After a quite frankly astonishing turn of events last week at NJPW’s Dominion event whereby the brakes were ignominiously slammed on Tetsuya Naito’s run as Double Gold champion by his traitorous former Los Ingoberables de Japon pareja EVIL, we look at what happened when NJPW finally returned in front of a live audience at the legendary Korakuen Hall.
TenCozy (Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan) defeated Yota Tsuji and Yuya Uemura
When the Young Lions face off against NJPW veterans, there is no expectation that the trainees will win so the result becomes insubstantial in many ways. What is extremely salient here, though, is the growth and hunger of these Young Lions who have a point to prove, even in defeat. Yuya Uemura was a standout in this match, eventually getting in his patented double-overhook overhead suplex on Kojima. This is no mean feat against a former NJPW champion and all-round tough guy. After quite a competitive match for the trainees, Kojima was able to secure the win with a Cozy Lariat.
As the new weekly Lion’s Break Collision show on NJPW World showcases the latest talent from the LA Dojo, it’s good to see the likes of Tsuji and Uemura from the Noge Dojo holding their own on the main card.
Chaos (SHO, YOSHI-HASHI, Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii) defeated Gabriel Kidd, Ryusuke Taguchi and GBH (Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe)
YOSHI-HASHI has often been fodder for other wrestlers higher up the card. A case in point would be when EVIL blasted his knee with a chair a couple of weeks ago, knocking YOSHI-HASHI out of the New Japan Cup, which was cover for a genuine injury. The returning Chaos member put on a good showing here, putting together some nice chain wrestling against the veteran junior heavyweight Taguchi. This was a good reminder that even lower down the card on an NJPW show, there is still a depth of talent.
Ishii was his usual rock solid self, slugging it out with Honma. Gabriel Kidd continues to impress and Yano… well, he’s Yano. The inversion of Taguchi’s ‘forever clotheslines’ spot in the corner with Yano and the rest of Chaos pummelling the heck out of Honma while a distracted Taguchi played to the crowd and ignored the protestations of Kidd was a nice touch.
When the end came, it was the inevitable Yano finisher combo of a low-blow and a schoolboy roll-up. While the stakes here weren’t very high, it was still an enjoyable match.
SANADA and Shingo Takagi defeated DOUKI and El Desperado
With Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiromu embroiled in the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championship pictures and an absentee US Champion in Jon Moxley, the NEVER Openweight Championship has de facto become the second tier title of sorts in New Japan. Given Shingo Takagi’s prolific start in NJPW with an undefeated streak in singles competition that ran to about a year, he’s certainly a good choice to carry the title going forwards. Also, his comments about wanting to challenge for the Double Gold could make for some great competition for EVIL going forwards as the newly minted Bullet Club member thrives on matches with powerhouses and brawlers. You won’t find a better powerhouse or brawler than Shingo.
In the mean time, Shingo remains involved with a string of junior heavyweight challengers for his Openweight title. Having already dispatched SHO after a thriller at Dominion, Shingo was jumped from behind by El Desperado and mugged of his NEVER title belt. Despy has certainly been on a slow burn in terms of building momentum over the last couple of years and his membership of Suzuki-gun has certainly brought out a ruthless streak which has been good to see. Desperado’s targeting of Shingo’s knee ahead of their title match at Sengoku Lord on Saturday 25th July sets the stage for Despy to have the upper hand and that was really what this match was all about.
With SANADA using Skull End to comfortably tap out DOUKI, this was a quick match and that was all it needed to be.
Hirooki Goto and Kazuchika Okada defeated Gedo and Yujiro Takahashi
If you were a gambler, it’s doubtful that, in January after Wrestle Kingdom, you would have put Yujiro Takahashi in a feud with Kazuchika Okada but here we are. With Gedo seemingly reassembling the Complete Players as the core Bullet Club membership of the moment, it makes sense that Gedo would look to distract Okada from the title picture by rekindling their rivalry. Yujiro and Gedo wrestled the same kind of match that we’ve come to expect replete with cheating behind the ref’s back, brawling on the outside and so on. After 11 minutes, Goto delivered the GTR and pinned Gedo and hopefully, Okada and Yujiro’s match at Sengoku Lord will follow suit in terms of being a short one.
Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi) defeated Master Wato, Yuji Nagata, Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi
The returning Master Wato led the charge against Suzuki-gun in this absolute madness that we’ve come to expect from NJPW eight-man tag team matches. With Kanemaru ultimately frustrating Wato after a Deep Impact DDT from the top which was followed up with a brainbuster for the win, it seems that the returning Wato’s path up the ladder of the NJPW Junior Heavyweight division will be laden with struggles, which is as it should be for a young talent looking to establish himself. Even after just three matches since returning from his excursion to CMLL, Wato is fast becoming a highlight reel and his eventual challenge for the Junior title, with any luck, is something to look forward to.
The Golden Aces continued their feud with Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi. It’s a shame to see Ibushi stuck in this bind for the tag team titles after such a hot run from last year’s G1 through to Wrestle Kingdom. It’s also frustrating to see the cultural institution that is Hiroshi Tanahashi getting beaten up by Taichi but, to Tana’s credit, he went hold for hold with ZSJ which is promising in terms of developing a long term rivalry between these teams.
Elsewhere, it seems that Minoru Suzuki is far from done with Yuji Nagata, with the two veterans pummelling the hell out of each other far beyond the final bell. Suzuki obviously has a score to settle since Nagata knocked him out of the New Japan Cup, much to the surprise of, well, everyone. However, Nagata still has plenty of gas left in the tank which will make for some good matches featuring these two going forward.
Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori, Dick Togo and EVIL) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito and Hiromu Takahashi)
The current New Japan main event scene has all the hallmarks of a fantastic melodrama. Over the top musical score in the form of EVIL’s bangin’ new entrance theme? Tick. Exaggerated characters such as Hiromu Takahashi screaming into the void after the betrayal of his friend, EVIL at Dominion? Tick.
This was without doubt the best match of the night. With a defeated and slightly deflated-looked Naito in one corner, supported by Hiromu looking to avenge the loss of his boss’ titles by capturing them himself, the stakes were certainly high.
After getting heart palpitations as Hiromu double-bluffed Bullet Club by opening his jacket to reveal a BC t-shirt before whipping it off to strangle EVIL, the action soon spilled to the outside of the ring.
It was a shame we didn’t catch more than a glimpse of Dick Togo but we’ll no doubt see more of him over the summer tour. BUSHI was fired up, gunning for Bullet Club and EVIL in particular from the start. This match was really all about Hiromu, though, with the challenger for EVIL’s Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships uncharacteristically making his entrance last. Since coming back from injury last year, Hiromu certainly hasn’t missed a step. If anything, he’s ramped up.
LIJ were the tighter unit with some pretty cool team offence in the form of a triple Tower of Doom-style dropkick from the top turnbuckle. However, with Dick Togo acting as a spoiler, EVIL soon gained the upper hand and put BUSHI away with his finisher, now simply called ‘EVIL’.
Overall, New Japan Road lived up to its name, in terms of paving the way to Sengoku Lord on Saturday 25th July. With Hiromu set to take on a challenge only three men have undertaken before, it might have been easy to dismiss a match where the Junior Heavyweight Champion takes on the Double Gold Champion as mere gimmickry. However, given the startling turn of events at Dominion, anything is possible and for the Ticking Time Bomb Hiromu Takahashi, unpredictability is the name of the game.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @goodmanstephenj. Thanks for reading!