New Japan’s Road to Wrestling Dontaku tour continued on Wednesday – yes, it’s an awkward day for a live televised show – with a rare stop in Hataka, for a card featuring a moved Intercontinental title match.
As we’ve mentioned before, the recent Kumamoto earthquake forced the cancellation of a show that was due to have been held on Friday in Kumamoto. One of the matches from that card was an Intercontinental title match as Michael Elgin challenged for Kenny Omega’s strap. That would be the main event today at the 2,000 capacity Hakata Star Lanes.
Speaking of which, this place looked totally different to New Japan’s usual televised haunts. It’s kinda cool to be able to tell venues apart (hint hint, WWE).
Juice Robinson & Jay White vs. Captain New Japan & David Finlay
Wow, Finlay sure drew the short straw here, huh? Pretty basic stuff here, with White nor Finlay going outside of their usual boxes. Captain New Japan actually got a tag in from Finlay, and took down White with a double shoulder-charge – clearly, Finlay’s not clued up on the captain!
Robinson was eventually tagged in and connected with cannonball dives in the corner to both Finlay and the Captain, with the latter almost stealing the match with a Uranage on Robinson for a two count. However, as White and Finlay were brawling outside, Robinson caught the Captain in a Japanese strangle hold turned into a Camel Clutch for the quick tap-out. A decent, but basic opening match. **½
YOSHI-HASHI & Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask
Beretta lost a game of rock, paper, scissors and “won” the chance to start out against Nakanishi, and that went about as well as you’d expect. Ditto Rocky Romero, after he got tagged in. Hell, even some double teaming with Beretta had limited results.
Ryusuke Taguchi ended up getting tagged him for his hattricks of hip attacks, and it went downhill from there as far as his team went. Nakanishi almost wrecked the crowd barriers after being whipped into there, and Romero continued his one-man mission to unmask Tiger Mask.
Beretta turned a Taguchi hip attack into an atomic drop, before unwisely going for a double-team suplex with YOSHI-HASHI on Nakanishi. For some reason, Nakanishi decided to escort YOSHI-HASHI through the rows of empty seats so he could throw him into a wall at the back of the building, as Romero ripped the mask off of Tiger Mask and rolled it into a small package for the win.
Perfectly acceptable six-man tag – nothing special ***
Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Yoshitatsu vs. Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi
The Bullet Club B-team came next, extending the feud between current IWGP tag team champions (Tama Tonga/Tanga Loa) and the former champs in Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma. I still prefer Yoshitatsu’s old WWE theme – hell, it was just generic library music, why can’t New Japan use that?
Standard fare early on, with Tanga Loa taking it to Honma, before Honma’s brief comeback ended with him missing a falling Kokeshi. Loa’s clothesline off the apron to Yoshitatsu led to the obligatory “everyone fight outside” sequence, which was mercifully brief. Another Honma comeback ended with a whiffed Kokeshi, leading to him and Tonga trading blows, with Tonga scoring a near-fall from a spear.
At the third attempt, Honma connected with a Kokeshi before tagging in Makabe to clean house somewhat. Makabe ended up getting bloodied, and after Honma connected with a top rope Kokeshi on Takahashi, Makabe sealed the deal with a top rope knee-drop for the pin. Not a bad match, although at times it felt like Yoshitatsu and Takahashi were little more than cameos. **¾
Jushin Thunder Liger & Yuji Nagata vs. Katsuyori Shibata & KUSHIDA
Hey, they’re finally doing this match without the add-ons! Shibata came out last and jumped Nagata at the bell, as Liger and KUSHIDA went outside. Shibata pulled out a cool looking spot for a rear chinlock early on, as he pulled Nagata’s t-shirt over his head, resulting in an unusual visual, whilst KUSHIDA kept Liger in a cross armbreaker on the outside.
The overriding theme of this one was Nagata and Shibata beating the ever living heck out of each other, whilst KUSHIDA held his own when he ended up in their with Nagata… although saying that, he springboarded into a crossface, which Shibata nonchalantly broke up with a boot to the face of Nagata. Simple, but effective.
During another brawl outside, Liger wrapped KUSHIDA’s legs around the ringposts and battered them with a chair, and that was whilst he wasn’t even the legal man! When he wa legal, Liger grabbed a figure four leglock and held it in for an age. Nagata continued the focus on the leg, before Liger repeated the earlier steel chair spot, as we found that it takes a LOT to get a disqualification in New Japan.
After an eternity of leg locks, KUSHIDA fought back and made the tag to Shibata, who went back to kicking the tar out of Nagata, but after both men made hot tags to their “junior” partners, Liger found a Ligerbomb attempt on KUSHIDA blocked. The elder attempted an armbar, but that was quickly reversed into a wrist-clutch roll-up, as KUSHIDA snatched the win.
A fun tag match, although I am now more than ready for their singles matches, which will be easily better than these tags ever could have been. ***½
Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & Gedo vs. Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI
Without Milano Collection AT at ringside (and choosing not to antagonise a bandaged Togi Makabe on commentary), Naito was able to make it into the ring without any help. You know the score with these matches – everyone worked against their storyline foes for a while, and sure enough, we opened with Ishii and Naito. Well, they were in the ring when the bell rang, but Naito quickly tagged in BUSHI before anyone touched.
Quick tags in and out as they cycled through storyline opponents, and Okada missed an early Rainmaker on SANADA, who replied with the bodyscissor’d Dragon Sleeper that forced everyone in to break it up. After a reverse neckbreaker from Okada on SANADA, we got EVIL and Goto to continue their entertaining feud – which I hope continues for quite a while, as this could elevate the pair of them, if done right.
Naito and Ishii finally got their turn, and short of the rapid-fire forearm/chop combos from Ishii, Naito just about edged their exchange – at least until Gedo (of all people) interfered to help Ishii superplex Naito in for a two-count. Everyone hit their signature spots, culminating in a backdrop driver on Naito by Ishii, who then drilled BUSHI with a stalling brainbuster for the win.
Like most of New Japan’s eight man tags, this was formulaic but fun. Again, I’m more than ready for these individual feuds to have their first singles matches! ***½
Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Tanahashi has been about the only one to get a consistently-good match out of Fale in recent months, and to some extent, he succeeded again here. They started off playing the big man/little man story, with Tanahashi using his size and speed to try and evade Fale.
The typical Bullet Club outside-the-ring-action saw Fale nearly break the barriers after being whipped into them, before catching Tanahashi’s cross body and turning it into a hard slam on the floor.
The crowd popped for Tanahashi bodyslamming Fale, who responded by tossing the former champion out of the ring… before Tanahashi skinned the cat and used some leg-scissors to take Fale to the outside, where he took a High Fly Flow. Back in the ring, Tanahashi went all Young Lion on Fale with a Boston Crab – which he easily powered out of – before Fale squashed Tanahashi with a sit-out splash and a body splash for a near-fall.
Fale took a superplex, then gave one as the momentum kept switching, with a Fale spear scoring him a two count. A Grenade got Fale even closer to victory, but Tanahashi turned a Bad Luck Fall into a slingblade, before following up with a regular slingblade and the High Fly Flow to score the win. Decent match, but you got the feeling that for a blow-off match, very few took Fale seriously. ***¼
IWGP Intercontinental Title: Michael Elgin vs. Kenny Omega (c)
Well, Omega didn’t have any of his Bullet Club buddies out for this, but he did come out with a load of weapons, including a ladder for some reason. Foreshadowing?
This started off slow with Elgin using his power to dominate Omega, but the champion was quick to use the weapons, with Elgin kicking the freeze spray out of his hands early on, before that ladder came into play. As did the trash can, with Elgin being piledriven onto it on the floor, which was neither a DQ nor a countout. At this point I’m starting to think that manslaughter MAY result in a verbal warning…
Omega wiped out Elgin – and almost the announcing position – with a flip plancha to the floor, with Omega catching his calves badly on the guard rails. Nevermind, it was just a sell job, as Omega pulled out a Japanese table. Those things are indestructible – just ask Maffew of Botchamania! Elgin survived attempts at being booted off the apron and through the table, slingshotting himself back into the ring.
A gorilla press/body slam scored Elgin a near-fall, but his attempt at a deadlift superplex on Omega saw the champion sweep the leg and remain on the apron, before an aborted attempt at suplexing Elgin from the inside out and through the table Elgin hit the deadlift superplex at the second attempt, scoring a near-fall, before finally hoisting up Omega and dumping him from inside the ring and through the table with a powerbomb. Thankfully, the table gave way!
Michael Elgin stopped the referee’s counting out of Omega, and tossed the champion back in to go for the pinfall, but Omega kicked out just before three. Elgin tried to keep up the momentum, but missed a somersault senton off the top rope… only to catch Omega and give him a buckle bomb… with Omega then hitting a reverse ‘rana to counter the Elgin Bomb! Elgin snuck out of a One Winged Angel, but walked into a high knee and a second reverse ‘rana.
Omega switched to a knee-based offence for the finale, which saw him hit a knee trembler for a near fall, before finally hitting the One Winged Angel to score the winning fall. Great match, which probably deserved a bigger stage than a random New Japan televised house show ****
Post-match, Elgin was helped to the back, before his NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team co-champion Hiroshi Tanahashi returned to the scene. Tanahashi wanted a shot at Omega’s Intercontinental title… and in short, Omega said no. The long version was “Omega kicked him in the balls, told him no, then kept attacking him before pinning Tanahashi under a ladder”. Tellingly, Omega said he doesn’t feel like wrestling Tanahashi again “in a regular singles match”. Ladder match incoming!
To be fair, short of beating Bad Luck Fale, Tanahashi hasn’t done much to deserve another shot after being the mystery man that Omega beat to win the title from in the first place. I’d have much preferred Yoshitatsu, him being the self-proclaimed Bullet Club Hunter, and perhaps that is where they’re headed, but I’m not too keen on Tanahashi going back to that title picture so soon.
Compared to the weekend’s two Korakuen Hall shows, this one was much much better, thanks in part to the Intercontinental championship main event. Bring on Wrestling Dontaku on May 3rd!