls on Naito for a near fall. Fale looks for the grenade but is stopped by EVIL who takes him out and delivers Darkness falls on Jay White. Naito takes advantage of the situation by drilling Fale with a satellite DDT. Gedo tries to stop Naito from finishing Fale but fails and gets drilled for his troubles, White tries to hit Naito with a chair, but EVIL is there to prevent any serious damage, Naito hits a destino on White, followed up with a giant DESTINO on Bad Luck Fale for the win.