Monday, April 24, 2017

NJPW Road to Wrestling Dontaku Review

NJPW Road to Wrestling Dontaku
April 23rd, 2017 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan

Hirai Kawato and Tomoyuki Oka vs. Katsuya Kitamura and Syota Umino
It’s a young lion battle! Kawato and Oka are my favorites right now, so it was cool to see them team up. Kawato beat up Umino, looking happy to have someone he can do that to. He and Oka took turns working him over and avoiding the jacked monster that is Kitamura. Kitamura got the hot tag and had a fun exchange with Oka. I’m looking forward to future wars between them. Umino became legal again and survived the young lion crab from Oka. Oka hit a powerslam and put it back on to win at 7:59. The young lions are always fun. They all bring energy and that Oka/Kitamura exchange felt like something we’ll be seeing on bigger shows in a few years. [***]

El Desperado and TAKA Michinoku vs. Jado and Will Ospreay
Pair the exciting Ospreay with the most boring man in NJPW, Jado. Ospreay started quickly, trying to bring some fun to the match. Jado came in and everything went to shit. Desperado did his best to make Jado look good, but it’s impossible. Ospreay got choked with a chair, leading to a heat segment on Jado. Ospreay got the hot tag and again, brought energy. They overcame some typical Suzuki-Gun underhanded tactics and Ospreay pinned TAKA after the Oscutter at 8:08. Bland as hell when Jado was in, with Ospreay providing a bit of relief. Somehow, this is the best Jado match since Wrestle Kingdom I think. [*¾]

The Bullet Club (The Guerillas of Destiny and Yujiro Takahashi) vs. David Finlay and TenKoji
I stand by my thought process that Finlay is TenKoji’s adopted son. They previewed TenKoji against Haku’s kids a bit since they’re both part of a three way Tag Title match at Wrestling Dontaku. The NJPW tag division is a joke. It’s these two teams and War Machine. Tenzan got worked over by the three BC members for a bit. Kojima got tagged and brought chops with him. Yujiro came in and ate the Koji Cutter. It came down to Yujiro and Finlay, with Finlay picking up several near falls. Yujiro got the win though, hitting Pimp Juice at 9:47. Standard stuff from these guys. Nothing you need to see.[**]

CHAOS (NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto, Roppongi Vice and Toru Yano) vs. Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Taichi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Again, this is here to build RPG Vice/shitty Jr. Tag Champions and Suzuki/Goto. Of course, this started with the typical Suzuki-Gun brawl around the ring. Yawn. The Jr. tag teams faced off and Beretta even got to steal the bell hammer from Taichi. More brawling outside followed, with Suzuki and Goto fighting through the entrance and bringing a chair into play. Back inside, Beretta tried standing up to Suzuki but got his ass kicked for it. Besides the preview for upcoming matches, we got some Yano/Iizuka interactions, which weren’t great. RPG Vice stopped Iizuka from using his iron hand and Yano rolled him up to take it at 11:39. Multi-man tags follow similar formulas, but the Suzuki-Gun ones are already tired and dull. There wasn’t even enough Goto/Suzuki interactions to save this. [**]

BUSHI, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi and SANADA vs. YOSHITATSU and NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champions Ricochet and Ryusuke Taguchi
Hey, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this specific LIDJ combination before. Takahashi and Ricochet started, giving the impression that their upcoming match is gonna be wild. YOSHITATSU had half his face painted like the Japanese flag. The match dipped in quality whenever he came in. Taguchi came in and got worn down by LIDJ with frequent tags. Ricochet eventually got the hot tag and worked the crowd into a frenzy. There was a great spot where Takahashi caught a handspring elbow into a German suplex. They made the mistake of tagging TATSU back in. He did hit an ugly looking Pedigree but only got a near fall. We got a flurry of offense from everyone before SANADA made TATSU tap to the Skull End at 9:30. As usual, LIDJ delivers the goods in a multi-man tag. Ricochet has been a breath of fresh air in these combos too. [***]

The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens and Kenny Omega) vs. CHAOS (IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI)
Okada and Fale opened things, previewing their Wrestling Dontaku match. Fale held serve, continuing the story of his dominance over Okada. YOSHI and Ishii came in and did their thing after, before Ishii ran into a double superkick from Owens and Omega. Ishii got worked over in the Bullet Club corner for a lengthy period. It was easily the longest of the night. Ishii made a comeback but was cut off by a rana from Omega. He still found a way to make the hot tag to Okada. He did well but continued the angle of wanting to prove how much better he is than his opponent and it costed him here. Okada got out of trouble by tagging YOSHI and things broke down. Ishii and Omega cancelled one another out, Fale took out Okada with the Grenade and then again used the tombstone, this time on YOSHI. He placed Owens on top for the three count at 15:17. Another solid match here. They’re doing better than usual in building up Fale, while the Omega/Ishii interactions were again a highlight.[***¼]

EVIL and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito vs. NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi and Juice Robinson
GO ACE! Juice grew tired of watching Naito kick the title to the ring and launched himself onto him with a plancha. See, Gedo? You do know how to get to the brawling outside part without the heels having to jump the faces. Tanahashi and Juice were in control until a cheap shot form EVIL allowed LIDJ to swing the momentum. EVIL got to do his corner chair spot to Tana before smashing it over Juice’s leg while on the guardrail. Look at them setting up Naito’s knee bar. That led to Juice taking the heat and selling his leg. EVIL toyed with him at times. Tanahashi got the hot tag and proceeded to kick EVIL’s ass. I was happy to see some Tanahashi/Naito interaction after their awesome Wrestle Kingdom match. We got more of Juice and Naito going at it, with Juice bringing fire. Down the stretch, we got the barrage of signature moves from everyone. Juice and Tana busted out a double team slingblade. Juice took Naito out with a huge lariat before hitting Pulp Friction on EVIL. High Fly Flow finished him at 21:33. Best thing on the show and it was on its way to being a great match but it felt long by the final stretch. My favorite part was seeing Juice counter Destino, which adds intrigue to their upcoming title match. There was a fair amount of action and good build for the 4/29 show, which is all I can ask for. [***½]

Overall: 5.5/10. Not as good as yesterday’s show. Again, the final two matches were the highlights but neither was anything that I’d consider must-see. However, the show did do a fine job of building to the bigger upcoming shows and are always easy watches thanks to their runtime. Give me more young lions and less Suzuki-Gun though.