…or “Wrestling Fire Country”, as Google Translate conveniently tells us! It’s the latest round of the Dontaku tour, and we’re building heavily off of LIJ vs. Suzuki-gun.

This comes to us from Kumamoto, as the first of the three big Dontaku shows got underway. Well, usually it would be, but “big card spread across an entire tour” and all that.

Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino vs. Yuji Nagata & Ren Narita
You know the score here – the Young Lions were keen to impress, and after their own in-fighting, it was Oka and Narita starting us off.

Oka had the early upper hand, wrenching away on Narita with a side headlock, before shrugging off a fightback as he fired off a series of slams and tagged in Umino… who kept up the offence with chops to the chest. A tag back in to Oka led the Young Lion to rather arrogantly throw Narita into the corner so Nagata could tag in, and that earned him a kicking… ditto Umino, who took so many forearms! Narita’s brought back in as Umino’s arm looked to have taken a beating, but instead of working over it, it was back to the usual Young Lion arsenal of moves, featuring a hiptoss out of the corner for just a one-count. Oka’s back in to nail a spinebuster for a near-fall, before going elbow-for-elbow with Nagata, eventually charging him into the corner for a belly-to-belly for a near-fall.

Nagata’s right back with the Shirome armbar, but it’s stomped apart by Umino, who got the tag in and tried to mount a comeback, landing a running elbow for a two-count, before Oka returned the favour and saved Umino from an armbar. They try to double-team Nagata, building up to a missile dropkick from Umino, who was quickly becoming all about those dropkicks, before he tried to out-strike Nagata.

That was a bad idea, as he lost out and was felled by a kick to the chest for a near-fall, before an Exploder led us to the Nagata Lock for the submission. A heck of a fun opener, as these plucky Young Lions & random New Japan Dad matches tend to be. The sight of Oka dragging Umino to the back, bellowing at him in disappointment was quite the thing… ***

Jushin “Thunder” Liger, David Finlay, Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Jay White & Roppongi 3K (Rocky Romero, SHO & YOH)
Thank GOD, they’re not stuck in with Suzuki-gun again!

Jay White got a seperate entrance, because he’s the star of this particular operation, while Rocky Romero called out Tiger Mask at the bell… I guess because he doesn’t like folks who vaguely pretend to be luchadors? He instantly backed Tiger Mask into the CHAOS corner, but some attempted cheating from White backfires as it seems they’re all about unmasking the tiger.

Once we had the tease, Tiger got free and tagged in Liger, whose first move was to baseball slide dropkick Rocky into the railings, before pulling him into a Romero special… that his team-mates broke up. It’s all about the Greatest Hits today, eh? Roppongi 3K started to overwhelm Liger, with YOH eventually running into a tiltawhirl backbreaker, landing awkwardly as he tagged out to Jay White… who had some Taguchi hip attacks to deal with.

Eventually all of the CHAOS team ended up the ropes, so they all got hip attacks, before he ate a tonne of low dropkicks to the arse. The hip attacks began to backfire as everyone went after the rear end, and it wasn’t long before David Finlay tagged in… and ate a snap side suplex. White quickly tagged out as Roppongi 3K surrounded Finlay, who fought back, but was overwhelmed by a barrage of offence as the ring needed to fill to keep him in the match.

When the ring clears, Finlay’s left in the corner for some Forever lariats, but eventually avoids one and nails a Stunner out of nowhere for the rather abrupt win. This was decent in parts, but Finlay really needs to find a better-looking finish – that Stunner kinda sticks out in this environment. Speaking of sticking out… **¾

You’re welcome.

Togi Makabe & Toa Henare vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
Ah, the battle between Led Zeppelin and the overdubbing led to more audio volume changes than a Roman Reigns entrance!

Toru Yano went for the turnbuckles from the off, and managed to outfox Makabe… who wanted no part of that as he tried to whack Yano with the padding. You know the shtick by now. Break! Mock break! Middle fingers… and a tag out to Henare for a bit of a kicking. Problem was, Yano took Henare into the ropes for a cheapshot from Ishii, as the tide quickly turned.

Ishii tagged in and gave Henare an unwanted invitation to a Violence Party in the ropes, wearing him down with ease. Henare turns it around though, whipping Yano into that exposed corner ahead of a suplex, before tagging in Makabe to effectively dismantle the CHAOS pairing by himself. A scoop slam to Ishii, mounted punches in the corner to Yano… but the Northern Lights are blocked as instead a lariat had to make do as Makabe picked up a near-fall.

More tags take us back to Henare and Ishii, who picked up where they left off last week in terms of intensity, but Yano’s on hand to get involved once more as he takes Henare into that corner ahead of a backdrop suplex from Ishii. Makabe returns with a lariat to save Henare, who looked to head up top for a flying shoulder tackle as Ishii was whipped into his direction, before some sandwiching lariats and a Henare spear nearly did the job.

Henare keeps up the fight, whacking Ishii with a headbutt, before he was forced to fight out of a brainbuster… only for a wicked lariat to dump him for a two-count. From there, all it took was the brainbuster, and that’s the win for Ishii. By the numbers, but a lot of fun – I could probably watch Henare vs. Ishii matches for a lot longer if they’re going to be this intense. ***¼

Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Takashi Iizuka, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Bullet Club ((Golden☆Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi)), Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens)
A little over a week ago, ZSJ was in Frankfurt yelling obscenities at hecklers. Here, he’s tasked with dragging up a team that have been responsible for some obscenely-bad matches as of late…

Ah, I’ve missed TAKA the hype man! Nice throw there at the end too…

So yeah, this is a weird Bullet Club-but-not quartet, as we have “team Kenny”, which… isn’t exactly an all-star line-up on this showing. Yeah, we’ve a jump start, as the key pairing interestingly seemed to be ZSJ and Omega. I’m all in on that one.

When the mandated brawl on the floor wore down, we had Iizuka biting away on Yujiro, before spiking him into the ropes. Yikes. It’s back to the crowd as Iizuka takes Chase into the crowd, while the production crew somehow do a job of missing a lot of this… but we did get to see Kenny do a mock walk with Yujiro’s pimp cane.

Back in the ring, Iizuka’s back to snacking on Yujiro, then Chase Owens, the boot of Ibushi, and finally, Kenny’s permed hair. Nobody was safe. Taichi’s in to rile up Yujiro, landing a rear spin kick before running into a reverse DDT as Yujiro… gets stomped on by Iizuka as the isolation continued. Yujiro gets some revenge as he bites at Iizuka’s arm, and now he tags out to Ibushi, who brought in Omega for some double-teaming series on Taichi, including a Kotaro Krusher, before avoiding the onslaughts from Sabre and TAKA.

The Cross Slash followed, with Taichi and Sabre eating that as Chase and Yujiro’s topes took out the rest of Suzuki-gun. Back in the ring, Sabre saves Taichi from a Golden Trigger, as Taichi’s into ripping off his own gear… which gives Ibushi time to recover… and run into a goddamned Axe Bomber! Sabre’s in next to work over Ibushi, but Kota’s kicks won out as he made the tag to Owens… who whacked Sabre with forearms, only for his suplex to end with a Pele kick.

Omega’s in to help out, with Owens able to hit a rope-hung swinging neckbreaker for a near-fall, ahead of some quadruple-teaming on Sabre, ending with a fireman’s carry gutbuster from Owens that led to the ring filling up. Chase looked to be on the ascendency, but Sabre slips out onto a keylock, only for Owens to change that into a trapped-arm lariat, as Sabre eventually overcame that and took Owens to the mat with an Octopus hold for the quick submission. This started off a little rough, and it seemed the story may well be “Kenny’s partners aren’t exactly up to scratch”, but the mere tease of Omega vs. Sabre down the line is something I’m more than interested in. **¾

Stop. Threatening. Us. With. Bone. Soldier.

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, Michael Elgin & KUSHIDA vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Will Ospreay
No separate entrances here, even though we’ve got two feuds left to pay-off on this tour, and a third that was teased last week.

Okada and Tanahashi get us going, with the latter quickly taking down the IWGP champion with a Dragon screw ahead of some double-teaming from Juice and Elgin… although that quickly backfires as CHAOS flooded the ring to try and tear down Juice with some quadruple-teaming ahead of that sushi pose.

Goto had the problem of fending off past and future challengers as he kept on top of Juice while staring a hole through Elgin, before tagging out to YOSHI-HASHI, who nailed a rope-hung dropkick on Juice for barely a one-count. Ospreay’s next, as Okada and Tanahashi fight up the walkway, leading to another tombstone tease, ending with a Slingblade on the entry ramp as Ospreay in the ring set up for a 450 splash to Juice… only to miss.

Eventually Robinson hit back with a lariat to Ospreay, then tagged in KUSHIDA, who was only too willing to pick apart the IWGP junior heavyweight champion with kicks, but Will’s right back in with an over-the-ropes 619, before falling to a low dropkick after a nice series. YOSHI-HASHI’s back in, but he falls to a gamengiri and a tornado DDT from KUSHIDA, before Tanahashi kept up the beating amid a flurry of offence between Elgin and Goto, featuring a crushing bac senton off the middle rope.

Elgin picks up Tanahashi for an Alabama Slam onto YOSHI-HASHI… but he got the knees up as the comeback was on, featuring a Western Lariat to Tanahashi for a not-entirely-convincing near-fall. The ring fills for a Parade of Moves, featuring a hook kick from Ospreay and then a jaw-dropping move… the Storm Breaker, which I can best describe as a spinning old-school backbreaker. Or just click “play” on the video below from New Japan…

Tanahashi’s back with a Slingblade to Okada, then to YOSHI-HASHI, before finishing off YOSHI with a High Fly Flow. At under ten minutes, this was the perfect length for where it was on the card, but much like some of Okada’s undercard tags have been as of late, this was pretty uninspiring in parts. ***

After the match Taichi’s out with his mic stand to attack Goto, as that three-way feud over the NEVER title rattled on… and we get a charge from the back as Okada raced back to attack Tanahashi some more, while everyone was watching over KUSHIDA’s apparent arm injury. The pull-apart brawl did more for me in the Okada/Tanahashi build than the match, as I like how Okada clearly feels threatened that he’s not going to beat Tanahashi for the record…

BUSHI vs. El Desperado
The first of two special singles matches as the LIJ vs. Suzuki-gun theme closes out the show…

BUSHI finally ripped a page out of his opponent’s book, charging at Desperado before the bell and sending him outside for a flying ‘rana as the match quickly broke down. Irish whips into the crowd, t-shirt chokes and all that good stuff! Despy’s right back in with a spear after BUSHI had the referee thrown in front of him, and they ended up on the ramp where Desperado tried to unmask BUSHI, presumably to show that mask with face paint is easily better than “just a mask”. BUSHI survives that, but gets taken back into the ring as Desperado continued to unlace the mask, then takes him up top as he almost removes it…

Eventually BUSHI got himself some breathing space with an enziguiri, then a DDT, but Desperado understandably hung on to the corner to avoid any further offence, as he tried to chop his way back in… only to get lifted onto the top rope for a wacky ‘rana from BUSHI! The MX is teased, but Desperado sidesteps it and looks to go back to the mask, before hitting a spinebuster for a near-fall…

Desperado catches BUSHI in a Stretch Muffler, but his Numero Dos doesn’t work as BUSHI gets to the rope, before countering out of a Pinche Loco and snapping into Despy with a Destroyer! A lungblower followed for a near-fall, but as BUSHI went for the MX, Yoshinobu Kanemaru came in and attacked BUSHI for the DQ. Another match that barely touched the ten-minute mark, but this one was paced so awkwardly it was either going stupidly long or was going to end with a screwy finish. Decent for what it was, but it had its place… **¾

Hiromu Takahashi ran out to make the save as BUSHI was about to be unmasked, and we’ve got a Gabe Sapolsky special as we bleed into the second match!

Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Hiromu Takahashi
After clearing out Desperado with a shotgun dropkick off the apron, the match settled down a little as Kanemaru kept it one-on-one, whipping Hiromu into those guard rails.

A suplex on the floor followed as Kanemaru rolled into the ring… Hiromu beat the count, but the beating continued as Kanemaru wrapped him around the bottom rope in a Boston crab, before taking the referee’s attention as El Desperado whipped Hiromu into the guard railings. Back inside again, Kanemaru chokes on Hiromu in the corner as this match remained insanely one-sided, at least until Hiromu nails a lariat to give him a little breathing room.

The comeback continues with more lariats as he chased Kanemaru into the corners, ahead of a low dropkick for a near-fall… but his back’s been worn down already, and Hiromu can’t follow up with anything that involved lifting, so Kanemaru gets back in it, and stays on top with a tiltawhirl DDT as Hiromu looked to be stuttering badly. Another Boston crab, this time in the middle of the ring, looked to have Takahashi on the ropes, but he’s able to get there to break the hold… and continue the beatdown.

Kanemaru looked for a moonsault off the top… but misses as Hiromu rolled away, before he charged into an overhead belly-to-belly as Hiromu sent him into the corner. The Time Bomb’s teased, but Kanemaru grabs the ref, who then got thrown into BUSHI on the apron as we had more double-teaming… but this time Kanemaru grabs a mouthful of whisky and sprays Despy with it! BUSHI’s back in with the black mist to Kanemaru while taking out Despy with a tope… but still, the Time Bomb doesn’t work!

After a near-fall from the Time Bomb, Hiromu charges Kanemaru into the corner before going for a second Time Bomb… and that gets the win. A bit of a come-from-behind win, but this felt a little flat to me – particularly since we already had the LIJ pair lose their tag title shot. Does these two wins get them another crack? **½

Both of those matches, without the related run-ins and interference, could have been so much better. We can only hope that the draw for Best of the Super Juniors is kind to us, eh?

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & EVIL) (c)
Hope you like being sprayed by water, Kumamoto!

KES started the match by jumping the champions, with SANADA and EVIL getting choked in the corners, but the LIJ pair mounted a comeback, courtesy of EVIL’s Cactus Jack clothesline to Smith, while SANADA took Archer outside for a cross body off the apron… but he’s caught! SANADA has to elbow free of whatever Archer had planned, before running into a chokeslam on the apron.

The KES grabbed a table and set it up on the floor, teasing a Killer Bomb through it, but EVIL makes the save, before he was charged into the railings as SANADA continued to take a beating. Smith takes over next, with a belly-to-belly on SANADA for a near-fall, before popping him up into a powerslam as Archer almost took the win.

Eventually SANADA mounted a comeback, scoring a low dropkick to Smith before tagging in EVIL, whose comeback to Archer featured a lariat into the corner and a bulldog out of it. A double suplex from Archer actually comes off, but Smith’s back to save his partner from a Magic Killer, before dumping EVIL with a German suplex as the challengers again took control… sort of!

SANADA ‘ranas Archer onto the apron to avoid a chokebreaker, but he’s landed too close to the table as the KES leapt off the apron and destroyed the table with a Killer Bomb. Ow.

EVIL’s left on his lonesome, but an errant dropkick from Smith wipes out Archer, before a back suplex from Smith almost led to a title change. From there, Smith tries for a submission, but EVIL crawled to the ropes for safety, only to get pulled outside as Archer dumps him on the floor with a fallaway slam.

Archer decides to do a Yano and untie the turnbuckle padding, just so he can throw EVIL into the exposed buckles. The two-on-one offence on EVIL continues as he’s helped up into a slam off the top rope, then a sidewalk slam with a splash, before KES hit a Magic Killer for a very-near-fall! When that doesn’t work, they try for a Killer Bomb, but SANADA’s back in with a missile dropkick, before he and Archer went back-and-forth in and out of the Skull End.

The focus turned to Smith, as he took a Magic Killer, but Archer’s taken the referee out, and now we’re in with plunder as Archer grabs a chair from under the ring… and wedges it in the exposed corne. A double chokeslam from Archer comes to nothing as he gets sent into that chair instead, before EVIL plays with some furniture, whacking a chair off of Smith’s head. Just like the old days!

A Darkness Falls fireman’s carry spinebuster’s next as Smith barely gets a shoulder up, before the Everything is EVIL STO gets the win. This was enjoyable within the context of things – you should know how KES matches go now, and this was a case of LIJ outsmarting them at their own game. ***¾

I now worry though, because that’s technically 3-0 to LIJ. They’re not sweeping the board, are they?

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuya Naito vs. Minoru Suzuki (c)
On paper… why is Naito wanting to regain the Intercontinental title? Didn’t he spent a lot of last year treating it like dirt?

Naito takes his sweet time disrobing, and he’s straight out at Suzuki… but of course we have to Tranquilo. Naito might have shed a little bit of his care-free attitude, but he’s not a mad man. Suzuki… on the other hand, is only too willing to poke fun of the Ingobernable, who replied by taking him outside for a few whips into the guard rails. Standard.

Back in the ring, Naito uses headscissors to wear down Suzuki, but it’s way too early for that as Suzuki invariably ends up on top, putting the boots to Naito, who seemed remarkably calm at the near-certain death wish he was inviting on himself. The rope-hung armbar comes Naito’s way, as Suzuki followed him outside for a PK off the apron, before going into the crowd as the commentary team lost their shairs… so Naito could be thrown under them. I swear Suzuki took a swing at someone wearing LIJ merch too…

Referee Red Shoes starts the count, which Naito barely beats, as he rolled back into the ring and continued to take a kicking. An armbar follows, complete with a demonstration of just how pliable your wrist can be, as Naito decided to mount a comeback, landing some running elbows and a neckbreaker as he saved his wrist from further decimation.

A pair of reverse DDT-style backbreakers follows as Naito began to wear down Suzuki, but he couldn’t help but wind up Suzuki in doing so, which led to Suzuki snapping. Body blows and running boots greet Naito, as did a trio of PKs, before Naito kept things remarkably even with a tornado DDT. Things go back to basics as the pair exchanged strikes, with Suzuki’s elbows having a lot more steam behind them, at least until Naito rebounded off the ropes with a leaping forearm. Naito keeps up the pressure with the outside-in dropkick into the corner, but the tit-for-tat nature of the match continued as Suzuki slipped out of a superplex attempt with a leg grapevine in the ropes.

There’s no quick count for that either, as the ref had been shoved down, giving Suzuki plenty of time to sink in the hold, as Naito now had a massive bullseye on him. A knee bar was the obvious port of call for Suzuki, who mixed it in with a leg spreader for extra ow, before dropping a bunch of knees as he set up for a Figure Four. Eventually Naito rolled the hold over, just as he reached the ropes, and managed to sneak in with a big DDT and an enziguiri as he tried to make a one-legged comeback. A tornado reverse DDT out of the corner followed for a near-fall, but Destino’s blocked and met with another knee bar, and a long one at that as Suzuki continued to wrench away on the worn-down limb.

Naito refuses to tap, as he clung onto Red Shoes… but Suzuki decides to let go and reapply the hold for some reason, giving Naito enough of a chance to roll into the ropes. Problem was, Suzuki just went to another hold, trapping Naito in a sleeper… with Naito finally escaping and scoring something closely related to a swinging neckbreaker. Some palm strikes from Naito looked to be chipping away at Suzuki, bloodying his nose in the process, but one kick to the knee puts us back at square one, only for Naito to slip out and drup Suzuki on his head with a brainbuster. Destino followed from there… and that’s all folks! Talk about an abrupt finish… perhaps a little too sudden, given how one-sided the offence was against Naito. This match was virtually all one-way traffic, and the sudden “comeback into a Destino” finish wasn’t exactly inspiring, but it did the job… but at what cost? ****

LIJ did the clean sweep, and with neither Naito nor Suzuki moving, the rest of LIJ came down to ringside to celebrate while Suzuki just swatted away Young Lions as he headed to the back.

Wrestling Hi No Kuni was a bit of an odd show. It continued the vein of New Japan shows on this tour that were “one match cards”. Sure, the overall Suzuki-gun vs. LIJ series “dominated”, but it was Naito vs. Suzuki that was the draw for Kumamoto today… and while the match was good, the abrupt ending of it took a lot away from me. Next up for New Japan are two more stops on the Road to Wrestling Dontaku, but neither of those will be streamed… so we’re back on Thursday for the first of two nights in Fukuoka as the tour comes to a head!