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New Japan Wrestling Toyonokuni recap & match recommendations: Juice is loose!

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As always, I've got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the folks in it, 3 is a match that's worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.

Mind you, these are not star ratings. They're not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you're best off skipping. I have my biases, of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.

Before we dig into Wrestling Toyonokuni proper, let’s take a quick look at the two title matches from the April 27 Road to Wrestling Dontaku show, shall we?

Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship) (3)

Suzuki-gun shenanigans early, with Taichi "sacrificing" the bell hammer so his pals can put boots in. RPG Vice get theirs back and throw some dives, but Miho Abe helps turn the tide again. Beretta plays Ricky Morton a while, Jado & Gedo get tired of hanging out in back and watching Desperado run over their boys and they chase him to the back.

Rocky in to save the day, running wild on Taichi and his stupid pants, Kanemaru makes a bit of a run but a diving knee drop Argentine backbreaker rack slam combo nearly takes it until Suzuki-gun yank the ref out and Miho literally straps the bell hammer to Taichi's boot. That sets Beretta up for the powerbomb double team but somehow it ends up turning into a tower of doom with Romero doing the powerbombing.

This sets up a stretch where Yoshinobu is taking it to Trent again, Rocky comes in...

Roppongi Vice win by pinfall with Strong Zero on Yoshinobu Kanemaru, winning the IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship for the fourth time.

A good solid junior tag match. RPG Vice have stepped up in a big way to hold these matches together and somehow Taichi and Kanemaru continue to work better than you might expect. Nothing absolutely necessary here, but you'll have a good time if you watch it.

Hirooki Goto (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki (NEVER Openweight Championship) (4)

On the mat early, the champion holding his own and catching Suzuki off-guard at points but the veteran is wily and uses the armbar in the ropes to set up a sequence outside, hammering him with chairs in the lawless waste that exists outside of a NJPW ring. A count-out loss barely avoided, Goto heads back in but he's taken right back outside to the woodshed.

Minoru on his arm like it owes him money here, shifting hold to hold, he shifts to kicks but this gives Hirooki the opportunity to turn it around, throwing forearms fast and furious only to have it reversed. Back suplex, playing Suzuki's game again, trying to choke the life out of him with a guillotine, kicks of his own, just unloading the toybox but Minoru finds himself a second wind all the same.

Takedown, Fujiwara armbar, champion screaming agony but he makes the ropes. Slugging it out forearm for forearm, Goto can't quite get his full strength through the injured arm but he pulls ahead through sheer perseverance and locks an Ode to Jim Breaks neck crank on. Ushigoroshi, slips out, guillotine, back up, slips out again, sleeper hold!

Gotch lift blocked, back to the sleeper, this time Goto gets Ushigoroshi! Jockeying for position, struggling to find that advantage, Suzuki throwing punch after punch to Goto's head and even swatting referee Red Shoes Unno away when he tries to break. A second break is successful and gives Desperado license to come in with a chair and crack it over Goto's head.

Champion out on his feet, he takes the slap rush to end all slap rushes, back to the sleeper, Goto fades...

Minoru Suzuki wins by pinfall with the Gotch piledriver, winning the NEVER Openweight Championship.

So that was very good, and definitely worth watching, but two caveats keep me from the full recommendation. One, I thought the Sabre match was just a little tighter and I'm not quite comfortable putting them on the same tier. Two, that incredibly stupid chairshot to the head.

Katsuyori Shibata may never be able to wrestle again, due to blunt force head trauma of the same variety. For his friend and tag partner to go out there and take a chair straight to the skull while his future is up in the air is gross and irresponsible.

You can't eliminate the risk from pro wrestling, it's an inherently dangerous business and even a simple back bump can cripple you, but that doesn't mean you should go around taking hard shots to the skull. Piledrive him, have him do a full crimson mask blade job, Pillmanize his neck, there are so many better, safer ways to generate big drama in a pro wrestling match than to waffle a dude across the skull with a metal chair.

Wrestling Toyonokuni

Hirai Kawato, Jushin Liger, & Tomoyuki Oka vs. Katsuya Kitamura, Shota Umino, & Tiger Mask IV (2)

A bit different from the usual young lions & vets formula, with the early goings all Liger vs. Tiger, but still, your standard opening match fare here. I do always recommend checking out the young lions when you get a chance, though, great fun watching them develop match to match, and given that Shota Umino is the son of referee Red Shoes Unno, there's a whole extra layer of cool there.

Very disappointed they don’t let him wrestle in plain red trunks, however.

Hirai Kawato, Jushin Liger, & Tomoyuki Oka win by submission with a Boston Crab from Oka on Shota Umino.

Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (2)

Suzuki-gun take the action outside early, with Kanemaru hitting a wicked double jump guillotine leg drop off the barricade on Beretta. This lets them work Rocky over a while but he gets the tag and Trent runs wild. It's not long...

Roppongi Vice win by pinfall with a springboard Strong Zero on Desperado.

All told, a pretty standard junior tag match. With more time and development I'd probably have taken this over the title change, but we got neither of those things.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & SANADA) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi & YOSHITATSU (1)

LIJ in charge early, putting YOSHI through the wringer, but Taguchi and his buns of steel soon even the odds. YOSHITATSU comes in and inevitably screws things up for his side, foiled at every turn by SANADA...

Los Ingobernables de Japon win by submission with Skull End from SANADA on YOSHITATSU.

There's not much of a "there" here at all. Wouldn't recommend giving this a watch unless you're a real hardcore Ingobernable or super into the Annoying Butt Man.

Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Tanga Roa, & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. David Finlay & TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) (2)

All-out brawling early leaves Yujiro isolated but he's able to turn it around on Finlay and we have an even match. Tama in on Kojima, machine gun chops to an armored chest that makes the son of Haku look like the exact midway poit between Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns and here Bullet Club pounces.

They keep the leader of Bread Club isolated but in the end can't keep Tenzan from coming in and throwing his Mongolian chops and headbutts. Tonga gives him them back in kind but soon finds himself caught in the Anaconda Vise only for Takahashi to break it up.

David in on Roa, the match breaks down into "everybody do a cool thing" territory and settles back down with the Biz Cliz man firmly in control...

Bullet Club win by pinfall with Fire Thunder from Tanga Roa on David Finlay.

Still firmly ensconced in unremarkable undercard tag match territory, folks. Interesting that they'd go with a singles finish win for Tanga, though.

Chaos (Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay, & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, & TAKA Michinoku) (4)

Brawling early, Goto and Suzuki get into it on the outside, Tacos takes care of Taichi but gets caught by the armbar in the ropes and Suzuki-gun continue their rampage. Minoru throws a barricade at Hirooki and hooks his arm through it to grind him down!

Taichi has the hammer and clobbers YOSHI-HASHI with it, which leads to Suzuki getting into it with him, Tacos holding his own valiantly against the newly minted NEVER champion. Goto in, all elbows and vengeance, the juniors peel him off but he fights out, wheel kick, back suplex connects on the second try, not enough.

Forearm for forearm, neither man wanting to give an inch but Minoru gets the sleeper, Gotch hooked but blocked, knee caught into a fireman's carry, he slips out, tight exchange, a huge knee to the gut leaves both me out and tags are made. Ospreay falls prey to Suzuki-gun's double- and triple-teams but clips TAKA in the face with a huge kick.

Everybody does something cool, Ospreay with the falling spin kick...

Chaos win by pinfall with an OsCutter from Will Ospreay on TAKA Michinoku.

This is more like it! Still not exactly monumental, but Suzuki threw a barricade at a man and then tried to use it to break is his arm. Plus the very targeted dose of Ospreay at the end and this one punches just a bit above its own weight class. Check it out!

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, & Kenny Omega) vs. Chaos (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, & Toru Yano) (3)

Bullet Club put boots to Chaos while they're posing after introductions! Chaos manage to turn it around on Fale and Okada goes for the cocky one-foot pin and actually gets a nearfall off it. Yano in, demanding a break and everything breaks down after the big man clips him with an elbow.

In firm control, working Yano over, but Omega mysteriously gets something in his eyes which, in turn, somehow leads to the turnbuckle pad falling off and him trying to hit Toru with it. Yano tries to give it back to the ref and the referee falls down, perhaps he had a sudden cramp?

Yano makes the tag after a high but legal shot to the upper thigh and Ishii runs wild until things turn around into a bit of an Omega/Ishii singles match by way of preview for Dontaku. Fast and tight, going at it hard, Kenny snaps off an ugly-but-effective Frankensteiner.

Jockeying for position around a suplex, the Stone Pitbull gets it but Omega levels him with a lariat and tags are made. Kazuchika taking care of Bad Luck here, trying and failing to hoist him up for the Tombstone and getting clobbered for it. Grenade blocked, wristlock, ripcord, counter Samoan drop!

Owens in, charging strikes and he nearly puts the IWGP Champion away! Looking for the package piledriver, blocked, Fale in, thinking Tombstone, and into the "everybody do cool stuff" section. Reverse Neckbreaker on the big man, Owens fighting but he runs into the piledriver...

Chaos win by pinfall with a Rainmaker from Kazuchika Okada on Chase Owens.

Good stuff, and certainly worth it for the Ishii/Omega section, but not quite ticking the ol' recommendation meter over.

Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. Ricochet (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship) (5)

Ricochet right in with a kick and a suicide dive! Springboard missile dropkick, a corkscrew tope con giro, springboard 450 splash... NOT ENOUGH! Jockeying for position, ducking and dodging, Ricochet goes for a handspring and gets caught into a German suplex!

Action spills outside, diving dropkick off the apron, and back in the ring the champion goes to work on the legs with a dragon screw into a figure four heel hook. Slowing the pace, putting the boots to his challenger only to get caught repeatedly on the charge.

Tiger feint kick into a diving corkscrew uppercut, enzuigiri from the apron, Hiromu cuts it off, suicide dive sunset flip powerbomb, RICOCHET REVERSES TO A FRANKENSTEINER! Struggle in the corner... AVALANCHE FACE ERASER! NOT ENOUGH! TAKAHASHI WITH AN APRON DEATH VALLEY DRIVER IN RETURN!

Lying in wait, going for the dropkick again but Ricochet catches him, northern lights suplex into the straight suplex on the floor! Both men back in at the count of nineteen! Slugging it out forearm for forearm, chop for chop, Ricochet pulls ahead as they shift to charging blows, enzuigiri, the suplex combo in the ring but the erstwhile Kamaitachi floats over and drops him with a pair of German suplexes!

Time Bomb blocked, Ricochet with the inverted suplex lift Michinoku Driver... NOPE! Shooting star press... Hiromu gets the knees up! Overhead belly-to-belly suplex into the corner, Time Bomb... RICOCHET LIVES! Blu-Ray, back up for Time Bomb but Ricochet slips out! A knee, a kick, Benadryller 2.0... NOT ENOUGH!

630 senton comes up empty! Off the ropes, Ricochet catches him, northern lights... REVERSED TO A FLIP DDT! Back to the Blu-Ray...

Hiromu Takahashi wins by pinfall with Time Bomb, retaining the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.

Well that was awesome. From the opening psychology of Ricochet going hard out the gate to avoid the same fate KUSHIDA suffered at Sakura Genesis, to the amazing scouting of and counter for the sunset flip powerbomb, this was both a match that was intensely satisfying in its own right but also built just about perfectly on the past. Don't miss it!

EVIL vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (5)

Tanahashi with a dropkick before EVIL finishes his entrance! A plancha follows and the 1/100 Dude is fired up! Taking the younger man to the woodshed without even taking his entrance jacket off at first, my word. The beating continues in the ring, but the King of Darkness gets his shots in return and turns the tide after trapping Hiroshi on the apron.

A hard lariat over the barricade and EVIL's trademark chair comes into play, wrapping it around Tanahashi's neck and teeing off with a second chair! Grinding the old ace down, crushing the wind out of him with a senton when he looks to be coming back and following it with an inverted cravate.

But soon Hiroshi's putting his classic gameplan into play, with the dragon screw kicking things off, but he doesn't stay on the leg, choosing instead to fly a bit, and it costs him when he goes up top and the King of Darkness cuts him off, creating separation.

EVIL heads up top, looking to fly, diving lariat connects for two, Tanahashi slips away from a fireman's carry, blocks a neckbreaker, and so the Ingobernable man just claws his face. Two can play at that game, EVIL sends him to the apron again but gets headscissor'd out this time!

High Fly Flow to the outside! Back in, calling for sling blade, off the ropes but EVIL catches him, straight suplex! Trading forearms on equal ground now, off the ropes, jockeying for position, EVIL with a giant lariat! Dragon screw blocked, stepover armlock crossface applied!

Calling for the end, STO blocked, dragon screw neck whip, sling blade connects! Up top but BUSHI knocks him down onto Red Shoes! He and SANADA beat up the 1/100 Dude, but Tanahashi ducks the mist and Ryusuke Taguchi shows up to even the score! EVIL laying forearms in but he gets caught by the Dragon suplex pin... no referee!

Hiroshi up top, High Fly Flow... the knees are up! German suplex, Darkness Falls... NO GOOD! Dragging the old ace to his feet, STO blocked, Dragon suplex blocked, throwing strikes, a wicked hip toss elbow drop, up top, High Fly Flow, back up...

Hiroshi Tanahashi wins by pinfall with High Fly Flow.

Very good match. Well played early, no feeling out, just the old ace out to prove that last time wasn't every time and it proceeded well from there.

Juice Robinson vs. Tetsuya Naito (c) (IWGP Intercontinental Championship) (5)

Slow to feel out but the action quickly goes outside, or, well, Juice goes outside and Naito takes a nap. The champion keeps dodging, slipping away, but eventually they come to blows. Off the ropes, hip tosses, a senton, Juice is fired up and knocks Naito off the apron into the barricade with a forearm!

The beating continues, challenger in firm control until Tetsuya reverses a whip. Tired of throwing Robinson into the barricade, Naito hooks his leg into it and kicks the door shut on it! Hanging it up across from the apron, he throws a dropkick that leaves Juice writhing in agony on the floor as Red Shoes counts.

Back in the ring, throwing kicks to the knee, driving it into the mat over and over and locking an inverted figure four leglock on for even more punishment. Transition to a deathlock, he bridges back and Robinson is in a bad way, crawling desperately for the ropes and clutching his knee when he gets the break.

Juice tries to rally with a headbutt but a fakeout kick hits his knee and is followed with a shinbreaker and a dropkick to the knee, right into a normal figure four leglock this time. A second shinbreaker blocked, Tetsuya throws a kick, another dropkick, and again Juice is flagging, hobbled. To the outside for the triangle dropkick, caught, fireman's carry double knee gutbuster but was it worth the pain?!

The kneepad down, massaging some life into the joint, punches and chops on a wobbly base, stumbling but fighting, again Naito kicks the leg but he fights through the pain, tries for a DDT and then hits a spinebuster off the ropes! Champion down in the corner, cannonball... NOBODY HOME!

Triangle dropkick connects this time, headed up top, Juice under for a powerbomb but his leg is weak, he hesitates and Tetsuya uses the time to slip out, kick the knee, tornado DDT blocked, reverse roundhouse! Up top, diving crossbody... and Naito rolls outside, where Robinson catches him with a diving lariat off the apron!

Champion cuts him off with a dropkick as he tries to return, struggle over a suplex, Juice gets him to the apron but Naito is all kicks, waistlock, thinking German suplex but Robinson is hanging on for dear life! A back elbow frees him... SPINEBUSTER ON THE APRON! GO JUICE GO!

Hammer whip into the barricade, Robinson hobbles back... CANNONBALL! Back in the ring, brainbuster blocked, tornado DDT connects but Naito can't capitalize! Back to their feet, trading forearms, Juice practically operating one legged as the adrenaline builds and the pain ebbs, huge right hands... and Tetsuya kicks his knee out again.

Elbow drop to the knee, shinbreaker, basement dropkick, a VICIOUS chop block and the inverted short legscissor is on! Crawling, reaching, praying... HE GETS THE ROPES! Naito sets him up top for the Frankensteiner... AVALANCHE COUNTER POWERBOMB! JUICE STUMBLES GETTING OVER TO HIM! FOLDING POWERBOMB... NO GOOD!

Underhooks applied but Naito throws him off and hits a rolling kick! Sliding lariat in return, both men are out on the mat! Back to the under hooks, he tries to drop and again the champion slips away! Fireman's carry... Naito reverses to a Russian legsweep!

Juice isn't done yet, he charges into boots, catches it on the second and Naito spits in his face! Fired up, reverse roundhouse is ducked, champion off the ropes, tilt-a-whirl to Destino... JUICE ROBINSON LIVES! Dragging him up by the dreadlocks, up for Destino, Juice blocks, victory roll pin for a nearfall!

Enzuigiri ducked, Pulp Friction blocked again, the snap jackknife pin... NOPE! Enzuigiri connects this time, whip reversed, STO backbreaker to a straight left hand! Underhooks... AND AGAIN NAITO BREAKS AWAY! He keeps a wrist...

Tetsuya Naito wins by pinfall with Destino, retaining the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.

So, uh, hot take time, but that was pretty easily my favorite NJPW main event this year. No incredible best in the world level performance like in Omega/Okada, no tale of stiffness and escalation like Okada/Shibata, just an excellent and well-told story of a dude fighting for a spot he’s scraped and clawed these last few years to earn and having his leg literally kicked out from under him at every turn.

No wasted time, just 28 minutes of classic limb-oriented main event wrestling at its finest. You should absolutely watch this.

Afterwards, Hiroshi Tanahashi came down to restart his feud with Naito during the champion's post-match promo.

Overall

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.