Wednesday, May 3, 2017

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku Review

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku
May 3rd, 2017 | Fukuoka International Center in Fukuoka, Japan | Attendance: 6,126

A few days ago, there were still plenty of seats available for this show but all of a sudden, NJPW ended up drawing more for this event than they did last year. Impressive. It’s the final show in a week full of them. The first one was lackluster and the second had a slow first half but a great final few matches. This show also features the BOTSJ participant announcements as well as gives us some setup for Dominion.

Hirai Kawato and YOSHITATSU vs. Katsuya Kitamura and Tomoyuki Oka
This was considered a pre-show dark match, but if you’re gonna air, it’s not a dark match. Thought it was free on NJPW World apparently. YOSHITATSU’s hair is the worst. Like, it’s somehow worse than the man himself. I enjoyed seeing Oka and Kitamura as teammates since they’re usually going at it. YOSHI couldn’t hang with Oka and then Kitamura tossed Kawato all over the place. YOSHI got a mild tag, yet remained the worst thing about any match he’s in. He nearly dropped Oka on his head on a hip toss. In the end, he made Kitamura tap to a modified knee bar at 7:54. I found this quite entertaining when it didn’t involve YOSHITATSU. The young lions continue to impress. [**]

The official card began now. 

Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Will Ospreay and YOSHI-HASHI
Before the CHAOS/Bullet Club main event, we got this. CHAOS continued to not have Bullet Club scouted and fall into a pre-match attack. YOSHI got worked over as the Bullet Club took turns with quick tags on him. His hot tag to Ospreay got a great reaction. Despite not doing anything of note since last year’s Dominion, Ospreay is still quite popular. The BC turned it around and it was now Ospreay who needed to make a tag. When YOSHI got it, he had to fight off a Package Piledriver before besting Owens with the Butterfly Lock at 6:53. This was fine. Putting the focus on the junior guys before the tournament was a good idea. [**¼]

Jushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata vs. Tiger Mask IV, Tiger Mask W and Togi Makabe
Kota Ibushi in a mask and a whole bunch of New Japan Dads. Well, I guess Togi isn’t one yet. The Tiger Mask duo worked together early on before Liger came in and put Tiger Mask IV in his place. IV was in trouble until hitting the Tiger Drive on Nagata for two. Things built to tags to Makabe and Nakanishi. The two brutes ran into each other like brick walls colliding. You know it’s not a “Road to” show because Makabe was out there bumping. Tiger Mask W broke up a torture rack spot, allowing Makabe to hit a lariat and the King Kong Knee Drop for the win at 7:06. Decent fun here. Tiger Mask W got to do his thing a bit and the dads all put in effort. Hell, even Makabe tried. [**¼]

Post-match, Liger shook hands with Tiger Mask W but flipped off Makabe.

CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Jado, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Roppongi Vice and Toru Yano) vs. Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado, NEVER Openweight Championship Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku and Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
In the most shocking moment of the evening, Suzuki-Gun attacked before the bell. They attempted to work over Romero but he was all, “FOREVER” and delivered all the clotheslines. Jado tried to take over but sucks, so he ended up taking the heat. During this time, Suzuki-Gun did their typical stuff behind the referee’s back and some outside brawling. The hot tag went to Yano, who brought comic relief. Callis called for a Suzuki/Yano match at some point. He must have missed their never ending feud a few years ago. It came down to a battle between Suzuki and Goto. Their tag interactions have been much better than the singles match they had earlier this week. Romero helped Goto escape the Gotch piledriver and was left alone with TAKA. He hit USHIGOROSHI and GTR to win at 12:20. Fun match and one of the better Suzuki-Gun outings in 2017. The limited Suzuki/Goto interactions are much preferred to their singles match and everyone else was at least somewhat fun, sans Taichi. [**¾]

Hirooki Goto and Minoru Suzuki brawled after the match. There’s most likely a rematch coming at Dominion.

Cody Rhodes vs. David Finlay
I appreciate them throwing a singles match in here. Commentary hyped Cody as a “box office attraction.” When Cody couldn’t get an early advantage, he resorted to hair pulling and some old school heel tactics. Cody’s heat segment felt uninspired and lacked something. Finlay started a rally by countering the Disaster Kick but they made a disaster of the spot and fell awkwardly. Finlay followed with a dead lift German and running uppercut but couldn’t survive Cross Rhodes, losing at 7:31. Like most of Cody’s post-WWE run, this was missing something. It fell way flat and that’s unfortunate since I like both guys. [**]

Cody cut a promo after the match, telling NJPW to send him someone bigger and stronger.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito vs. Juice Robinson and KUSHIDA
This continues the LIDJ/Taguchi Japan rivalry. Juice and KUSHIDA lost to these two in title matches recently. KUSHIDA hasn’t been heard from since losing to Hiromu in about two minutes last month. In this building last year, Naito had the best IWGP Heavyweight Title match of 2016 (against Ishii). KUSHIDA and Juice weren’t into typical babyface nonsense, and they took LIDJ outside for a brawl. It backfired and KUSHIDA took a beating inside. Though Juice got a hot tag, the dude still sold his leg from the match a few days ago. Props. The finishing stretch saw KUSHIDA counter the sunset flip bomb and Juice nail a spinebuster. KUSHIDA looked to have the match in hand until taking a German suplex. Hiromu delivered the corner DVD and beat KUSHIDA again with the Time Bomb at 9:00. Best thing on the show thus far. LIDJ brought the set up in quality that I’ve come to expect from them. There was a lot of action, they told a good story and continued the angle of Hiromu having KUSHIDA’s number. [***¼]

During intermission, the blocks for the Best of the Super Juniors Tournament were announced.

A Block: Jushin Thunder Liger, Ricochet, Dragon Lee, Will Ospreay, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku, Marty Scurll (!!) and Hiromu Takahashi.

B Block: Tiger Mask IV, Ryusuke Taguchi, KUSHIDA, Volador Jr., ACH, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado and BUSHI.

The “A Block” certainly seems to be superior on paper. Liger will bring it in his final BOTSJ, Scurll is all kinds of interesting and then Lee, Ospreay, Ricochet and of course, Hiromu, should all bring it. However, I could do without another Ricochet/Ospreay match for a while. I’d personally love it if Liger won the whole thing in his final run and set up an awesome match with Hiromu at Dominion.

IWGP Tag Team Championship: War Machine (c) vs. The Guerillas of Destiny vs. TenKoji
This is NJPW’s heavyweight tag team division. Like, that’s it. Instead of guys doing nothing or fighting for the NEVER Tag Titles, other teams could be formed to help the division, even temporarily like SANADA and EVIL or Tanahashi and Elgin. Anyway, War Machine had some new entrance gear, which looked cool. The teams argued before getting right into the action. Once TenKoji started getting their shit in, the fans got way into it. The Guerrillas took over and Kojima took the heat. Tanga Roa did his loud cursing, giving us the one thing he does well. Kojima nailed the Koji Cutter before Hanson came in with a flurry of offense. I loved watching Rowe lean into Tama Tonga’s shots like they were nothing. TenKoji did some tributes to Tomoaki Honma and things picked up big time down the stretch. The Guerrillas cut off War Machine’s popup powerslam but then got hit with 3D by TenKoji. Tenzan managed some decent height on his spinning heel kick, so you know he was feeling good today. He went for the moonsault but War Machine cut it off and hit Fallout to retain in 11:43. That turned out to be better than expected. It started slowly but picked up late for some fun back and forth and lots of action.[***¼]

Post-match, the Guerrillas jumped War Machine, most likely setting up a match at Dominion.

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ricochet and Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs. BUSHI, EVIL and SANADA
These titles have been traded between Tanahashi teams and these LIDJ members in 2017. The champs had matching jackets. While Tanahashi and EVIL got started, BUSHI got in a cheap shot, so Taguchi responded by pulling EVIL’s hair. They ran the spot again where the “send opponents into Taguchi’s ass” attack backfires. Ricochet took the bump into the ass with no hands to block. That guy’s gutsy. That led to Taguchi in turmoil until Ricochet got the hot tag. As always, he was a blast to watch. He flew with such ease, taking out all three LIDJ members. It made me sad we’re not getting Ricochet/BUSHI in the BOTSJ. Taguchi Japan did a trio of submissions before Tanahashi looked for High Fly Flow, only to eat EVIL’s knees. Taguchi came in with ass attacks. Following a ref bump, Taguchi made BUSHI tap to an ankle lock. BUSHI retaliated by spitting the mist and hitting MX but Ricochet broke up the pin. EVIL and SANADA took out Ricochet and Tanahashi, leaving BUSHI to hit a second MX that ended it at 15:48. A damn good match with plenty to enjoy. The entire match had action throughout and again, Ricochet has been a welcome addition to the Taguchi Japan/LIDJ rivalry since his interactions are still fresh. [***½]

Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii
I admittedly overrated their first match (had it at ****¾ but it was closer to ****¼), but it was still awesome. Ishii own that one. Omega had his big match black tights on. Ishii charged instantly, overwhelming Omega with a huge burst of offense. As they fought outside, Ishii attempted a One Winged Angel as he was in the mindsight of ending this early. There was a tremendous countout tease where Omega apron bombed Ishii at the count of 16. Ishii barely made it back in and wisely rolled back outside for a breather. I loved that because he used a burst of energy to beat the count but didn’t have enough to get right back into the mix. Back inside, Omega got in the driver’s seat until Ishii fired up and no sold his chops. He hit a stalling superplex for two and then the match kicked into next gear. Madman Omega nearly overshot Ishii with a springboard cross body over the guardrail. They ran a fast exchange, capped by Omega hitting one of his best V-Triggers ever. Just when it seemed like Omega had it won, Ishii turned the tide and hit his own version of the One Winged Angel, followed by the sliding lariat for two. They traded shots and near falls until Omega hit a 2K1 Bomb. As he went for the One Winged Angel again, Ishii countered with A GODDAMN REVERSE RANA! They went back to trading blows. Omega hit another knee and a brainbuster for a close near fall. Omega finally connected on the One Winged Angel to win at 23:55. That ruled. It was better than their New Japan Cup outing. I loved how they played off their previous interactions and showed how they’ve come to know one another. I dug both guys stealing each other’s moves too. Omega fought Ishii’s style and survived it before hitting the finisher that has been protected so well to win. Omega’s best match since the Naito one. [****½]

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Bad Luck Fale
As has been the case in the buildup, Fale overpowered Okada right from the start. They battled outside, where Okada teased murder with a Bad Luck Fall outside but Okada got free. Though that didn’t happened, Fale still beat him up out there and it led to a countout tease. Once inside, Fale wore down Okada with his size. Okada nailed a DDT out of desperation and, after some outside work, could win by countout. However, that’s not what Okada’s been all about during this reign, so he takes it back inside. He wants to beat his opponents and show he’s better than them. He horribly bumped for the Grenade and it looked like shit. Okada fought off the tombstone, which he’s lost to in the lead-in to this show, and nailed one of his own. Fale avoided the Rainmaker, leading to some near fall spots for both men. Each time Okada looked for momentum, Fale cut him off. His connected tombstone led to the best near fall of the match. Okada countered the Bad Luck Fale and did his Rainmaker “wrist clutch” spot. I still say he does that too often. He held on enough to hit a second, a German and a third Rainmaker to retain at 21:47. This was about what I expected. Fale has proven he can go with the right opponent and match type (see: Shibata, Tanahashi, Nakamura, etc.). Okada bumped well, Fale looked like a monster and they told the right story. [***½]

The Bullet Club checked on Fale but Okada didn’t care. He called out Kenny Omega and the two had a face off. I like the idea that Okada challenged Omega. It plays into the prideful Okada angle we’ve seen. Beating Omega at Wrestle Kingdom wasn’t enough. He’s bothered that people said Omega outperformed him that night (he did) and has to prove he’s the best. The fans were firmly behind Omega here.

Side note, I expect Dominion to be a damn good show but booking a bunch of WK rematches (Omega/Okada, Tanahashi/Naito, RPG Vice/Bucks is most likely) feels lazy. Add in the possibility of Suzuki/Goto and a Jr. Title match we’ve seen before and it’s rematch city.

Overall: 7/10. Like the other two shows NJPW held in the past week, this first half is solid but unspectacular, while the second half is where things picked up. To be fair, it picked up just before intermission with the LIDJ tag. Fale/Okada and the NEVER Tag Title match were both really good, the IWGP Tag Title match was fun and Omega/Ishii was the best match in NJPW since Shibata/Okada, though below that one.