REN NARITA & SHOTA UMINO vs. YOTA TSUJI & YUYA UEMURA - 5.25/10
Technically fine, but it dragged.
TIGER MASK IV, TOA HENARE, & YOSHI-HASHI vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru) - 5.5/10
Suzuki-Gun jumped the bell on their opponents. At this point I'm past being angry at Suzuki-Gun for doing this and now just think that any babyface who turns his back on Suzuki-Gun is a moron and unworthy of my support. Anyway, they immediately spill to the outside for several minutes of the usual boring Suzuki-Gun crap. So was most of this match. One thing I really want to call attention to is the mask-ripping. The announcers always tell me that this is being done "to send a message" (in this case to Liger), but aside from that one time with Chase Owens five years ago, this sort of stuff never actually leads to an apuesta match in New Japan, so it really doesn't seem that like it's that big of a message to send because nothing ever comes of it.
TOGI MAKABE, TOMOAKI HONMA, JUICE ROBINSON, & CHAOS (Toru Yano & Mikey Nicholls) vs. BULLET CLUB (Guerrillas of Destiny, Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, & Gedo) - 0.5/10
Bullet Club jump the bell on their opponents, just like in all of their matches. And in all of Suzuki-Gun's matches. So why were these two matches placed back to back?
Also, apparently Chris Charlton is a heel now? Or maybe Kevin Kelly is the heel. Charlton is the one calling out Yano while Kevin Kelly is trying to frame it as merely being "opportunistic," which is exactly what Bobby Heenan or Jesse Ventura would have done. Kevin's latest pathetic attempt at justifying Yano's behavior was the line "you get in a fight in the forest and you're not supposed to use a tree?" Well they're in a ring surrounded by ropes and they're not supposed to use those to hurt the opponent. And they're surrounded by all of these chairs and barricades and they're not supposed to hit each other with those, either. MMA fighters aren't supposed to rake each other's faces against the cage even though the fight takes place in a cage. If I'm in a boxing match, I'm not supposed to kick my opponent even though I have legs. Because all of these things are against the rules of the fight. It's pretty troubling that the lead announcer cannot distinguish between an impromptu brawl and an officially sanctioned sporting contest that his promotion has booked.
Tama Tonga paid Yano pack with a shot with the pad that covers the turnbuckle- and having to type that just reminded me how dumb these guys selling that is- so Honma came in without a tag and the referee just let it go. Mere seconds later we needed to have a spot where Honma gets tripped up from the outside and the referee finally decides to do his job and make sure he doesn't see it... and to accomplish this, he just turns in a completely awkward and stoic manner to stare at something off in the crowd. I was standing by the ropes, and then just turned himself so he was now looking parallel to those ropes, with seemingly zero provocation to do so. There are TEN guys in this match, and we still can't have the referee not see a spot without it looking like he's purposely positioning himself so that he can't see it?
Bullet Club got the heat on Yano. As the announcers were kind enough to remind us, this feud has escalated because Yano keeps stealing the Guerrillas title belts. It was also Yano who removed the turnbuckle pad, and the heat really started with him getting whipped into it a bunch of times... so this really feels less like the heat and more like the heel getting what he deserves.
More stuff happened. Then Tama Tonga got the referee in a headlock, which apparently isn't a DQ. The heels tried to cheat but Yano foiled it with more cheating and the babyfaces won, then Yano stole the belts for absolutely no reason (he already has his title match). If this feud doesn't end with the Tongans kidnapping Yano, bringing him back to Tonga, beating the sh*t out of him and having Bad Luck Fale give him the Bad Luck Fall into a shark tank (you know Bad Luck Fale is the kind of guy who has a pet shark), then I will be voting for this for worst feud of the year pretty much no matter what anyone else does.
JEFF COBB & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI vs. SUZUKI-GUN (TAKA Michinoku & Taichi) - DUD!
Anything watchable in here was drowned underneath the horrendous boredom that is Taichi, and said boredom is even worse than usual on a "Road to..." show. Cobb pinned TAKA, then got attack by Taichi after the match, but after watching this match, there is absolutely nothing that could possibly make me want to see Cobb vs. Taichi.
DRAGON LEE & CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Will Ospreay) vs. BULLET CLUB (Jay White, Hikuleo, & Taiji Ishimori) (w/Gedo) - 7.5/10
Bullet Club jump the bell on their opponents. They had a great, action-packed match, focusing on the match-ups you'd expect them to be focusing on. A great match, but nothing you really haven't seen before on this tour.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, & Sanada) vs. KOTA IBUSHI & CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) - 8/10
I liked that Ishii and EVIL actually told a story in their forearm battle, both clearly showing the effects of the damage as it progressed. Another little thing in this match that I really liked was that when Naito bodyslammed Ibushi on the ramp, they showed it to us via the hard-cam, so that they were ostensibly showing us the legal men wrestling in the ring but Naito and Ibushi did their spot in a place where they knew it would be seen, and Okada and Sanada made sure they weren't doing anything interesting at the time so your eyes were drawn to Naito and Ibushi even though they were in the background.
They did a lot of stuff to build up the necessary matches and had an awesome six-man tag, but I found the finish a little baffling. Both the upcoming Sanada vs. Okada match and the upcoming Ibsuhi vs. Naito match are title matches so you can have the challenger pin the champion to build up to those matches because it makes us think the challenger has a really good shot at winning. Sanada in particular would have benefited from this, as he was only given his title match through Okada's charity rather than actually earning it, as the last time they faced off Okada beat him clean, and having Okada get pinned early on in his reign would set it apart from his previous reign. Instead they had EVIL pin Ishii... except that seeing which of those two is the better man is the only thing on the line in their match so having EVIL pin Ishii here takes away from the interest in that match, not adds to it.
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Roppongi 3K(c) (w/Rocky Romero) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) - 8.25/10
An awesome main event. Roppongi 3K and Shingo all stood out. Roppongi 3K pick up the win to retain the titles. No one came out to challenge them afterwards... and there really aren't any teams that would feel like fresh challengers, either, which is a problem that NJPW really needs to solve.
A very split show from New Japan. The undercard was the horrendous boredom that has come to define "Road to..." shows combined with the expected dumb sh*t in every Suzuki-Gun and Guerrillas of Destiny match, but the top three matches were everything these shows should be. Save yourself the aggravation and just watch the top three matches.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES
1. Kevin Kelly- "Well... if we try to isolate the number of times that Yano cheats, we'll be here all night."
Please to try to imagine Jim Ross in Mid-South just shrugging and saying "yeah... Cornette and Midnight Express cheat all the time, but it's not really worth worrying about."