NJPW ran Tokyo's Korakuen Hall today with a New Japan Road event, featuring Takashi Iizuka's retirement match.
The match itself was nothing special. The circus surrounding it and the cast of characters that faced off in the bout was pro wrestling at its wackiest. The undercard featured the return of Tomohiro Ishii, Yuji Nagata, Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay, and Killer Elite Squad, all who took time off on the last tour.
The show was the first of three consecutive nights at Korakuen. Friday and Saturday's events are joint cards with Ring of Honor, branded Honor Rising.
TAIJI ISHIMORI & ROBBIE EAGLES DEFEATED JUSHIN LIGER & YUYA UEMURA (7:49)
Ishimori will defend his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title against Liger at the anniversary show on March 6, so the focus was placed on them here. Liger looked good, while Ishimori only did a fraction of what he usually does.
Liger earned a quick one count, then used a camel clutch. Ishimori reached the ropes, and both tagged out. Eagles used a lariat on Uemura, and tagged Ishimori. Ishimori cranked on Uemura's neck. Uemura missed with one dropkick attempt, but hit it on a second attempt.
Liger got a tag and hit a shotei, a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, and used a Romero special on Ishimori. Ishimori came back with a handspring enziguri. Eagles and Uemura got tags and traded strikes. Uemura hit three straight shoulder tackles, then a corner dropkick.
Uemura used a crab, but Eagles reached the bottom rope. Eagles used an inside cradle for a two count. Eagles hit the turbo backpack and made a cover, but Liger broke up the pinfall. Liger and Ishimori brawled to the outside, while Eagles hit a 450 on Uemura for the pin.
Liger and Ishimori continued brawling after the match, with Liger getting the upper hand.
TIGER MASK, TOA HENARE, TOMOAKI HONMA & TOGI MAKABE DEFEATED SATOSHI KOJIMA, MANABU NAKANISHI, REN NARITA & YOTA TSUJI (11:36)
A rare win for Henare. Not much to the match.
Makabe and Tsuji began. Tsuji took Makabe off his feet with a tackle. Tiger and Narita tagged in. Tiger gave Narita a good bit of offense, before connecting with some strikes. Honma came in and used a back elbow for a two count, with Nakanishi jumping in to break up the pinfall.
Henare got a tag and continued the beatdown on Narita. Makabe did the same. It looked like Narita got a bloody lip here. Honma came in and Narita hit a dropkick, enabling him to tag Kojima.
Kojima hit machine gun chops on Honma, then hit a top rope elbow for a two count. Kojima hit a Koji cutter. He teased a brainbuster, but Honma reversed it into one of his own. Nakanishi jumped in and speared Honma, then hit a lariat. Nakanishi and Kojima doubled up on Honma.
Makabe jumped in for a double lariat. Honma hit a kokeshi, then tagged Henare. Kojima blocked a Samoan drop, and hit a DDT. Tsuji got a tag and used a crab on Henare. Tiger jumped in and forced a break. While the other six brawled around ringside, Tsuji and Henare traded strikes. Henare hit a headbutt, a lariat, and a uranage for the pin.
TOMOHIRO ISHII & YOSHI-HASHI DEFEATED YUJI NAGATA & SHOTA UMINO (13:45)
This was great when Nagata and Ishii were in together. That looks to be a program going forward.
It's clear that YOSHI-HASHI has taken a step back since returning from injury this year. His offense doesn't look crisp at all. Ishii and Nagata began and had a great striking exchange. Ishii's intensity may be unmatched in the entire business. Ishii escaped an armbar attempt.
Umino and YH tagged in and had a forgettable sequence. Ishii jumped in and used a half crab, but Nagata entered to break it up. Ishii and Nagata brawled on the floor, with Ishii getting the upper hand. Back inside, Ishii hit a brainbuster on Umino for a nearfall.
YH and Umino exchanged chops. Ishii no-sold a bunch of Umino's chops. Umino fired up and hit a big chop, which Ishii sold. Umino hit a second rope dropkick, then tagged Nagata. Nagata landed a series of kicks. Ishii blocked an exploder, then fired back with a headbutt and kicks of his own. Ishii hit a german, and Nagata hit an exploder. Nagata used a Nagata lock, but YH broke the hold with a kick. Ishii hit a powerslam, into a double down. Both made tags.
YH and Umino exchanged forearms. Umino scored a knockdown with a running forearm. He followed up with a back elbow in the corner and a vertical suplex for a two count. Umino used a crab, but Ishii broke it up with headbutts. Umino nailed Ishii with a dropkick. Nagata caught YH with a kick, and Umino and Nagata doubled up on YH. Umino hit a missile dropkick and made a cover, but Ishii slid in for the save.
Umino went for a fisherman suplex, but YH blocked. Umino used a rollup for two, then hit a bridging german for another nearfall. YH hit a superkick for a nearfall, then used the butterfly lock for the submission.
Ishii and Nagata went after each other after the bell, trading chops.
SHO & YOH DEFEATED EL DESPERADO & YOSHINOBU KANEMARU (12:12)
This was pretty good. SHO and YOH are getting the next Jr. Heavyweight tag title shot, so the booking here made sense, with the number one contenders getting the win. The post-match was better than the match itself, though.
3K hit tandem dropkicks right away, establishing the early advantage. Despy and Kanemaru turned it into a brawl, and took control. They fought into the crowd. SHO ate a dropkick to the head on the apron. Kanemaru and Desperado worked over SHO's head and neck with kicks and a neckbreaker.
Kanemaru used a lariat and an inverted DDT for a two count. Kanemaru used a camel clutch. YOH jumped in to break up the hold, but Desperado tossed him to the floor. Desperado hit two slams. SHO hit a suplex, then a spear, and made a tag.
YOH hit a flying forearm and a kip up. YOH caught a kick and Desperado dropped into the splits. YOH hit a low dropkick for a nearfall. Desperado came back with a spinebuster, and tagged Kanemaru. YOH hit a dragon screw on Kanemaru, then made a tag. SHO hit a pair of lariats, but Kanemaru hit an enziguri. Kanemaru hit a dropkick to the head, and earned a two count. Kanemaru hit deep impact, but YOH jumped in to break up the ensuing pinfall attempt.
Kanemaru and SHO exchanged strikes. SHO hit a german. YOH jumped in for the double team. 3K hit stereo knee strikes. SHO hit a backstabber, and YOH hit a dropkick. Desperado speared SHO. Kanemaru missed with whiskey mist, and SHO hit a lariat. YOH took Desperado out with a pescado, then jumped back into the ring to help SHO hit the 3K on Kanemaru. SHO got the pin.
Shingo Takagi and BUSHI came out after the match and confronted 3K. YOH dared them to get in the ring, which they did. Shingo laid them out with pumping bombers.
HIROOKI GOTO & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI DEFEATED ZACK SABRE JR. & TAKA MICHINOKU (10:55)
Goto and Sabre exchanged holds to a stalemate. They locked knuckles, and traded the advantage. This was a showcase for Sabre. Goto broke the hold and used a tackle. Both tagged out.
TAKA and Taguchi did some comedy. TAKA used an eye poke. Taguchi hit a hip attack on TAKA. Goto came in and held TAKA. Taguchi nailed Goto with a hip attack as TAKA ducked out of the way. Goto hit Taguchi with a lariat by mistake as Sabre ducked out of the way.
Sabre worked over Taguchi, hitting a series of uppercuts to the butt. Sabre used a bow and arrow hold, then used it to pick up a two count. TAKA made a tag and went for a crossface, but Taguchi reached the ropes. TAKA hit a pair of knee strikes for a pair of nearfalls.
TAKA used a crossface on Taguchi, while Sabre tied up Goto. Taguchi reached the ropes. Sabre caught Taguchi going for a hip attack, and used a body scissors. Taguchi popped up and hit a hip attack, then tagged Goto. Goto hit Sabre with a clothesline, then suplexed TAKA onto Sabre. Goto hit a leg lariat. He went for a suplex, but Sabre slipped into a double wristlock. Goto reached the ropes. Goto hit a spinning lariat.
Taguchi and TAKA made tags. Taguchi hit a hip attack. He held TAKA up, and Goto hit TAKA with a lariat. Goto and Taguchi hit some tandem offense, but Sabre jumped in and tied both of them up. TAKA hit a superkick on Taguchi for a nearfall.
Taguchi and TAKA exchanged enziguris. Taguchi went for dodon, but TAKA rolled through. Taguchi then rolled through that, and pinned TAKA.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI & WILL OSPREAY DEFEATED LANCE ARCHER & DAVEY BOY SMITH JR. (12:47)
Smith's tan was absurd. Smith and Archer took the bulk of the match, and looked good. Ospreay's selling was quite good here. Tanahashi didn't do much.
Tana and Archer kicked things off. Archer took Tana off his feet with a tackle, then stomped on his lower back. Smith and Ospreay got tags. Smith showed great agility for his size. Archer jumped in for the illegal double team, and Killer Elite Squad took over.
Archer got a tag and hit Ospreay with a pounce. Archer connected with some hard strikes. Smith got a tag and used a delayed vertical suplex for a nearfall. Tanahashi came in to break it up. Smith used a Romero special and a stretch muffler. Ospreay got a quick rollup for a nearfall, then hit a handspring enziguri, then another enziguri to Archer. Tana got a tag. Archer missed a charge into the corner. Tana hit a jawbreaker and a dragon screw. Tana went for slingblade, but Archer caught him and hit a black hole slam. Smith got a tag and hit a knee strike, a big boot, and a legdrop.
Tana came back and hit twist and shout. Ospreay got a tag, but continued selling the damge from Smith's submission holds to his left leg. Ospreay hit pip pip cheerio. He missed with an enziguri, and Smith hit a deadlift suplex. Ospreay hit a Robinson special. Smith blocked an Oscutter. Smith hit a powerslam for a nearfall. Smith took Ospreay to the second rope and hit a powerslam. Tana came in for the save.
Smith and Archer teased a killer bomb, but Ospreay escaped. Tana hit a slingblade on Archer, and Ospreay hit a standing Spanish fly on Smith. Ospreay followed up with an Oscutter on Smith, and got the pin.
KAZUCHIKA OKADA, TORU YANO & HIROYOSHI TENZAN DEFEATED TAKASHI IIZUKA, MINORU SUZUKI & TAICHI (22:11)
Shinpei Nogami came to the announce desk to announce Iizuka's final match. Of course, Iizuka attacked him and tore his shirt off.
Tenzan again appealed to Iizuka to remember their friendship before the match, but Iizuka jumped him, as Suzuki-gun attacked before the bell.
The match began with Iizuka and Tenzan in the ring. Tenzan hit Mongolian chops. Yano got a tag and pulled on Iizuka's beard. Iizuka choked Yano. Tenzan raked Iizuka's eyes. Okada got a tag and hit a slingshot senton. Tenzan tagged in and chopped away at Iizuka. Suzuki cut him off, applying an armbar over the ropes. The match spilled to the floor. Taichi attacked Okada with a chair. Iizuka attacked Tenzan with a chair. Tenzan beat the count back inside at 19.
Taichi took Iizuka's muzzle off, and Iizuka bit Tenzan, Yano and Okada. Taichi took the referee, allowing Suzuki and Iizuka both to bite Tenzan's hands. Taichi got a tag and hit Mongolian chops on Tenzan, which the crowd hated. Tenzan hit a mountain bomb, then tagged Yano. Yano untied a corner pad. Taichi hit Yano with the pad. Taichi went to untie another pad, and Yano hit him with a pad. Taichi went to take his pants off, but Yano cut him off and took them off for him. Taichi sold this like he was embarrassed.
Okada and Suzuki got tags. Okada hit a back elbow and a DDT. Suzuki and Okada exchanged forearm shots. Suzuki hit a PK for a nearfall. They traded shots again. Suzuki used a rear naked choke, then went for the Gotch piledriver. Okada backdropped out of the attempt. Okada hit a series of uppercuts. They traded big boots, into a double down. Iizuka got a tag.
Iizuka bit Okada's foot. He attempted to use a length of rope to choke Okada, but Okada ducked it and hit an air raid crash. Okada hit a top rope elbow. He teased a rainmaker and a dropkick, but Iizuka evaded both. Iizuka used a sleeper, but Okada escaped. Iizuka ducked a rainmaker, but Okada hit a dropkick. Iizuka applied a kneebar, while Suzuki took Tenzan to the floor with an armbar. Okada sold this for all it was worth before reaching the ropes.
Okada hit a DVD, then tagged Tenzan. Tenzan cleared the apron, then hit chops on Iizuka. Tenzan hit a clothesline in the corner, then a brainbuster. Iizuka hit an inverted atomic drop, and Suzuki-gun jumped in for a triple team. Iizuka used a sleeper on Tenzan, but Yano broke up the hold. Taichi took the referee. Iizuka grabbed the iron fingers. Tenzan begged him not to use them on him. Iizuka hit a low kick and swung the glove, but Tenzan ducked.
Yano hit a low blow on Iizuka. Okada hit a tombstone. Tenzan hit a top rope elbow of sorts. Tenzan draped their old tag shirt over Iizuka, then hit him with a moonsault and got the pin.
After the match, the crowd chanted for Iizuka. Iizuka sold being conflicted. Tenzan offered a handshake, and Iizuka finally accepted it. The feel-good moment was short-lived. Iizuka then bit Tenzan, and hit him with a chair. All of Suzuki-gun entered and held up Tenzan. Iizuka used the iron fingers on Tenzan. Iizuka wandered off through the crowd. Taichi picked up Iizuka's iron fingers and teased putting them on, which got a reaction.
The crowd continued cheering and chanting for Iizuka for several minutes after Taichi exited, hoping for an encore appearance, but there was none.