New Japan Pro Wrestling
Kizuna Road 2017
June 20, 2017
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan (Attendance: 1,258)

Watch: NJPW World

Tomoyuki Oka Def. Tetsuhiro Yagi

I see something in this Tetsuhiro Yagi, and for me to be saying that about a guy who’s only been wrestling for a month is pretty insane. Something about the way he looks and the way he presents himself, the aggression in which he works with, makes him stand out from the other young lions. He’s already surpassed Oka and Umino in terms of personal enjoyment, which is saying a lot because I enjoy the two a lot. Oka had his leg worked over for a few minutes in this match and did a nice job selling the damage before making the comeback and tapping Yagi with a Boston Crab. Strong work by both men here. ***

El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku & Yoshinobu Kanemaru Def. Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask IV & Shota Umino

Rather average, run-of-the-mill Suzuki-gun juniors multi-man. Umino was picked on a bit and eventually lost via submission. Now that BOSJ is over this is what the Suzuki-gun guys are stuck with. New Japan has a million people on their roster so guys like Desperado and TAKA get stuck in the undercard. Fine match as you would expect. Fine and forgettable. **1/2

Yuji Nagata & David Finlay Jr. Def. Manabu Nakanishi & Katsuya Kitamura

Finlay, for a guy who’s been stuck in the undercard as a result of New Japan not having anything for him, like the Suzuki-gun juniors, always looks motivated and always looks happy to be here. You can tell he loves his job so cannot help but feel bad for him, but maybe this is just what he is. Maybe he’s just an undercard multi-man tag guy. Maybe his role is to take pins. Someone has to do it I guess. Kitamura took the pin for him in this one as Nagata hit him with a backdrop. Nakanishi has been almost comically slow as of late yet has somehow managed to have otherwise competent performances, him and Kitamura being especially fun together. ***

Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Togi Makabe Def. Jado, Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii

Ishii and Makabe seemed extra motivated here as they potentially build to a G1 match. For as sick of this pairing as everyone was two years ago, they really are great for one or two matches together a year, so I’m all for another one. Kojima and Ishii also make for a tremendous pairing, so here’s hoping they’re in the same block as well. Surprisingly fast-paced and fun match with everyone working hard. One of the only matches on the show that ended in a pinfall as Makabe landed a King Kong Kneedrop on Jado. ***

G1 Climax 27 Competitors & Lineup 

During intermission, NJPW unveiled the participants for G1 Climax 27:

  • Hiroshi Tanahashi
  • Togi Makabe
  • Michael Elgin
  • Kazuchika Okada
  • Hirooki Goto
  • Tomohiro Ishii
  • Toru Yano
  • Kenny Omega
  • Bad Luck Fale
  • Tama Tonga
  • Tetsuya Naito
  • EVIL
  • Satoshi Kojima
  • Yuji Nagata
  • Juice Robinson
  • Minoru Suzuki
  • Zack Sabre Jr.
  • Kota Ibushi(!).

Blocks and block matches will be announced at later dates.

Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi Def. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Hirai Kawato

In case you needed more evidence that there’s something special about this Hirai Kawato and that New Japan knows what they have with him, here it is. In the biggest match of his young career, he stepped up, he delivered, he got the crowd behind him, and he earned the respect of the former ace in Tanahashi. I have a feeling this will not be the last we see of him in a big spot. Even with the great performances, the highlight of the match came at the end, with Hiromu locking Kawato in a Boston Crab and forcing him to tap out in what was a truly incredible visual. Kawato looked up at Hiromu as he mocked him, perhaps planting seeds for something in the future. Nothing in this company is done by mistake, everything is done with a purpose. We may not see it for four years, but those two will have a singles match at some point. ***1/2

Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI Def. Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Taichi

Suzuki and YOSHI-HASHI are headlining the next Korakuen show on the 26th as Suzuki puts his NEVER title on the line. YOSHI-HASHI is clearly not winning, but judging by their interactions leading up to the match, I have no doubts it will deliver, so long as they keep the interference to a minimum. Taichi thankfully stayed out of the way here for the most part and everyone else worked relatively hard with YOSHI-HASHI clearly being the focus. He got the win over Taichi and then brawled with Suzuki in the post-match. ***

NEVER Openweight Six-Man Championship
BUSHI, SANADA & EVIL vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, KUSHIDA & Juice Robinson

As someone who’s had enough of both these titles and the Los Ingobernables vs. Taguchi Japan matches, I can safely say that this was by far the best NEVER trios title match ever and probably the best Los Ingobernables vs. Taguchi Japan match ever.

Taguchi Japan may be the best group in all of wrestling based on the personalities alone. It is an objectively dumb and terrible group, but that’s what makes them so great. Juice Robinson is incredibly over, the crowd wanted nothing more than to see him win here, he’s arguably one of the three best babyfaces on the roster next to KUSHIDA and Kawato, and the moment he wins a title in this company is going to be huge. BUSHI, SANADA and EVIL will likely defend the titles in Long Beach on July 2nd since all of them are there and are without a match yet. In the meantime, BUSHI has a shot at KUSHIDA’s junior title coming up on the 27th in the main event of Korakuen. Why BUSHI gets a shot when he lost to KUSHIDA during Super Juniors, I have no idea, but their matches always deliver so it’s tough to complain.

If nothing else on the show, go out of your way to watch this. 15 minutes of balls-to-the-wall action with tons of heat, a hot crowd and great performances. One of the best trios matches of the year. ****1/4

Final Thoughts:

More of a build-up show than anything as most matches were done to set up matches later on in the tour, but make sure to seek out the main event and the Kawato tag match.