New Japan Pro Wrestling
Road To Wrestle Kingdom
December 19, 2019
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: NJPWWorld.com

The countdown to Wrestle Kingdom beings with three Road to shows featuring the return of Hiromu Takahashi and the final handful of matches for Jushin Thunder Liger.

Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma), Ryusuke Taguchi & Rocky Romero def. Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask, Yuya Uemura & Yota Tsuji

This was Jushin Thunder Liger’s first of three Korakuen Hall farewell matches. It was your typical opener with the Young Lions, as Rocky taps out Uemura with an armbar. The most noteworthy thing from this match may have been Makabe bothering to tag in. He even took a bump for the Shotei as he warms up for the three he’ll take at Wrestle Kingdom. Tsuji and Makabe got into it after the bell, which may be a problem considering that they’re on the same team in the Wrestle Kingdom pre-show match. **1/2

Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Bad Luck Fale def. David Finlay, Juice Robinson & Toa Henare

This was mostly Bullet Club beating down Henare, as the preview of the tag team title match was kept to about 2 minutes. Finlay hit a spear that sent him clutching his shoulder, and he never got back in the match. I can’t tell if he’s selling it and setting up the story for the tag title match at the Dome, or if his shoulder is still giving him issues. Fale pins Henare with the Grenade. **

Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi def. EVIL & SANADA

No Taichi performance here, as he’s saving his voice for the Dome. It’s disappointing, but understandable. I saw Zack and SANADA have a hell of a match live at the G1 opener in Dallas this year, and they started this one off. I like the story of Zack just not being able to figure out SANADA, with three losses to him in 2019. Dangerous Tekkers are a really fresh team, and they’re performances here just make me want to see them as a more regular team if they aren’t gonna do much as singles. Zack and SANADA get into a pinning predicament before Zack pulls the win and gets the monkey off his back. A fun preview of the British Heavyweight Title match. ***1/2

Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) def. KENTA, Yujiro Takahashi, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori

I just couldn’t get into this one. For as hot as KENTA was during his attacks against Shibata, Korakuen Hall was very cold for his faceoff against Goto here. That worries me for their match at the Dome, not as far as match quality, but in terms of heat. Goto has been firmly beaten into the midcard, while some crowds still struggle to get into KENTA. Nothing kills a grudge match like the crowd not caring, and that is ultimately my fear for them. The work was fine, ending with Ishii pinning Yujiro with a brainbuster. ELP and Ishimori immediately ran off with the Super Jr. Tag trophies, continuing that little story. **


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Kota Ibushi & Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi

An all-star tag match here to preview one of the possible Double Gold Dash finals. The crowd is firmly behind Naito here, as Ibushi continues to feel like the fourth of the four men in the situation. Their interactions are great per usual, while Tanahashi and Takagi get in where they fit in. Tanahashi gave Shingo a lot here, and they made sure to protect Shingo’s finishers as well. Tanahashi pinned Shingo by rolling through Last of the Dragon for a roll-up win. ***

Jay White & Chase Owens def. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI

Another Double Gold Dash final preview in what I’m sure most people would call the worst-case scenario. Imagine the fury if the Double Gold Dash ended with a Jay White and Okada rematch from last year. I think every Ibushi and Naito stan would hunt Gedo down with pitchforks and torches. This was your standard fare, as I struggled to think of something to write about with Chase Owens and YOSHI-HASHI in the ring. White got the win with the Blade Runner on YOSHI-HASHI. **1/2

Birds of Prey (Will Ospreay & Robbie Eagles) def. Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI

At the Wrestle Kingdom press event earlier in the day, Hiromu Takahashi was his usual oddball self. He posed, he joked around, he made “Mr. Belt” talk. Regular old Hiromu. In contrast, Will Ospreay was deathly serious. He didn’t play along with Hiromu’s antics, and he didn’t buy into Hiromu’s fairytale comeback. He told him the cold hard truth, which is that fairytales are just stories. Hiromu needed to be at his best if he wanted to hang with the best Junior in the world.

Hiromu didn’t listen. And after 20 minutes in the ring with the Birds of Prey, he learned that Will was right. Robbie Eagles reversed the Dynamite Plunger into a roll-up and stunned Korakuen Hall with a win over the returning hero. With his family in the crowd and all the fans holding banners celebrating his return, the returning hero failed at the first step. They all had to sit and watch as Ospreay taunted Hiromu with the belt. And the worst part was that Hiromu couldn’t do anything about it. All he could do was walk away, shell-shocked at his loss. Maybe now he understands what Will meant. Maybe now he’ll listen. ***1/2