NJPW Wrestling Dontaku

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May 3rd, 17:00 from the Fukuoka Kokusai Centre, Fukuoka

New Japan follows up last month’s excellent Invasion Attack with Wrestling Dontaku. Due to the recent earthquakes in Kyushu, Dontaku’s sister show –  Wrestling Hinokuni – was cancelled and its matches rescheduled. The Junior Tag and NEVER title matches were added to today’s show, which means that all but one of the company’s titles are being defended. The show is headlined by Naito vs. Ishii for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

Here we go…

Juice Robinson & Captain New Japan vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale

Takahashi beat down on Captain before Juice interrupted to get a little of his offence in, but this was short lived, as he jumped to the outside to take on Fale only to be taken out. Fale then put Captain away with the Grenade. The match lasted a couple of minutes and was there to give Fale a win after his singles loss to Tanahashi last week. *

David Finlay, Jay White, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask vs. CHAOS (Gedo, Will Ospreay, YOSHI-HASHI & Kazushi Sakuraba)

My feed died, coming back as Ospreay hit a Sasuke Special dive to the outside onto everyone and followed with a springboard cutter to Finlay for the win. I’ll update with a review and rating when the replay’s up. NR

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship

Roppongi Vice (Trent Baretta & Rocky Romero) vs. Matt Sydal & Ricochet

A rematch of last month’s title match in which the Baretta & Romero won the belts.

Romero took Ricochet for a walk into the crowd then threw him into some chairs, then he and Baretta took turns on Sydal in the ring. Sydal hit a combination jawbreaker/leg drop, but there was no-one to tag, and Roppongi hit double knees to stay on top. A springboard dropkick and seated dropkick combo got a two-count, then Romero stretched Sydal with a shoulder lock. Sydal again failed to make the tag after Baretta kicked Ricochet off the apron, but after a spinning heel kick the tag was finally made. Ricochet ran wild with kicks then took out both opponents with a flipping dive over the corner post (the margin for error on that one is tiny). A standing moonsault/SSP double-team got a near-fall, then Romero flipped out of a suplex and kneed Ricochet, following up with a lariat the flipped him inside out. Baretta tagged in, but Ricochet blocked a tornado DDT and deadlifted him into his northern lights/brainbuster. The 630 senton then missed the mark. Roppongi took out Sydal on the outside, then, back in the ring, hit the Doomsday Device on Ricochet for a near-fall. Ricochet got caught up top, but managed to headbutt Romero down, and this time connected with the 630, only to be immediately taken out with a Busaiku Knee and reverse piledriver from Baretta. Sydal was just able to break up the pin. Romero and Sydal slugged it out before Ricochet interjected, and a series of strikes and a DDT on Baretta got a two-count. Double knees from Roppongi again, but shortly thereafter Sydal hit a reverse frankensteiner on Baretta and the Benadryller from Ricochet (plus Sydal’s right boot) put Romero to the mat. Stereo Shooting Star Presses from Sydal and Ricochet, and Ricochet pinned Baretta for the three-count to regain the titles at 17 minutes. Good stuff. ***3/4

IWGP NEVER Openweight Six-Man Championship

Yoshi Tatsu, Michael Elgin & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. The Elite (Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks)

Last week, Omega defended his Intercontinental title in a very good match against Michael Elgin, and afterwards Tanahashi came out to challenge for the belt. Omega refused. Perhaps something will happen here to change his mind. The Elite arrived with their usual plunder (including a ladder), minus the resting Cody Hall. The Young Bucks’ new ring gear is a photo montage of their own faces – and to think people don’t like them!

The non-Elite cornered their opponents to begin, hitting a succession of Stinger splashes, then triple suplexed them. Elgin then press slammed Tanahashi onto the Bucks outside. Omega was targeted by Tatsu and Elgin but a culmative High Fly Flow from Tanahashi was blocked, and the Elite took control with a triple suicide dive. They beat down on Triple H-cosplayer Yoshi Tatsu for while, before Elgin tagged in. He slingshotted Omega in for a powerslam, then caught Matt Jackson mid-air for a Falcon Arrow, and a second-rope powerslam on Nick Jackson got a two-count. The match broke down as The Elite looked to cheat their way to victory, but when Omega accidentally cold-sprayed Tiger Hattori, all bets were off. They delivered low-blows to everyone (even a blinded Hattori), set up a table on the outside, and took out each of their opponents with a ladder. Elgin fought back and powerbombed one of the Bucks into the ladder in the corner, but he was blocked from suplexing Omega through the table, and thanks to the Bucks Omega was able to smash Big Mike through the table with a sunset flip powerbomb from the apron. Tatsu started up the Triple H comeback, only for The Elite to connect with a triple superkicks and then Omega hit a One-Winged Angel to win back the titles. A ridiculous, credulity-stretching match, but I enjoyed it. ***1/2

Post-match, Tanahashi looked to hit Omega with a High Fly Flow on the ladder, but Kenny escaped. Tanahashi took to the mic to once again challenge for the Intercontinental title, and this time… Omega accepted on one condition: ladder match! It’s on.

IWGP Tag Team Championship

Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c) vs. Great Bash Heel (Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe)

Another Invasion Attack rematch; the Guerrillas claimed the belts last month. Makabe’s head was taped up because he cut his eyelid last week.

GBH had the better of the early going, before Tonga took a powder and he and Honma fought on the outside. They both just made it in before the 20-count, then the GOD took over. They kept Honma isolated and took out Makabe several times, before Honma hit the Kokeshi and made the tag. Makabe with mounted punches before a spinebuster from Loa got a two-count. Both men made the tag after a double down, and it was Honma who took advantage, hitting a Kokeshi on Tonga. A rope-running sequence ended with a lariat from Honma and was followed by a spiked brainbuster – the pin was broken up. Double clotheslines from GBH then a Doomsday Kokeshi. Makabe headed up top, but with the referee distracted, Loa made use of a large chain. He powerbombed Makabe on the apron, then, back inside, a combination powerbomb/neckbreaker on Honma brought a near-fall. Honma fought out of Guerrilla Warfare, hit Loa with a jumping Kokeshi, but was caught by a cutter from Tonga. This time the Guerrilla Warfare connected and the three-count was academic. Tonga and his brother don’t do anything for me, they’re dull and pedestrian and do nothing to improve the reputation of the heavyweight tag scene – already the weakest division in the company. The match was passable. **1/4

The Best of the Super Juniors blocks were announced:

  • A Block – KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi, Kyle O’Reilly, Matt Sydal, Romero, Gedo, BUSHI, Matt Jackson
  • B Block – Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask, Bobby Fish, Baretta, Nick Jackson, Ricochet, Volador Jr., Will Ospreay

***INTERMISSION***

NEVER Openweight Championship

Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Yuji Nagata

The backstory here is that Shibata had enough of the older generation’s sniping and said he’d take them all on. He’s defeated Kojima and Tenzan on recent shows and has now arrived at Yuji Nagata – a man whose respect must be earned.

Shibata went for the legs early, and after a Russian leg sweep into a knee bar, locked in the figure four. After several reversal attempts, both men rolled through to a rope break. Nagata hit a knee strike and started rolling with kicks, but Shibata wasn’t having any of it and began stomping away in the corner. Corner dropkick and a hatch suplex for two. Nagata tried for the Shirome armbar, but Shibata countered to the Sleeper. Rope break then a knock down, Penalty Kick attempted but ducked, Exploder from Nagata. A stiff elbow battle, then another Exploder (Nagata), German suplex (Shibata) and Musha Gaeshi leg-hook STO (also Shibata). A huge elbow strike from Nagata knocked Shibata to the mat and Nagata followed with chest kicks and some stiff knee strikes in the corner, followed by a brainbuster for two. Shibata countered a charge with a dropkick for two, then transitioned once more into the Sleeper and a backdrop hold (exactly like Nagata’s) for a near-fall. Nagata didn’t like that and quickly hit a backdrop of his own! Hard slaps put Shibata down, Penalty Kick from Nagata! Backdrop hold! One, two, three! Nagata with a big upset to win the title. The commentators really put this over and the crowd were way into it from the off. Let’s hope there’s a rematch at Dominion. ****

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

KUSHIDA (c) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger

Liger last challenged for this title in 2010 when it was held by Naomichi Marifuji and last held the belt in 2000. He’s been noticeably more aggressive in the tag matches leading up to this match, going after Kushida’s left leg, even smashing it with a chair last week. Kushida most recently defended the title against Will Ospreay at Invasion Attack and has been on a strong run, bringing a fair bit of prestige back to the belt.

Liger looked sharp in the early going, outwrestling Kushida, then stretching him with the Romero Special. Kushida came back with speed, knocking Liger down with low dropkicks to the knee and left arm. He continued, as is his wont, to work on the arm, but tweaked his knee flipping out of Liger’s tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, and now it was Liger who worked the body part. Shinbreaker on the barrier, another against the ring post, then a brainbuster on the floor! Kushida just (and I mean just) made it in before the count. Shotei palm strike and a Liger bomb for two. Kushida rolled-through a super frankensteiner for two, then managed a handspring elbow and standing moonsault for a near-fall. A top-rope moonsault hit the knees, then Liger locked in Kushida’s own Hoverboard Lock! Kushida countered to an armbar and Liger desperately and successfully stretched for the rope break. Kushida dropkicked the arm once more, following with an arm breaker, then Liger hit one of his own. Dragon Screw and a heel hook from Liger. He grapevines the leg, and now it was Kushida’s turn to reach for the ropes. Koppu kick and a Thesz Press from Liger for two. Kushida blasted Liger’s arm with a kick, but Liger replied with a huge Shotei for two, then a brainbuster for another near-fall. Kushida span into the Hoverboard Lock and as Liger was about to reach the ropes, rolled back into the centre of the ring. Liger held on as long as he could, but eventually had to tap out. Great match and a tremendously impressive performance from Liger. ****

Post-match, Liger held Kushida’s arm aloft. Kushida praised Liger on the mic, then Liger did likewise, even implying that he’ll ask for another shot. They shook hands and you can consider the torch passed.

Hirooki Goto vs. EVIL

Goto continues his personal vendetta against Los Ingobernables de Japon, whilst in recent months Evil has really started to develop, particularly in-ring.

They began brawling in the aisle before Goto even made it to the ring, and with Red Shoes knocked to the floor, Evil delivered his standard chair-on-chair violence. The assault continued in the ring, as Evil raked the eyed, then curb-stomped Goto and followed with a senton for two. Goto began to return the favour with a spinning heel kick and back suplex for two, but Evil cut him off with a corner clothesline and spinning neckbreaker. Elbow strikes followed, and a series of reversals and near-misses ended with a successful Ushigoroshi from Goto for a two-count. Goto went for the GTR but Evil blocked it and connected with the fisherman buster to put both men down. A big lariat flattened Goto, then the fireman’s carry bomb got two, and an STO was enough for the three-count. Can’t say I was expecting that – that’s a big win for Evil. That was starting to get good, but ended before reaching the next gear. ***1/4

Kazuchika Okada vs. Sanada

Sanada debuted at Invasion Attack, joining forces with Naito & Co. and significantly contributing to Okada’s loss of the IWGP title. Okada, naturally, is out for vengeance.

Okada connected with a seated dropkick early on to take control, following with a slingshot senton, before Sanada hit a dropkick of his own and took the fight to the floor. He used a baseball bat to choke Okada, then hit a piledriver outside and a second inside the ring for a two-count only (ridiculous). A desperation flapjack allowed Okada back into the match and he connected with a couple of back elbows, a back body drop, and a dropkick to put Sanada over the top rope. Outside, Okada whipped his opponent into the barrier, booted him over it, then nailed a hanging DDT, before rolling him back in the ring. Sanada moved away from a prospective elbow drop and hit a springboard dropkick then an impressive plancha to Okada on the outside. Backdrop suplex for a two-count. Okada managed to hit his reverse neckbreaker and both men were down. DDT and a kip up from Okada, elbow smash for a two-count. Three seated dropkicks for another two-count. Scoop and a slam and the diving elbow drop connected. Rainmaker pose. The Rainmaker was twice countered by Sanada, the second time into a Dragon Sleeper, and Okada almost faded, but somehow made the ropes. Tiger suplex from Sanada for a near-fall. TKO! Another near-fall. Okada avoided the moonsault and went for the tombstone, but it was twice nearly countered to the Dragon Sleeper, only for Okada to hit The Dropkick. Sanada countered the Rainmaker to a Dragon Sleeper but Okada rolled-through and hit the tombstone! Rainmaker! One, two, three. That really picked up, and the crowd were buying Sanada’s Dragon Sleeper as a finisher. The piledriver sequence early on was a mark against the match, but it was otherwise a decent singles debut for Sanada. ***3/4

IWGP Heavyweight Championship

Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Tomohiro Ishii 

This match is happening, well, because it is. In fairness, Naito’s dismissal of Ishii as a challenger has led to some push-back from Ishii and that tension has helped the build a lot. Okada and Gedo second Ishii, BUSHI and EVIL are out with Naito. Lots of boos for Naito mixed in with the cheers.

Naito, naturally, took an age in removing his suit, then spent most of the opening minutes rolling out of the ring. Ishii made him pay when he got him back in, however, hammering him with chops and elbows. A missed charge allowed Naito to hit a dropkick and take the match to the outside, where he whipped Ishii into the barrier and Evil rammed Ishii’s chair-ensconced head into the ring post. Back in, Naito continued to stomp away and hit a seated dropkick for a casual two-count. Headscissors kept things comfortable for the champ, before Naito’s dismissive swipes angered Ishii and a charge was countered to a powerslam. A couple of clotheslines in the corner and a shoulder tackle from the challenger followed. A vertical suplex brought a two-count, then Ishii returned to chops, but Naito reversed another powerslam to a reverse DDT over the knee. A rope-hung neckbreaker connected for two. Ishii fought back with a dropkick to the knee and a Dragon Screw(!), then worked on the leg with a splash and a heel hook. Naito got the rope break. Up top, and Naito blocked the superplex and hit a diving dropkick followed by a swinging neckbreaker.

Red Shoes Unno was taken out and Ishii tripped into the ropes where he took a chair to the head from Evil. Outside-in dropkick from Naito and the Pluma Blanca was locked in. Ishii kicked and stretched and finally made the ropes. Huge German suplex hold from Naito for a near-fall, then Ishii blocked the Dragon suplex by kicking Naito’s knee, connected with an inventive shinbreaker variation and it was time for the Main Event Elbow Battle! Naito slapped Ishii and Ishii replied by spitting at him, hitting Ishii with an over-the-shoulder legbreaker, an enziguri, and a lifting powerbomb for two! Transition into a kneebar, and as Naito desperately tried to make the ropes, Ishii dragged him back into the middle of the ring for an ankle lock! Bushi and Evil escaped the clutches of Gedo and Evil and took out the referee (poor Red Shoes), then Okada ran in to take care of Evil, dragging him to the back. Headbutt from Ishii. Lariat! One, two, no – two-count only! Sliding lariat for another near-fall. Brainbuster countered at the second attempt to a DDT and both men were down. Diving dropkick from Naito to the back of Ishii’s head. Super frankensteiner for two. Gloria for two. Spinebuster, Destino countered, and Naito was spiked right on top of his head with an inverted brainbuster (gross) for a very near-fall. Brainbuster from Naito – two-count. Koppu kick and a Dragon suplex – another two-count. Elbows from Ishii, a slap and an enziguri from Naito. Headbutt from Ishii, but Naito immediately replied with a jumping forearm off the ropes and connected (just about) with Destino for the win at 33 minutes! Well, the expected result, but Ishii working the leg and the near-submission was a fun strand in the match and almost had me believing he might win. Then, after the second ref bump, we had a parade of near-falls – too many in my opinion – and a reckless head drop from Ishii that somehow didn’t break Naito’s neck. It was overlong, but you can’t fault the effort and ultimately it was a strong first title defence for Naito. ****

Post-match, Okada entered the ring and I think we can assume that they meet again at Dominion. Poor Red Shoes gets misted by Bushi and Naito chucks the title on the floor and cuts a promo to close the show.

Final thoughts: Three matches at **** and several others that were merely very good make for an easily recommended show. It couldn’t compete with the booking of Invasion Attack and neither were there any truly blowaway matches (although Kushida/Liger is my pick of the bunch) but make no mistake, this was yet another in a long run of strong wrestling shows from New Japan. That said, it was way too long and the second half consisted of only singles matches – some variation wouldn’t have gone amiss. 

I’ll be back for Lion’s Gate: Project 2 in a couple of weeks then we’re straight into Best of the Super Juniors. See you then.