By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “New Japan Road”
November 17, 2023 in Yamagata, Japan at Yamagata Big Wing
Streamed live on New Japan World
The venue is a large, drab room with all fans seated on the floor with no balcony or risers. Attendance is 800-1,000. This show had Japanese-only commentary.
* Ren Narita, Ryusuke Taguchi and Tomoaki Honma hit the ring and spoke on the mic. My Japanese is pretty rusty (okay it’s non-existent), but based on what happened, they spoke about having title shots later for the Six-man belts. Hiroshi Tanahashi hit the ring and spoke to them. No fists were thrown.
1. Satoshi Kojima, Togi Makabe, and Hiroyoshi Tenzan defeated Oskar Leube, Boltin Oleg, and Yuto Nakashima at 6:22. So much potential for all three Young Lions; I’ve written this before, but in three years, this matchup would have an entirely different outcome. The Young Lions attacked to start the match! The massive Oleg hit a gutwrench suplex on Kojima. Tenzan hit his Mongolian Chops on Oleg for a nearfall at 2:30. Leube entered and battled Makabe. Kojima hit his rapid-fire series of chips on the corner at 4:30 on Leube. Yuto entered and hit a shoulder tackle on Kojima. Oleg hit a belly-to-belly suplex on Makabe. Kojima hit a clothesline out of nowhere to pin Yuto.
2. Toru Yano and Master Wato defeated “Bullet Club War Dogs” Taiji Ishimori and Gedo via DQ at 7:09. Wato and Ishimori opened; Wato hit a dropkick and Ishimori stalled on the floor. Yano entered at 1:00 and immediately removed a ring corner pad, and he battled Gedo. Wato got back in at 4:30 and hit a backbreaker over his knee on Ishimori, then one on Gedo. He hit his springboard back elbow for a nearfall on Ishimori. Yano tugged on Gedo’s beard. Yano hit the ref with the corner pad, so the ref kicked Gedo at 7:00? Yano grabbed Gedo’s arm and yanked it between his legs; the ref looked up and saw what appeared to be Gedo hitting a low blow, and he called for the bell. That was … dumb. No other word to describe it.
3. Yoh and “Bishamon” Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto defeated “United Empire” Henare, Callum Newman, and Great-O-Khan at 10:27. This is Goto’s first match back in more than a month so I’m glad he’s good to go right before World Tag League begins. O-Khan showed off his shorter hair, as Jon Moxley cut off his long braid a week ago. O-Khan and Yoh opened. Yoh did O’Khan’s signature spot of pushing his opponent into the corner and sitting on the top rope. They brawled to the floor. In the ring, O-Khan hit a back suplex for a nearfall at 4:30. Newman tagged in and he kept Yoh grounded. Yoshi-Hashi entered for the first time at 6:30 and he battled Henare.
Y-H hit his Headhunter flipping neckbreaker. They traded forearm strikes, and Henare hit a punch to the gut. Goto hit a clothesline and they were both down at 8:30. Goto entered for the first time and battled Newman, with Callum hitting a Mafia Kick. (Chris Charlton has compared Newman to a young Finn Balor and I see it every time he’s in the ring.) Goto hit his neckbreaker over his knee. Bishamon hit their Shoto team slam, with Goto pinning Newman. Solid.
4. Yuji Nagata, Minoru Suzuki, Tiger Mask, and Shota Umino defeated “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Bushi, Shingo Takagai, Yota Tsuji, and Hiromu Takahashi at 9:09. Nagata and Suzuki (partners!) shoved each other before the bell; this isn’t a good start for them with WTL about to begin! Nagata and Shingo opened. Hiromu and TM entered at 1:30, with Hiromu hitting some hard chops. Yota entered and worked over Tiger Mask. Shingo hit a suplex for a nearfall at 5:00. TM hit a Tiger Driver on Shingo and they were both down. Suzuki tagged in for the first time and hit a Helluva Kick on Yota. Hiromu hit Suzuki in the back, so Minoru turned around and dropped Hiromu with one punch. Funny, especially the way Hiromu sold it.
Yota and Suzuki traded forearm strikes. Shota hit a tornado DDT, then a dropkick on Bushi at 8:00. He set up for the Death Rider DDT but Shota made the save. Tiger Mask dove through the ropes onto Yota. Shota hit a Claudio-style pop-up European Uppercut on Bushi, then an Ospreay-style Hidden Blade forearm strike to the back of the head to pin Bushi. Good while it lasted. Minoru marched to the back by himself while his three parteners celebrated the win in the ring. I think I’m going to enjoy the Suzuki/Nagata pairing in WTL as they will undoubtedly fight each other, then their opponents, then each other.
5. “House of Torture” EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and Dick Togo defeated “Just 5 Guys” Sanada, Douki, Taka Michinoku, and Yuya Uemura at 9:36. All eight brawled at the bell. Uemura hit some deep armdrags. Douki and Yujiro traded offense. Sanada entered at 6:00 and he tied Kanemaru in a Paradise Lock. Sanada placed EVIL’s feet on the top rope and hit a swinging neckbreaker. Taka and Kanemaru tagged in at 8:30. They traded rollups, with Kanemaru suddenly getting the three-count. Basic action.
6. Tomohiro Ishii, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Kazuchika Okada defeated Rysuke Taguchi, Tomoaki Honma, and Ren Narita to retain the NEVER Six-Man Tag Titles at 25:36. Okada and Honma opened, with Okada no-selling Honma’s shoulder tackles and forearm strikes. Ren and Hiroshi entered at 3:00. Ishii entered and beat up Ren with some forearm strikes. The champs took turns working over Narita. Ren hit a spinning kick to Ishii’s mouth and finally made the hot tag to Taguchi at 8:00. Taguchi hit some flying buttbumps. He suplexed Ishii and got a nearfall. Taguchi applied an anklelock, but Ishii escaped.
Okada hit a flapjack on Taguchi for a nearfall at 13:00. Taguchi hit a buttbump on Okada and they were both down. Tanahashi entered and hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip. The champs circled Honma and beat him up, too. They hit a team face-first slam, with Okada covering Honma for a believable nearfall. Honma hit a diving headbutt on Okada and they were both down. Honma hit a Kokeshi falling headbutt for a nearfall. Okada applied the Money Clip sleeperhold but Honma escaped. Okada hit a dropkick; he set up for the Rainmaker but Honma blocked it and they were both down at 18:30. Tanahashi and Ren tagged in. Ren hit his Northern Lights Suplex with a bridge for a nearfall.
Ren applied a Texas Cloverleaf in the center of the ring, but Hiroshi eventually reached the ropes at 20:00. Ren applied the Cobra Twist/octopus. Tanahashi hit a second-rope summersault senton on Ren for a nearfall. Ren got the Cobra Twist locked in. Hiroshi missed a High Fly Flow frogsplash. Honma hit a running headbutt on Okada. Ren hit an enzuiguri on Tanahashi. Honma hit a second-rope Kokeshi. Ren hit another Northern Lights Suplex on Hiroshi for a nearfall at 25:00. He hit a third Northern Lights Suplex and he pulled Tanahashi to his feet. However, Tanahashi grabbed him, got an inside cradle, and the pin out of absolutely nowhere. This match went far too long; the champs gave Honma and Taguch far too much offense.
* As always, the KOPW Title has goofy rules set by the champion. In this case, Sho named (House of Torture stablemate!) Yoshinobu Kanemaru as special referee. Taichi also is banned from using several of his big moves, notably his version of a Saito Suplex. However, Sho is ‘banned’ from hitting some high-flying moves like a Shooting Star Press and a Phoenix Splash. This is absurd, of course, because Sho doesn’t have those ‘tools in his toolbox.’ Those aren’t his type of moves. So, all signs are against Taichi…
7. Taichi (w/Just 5 Guys) defeated Sho (w/House of Torture) to win the King of Pro Wrestling Title at 20:45. Sho tossed Taichi to the floor, where HoT beat him up. Kanemaru had an extraordinarily quick count as he nearly reached 20, before Taichi got back into the ring. Taichi made a cover but got a really slow count for a nearfall at 3:00. Taichi hit a stiff kick to the spine. Taichi whipped him into a guardrail and they brawled up the entrance-way then back into the ring. Kanemaru took forever to get down to begin counting a nearfall at 5:30. Back on the floor, EVIL whipped Taichi with a strap.
Sho applied a sleeper on the mat; Taichi put his feet on the ropes at 9:00 but Kanemaru kicked the foot right back off. Funny. Kanemaru made sevveral quick counts for Sho but Taichi was able to kick out. Taichi applied a Stretch Plum; Kanemaru walked away, pretending to be distracted, and ‘missed’ seeing Sho tap out at 14:30. Suddenly everyone jumped in the ring, with the HoT taking turns beating up Taichi, with Kanemaru pretending to be unable to see anything. Sho set up for the Shock Arrow piledriver but Taichi powered out.
Taichi got a Gedo Clutch for a nearfall, but Kanemaru simply stopped counting. Togo hopped on the ring apron but accidentally sprayed Sho! Sho, being blinded, accidentally hit Kanemaru with his wrench. EVIL and Yujiro hopped back in the ring and beat up Taichi some more, with Takahashi hitting him in the throat with his staff. Douki dove through the ropes onto the heels at 19:00, and we’re suddenly back to just Taichi and Sho in the ring! Taichi nailed a standing powerbomb, and a regular NJPW referee made the three-count. New champion!
Final Thoughts: A satisfying show. The crowd got to see some stars and a title change. They pulled out every trick and a few new ones for the heel referee, and the main event worked for me. And of course, the 16-show World Tag League is upon us beginning Monday.