The latest “big show” on the road to Dontaku saw New Japan hit Kumamoto for the start of Golden Week.
We’re coming from the Grand Messe, Kumamoto, with Kevin Kelly and Gino Gambino on commentary.
Toa Henare, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura vs. Tomoaki Honma, Shota Umino & Ren Narita
Usually the New Japan Young Lion matches are sure-fire hits… the only quibbles come in when you throw in some of the regular roster members into the mix.
The opening exchanges between Narita and Uemura were brisk and brief, not helped by Narita’s taped-up shoulder, before Tsuji and Umino locked horns in the ropes. Chops from Tsuji rock Umino briefly, who comes back with a back elbow and a low dropkick for a two-count, before Ren Narita came in and looked to force a submission on Tsuji with a sleeperhold. Honma’s in after he had Tsuji’s head thrown into his boot, before a Kokeshi finds its mark. Henare tries to turn it around, taking Honma down with a leaping shoulder tackle, before the pair engaged in a chop battle. Commentary tried to pin this as Honma still being a little bitter towards Henare for “taking his spot” at tag league last year, as a Kokeshi took Henare down… and it’s back to the Young Lions.
Uemura took down Umino with a dropkick, before a series of elbow in the corner forced Narita in to make a save. A roll-up out of a Fisherman buster nearly gets Uemura the win, but he’s quickly smashed into with a dropkick before Umino put him away with a Fisherman suplex, despite Henare’s despairing dive. This was fine, but man, this felt like it was at half speed throughout – even the Young Lions’ stuff. **¼
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Jeff Cobb, YOSHI-HASHI, Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi
We’ve a stacked-up tag here as there’s the obligatory jump start as Gino was doing his own tribute to the new Bray Wyatt character on commentary. Wowee.
Taguchi’s early offence sees him have people thrown into his arse, before he’s ganged up by Suzuki-gun. Turns out Minoru isn’t a fan of wearing scrum hats… There’s some brawling in and around ringside as Suzuki-gun maintained the upper hand, working over every part of Taguchi, including with a hanging leg lock off the apron from Suzuki. Tags finally bring in Suzuki and Liger, whose sparring session didn’t exactly have the explosiveness of prior nights on the tour, at least until Liger started to light up Suzuki with chops. Elbows came as receipts though, before a kitchen sink knee to the gut led to tags out as Taichi and Cobb locked horns.
Cobb charges Taichi into the corner for an elbow before a standing moonsault nearly led to the win. Desperado and Kanemaru broke it up, and quickly took a double back suplex from Cobb, who prepped Taichi for a Tour of the Islands, only for Taichi to wriggle free and land a superkick instead. Off come the trousers as Taichi measures for another superkick, but Cobb ducks… and ends up eating an enziguiri instead. A series of PKs leaves Cobb down, but there’s no way he’s losing to TAKA, and after kicking out Taguchi makes the save with hip attacks.
Suzuki just boots him in the arse though.
In the end though, the ring fills and clears, allowing Cobb to pick up the W with a Tour of the Islands onto TAKA. Fun, but strangely lethargic throughout. **½
After the match there’s some afters as Liger and Suzuki threatened to throw chairs at each other.
Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & Hikuleo) vs. Dragon Lee & Will Ospreay
We’ve a jump start here as Hikuleo laid into Ospreay from the off, but Ospreay’s quickly back in as he got some help from Dragon Lee, as a pair of low dropkicks and a step-up corkscrew moonsault off of Lee’s back nearly ended things early.
In response, Ospreay’s taken into the Bullet Club corner and chopped to pieces by Hikuleo, before Ishimori came in and bamboozled Ospreay briefly, only to get caught with a handspring enziguiri. Dragon Lee’s in to capitalise with a Combinacion Cabron dropkick, then a Shibata-ish dropkick to Ishimori in the corner, before a roll-up from Ishimori nearly led to the win. Ishimori and Lee trade elbows for a spell, before a pair of reverse ‘ranas came off with increasing levels of “didn’t get all of that”. A suplex was more effective, before Hikuleo and Ospreay tagged back in… a springboard forearm to Hikuleo takes him down for a near-fall, as Ospreay turned it up a gear with a Shibata-ish dropkick of his own.
The turnaround sees Hikuleo dump Ospreay with the Tongan Swing neckbreaker for a near-fall, and although Dragon Lee tope’d into Ishimori on the outside, Hikuleo nearly snatched the win with a big clothesline to Ospreay. Will flips out of a uranage next and built up to a Robinson special, before an OsCutter planted Hikuleo for the win. This was fun, but got uncharacteristically rough in the middle… still the best thing on the show so far though. **¾
Bad Luck Fale vs. Mikey Nicholls
Oh boy. Nicholls has flattered to deceive in New Japan so far, and this isn’t exactly a match people tagged for him to get on track with.
Nicholls stuttered out of the gate as he took Fale outside… but a missed plancha but him right in the big Tongan’s line of fire, with an Irish whip sending him through the guard rails. Back in the ring, Nicholls gets caught in the corner with some chokes before Fale misses a charge… but Nicholls seemed to be overly reliant on a clothesline as he got charged down by Fale regardless. More clotheslines from Nicholls seemed to bear fruit, but he had to escape a Grenade attempt before an Axe bomber took Fale down. A sliding lariat followed for a near-fall, but Nicholls does a Dumb Thing and tries to lift up Fale. Of course it doesn’t work as Fale responds with a Samoan drop and a big splash for a near-fall before the Grenade got the win. If I didn’t know better, I’d have said this was a “farewell loss” for Nicholls, who offered little here. **
Chase Owens vs. Juice Robinson
The proverbial rubber match here, after Chase Owens beat Juice in the New Japan Cup back in March… before losing a US title match a little over a fortnight later. This was non-title, and screamed “blow-off” before they even locked up.
Owens uses a fish hook to restrain Juice, then a hair-pull as he looked to wear down the US champion with strikes. A chop in the corner was effective but didn’t sound good, as Juice came back with a back body drop as this felt incredibly old-school. Juice doesn’t fall for a handshake as he went back to Owens with a shoulder charge, but another one ends up with him being directed outside for a dropkick into the guard rails.
Back inside, Chase looked for the running knee, but Juice counters with a roll-up for a near-fall. Forearms from Chase lead to Dusty punches, before the Left Hand of God was stopped… only for Juice to come back with a running leg lariat. Juice heads up top for a crossbody that earns a near-fall, but Chase looks to tease package piledrivers and Pulp Frictions, before he threw Juice out of his own move. The knee takes Juice down, as the pair continue to go back and forth, with Chase nearly losing a death valley driver before he ran into an elbow. A clothesline takes Juice down again, but Chase can’t get off a package piledriver as a Left Hand of God and the Pulp Friction gets Juice the win. This would have been fine for a run of the mill TV match, but this lacked any kind of urgency, and befit the tone of the show so far. **¾
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Kota Ibushi & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
We’re not quite in “save the show” territory, but can LIJ vs. CHAOS & Ibushi at least make this show interesting? Of course they can.
We started out slowly here, with Okada working over SANADA’s legs before YOH came in with a dropkick… but we’re just going through the revolving door of tags as Shingo got taken down with a drop toe hold and a dropkick from Roppongi 3K. SHO’s tripped and brought out by EVIL as LIJ cleared the ring… and quickly found their way into the expected pairings with EVIL and Ishii plastering each other at ringside.
In the ring, YOH’s kept isolated, as an attempt to fight back saw him spat on by Naito, before he got pulled into an Axel Dieter Special. SHO tries to make a save, but he’s just DDT’d by BUSHI before YOH finally got free with a Dragon screw, then brought in Kota Ibushi, whose early flurry saw him catch EVIL and SANADA with a backflip kick. A series of kicks led to a standing moonsault from Ibushi for a near-fall, before EVIL and Ibushi came in to trade shoulder charges. They neutralise each other as they fought for a suplex, but a Fisherman buster from EVIL manages to take Ishii down as tags took us back to SANADA and Okada… with the latter cracking into SANADA with a sliding back elbow.
The neckbreaker slam is next for Okada, as the rest of LIJ were cleared off the apron ahead of a slam, a top rope elbow and a Rainmaker zoom. SANADA ducks a Rainmaker and looked to counter, but found himself having to throw his way free of a cobra clutch before a dropkick left him laying. A second Rainmaker’s ducked and countered into a Skull End, with SANADA releasing the hold so he could go for a moonsault… but Okada gets up in time and meets SANADA on the way down with a shotgun dropkick.
SHO returns to charge into SANADA with clotheslines, before a deadlift German suplex almost led to the win. A Shock Arrow’s broken up by Shingo, who laid into SHO with clotheslines before a Pumping Bomber left SHO prone for a backdrop driver from SANADA that almost ended the match. We get the obligatory Parade of Moves after that, with EVIL dumping Ishii with a German suplex, before Ibushi flipped out of Naito’s German suplex as we settled down back to SHO and SANADA… with the latter quickly getting a submission with a swinging Skull End. This was good, but fell short of the rest of the LIJ vs. Okada and friends tags that the rest of the tour’s seen. ***½
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Most Violent Players (Togi Makabe & Toru Yano) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c)
There’s something to be said for the video package for this featuring the Briscoe Brothers stomping away on (presumably) Enzo on the floor…
This one starts out with Toru Yano getting double-teamed by the Guerrillas, before getting free to untie the turnbuckle padding as we’re straight in with that. On the outside, there’s a callback to the old days of Yano and Makabe with a spike piledriver to Tama Tonga on the floor, before Tanga Loa got taken into the crowd. Where Yano just bounces chairs off of Tanga for fun.
Back at ringside, Makabe’s whipped chest-first into the guard rails, while Yano finds himself in a similar pickle thanks to Tama Tonga. A legdrop from Tanga gets him a near-fall as we’re still dealing with the slow pace that the Guerrillas excel at, almost snatching a win with a suplex. Trips to the exposed corner don’t help Yano’s cause, but he’s able to fight back with a hair pull as Makabe’s tagged back in. Mounted punches and clotheslines have Tanga Loa on the back foot, before Tama Tonga carved a way back in… until he ate a swivelling clothesline from Makabe. Yano returns to take down Tama with a fireman’s carry, then with a belly-to-belly as Yano busted out his amateur stuff.
Shenanigans on both sides had Makabe and Yano back in front, as a slingshot catapults Tama into the exposed corner. A Kendo stick shot from Jado stops Makabe in his tracks, and helped Tama come close to a win with a big splash on Makabe. There’s a spear to the arse from Yano for… reasons, as Makabe grabs his chain and clotheslines Tama with it… but it’s not enough as Tama barely kicked out. From there, Makabe slams Tama ahead of a King Kong knee drop, but Tanga Loa breaks up the cover, before Jado tried to crack Makabe with the Kendo stick… it’s blocked, but also gives Tama an opening to roll-up Makabe for the win. Well, that was certainly a match, and almost surely will cure Toru Yano of his belt-stealing addiction for the time being. **¼
Jay White vs. Hirooki Goto
The ongoing story with Hirooki Goto is that he always chokes in the big spots… so would it be the same old story, or would he disrupt Jay White’s attempt to bounce back from his title loss at MSG three weeks earlier?
The early series see White playing a game of human keep away with Goto… but it backfires early as Goto kept White close before Gedo provided an early distraction, allowing White to dump Goto on the floor with a Saito suplex. White keeps up by charging Goto between the guard rails and ring apron, weakening the back some more, before a Boston crab back inside forces Goto into the ropes.
Goto turns it back around with a Saito suplex of his own for a two-count, before a mid kick to a kneeling White seemed to do the trick. White intentionally dropped himself into the ropes to stop a running kick from Goto, as Jay was firmly on the defensive here, lulling Goto into a false sense of security as a Sambo suplex took Goto down. A death valley driver keeps Goto down, as does a deadlift German suplex, before Goto countered out of a Kiwi Krusher.
A Saito suplex over the top rope to the floor has White back in control, as the Kiwi Krusher followed at the second time of asking for a near-fall. Some knees to the head have Goto back in a familiar position, before he landed a desperate, but intentional lariat to have White back on the mat with him. The pair trade blows back-and-forth as Goto felled White with an elbow, before eventually following through with a lariat after both men swung and missed. Goto keeps up his resurgence, taking White up top for a superplex, instead settling for a Code Red off the top rope after outlasting some headbutts from the Kiwi. Gedo gets involved again, sliding in a chair for White to use… but Goto blocks it as he then made what could have been a fatal flaw of changing his focus, dropping Gedo with an ushigoroshi. There’s one for White too, before the former IWGP champion fought out of a GTR… only to take a reverse GTR for a near-fall.
White made one last fightback, countering out of a GTR before they went back and forth from GTRs to Blade Runners. Goto takes two half-nelson suplexes to snuff him out, before a Blade Runner proved to be the icing on the cake. Same old Goto, always choking. This was much the same Jay White as we’ve seen for the past year or so – perfectly fine bell-to-bell, but the increased reliance on Gedo perhaps may be a tip-off for something down the road… ***½
With five “major” shows on the tour, this Wrestling Dontaku swing has perhaps crossed the line marked “too many stops”. With Sengoku Lord, Friday’s feature “Road to” show, Hi no Kuni today and the two headline Dontaku shows, there simply wasn’t enough big matches to spread… and it led to this show coming across as uninspired and completely skippable.
There’s two more generic “road to” shows on Tuesday and Wednesday before Dontaku wraps up on Friday and Saturday in Fukuoka. On the evidence of today’s show, it can’t come soon enough.