By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “Road to the Tokyo Dome”
December 23, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Streamed live on New Japan World
New Japan Pro Wrestling held its final show of the year and it was a complete sellout, with the headline match of the eight-members of Suzuki-Gun fighting each other in a four-on-four match, before the faction disbands.
We have Japanese commentary. I wish we had English, just for what I presume will be a great show-closing promo by Minoru Suzuki and others.
1. Sho and Yujiro Takahashi defeated Jado and Yuto Nakashima at 6:02. Jado and Sho opened with some comedy. Sho snapped Yuto’s damaged elbow over the top rope and worked him over on the floor. In the ring, Yujiro hit a fisherman’s suplex on Yuto for a nearfall. He then nailed the Pimp Juice jumping DDT for the pin. Adequate opener.
2. Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano defeated Kosei Fujita and Ryohei Oiwa at 9:07. Nice to see Ishii back in New Japan, as he also has been absent for more than a month. The Young Lions attacked before the bell. Ishii backed Oiwa in the corner and unloaded a series of chops. Oiwa hit a dropkick on Yano at 3:30, and the Young Lions worked over Yano.
Ishii tagged back in and traded forearm shots and chops with Oiwa. Ishii hit a brainbuster for a nearfall, but Fujita made the save. Oiwa applied a Boston Crab, and he hit a gutwrench suplex for a nearfall at 8:00. Ishii hit a back suplex for a nearfall. Ishii put Oiwa in a Boston Crab, sat down on the back for added pressure, and Oiwa tapped out. Really good use of the Young Lions here. Yano was barely in this match, which is just fine with me.
3. “United Empire” Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan, Aaron Henare, and Francesco Akira defeated Tiger Mask, Togi Makabe, Ren Narita, and Tomoaki Honma at 8:20. O-Khan and Honma started, and Honma hit his Kokeshi falling headbutt. The UE began working over Honma. Cobb hit three consecutive gut-wrench suplexes. Cool spot. Togi made the hot tag at 4:30 and he traded blows with Henare. Tiger Mask hit a top-rope crossbody block on Akira. Everyone got in the ring, hit a big move, and suddenly everyone was down at 7:00.
Tiger Mask hit a backbreaker over his knee, then the butterfly powerbomb on Akira. He set up for a Tiger Suplex, but Akira blocked it. Akira hit a superkick for a believable nearfall; I thought that was it. Akira hit a running knee to the back of the head to pin Tiger Mask. Solid match.
4. “Los Ingobernobles de Japn” Hiromu Takahashi and Shingo Takagi defeated “House of Torture” EVIL and Dick Togo at 8:53. The heels attacked before the bell and they worked over Hiromu in the ring. Shingo finally mad the hot tag at 5:00, and he hit running clotheslines on each heel, and a suplex on EVIL. Togo hit Shingo with a chair to the back while the ref was out of position, and the HoT began working over Shingo. Togo choked Shingo with his wire. Shingo nailed a double clothesline. Hiromu hopped in the ring and hit a superkick on Togo. Shingo nailed two consecutive clotheslines to score the pin. That started slowly but wrapped up quickly. I really enjoy Shingo and Hiromu’s teamwork an chemistry.
5. Yoshi-Hoshi and HIrooki Goto defeated Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan at 10:10. Yoshi-Hoshi & Goto carried their World Tag League trophies to ringside; they will face FTR at Wrestle Kingdom. Goto and Kojima started. Tenzan entered and hit his Mongolian Chops on Goto. Yoshi-Hoshi entered and traded forearm shots with Tenzan at 4:30. Kojima got in and hit his rapid-fire chops in the corner on both Yoshi-Hoshi and Goto. Tenzan applied an Anaconda Vice on Goto at 8:30. Goto hit his neckbreaker over the knee on Kojima. Goto and Yoshi-Hoshi hit the Shoto team slam to pin Tenzan. OK match.
6. Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, and Bushi defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Shota Umino at 11:04. This is essentially the Wrestle Kingdom match; just substitute Taguchi for Great Muta. All six brawled at the bell. Taguchi hit his mid-ring buttbump on Bushi. Tanahashi hit a second-rope crossbody block on Bushi. Tanahashi and Sanada traded stiff forearms. Shota made the hot tag at 4:30, and he hit some deep armdrags on Naito.
Shota hit a fisherman suplex on Sanada for a nearfall. Sanada tied him in the Paradise Lock and kicked Shota in the butt. Shota and Naito began trading mid-ring forearm shots, and this was intense. Taguchi made the hot tag at 8:00 and hit a snap suplex on Naito. Taguchi hit a running buttbump for a nearfall. Bushi hit a Lungblower on Shota. Naito nailed the Destino on Taguchi for the pin. Good match.
7. Master Wato, Kazuchika Okada, and Yoh defeated “Bullet Club” Tajiri Ishimori, El Phantasmo, and Gedo at 12:14. Good to see El Phantasmo back; he’s also been absent for more than a month. Wrestle Kingdom opponents Ishimori and Wato started with quick reversals. All six began brawling. In the ring, the BC began working over Yoh, with ELP doing his elaborate dance before settling on a back rake. Yoh hit a swinging neckbreaker on ELP at 6:30 and made the hot tag to Okada.
Okada hit a DDT on ELP for a nearfall. Ishimori applied an STF on Okada. Okada hit a flapjack on Ishimori. Wato hit a second-rope flying forearm for a nearfall on Ishimori at 9:30. Ishimori nailed a handspring-back-spin kick on Wato, and they were both down. Yoh and Gedo tagged in, and Gedo got a rollup for a nearfall. Yoh hit a superkick, then the Moxley-style double-arm DDT for the pin. Good match, particularly the Wato-Ishimori exchange.
* To reiterate, on the Dec. 14 show, Minoru Suzuki announced that Suzuki-Gun would disband at the end of 2022. Thus, this is it.
8. Douki, Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, El Desperado, and Taka Michinoku at 19:11. They came to the ring, one at a time, and the crowd gave each a nice ovation. This is going to be a challenge remembering who is on each team. Suzuki and Taichi started and traded overhand chops. Desperado and Kanemaru — two long-time partners — tagged in at 3:30 and traded mat reversals. Douki and Taka got in at 5:30 and brawled, with Douki applying the Douki Chokey triangle choke.
Archer and Sabre enter at 7:00 and bump chests. Archer wanted a test of strength. Sabre tied him in a triangle choke. Archer hit a running crossbody block, and he tagged in Suzuki. Minoru hit a Helluva Kick on Sabre. Sabre and Suzuki began trading forearm shots at 11:00, and this is fun. Suzuki switched to an ankle lock. Suzuki set up for a Gotch-style piledriver, but Sabre escaped. The action picked up, with Kanemaru spraying alcohol in Archer’s eyes, and everyone was hopping in the ring and hitting kicks on each other, and suddenly, everyone was down at 14:00.
Suzuki started stomping everyone, including the guys on his team. Taka superkicked teammate Suzuki. Archer hit a shoulder tackle on teammate Suzuki. Taichi and Suzuki stood mid-ring, and Suzuki dared Taichi to hit him. Taichi got the iron fingers, which I thought were retired. Taichi hit Suzuki with them, and Suzuki collapsed. Sabre now is showing doubts about attacking Suzuki, but he bodyslams Suzuki and pins him. Sabre collapses in tears, as the other six members of Suzuki-Gun come to the center of the ring and drop to a knee by Suzuki.
* Minoru said just a few words on the mic, then handed it to Douki. Each of the members of Suzuki-Gun said just a few quick words, no more than perhaps three or four sentences. Archer said that more than half of his career has been in Suzuki-Gun, and he said it was an honor to wrestle in Japan, but an even bigger honor to share the ring with Minoru.
Sabre mixed some Japanese into his speech. Sabre said Minoru invited him to come to New Japan and be in his group. Taichi spoke last, then handed the mic back to Suzuki. Suzuki then spoke some more. They then posed together, and fake snow fell from the ceiling on them. Suzuki went up to each of them and hugged them. Long-time teammates Taichi and Sabre also hugged, and you must wonder if this was the last of their team as well. Their former teammate Takashi Iizuka, who retired a year or so ago, also hit the ring and joined the pose with them; he was still on a metal leash and acting crazy, and he left as quickly as he arrived. Each member left the ring, until Minoru was last. Minoru folded up the Suzuki-Gun flag, waved at the crowd, and left, with his theme song playing.
Backstage, Lance Archer cut a promo and said he just came in and kicked ass, and didn’t kiss ass. He said he’s tired of the bullshit, and when he comes back to AEW, he’s going to be a monster. “Someone is going to f—in’ pay. I’m tired of the bullshit. I’ve been stuck in limbo, year after year after year. Never again. I change everything.” He concluded, “Let the monster loose.”
Final Thoughts: That was an emotional final match, and the post-match promos were heart-felt. I really wish we had Chris Charlton in the booth to provide that live translation. It is unclear if Suzuki is retiring, but it had the weight and sincerity of a farewell, not just the end of a faction.
This was another good show. Some wrestlers who weren’t on Thursday’s show (Goto, Yoshi-Hoshi, Phantasmo) were here, so the two events were really different lineups.
That’s a wrap on New Japan Pro Wrestling 2022! We have just over a week until Wrestle Kingdom with Naito vs. Jay White as the headliner, and Will Ospreay vs. Kenny Omega.