We’re back in Fukuoka for a heavily-adjusted second half of the Wrestling Dontaku event, featuring Will Ospreay defending the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against Shingo Takagi.
Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi & DOUKI submitted Jado, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa in 10:01 (**½)
Taiji Ishimori & Yujiro Takahashi pinned Master Wato & Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 10:31 (**)
Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare pinned BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito & SANADA in 14:55 (***)
Toru Yano, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi pinned Dick Togo, Jay White & EVIL in 12:23 (**½)
Will Ospreay pinned Shingo Takagi in 44:53 to retain the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (*****)
We’re back at the Fukuoka Convention Center after a very bare bones hold screen. No Taguchi music video. No Makabe teaching us the rules. None of that… which is explained as we open with a statement from New Japan chairman Naoki Sugabayashi, saying that a wrestler due to appear on the card presented with a fever – and as such has been pulled from the card. Another wrestler, who’d only joined the tour at the weekend, was also pulled – as we lost the El Desperado vs. YOH junior title match… enjoy the jigsaw identification attempts.
It ought to be noted that the changes were made out of caution, but also makes me wonder if this show would even be going ahead if it weren’t a big card.
Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI) vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Jado)
You have GOT to be shitting me… it’s like Milhouse and the Radioactive Man movie. They’ve just got to film it again and again, and again and again. Even though they’ve already shot the proverbial river of acid scene that led to the Iron Fingers being retired.
DOUKI and Jado start us off hot, with DOUKI wiping out the Guerrillas with a Quebrada in the aisle before Jado took a plancha. We’ve a quick turnaround, as DOUKI’s cornered with stomps in the ring before he began to fight back, eventually clocking Tanga Loa with an enziguiri. Headscissors were caught as Tanga Loa teases another powerbomb to the floor, but a DDT from DOUKI saves it.
Taichi comes in to land an Axe Bomber to Tanga, then sumo toss Jado, before a leaping enziguiri caught Tama in the corner. Sabre tags in to light up Tama with elbows, before he spun his way into a Cobra twist. Tama tries to hiptoss free, but Sabre rolls through for a neck twist before Tama struck back with a brief flurry.
Jado’s in to try and put away Sabre with the OJK crossface, but Sabre blocks it as Taichi ran in to take the Guerrilla Warfare. My feed drops as the Guerrillas keep running roughshod, and we’re back just in time to see Jado tap to a grounded Octopus. We’re getting the tag title match at one of the stadium shows I guess, and I continue to wish for more tag teams… **½
Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Master Wato & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Our first reshuffled match, as what looked to be build for something with Okada and Suzuki was thrown out of the window here.
Tenzan and Yujiro start us off, trading strikes before Wato came in to try and get a quick win over Yujiro. A kick’s ducked as Yujiro ends up tossing Wato to the floor, and into the hands of Ishimori, who more than gladly chucked him into the railings. Back inside, Wato remained on the defensive, as he was chopped by Ishimori in the corner.
We’re back outside as Wato’s thrown into the rails by Yujiro, who then tagged back in to toy around with Wato. A kick’s swept away, but Wato’s able to land the head kick at the second attempt, before Wato made that tag out to Tenzan, who cleared house with shoulder tackles and Mongolian chops.
A suplex from Tenzan, then a Mountain bomb drops Yujiro for a two-count, before Ishimori stomped apart an Anaconda Vise. He gets Mongolian chops for his woes, before Ishimori pulled down Wato’s springboard attempt… that allows Yujiro to trip Tenzan for a low dropkick, as Wato remained legal. Ishimori’s back in to take some kicks as Wato tries to pull ahead, landing a discus enziguiri for a near-fall.
Wato goes for a powerbomb on Ishimori, who blocks and returned fire with a handspring enziguiri as we buffer. Double-teaming’s stopped by Tenzan, who’s taken outside by Yujiro as Ishimori teases a Bloody Cross… only to land a leaping knee instead before the Bloody Cross put Wato away. This was fine, but not much of anything as a last-minute replacement, unfortunately. **
United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Aaron Henare & Jeff Cobb) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI)
With Ospreay and Shingo in the main event, this feels like a natural continuation of the feud that’s rumbled for the entire tour.
We’ve a jump start as the Empire got fed up of LIJ taking their time, as we start on the floor with a lot of action by the rails. Henare takes SANADA back inside for some kicks and elbows in the corner, before a pair of dropkicks got SANADA back in it as he proceeded to choke Henare with a shirt.
BUSHI tags in to stomp on Henare, before SANADA and Naito combined on Henare with some double-teaming. The grounded headscissors from Naito get broken with stomps from O-Khan, who then tagged in to hit a leg splitter. Boots keep Naito in the corner as Cobb tagged in, picking up Naito for a stalling suplex that gets a two-count.
A standing moonsault gets Cobb another two-count, as he resorts to a bear hug to throw Naito back into the Empire corner. O-Khan’s back to take a seat, before his standing neck crank submission was broken as Naito pulled on the hair for an emergency escape. Naito manages to find a way back in with a swinging DDT, as tags get us back to Henare and SANADA, with the latter landing low dropkicks for fun.
An atomic drop stuns Henare ahead of a Paradise Lock, before SANADA’s crossbody was caught and rolled through into a Samoan drop. SANADA kicks away a Toa Bottom attempt, as the pair trade elbows… a missed standing moonsault earns SANADA a quick suplex, before he ‘rana’d his way back to freedom.
BUSHI gets the tag in on Cobb, and low bridges him to the outside for a tope suicida, before a DDT back inside gets a two-count. A missile dropkick follows, as LIJ flood the ring… it leads to a back cracker that nearly wins the match as the Empire break up the pin, before we broke into a Parade of Moves.
Once the ring cleared out again, Cobb tries for a Tour of the Islands, but gets ‘rana’d by BUSHI… twice! That almost gets the upset, before Cobb obliterated BUSHI with a dropkick… then a Kamigoye? A Tour of the Islands followed, and after that message to Kota Ibushi, Cobb picked up the win as the Empire trio enjoyed a relatively dominant showing here. ***
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Bullet Club (Jay White, EVIL & Dick Togo)
Our other rescheduled match today sees the obligatory reunion of yesterday’s main event…
White and Tanahashi start us off, but as soon as Tanahashi went to the leg, White hopped into the ropes. Tanahashi is still hobbling from yesterday as the pair trade armdrags and escapes, before tags got us to Yano and EVIL. We’ve a trip from Taguchi as Yano was held up in the ropes, before everyone tried to pull everyone’s hair… until Taguchi realised Dick Togo had nothing to pull, so he just hit a hip attack instead.
More hip attacks follow from Taguchi, who’s then taken outside as EVIL played kill the ring announcer again. As everyone checked on him, the cheating ensued with Dick Togo whipping Taguchi with a camera cable, before a slam dropped Taguchi back inside for a two-count.
A fist drop from Togo’s good for a two-count, as Jay White came in to restrain Taguchi with a chin lock. Taguchi misses a hip attack, then another, before Taguchi showed he watched yesterday’s main event by taking down White with a Dragon screw. Tanahashi gets the tag in and clears house, slamming White before an elbow drop and a standing flip senton led to Gedo trying to run in… he’s caught with a Dragon screw in the ropes again.
White ducks a clothesline and goes for a Cloverleaf, before Tanahashi tried the same as hair pulling helped get White free. A Blade Buster from White puts him ahead, as Dick Togo returned to try and steal the win with a jack-knife cover. Tanahashi finds a way back with a crossbody out of the corner, before Yano returned to do his usual routine of removing a turnbuckle pad and playing silly buggers.
Yano’s still got a blindfold in his gear, but Togo snatches it off him as the Bullet Club flood the ring… and almost get the win after Togo blindfolded Yano. A double-team shoulder charge and back sentons keep Yano down again, while EVIL unsighted the referee as Togo went for the garotte wire. A low blow frees Yano as Tanahashi has some trouble with the mask, before a low blow and a roll-up gets Yano the win. This was what it was, with Yano continuing to rack up wins over EVIL and Togo as that feud looks to be in the rear view mirror. **½
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Shingo Takagi vs. Will Ospreay (c)
With the junior title match off, we’ve at least got one title match to close out the show…
Neither man charges out of the blocks, instead locking up as Shingo got taken into the ropes. Ospreay tries his luck with a hook kick, but it’s ducked as they reset, with a side headlock being pushed off of as we resort to shoulder tackles and elbows. A double chop briefly has Ospreay down, but he pops up as the pair continue to go at each other with pace until Shingo backed into the corner.
Shingo manages to take the upper hand as he knocks down Ospreay for a surfboard armbar stretch, before a shoulder tackle and a back senton kept Ospreay on the mat. Ospreay avoids a back body drop, but gets clotheslined to the outside while his head bounces off the side of the ring on the way down. Shingo joins him on the outside, but sees his Irish whip reversed as Ospreay flung him into the rails… before Ospreay took a drop toe hold into the bars.
After being taken back inside, Ospreay quickly throws Shingo back to the floor so he could hit a back suplex onto the edge of the ring. Ospreay heads over to the timekeeper’s table to kiss his belt… then clears the table and grabs it. Shingo had similar ideas, as the pair ran at each other with tables in hand, with Shingo then setting up his table at ringside as a callback to their New Japan Cup final earlier this year.
Heading onto the apron, Shingo teases putting Ospreay through the wood, but to no avail as Ospreay fought back, suplexing Shingo into the ring. A springboard forearm followed for just a one-count, before a cross armbar attempt from Ospreay headed nowhere… except back outside as Ospreay wrapped Shingo’s arm around the guard rail.
Ospreay stays on the arm, wringing it until Shingo tried for a rear naked choke… but it’s broken quickly in the corner before Shingo had to shrug off some Kawada-style kicks ahead of landing the elbow, jab and DDT combo. Punches and chops keep Ospreay in the corner, only for Ospreay to counter with a kick after he’d hung up Shingo in a Tree of Woe.
Ospreay keeps the laser-like focus on the arm, dropkicking it in the ropes before turning a Mistica into an armbar on the mat. He turns it into a key lock too, but Shingo backs into the ropes for a break, and found a way back in with a noshigami as we somehow sailed past 20 minutes. In a good way.
Shingo keeps firing back with elbows, but Ospreay kicks the arm to try and stifle his challenger… a kick’s caught and lifted up as Ospreay just spun backwards to the mat. That’s shrugged off as Ospreay again floats over a Pumping Bomber, only to take a sliding lariat after he’d hit a handspring enziguiri as Ospreay dipped into the flashier side of his arsenal. A running boot traps Shingo in the corner ahead of what used to be a Cheeky Nando’s, which was then followed up with Shingo punching out of a sunset bomb attempt.
Ospreay’s leaping enziguiri stuns Shingo again ahead of a one-man Spanish Fly off the top that gets another near-fall. Shingo’s draped across the ropes as a shooting star press crashes him back into the ring, with Ospreay again going back up for another shooting star… but again Shingo kicks out at two.
Heading outside, Ospreay rolls Shingo onto the two tables he’d set up earlier… but he took too long to go for presumably a 450 splash again, as Shingo pulls him down onto the apron. Ospreay teases a Storm Breaker through the tables, then an OsCutter, but Shingo caught him and instead planted the champion through the wood with a Made in Japan. Fortunately, those tables weren’t the traditional Made in Japan tables, as they actually gave way…
Somehow both men make it back to their feet (eventually), with Ospreay beating the count… only to take a second Made in Japan as he was spiked onto his head for a near-fall. We’re now past the 30-minute mark, as Ospreay then slumped to the mat to avoid a Pumping Bomber. Not quite the same level as the last time that was popularised, but effective never the less, as Ospreay then fell to the mat again as Shingo tried to whip him into the corner.
Shingo picks up Ospreay and takes him up top as an attempted avalanche powerbomb looked to get countered with a ‘rana… but Shingo holds firm. Ospreay crashes and burns to the mat, before Shingo leapt into an OsCutter as I had no idea what the plan A was with that leap. A headbutt? A second OsCutter followed off the ropes for a near-fall, before Shingo took the Chelsea Grin rolling elbow to the back of the neck.
A Hidden Blade looks to follow, but Shingo folds forward to escape before another OsCutter of the top is stopped as I buffer. Damnit. We’re back with a swivelling lariat from Shingo, who then landed a Pumping Bomber and an OsCutter of his own… another Pumping Bomber nearly gets the win as hearts were in everyone’s proverbial mouths. Shingo’s pop-up death valley driver is crucifixed out of for a two-count as Ospreay pushed back. The pair tease finishes, but then resort to trading reverse ‘ranas as a desperation Hidden Blade ended with Shingo in the ropes.
Shingo’s still flat on his front as Ospreay threw some more kicks, but Shingo finds some more reserves as we cross the 40-minute marker, firing away with rapid-fire left-right elbows in the ropes before landing a pop-up death valley driver. Ospreay’s right back up though, and eventually caught Shingo with a standing Spanish Fly for a near-fall.
You sensed this just needed one last push as the pair trade more elbows and chops, before Ospreay threw in some headbutts. Shingo returns the favour, before Ospreay pulled a Rainmaker out of his arse. From there, a Hidden Blade to the front wiped out Shingo before a Storm Breaker gets the win. Well, for all of the gripes about how dominant Ospreay was in the New Japan Cup final, this was much more even, with Shingo having learned from that and finding ways to neutralise and counter most of Ospreay’s big stuff. Easily the best match I’ve seen from 2021 since Shingo/Tanahashi back in January – and while I held back on the full-five from the New Japan Cup final, there’s no such fear here. *****
Post-match, Ospreay thanked Shingo for being his “stepping stone,” and complained about how New Japan “lean on him too much,” noting the rescheduled card. Up next for Ospreay is Kazuchika Okada – who didn’t come out for the obligatory stare-down. Ospreay called his shot: he wants to beat Okada at the Tokyo Dome, so we’ve got that at the end of the month.
…and that’s it until May 15. Due to the latest State of Emergency, New Japan’s cancelled their three road-to shows at Korakuen Hall that were due to start this weekend, so their next show back is the Yokohama Stadium show, with a lovely 5am (UK) start time.
Well, whatever plans New Japan had for directly building up the stadium cards from this show were thrown out of the window with the card changes – as you’d have expected something to have arisen from the junior title match, in addition to whatever was being teased with having Suzuki and Okada in undercard tags two nights running. Like yesterday though, this ended up being a one-match show, although that one match is absolutely worth your time – even if this is a product you’ve checked out of (unless it’s because of those on top…)