New Japan Pro Wrestling
Road To Wrestling Dontaku 2018: Night 12
April 27th, 2018
Hiroshima Green Arena – Small Arena
Hiroshima, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Ren Narita def. Yuya Uemura

The show kicked off with one of the newest young lions (Uemura) facing off against one of the more experienced young lions (Narita). At just under five minutes, this was a pretty short match, even by young lion standards. However, it was fun while it lasted. Uemura would get a few shots in, including a nice dropkick, but for the most part, Narita dominated this one. There was even a spot where Narita just went to town on Uemura’s chest with some really stiff chops. Part of me wonders whether Narita, after getting the crap beat out of him by the veterans on a regular basis, sees this kind of match as the opportunity to take out some of his pent up frustrations on a guy that’s actually lower than him in the pecking order. Anyway, Narita won after locking in the Boston Crab. This was fine for what it was. **1/2

Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Tiger Mask def. Yuji Nagata, Shota Umino & Tomoyuki Oka

It’s always cool seeing Nagata leading a team of young lions into battle. This was a fun little six-man tag. Oka spent the majority of this bout as the legal man for his trio. He had a nice exchange with Tiger Mask, but then had to overcome Liger and Taguchi before finally making the tag to Nagata. At this point, you can probably already guess how the last few minutes of this went. After it seemed like Nagata had gained control, Umino wanted in the match, and he was tagged in. He had a brief interaction with Taguchi, but eventually got pinned after being hit with the dodon. A pretty standard, but enjoyable, six-man tag that featured some fine action. **3/4

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

Seriously…..I had to sit through this AGAIN?!?! I love New Japan, but why do they insist on doing this shitty six-man tag repeatedly on this tour?? My feelings aside, on this particular occasion, the match was actually a tad bit better than the previous ones, but not by much. The only difference this time around was that Roppongi 3K actually got the win after hitting Taka Michinoku with the 3K (which came after SHO used the iron fingers on Iizuka). I hope we never see this match again. *3/4

Togi Makabe, “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin, David Finlay, & Toa Henare def. CHAOS (“Switchblade” Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, & YOSHI-HASHI)

This eight-man tag comes a few days after the most recent Korakuen Hall event on April 24th, which saw Jay White successfully defend his IWGP United States Title against David Finlay, along with Toa Henare putting in a strong effort against Tomohiro Ishii (despite coming up short). These two teams had an entertaining match that went just under eight minutes. It was easily the best bout of the night, up to this point. There were some nice exchanges with the guys involved in the two aforementioned singles matches from the April 24th show, while the other four did their usual stuff. Elgin cleaned house in the last minute or two, and got the pin on YOSHI-HASHI after hitting the Elgin Bomb. That wasn’t the first time on this tour that Elgin’s scored a victory in a multi-man tag (and he’s beaten YOSHI-HASHI in almost all of those instances) so perhaps he’s being set up for an undercard title shot? That’s just an educated guess on my part, but regardless, this was a pretty solid match. ***1/4

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

Naito came out with Jay Jackson, an American baseball player who’s currently on the Hiroshima Toyo Carp team in Japan. His reveal got a big reaction from the fans in attendance. As for the match itself, it went exactly how you would’ve expected. Suzuki-gun jumped LIJ before the bell, which led to a massive brawl that went all over the building. Once things got back to the ring, all of the participants involved paired off with their respective opponents, and we saw some good action. Suzuki continued to go after the knee of Naito, but on this night, LIJ was able to get the better of the IWGP Intercontinental Champion and his cronies after Naito hit Kanemaru with Destino. LIJ celebrated with Jay Jackson after the match as Suzuki through his usual post-match fit when his side loses. A fine ten-man tag that did a nice job building up all of the bouts that would take place two days later. ***1/4

NEVER Openweight Title – Hirooki Goto def. Juice Robinson

I was a little surprised that this wasn’t the main event. You would think that the show’s only title match would be in the top spot, like the Korakuen Hall events earlier in the week. Alas, this was the semi-main event, and when the dust settled, it ended up being the match of the night. These two had a great back and forth contest that featured very good action throughout. They didn’t do anything that was over the top, but the crowd reactions added a ton to this one, particularly in the closing stages. They were really behind Juice, and every time he seemed to get closer to victory, the reactions got louder. He took a lot of offense from Goto, and at one point, even managed to survive getting hit with the Shouten Kai (which hasn’t been used by Goto in a long time). While Juice certainly got closer to defeating Goto for the NEVER Openweight Title than he did when he first challenged for the belt in February 2017, he still came up just short. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, as it shows just how far Juice has come in the last year. It’s possible they’ll face off again (perhaps in the G1?), and maybe in that instance, the third time will be the charm for Juice. However, on this night, Goto ultimately retained after hitting the GTR. Not only was this the best match on the show, but I would venture to say that it was the best match on the tour, up to this point. ****1/4

Afterwards, Michael Elgin came out to check on Juice Robinson. He then took the mic and issued a challenge to Goto for the NEVER Openweight Title. That wasn’t the only challenge put forth, however, as Taichi came out and threw his hat in the ring for a title shot. He then attacked Goto with his microphone stand and got chased off by Elgin. I’m guessing both will get title shots at some point down the road, so Goto is going to be a very busy man in the next two months or so.

Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA def. “Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay

This main event served as a preview for the two big title bouts on the final night of the tour in Fukuoka. From start to finish, it was a very good match, which should come as no surprise, considering the participants involved. KUSHIDA and Ospreay work incredibly well together, as do Okada and Tanahashi. In the middle portion of the match, CHAOS went after Tanahashi’s arm, and at a variety of other points, Okada tried to hit Tanahashi with a tombstone piledriver on the floor (like he did earlier in the tour). However, both attempts were blocked by Tanahashi, and on the last try towards the end of the bout, he managed to hit Okada with a Sling Blade on the floor. This meant that Ospreay was isolated, and KUSHIDA held the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion in place with the Hoverboard Lock so that Tanahashi could hit the High Fly Flow to secure the victory. Tanahashi then stood tall over Okada and followed up with his usual post match promo/air guitar performance. A strong main event to close out the show. ***3/4

Final Thoughts:

There really wasn’t much to this show until the final two matches. Aside from the one awful match that’s been a constant throughout this tour (Roppongi 3K vs. Suzuki-gun), nothing on the undercard stood out that much. However, business did pick up once the show got to the top two bouts. Goto/Juice absolutely delivered, and the main event was a very good contest that served as a nice preview for the two big title matches on May 4th in Fukuoka. If you’re trying to play catch up on this tour, those would be the only two things from this show worth checking out.