Friday, April 29, 2016
The final broadcasted Road to Wrestling Dontaku show before the big event itself on the third. Right off the bat, I’d like to point out that this is a different arena than we usually see giving the show a different feel to most other NJPW shows. It’s nothing major but I like it.
Captain New Japan has the best entrance video in all of NJPW. Picture a worse looking Hurricane tron. Considering one team had the Captain, who is the king of taking losses, and Finlay, who loses all of the time to White, the outcome of this seemed rather obvious. White and Finlay were good but Juice and the Captain had an awkward bit of a botch at one point. While the Young Lions went at it outside, Robinson made the Captain submit to his camel clutch variation, known as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Clutch. I kid you not. Match was short and mostly inoffensive.
No mask for Rocky Romero this time around. Baretta lost rock, paper, scissors again and had to start the match. He’s terrible at it. This was very similar to a match they ran last week but that one had Gedo instead of YOSHI-HASHI. Nakanishi played the big dude that was mostly unaffected by Roppongi Vice’s offense. Taguchi again got Nakanishi to do the ass attack, which still makes me laugh. Rocky, being a dastardly heel, tried to unmask Tiger Mask before rolling him up to steal it. I suspect they meet in the Best of the Super Juniors Tournament. It’s been a decent mini-feud. The match was almost a carbon copy of the Gedo one.
The Yoshitatsu Triple H cosplay stuff is strange and I’m not really a big fan of it. While this wasn’t much longer than the previous match, it certainly felt like it. Something about the Guerillas of Destiny and Great Bash Heel just hasn’t meshed yet and it still didn’t here. Add in Yoshitatsu, who is decent and Takahashi, who sucks ass, and you’ve got a recipe for something unentertaining. Yoshitatsu doing HHH’s entrance is one thing but he tried, and failed with Hunter’s offense here. His spinebuster looked anemic. It’s just not working. Makabe got the final and ran over his opposition before pinning Takahashi with the King Kong Knee Drop. This dragged on and made me less interested in the upcoming Tag Team Title match, which I was already not looking forward to.
Here we had a rematch from an earlier Road to Wrestling Dontaku show. That match was pretty great as these two singles matches are probably my most anticipated at Wrestling Dontaku. No wasted time here as Shibata attacked once he entered the ring. He applied a sleeper with Nagata’s shirt pulled over his head, which made me chuckle. Every interaction in this match was really good, regardless of who was wrestling who. Things got violent as Liger brought a chair into play and bashed KUSHIDA’s leg with it. It’s a side of Liger we don’t see often. Shibata and Nagata continued to go to war and it was glorious. KUSHIDA, despite the bad leg, was able to roll up Liger and defeat him, evening the score from their tag match heading into the title match. Like their previous encounter, this rule was some damn fine wrestling.
Like most “Road to” multi-man tag matches, this was pretty standard. Everyone got a chance to work their Wrestling Dontaku opponents, while Gedo and BUSHI were kind of just there. SANADA seemed to have the upper hand on Okada, which we don’t see very often. I fully expect Okada to win at the event but it is a bit refreshing. The interactions between Naito and Ishii were probably the best thing about this. Ishii has proven that he has really good chemistry with almost everyone, but there’s something about his work with Naito that stands out. It’s nearly on the level of Ishii/Honma. Ishii got the pin, of course on BUSHI, with a Brainbuster, building momentum for his title match. This was relatively fine, though nothing special.
I feel like I’ve seen this a lot. They’ve wrestled a few times in the G1 and two or three times since then. I believe Fale has a winning record over Tanahashi too. Anyway, this went about the same way as their previous matches. Tanahashi has always played to Fale’s strengths very well, even when it is a time wasting feud like this one. It didn’t click as well as some of their previous matches unfortunately, but still managed to be better than some other Fale bouts. Tanahashi took it easy for the most part, spending most of the match selling before making the big comeback and picking up the fine.
This was Kenny Omega’s first title defense despite winning the belt way back in mid-February. Without his Bullet Club buddies at ringside, Kenny Omega resorted to bringing weapons into play to try and level the playing field against the much bigger Michael Elgin. They didn’t do anything groundbreaking with them, but tables and ladders are more effective in NJPW since they’re used so rarely. There was some really solid back and forth throughout this as well as some big spots from both men. The biggest came when Elgin powerbombed Omega to the outside and through a table. Like I said, it doesn’t happen often, so the impact was bigger. Omega survived and went for a top rope move but slipped, leading to a bit of an awkward moment. Elgin used another powerbomb for the closest near fall of the match before a trio of knee strikes and an impressive One Winged Angel allowed Omega to retain. Better than I expected as these two had a different match than we’re used to seeing in NJPW. Bravo.
After the match, Tanahashi came out and challenged Omega to an Intercontinental Title match at Dominion. Omega responded with an “I’ll think about it” before a low blow. Omega brought out a ladder, set it up over Tanahashi and said he doesn’t feel like facing him ever again. I wonder if they would actually do a New Japan ladder match.
Overall: A mixed bag compared to some of the pretty good “Road to” shows earlier in the week. The main event is definitely worth going out of your way to see but everything else is rather pedestrian. Well, the KUSHIDA/Shibata tag was pretty rad too. Everything else is an easy skip in a very middle of the pack show.