Thursday, May 3, 2018

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku Night One Review

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku Night One
May 3rd, 2018 | Fukuoka Convention Center in Fukuoka, Japan

Once again, NJPW has split up one of their major events into two shows. It’s a great business move, but usually leads to weaker cards. Today’s show is headlined by the continuing war between the Bullet Club members, as the Golden Lovers meet Bullet Club members in singles matches. Speaking of the Bullet Club, this show marks their fifth anniversary.

Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Shota Umino and Yota Tsuji
Yujiro brought Mao with him, so this match is already a win. This was your typical NJPW opening tag. Owens and Yujiro continue to develop chemistry, as the latter has been at his best since teaming with him. The Young Lions brought the fire we’ve come to expect from them. Umino nearly managed to steal this with a small package. I appreciate how the fans bite on their near falls, even though they never win. Yujiro worked over Tsuji outside, while Owens beat Umino with a Package Piledriver in 5:30. Inoffensive opener. The winning team has been decent lately and the lions always bring heart and energy.[**¼]

Jushin Thunder Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Tiger Mask IV vs. Ren Narita, Tomoyuki Oka, and AJPW Tag Team Champion Yuji Nagata
I miss Hirai Kawato. He’d have gone right at Liger. Like the opener, this went the way you’d expect. Nagata remains an ageless wonder, as does Liger. The Young Lions were filled with fire in everything they did. You can always count on effort from them. Taguchi looked more impressive than usual, most likely because he’s gearing up for the Best of the Super Juniors. He got saved from a Narita crab and his partners cleaned house. That left Narita alone to fall victim to Dodon, ending this in 7:15. It was alright. Nothing that will stand out and one of hundreds of NJPW undercard tags that are forgettable. [**]

The Killer Elite Squad and Takashi Iizuka vs. Rocky Romero and Roppongi 3K
These RPG 3K and Rocky tags against Suzuki-Gun have been the absolute worst. I’ve only given out two DUD ratings this year (both to NJPW matches) and RPG 3K against SG is one of them. Suzuki-Gun jumped these guys before the bell and beat them around the arena. The match basically went nowhere until Sho rolled up Iizuka to steal it in 2:10. Not much of a match. I hate this feud. [NR]

David Finlay, Juice Robinson, Michael Elgin, Toa Henare, and Togi Makabe vs. NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto, IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Jay White, RPW British Heavyweight Champion Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, and YOSHI-HASHI
Man, CHAOS has a lot of titles. This continues White/Finlay, Henare/Ishii, and Elgin/Goto, which also has a hint of Juice/Goto still lingering. Goto and Elgin went at it first, before we got a rekindling of the lengthy rivalry between Ishii and Makabe. They always just beat the shit out of each other and you’ve got to appreciate that. Finlay took the heat segment, before making the hot tag to Juice. I’m all for Juice vs. Ishii at some point in the near future. G1, maybe? In the end, Henare battled with White and fell to the Blade Runner in 10:25. A good tag match that was the best thing so far. Everyone brought some energy and things moved along nicely. [***]

Juice Robinson had some words with Jay White after the match. Maybe he’s gonna lose another title match.

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Bad Luck Fale and The Guerrillas of Destiny [c] vs. Marty Scurll and The Young Bucks
The Bullet Club buddies shook hands at the start. Marty attacked Fale from behind and ran to tag out, but the Bucks wanted no part of the big man. Though the Bucks worked together to eventually take him down, they got beat up outside. That caused Marty to take a heat segment where Fale literally spent time standing on his ribs. When the Bucks returned to the match, the pace picked up. Marty snapped Fale’s fingers and the Bucks busted out tandem offense. The guys began to escape or block the finishers of the others. Magic Killer wasn’t enough and the Bucks started firing off superkicks. Loa got hit with More Bang For Your Buck and we had new champions after 11:05. Another good match. The crowd didn’t seem to get invested until late and while the action was fine, it lacked something to make it stand out. [***]

Post-match, the former champions handed the titles over in a show of respect.


BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito, and IWGP Tag Team Champions EVIL and SANADA vs. Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr., and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru w/ TAKA Michinoku
TAKA got to continue his role as Suzuki-Gun hype man. Naito didn’t bring out the Intercontinental Title with him, because he still hates it. I don’t like that you’re stuck there either, brother. Suzuki-Gun attacked before the bell because, duh. That set the tone as Suzuki-Gun continues to spend matches against CHAOS by beating them up around the arena and isolating one man. Surprisingly, it was Naito who got isolated here. Sabre and Suzuki had a blast twisting him like a pretzel. Naito eventually made the tag to SANADA, who had some fun back and forth with Sabre. We got the usual barrage late, with EVIL besting Kanemaru following the STO in 13:47. Like most of this show, this was solid, but unspectacular. It’s kind of the same thing we’ve been seeing from these teams for a while now. [**¾]

After the match, the Young Bucks came out and challenged EVIL and SANADA for the Tag Team Titles. Greedy bastards! They superkicked the champs and left, with EVIL accepting the challenge. That match should be fun, but I’m still hoping for EVIL and SANADA against the Golden Lovers.

Hiroshi Tanahashi and KUSHIDA vs. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay w/ Gedo
On one of the “Road to” events, this was a very good (***½) main event. It’s here to build to the two main events on tomorrow’s show. Also, I recently read someone say that Ospreay was a top five wrestler in the world and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that hard in my life. As for tomorrow’s Okada/Tanahashi title match, all I have to say is Save_Us.ACE. Anyway, this worked in the same vein as the 4/27 match. They worked at a quick pace, with some intense exchanges. Ospreay and KUSHIDA had good back and forth, but it was nothing new. The Okada/Tanahashi stuff was way intriguing. Okada has had his number lately, but whenever Tanahashi does get something going, it seems like Okada’s confidence wanes and he becomes worried. Okada did win with a Rainmaker on KUSHIDA in a strong 16:15. It provided us with great action, while building to the bigger singles matches tomorrow. [***½]

Cody vs. Kota Ibushi
Their match at Wrestle Kingdom was one of the better on the card (***½). Back then, the feud wasn’t that personal. Over the past five months, it has picked up in that department and this match was appropriately intense and physical. There was a sense of animosity that other matches on the show didn’t have. However, this was given much more time than their WK match and is one of the biggest examples of more not meaning better. Where that match was tight, this one felt like it plodded on. Moves were done for the sake of moves and everything just felt lethargic. When the Cross Rhodes wasn’t enough, Cody won with a rough looking Kudoh Driver in 23:35. Watch their WK match to see their best. This dragged. [**½]

Hangman Page vs. Kenny Omega
Gedo legitimately booked Hangman Page in a main event. That man is wild. This got started when Kenny saved Kota from an attack by Cody and Page. Considering the men involved, I expected something more high impact. They started with some wild stuff, but really slowed down after. Late, after Page had control for a while, Omega began spamming V-Triggers. I typically enjoy his matches more when he doesn’t go that route. However, they were probably a highlight in this one. Page got knocked loopy by Kenny’s knee at one point and was unable to kick out on his own, even though the referee called it a two count. One Winged Angel eventually finished it in 18:25. A disappointing main event. Like the Cody/Ibushi match, it just never fully clicked and felt more like a collection of moves, rather than a match. [**¼]
Overall: 4.5/10. I’ve said NJPW has been lackluster in 2018, but they’re not usually this mediocre. This show literally had just one match go ***½ and nothing went above it. There’s not a match that’s outwardly bad on it, but it was a big collection of “meh.” If anything, this show is proof that stretching these events out over multiple nights is a bad move in terms of quality.