New Japan Pro-Wrestling
Wrestling Dontaku 2018 – Night 2
Fukuoka Kokusai Center
Fukuoka, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers:

  • Rich Kraetsch: One of Voices of Wrestling’s dads, usually referred to as the uncool one with the rules and the demands for homework to be done and music volume to be lowered. Co-host of the Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast. Follow him on Twitter @VoicesWrestling.
  • August Baker: It’s been a busy week for August, with a New Japan preview, a WWE preview, and an article focused on the main event of this show. Follow @augustbaker12 on Twitter to follow along with all his work and for cute baby pictures.
  • John Carroll: John’s gotta keep their NJPW preview streak alive, so that means doing another one of these previews even when they really should be focused on the massive backlog of actual work they have from taking yesterday off for their birthday. Priorities! Follow them on Twitter @toshanshuinla or check out their podcast @wrestleomakase.

Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask & Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Ren Narita, Shota Umino & Tomoyuki Oka

Rich Kraetsch: Old guys. Young lions. Young lions are looking great. Tiger Mask will be pissy. Taguchi will play with his ass a lot. What do you want from me here? Prediction: Taguchi, Tiger Mask & Liger

August Baker: It seems like we’re always saying it, but this crop of Young Lions is so good. Every month I have a new favorite. One guy who has not been my favorite yet is Oka. HIs look is just a little off, and while his ring work is fine, it’s not good enough yet to set him apart. Anyways, the Lions are obviously losing. Also it’s almost Super Jr time, which usually means it’s time for Taguchi to get a push. Prediction: Taguchi, Tiger Mask, Liger

John Carroll: To be honest I don’t have a ton left to say about these young lion matches on my third preview of this tour. I like Oka more than August, Umino is undeniably awesome, and Narita has shown some flashes already. One of them is getting pinned, and life goes on. Prediction: Liger & Tiger & Taguchi

Tetsuhiro Yagi & Yuji Nagata vs. Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi

Rich Kraetsch: There used to be a time where we wouldn’t be so sure of the result in this match but Chase Owens has been elevated in recent months and now the Owens & Yujiro team is a lock to win. I’d love to see Owens & Yujiro begin a win streak here and maybe find themselves in a tag title match at some point during the year. They shouldn’t win said title match but I think it’s important to establish a class system for tag teams and let certain teams be elevated, even if just for a brief match or two. Prediction: Owens & Yujiro

August Baker: With a Young Lion by his side, Nagata is unlikely to emerge victorious here, so let’s talk about the winning team. Owens and Yujiro are the bottom rung of the tag team division, so getting a win will be a big deal. Could a push be in line for one or both of these guys? Or are they just going to lose to a more established team like Yano/Ishii later on? Prediction: Owens/Yujiro

John Carroll: Yagi is the young lion who is most of all “just there” for me right now, as for whatever you think about Oka he still stands out more than Yagi does, in my opinion. He’s gonna get a chance to show what he’s made of here though, as he should be in there for a majority of the match against the BULLET CLUB b-teamers. Chase & Yujiro are a fun undercard team and they’re gonna get another win here. Prediction: Owens & Yujiro

CHAOS (Roppongi 3K & Rocky Romero) vs. Suzukigun (Takashi Iizuka, Taichi and TAKA Michinoku)

Rich Kraetsch: Oh c’mon. This is the sixth time on this tour for the match. And look, if it was another era and we didn’t have everything on tape available to us instantaneously this probably wouldn’t be a big deal. We wouldn’t have seen most of the prior matches and this would feel to us—the viewer at home—like a fresh new matchup. Instead, I’d rather pour bleach in my eyes than see this match again. Sean Sedor—who has reviewed a number of matches on the Dontaku tour—is going to blow a gasket when he sees this match again. Poor Sean. Prediction: Roppongi 3k

August Baker: I have not seen the many, many previous matches between these two teams on this tour. Or rather, I saw them, but paid them very little attention. It looked like they were telling a story of the Suzuki-gun team usually getting one up on Roppongi 3K, so it wouldn’t surprise me if RPG 3K gets the win in what will hopefully be the last match of this series, and they can challenge the main SZG team for the Jr tag titles. Prediction: Roppongi 3K

John Carroll: While August is right that they were telling the story of Suzukigun constantly getting one over on R3K through cheating and such, weirdly they actually kind of blew it off at the last show they fought on. In Hiroshima last Friday, after a number of DQ finishes involving foreign objects, SHO got his hands on Iizuka’s iron fingers and used them on him, allowing them to get a pinfall on TAKA soon after. It feels weird having another rematch here after that as it’s almost like Suzukigun are the ones coming for revenge now, and I think they’re probably gonna get their win back here, likely by pinning Rocky in some screwy fashion. Prediction: Suzukigun

Toa Henare & Togi Makabe vs. Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii

Rich Kraetsch: I was all in one this match and these four facing off with one another when the tour began but, much like the match prior, I’m over it. I love the Henare/Ishii story but I’m ready for the next chapter. Let Henare get one over on Ishii, let him do something to progress the story beyond what we’ve seen. Call me a new school, instant gratification fan if you want but it’s time to evolve this a bit. Prediction: Yano & Ishii

August Baker: Another match that has happened about half a dozen times on this tour. Maybe this will be the time that Henare gets one up on Ishii. Haha no, just kidding. While it would be an interesting story for Makabe and Henare to get a win, there’s not really a reason for this tag feud to continue past this tour. Prediction: Yano/Ishii

John Carroll: Honestly people can say whatever they want about the R3K-Suzukigun repeated matches but at least that had a little bit of a story going on with the DQ finishes and the cheating. This on the other hand is just two teams wrestling each other repeatedly for no real reason, and I’m pretty over it. Prediction: Yano & Ishii

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku Full Tour Preview

Michael Elgin, David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs. CHAOS (Jay White, YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto)

Rich Kraetsch: I’m into this match. I like the blending of the IWGP United States Title, the feud between Jay White and David Finlay and the many people going after Hirooki Goto’s NEVER Openweight Title. And hey, YOSHI-HASHI is there too. Elgin and Goto is our Dominion match so look for a lot of the focus to be on that end while White and Finlay continue their never-ending blood feud. This should be a lot of fun. Prediction: Jay White, YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto

August Baker: Lots of ways this could go. Everyone seems to want a piece of Goto and the NEVER title. Also Jay White doesn’t have an established opponent for the US title. Elgin, Finlay, and Juice would all make fine challengers for either belt. Elgin has been picking up more pinfalls in the undercard this tour, so a big match for him soon is likely. Prediction: Elgin, Finlay, Juice

John Carroll: As I said in the Night 1 preview, don’t expect them to tip their hand with regards to a direction for Jay White and the US Title, as White has a defense scheduled against Punishment Martinez in ROH next week and as we’ve seen in the past, New Japan regards it as a business-exposing move to start building up a new challenger before a champion has gotten past their next defense. The main focus here will be on Elgin and Goto, although Taichi will likely get involved in the post-match as well. Prediction: Elgin, Finlay & Juice

Los Ingobernables de Japón (Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, SANADA, EVIL and Tetsuya Naito) vs. Suzukigun (Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado)

Rich Kraetsch: Remember when we were sick of those 435 straight shows with LIJ vs. CHAOS multi-man tags? I’m sorry. I want those back. Please no more LIJ vs. Suzukigun. Prediction: Los Ingobernables de Japon

August Baker: This should hopefully tie a bow on the LIJ/SZG feud. There is no need for it to continue after this tour. While most of LIJ will be tied up with title defenses and the Super Jr’s tournament going forward, the way is less clear for Suzuki-gun. With the NEVER and Intercontinental titles behind him, what’s next for the baddest man in New Japan? Prediction: Los Ingobernables de Japon

John Carroll: Sorry guys, but this feud must continue. If you watched Suzuki’s post-match comments after he lost the Intercontinental title to Naito on Sunday, he made it very clear he wasn’t done with Naito and would be coming for a rematch (he literally says “our war has just begun” & “don’t think this is over so quickly”), so that seems like a likely match for Dominion. It would explain why they seemed like they left a lot on the table in terms of what they did in that match, at any rate, though people are likely not going to be very excited about seeing it again after a disappointing first performance. Suzukigun will probably pick up the win here as we start building toward that rematch, like it or not. Prediction: Suzukigun

BULLET CLUB (Cody, Hangman Page, Marty Scurll, Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) vs. BULLET CLUB (Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) and Kota Ibushi

Rich Kraetsch: One of the best stories in pro wrestling today continues in this mega Bullet Club vs. Bullet Club 10-man tag. Oh yeah, and Kota Ibushi! The power struggle between Cody and Kenny boiled over and now the real story hinges on where each of the members will go, which camp will they decide to be apart of and why. Most of the focus is on The Young Bucks and where they will end up. They’ve been conflicted parties since day one, never quite finding a camp that fit them perfectly. Along the way they’ve superkicked both, cost both Cody and Kenny matches and seem lost in the mix. I doubt we get a conclusion to the story on a match third from the top but seeing the evolution of the story is well worth it. I was over the Bullet Club about four years ago but this has reignited my passion for the stable, if only for a brief moment. I’m also going to go out on a limb here and say the Bullet Club will win. You heard it here first. Prediction: Bullet Club!

August Baker: What a crazy match up. It’s interesting to see lines being drawn that have previously only been implied. With the Tongan contingent on his side, along with Chase/Yujiro and bestest buddy Ibushi, Kenny should have the advantage. But while Kenny’s side has a mishmash of sub factions involved, Team Cody is just the Elite. Have the Buck’s resigned themselves to being Team Cody? I doubt Cody is going to blame the matchmakers for this match like he keeps trying to do in these Bullet Club vs Bullet Club matches in the past. The biggest question on everyone’s mind though is… which side is Bone Soldier on??? Prediction: Team Cody

John Carroll: I’m very into this storyline too, and like Rich this is the first time I’ve cared about the BULLET CLUB in many, many years. Cody has been a perfect foil as an egomaniacal lunatic, to the point where I actually can’t even imagine how this same storyline would have played out with Adam Cole in his place (as was originally planned before Cole did the world a favor and took his boring ass to Florida). Even though the Kenny-Cody showdown we got during Mania weekend was a bit of a letdown in my opinion, these two Dontaku shows provide an excellent opportunity for the feud to get back on track in the ring as well. We’ll be coming off of hopefully two hot singles matches on Night 1 and head straight to a big 10-man tag, the first giant all-out confrontation between the two sides. Do we get any new clues on the Young Bucks’ motivations and what their thought process is after Kenny basically rejected them on episode 100 of Being the Elite? Does someone on Team Kenny turn on him and head to Team Cody? I’m just gonna throw one possibility out there: it would be awesome if we saw our first cracks in the Tongan contingent here with someone like Bad Luck Fale turning on Kenny and defecting to Team Cody. That would be a really cool development in the BC civil war storyline. There’s a lot of possibilities here, but however it goes down I ultimately think Team Cody is picking up the win as we move toward another Kenny-Cody showdown. Prediction: Team Cody

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
KUSHIDA vs. Will Ospreay

Rich Kraetsch: This will be the 5th NJPW matchup between these two men and has a chance to be their best yet. After KUSHIDA dispatched Ospreay in their first three matches, Ospreay turned the tables not only defeating KUSHIDA at NJPW’s King of Pro-Wrestling 2017 but also taking his coveted IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. KUSHIDA can avenge that loss and become a six-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. These two have made magic before, their Best of the Super Juniors final received five-stars from many prominent match raters and reviewers including our very own Dylan Justin. We know what these two are capable of and with Ospreay’s maturity as a worker and a seller, the influence of his hurt neck and KUSHIDA’s ability to methodically target body parts we could see yet another amazing chapter from these two. Picking a winner for this is tough given the title in question. While Ospreay should win and continue to establish himself as the top dog of the division, KUSHIDA is arguably the junior ace. The security blanket you can always go back to. And Gedo has. Numerous “next guy up” runs have been thwarted by KUSHIDA over the years and this could be yet another example of that. You have to go all the way back to Hiromu Takahashi’s title run at the beginning of last year to find a champion with at least three successful defenses. This is a title that routinely bounces between stability and chaos (sometimes literally and figuratively). Which one is Ospreay? Prediction: KUSHIDA

August Baker: This should be an absolutely incredible match. Expectations are high. But what will the outcome be? I want Ospreay keeps the title. He is the ideal Jr Heavyweight, and can have great flippy matches with just about anyone. KUSHIDA is great, but he’s been the gatekeeper for the Jr division for so long that I want to see him do something else. I really want him in the G1 climax, but I don’t think he can do that as the Jr champion. Maybe winning the Best of the Super Jr tournament could be KUSHIDA’s ticket into the G1. Prediction: Will Ospreay

John Carroll: I’m not quite as into this feud as Rich is to be quite honest; in my mind it peaked with their very first match at Invasion Attack 2016, and every match since hasn’t been quite as good. I think people expecting this one to be an all out flip battle are likely to be disappointed, as it seems more likely to me we’ll see a slower kind of junior title match, with KUSHIDA focused on working over Will’s injured neck. Whoever wins this is going to have a big defense against the BOSJ winner coming up, and if that winner ends up being Hiromu (without knowing the field that would be my pick right now), I think it makes more sense to go back to KUSHIDA-Hiromu than Ospreay-Hiromu, which we just saw a few months ago. So that means KUSHIDA wins the title here. But honestly, I could see it going either way. Prediction: KUSHIDA

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Rich Kraetsch: Am I the only one who notices a lack of buzz around this match? Sure, it’s still a big deal among the hardcore New Japan fans (the intelligentsia if you will!) but the general population doesn’t seem as enthused about the match as they have been in the past. In a way, I get it, it’s the 10th (we’ll just ignore their first match when Okada was a young lion) time these guys have faced off but still it’s god damn Okada vs. Tanahashi. No matter when you get Flair/Steamboat, you were pumped for it. To me, this match feels super fresh and really, it is. These two have not faced one another since 2016 when Okada and Tanahashi wrestled to a 30-minute draw on Night 17 of the G1 Climax. This draw gave many hope that the next Okada/Tanahashi match wouldn’t be too far away. Instead, both men took dramatically different paths with Okada ascending to Tanahashi’s former ace spot on the card while Tanahashi has battled injuries, self-doubt and father time over the last two years. For the first time in the feud, Tanahashi comes in as the clear and overwhelming underdog. Where Okada has used their legendary feud to leap towards unseen heights, Tanahashi has undergone a mid-life crisis in his post-Okada world. The real story of this match boils down to one simple number: 12. At April’s Sakura Genesis, Okada tied the all-time record for IWGP Heavyweight Title defenses with 11. The current record holder… well, Hiroshi Tanahashi of course. Tanahashi, despite his bumpy road over the last two years, despite the aches, the pains, the stress, the doubt in his mind that he is still the man and the ace, was not going to let his former rival beat his record. It’s such a simple story to tell with these two juggernauts but god it’s so good. It’s fully expected that Okada defeats Tanahashi and becomes the most decorated IWGP Heavyweight Champion of all-time but there’s enough doubt that our Twitter mentions have been filled with “You don’t really think?” “They can’t…can they?” I don’t think they can but then again, I thought Naito was a mortal lock to beat Okada at Wrestle Kingdom. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

August Baker: Hey, I wrote a whole article about this match on this very site. Go read it! Rather than repeat myself, I’m going to keep this simple. Hiroshi Tanahashi should win this match. By now, Okada’s credentials are established. He doesn’t need to be the sole holder of the title defense record. And if Okada wins, who else does he defend against? Does he fight Omega or Naito for the third time? The only main event caliber guy he hasn’t defended against is Ibushi. Who else is there? If Tanahashi wins though, the world opens up. He would serve as an ideal transitional champion to someone like Omega. A new champion could be established without blowing an Okada match, and Okada would be free to win the G1 Climax for a third time. The one problem with having a dominant championship run like Okada has had is he’s now out of opponents. If Tanahashi’s wily veteran know how isn’t enough to get the job done, what will be? Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi

John Carroll: I ultimately want to agree with August and say Tanahashi is winning here, but I really can’t bet against Okada to set this damn defense record by himself. It just seems silly to me to spend all this time having him get to defense 11 and tie the record just to have him lose without setting it on his own. This title reign has been about establishing Okada as this generation’s super-ace since day one, for better or worse, and it seems crazy to me to predict they’re gonna come this far without finishing the job. There is a little tiny doubt in my mind just because it’s Tanahashi and you can never fully count him out (maybe it’s just flashbacks to the 2015 Tokyo Dome match, when everyone on earth thought Okada was winning and then Tanahashi retained), but ultimately I feel pretty confident that Okada is winning here. Dominion next month, whoever that may be against (Kenny? Kota? Someone completely out of left field?), will be the first match where I feel like Okada really might lose. Either way though, I would be pretty stunned if this wasn’t a pretty damn great match. I think doing it at Dontaku instead of Dominion has hurt the hype level, as it’s tough for the general masses to understand that Dontaku has historically been a pretty big show when it’s on some random Friday at the end of a long tour (this is during Golden Week in Japan, a big holiday/vacation week, which is why these two shows are on random weekdays!). But who cares what the general masses think- I’m pretty hyped! Prediction: Kazuchika Okada