New Japan Pro Wrestling
Wrestling Dontaku 2018 Night 1
May 3rd, 2018
Fukuoka Convention Center

Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers

  • Joel Abraham: Joel is supposed to be on holiday in Taiwan. Follow him on Twitter @joeljabraham to see a sweet photo of him with an alpaca and/or help him think of a name for his new NJPW-based podcast with Damon McDonald. Also, happy birthday to John!
  • John Carroll: John is ready for yet more NJPW preview action, as the Wrestling Dontaku tour finally comes to a close with these two final shows. Also this is probably going up on their birthday (May 1st) so, more so than ever, please be kind to them! よろしくお願いします!! You can follow their Twitter @toshanshuinla if you like Naito apologia mixed with weeb garbage.
  • Taylor Maimbourg: Taylor wrote the last New Japan preview and the Cleveland Cavaliers managed to squeak into the second round of the NBA Playoffs, so now he’ll be writing every one of these previews so that the Cavs can win the whole thing. Follow him on Twitter @tamaimbo and wish John a happy birthday!

Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Shota Umino & Yota Tsuji

Joel Abraham: Plenty has been said about how great ‘Showtime’ Umino is (I just came up with that nickname), but I’m interested to see how Tsuji develops, given that his background is in American Football, Taekwondo and Baseball. The ‘awkward sidekick’ Bullet Club(?) duo of Chase and Yujiro is strangely endearing, and one of the low-key interesting subplots to the ongoing schisms in the faction. That said, I’m about done with all of it for now and am ready to see everybody move on to something else. With EVIL and SANADA retaining their tag-team championship, Chase and Yujiro would be a fun team to step up and challenge them. Their road to glory starts here! Prediction: Chase & Yujiro

John Carroll: Like Joel, I’m sorta into the wacky team of Chase & Yujiro, although with the asterisk that Yujiro’s gimmick is a little tough to get behind as a (de facto) babyface in the whole BC split. It’s 2018, not 1998, and the idea of a babyface pimp character ain’t exactly my favorite thing in the world. But with that said, I do like them as a fun undercard team. Umino has quickly become the new ace of the young lions with Kitamura and Kawato both gone, and Tsuji is already showing some promise. Your standard opener here but no reason why it can’t be good fun while it lasts. Prediction: Chase & Yujiro

Taylor Maimbourg: Umino gets a break from getting the stuffing beaten out of him by Yuji Nagata to take on the wacky team of Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi. A tag title shot for Owens and Takahashi is an interesting idea, but it would appear to me that Ishii and Yano are ahead of them in line, so maybe this is building towards a CHAOS/Bullet Club #1 contenders match?  Or maybe I’m just trying to give a story to a match that doesn’t seem to have much going on under the surface. Should be a fun, if forgettable, match. Prediction: Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi

Yuji Nagata, Tomoyuki Oka & Ren Narita vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi

Joel Abraham: I’m finding Oka an increasingly fascinating person to watch in recent weeks. As the unofficial ‘Golden Boy’ of his Young Lion cohort, he’s seen Kawato, Kitamura and now seemingly Umino jump ahead of him. He appears to be rising to the challenge and has shown more fire in recent weeks, getting in plenty of offence against his superiors. That’ll be what I have my eye on in this match. For Narita, the addition of Uemura and Tsuji has given him some understudies to beat up and get wins over, proving a new caveat to his development, although we won’t be seeing any of that here. As for the other team, my only hope is that Taguchi keeps his pants on this time. We’re approaching Best of Super Juniors season so I suppose that means some of these juniors need heating up and what better way to do it than for Taguchi to pin Ren Narita? Prediction: Taguchi, Liger & Tiger

John Carroll: I’ve been pounding the “Oka is showing more fire lately” drum for weeks now as well, as I think he’s really starting to show some improvement after a very slow start to his career. It’s always important to remember that just because a guy doesn’t light the world on fire as a young lion at first doesn’t mean he can’t still develop into a great wrestler; in recent memory, Hiromu Takahashi was a pretty underwhelming young lion as well, and he still turned out to be pretty damn good, I’d say. Taguchi getting the pin and heading into the BOSJ with a win sounds like a good finish to me. Prediction: Taguchi, Liger & Tiger

Taylor Maimbourg: Like Kitamura, Tomoyuki Oka came in to New Japan as a super heavyweight, however, as Kitamura leaned into his massive status, Oka seemed to slim down and now occupies a strange spot in the world.  He’s a big skinny guy, and in the transition has seemingly lost the characterization he began with. Kitamura was a gigantic, strong ball of energy, Kawato was a never-say-die lovable babyface, and Oka is a….I don’t know.  Now, I know that he’s a young lion and most of what happens with him now is subject to change, but even at a base level, he seems to lack the basic character traits that make the best young lions stick out from the pack. Why should crowds get behind him?  What makes him different than Narita or Yagi or Tsuji? I don’t have the answer, but maybe something will click on one of these undercard matches. Prediction: Taguchi, Liger & Tiger

CHAOS (Roppongi 3K & Rocky Romero) vs. Suzukigun (Killer Elite Squad & Takashi Iizuka)

Joel Abraham: Look, I like Roppongi 3K as a tag-team, K.E.S. are certainly a guilty pleasure and think they deserve more credit than they receive, but we all know that this match is largely going to consist of Iizuka biting people. With the dynamics of three juniors against three heavyweights, the result is only going to go one way given NJPW’s frustrating lines in the sand for the weight classes. I would like to see SHO and YOH differentiate their movesets for the upcoming BOSJ, and I’m interested to see what’s next for K.E.S., but I don’t think I’ll be getting any of that in this match. Prediction: Suzukigun

John Carroll: I will admit to being somewhat surprised by Killer Elite Squad’s loss to EVIL & SANADA at Hi No Kuni on Sunday, as it kind of leaves them with nothing to do for a while. While both LIJ members are mortal locks to be in the G1, I would find it hard to believe that they’re gonna make room for Davey Boy or Archer, just given that neither was in last year and you already have some high profile singles guys who need spots this year (Jay White being the most obvious one, although you could make cases for a bunch of other guys too). So they likely won’t be much of a factor for a while going forward. Anyway, obviously they and Iizuka are picking up the win here. Prediction: Suzukigun

Taylor Maimbourg: These Roppongi 3K and Iizuka matches have been a total bore for me the whole tour long, and I’m glad that Best of the Super Juniors is coming up to get SHO and YOH away from the Iizuka black hole.  A number of wrestlers in New Japan have improved in 2018, firmly placing Iizuka at the very bottom of my list of wrestlers I’m excited to see. Hoping that they keep this one short and move on from the endless slog.  Prediction: K.E.S & Iizuka

Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin, Juice Robinson, David Finlay & Toa Henare vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI)

Joel Abraham: As we approach the end of this mega tour, we’re seeing the dying embers of a lot of feuds which obviously lack the intensity that they had last week. Perhaps we get some build-up between Large Michael and Goto. Perhaps we find out what the deal is with this burgeoning Yano & Makabe feud. Perhaps a new challenger emerges for Switchblade’s U.S. title, with Juice and Henare as possible new challengers. Perhaps YOSHI-HASHI decides this is the day to stop being a geek and grab the bull by the horns, instigating a surging singles run leading to G1 Climax glory. I’m guessing Makabe pins Yano here to continue whatever it is they have going on. Prediction: Makabe, Elgin, Juice, Finlay & Henare

John Carroll: The focus here will probably be on Elgin and Goto building up their new NEVER title feud (which also involves Taichi as well, so maybe he’ll make his presence felt in the post-match again), but the guy I’m most interested in here is definitely Jay White. He has been delivering bizarre but fascinating post-match promos since he retained his title against Finlay, noting that he would be keeping his eye on the winner of Okada-Tanahashi (!) but then also noting that he could just be saying that to say it (and kind of going on like that for a while). It’s really interesting stuff and I’m honestly not sure where it’s leading. I don’t think we’re going to get a new US Title challenger out of this just because White’s next defense will actually be in a little under two weeks at Ring of Honor- he’s defending against Punishment Martinez at the War of the Worlds show in Toronto on 5/11- but could he get involved in the IWGP Heavyweight title scene while still US Champion? Perhaps we’ll find out after Night 2! Prediction: CHAOS

Taylor Maimbourg: This match seems designed to further the issues between Michael Elgin and Hirooki Goto, but it seems weird to have a 10-person tag just to highlight one feud, so I’m assuming something else will boil over here, leading to a challenge.  Maybe Ishii or Yano will pick up a pin and offer an official challenge to EVIL and SANADA for the tag team title belts. Other than that, this just seems like a bow on some of the feuds that have highlighted the last month of New Japan action.  Elgin seems to have worked his way up to a title shot by pinning YOSHI-HASHI repeatedly, but now that he’s made the challenge, maybe it’s time to pin someone a little further up the pecking order. Prediction: CHAOS

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship
BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale & Guerrillas of Destiny) © vs. BULLET CLUB (The Young Bucks & Marty Scurll)

Joel Abraham: GOD took the L when they faced Cody & Marty at Strong Style Evolved, so I would expect them to win tonight to get their heat back (brutha). They’ve held these titles for 112+ days, and have had three successful defences, although I couldn’t tell you who they were against if my life depended on it. (I just checked: Makabe/Henare/Taguchi; Liger/Delirious/Cheeseburger; Makabe/Elgin/Taguchi.) I don’t care for these titles because they’re booked to seem unimportant, but I am interested in Tama Tonga and would like to see him do something to distinguish himself amidst the Bullet Club civil war. He managed to get himself over and seem like the coolest motherfucker in the room when it first kicked off just by doing nothing, but I’ve been underwhelmed by the lack of meaningful follow up. Hopefully it starts here, because his place in this year’s G1 could well be under threat. I don’t think The Bucks are around often enough to hold these titles, and Marty is lined up for the BOSJ. And he’s a junior heavyweight, so he’s clearly eating a pin here.  Prediction: Fale & GOD

John Carroll: The story of this show is the BULLET CLUB civil war, so here we’ve got a NEVER 6-man tag title match between the two sides. I can’t say I’m that excited for this one either, as it feels like there’s not much of an issue here; the Fale/GOD team has been “Team Kenny” only insofar as they’ve said they’re not Team Cody, as they’ve done nothing to really go out of their way and support Kenny’s leadership otherwise. On the other side of things, the Young Bucks ended episode 100 of Being the Elite making it clear they actually wanted to be on Kenny’s side, only to be rejected by him and told the Elite is finished. So they’re awkward members of Team Cody at this point as well. You could say all of that is an interesting narrative and a twist on the usual “unit splits and fights itself” storyline, and I think you’re probably right, but it makes for a weird match dynamic here where the two sides in this match barely seem to have any reason to be fighting each other. So maybe it’s just about the NEVER 6-man titles, but as Joel mentioned those belts barely matter anyway. Now that I spent all this time saying this match feels pointless, watch them have a great match just to spite me. Prediction: Fale & GOD

Taylor Maimbourg: I’ve done a bunch of these previews recently, and it seems like every time I do one, I predict that SOMETHING will happen to progress the story of the fringe members of the Bullet Club.  I haven’t been right yet, so now I’m going to predict that this match will just be for the titles and absolutely nothing will happen to further the stories of “Team Tonga”. If there has been one issue with the Bullet Club breakup story, it’s that the story seems to function in a very stop and start manner.  The money match, Cody vs. Kenny seemed to happen pretty quickly, but peripheral stuff has happened at an absolute crawl and they haven’t really progressed with Fale and GOD in any meaningful manner. Of course, now that I’ve predicted that nothing will happen storyline wise, this match will be only story and I’ll look like a fool yet again.  Prediction: Fale & GOD

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Suzukigun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado)

Joel Abraham: Now that Tetsuya Naito’s professional wrestling career is stone dead after a mildly disappointing match on a nothing show, I fully expect LIJ to turn on him here and appoint a new leader whilst Naito fucks off and gets in the bin with Roman Reigns. I mentioned earlier that we’re approaching the end of these feuds so I expect some closure over these two shows, with LIJ getting a big win, perhaps to give Hiromu some shine leading into his BOSJ challenge (which I expect him to win). We need new challengers for Naito, EVIL & SANADA, and Despy & Nobu, but we won’t be getting those today. The teases for a possible ZSJ v Kenny Omega feud have certainly whet my appetite, so I hope that’s what’s next for Zack. These two teams will probably trade wins as there is another LIJ v SZG 10-man tag match the following day, so this one is a coin toss. Prediction: Suzukigun

John Carroll: I’ve said a lot about Naito-Suzuki already on my Twitter feed and I’m also writing the review to Hi No Kuni, so I’ll say more about it there. But bottom line: don’t listen to WWE fanboys on whether or not Naito has “cooled off”. They have an agenda and they’re gonna stick to it in the face of all facts (sold out shows, LIJ merchandise continuing to fly off the racks, Naito lapping the field in every single wrestler popularity poll in Japan so far this year, etc. etc.) Needless to say Naito will survive one disappointing C-show main event with Minoru Suzuki, just like Okada did last year. Anyway, like Joel said I doubt we’re gonna get new challengers of any sort out of this match, but it’s possible we’re getting a Naito-Suzuki rematch for the IC Title, and I think we’ll get a good indication if things are heading that way based on how the match goes here. If they’re really brawling to the back and yelling at each other in the post match, I think it’s safe to say the rematch is on. As for the winners here, Sabre tapping out one of the juniors seems likely to me. Prediction: Suzukigun

Taylor Maimbourg: It’s hard to say much about this after the disappointing match on Sunday.  It’s certainly possible that Suzuki and Naito are headed for a rematch, but after their match at Hi No Kuni, are you really that excited to see it again?  If both men knew that they were headed for an immediate rematch and were saving themselves, that might partially explain the disappointing outcome, but even if that is the case, are you that excited to watch the same match again?  I certainly could be wrong, and maybe a rematch isn’t in the cards, which then opens up some possibilities, but none that I can arising from this match. At the end of the day, like some of the previous matches, I think that this will largely be a match to wind down various feuds and put a button on this tour.  Prediction: Suzukigun

Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA

Joel Abraham: It’s remarkable how these two upcoming title matches have seemingly flown under the radar, overshadowed by other stories. Ospreay debuted a new finishing move, The Storm Breaker, so I imagine we’ll see that again here. The mad king Okada will continue to heel it up with his dyed eyebrows, and perhaps try to Tombstone piledrive Tanahashi onto yet another unforgiving surface to call back to their Wrestle Kingdom 9 build-up. It’s hard to say too much about this match without stepping on the toes of whoever’s previewing the title matches the next day, but given that I expect both CHAOS boys to retain, let’s say KUSHIDA picks up the win here to build a bit of uncertainty. Prediction: KUSHIDA & Tanahashi

John Carroll: Here’s a rematch from the main event in Yokohama last Friday, where Tanahashi & KUSHIDA got the win after Tanahashi pinned Ospreay. There’s a number of different ways this can go here, but ultimately I think the most likely finish is Okada getting the pin on KUSHIDA and standing tall as champion at the end. Tanahashi has gotten the better of him in their last few scuffles, so Okada getting to look good before the title match the following day will add to the air of uncertainty there. It would almost be a reverse psychology kind of move, letting people wonder “well, if Okada got to stand tall the day before, does that mean Tanahashi is winning the title tomorrow??”. Prediction: Okada & Ospreay

Taylor Maimbourg: Okada and Tanahashi is a story so rich in callbacks that now the callbacks even extend to Okada’s eyebrows, dyed blonde like they were during Okada and Tanahashi’s first encounters.  All kidding aside, now that Naito and Suzuki are out of the way, I expect these feuds to really take off now that they have the sole spotlight. Personally, I probably would have split these title matches between the two shows, but having them both on the same card definitely does make night 2 seem like a big big deal.  There have been a number of heavyweight pinning junior in these matches so, as for who wins this one, it really seems to me that maybe we get the first challenger pin of champion the day before the match to really build up the suspense. I think KUSHIDA pins Ospreay and then Okada lays out Tanahashi. Prediction: KUSHIDA & Tanahashi

Kota Ibushi vs. Cody

Joel Abraham: This is a rematch of their surprisingly great Wrestle Kingdom match, before the Bullet Club/Golden Lovers fiasco began. I expect Ibushi will be carrying the can for ‘Cody Three Stars’ here in a match that will be full of callbacks, storytelling, Cody’s top-notch heel work and a few big spots. As I said earlier, I hope this feud is starting to wind its way down because it feels like they’re running out of steam. Cody got a big win over Kenny Omega at the ROH Supercard of Honor XII show, so for him to beat the other Golden Lover would be too upsetting for me, so I’m going to say that Kota wins yet again to put the nefarious upstart Cody in his place. Prediction: Kota Ibushi

John Carroll: I really like the idea of going back to Cody-Ibushi here, as it’s how this entire BULLET CLUB civil war/split mess originally started. Everything can be traced back to Cody walking up after Ibushi had just lost to Tanahashi in an outstanding Intercontinental title match last November at Power Struggle, saying something along the lines of “Kenny told me to leave you alone, but I just couldn’t help myself”. In hindsight, boy was that a big ‘ol bit of foreshadowing. As Joel stated, the Ibushi-Cody match at Wrestle Kingdom was almost shockingly great, easily the best match Cody has had in New Japan. Cody’s big win over Kenny in ROH was not a great match, however, at least in my opinion, so hopefully Kota can pull some magic out of him again here. Sadly I do think Cody is winning, as it seems like a mortal lock that we’re building to another Cody-Kenny match (whether at Dominion or further down the line at a G1 Special or even All In), so having Kota beat him here wouldn’t really make much sense. I think the only two real possibilities here are Cody victory (probably via cheating) or something like a DQ or count out finish. Prediction: Cody

Taylor Maimbourg: I really enjoyed Cody and Kota’s match at Wrestle Kingdom, but I think that this match is going to be of a slightly different flavor.  I’m not sure whether that will mean that the match is better or worse, but I’m interested to see exactly what happens. The announced return of Being The Elite has my antennae twitching though.  One of the reasons for the break in Being The Elite was the fact that with The Young Bucks and Omega going their separate ways, there was really no “Elite” anymore. But what if a new Elite forms?  Maybe Cody and The Young Bucks become the Elite 2.0? What better way to establish the new group than to have the Bucks interfere at the end of this match and cost Kota a victory? Maybe they tease superkicking Cody again, teasing trying to make up with Kenny before turning and superkicking Kota.  Kota is the fulcrum around which a lot of this drama has rotated, and I can easily believe the Bucks interfering against Kota as payback for taking their best friend away from them. Prediction: Cody

Kenny Omega vs. Hangman Page

Joel Abraham: Hangman Page is on my shortlist for most improved wrestlers in 2018, with top-notch matches against Jay White and Kota Ibushi to his name. Indeed, he and the Golden Star positively stole the show at Supercard of Honor XII. There’s a long list of guys banging on the door for a G1 spot, and Hangman Page has certainly staked his claim, international commitments notwithstanding. The Cody v Kenny match, on the other hand, was a bit disappointing. But I’m going to blame that squarely on Cody, because Kenny can do no wrong and don’t @ me with any facts or well-reasoned arguments to try to change my mind. And so, I expect this match to be an absolute banger, chock-full of crazy death-defying bumps that will thrill all but the most cynical of the hardcore professional wrestling intelligentsia. I wouldn’t be stunned if Page pulls out the win here, but I rather think that this ends in a big win for Kenny and a clean sweep for the Golden Lovers tonight. Prediction: Kenny Omega

John Carroll: Yet again I find myself agreeing with Joel 100% here: I think Page has been awesome in 2018 so far, having a great match with White at Strong Style Evolved and an awesome match with Ibushi at Supercard of Honor that was the best that show had to offer by a wide margin. Omega and Page have never met in a singles match before, and a match that probably would have just been mildly exciting in 2017 is one that I can’t wait for in 2018. With that said, this is an odd choice for an NJPW main event just because of how rare a non-title (and non-tournament) singles match main event is- as I stated in the full tour preview I did a while back, other than the Anniversary shows (which have a tradition of doing non-title heavyweight vs. junior main events), you would have to go all the way back to December 14th, 2008, when Hiroshi Tanahashi beat Togi Makabe in 21:03 in Osaka at NJPW Fight For Existence II to find such a main event. This can be argued is the positive side of doing a two night split like this: two matches that would have to be undercard matches on a full Dontaku tour will get a lot of time in the semi and main event slots here, so whether or not they can deliver won’t be limited by time. Thus I have no reason to believe they can’t put on a really good match here. Prediction: Kenny Omega

Taylor Maimbourg: A lot of this match probably hinges on what happens in the previous match.  These Bullet Club main character encounters have been full of storytelling and story progression, and I can easily imagine that something in the Cody and Kota Ibushi match changes the complexion of this match.  As for the match itself, I can only guarantee it will be great. As both Joel and John mentioned, Page has been having a great 2018, and I’m sure that put in a main event spot with Kenny Omega, he is going to pull out all of the stops to make this a great match.  Page has been the most adamant supporter of Team Cody, so I’m sure there will be no shortage of venom and vitriol directed Kenny’s way during this match. Like the previous match, I could see this match ending in shenanigans too. Kenny seems like the obvious victor here, but Kenny has been pretty teflon in the booking, so if it was me, I would give Page the victory to really cement him as a rising star in the promotion.  Prediction: Hangman Page