NJPW Wrestling Dontaku on May 3, 2017
Watch: NJPW World
International Center – Fukouka, Japan
After a Wrestling Toyonokuni show highlighted by Hiromu Takahashi vs. Ricochet, New Japan returned on a bigger pedistal with Wrestling Dontaku headlined by Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii and Kazuchika Okada vs. Bad Luck Fale.
In the ‘0 match’ otherwise known as the dark match, Yoshitatsu and Hirai Kawato faced Tomoyuki Oka and Katsuya Kitamura. Fun fact: Yoshitatsu is the worst worker in this match. This was your standard young lion affair with a roadblock of Yoshitatsu thrown in the way. Aside from all the egging on of how bad he is, he did a decent job giving the lions offense while still ‘torturing’ them in his unique soft way. Kawato and Oka haven’t teamed much, so to see a super team between them is highly enjoyable. Yoshitatsu tapped out Kitamura. You read that right. A DAMN SHAME.
In the opener of the show, Bullet Club of Yujiro Takahashi and Chase Owens faced CHAOS of Will Ospreay and YOSHI-HASHI. You are too likely to have a low bar when seeing this match on paper, but it turned out well, hell, close to good for what it was. I sneakily like the team of Yujiro and Owens. Owens can pick up the work on their end, and Yujiro can screw around doing God knows what at times. It works. HASHI took the heat while Ospreay got the hot tag and went nuts, including a Sasuke Special spot. Owens and YOSHI tangled for a New York minute only for Owens to tap to the butterfly lock.
Togi Makabe, Tiger Mask W, and Tiger Mask faced Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, and Jushin Thunder Liger in a short match. There’s not a lot to write home about, but it was neat as always to see the Tiger Mask’s work together in a bro-alliance, doing a lot of their moves in stereo. Nakanishi’s performance has been sadly added to the not memorable/not able to note for WOTYC list. There wasn’t a whole lot as for the match, not even to the point where I can gloat about something that made me happy aside from the Tiger combo. The weakest match on the show though still fine. Makabe got the win for the Tiger Mask team after a king kong knee drop on Nakanishi.
The largest match of the night came in the form of a five-on-five CHAOS vs. Suzuki-gun clash in Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano, Gedo, Beretta, and Rocky Romero vs. Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru. You might have guessed the fact that MiSu and Goto had the best interactions of the match, yet again taking it to the outside where Suzuki choked Goto through a chair…again! Their interactions in these tag matches are only getting hotter and hotter. They get to crank it up while still holding things back for their Dominion rematch. Other than that, a highlight of the show came in the form of a turnbuckle pad pillow fight-esque encounter. Goto won for CHAOS after hitting a GTR on TAKA. Why use TAKA for that?!
Cody made his return to New Japan, facing David Finlay in what was a short, effective match. There’s something about Cody in Japan specifically that makes me latch onto him. It’s his character and aura, combining for something that I believe could become a special hallmark in the newer landscape of the company. He’s able to go further with his American Nightmare persona, evidenced here — while still being able to give guys like Finlay or Juice offense. Finlay more than held his own for a few minutes, but it was the Cody show. He picked up a relatively easy win in his return, with the Cross Rhodes. He caught Finlay off the top rope with it too. You should check out the Cody promo post-match, it was interesting to hear the crowd “oooo and aaaa” a bit after he dropped the mic.
Prior to intermission, it was an all-star tag as Los Ingobernables de Japon of Tetsuya Naito and Hiromu Takahashi faced KUSHIDA and Juice Robinson. It was the most unexpected match of the show, in terms of how it was worked, and the result. It spilled into the crowd fairly quickly, with KUSHIDA being chucked into chairs, with a little bit of walk and brawl thrown into the mix. I wish it lasted a lot longer, but things moved quickly as this match was surprisingly under 10 minutes. The money was in the Naito and Hiromu teamwork. They work well together and would be a great team to spice up a World Tag League tournament. We’re far out from that, but what we’re not far off from is Hiromu running through everyone in his path, having pinned KUSHIDA yet again with the timebomb. Post-match provided one of the best images from the show with Hiromu holding both the Junior and IC titles on his shoulders. Please let that actually happen!
We returned from intermission to the IWGP Tag Team Titles being defended by War Machine of Raymond Rowe and Hanson in a three-team tag against Guerillas of Destiny of Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa, alongside Tenkoji of Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan. It was a decent match but nothing special. At least two out of these three teams are always at least enjoyable, and G.O.D. have gotten a lot better over the past 6 months or so. The highlight of the match came with it picking up, seeing a unique take on a scramble with a bunch of moves hit and spotlight is given to every single person in the match. War Machine and Tenkoji worked together to take out the common G.O.D. enemy, only for Tenkoji to be unsuccessful in their attempt to get their titles back when Fallout ended Kojima.
The NEVER Openweight Six-Man Titles were on the line as the defending champs in Taguchi Japan of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Ricochet faced Los Ingobernables de Japon of BUSHI, EVIL, and SANADA. The match was highly enjoyable with a refreshing twist of LIJ being placed into a few comedy spots. This led to poor Taguchi turning back around on the top turnbuckle only to be beaten down on by all three members. It went 15-minutes and still didn’t feel long. It felt like a 10-minute match that touched on so many subjects, executing plenty of fun spots in the process. The finishing sequence was tremendous with Taguchi being misted by BUSHI, and rolled-up for a kick out, only to then be saved by Tanahashi and Ricochet, then lastly kicking out of the MX codebreaker. After LIJ cleared the ring for the last time, Taguchi was hit with the MX for the second time, as that was enough for LIJ to regain the Six-Man titles.
In my most anticipated match on the show, Kenny Omega and Tomohiro Ishii put the cap on their mini-series of matches that are both blow away. This took a different turn than the last, as the last was more epically built with an insane finishing stretch. The funny thing is, is that this had that as well, but kept an impressive tempo. There were no dull moments or spots that you’d question. It was go-go-go with smart wrestling attached to the hip at every go! Whether it was Omega killing the neck of Ishii (of course, to be sold in Ishii’s Wrestling God mentality), or the escalation that had the crowd even more hyped than their last match, or any other thing you personally pick up on (emotions with their selling, timing, Omega doing the springboard-over-barricade dive, etc) this was a fantastic match and the match of the night. The best moment of the match came when Ishii countered Omega’s One Winged Angel with a reverse frankensteiner, something Omega did to him earlier on. This is the second time in a row where an Ishii reversal to the finisher is the highlight of their match to me. My jaw dropped hard. The story of the match was wrapped up at the end where Ishii was finally put away after a brainbuster/One Winged Angel combo. Ishii this match series, and specifically this match, took all of Kenny’s taunting. He took all of the offense and work on his neck, only to comeback like the Stone Pitbull would, with plenty of convincing near falls, like a goddamn brainbuster off the top rope. Omega had to use the brainbuster to get back at Ishii for using a variation of the Winged Angel for a neckbreaker of his own. I could go on for ages about this, but the attention to detail, improvements/mainstays from the last match, and so much more made this a world class match that you need to see ASAP.
The time came for Kazuchika Okada to defend his IWGP Heavyweight Championship against familiar monster Bad Luck Fale. This match delivered like I expected it to, also continuing the trend of fairly long matches not making me feel the length it was. Although this went 20+ minutes, it felt tightly sewed up by the end. From bell to bell it was a story already laid out to be told — one that was crafted via the selling and babyface talent of Okada specifically. Fale is no slouch in these big matches, pulling out everything from the arsenal to attempt to get a win. He’d work over Okada’s back, decimating it, with Okada in immense pain. Just when you expected Okada to complete a comeback, Fale would stop him in his tracks, in a trend that would be existent up to the finish of the match. We got great near falls in the splash and tombstone, but the match was taken to a new level. Fale went “it’s not over…” to Okada during the trademark finishing stretch of his by hitting him with a modified grenade out of desperation in the rainmaker position. He was hit with the chain rainmaker. Okada kept the grip, got him back up, but Fale STILL fought to get out of it. It was then that I questioned if Okada would even retain, but we were brought back to reality when a thumping last rainamker was hit. Okada retained.
Post-match saw Kenny Omega re-enter the ring to hype up a rematch at Dominion between the two. It will no doubt be one of the most exciting rematches in the history of industry. My favorite part was the fact Omega forgot his towel in the ring. He awkwardly motioned Okada to grab it. Okada wiped his face with it and chucked it onto Omega. I love that type of interaction between guys that had as highly a rated match as anyone ever. Destined rivals fooling around a bit after setting up one of the biggest rematches ever. Banter is life, said The Rainmaker as the fans flooded out of the arena. No, but he sent the fans home happy as we got the prototypical Okada celebration with pyro.
NJPW WRESTLING DONTAKU ON MAY 3, 2017
Good - 7.5/10
I'm feeling a good on NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2017. Although it was about 3 and a half hours with things taken out, a lot of the matches didn't feel the length they went, and we got sure-fire great matches in the co-main, and main events. The undercard developed nicely, the tag matches ranged from decent-very good, and nearly everything on this card will be memorable for one or more reasons. New Japan keeps killing it this year, and Wrestling Dontaku wasn't an exception.