Saturday, April 22, 2017

NJPW Road to Wrestling Dontaku Review

NJPW Road to Wrestling Dontaku
April 22nd, 2017 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan

Hirai Kawato vs. Syota Umino
Umino is a newer young lion and the son of referee Red Shoes. He debuted on the recent Lion’s Gate show, which I saw most of, but didn’t have time to review. Kawato is one of the more fun young lions, connecting with the crowd through his willingness to take a beating and bump like a madman. They worked some solid back and forth, which was helped by the crowd being into it. Kawato tried a few quick pins but Umino responded with forearm shots. Umino survived a camel clutch, but couldn’t escape the young lion crab. He tapped when Kawato added the knee to the back at 4:49. Short, sweet and energetic. Kawato continues to be a blast, while Umino was solid in his Korakuen debut. [**¼]

Tomoyuki Oka vs. YOSHI-HASHI
I firmly believe that Oka can be a big player once his young lion stuff is up. He brought the power here, sending YOSHI to the mat with a shoulder block. Pissed as this young boy for kicking his ass a bit, YOSHI upped the aggression with loud chops before wearing him down a bit. YOSHI called for Oka to hit him harder but YOSHI continued to shrug his shots off. Oka brought a spinebuster and saito suplex when YOSHI fought off the crab. YOSHI slapped the crab on him. I guess even after your young lion status is over, you never forget these things. Oka tried fighting off the butterfly lock but had to submit at 9:43. Another solid match involving a good young lion. Oka got a good amount of offense, while YOSHI still managed to look superior. I hope they don’t send Kawato or Oka off to ROH or something for an excursion. I don’t think it’ll help them as much as sticking around. [**½]

Jado and Toru Yano vs. TAKA Michinoku and Takashi Iizuka
This sounded like absolute dog shit from the start. And I say it as a guy who enjoys Yano and thinks TAKA is solid. Iizuka has been awful since the Suzuki-Gun return and Jado is the worst wrestler in NJPW. They brawled outside during introductions because it’s Suzuki-Gun. Jado took the heat, while Suzuki-Gun worked all their usual bullshit. Underhanded tactics galore. This went on for what seemed like forever. Iizuka saved TAKA from a crossface, then used the iron hand or whatever on Jado, ending it at 9:33. I take back everything I said about CHAOS vs. Bullet Club sucking. I’ll take that any day over CHAOS vs. Suzuki-Gun. Yano wasn’t as entertaining as usual and Jado continues to suck the life out of everything he’s involved in. [½*]

Bullet Club (Chase Owens, The Guerrillas of Destiny and Yujiro Takahashi) vs. David Finlay, Katsuya Kitamura and TenKoji
Sometimes, the New Japan Dads like to team with their kids. Kitamura looked to make an early impression, demanding to start for his team. Owens saw Kitamura flex and was like “NOPE” and tagged Tama Tonga in. The numbers game eventually overcame him. After a brutal chop to Owens, Kitamura tagged Tenzan. Time for the dads to teach their sons a thing or two. Finlay came in and took a bit of a beating to give the heels the advantage. Kojima got the next big tag, lighting up the BC with chops. Roa cursing up a storm while taking them was funny, which is all I think he’s good for. Kitamura got a hot tag and ran wild. Dude is absolutely ripped. Unfortunately, he’s still a young lion, so he was here to eat the pin, falling to a Yujiro DDT at 11:36. This was better than expected. Everyone seemed to bring something to the table, with Kitamura showing a ton of fire. I’m liking this crop of young lions. [**¾]

CHAOS (NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto, Roppongi Vice and Will Ospreay) vs. Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Taichi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
This is to build the upcoming Jr. Tag Title match with Roppongi Vice and the NEVER Title match between Goto and Suzuki. Guess how this one started? A Suzuki-Gun attack during introductions. How original. Following some floor brawling, RPG Vice took over inside. Things went back outside for a bit, and Rocky ended up taking the heat for his guys. We got Goto vs. Suzuki, which was good hard hitting fun and a small sample of their upcoming match. Suzuki worked a knee bar but Goto reached the ropes. Ospreay ended up getting worked over by the three heel juniors but was saved by his teammates. The final stretch saw everyone get involved and RPG hit stereo suicide dives. Ospreay got left alone with Desperado and hit a flurry of offense capped with the Oscutter to win at 13:52. I enjoyed this despite the similar formula in all Suzuki-Gun matches and the Jr. Tag Champions being shit. There was enough energy from Ospreay and manly battling between Goto and Suzuki to make up for it. Also, Will’s win gives him some momentum before BOTSJ. [***]

Juice Robinson, YOSHITATSU, NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champions Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ricochet and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito)
Oh, fuck. YOSHITATSU is back. This is the latest chapter in LIDJ vs. Tanahashi and his lads, though they came out to Juice’s theme here. This builds Ricochet/Hiromu (which should be phenomenal since Hiromu is legitimately up for WOTY so far), a future NEVER Tag Title match, Tanahashi/EVIL and Juice/Naito. Naito literally kicked the IC Title to the ring. This started with yet another before the bell brawl. So uncreative. Naito got stuck taking a series of corner attacks from the lads. There were some good spots, like Naito pulling Juice’s hair for added leverage and Tanahashi doing a double dragon screw on SANADA and EVIL. Ricochet and Juice showed off some great tandem offense that made me want to see them as a straight tag team, even for just a few matches. YOSHITATSU gets left alone to take a kicking and taps to Skull End at 9:51. This was an awesome sprint. These guys all click and Ricochet killing it canceled out YOSHITATSU’s awfulness. Non-stop action and it made me want to see the upcoming bigger matches even more. [***½]

After the match, Naito jumped Juice, SANADA tied up Taguchi outside and Takahashi showed off his strange dolls with his and Ricochet’s names on them.

Bad Luck Fale and Kenny Omega vs. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii
Fale meets Okada and Ishii takes on Omega at Wrestling Dontaku. Oh shit. We got black tights/no shirt Omega, which typically means he cares about this match. Okada and Fale started, with Fale beating him down. Ishii came in and took the heat, with Fale and Omega using quick tags to keep him in their corner. Their offense wasn’t anything special but Ishii sells so well that you feel sympathy for him. Ishii made the hot tag but Okada fucked up and tried to slam Fale. He failed at first but used a head of steam to nail it the second time. The interactions between Ishii and Omega were great and their rematch could be even better than the New Japan Cup outing. Ishii fought off the One Winged Angel a bunch again. They ended up outside, while it came down to Fale and Okada. Okada escaped the Grenade but then fell to his own tombstone at 17:19. This was a really good main event. Omega and Ishii were awesome together and Fale was booked tremendously. He looked like a threat and pinning Okada with his own move was a great decision. I’m slightly more interesting in their match now. [***½]

After the match, Fale beat down on Gedo and hit the Grenade on Okada. Omega cut a promo about the title coming to the Bullet Club. When Ishii interrupted, Omega ordered Fale to splash him.

Overall; 6/10. Standard “Road to” show from NJPW. An undercard that featured some solid but unspectacular matches before things picked up in the second half. An easy way to spend two and a half hours (especially if you skip Jado) but if pressed for time, just check out the final two matches.