NJPW Road to Wrestling Dontaku


April 27th, 19:00 from Hakata Sutaren, Fukuoka

Wrestling Hinokuno was due to take place on April 29th in Kumamoto. As I’m sure you’ve heard, there were earthquakes in the region a few weeks ago and as a result the show was cancelled. The matches set for that card were rescheduled, so the Junior Tag and NEVER title matches have been added to Wrestling Dontaku on May 3rd, while the CHAOS vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón eight-man tag, Tanahashi vs. Fale, and Omega vs. Elgin for the Intercontinental title were added to today’s show.

Regarding the earthquakes, NJPW and their owners, Bushiroad, made a ¥10,000,000 donation to the relief fund and are collecting donations at all of the live events until May 5th. They also already had a t-shirt on sale for Hinokuni, so proceeds from that will also go to the relief fund.


Here we go…

Juice Robinson & Jay White vs. Captain New Japan & David Finlay

I’m going to keep noting how White and Finlay improve every time I see them until it’s no longer the case, but there wasn’t much to see here as the match lasted barely five minutes. It was Juice who received the hot tag and ran wild with his “signature” punches and a couple of cannonballs in the corner, and while Finlay and White brawled outside, the big boot of the former-CJ Parker connected to Captain and he cinched in his seated version of the Million Dollar Dream for the tap out. *

YOSHI-HASHI & Roppongi Vice (Baretta & Rocky Romero) vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask

Roppongi Vice claimed the junior tag titles at Invasion Attack and have a rematch against Ricochet and Matt Sydal next week at Wrestling Dontaku. They began the match here by playing Rock Paper Scissors to determine who went in first against grumpy old Nakanishi. Baretta was the unlucky one, and didn’t have any long-lasting success, but neither did his teammates. Taguchi was tagged in, and hit each of his opponents with his ass-based offence, before Roppongi Vice and Yoshi-Hashi gained control through nefarious means. Yoshi-Hashi worked over Taguchi to the crowd’s appreciation (he is a face-leaning tweener, after all), but Taguchi was eventually able to make the tag to Tiger Mask who momentarily ran wild, but was ultimately prevented from hitting the Tiger Driver on Romero. Nakanishi double-suplexed Baretta and Yoshi-Hashi and all three of our heroes cleared the ring with what Naomi calls the Rear View. Romero slipped back in and ripped at Tiger Mask’s mask, almost pulling it off, then small packaged him for the win. Entertaining enough, although it was almost exactly the same match this group (with Gedo instead of Yoshi-Hashi) had last week in Korakuen Hall. **1/2

Yoshi Tatsu & Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) vs.  Yujiro Takahashi & Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa)

Yoshi Tatsu is now doing Triple H’s water spit entrance and using the Pedigree as a finisher. Yeah. I wasn’t expecting much here, and I wasn’t let down. Tanga Loa and Takahashi took turns executing their dull offence, and the match tumbled inoffensively along until Makabe got the hot tag and injected a little effort into proceedings (it might’ve helped that his eyelid was cut open thanks to a stray arm from Loa). Shortly after, Yoshi Tatsu hit a slingshot crossbody to the G.O.D. outside, then a top-rope Kokeshi followed by a King Kong Knee Drop to Takahashi brought the three-count at 12 minutes. Moving on. *1/2

Katsuyori Shibata & KUSHIDA vs. Yuji Nagata & Jushin Thunder Liger

These guys had a very good match at Korakuen Hall last week, ahead of their respective NEVER and Junior Heavyweight title matches at Dontaku, and today’s match was even better. Liger showed a much more aggressive side than usual, really going after Kushida’s leg, cranking in a figure four and even smacking it with a chair a couple of times. In the meantime, Nagata and Shibata faced off on several occasions, each provoking the other, trying to get a rise. Kushida eventually managed to get the tag after hitting Nagata with a Pele kick, then Shibata peppered Nagata with hard kicks before locking in an Abdominal Stretch. Nagata was able to fight out of the Sleeper with an armbreaker and transition into the Shirome armbar only for Shibata to make the ropes. A manly elbow battle followed, with sweat flying off both men, before Nagata hit the Exploder and Shibata replied with a German suplex. With Kushida and Liger back in, the former applied a variation of a crucifix pin for the three-count, giving he and Shibata the win at 17 minutes. Impressive intensity all round and I’m really looking forward to both singles matches next week. ***1/2

CHAOS (Gedo, Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, EVIL & Sanada)

This match was scheduled to take place at Hinokuni and feature Will Ospreay, but presumably because of the date change we get Gedo instead. And as much good will as I have for Gedo, it’s not quite the same. The match began by running through a couple of the singles pairings taking place at Dontaku (Naito/Ishii, Sanada/Okada), each of which was interrupt by the shenanigans and outside interference of both teams. Red Shoes Unno seemed content, as he usually does, to allow repeated instances of cheating so long as it doesn’t break his five count. It was Okada who took the most prolonged beatdown, until a reverse neckbreaker connected to Sanada, and Goto and Evil (another Dontaku singles match) entered the fray. Their mini-match here saw Evil get the better of the exchanges and Goto receiving more cheers than has been the case in a while. Ishii and Naito were next to give a preview of what to expect next week, and it was Ishii who largely had the upper hand, culminating in a delayed vertical superplex – thanks to Gedo’s help – which brought a two-count. Naito was able to catch Ishii in a Plum Blanca after countering a charge to a reverse STO, and with his teammates otherwise occupied, Ishii was only just able to make the ropes. Bushi and Evil were on hand to take advantage of the prone Ishii, after which we had a procession of signature moves from each of the competitors, then Bushi was left alone with Ishii and moments later a brainbuster connected and the three-count followed giving CHAOS the win at 16 minutes. A typically enjoyable multi-man tag, lots of stories going on and lots of interesting dynamics between the participants. ***1/4

Post-match, Naito insulted Ishii, but the Stone Pitbull declined to reply.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bad Luck Fale

These two have had such consistently decent matches, it’s past the point where one can describe them as “better than expected” – the most recent was during the New Japan Cup when Fale eliminated Tanahashi in the first round. The reason this match is happening is because Fale attacked Tanahashi following a NEVER six-man tag at Invasion Attack. This began with Tanahashi’s attempts to match Fale’s power – not smart – although he was able knock the big man into the second rope and spank him (no, honestly). A scoop slam from Tanahashi ended with Fale flopping on top of the rapidly descending Ace and was followed up by Fale slamming him on the floor outside for a near-countout. The crowd did their best to rouse Tanahashi from The Claw, but he was clubbed back to the mat and promptly stood on. A charge from Fale missed the mark and Tanahashi came back at him with strikes and this time the scoop slam connected. As an encore he skinned the cat, headscissored Fale to the floor and dived onto him with a High Fly Flow from the top rope. As Fale made his way back into the ring, Tanahashi delivered a couple of Dragon Screws, but wasn’t able to lock in the Cloverleaf. Fale countered a sunset flip, followed with a splash and then headed up top, only to be caught with a superplex! Tanahashi then headed up top whereupon he was the recipient of a superplex! A spear from Fale got two, then the Bad Luck Fall was countered to a roll-up, also for two-count. Fale hit the Grenade for a near-fall, then the Bad Luck Fall was countered once more, this time to a Sling Blade. A German suplex, second Sling Blade and the High Fly Flow hit the mark, and Tanahashi earned a much-needed singles victory against an opponent who’s been an almost-constant thorn in his side. ***1/4

IWGP Intercontinental Championship

“The Cleaner” Kenny Omega (c) vs. “Big Mike” Michael Elgin 

A rare main event match between two foreigners, and it’s a shame they didn’t get to do so on a “proper” show. Omega walked to the ring alone, with only his plunder (a broom, a small ladder and a trash can) for company. Elgin outmuscled Omega in the early going, catching him for a powerslam then delivering a deadlift delayed vertical suplex. Outside, Omega went to his bag of tricks, but Elgin swatted them away, that is until Omega dropkicked a ladder-holding Elgin and then spiked him with a piledriver onto the trash can. Elgin just made it in before the count, but Omega got a second-rope moonsault for two. A leapfrog bulldog sent Elgin to the outside, and with a head of steam Omega delivered a tope con hilo, crashing down onto the barrier as much as his opponent. Omega set up a table on the floor, and with Elgin on the apron, set about knocking him through it. Big Mike, however, came back with a slingshot shoulder block and then a military press slam. With Omega knocked to the apron, Elgin attempted his Cesaroplex, but Omega blocked it and desperately tried to suplex Elgin through the table outside. He failed, and with both men back in the ring, Elgin caught Omega off the top and hit a spinning side slam for a close two-count. Enziguri from Elgin, lariat blocked, and Omega delivered the snap Dragon suplex. The always-impressive deadlift gutwrench powerbomb followed for a near-fall. Omega flipped out of a German suplex, but a lariat dumped him on his head, and this time the Cesaroplex Falcon Arrow connected. Two-count only. Powerbomb blocked once, but on the second attempt Elgin dumped his opponent through Chekhov’s table on the floor outside! That cannot have been fun. Elgin stopped the count, brought Omega back into the ring and covered him for a close near-fall. The buckle bomb connected, but the Elgin Bomb was countered to a nasty reverse hurricanrana. High knee from Omega, then a second reverse hurricanrana. Omega rolled down the knee pad, but ran into a lariat followed by a pinning powerbomb – two-count only! Another buckle bomb from Elgin, but Omega replied immediately with a high knee, then hit the V-Trigger knee strike and One-Winged Angel for the three-count at 23 minutes. They worked damn hard here and used all the bells and whistles available to work an initially reticent crowd into a frenzy. ****1/4

Post-match, Tanahashi came out to challenge, Omega kicked him in the balls, said “no”, and attacked him with the ladder. Confetti rained down on him to end the show.

Final thoughts: Once the first three matches were out of the way, everything on the card was at least good, with the main event delivering the best match of the night. Titled like a typical “Road to…” house show, there’s a chance this will be passed over by many, which would be a shame, because this was another strong showing from a promotion on a roll. Recommended.

I’ll be back next week to cover Wrestling Dontaku. See you then.