This show is night one for New Japan’s Wrestling Dontaku. The two night event is the end of a long tour that will set the table for the Best Of The Super Junior’s (BOSJ) and next month’s Dominion. Night one is the weaker of the two shows, but has two title matches to close the show.
So….let’s pro wrestling!!
Tomoaki Honma/ShotaUmino/RenNarita vs Toa Henare/Yota Tsuji/Yuya Uemura
Young Lions and undercard guys out to start the show. The Young Lion matches have been very good on this tour. Definitely something worth going back and taking a look at if you haven’t watched any of the “Road To” shows. Really nice opener here. The crowd was really into everything these guys were doing. Tsuji got a ton of time, winning the exchanges early against both Young Lions, before getting beaten down by Honma. They told a good story with Tsuji fighting hard, he even got a little fighting spirit spot with Umino. Multiple forearms to Narita caused him to fire up and hit a bridging belly to belly suplex on Uemura in the middle of the ring for the pinfall. I really enjoyed this match. A good simple story to start. Tsuji got to look good in the beginning and tough as he stayed in the match longer than he should have. Everyone besides Honma got to have nice moments in this match, which is exactly what I think a tour closing Young Lions match should be.
Yoshi Hashi/Jushi Liger/Taguchi/Tiger Mask vs Minoru Suzuki/TAKA Michinoku/El Desperado/Kanemaru
This match is all about the simmering Suzuki vs Liger feud. We HAVE to get this match at some point during Liger’s retirement tour. SHOCKER!!! Suzuki-Gun jumped the babyfaces before the match got started. Liger messed up Suzuki and TAKA on the floor by whipping them both into the barricade. That’s what you get for not letting a man take his cape off! This match went all over the place early on. A cool brawl with Suzuki stalking and eventually getting to Liger. Suzuki just does things differently than everyone else. After Taguchi beats the count to get back in the ring, Minuro eventually drapes him off the bottom rope onto the apron and drills him with a chair to the body. After all the chaos we end up with Taguchi in the middle of the ring going back and forth with Suzuki, winning the xchange with a hip attack. Tag to Liger! He is on fire and the crowd is into it. Suzuki cuts Liger off and does an awesome spinning arm bar from the second turnbuckle. Liger sneaks to the ropes, but Suzuki doesn’t give a damn! He’s gonna keep the hold on and dare the ref to disqualify him. Suzuki eventually lets go and kicks the ref across the ring. Suzuki continues beating down Liger as the crowd chants for their hero to make a comeback. Big chop exchange with Liger brushing off Suzuki’s chops, before they go 0-60 MPH! Cool Gotch counter by Liger and a knee by Suzuki. Both men have had enough and tag out. Everyone is in the ring now and they’re teeing off on Tiger Mask. All 8 men brawl, with the result being Tiger Mask hitting a Tiger Bomb on TAKA. 1-2, kickout! The men continue exchanging up until Taka hits the Michinoku driver for the win! Cool all over the place brawl. Suzuki continues to beat down Liger on the outside and takes out a Young Lion, because he’s Minoru Suzuki. It’s what he does. The chaos ends with Liger and Suzuki facing off on the apron both men holding chairs. Liger decides better of it and heads to the ring. Suzuki heads t the back, wait you believe he just left? Of course he didn’t leave without throwing a chair and taking out a Young Lion. Liger recovers, gets his music played, and the crowd is clapping along. Fun times!
Togi Makabe/Yano/Will Ospreay vs Gorillas Destiny (Tama Tonga/Tanga Loa) & Hikuleo w/ Jado
Gorillas of Destiny have such a cool swaggery entrance. After a real let down in the G1, the latest incarnation of the Bullet Club is on a roll. The announcer put GOD over as the best tag team in the world. We all know that’s a stretch, but they’re certainly getting good. The closing stretch has Will making his comeback on Hikuleo. Ospreay gets the Oscuter blocked and then Hikuleo turns will inside out with a big time lariat. Will did such a nice job here making Hikuleo look like a menacing monster. The big man isn’t all the way there yet, but he’s had a nice tour and continues to improve. Ospreay kicks out at two, makes his comeback and hits an Oscutter for the win. This match really showed off just how good Will Ospreay is. Onto the Super Juniors for Will, everyone else will still be hanging around the lower midcard.
Ropongi 3K (Sho/Yoh)/Ibushi vs Naito/Shingo/BUSHI
Expectations are high for this match after the elimination tag team main event they were all a part of on May 1. They won’t get as much time here, but I’m 100% sure they’re all going to bring it. Shingo is bigger than Naito LOL. This upcoming BOSJ is going to be Sho’s official coming out party. Alright, Ibushi out last, and now, some action! The announcer put over how jacked Ibushi is, and they are not wrong. He is really carrying himself as a potential Ace in 2019. Ibushi and 3K mock the Los Ingobernables fists up pose and Ibushi can’t contain his laughter. Bushi and Yoh to start. Some high flying offense before Ibushi makes his way in. All kinds of chaos on the outside with all six men brawling. We even get a little Ibushi/Shingo interaction as Shingo rolls Kota back into the ring. Naito puts Ibushi in a submission that I have no idea what it’s called and neither do the announcers. It looks like it hurt Naito and Ibushi aren’t going full tilt like normal, and I like that. Save it for the main events! More Shingo and Ibushi! Shingo can absolutely be a heavyweight in this company. All of his offense on Ibushi looks devastating and believable. LIJ are playing all the hits on Ibushi who needs to make a tag. Shingo and Sho got to continue their feud while both looking great. I will never tire of Ibushi hitting the Bomaye followed by the Komigoye. That combo got Ibushi’s team the win. Naito did some passive aggressive stuff after the match, but Ibushi won’t let him off the hook. He calls Naito out with an “anytime anywhere” challenge. Naito came back, messed around about having the match tomorrow, teases Tranquillo, and then walks out. Nice way to keep this feud going and not do too much before Dominion. Really cool match. Everyone maximized the time they got. Some nice stuff setup for BOSJ and Dominion.
Bulet Club (Jay White/Fale/Chase Owens) vs. Juice Robinson/Mikey Nichols/Hirooki Goto
More Bullet Club Anniversary Kimonos. I wonder if they shipped two to the States for Devitt and Anderson? Probably not. I would be lying if I said I was excited for this one. Really cool heel cut-off in the match, as Goto, Nichols, and Juice all go for splashes to the outside, and the Bullet club catches their legs and drag them to the outside. Jay White does a nice job of carrying himself as a top guy in these midcard matches. He only gave major offense to Goto, the only guy in this match who is close to his level in the company. That’s an important thing for a top guy in New Japan, and I think he does it well. After tons of back and forth from both teams, Juice countered a package piledriver by Chase Owens, and his Pulp Friction for the win. This match was a Juice Robinson showcase, and they did an awesome job with that. The lights eventually go out, and we get a video playing. ANOTHER KNIFE GUY?!?!?! Really cool music in the video with a “time’s up graphic” and the date June 5, 2019, the same date as the BOSJ final. Times Up means, Finlay? I’m interested.
Okada/Ishii vs SANADA/EVIL
This match had a tough task. Set the table for the two singles matches on May 4th, without doing too much. All four of these guys have had an awesome tour leading up to this match. Ishii vs EVIL is my most anticipated match for Night 2, even more than the IWGP title match. It’s s satisfying to see Rainmaker Okada with the IWGP Heavyweight Title again. Now that Okada has the belt, he has taken his larger than life presence to another level. The crowd (who has been super into everything on this show) is way into Okada vs Sanada. Cool sequences and then we get the freight trains colliding with Ishii and EVIL! Both guys got their hard hitting shots in on the other. I think EVIL is officially in the hard hitting dudes club in NJPW. That’s a club, right? If it isn’t, it should be. Cool how Sanada and EVIL could gain and maintain an advantage due to how much they tag together. Lots of good wrestling in this match, but like I said at the start, they are saving all the big stuff for the next show. Finally Okada gets in and gets rolling with a huge tope to the outside on EVIL. He’s just dripping with cool confident swagger now that he’s the champ again. So many cool exchanges in this match and it looked like it woud end with a Magic Killer, but EVIL had other plans! He slaps the Scorpion Deathlock on Ishii. Awesome mind games to try and finish Ishii with Ishii’s mentor Riki Choshu’s own finish. Okada comes in for the save, but SANADA catches him in the Skullend. Awesome visual with both Ishii and Okada stuck in the middle of the ring, caught in submissions. Ishii and Okada refused to submit and eventually the referee calls for a stoppage to prevent injury to Ishii. Great way to make EVIL and SANADA look strong before the main events on Night 2.
NEVER Openweight Championship
Jeff Cobb (C) vs Taichi
Hugh spot here for Jeff Cobb. The company believes in him and gave him the huge clean pin over Ospreay at Madison Square Garden last month. It’s up to Cobb to elevate his game to the levels he has in the past in PWG and ROH. They did the same build for Taichi, like they did in his feud with Naito and it works. He has to cheat to gain an advantage over the superior wrestler. This leaves enough doubt in the outcome, to have me fully invested in a title match that I normally wouldn’t be too excited about. Cobb is dominant in the early going, forcing Taichi to start cheating. Taichi and Abe distract Cobb so that Kanemaru can attack and give Taichi the upper hand. After a couple minutes of dominance by Taichi, Jeff Cobb took over again. Huge delayed second turnbuckle suplex from Cobb. More back and forth action that has the smaller Taichi ducking and dodging Cobb, while sneaking in his own offense. Taichi foolishly tried a piledriver, no idea why he would attempt that. As a heel, even if he hits it, what’s the point? The pants are off and it’s go time now! Taichi laying in stiff offense and after a back and forth flurry, Taichi hits a big headkick that drops Cobb and this match has blown away all expectations! Super intense last few minutes. Cobb hits Taichi with everything he has, but Taichi keeps finding ways to go for pin and land shots. Black Mephisto!?!?! 1-2-3, Taichi gets the pin and forget everything I said about New Japan being behind Jeff Cobb. Your new NEVER Openweight Champion, Taichi!
IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title Match
Dragon Lee vs. Taiji Ishimori
Buckle up for this one. These boys are in the main event and that means they’re getting time to work. Cool tribute to Hiromu by Dragon Lee. I really hope to see Hiromu at BOSJ or Dominion, even if he can’t wrestle yet. Super cool chain wrestling spots to start the match. The crowd is eating it up. I love the way Dragon Lee lays in some strikes in the corner just to make sure his opponent is hurt, before he goes for his big move. Cool cutoff spot by Ishimori flying out of the handspring off the ropes. I kinda wish Lee wouldn’t have telegraphed the spot call on that one. Ishimori messing with Lee’s mask. Awesome psychology and the announce team really put it over (Rocky is the best at that). Sick tree of woe by Ishimori and we are beginning to cook. Ishimori is in complete control as the match goes to the floor. It’s a deliberate pace, but you can tell there is a build going on here. Shotgun drop kick followed by double knees into the corner and how the hell is Lee’s head still attached. Big STO by Lee to buy himself some time. I don’t know how to describe Ishimori flying through the ropes. I’ll just say it was awesome and you should watch. The near falls in this match are getting so close. Dragon Lee flies over the top rope and into a rana off the apron and onto the floor…we are officially cooking now!! Ishimori hits a handspring off the apron into arm drag into the barricade. You read last sentence right. Words can do it justice. Heavy shots back and forth from both guys. Dragon Lee landed big shots that buckled Ishimori. Then they just hit the crazy button and Ishimori hits a destroyer followed by Dragon hitting a falcon arrow and my oh my oh my what a match! Near fall for Dragon and he drags Ishimori to the corner. HUGE double stomp off the top rope that’s only good for 2. Now Ishimori with a rana, only a 2 count. Ishimori has Lee in the Lebell lock, this feels like his last chance to win. Lee fights the hold and Ishimori rolls back to the center and wrenches harder! Lee is inches from the ropes and Ishimori rolls him back again! Finally Lee sneaks a foot on the ropes, but the damage is done. Monster double knee gutbuster, but Dragon Lee kicks out. Ishimori calls for his finish, dueling knees from both men and a snap German by Lee! Monster knee strike but only a 2 count. The crowd is losing it. Both men come to the center and Dragon Lee hits the Destura for the pinball! What a treat this match was. A great way to set up BOSJ and show that the Juniors can main event big shows. With this win, Dragon Lee became the first Mexican to successfully defend an IWGP title in Japan in 20 years. Dragon Lee walks out with his belt, his mask that Ishimori stole, and Hiromu’s tribute mask. Outstanding match, to cap off a very strong show. A loaded Dontaku Night 2 awaits.