Wrestling Dontaku 2016
May 3, 2016
Fukuoka Kokusai Center – Fukuoka, Japan

Watch: NJPWWorld.com

Our previewers: 

  • John Carroll (@toshanshuinLA): Host of Voices of Wrestling’s Dragon Gate podcast, Open the Voice Gate.
  • Rob McCarron (@ShakeThemRopes): 1/2 of the Shake Them Ropes podcast and the person who you should definitely send an email to should you be offended by something Joe Lanza said on a podcast. Yup, email him from now on.
  • Taylor Mitchell (@TaylorCMitchell): Voices of Wrestling utility player, currently spearheading VOW’s Match of the Month project.
  • Rich Kraetsch (@VoicesWrestling): The person who you definitely SHOULD NOT send an email to if you’re offended by something Joe Lanza said on a podcast. Don’t email him.

Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Captain New Japan & Juice Robinson

John Carroll: People who hate Fale are weird. There will always be room for a big fat heel in my pro wrestling (especially when he’s the only one on the roster!) and Fale has really gotten the role down in the past year or so. Anyway, if you need me to tell you who’s winning this match I dunno what your deal is. Prediction: Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi

Rob McCarron: Juice Robinson is in the middle of an under-the-radar interesting run with NJPW. He’s basically a young lion, a student if you will. However, the guy has been involved in title matches (albeit the NEVER 6-man titles), as well as gotten some high profile tag wins. Some. Few, yes. Here, however, on the big show, he’s likely relegated to taking the fall in an opening tag match. Captain New Japan may take the fall, that’s basically all the hope in this match for Juice fans. They ain’t winnin’, dawg. Prediction: Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi

Taylor Mitchell: Fale is enjoyable in one of two facets. 1. Working against the top tier talents of NJPW. 2. Working as a monster in squash matches. The latter is what we have seen lately and it’s been a small breath of fresh air in the Bad Luck Fale act. Let’s hope this match consists purely of Takahashi standing on the apron watching Fale plowing through their jobber opponents. Prediction: Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi

Rich Kraetsch: Circumstances beyond New Japan’s control have in a around way benefits this show tremendously as we have a completely stacked lineup with 10 matches, numerous title and prominent singles matches. The downside, matches like this will have next-to-no time. I’d be stunned if this goes more than four minutes. The story here, as touched on during this week’s VOW Flagship podcast, is Captain New Japan and whether he or Juice Robinson will take the fall. Prediction: Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi

CHAOS (Gedo, Kazushi Sakuraba, Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. David Finlay, Jay White, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask IV

John Carroll: I’ve turned a corner on Taguchi again and am back to begin sick of him, and if I never saw Tiger Mask IV wrestle again in my entire life it would be too soon, so hopefully they make themselves nice and comfy on the apron while the White Lions work the vast majority of this match. I’m very down to see some Sakuraba-White and Sakuraba-Finlay exchanges. This is a pretty massive waste of Will Ospreay on a big show, though! Hopefully this isn’t the start of him being 2016 Mascara Dorada. Prediction: CHAOS

Rob McCarron: Ospreay pinning David Finlay is what I’m expecting to see as the result, but otherwise this should be an enjoyable 6-8 minute match with the highlights all involving the young guns. Prediction: CHAOS

Taylor Mitchell: This match should be a ton of fun. We will get to see Sakuraba rolling around with the Young Lions, White & Finlay, as well as seeing new signee to NJPW, Will Ospreay flying around the ring. YOSHI-HASHI continues to surprise us this year and Taguchi has become a welcome comedic act to add flavor to the NJPW match cards that can sometimes find themselves being too serious. This won’t be a MOTYC, but it won’t be automatically skippable either. NJPW in 2016 has proven to have entertaining undercard matches. Prediction: CHAOS

Rich Kraetsch: Another victim of time, there’s a lot of people that need spots in this match but not a lot of time to showcase them. This match is simply a vehicle for Will Ospreay to get over, show off some of his fancy moves and in the end, get the pinfall. Prediction: CHAOS

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Roppongi Vice © vs. Matt Sydal & Ricochet

John Carroll: I enjoyed the Invasion Attack title match a hell of a lot more than I expected. Being in the crowd it was pretty easy to see how BUSHI’s words RE: the junior tag division lacking any native stars for the Japanese fans to be interested in were definitely true, because the crowd was quite dead at the start. But to the credit of all four men involved, they managed to get the fans into it by the end. Anyway, this should again be quite good. I doubt Roppongi Vice is losing the belts given the nature of Ricochet’s status right now, but then again this IS the Junior Tag Hot Potato we’re talking about here, so you really never know. Prediction: Roppongi Vice

Rob McCarron: No one truly knows what is happening with Ricochet, other than if he stays in NJPW he will be involved in the upcoming singles Junior tournaments. With an impending focus on a singles run, if he even stays, it is unlikely he continues in the Jr tag division throughout this year. Prediction: Roppongi Vice

Taylor Mitchell: Last month Ricochet took the fall ending his team’s reign as Junior tag champs. This was in the midst of his speculation of jumping ship to WWE to enter the Global Cruiserweight Series. Luckily a Ricochet tweet confirmed his entry into the Best of the Super Juniors meaning he will be sticking around in NJPW longer than expected. This creates an interest in how Ricochet will be booked from here on out. Either way, this match will be fun and filled with plenty of action. I’d look for Roppongi Vice to still pick up the win with Ricochet taking yet another fall. Prediction: Roppongi Vice

Rich Kraetsch: I’ll be paying close attention to this match as the winner and who takes the fall can have huge ramifications on the future of one of wrestling’s most dynamic performers, Ricochet. His lady friend Tessa Blanchard showing up on NXT during yesterday’s tapings could be a hint in the direction he’s going. Either way, the match should be solid enough though I’ll admit to being disappointed by the recent output of Roppongi Vice. It’s not that they’ve been bad, per se, I just think their potential far outweighs what they’ve been delivering as of late. As much as I’d love to see Ricochet win here and announce his sticking around, I’m pessimistic and think he may be bounce for Florida (and I don’t mean EVOLVE). Prediction: Roppongi Vice

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, Yoshitatsu © vs. The ELITE (Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks)

John Carroll: God bless Yoshitatsu, who seems like a really nice guy, but boy does he stick out look a sore thumb in virtually every NJPW match he’s been in since his return. I’m hoping it’s ring rust from his injury, but let’s be honest here: he was never that great even before that. Given that though (and the fact that he’s almost shockingly over with a lot of these crowds), obviously the right place to hide him is in these NEVER 6-man tags, so hopefully he and his team retain. Just like with the Junior Tag you never know with these belts, but my gut says they know all the same stuff I just said. Oh and you know what, I disagree with everyone here: I get a kick out of his HHH tribute gimmick. It’s a dumb little joke for a guy who doesn’t matter anyway, who cares? The Taguchi-still-doing-Nakamura’s-spots-and-wearing-his-shirt thing looks WAY more bush league, IMO. This match will probably be fun, by the way! Prediction: Tanahashi & Elgin & Yoshitatsu

Rob McCarron:  The match will be fun, and for the belts no less. However, this is still your standard NJPW PPV 6-man in the middle of the card with the guys that don’t have hot singles programs at the moment. We got Omega vs Elgin out of the way days ago, but their interaction here could still be fire. It’ll be fun, but that’s about it. Prediction: Tanahashi & Elgin & Yoshitatsu

Taylor Mitchell: Omega and the Bucks have an uncanny chemistry together that toes the line perfectly between comedy and seriousness. Omega has successfully created a dual character dynamic of being a comedy act when he’s placed in the mid-card, in matches such as this, while being able to flip the switch to main event status when he’s in a singles match slotted in the main event. This switch flipping is easily noted by Omega wearing either his goofy multicolored tights or his main event level bad ass black One Winged Angel tights.

As for the other trio, Yoshitatsu needs to drop the Triple H tribute/troll act. Yoshitatsu doesn’t have the smarmy grapefruits to pull off the act in the way I’m sure it’s intended. He has shown zero edge coming out of this trying time in his career. Even on commentary at Wrestle Kingdom Yoshitatsu came off as the pathetic kid who got bullied on the playground and wants everyone to feel sorry for him rather than earning the sympathy of the audience. Basically, Yoshitatsu is too nice to do a troll gimmick, so instead it comes off as garbage. Just give us bubbly Tokyo Pop WWECW era Yoshi Tatsu, because that is what works naturally for him.  

As I set down my Yoshitatsu shovel, the important aspect of this match will be to watch the growing feud between Omega and Tanahashi. Omega defeated Tanahashi for the, then vacant Intercontinental Championship, at The New Beginning. After Omega successfully defended the IC title against Tanahashi’s Unbreakable Aces partner, Elgin, Tanahashi came out to challenge Omega to a rematch. Omega declined and the feud continues. I’m predicting we will see Tanahashi earn a pinfall victory over Omega here to set up an IC title match between the two at Dominion in June. Prediction: Tanahashi & Elgin & Yoshitatsu

Rich Kraetsch: Everyone’s going chalk here so I guess I’ll be different — let’s go The ELITE (so many capitals in NJPW right now)! But seriously, I do think they’ll win, I even predicted as such on this week’s show. The build to Omega/Tanahashi at Dominion would be enhanced by Omega once again going over Tanahashi and holding more of the belts in his quest to prove himself an ace. Prediction: The ELITE

IWGP Tag Team Championship
Guerrillas of Destiny © vs. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma)

John Carroll: I just checked to make sure this was the official order on NJPW’s page, which it is. Yikes. From semi-main to sixth from the top! Think Gedo was a big fan of their Invasion Attack match? I know, obviously moving some matches around from the canceled show was involved here too, but still. That’s a damn big drop. Anyway, the heavyweight tag titles are a bore and I would like to get Sweets the heck out of here, so let’s just say GoD retains. Prediction: Guerrillas of Destiny

Rob McCarron: I cannot wait to see what Gallows & Anderson do at Payback on Sunday. Prediction: Guerrillas of Destiny

Taylor Mitchell: I’m on the lonely island of not having given up on the Guerillas of Destiny, just yet. Tanga Loa (f.k.a. Camacho) has been the center of scrutiny ever since being involved in the lone poor match at Invasion Attack. (a match that was slotted as the semi-main event no less!) Tanga Loa has tightened up his offense a little bit on these Road to Dontaku shows and he will improve with time as he continues to work with the top level NJPW wrestlers. I’d much rather welcome the still moldable Tanga Loa over the lost cause Yujiro Takahashi. The Guerillas of Destiny will hold onto their titles here as they continue to develop as a legitimate tag team. Prediction: Guerillas of Destiny

Rich Kraetsch: Tongan for “two stars” Tanga Loa, he of TNA and WWE “fame”, has been exactly what we thought he’d be in New Japan. Bad. The guy sucks, sorry. He’s dragging Tama Tonga down and in his wake, dragging Makabe and Honma as well. The tag division which for a few weeks seemed to finally have some juice is right back to its familiar painfully dull state. Our only hope is this match being severely cut for time. Prediction: Guerrillas of Destiny

NEVER Openweight Championship
Katsuyori Shibata © vs. Yuji Nagata

John Carroll: Katsuyori Shibata vs. The Third Generation is everything a midcard feud should be: self-contained to everything else that’s going on in the promotion, engaging, easy-to-follow, and has a clear purpose. Shibata has been awesome in a more heelish role, digging back into his original roots and seemingly embracing his position as resident ass kicker of senior citizens, and the crowds have been almost 100% behind his opponents, giving these matches a ton of juice. I’m glad they saved this one for the end, because with apologies to Satoshi Kojima they almost certainly saved the best one for last.

Unless, of course….they’re doing Nakanishi. (No, they’re not doing Nakanishi).

This is going to rule so hard. And you know what? I’m giving the win to Nagata here. I think this story isn’t over yet, and I think the last old bastard is going to be the one to finally beat Shibata, necessitating a rematch at Dominion (with Shibata probably getting his win back there, or hell, maybe not- maybe they just move him away from this belt). Maybe it’s a long shot, but it’s one of those picks where I’ll look like a genius if I’m right! Prediction: Yuji Nagata

Rob McCarron: The time isn’t yet up for Shibata, and it certainly isn’t right for his time to come up at the hands of Yuji Nagata. Let’s be real. Keep mowing down these old gents, Kat. Teach these guys what they’ve obviously not yet come to realize – they’re time is up, your time is now. You’re the franchise, and you’re shinin’ now. Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata

Taylor Mitchell: Shibata’s feud vs the Third Generation has been a fresh addition to the NEVER title and it culminates with this match. Shibata and Nagata have increased the intensity of this feud ten fold over the course of the Road to Dontaku tour with vicious cheap shots galore and Shibata refusing to show any sign of respect to the elder statesmen, Nagata. This match elevated its ceiling and has legit MOTYC potential. Shibata will no doubt win to continue to cement himself as a top singles act in NJPW. Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata

Rich Kraetsch: Among my favorite things about NJPW in 2016 is the Shibata vs. Dads of New Japan feud. Not only has it allowed Shibata to add some color and personality to his character but it’s allowed the old farts to have something to do beyond meaningless multi-man tags at the beginning of shows. No, Kojima, Tenzan and Nagata aren’t the performers they once were but they’re all legends for a reason and getting them involved in singles feuds and singles matches from time to time is the right move. Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
KUSHIDA © vs. Jushin Thunder Liger

John Carroll: Oh my god, hold me. I am not ready for one of my favorites on the planet right now versus one of my favorites of all time. This is going to be a very stressful match, as I sit rocking back-and-forth and moan “please don’t hurt each other too bad”. But I have to admit, this feud has been really fun, and gotten a lot more heated than you might have expected from the very cordial challenge back at Invasion Attack. It’s crossed over with Shibata-Nagata, which made sense, and seen KUSHIDA showing a newly aggressive (one might even say heelish) side going after the former eternal ace of the junior division. Anyway, obviously KUSHIDA is winning this, and obviously it will be fantastic. Prediction: KUSHIDA

Rob McCarron:  I’ll buy the nearfalls. I really will. Liger could win. Don’t pass him off too quickly. After fighting off challenges from the young, viral superstar of today, maybe it takes the veteran challenge to provide a new obstacle for KUSHIDA. Maybe Liger knows what those young kids are too naive to know about KUSHIDA. Maybe, just maybe. Prediction: Jushin Thunder Liger

Taylor Mitchell: NJPW has really put a focus on the Junior Heavyweight division in 2016 as opposed to previous years when the title seemed less than important. They’ve taken the successful aspect of having a division ACE that has worked for them in the heavyweight division (see: Tanahashi and now Okada), and applied it to the Jrs. KUSHIDA is their ACE and he has successfully defended his title against three top talents from around the world (BUSHI, ACH, and Will Ospreay). Now he continues his dominance as he defeats the greatest Jr. of all-time in Jushin Thunder. Prediction: KUSHIDA

Rich Kraetsch: I’m salivating at the thought of this match. I can’t wait. I can’t believe it. It’s really going to happen. Fun fact: Liger’s last IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title match took place just over six years ago. He faced current NOAH stalwart Naomichi Marufuji. Maru would eventualy drop the title to a guy named Prince Devitt. You may have heard of him. Anyway, the build to this has been a ton of fun with Liger, the disrespected old fart, becoming increasingly dickish to the point of using a chair to take out KUSHIDA’s legs at the 4/27 Road to Show. All of this will lead to a great moment where KUSHIDA wins and gets a seal of approval from the 11-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Prediction: KUSHIDA

EVIL vs. Hirooki Goto

John Carroll: EVIL is the most improved wrestler of 2016. Seriously, who is more improved than him? He’s gone from “awkward Watanabe with his stupid hand lasers” to “the goddamn KING OF DARKNESS who is going to beat the CRAP out of you…..and has stupid hand lasers”. (Hey, at least he figured out to put them under his face when he makes his entrance, that looks sort of cool!) EVIL clicking with both his gimmick and his stablemates is what took Los Ingobernables de Japon from “Naito is cool and his friends sorta stand there” to “the absolute coolest unit in wrestling and it’s not even close”, even before SANADA joined. He fits in really well with Goto and Ishii in the “squat, short-ish guys who beat the living crap out of each other” division, and as such I think he’ll make a great NEVER champion someday very soon.

Meanwhile, we have Hirooki Goto, who is going through the most interesting period in his career. On one hand, he has fit in with CHAOS even better than I had been expecting (and the red version of his gear is the best it’s looked in quite a while!), but on the other hand his decision to give in to Okada and join CHAOS has clearly pissed off a vocal minority of NJPW fans. He was getting some boos in the Okada feud, which made sense at the time since he was clearly playing the aggressive heel there, but if anything he’s hearing even more boos since joining CHAOS, which was not supposed to be a heel move on his part! Something about Goto giving in to his bully and just taking it has clearly struck a nerve with people, who basically seem to look at him as some kind of turncoat and/or coward. There’s a lot of places they could go with him from here, but I suspect the place they choose will be “continue being the same Hirooki Goto, except in red”. So yeah, I really hope EVIL wins this. Prediction: EVIL

Rob McCarron: EVIL’s done well since returning to NJPW, although he is now overshadowed by two fellow stable-mates rather than just Naito. SANADA is the #2 guy in Los Ingobernables, but EVIL can build credibility with a strong win over a former top title contender and champion in Goto. Prediction: EVIL

Taylor Mitchell: I tweeted this out at Invasion Attack and I want to put it here for a time stamp, so I can reap the proper bragging rights in July/August. The last three G1’s have had a breakout wrestler emerge from nowhere (Ishii, Honma, and Elgin respectively). This year that breakout wrestler will no doubt be EVIL. Not only has the Los Ingobernables de Japon stable been a lightning rod of excitement in New Japan, but it has completely rejuvenated the careers of BUSHI, Seiya Sanada, and Takaaki Watanabe aka EVIL.

Hirooki Goto on the other hand has taken a step back in his career. Goto has gone from being the Bridesmaid who could never win the big one to, reluctantly, taking a backseat to Kazuchika Okada by joining CHAOS. For the last couple of years CHAOS had an interesting dynamic of having two main eventers within the same stable with Okada and Shinsuke Nakamura. No one is conjuring up fantasies of Goto taking Nakamura’s spot in that same dynamic. And that shouldn’t be the case. Okada comes off like the true ACE of NJPW when he is the definitive top guy in his own stable.

Goto is always good for a stiff G1 style sprint match and that is what this match should be. EVIL should get the win over the King of Waterfall training to further solidify his place on this stacked NJPW roster.  Prediction: EVIL

Rich Kraetsch: EVIL is slowly but surely getting there. The character is finally showing signs of breaking through and EVIL is finally “getting it”. With that said, I have next-to-no desire to see this match. It’s nothing against the individuals but on a stacked card like this, it just stands out as an ultimately skippable match with zero consequence. Expect zainessness, interference and plenty of smoke & mirrors in this one. Prediction:  EVIL

Kazuchika Okada vs. SANADA

John Carroll: Look, I want to say SANADA is going over here. I even want to say it’s the right move. But if the main event of Dominion is the Naito-Okada rematch — and really, what else could it be? — then clearly Okada has to win this. I’m really excited that SANADA is here and if anything he’s been an even better fit with LIJ than I would have first guessed, but his role here is pretty defined: be a big hurdle for Okada to get past before he challenges Naito again (and, if there is a god, comes up short again too). I’m glad this match is in the semi-main event slot though, because judging by how well Okada & SANADA have clicked in the various build-up matches this could be a really fantastic match if it gets anywhere near enough time. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Rob McCarron: Love SANADA, but Okada working back to Wrestle Kingdom on January 4 has to be the story. Going through SANADA, then EVIL, then winning the G1 is where this has to be going. So, it starts with SANADA. Tough. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Taylor Mitchell: This match is the battle of guys TNA had at their disposal, but flushed away their talents for lame gimmicks (see: Okato and The Great Sanada). No one believed Okada would return to NJPW as the elite talent he is today, and the same will most likely happen with SANADA. Okada is likely to get a rematch for his recently lost IWGP championship against Naito at Dominion in front of what will be a ultra red hot crowd in Osaka. That means that Okada has to work his way through Los Ingobernables de Japon to get to their leader. Okada has killed BUSHI plenty of times during mid card matches and he will defeat SANADA here in what will be an outstanding singles match debut for one of NJPW’s newest roster members. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Rich Kraetsch: Could New Japan show some guts and give SANADA (more capitals!) the monumental win in his first big-time singles match? I mean they could… but they won’t. Okada wins this one but not after the fight of his life. In many ways, taking Okada to his limit and just falling short could be the perfect story to tell with SANADA as he continue to harness and learn his new Los Ingobernables persona. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Tetsuya Naito © vs. Tomohiro Ishii

John Carroll: Please explain to me how this won’t be really, really good. Don’t say “if the LIJ interferes” either because: 1) they will & 2) it will still be really good anyway. Ishii obviously doesn’t have a prayer but he’s the perfect kind of guy to put into a 1st defense, because the fans will get really behind him in the match even though they know he’s going to lose anyway. Meanwhile, I’m almost out of different ways to say “Naito is the greatest” so I’ll just say he’s the greatest. Of course he’s winning this and it’s onto Dominion and (probably) the Okada rematch. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

Rob McCarron: This could be the best match on the show, as well as the one with strong MOTM hype coming out of it. Entertaining, yes. Predictable, yes. Tetsuya Naito will get through his first defense, proving that right now… Los Ingobernables > CHAOS. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

Taylor Mitchell: These two wrestled in the Voices of Wrestling Match of the Month in March, during the New Japan Cup. The stakes are higher in this match with the most prestigious championship in the world on the line. Naito’s act has been the most unique gimmick pro wrestling has seen in a number of years and everything he does is must see/hear/read. Naito has trolled Ishii during the build to this match calling this an easy match. Even going so far to say that he would rather wrestle Captain New Japan. To which Naito was asked if that was because it would be an easy match. Naito then replied (paraphrased) “what is an easier match? The one against a guy who has never competed for the IWGP championship (Capt. New Japan) or the one against a guy I beat last month (Ishii)?

This match will no doubt be fantastic as these two have an oddly great chemistry with one another. Just go back and check out their series of matches involving the NEVER Openweight Championship back in 2014 or their most recent encounter last month. As Okada is working his way through Los Ingobernables de Japon, Naito is going through CHAOS. Naito picks up the win here against Okada’s stablemate.  Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

Rich Kraetsch: The only downside to this match is we know the result. There is NO chance, 0%, none, nope, not gonna happen, sorry…chance that Ishii wins. Sure, that doesn’t mean the match won’t be great, it will. It just removes some element of intrigue. Regardless, I like rando challenge title matches. One of my favorite runs of Okada’s career were his early title matches against the likes of Makabe and Kojima. They allowed the champion to perform in a main event, have great matches against other awesome workers and build their reputation as champion. It’s a great idea for Naito just as it was for Okada. Given what these two have done in the past, I expect this to be great provided Los Ingobernables interference doesn’t become too cumbersome. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito