New Japan’s run of supershows culminated in Fukuoka earlier with their annual Wrestling Dontaku – a show with everything you’d want, and a clear match-of-the-year contender to boot!
Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka vs. Yoshitatsu & Hirai Kawato
Well, this is opposite ends of the spectrum isn’t it? Yoshitatsu sticks out like a sore thumb here, and for all the wrong reasons – and he started out with Oka, with the rookie taking him down with a running shoulder tackle.
Yoshitatsu brings in Kawato, who gets a two count on Oka, only for Oka to use his size difference to get back into it, then bring in Kitamura to use his power to hiptoss Kawato. Eventually Yoshitatsu’s brought back in to catch Oka in a single-leg Boston crab, almost like ol’ Tatsu was a Young Lion again! Oka breaks the hold by crawling to the ropes though, before Kitamura returned to chop away at Yoshitatsu as he picked up a couple of near-falls.
Kitamura continues the offence with a suplex for another near-fall, only to be caught by a spinning heel kick that gets Yoshitatsu a one-count as Oka broke things up in a hurry. Kawato and Oka end up fighting on the floor as Kitamura gives and receives some chops, before Yoshitatsu surprises Kitamura with a modified knee-bar to force the submission. Well, this was different from the usual Young Lions outings, and despite getting the win, Yoshitatsu probably got the least out of that match. **½
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI
It’s a big show, so Yujiro’s got his girls with him – and a Moschino clothing deal by the look of it too. The Bullet Club jump their opponents as Chase Owens takes Ospreay into the crowd before killing that idea fairly early… meanwhile, YOSHI-HASHI takes down Yujiro with a flipping neckbreaker, but Takahashi goes all Pete Dunne and bites his way free.
A low dropkick keeps YOSHI-HASHI down as they go to work on him, at least until he dropped Yujiro with a Bunker Buster before bringing in Ospreay. Some nice misdirection leads to a shotgun dropkick to the Tokyo Pimp, followed by a Shibata-esque dropkick for a near-fall, only for him to take a hotshot on the ropes as Owens comes into the fray. Chase comes close with a slam, but falls to a handspring overhead kick from Ospreay as the back and forth continued. A left arm lariat from YOSHI-HASHI spins down Chase for a near-fall before Ospreay springs in to get rid of Yujiro, with a Sasuke special taking him out on the floor. Back inside, Owens blocks Karma, only to get caught in a Butterfly Lock for the submission. This was a fun opener – with a lot being squeezed into a short time without it coming across as overly spotty. **¾
Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Tiger Mask W, Tiger Mask & Togi Makabe
Another random undercard appearance from the slightly-familiar Tiger Mask W, but it’s the regular Tiger Mask who starts out, and yes, it’s against Liger.
The two Tiger Masks look to dive, but stop themselves short as Liger comes back to catch Tiger in a surfboard stretch, before Nakanishi tags in to take his shots. Ditto Nagata, as the veteran Tiger Mask is worn down, before a kick to the chest led to a quick Tiger Driver for a two-count on Nagata.
Finally Tiger Mask W comes in with a missile dropkick, before succeeding with some more kicks and a standing shooting star press on Nagata. Some fun back and forth sees W take an Exploder for a near-fall after they traded kicks, before he flipped out of a German suplex and now we’re getting the big lads as Nakanishi and Makabe come in.
Makabe, who’s really been at a loose end since Honma got injured, tried the mounted punches in the corner, but those were thwarted as Nakanishi shoved him down and followed with a lariat off the ropes. An Argentine backbreaker followed before W hits a Pele kick to take out Nagata and Liger… we barely saw a Golden Triangle moonsault as the big lads resumed hostilities, this time with Makabe landing a clothesline, before planting him with a King Kong Kneedrop for the win. Yep, have the guy get the fall when you can’t use his music! Another decent tag, much in the same vein as the main show opener, albeit with a little too much crammed into it. **½
Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano, Jado & Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku)
All of Suzuki-gun in one match? Hopefully that doesn’t mean their crap is concentrated too much!
We’ve got the usual Suzuki-gun jump start, with Taichi jabbing his mic stand into Rocky Romero, but Rocky recovered to connect with a handful of Forever lariats to the former junior tag champions Taichi and Kanemaru. There’s dissension between the current champions as they argue over each other’s spots… which reminds me, what the hell happened to their infighting?
The CHAOS team beat down on all of the Suzuki-gun members with windmill punches… but of course not Minoru, who comes back with a rope-hung armbar on Jado as we go to the usual outside-the-ring brawling, complete with plenty of guard rail action. Of course, the cameras struggled to follow all ten men, but we did see Minoru choking Goto with a chair, whilst Taichi of course had the bell hammer.
In the background we just about see Minoru Suzuki threatening the English announce team, as Taichi used the hammer, and the usual shtick continues as they tried to pile onto Jado for some near-falls. Finally Jado lands a clothesline to take down Desperado, before bringing in Toru Yano for his usual spots, which saw Desperado run into an exposed turnbuckle.
TAKA and Desperado take shots from the turnbuckle pad, before Taichi loses a duel with that comedy ending when Suzuki kicked him in the back. At least it gave us another go of Goto and Suzuki, with Goto landing a spinning kick and a back suplex for a near-fall, before the pair exchanged forearms to the head. After an ushigoroshi’s blocked, Suzuki tags out to TAKA, but that really just sparks a mugging as Goto takes a series of knees for a near-fall.
Suzuki comes back to try and hit a Gotch piledriver, but a knee from Romero ends that as everyone but the legal men head outside… allowing Goto to plant TAKA with an ushigoroshi and a GTR for the win. This was fine, giving everyone plenty of time to shine whilst continuing the build to the eventual rematch for Suzuki’s NEVER title. ***¼
You know how Suzuki usually gets his heat back after matches? Poor Katsuya Kitamura took a stiff forearm and was left laying in the aisle afterwards.
David Finlay vs. Cody
You know how Cody’s match with Juice Robinson at WrestleKingdom had some sort of intrigue behind it? No offence to Finlay, who’s apparently taken inspiration from James Drake, but his recent record is making this look one-sided on paper.
Of course, we can’t use the Rhodes surname here, and “Just Cody” gets taken into the ropes by Finlay in the early feeling out stages of the match. A hair pull gets Cody in some trouble, who ended up going down to a dropkick before sending Finlay outside, where a springboard plancha was aborted, only for Finlay to rush out with a cannonball off the apron.
Cody escapes a powerbomb on the floor and replies with an Alabama Slam instead, before rolling Finlay back inside to continue the beatdown. A stalling front suplex keeps Cody on top as he continued to mock Finlay, who fired into things with a clothesline, before a diving European uppercut gets him a near-fall.
A Goldust-esque uppercut only leads to Cody getting caught in a roll-up for a near-fall, but he comes back with a scoop powerslam for a near-fall… but this crowd just isn’t buying what he’s selling. Finlay tries to catch a Disaster kick, but loses a Fireman’s carry as he instead comes back with an Air Raid Crash to score a near-fall too. The bridging German suplex gets another two-count, only for a diving European uppercut to get caught and turned into the Cross Rhodes for the win. This match wasn’t horrible, but they tried a lot that just didn’t click. I guess you could call it “timing issues” if you want to borrow Dave Meltzer’s stuff, but you could tell that they’d not had the preparation they’d have had by way of warm-up matches on the Road to… shows, and I really don’t think the crowd would have bought any other result. **½
Now, Cody’s in the Bullet Club, wouldn’t it have been nice to have seen someone else in the Club with him? After the match Cody cuts a promo, asking for “someone better… someone stronger”. I swear I heard someone laugh…
KUSHIDA & Juice Robinson vs. Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito
This was KUSHIDA’s first outing since Hiromu squashed him at Sakura Genesis last month, having been kept off every show bar his Rev Pro outing against Zack Sabre Jr days afterwards…
KUSHIDA knocked Hiromu off the apron with a handspring kick before taking him into the crowd with venom, going towards the back of the hall through several rows of seats as Naito decided “bugger this” and did the same. There was no sign of Juice as KUSHIDA got slammed into the arena floor, but at least he lasted longer here than he did at Sakura Genesis!
They returned to the ring where Naito raked at the eyes of KUSHIDA, before taking him into the corner… but that outside-in dropkick misses as KUSHIDA’s able to bring in Juice for some Dusty punches. A crossbody off the top gets Juice a near-fall on Naito, before a uranage backbreaker and Russian legsweep combo looked to set up for a senton… only for Naito to get his knees up.
A tornado DDT from Naito plants his former challenger in the middle of the ring, before we go back to KUSHIDA and Takahashi, with the former being much more like his usual self… before planting Naito with a handspring heel kick. Takahashi tries to capitalise with a sunset bomb, but it’s blocked and turned into an armbar on the apron that Naito stomps apart, only for him to turn into a Juice spinebuster as Robinson holds up the Ingobernable pair for a senton off the top!
KUSHIDA follows by punting away Hiromu’s arm and immediately going for the Hoverboard lock, but Naito breaks that up with a German suplex before Juice takes an enziguiri and a superkick, before a Time Bomb gets Hiromu the win. This was fun while it lasted, and it continues Takahashi’s almost hex-like run over KUSHIDA – who will be looking at the upcoming Best of Super Juniors to find his groove once again. ***½
Speaking of, the line-up for this year’s Best of Super Juniors was revealed next: Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi, KUSHIDA, Ricochet, Will Ospreay, Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, TAKA Michinoku, Taichi (yes, I groaned too), Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado, Marty Scurll, ACH (whom rumour has it, may like anime), Volador Jr and Dragon Lee. Well, the inclusion of the Villain popped me, that’s for sure, even if the worst case is that we’ll be seeing the “same act for a new crowd”.
A Block will be Liger, Ricochet, Lee, Ospreay, Scurll, Taichi, TAKA and Hiromu – so New Japan will be the latest group to host an Ospreay/Scurll match; B block will be Tiger Mask, Taguchi, KUSHIDA, Volador Jr, ACH, Desperado, BUSHI and Kanemaru.
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. War Machine (Hanson & Rowe) (c)
Tama Tonga was going into this with an arm injury apparently… War Machine’s entrance was epic, coming out in Nordic warrior-style helmets, which I think may give them an unfair advantage with the ol’ headbutts!
A three-way brawl starts us off, but we settle down to War Machine and the Guerrillas, with Rowe slamming Hanson onto Tama Tonga. That’ll help! Kojima and Tenzan single out War Machine, with Hanson getting shoulder tackled to the outside as Rowe eats an elbow drop/diving headbutt before the champs take the machine gun chops… but only after Kojima moved the beard out of the way!
Tanga Loa comes in and works on Kojima, taking him into the corner for some double-teaming as the Guerrillas exchange tags – and profanities – before a back suplex/neckbreaker combo earn them a near-fall. Hanson returns to lay into the Guerrillas with not-quite-Forever lariats from corner-to-corner, only to then get taken down for a swandive headbutt/frog splash combo as Hanson was forced to kick out to retain the gold.
Hanson then showed off his agility with a whoopee cushion sit-down splash and a cartwheel dropkick, before Rowe blocked a Gun Stun and lifted up Tonga for Fall-Out… but that wasn’t; coming, so instead Tonga tags out to Tenzan. Mongolian Chops a-go-go follow, as does a brainbuster-ish suplex to Rowe, before Kojima and Tenzan throw in a pair of Kokeshis!
That Honma shout-out gets the former champs a near-fall, before Rowe blocked a TenKoji Cutter, only to run into a Mountain Bomb for another two-count from Tenzan. The Anaconda Vice follows, but Hanson breaks that up whilst Kojima was dealing with the Guerrillas. Tama Tonga counters a pop-up powerslam, but things fall apart as he runs into that TenKoji Cutter as I lost track of who was legal in this one.
Kojima blocks a lariat from Rowe, but his lariat’s blocked too and countered with a knee to the face, before a Hanson dive obliterates the Guerrillas. Tenzan throws in a spinning heel kick to Rowe, before signalling that he’s going to go up top… and get a nosebleed?! It’s moonsault time… but Hanson cuts him off as Rowe grabs Tenzan for the Fall-Out as the champions retained. Another fun tag, but by their nature multi-way tags can be very spotty. Really good, and I’m glad that War Machine weren’t one-and-done here. ***¾
After the match, War Machine bowed to the Fukuoka crowd, only to get attacked by the Guerrillas, who smashed them with their own title belts. So we’re getting the Guerrillas in a straight tag match for the titles next?
NEVER Six-Man Championships: Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Ricochet (c)
EVIL and Tanahashi resume their battle from Saturday’s Wrestling Toyonokuni match, as they take each other into the ropes for a clean break… that is, unless you count BUSHI’s involvement!
Tanahashi gets the early advantage with an armbar on EVIL, but we then cycle through tags rather than carry over as Taguchi comes in against SANADA and his incredible mohawk. The goofy Taguchi just gets kicked in the gut, but he resists being tied in a ball before dropping down for a lot of rope-running as BUSHI then runs in to save SANADA from becoming a human ball. SANADA takes a bunch of hip attacks from all three of the champions, with a whole lot of ass sending him down ahead of SANADA getting whipped into Taguchi’s ass… but the tide turns as it’s in fact Taguchi’s partners who take that rear end.
Taguchi bows in deference to the Ingobernables once he realised the jig was up, then he gets beaten down as the Funky Weapon’s attempt at a comeback saw him whiff big time on a hip attack. From there, SANADA ties him in a ball for a basement dropkick, before a lariat from Taguchi finally gets him the chance to make a tag out.
Ricochet and BUSHI come in next, with a springboard forearm from Ricochet setting off for a fantastic flurry of offence, culminating in a corner 619 and another springboard uppercut. Tanahashi comes in next, but quickly falls to a kick to the gut from EVIL. The champions comeback with a trio of submissions, but the Ingobernables grab the ropes to free themselves, only for a Slingblade to take down EVIL.
From there, Tanahashi only gets the knees of EVIL with a High Fly Flow, but he’s able to tag in Taguchi who goes all out with hip attacks in the ropes. Taguchi avoids the MX from BUSHI as the ring fills for a parade of moves, with Ricochet hitting a pump handle suplex before he misses a corner cannonball as a springboard hip attack from Taguchi ended that series. We get a ref bump as BUSHI pulls Taguchi into the referee, before a missed enziguiri allows Taguchi to grab the ankle lock… but there’s no referee to notice the tap-out!
Taguchi releases the hold to check on the referee, only to get sprayed by BUSHI and rolled-up… but Taguchi somehow managed to kick out before the count of three! Still blinded, Taguchi takes the MX, but this time Taguchi’s partners make the save, only for them to be laid out with a TKO and sit-out spinebuster. Third time was the charm though, as another MX gives the Ingobernables those six-man titles yet again. Another title change on the first defence, but at least it gives every Ingobernable a belt again – and this was a pretty fun six-man to get us warmed up for the two main events. ***½
Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Even before the entrances, this was being billed as an “unofficial number one contenders” match, and they started hot and fast with Ishii laying into Omega with lariats, German suplexes and a powerbomb to get a near-fall.
Omega slides away from a sliding lariat before heading to the crowd barriers to avoid Ishii… who just threw him into the guard railings, before catching an attempted springboard off the railings and teased a One Winged Angel onto Omega. Ishii backdrops out of a powerbomb as the frantic pace continued with a dropkick from Omega, before a powerbomb onto the apron forced Ishii to break the count at the last moment.
A Terminator dive from Omega’s blocked with a forearm, and yes, this really is the pace they go at, before Omega counters a superplex to the floor as they went back and forth with that particular move, until a V Trigger and a snap Dragon suplex clocked Ishii for a near-fall. Ishii replies by fighting out of a One Winged Angel as he dropped Omega with a lariat, just in time for the match to cross the five-minute mark!
They slowed down a touch from there as they exchange chops until Omega decides to just snap into a DDT to take down Ishii. With Shibata gone, Ishii decides to pay tribute by inviting Omega to kick him hard – and of course, the Bullet Club leader obliges, before he fights to get a neckbreaker on the “Stone Pitbull”. Some eye rakes keep Omega in it as he turned the match into more of a fight, but that suited Ishii as he targeted Omega’s throat with some chops only to get taken down once more.
There’s more chops from Omega, who is just riling up Ishii at this point, with Hishii walking through those chops and forearms before sending Omega flying with one of his own. Omega ducks a slap and connects with a Finlay roll, then a springboard moonsault for a near-fall, before he takes too long going up the ropes as he’s caught for a superplex from Ishii.
A ‘rana from Omega takes them outside briefly, before Omega springboards over the guard railings with a crossbody that took Ishii into the crowd. Back inside, Omega lands a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall, only for a follow-up V Trigger to be missed, before a bicycle knee gets another near-fall after some more explosive offence.
Ishii spins out of a One Winged Angel next, before obliterating Kenny with a clothesline. A second clothesline’s knocked, but Kenny’s V-Trigger’s caught too as a headbutt and another lariat take down Omega for a two-count. Ishii tries to hit a One Winged Angel, but instead hits a driver and a sliding lariat as he edged closer to victory, only for an Ishii brainbuster to get countered into a reverse ‘rana! Omega forearms away another headbutt, then rushed in with a V Trigger and a lariat, but this time it was Ishii’s turn to kick-out, before a 2K1 Bomb (cross-legged over-the-knee brainbuster) left Ishii down yet again.
Yet another V-Trigger rocks Ishii, but he escapes the One Winged Angel with a reverse ‘rana. Yes. The world imploded. As did Omega with another clothesline, but still he kicks out. In the end, a knee and a brainbuster gets Omega another two-count, before the One Winged Angel planted Ishii as Kenny took the win.
I don’t get how these two can rattle off so many stellar matches one after the other. Yes, there will be those who argue the WrestleKingdom match was better (although personally, that started to feel long and lost impact), whilst Okada/Shibata will likely fade away because of the damage that match caused to Shibata… but this match was absolutely phenomenal, and one that’ll be right up there in the match-of-the-year debates come December. *****
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Bad Luck Fale vs. Kazuchika Okada (c)
As you’d expect in the early going, Fale tried to use his power to shove Okada away, but the champion’s attempts to fight back just saw him swatted away with ease.
Okada did have some luck after he tripped Fale, but the big man headed out after a low dropkick, where he caught a plancha and slammed him on the outside, just like after Toyonokuni! He tries for a Bad Luck Fall into the entrance aisle, but Okada slips out, only to get drilled into the ringpost instead.
For some reason Fale tries to take a win via count-out after dumping a bit of crowd barrier on Okada – a result that wouldn’t have gotten him the title, of course – before stomping away on the champ as he returned to the ring. A big back body drop sends Okada flying for a near-fall as Fale started to dominate proceedings, before a bear hug turns into a spinebuster for another two-count.
A missed charge in the corner opens things up for Okada, who tried to pull off a slam… and came up massively short as Fale clubbed his way free before ultimately being taken down with a slam at the second attempt. From there, Okada clotheslines Fale to the floor, then boots him over the crowd barriers into the buffered area… where he ends up himself as Okada scored big with a crossbody over the railings!
Back in the ring, the back-and-forth continued as Okada looked to edge ahead… but an exchange of forearms was perhaps not wise as Fale kept swiping Okada away, before he was sent reeling into the corner with a shotgun dropkick. The neckbreaker slam follows after Okada powered up Fale for the Heavy Rain, as the top rope elbow drop came next for… the Rainmaker Pose!
Fale counters the Rainmaker with a bearhug though, taking the champ down for a big splash for a near-fall. The tombstone looked to follow, but Okada wriggled out of it, and came back with a dropkick before pulling out the same tombstone onto Fale! Bloody hell, that took a lot of power! A Rainmaker looked to put the exclamation mark on it, but Fale countered with almost a Grenade, then with a spear for a near-fall.
The Bad Luck Fall looks to follow, but Okada again escapes and lands a dropkick, before a clothesline takes down the champion, as the Fale tombstone connects… but instead of hooking a leg, Fale crossed the arms Undertaker-style, and Okada easily kicked out! Another Bad Luck Fall attempt is countered with a ‘rana from Okada, before the pair fight out of a backslide that’s turned into a Rainmaker.
Okada clings onto the wrist of Fale though, just like he has done in prior defences, and he pulls the Tongan up for another Rainmaker, before stringing together a German suplex and a Rainmaker to successfully defend the belt. Much, much better than many feared as Big Match Fale more than played his part, and now Okada’s on the way to June’s Dominion for his next challenger… ****
After the match, the Bullet Club hit the ring to tend to Fale – including Kenny Omega – who was called out by Okada as they all went to the back. Omega didn’t answer the challenge definitively, but did call Okada “not the champion the people want” as the fans roared their approval for “The Cleaner”.
Well… across the three shows (Dontaku, Toyonokuni, and last week’s last “Road” show), we had everything from a stellar pay-per-view event. Every show had good matches, and a lot of fluff… but Dontaku had the least amount of throwaway filler out of them all. Yes, there were some disappointments (Cody, I’m looking at you here), and yes, it was a typical New Japan supershow at around four hours (including downtime on the feed between the main show), but this is one that’s worth all of your time, rather than just being a show to pick and choose from.
Next up is the Best of Super Junior tournament, starting in two weeks and lasting until June 3, before Dominion on June 11 marks the next “supershow” for the group in Osaka.