Kizuna Road is upon us, and after a one week absence, live NJPW action returns to NJPW World for nights three and four of the tour in Korakuen Hall.
‘Kizuna’ meens ‘connection’, and that’s typically the role the tour has, to connect us from Dominion in Osaka Jo Hall to the start of the G1 Climax. This year, Kizuna Road is also effectively acting as the ‘road to Southern Showdown,’ and Australia, as well as Dallas Texas will be on the minds of many of the competitors. Here’s what you can expect from the first event of a Korakuen double header.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships: SHO & YOH (c) vs El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori
In the evening’s main event, SHO and YOH, Roppongi 3K will be putting the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships on the line when they face BULLET CLUB’s El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori.
The 83rd bearers of the tag titles, it’s taken RPG3K three reigns to finally rack up their first successful defence, with an emotionally resounding win over Shingo Takagi and BUSHI in April. Their attempt to reach V2 is the result of some fallout from Best of the Super Juniors; SHO’s pride still injured after being pinned by Taiji Ishimori during the tournament, while ELP’s ego was badly dented after YOH pinned him in their group match.
Ishimori is teaming with a different partner for this bout, as ripples of BC discontent continue to be seen after Ryogoku Sumo Hall. It was during the BOSJ final night that Ishimori’s regular partner Robbie Eagles seemed all set to beat YOH with a 450 Splash. Phantasmo blind tagged himself in however, and got the win for himself after an arguably unnecessary CR2. Post match, it was Phantasmo and Ishimori that celebrated together, leaving Eagles’ efforts ignored, and the Australian overshadowed.
The Sniper of the Skies is preparing for a title match of his own in Melbourne at Southern Showdown, so success could certainly bring the crew back together.
Toa Henare, YOSHI-HASHI & Kazuchika Okada vs Lance Archer, Zack Sabre Junior & Minoru Suzuki
In the semi main event of the evening, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada teams with YOSHI-HASHI and Toa Henare against Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer and RevPro Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Zack Sabre Junior.
On Okada’s side are two men with big points to prove. Henare is always one to step up and take on the biggest, meanest dogs in the hunt, and there are few bigger than the returning Archer. It was Lance who eliminated Henare in the first round of the New Japan Cup in devastating fashion, and Henare will be focusing his efforts on getting a win back over the giant Texan.
YOSHI-HASHI will be gunning for ZSJ, days before their June 25th Sendai clash over Zack’s RevPro belt. YOSHI-HASHI managed to score a pin over the British champion with the Kinkoji flash puin at Dominion, but has otherwise been fairly dominated by the submission master. Can the Sendai challenger finally establish the upper hand against the Briton in Korakuen Hall?
Then there’s the issue of Okada. Normally in high spirits after a successful championship defence, Okada was furious at Chris Jericho’s post match actions after Dominion, as he was viciously attacked and could have been permanently injured were it not for the presence of Hiroshi Tanahashi. Will Okada be conserving himself for a big tag match with Tanahashi in Melbourne and then the G1? Or will he bring some furious offense to Minoru Suzuki as he captains the Suzuki Gun side?
Toru Yano, Togi Makabe & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi & Jay White
Tensions will be high in this six man tag as Hiroshi Tanahashi teams up with two thirds of the NEVER 6-Man Tag Team Champions to take on Jay White, Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi of BULLET CLUB.
At the Best of the Super Junior finals, Tanahashi was fairly dominated by White as he exploited the Ace’s damaged elbow. At Dominion, Chase Owens threatened to land a Cradle Piledriver for a win on Tanahashi, but the former IWGP champion was able to respond with a new maneuver that was effective enough to result in a count of three. The ongoing road to redemption for Tanahashi as he heads into the G1 is one narrative in this match, but a second echoes closer to home. Yujiro and Owens will join ELP on Monday night to challenge NEVER champions Yano, Makabe and Ryusuke Taguchi, and will look to get an upper hand the night before.
Between the fourth and fifth matches of the evening, a special video will reveal all the entrants of G1 Climax 29, and their respective blocks! Who will compete in the six week quest to Be The One?
Shota Umino, Tiger Mask, Jyushin Thunder Liger, Yuji Nagata & Kota Ibushi vs BUSHI, Shingo Takagi, EVIL, SANADA & Testuya Naito
After representing NJPW in the Crockett Cup and ROH’s War of the Worlds tour Stateside, Yuji Nagata’s first appearance in a New Japan ring in nearly eight weeks is of interest here in a match that will otherwise carry some interesting G1 implications. Minutes before the announcement of the G1 entrants, four likely contenders in EVIL, SANADA, Ibushi and Naito will look to make emphatic final statements. Shingo Takagi will look to justify his demand on mic to the Osaka-Jo Hall crowd at Dominion that he be allowed into the tournament. Meanwhile, with wounds still fresh and visible from their encounter at Dominion, how will Ibushi and Naito interact?
Ryusuke Taguchi, Mikey Nicholls & Juice Robinson vs Jado, Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga
In the third match of the evening, Mikey Nicholls returns to NJPW action for the first time since the Dontaku tour. He teams with Juice Robinson and Ryusuke Taguchi against a BC trio of Jado and the Guerrillas of Destiny.
Nicholls and Robinson will face GoD in Sendai on June 25 and Melbourne June 29 in a two on two tag match, but despite Tama Tonga making an open challenge for new teams to face the Guerrillas for the IWGP Tag Team Championships, both matches will be non-title. Juice and Mikey will look to make enough of a mark throughout the tour that they can’t be denied title contendership.
Ren Narita, Tomoaki Honma & Tomohiro Ishii vs DOUKI, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi
At the start of the Best of the Super Junior tour, Taichi made pains to explain that DOUKI was no mere substitute for El Desperado in the tournament, and that he was around to make a longer term impact. Now, he joins Suzuki Gun on the Kizuna Road tour. Expect him to be a target of Ren Narita in this six man; DOUKI’s sole win in the BOSJ was over Narita, and the Young Lion might well feel that the growth he underwent in the rest of the tournament makes him a better competitor one month removed from their match. Meanwhile Ishii and Taichi will be at each other’s throats just a week after Ishii deposed the self proclaimed ‘Black Saint’ as NEVER Openweight Champion.
Yota Tsuji vs Yuya Uemura
The opening bout of this, and several other evenings on the Kizuna tour will see Tsuji and Uemura go head to head once more. The record between these two Young Luion rivals is an incredible 2-2-21 before the tour starts. Can their deadlock finally be broken?