Wednesday, May 4, 2016
NJPW Wrestling Dontaku Review
Earlier today was NJPW’s big Wrestling Dontaku event. It’s the one big NJPW event that I’ve never seen, having missed it last year.
We saw something open up the Invasion Attack show last month. Like that match, this was exactly what I wanted it to be. Short and to the point. New Japan has found the perfect place for Fale and Takahashi. Have them win these short openers. It gets Yujiro in and out before he can irritate me and allows Fale to be a monster. He put down the Captain with a Grenade. Fine for what it was.
Considering one team had the Young Lions (particularly Finlay who eats all of the pins), the outcome of this was never really in doubt. Everyone got at least a small chance to strut their stuff as you would expect in a multi-man tag. The story here was Will Ospreay. After a spectacular debut at Invasion Attack, he officially inked a deal with NJPW. He was the star here and watching him work with the Young Lions was a blast. He hit his signature corner kick, did a sick dive onto everyone outside and put away Finlay with a springboard cutter. Fun little match here that never overstayed its welcome. Ospreay should be golden in NJPW and is young enough that he can stay for a few years and still move on, to the WWE if he wants, in his prime.
Seriously? Does Gedo just flip a coin in the back to determine if these belts are going to change hands or not? Roppongi Vice came in with a sound strategy, like all heel tandems. They cut the ring in half on their smaller opponent, while talking smack to Ricochet on the apron. They did a good job of cutting off the hot tag and building tension. Ricochet’s hot tag was pretty good but the crowd didn’t seem as hot for it as expected. Part of that is probably because Fukuoka isn’t traditionally a super-hot crowd from what I’ve heard and part might be because it is so hard to care about this division. A good finishing stretch saw Sydal and Ricochet hit their stereo shooting star presses to regain the straps. Better than their Invasion Attack match but not quite as good as their Power Struggle outing last year. The booking of this division continues to suck massive ass.
Goddammit Gedo. Again? The Young Bucks wore jackets and tights with tons of pictures of their faces on them. Oh those guys are so cool. /endsarcasm. Yoshitatsu is even less cool, still doing his poor Triple H cosplay. Despite them coming out with weapons, this was a much calmer match than their Invasion Attack one. At least for the first half or so before things started to break down. A ladder came into play, continuing on the one that Omega used on Tanahashi on the Road to Wrestling Dontaku show last week. Yoshitatsu came in and did his shitty Triple H stuff before eating some superkicks. Omega hit the One Winged Angel and the Elite won back the belts, which are more of a joke than the IWGP Jr. Tag Titles. It’s sad actually. The match itself was pretty much a retread of the stuff we’ve already seen from the guys involved.
The Elite tried to continue the attack on Yoshitatsu after the bell with the ladder but Tanahashi made the save. He slammed Omega on the ladder and went for High Fly Flow but the Bucks pulled Omega to safety. Tanahashi grabbed a microphone and challenged Omega for the Intercontinental Title again. Omega’s response was great, talking about how they don’t usually speak the same language, before saying no to the challenge. He then opens the ladder and only accepts if it is a ladder match. Omega welcomed Tanahashi to “American style”. So it looks like they’re really gonna do it. Should be fun. Expect Dave Meltzer to five star all over it.
Togi Makabe sported a big bandage around his head. The match at Invasion Attack between these two teams was easily the biggest disappointment on the entire card. They brawled early on and gave us one of the lamest countout teases ever. Honma locked the guardrail on Tonga after the referee reached 18. They literally just stopped counting to allow the guys to get back in. I found this to be better than their previous match but still not anything that I would consider really good. Tonga and Roa looked more comfortable together here, though it has been clear which member is better so far. They retained by hitting their double team finisher on Honma. Passable match.
The 2016 Best of the Super Junior field was announced. “A” Block features , Ryusuke Taguchi, , Matt Sydal, Rocky Romero, Gedo, and Matt Jackson. “B” Block has , Tiger Mask IV, , Trent Baretta, Nick Jackson,, and . I’m only really interested in about half of the field, which are the guys that I bolded.
The video package before the match did a good job in recapping Shibata’s “fu*k old dudes” tour over the course of the past few months. These two had such a great match in the G1 Climax two years ago. This felt like the fight that it needed to. Both guys hit each other very hard, there was shoving of the referee and you just got the sense that they wanted to hurt one another. There was a point where Shibata popped up instantly after a suplex and hit a German only for Nagata to get up instantly. Shibata kicked out of a backdrop driver at one before they exchanged some hard shorts, including a vicious Shibata slap. Nagata won out, hit Shibata’s own Penalty Kick and a second backdrop driver to become the new champion. I disagree with the title change since Shibata was having the best run with the title I’ve ever seen, but it was much better than the show’s first two swaps. Great match that was probably a cut below their G1 encounter in 2014.
Another well done video package here as it showed their past matches, Liger being an 11 time Jr. Heavyweight Champion and KUSHIDA’s humble beginnings. Despite things getting heated on the road to Wrestling Dontaku, they opened with a handshake. Liger put his focus on the leg, which he also worked in the lead in to this match. In a move I didn’t expect here, Liger planted KUSHIDA with a goddamn Brainbuster on the concrete! Liger applied his own Hoverboard lock on the champion at one point but went back to the leg when that failed. Liger put one hell of a fight but lost to the Hoverboard Lock after KUSHIDA added extra pressure by pulling back on his fingers. A really good back and forth match. Post-match, we were treated to a show of respect by both competitors.
In a great moment, EVIL met Hirooki Goto in the aisle during his entrance, leading to a brawl. EVIL brought chairs into play and did his now trademark move of wrapping a chair on his opponent’s head and hitting another chair into it. They kept things short and compact, similar to what you’d see in a G1 Climax setting. The final few minutes were really strong, as both guys brought out the big guns and hit some major offense. From seemingly out of nowhere, EVIL struck with the STO and defeated Goto. Big win for EVIL though I have to wonder what the plan is for Goto. He really is seemingly going nowhere fast after a very big 2015. I’d consider this exactly the kind of match I want from these two. It was a vast improvement on their Power Struggle match last November. EVIL has quietly been having a strong 2016.
For those that forgot, SANADA played a huge role in costing Okada the IWGP Heavyweight Title at Invasion Attack. We got the typical New Japan countout tease in the early stages. I do wish this was worked with more urgency from Okada. I’m not saying it had to be just like EVIL/Goto but Okada should be pissed at SANADA and want to take him out. He did eventually show a bit more of a mean streak as evidenced by a DDT off the guardrail on the outside. Like the previous match and most Okada matches, the finishing stretch was really strong. SANADA got a fair amount of shine and even countered the Rainmaker into a dragon sleeper, only for Okada to roll through that with a tombstone. He followed with the Rainmaker and bested SANADA. Most of this was standard Okada fare but I liked a good chunk of what I saw from SANADA. ***¼
Again, another top notch video package. It focused on how Los Ingobernables, and mainly Tetsuya Naito have taken over. Fans love heel Naito but hated cheesy babyface Naito. Ishii and Naito have spectacular chemistry, with some classics in 2014 and a great match in the New Japan Cup this year. This was also Ishii’s first shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Title. Ishii went after the leg, which was a welcome choice since he doesn’t do it often. Naito’s selling of the leg throughout was top notch, as he’d leave it limp at times. Watching Ishii twist and bend his legs in weird ways was great. EVIL and BUSHI got involved but were held back by Okada and Gedo. When they did get in, Okada and Gedo took them out and headed to the back with them, leaving this as a one on one encounter. Even though most of us came in fully expecting Naito to retain, there were several moments where they made you believe Ishii would actually do it. Naito got to show off some power with a few suplexes on Ishii that I didn’t expect. He also fired off a series of strikes, including a vicious slap but Ishii came back with his own and a big headbutt. Finally, after having it countered multiple times throughout the match, Naito hit Destino and retained. A fantastic performance from two of my favorite wrestlers. Even the involvement of Chaos and Los Ingobernables de Japon wasn’t a negative here as it made sense and eventually led to a great one on one showing.
Overall: The second half of this show really saved it. Most of the stuff that came before intermission was lackluster. The opener and eight man tag were relatively fine and short. The Jr. Tag Title match was pretty good, but the NEVER Tag and Tag Title matches both lacked. Everything after was pretty top notch. Nagata/Shibata ruled, Liger/KUSHIDA was excellent, EVIL and Goto went to war, we got a typical Okada match and an awesome main event featuring two of the very best around. Definitely check out the second half of the show because it was pretty much the best five match stretch I think I’ve seen in 2016.