New Japan Pro Wrestling
Road To Wrestling Dontaku 2018: Night 10
April 24th, 2018
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Yuji Nagata, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, & Tomoyuki Oka def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Sho Umino, & Ren Nartia

Nagata came out wearing his half of the All Asia Tag Team Titles, which he holds alongside Jun Akiyama in All Japan. This was a pretty fun opening contest. These types of matches (either a straight tag team bout or a multi-man tag with a mix of veterans and young lions) are almost always entertaining, especially on Korakuen Hall shows, and this one was no different. There was solid action throughout, and everyone involved had an opportunity to shine, but the main focus was placed on the burgeoning mini-feud between Yuji Nagata and Shota Umino.

Of course, they had a singles encounter in Korakuen Hall last week (which Nagata won), and Umino certainly hadn’t forgotten the beating he took in that match. He had a stare down with Nagata before the bell even ran, and went after him at various points within the match itself. The two went at it in the final two minutes or so (which included an intense slap exchange), but once again, Nagata got the better of young Umino, as he made him tap out to the crossface. This is everything you want out of an opener on a New Japan Korakuen Hall event. ***1/4

Roppongi 3K (SHO, YOH, & Rocky Romero) def. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Taka Michinoku, & Takashi Iizuka) via DQ

This is the third time I’ve seen this particular match in the span of about a week or so, and it keeps getting worse each and every time I see it. Words alone simply can’t convey how truly awful this matchup has been on this tour. Roppongi 3K “won” (if you could even classify it as a victory) after Iizuka used his Iron Fingers on them in the middle of the bout, causing a rare DQ finish. If there was a silver lining here, it’s that Roppongi 3K actually learned from their previous encounters with Suzuki-gun, and deciding to jump them before the bell instead. Other than that, this was pretty much a trainwreck. I never want to see this match again. ½*

Togi Makabe, “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin, & KUSHIDA def. CHAOS (Will Ospreay, Toru Yano, & YOSHI-HASHI)

I went into this six-man tag hoping that it could erase the atrocity that was the previous match from my memory. Fortunately, it did just that, as these guys put together an entertaining affair that was fun to watch from start to finish. It mainly served to build up Will Ospreay’s upcoming title defense against KUSHIDA, and it did a great job at that, as the two had an exciting opening exchange. While the others would eventually get involved as well, the pace never appeared to slow down too much. Yano tried to use some of his usual tricks, but for the most part, his efforts were thwarted, and he ultimately got pinned after Makabe hit him with his King Kong Knee Drop. This only went about eight or nine minutes, but it didn’t overstay its welcome, and was ultimately perfect for its spot on the card. ***1/4

Tomohiro Ishii def. Toa Henare

When I discovered that New Japan was finally doing this singles match, I was ecstatic. These two have clashed in numerous tag team bouts over the past few months, and every single time, their chemistry has been impeccable. I couldn’t wait to see what they could do in a one-on-one setting, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. While the outcome was never in question, the match itself featured great action throughout, and proved to be a big moment in the overall growth of Toa Henare. The first few minutes were pretty much dominated by Ishii, who had Henare in a lengthy side headlock to start. He then locked him in a Boston Crab, tossed him into the barricades, and even hit some chops to the throat. Henare took a lot of punishment, but he never showed any signs of giving up. He slowly mounted a comeback, even managing to return the favor with some vicious chops to Ishii’s throat. This all built to an incredible closing stretch, with included an insane slap exchange. They went back and forth, and the crowd seemed to be firmly be in Henare’s corner.

In the end, however, Ishii emerged victorious after hitting a dragon suplex and a hard lariat, followed by his signature brainbuster. This certainly met my expectations. Ishii was his usual great self, while Henare had his best performance to date. He showed a ton of heart here, and even though he came up short, it’s clear that he’s got the tools to become an Ishii-esque wrestler in the future. This was simply awesome from start to finish, and I hope this isn’t the last time we’ll see these two go at it. ****

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, The Killer Elite Squad, El Desperado, & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) def. Los Ingobernables de Japan (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, EVIL, & SANADA)

This was essentially a rematch from one of the Korakuen Hall events from earlier in the tour, with the only difference being that this bout was a straight ten-man tag, instead of an elimination match. LIJ turned the tables on Suzuki-gun at the start by attacking them before the opening bell, and from there, we got the usual brawl on the outside. It was during this portion of the bout that Suzuki attacked one of Naito’s knees with a chair. The IWGP Intercontinental Champion would continue this assault later on in the ring when he trapped Naito in various leg locks, including a figure four.

Obviously this story will be a big part of the upcoming singles encounter between the two. Everyone else had moments to shine throughout, and in general, this was your typical New Japan multi-man tag team match. It didn’t set the world on fire, but it was pretty entertaining from beginning to end. Suzuki ultimately won the bout for his team after hitting the Gotch Piledriver on Hiromu Takahashi, and cut a promo on Naito afterwards. The leader of LIJ retorted with a brief promo of his own before Suzuki left. ***1/4

CHAOS (“Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, & Gedo) def. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, & Ryusuke Taguchi

Of course, this six-man tag is helping to build up two of the big title bouts coming up (Okada vs. Tanahashi and Goto vs. Juice). The match itself was relatively fine, but the most interesting aspect about it was the fact that Tanahashi barely got any offense it at all. He was thoroughly dominated by the CHAOS team for several minutes before he finally was able to make the hot tag to Juice, who immediately went after Goto. Tanahashi would get one or two shots in later, but then Okada just destroyed him with a tombstone piledriver on the floor. Okada was shown to be utterly dominant over his longtime rival, and even though there’s a chance Tanahashi will get payback in another multi-person tag before their title match, it was still an interesting sight to behold. Taguchi was the legal man for his team in the final few minutes of this one. He had some comedic exchances with Gedo (mostly revolving around his ass-based offense), followed by a brief encounter with Okada before the IWGP Heavyweight Champion made him tap out to the Cobra Clutch. This wasn’t the best of the multi-man tags on this show, but it served its purpose well. ***

Afterwards, Juice Robinson attacked Hirooki Goto on the outside (running over a photographer in the process), while Okada mocked Tanahashi by stealing his “skin the cat” spot, and teased hitting him with another tombstone piledriver on the floor.

IWGP United States Title – Jay White (c) def. David Finlay

It’s crazy to think that these two were young lions only a few years ago, wrestling in the openers on shows like this. Now they’re facing off in the main event of a New Japan Korakuen Hall event.

Even though David Finlay’s lost nine straight singles matches to Jay White (dating back to their young lion days), he scored a huge moral victory on the first show of the tour in a ten-man tag team elimination match when he last eliminated “Switchblade” (by tossing him over the top rope) to win the bout for his team.

This ended up being a great main event. I would venture to say that it was definitely the best singles bout between the two. There was really solid back and forth action throughout, and although a few minutes could’ve easily been shaved off, it never felt like it dragged. The momentum shifted countess times, but a major turning point occurred when Finlay brought out a Japanese table and set it up on the floor. White would end up putting Finlay through it with a powerbomb and an elbow off the apron (of course, since it’s a Japanese Table, it didn’t break the first time), and from there, the final few minutes were particularly exciting. Finlay nailed White with a number of moves I’ve never seen him do previously, including (what looked like) a lumbar check and a brainbuster onto the knee. Despite his best efforts, however, Finlay ultimately came up short after White countered a stunner attempt into the Blade Runner (a beautiful counter, by the way).

This was about on par with the Henare/Ishii match from earlier in the night. It was one of White’s better singles matches since his return, while David Finlay had one of the best performances of his career. I wouldn’t call this main event fantastic, but overall, it was a pretty strong way to close out the show. ****

Afterwards, Jay White took the mic. He gave Finlay credit for his effort, and said that while he proved that he belong in New Japan main events, he didn’t belong in the ring with him. White then touted his record over Finlay in singles matches, which is now at 10-1, and told the young lions to take this “piece of shit” out of the ring. White closed by saying that he’d be keeping a close eye on the Okada/Tanahashi match in Fukuoka, seemingly teasing the idea that he might challenge the winner.

Final Thoughts

Aside from the abomination that was Roppongi 3K vs. Suzuki-gun, this was a very entertaining show. All of the other undercard tag team bouts were all really solid, to varying degrees, while the two singles matches definitely delivered. If I had to pick one, I would give the match of the night honors to Tomohiro Ishii vs. Toa Henare, but the main event was close to it, if not right on par with it. On this particular event, the spotlight was placed on three guys (Jay White, David Finlay, Toa Henare) who were all young lions not that long ago, and it’s cool to see how far they’ve come in such a short period of time.