The road to Wrestling Dontaku heads to Hiroshima, as we get a pair of LIJ vs. United Empire singles matches as feature bouts today.
Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & Minoru Suzuki pinned Tiger Mask, SHO & YOH in 7:09 (**½)
Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI defeated Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Jado via disqualification in 6:53 (*¾)
Dick Togo, EVIL, Gedo, Taiji Ishimori & Yujiro Takahashi pinned Toru Yano, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato in 12:17 (**½)
Will Ospreay & Jeff Cobb pinned BUSHI & Shingo Takagi in 13:23 (***¼)
SANADA pinned Aaron Henare in 23:28 (***¾)
Tetsuya Naito pinned Great-O-Khan in 27:05 (***½)
With the new State of Emergency in Tokyo, New Japan’s gotten lucky – they were away from Tokyo for the best part of two weeks to conclude the Wrestling Dontaku tour; but overnight the promotion announced three Road to Wrestle Grand Slam shows on May 8, 10 and 11 that were scheduled for Korakuen Hall as they prepare for shows at Yokohama Stadium and the Tokyo Dome.
Anyway, we’re in Hiroshima’s Sun Plaza Hall today for this six-match card…
Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Minoru Suzuki) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) & Tiger Mask
We’ve got a junior tag title match later this week – so we’re back on this trios mix, with Tiger Mask being drafted in…
Of course we’ve a jump start as Suzuki-gun took things outside as they dominated early. An elbow from Suzuki damn near KO’s SHO as a leg lock tries to end this in the opening minutes, but the ropes force a break. SHO blocks a Gotch piledriver as Suzuki pushed on, but a suplex turned it around.
Tags bring in YOH and Desperado, with the former landing a neckbreaker to get a two-count. Desperado’s spinebuster stops that, before he’s low bridged to the outside as Kanemaru tagged in to eat an enziguiri. Tiger Mask’s in next, landing a crossbody off the top, then a tiltawhirl backbreaker, before a crucifix nearly nicks a win.
A Tiger Driver’s next, but Suzuki runs in to break up the cover as the fight spills outside… meaning that when Kanemaru blocked a Tiger suplex, he was able to redirect SHO’s attempted help to knock down Tiger Mask, with a jack-knife cover getting the win. Brief, and enough to throw in a hint of the tag champions perhaps not being on the same page for later this week… **½
Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI) vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Jado)
Variety is the spice of life, so here’s a match that at least feels like it’s been on Every. Stream. Of. This. Tour.
Sabre charges at Tanga Loa at the bell, looking to get a submission ahead of their match next Monday which could disqualify Sabre and Taichi from future tag title shots. Tanga breaks free and knocks Sabre down with a right hand, only to get caught in a Cobra Twist, before a leg sweep took Tanga down.
Tanga recovers to tease Apeshit, but Sabre escapes as tags bring us to Tama and Taichi. Kawada-style kicks leave Tama down, before Jado came in and got choked into the corner. More choking follows before Taichi chucked Jado down like he was in sumo. Someone needs to look at how they can incorporate yorikiri into a wrestling match…
A Tongan Twist stops Taichi in his tracks, but Tama can’t immediately follow up. A backdrop suplex from Tanga gets Jado a two-count… then gets his eyes raked as he tried to go for a draping DDT. DOUKI went for Daybreak, but instead hits a springboard ‘rana to take Tama outside, but his follow-up dive’s stopped as Tama Tonga pulled a ladder up into harm’s way.
Tama then brings the ladder into the ring as Jado tapped to a Stretch Plum… but the ref’s distracted as Tama just lays out Taichi with the ladder for the DQ. At least they kept this brief, but eh… *¾
Bullet Club (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, Taiji Ishimori, Gedo & Dick Togo) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toru Yano, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato
We’re building to EVIL vs. Yano on Wednesday…
We get Yano and Gedo admiring Tanahashi’s physique before the bell, wth Gedo booing out of jealousy. Yano’s frantically demanding to start this with EVIL, so he can try and blindfold him… that doesn’t happen, as we build up to Tanahashi pulling hair on EVIL and Gedo, with Tenzan’s Mongolian chops helping “break” it.
More Mongolian chops take EVIL to the corner ahead of a brainbuster, before Wato came in to kick through EVIL for a two-count. EVIL manages to turn it around on the floor as he charges Yano into the guard rails to knock down the timekeeper, while Master Wato had to fight from the ground against Togo.
Dick Togo’s fist drop’s good for a two-count, before Wato got chucked into the exposed corner by Gedo. Wato finally finds a way free with a discus enziguiri to Ishimori, before Taguchi came in to go wild with hip attacks. Ishimori almost wins with a roll-up as a handspring enziguiri stemmed the tide, only for Taguchi to find a way through with another hip attack.
Tanahashi tags in to drop Yujiro with a forearm… then catch Gedo in the ropes with a Dragon screw. A flip senton off the middle rope’s good for a near-fall, before back-and-forth with Yujiro leads to some biting and a low dropkick. Yujiro’s clothesline drops Tanahashi as Dick Togo comes in to try and get the win, but he’s dropped with a crossbody as Yano got the tag in… and you can probably guess how it goes from here.
Turnbuckle pad off. Thrown to EVIL. Togo blocks a blindfold… Bullet Club rush the ring, and we end with a blindfold-assisted roll-up almost pinning Yano. With the referee distracted by Gedo, Togo tries to choke out Yano, but he breaks free and hits a low blow, before EVIL dumps Yano with a blindfolded Everything is EVIL, allowing Togo to get the pin. It looked ridiculous, with both men blindfolded, but you’ve got to push a stipulation I guess. **½
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay & Jeff Cobb)
We’re building to Ospreay/Shingo next week, so I hope BUSHI’s hungry to eat another pin…
When we get going, it’s Ospreay and Shingo who start us with elbows as Ospreay’s taken into the corner. BUSHI’s in with chops, but there’s a quick turnaround as Cobb came in to charge down BUSHI… then propel Ospreay into Shingo on the apron as those two scrapped on the floor.
Cobb manhandles BUSHI back into the ring to get a couple of two-counts, before Ospreay returned with some elbows to the neck. Another tag brings Cobb back in to bear hug BUSHI, but a bell clapper frees him… only for Ospreay to come in with a flying stomp as BUSHI’s attempted comeback was quickly snuffed out. A running suplex drops BUSHI for a two-count… but BUSHI’s back with a low dropkick as he tries to buy enough time for him to tag out.
Finally Shingo got the hot tag in, eventually suplexing Cobb after a missed charge into the corner. Cobb elbows out of a back suplex, then tossed Shingo with an overhead belly-to-belly. Ospreay’s in with a dropkick and a reverse Bloody Sunday for a two-count, only for Shingo to come close with a pop-up death valley driver.
Ospreay evaded a sliding lariat, then tries to float over a Pumping Bomber… only to take the lariat in the end. BUSHI’s back with a missile dropkick as he took Ospreay into the aisle for a tope suicida, following in with a DDT back inside for a two-count. Ospreay finds a way back in, being propelled into an OsCutter on Shingo by Cobb as LIJ tried to get back into it.
Cobb breaks up a BUSHI roll, only to get sent outside, as Ospreay ended up hitting a pop-up powerbomb on BUSHI for a near-fall. Shingo runs into a Tour of the Islands, before BUSHI took the Chelsea Grin and a Storm Breaker for the win. A wild tag match that keeps things burning for next week’s title match – with BUSHI continuing to eat pins for fun. ***¼
Aaron Henare vs. SANADA
It’s a first-time singles match, with Henare having focused on SANADA since he joined United Empire at the start of the month…
Henare jumps SANADA before the bell, taking him outside and into the railings before he could even get his ring jacket off. Henare continues to rearrange furniture around ringside, but back inside SANADA pulled ahead with an Atomic drop before he tied Henare into a Paradise lock.
After getting freed, Henare knocks SANADA back into the rails, then wrapped his leg around them before some body blows back inside wore down SANADA. A suplex keeps Henare ahead for a two-count, before he began to kick away at the legs as he softened up for a leg lock, which eventually ends in a rope break.
SANADA finally fought back with a low dropkick out of the corner, before the double leapfrog, dropkick and plancha had Henare laying on the outside. Back inside, Henare caught a crossbody and tried to muscle SANADA into a Samoan drop, before he instead opted for a Blue Thunder bomb that nearly wins it.
Backflipping over Henare, SANADA tries for a ‘rana, but has to make do with a springboard missile dropkick. A backdrop suplex lands for a two-count, then a Magic Screw, but Henare ends up falling into a Dragon sleeper… which gets swung around before Henare slipped out and caught SANADA in a grounded Cobra twist.
The ropes save SANADA, who then trades shots with Henare on the top rope… eventually headbutting him to the mat. A crossbody off the top’s caught as Henare rolled through for a Samoan drop, before a PK and a spear/uranage combo led to another near-fall as Henare seemingly inched closer to the win.
Another backflip out of the corner has SANADA ahead, but Henare counters a swinging Dragon sleeper with one of his own, stopping to pull SANADA up for Streets of Rage… but SANADA just goes back to the Dragon sleeper. An O’Connor roll takes us back to the hold, which gets pulled down into a Skull End as we sailed past the 20-minute mark. Of course, SANADA lets go to go for for moonsault, but Henare gets his knees up as the pair resort to fighting from their knees.
Henare looked to edge ahead, winning out on those strikes, following up with a thrust kick as he looked to put SANADA down with the Streets of Rage. SANADA flips free though, and quickly hit back with a Tiger suplex for just a one-count. That’s followed up with a TKO, before SANADA went up top and lands the moonsault for the win. A hard-fought win, although I’m still not sold on Henare taking a high profile like this – not everyone can be the top guy, which I get, but it’s perhaps not the wholesale change of fortunes we expected. ***¾
Great-O-Khan vs. Tetsuya Naito
O-Khan eliminated Naito in the first round of this year’s New Japan Cup, so there’s the obvious story built-in there.
We’ve a steady start as Naito prevented any early rushes from O-Khan, side-stepping lock-ups and the like. O-Khan tries to take the match to the ground, pulling Naito into his guard as the pair fought over a leglock. It’s O-Khan who’s successful, but Naito breaks the hold in the ropes and quickly came back with a seated surfboard, pulling on O-Khan’s hair for the extra purchase.
O-Khan’s choked with his own braid after that, but on the outside there’s a turnaround as Naito’s just chucked into the railings. That looked to lead to a count-out, but Naito manages to get himself back in just in time, only to get sat on in the corner. A shoulder charge is next for a two-count, but Naito returns with a neckbreaker to buy himself some time.
Another neckbreaker from Naito leads to the headscissors submission on the mat, before he went for Gloria… only for O-Khan to charge Naito into the corner. Mongolian chops follow as Naito’s hung up in a Tree of Woe, leading to a baseball slide, before Naito fought back with another hanging neckbreaker in the ropes. A top rope ‘rana follows for a two-count, but a Judo throw from O-Khan and an elevated Flatliner stops Naito in his tracks.
Naito tries to block an inverted suplex, but takes the stalling reverse suplex anyway, before returning with a swinging DDT. Elbows from Naito take us past the 20-minute mark, before an Esperanza off the top people planted O-Khan… which leads to a Destino that just about finds its mark for a near-fall. A lariat from O-Khan offered some respite, as we then went back to elbow exchanges, with O-Khan looking like he was almost running on fumes.
Of course, just as I type that, O-Khan lands a uranage as he mounted one last charge, leading up to an Eliminator… but Naito slips out and quickly has to defend a head claw. O-Khan turns it into a backbreaker as we go past 25 minutes, before he scooped Naito into a Tenzan Tombstone Driver for a near-fall. Another head claw follows, before Naito countered an Eliminator into the Destino for a near-fall, with a wind-up Destino coming seconds later for the win. Naito gets his win back in just under 30-minutes, with O-Khan’s win earlier in the year now firmly in the rear view mirror as Naito perhaps puts himself back in the title picture? ***½
The Road to Wrestling Dontaku temporarily goes on hold as the crew head to Kagoshima on Wednesday and Thursday for the two-night Wrestling Satsuma no Kuni events. Wednesday’s headlined with a Blindfold-on-the-ring-post match between EVIL and Toru Yano for the KOPW 2021 title, along with Roppongi 3K vs. El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru for the junior tag titles… while Thursday’s early start sees a returning Kota Ibushi tag with Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Aaron Henare and Jeff Cobb.
This felt more like the “go home” shows we’ve been used to seeing lately. Swing by for the second half of this show – while the matches weren’t absolute blow-away, this was definitely on the upper end of shows on this tour. Who knew that changing up a diet of the same or similar undercard tags would work?