A five-on-five elimination match between LIJ and Suzuki-Gun main events the first of two nights at Korakuen Hall on the ‘Road to the New Beginning’. This is the first night of New Japan proper since January 5th. Let’s get started!
Manabu Nakanishi & Ren Narita def. Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura @ 10:17 via Narita Boston Crab on Uemura – **1/2
All three young lions came out looking at peak physical form. Uemura in particular looked absolutely jacked and Tsuji’s shoulders were filled out nicely. Great fire from Narita and Uemura. The two went at each other hard and fast while Tsuji was tasked with beating down Nakanishi. Uemura had the spot of the match, leveling Narita with a huge dropkick into the corner but it was Narita who got the last laugh, putting Uemura away with the Boston Crab. The two smaller young lions were the highlight. Both were extra scrappy towards one another. Good pace to open the show.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Toa Henare def. Shota Umino & Ayato Yoshida @ 10:12 via Toa Bottom on Yoshida – **1/4
The match served as a showcase for Yoshida to fire off against Henare. Both guys went at each other with big overhand chops and Umino had his flashy dropkick variations, including one off the top. The young lions had a hope spot where Yoshida applied a sleeper onto Henare while Umino locked in a Boston Crab on Tenzan. Henare got to the ropes and dropped Yoshida with a headbutt but his over confidence almost cost him when he took too long to finish Yoshida, resulting in a quick roll up by the young lion. Henare regrouped quickly and got the win with the Toa Bottom. More fire from Yoshida, the young lion with the most to prove. Umino is already at the level, he’s just waiting for the excursion.
Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Chase Owens & Taiji Ishimori def. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi @ 11:49 via Loa Apeshit on Honma – ***
Tama Tonga has gotten over his new ‘Good Guy’ gimmick better than anyone could have expected. He had Korakuen eating out of his hands. They chanted ‘good guy’ at him when he was the one admonishing his teammates for their shortcuts. His comedy was played well as he decided not to go along with his team’s shenanigans to the point where the team yelled at him. Tama’s good nature cost his team the advantage, causing Jado to take matters into his own hands. Jado struck Honma with the Singapore cane and Loa finished with Apeshit. Ishimori continued to target Taguchi after the match. Really fun character work from Tama. He’s doing great in his current form as the ‘Good Guy’.
Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI def. Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi @ 12:46 via Okada Rainmaker on Yujiro – **1/2
A match of two halves; a good time whenever Okada was in the ring but severely lacking otherwise. The crowd supported YOSHI-HASHI and never gave up on him but it’s a task to watch him mix it up with Yujiro. The Okada portions were fun, he and Fale have always had good chemistry. He’d lariat Fale over the top, receive help from Y-H via a lariat of his own to Yujiro and Okada would land an elbow drop off the top followed by a Rainmaker on Yujiro to pick up the win. Post-match Fale pulled Okada out of the ring and intended to hit a Bad Luck Fall on the outside but the young lions would help free Okada from his clutches.
Hiroshi Tanahahi & KUSHIDA def. Jay White & Gedo @ 14:05 via Tanahashi High Fly Flow on Gedo – ***
White and KUSHIDA had a strong exchange of words throughout the match. White would brush him off early on, saying he isn’t worth the time because he’s leaving. KUSHIDA would return the disrespect by calling White a “dojo boy” while he had White tied up in an armbar. The main focus though was of course the interactions between Tanahashi and White. They went hold for hold in the traditional ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ fashion. They’d transition out of each other’s signatures, Tanahashi battling out of a Blade Runner into a Twist and Shout; White fighting off the Dragon suplex to a Urange. Gedo distracted the referee in order to give White a chance to bring a chair in the ring. Tanahashi ducked the attack and KUSHIDA kicked the chair into White’s face with a springboard dropkick. With White laid out, Tanahashi finished Gedo via a Slinglade + High Fly Flow combo to take the victory. Tanahashi and KUSHIDA celebrated together before having a stare down. The two will be tomorrow’s main event in KUSHIDA’s sendoff match.
Suzuki-Gun def. Los Ingobernables de Japon @ 27:23 – ***3/4
SANADA & Suzuki eliminated via Over the Top @ 15:35
Desperado eliminated via Over the Top @ 17:44
Shingo eliminated via Over the Top @ 18:35
Kanemaru eliminated via BUSHI Roll @ 19:08
BUSHI eliminated via Sabre STF @ 19:53
EVIL & Sabre eliminated via Over the Top @ 22:52
Naito eliminated via Over the Top @ 27:23
Everyone’s feud got time to shine. The match started with Taichi holding the ropes down for Naito’s entrance only to blindside him with a lariat that turned him inside out. The match spilled to the outside where Naito’s head was slammed through a table and SANADA’s head was smashed with a chair by Suzuki. SANADA and Suzuki were the first eliminations which was sparked by SANADA attempting a Paradise Lock that Suzuki transitioned into an armbreaker. SANADA would power Suzuki up onto his shoulders and dump both of them over the top, continuing their fight to the back. Shingo and Desperado had a fiery battle of overhands before Shingo laid in a Pumping Bomber that sent Desperado to the floor. The elimination wouldn’t stop Desperado, he grabbed Shingo’s leg from the outside and Kanemaru would sidestep an attack by BUSHI that sent Shingo crashing to the floor alongside Desperado. BUSHI rebounded off the mistake quickly and rolled Kanemaru up for a pinfall elimination and Sabre would be right there to tie him up to take an elimination via submission. EVIL looked for the STO but Sabre locked in the Octopus, leading to EVIL hip tossing him over the top to the apron. Sabre locked onto EVIL’s arm, brought him over to the apron and EVIL would sacrifice himself by hitting the STO to the floor. Taichi and Naito were the last two standing. Using the belt as a way to distract the referee, Taichi kicked Naito low, sent him over and drilled Naito with a rope-assisted enziguri to win the match for Suzuki-Gun. Afterwards he’d tell the fans to shut up, throw the title in the air and that’s how we end the show.
A good show as far as the ‘Road to’ series is concerned. The main event gave everyone time to shine and helped further their programs moving forward. That’s the match to watch.
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