Saturday, April 23, 2016

NJPW Road to Wrestling Dontaku Review

NJPW Road to Wrestling Dontaku
April 23rd, 2016 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan

A lot of the time, these “Road to” shows are pretty filler. However, the ones in Korakuen Hall this year have mostly delivered. Pair that up with what looks to be a fun card and color me intrigued. Also, the Wrestling Hinokuni show set for the end of April was cancelled due to earthquakes, meaning the card for that show has been spread out. Some were added to Wrestling Dontaku itself and some will be on the other upcoming “Road to” shows, making for some rather important events.

Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi and Tiger Mask IV def. Gedo and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Roppongi Vice in 10:33
Rocky Romero wore his own variation of a Tiger Mask…mask. None of the Chaos members wanted to start against the biggest man in the match, Nakanishi. Barreta lost out and got tossed around for a while. The Chaos members had some fun moments against Nakanishi including Gedo shouting at Roppongi Vice and all three men trying to run back to the corner for comfort at different times. Pretty much everyone got their stuff in, some Nakamura tributes were thrown around and they had fun out there. Taguchi even got Nakanishi to use his ass for offense. Taguchi and Tiger Mask dove outside to take out Roppongi Vice, leaving Gedo to submit to a torture rack. That was inoffensive and rather enjoyable. **½

Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma) def. David Finlay and Jay White in 10:24
The Young Lions that have seemingly wrestled a hundred times teamed up here to take on the former IWGP Tag Team Champions. This put that weak Invasion Attack Tag Team Title match to shame. White and Finlay not only worked like a solid team but they were out to prove how tough they are. It was great seeing Jay White talk trash to Makabe after a hard show to the jaw. No intimidation from either guy. Jay’s loud “FUCK YOU” to Makabe before a missile dropkick was all kinds of awesome and the same goes for Finlay’s “I’M GONNA KILL YOU” to Honma. Their resilient run ended when Honma hit Finlay with Kokeshi Otoshi. After the match, Jay continued to jaw with Makabe and wanted to fight some more. A damn good tag match that made the Young Lions look badass. They were fired up and the former champions seemed motivated to help them look great. ***½

IWGP Tag Team Champions The Guerillas of Destiny def. Captain New Japan and Juice Robinson in 8:13
So the last tag match was really good. This one never really came close. I don’t dislike the Guerillas of Destiny the way a lot of people online do. I actually really like Tama Tonga and think Tonga Roa is alright. Something just hasn’t clicked about their first two tag matches. They worked well as a unit here but this never really got interesting. A lot of that could be chalked up to their opponents this time though. The champs did standard heel tag stuff, Juice did his hot tag offense and Captain New Japan ate the pin after the G.O.D’s finisher, which I don’t know the name of yet. Mostly dull but I wouldn’t say it was outwardly bad. They attacked the Captain and Juice afterwards, so Honma and Makabe made the save to run of them off. 

Jushin Thunder Liger and Yuji Nagata def. NEVER Openweight Champion Katsuyori Shibata and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion KUSHIDA in 17:10
Now we’re talking. When this card was released, this was the match I was most looking forward to. Hell, KUSHIDA and Shibata are two of my three favorite wrestlers in NJPW. There was such a great contrast in programs here. Nagata and Shibata pretty much wanted to kill each other, while KUSHIDA and Liger wrestled to see who the better man was. Nagata and Shibata both kicked each other off of the apron at various times. At one point, Shibata, the illegal man, got kicked off the apron so he came back in, only to get hit with a ridiculous right hand from Nagata. If this was any indication, Shibata/Nagata is going to rule just like it did in the G1 24 two years ago. Liger put KUSHIDA in his own Hoverboard lock but KUSHIDA countered. Shibata stopped Nagata with an abdominal stretch though he fought out and broke up the submission. While they waged war outside, Liger countered KUSHIDA and pinned him with a backslide. This was great. The action was awesome, they didn’t give away too much for Wrestling Dontaku and they made me want to see the matches more than I did coming in. Job well done. After the match, Shibata and Nagata continued to go at it like the badasses that they are. ***¾

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin and Yoshitatsu (c) def. Bad Luck Fale, IWGP Intercontinental Champion Kenny Omega and Yujiro Takahashi in 15:31
The history of these titles is pretty much babyface team vs. random Bullet Club group. Yoshitatsu was in full Triple H mode during his entrance, wearing black and green and spitting water. I thought this was a wise match to put here because it gave the show a title match while also promoting the upcoming Omega/Elgin and Tanahashi/Fale matches. This was about what you’d expect. They teased the Styles Clash on Tatsu again only to have it broken up. Omega accidentally sprayed Fale in the face with the spray can before Tanahashi and Tatsu took him and Fale out. Takahashi nearly stole it with a low blow and roll up but Elgin kicked out before ending him with some powerbombs. Solid six man, but nothing more. **¾

Special Elimination Match: Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, SADANA and IWGP Champion Tetsuya Naito) def. Chaos (Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada, ROH World Television Champion Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI) w/ Gedo in 25:05
I appreciated the little touch of Ishii getting to come out last for his team. Okada is the top star of the Chaos but Ishii is the number one contender for the IWGP Title. SANADA carried a baseball bat with him to the ring. The crowd was pumped for this. Lots of cheers for Chaos but an even bigger reaction for Los Ingobernables. Everybody got to work their Wrestling Dontaku opponents as did YOSHI-HASHI and BUSHI. Naito and Ishii fought on the apron after going over the top. Naito dared Ishii to come for him before just calmly hopping off and getting himself eliminated. He then held Ishii in place so EVIL could eliminate him. He just continues to nail his character. A great exchange between EVIL and Goto saw Goto dump him over the top. BUSHI used the mist to knock Goto off of the apron. Okada fought hard to survive but a SANADA dropkick got rid of him leaving it up to YOSHI-HASHI. He made BUSHI submit and it came down to just him and SANADA. They went back and forth for a while, building some good drama. YOSHI-HAHSI nearly had it on several occasions before submitting to a dragon sleeper. I liked that the final three guys weren’t completely obvious. It was a good change of pace. SANADA came off looking like a somewhat viable threat to Okada. ***½

Los Ingobernables de Japon attacked Chaos, including Gedo after the match and left them lying. Naito cares so little about the title that he threw it at a fallen Ishii and left without it. The reaction for everything Naito and company did was incredible.

Overall: 7/10. Like a lot of the “Road To” shows, this was a rather easy watch. It clocks in at under three hours and three of the six matches were really good and another was pretty good. The opener was decent fun and the only really bad thing on the show was the G.O.D. tag match. This set up Wrestling Dontaku very well, which was ultimately the goal with this show. If you watch this and don’t get more excited for Shibata/Nagata, KUSHIDA/Liger, Okada/SANADA, EVIL/Goto and Naito/Ishii, I don’t know what would. There was also good build for Tanahashi/Fale and Omega/Elgin.