New Japan Pro Wrestling
Road to Tokyo Dome
December 19, 2015
Korakeun Hall – Tokyo, Japan
Jay White, Jushin Thunder Liger & KUSHIDA vs. David Finlay, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask
Liger and Tiger Mask start us off, fresh off their singles matchup from the night prior that saw Tiger retain his NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship. The match not only delivered in a big way but we also saw the return of Liger’s famous Battle Liger costume and the revelation that Liger is still in fantastic shape for a 51-year-old who has wrestled almost non-stop since the last 80s. The action between Liger and Tiger Mask was fierce but respectful, Tiger Mask may be a dick at times but his actions spoke loudly yesterday, he could play this one straight.
The two quickly tagged out and weren’t heard from much for the rest of the match. The highlight of the match saw Taguchi get a hot ass tag where he laid each and every member of the other team out with, well, his ass. Liger turned one of the ass attacks into an Atomic Drop but Assamania never dies so Taguchi was finally able to get the Thunder God down with… again, his ass. I’m not usually a fan of the assfense but this got me laughing, maybe it was something in my coffee.
The closing stretch saw David Finlay working over KUSHIDA’s knee but the craftier veteran stifled Finlay’s attempts to get the win. KUSHIDA locked on the Hoverboard but was met with a stiff kick from Tiger Mask. This led to everyone else getting involved as the action spilled to the outside. With the others preoccupied, KUSHIDA hit a beautiful looking moonsault and pinned Finlay for the win. **3/4
TenKoji & Yohei Komatsu vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Sho Tanaka & Yuji Nagata
The action at the beginning of this match between TenKoji and Nak/Nagata so fast-paced (especially given the combined ages of those who were in the ring) you would’ve thought they were given the go-home signal when they left the curtain. Instead, these guys went all out for about two minutes hitting their usual myriad of spots including of course the hissing Mongolian Chops of Tenzan, then smartly tagged the Young Lions Komatsu and Tanaka and let them turn this into a smartly-paced match.
Once the old lions found themselves back in the ring, the pace was much more…them. It became a stiff affair with some of the patented but enjoyable awkwardness from the likes of Nakanishi and Tenzan. One of my favorite parts of the match saw a great two minute or so exchange between Nagata and Kojima that has me greatly anticipating a singles match (that’ll probably never happen again) between the two. Kojima’s inability to age or ever show signs of slowing down is tremendous and I’ll always pop for Nagata singles matches.
It looked like the upset of the century was brewing as Tanaka hit a delayed german suplex onto Kojima and got the 2.9999. Kojima quickly turned the tables and hit a huge clothesline on Tanaka (nearly knocking his teeth out) to pick up the victory. **
Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) vs. Kazushi Sakuraba & YOSHI-HASHI
I’m sure there’s a subset of people out there that enjoy this style of Sakuraba match but it’s not me. This match consistently almost exclusively of Sakuraba rolling around on the mat trying to get the World Tag League champs to tap out. It didn’t work, Honma hit a Doomsday Kokeshi to YOSHI-HASHI (who was a complete non-factor) for the win. This was as cold and lifeless a Honma match as you’ll ever experience. DUD
Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Hirooki Goto & Juice Robinson
A stark contrast to the previous match, this one was all action from the beginning and had an intensity that really fit with the competitors in the ring. The action almost immediately went to the outside where everyone took turns tossing someone into the steel guardrails. I counted at least three instances of the guardrails hitting someone’s knee and them holding it in pain. This is something I know all too well as a frequent front row patron of Ring of Honor during the mid 2000s. My wrist still cracks thanks to Kevin Steen bouncing into the guardrail.
Though he stuck out like a sore thumb when the bell rang, this may have been Juice Robinson’s best NJPW performance to date. The crowd actually reacted to things he did! Baby steps! To show just how little he actually cared about this match, Naito actually spent a majority of it sitting in a chair on the 2nd row. When he wasn’t sitting down, he was attacking Captain New Japan who was ringside or stopped Goto anytime he he tried to help his partner Robinson.
EVIL finished Juice off with his STO which is appropriately named…Evil. Post-match, Naito and EVIL started beating down Juice until Captain New Japan came in for the save. He quickly fell to the numbers and Naito did the unthinkable and unmasked the legendary Captain. The Cap immediately covered his face with a NJPW windbreaker and Komatsu (doing Young Lion duties) came for the save… Naito was about to clock Komatsu but had a look of compassion for a few moments then told Komatsu to leave the ring.
For those who’ve been closely following, Naito has attempted to recruit Komatsu into LOS INGOBERNABLES. Komatsu hasn’t out and out “joined” the unit, but there seems to be a relationship between the two:
Komatsu did not say clearly "joining Los Ingobernables de Japon"., Just "being ingobernable(uncontrollable).
But he also said "tranquilo”．
— enuhito(English) (@enuhito_eng) December 19, 2015
While the actual in-ring portion of the match was minimal this was an all-around entertaining segment that continues to position Naito and LOS INGOBERNABLES as major players in 2016. ***
CMLL World Welterweight Title Match
BUSHI vs. Mascara Dorada (c)
This match is for the coveted CMLL World Welterweight championship. How coveted? Well, Mascara Dorada has held it for over 350 days after winning the vacant title on January 2, 2015 against Negro Casas. In that time, Dorada, who has wrestled exclusively in New Japan since January, has defend the title a whopping…zero times. Yup, not once. This is the first title defense since he won it in January. This once again shines a bright light on just how much Dorada has been wasted this year in New Japan. What harm would a bunch of CMLL World Welterweight Title matches on New Japan undercards do? As mentioned, Dorada (who is one of the best high-flyers in the world, mind you) has been exclusively with Japan since January of this year. In that time, he’s wrestled in exactly one meaningful NJPW singles match: a IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title match against champion Kenny Omega in April.
BUSHI (who like EVIL is now in all-caps) controlled much of the early portion of this match attempting to keep the high-flying Dorada grounded. At one point, BUSHI teased ripping Dorada’s mask off once again showing the radical change in his character’s attitude. These LOS INGOBERNABLES guys from top-to-bottom seem to be all-in on these characters, this stable and their roles. It’s refreshing to see two of the more vanilla guys on the roster BUSHI and Naito finally find something that fits them and let’s their tremendous talent in the ring flourish alongside.
Finally, the action starts flowing as Dorada turns the tables with his incredible high-flying. BUSHI takes back control with a sick-looking suicide dive that drives Dorada’s back straight into the guardrail. Naito attempted many times to help BUSHI get the win but finally Goto (who was ringside supporting Dorada) had enough and sent Naito to the back allowing us a proper one-on-one title match between the two.
Or so we thought.
EVIL entered the ring just long enough to distract Dorada and allow BUSHI to mist him. BUSHI immediately went to work getting a near-fall on a beautiful bridging pin attempt before finishing the champion off with his MX (a diving double knee facebreaker) to win the title. I certainly expected a bit more from these two being a singles title match but once again the LOS INGOBERNABLES unit appeared to be bigger than any individual or any title. This is still a really solid, fun match but don’t expect a Match of the Month contender. ***¼
Shinsuke Nakamura & Toru Yano vs. Cody Hall & Yujiro Takahashi
This match was chaos (no pun intended) from beginning to end, exactly as you’d expect when you saw who sauntered down to the ring. Nakamura was in definite take the night off mode leaving Yano to be a super worker of the team. It went about as well as you would expect. The outset of the match saw chairs, turnbuckles, Yano taunts and much more but slowed to a crawl once the control portion started. Hall and Yujiro took turns working over Yano (who had tapped ribs) with Hall doing a majority of the beatdown. He’s still a ways away but you can see Hall’s potential in a match like this, if nothing but because of his tremendous size. Once he finally gets how to work like a menacing monster, he’s going to have a nice run here.
Hall hit a huge lariat after reversing a Nakamura arm bar attempt and got a super close nearfall. The crowd didn’t buy into it but it had me on the edge of my seat. Of course, that would never happen and Nakamura quickly took back control hitting a Boma Ye from the second rope and another Boma Ye (which Nakamura had to basically jump to hit the huge Hall) for the win. **¾
After the match, Yano made the announcement of all announcements. We had speculated for weeks on who Yano’s mystery partners at Wrestle Kingdom 10 would be. Could it be some guys from the Bushiroad-backed Pro Wrestling NOAH organization? How about a few guys from Jun Akiyama’s All Japan Pro Wrestling which has presumably entered into a working relationship with New Japan? The speculation was finally over and boy, did we not see this coming:
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii
As great a preview for Wrestle Kingdom 10 as you’ll find, each and every participant brought their A-game today. Even Tanahashi who (rightfully so) gets crap for taking a night off in some tags, looked great throughout. It’s rare you get a match where Okada, one of the best tag workers in New Japan, was the one overshadowed. The beginning of the match saw WK10 matchups battle it out as Okada/Tanahashi worked one another over before giving way to the stiff and painful looking exchange from Ishii/Shibata. Ishii even hit Shibata with a chop that looked to be right in the throat. Ow.
After previewing their WK10 matches, the teams started to mix a bit and with these four supreme talents, literally any matchup was going to be good and had it’s own look and feel. Also it was nice to see Shibata and Tanahashi get over their differences from prior years as they make a great team.
The finish was insane as everyone got in the ring, hit their signature moves but when it was all done the combo for Tanahashi and Shibata were too much. Tanahashi hit a gorgeous High Fly Flow and lifted Ishii up for a stiff Penalty Kick allowing Shiabat to pin the NEVER Openweight Champion Ishii. Go out of your way to watch this main event as everyone had their working boots on and played their own intricate role in making this match come together as well as it did. ****
After the match we saw the highlight of the night as snow fell from the ceiling. I’ve now officially decreed that every Christmas season wrestling show needs to end like this:
Final Thoughts: December 19th’s Road to Tokyo Dome show featured a number of solid matches including a must-see main event, great tag matches throughout and a big CMLL title match.