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

Watch: NJPW World

Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi def. Yota Tsuji and Shota Umino

All of the Bullet Club members throughout this show had robes on signifying the Club’s five-year anniversary. It’s amazing to think how at various times people thought Bullet Club was done or had jumped the shark, and it’s currently in the middle of its most interesting storyline to date, arguably.

Shota Umino is a future IWGP world champion but on this night he took a great bump for Chase’s package piledriver. A standard young lion opener sprinkled with the future greatness that is Shota Umino. **½

Ryusuke Taguchi, Jushin Liger, and Tiger Mask def. Ren Narita, Tomoyuki Oka, and Yuji Nagata

Oka had it out for Liger in this match. After taking him down with several shoulder tackles Liger’s shotei stopped that foolishness. The best part of the match was when Tiger Mask had Oka in an octopus hold and Nagata ran into the ring, broke up the submission, and then kicked Oka in the head as well before yelling at him, “You better get your ass up!” Nagata is the best. This was your standard young lion fare, Taguchi put down Narita with the Dodon. **1/2

Sho, Yoh, and Rocky Romero def. Iizuka, Lance Archer, and Davey Boy Smith Jr.

I groaned when I saw RP 3K had to deal with Iizuka and because I figured they’d get squashed by KES here. You’d think a team of 3 juniors couldn’t defeat 3 heavyweights, even if Iizuka is there. Luckily I was wrong and this was a quick rollup win by Sho on Iizuka. This is a relatively strong win for RP 3K over a group of heavyweights, and if this match had to happen I’m glad this is how it happened. ** for the match, ****3/4 for the booking.

YOSHI-HASHI, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii, Jay White, and Hirooki Goto def. Toa Henare, Michael Elgin, Togi Makabe, David Finlay, and Juice Robinson

The matches this match seemed to be building to were Goto/Elgin and White/Juice. I don’t know how juice will get there coming off his loss but NJPW always finds ways. For the most part the only person I couldn’t keep my eyes off in this match was Jay White. I’m so into everything he does. Luckily, he was in there for the finish against Henare, who also had a good showing coming off his great singles match against Ishii on the tour. Elgin and Goto had a fun slugfest, Juice made a fiery comeback and everyone else was just there. White put Henare down with The Bladerunner. I am breathing with the switchblade. **3/4

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Championship
Marty Scurll and the Young Bucks def. Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga, and Bad Luck Fale (c)

I was hoping the belts would switch here, as the team of Scurll and the Bucks make for much more fun possible trios matches than the incumbent champions. I got my wish in a decent match. The story of Scurll trying to take down Fale throughout the contest was cute, as the Bucks were now the resident heavyweights and had to fend of G.O.D. Nick Jackson’s hot tags are always great. The Bucks isolated Loa and finished him with More Bang for Your Buck. ***

Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA, and Tetsuya Naito def. Desperado, Kanemaru, Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr, and Minoru Suzuki

The LIJ war with Suzuki-Gun continues. Naito came out without the IC belt, notably. Naito asking for the ring to be cleared before entering it was terrific. Because he doesn’t give a damn about getting jumped, he just wants to lord power over Suzuki and co. Expectedly Suzuki-Gun jumps LIJ as soon as Naito is halfway in the ring leading Kevin Kelly to humorously exclaim, “A jump start, I can’t believe it!”

The big focus of this match was between Naito and Suzuki, and though I expect to see Sabre challenge Naito at some point, it feels we still have unfinished business there. Naito’s leg got worked over a bit but this match was pretty forgettable, overall. EVIL pinned Kanemaru after hitting EVIL. Writing that sentence made me realize how weird pro wrestling is. **3/4

Afterwards the Bucks came out and challenged EVIL and Sanada for the tag belts. They superkicked the champs and took off. EVIL recovered and accepted the challenge.

Will Ospreay and Kazuchika Okada def. KUSHIDA and Hiroshi Tanahashi

This was a fun tag rematch from earlier in the tour. I feel like this is a tag match I could watch on every NJPW undercard. It also makes me want to see singles matches between Ospreay and Tanahashi and KUSHIDA and Okada. Each man showed how well they knew the man they would be facing on Night 2, with multiple reversals and counters of each other’s signature moves.

Tanahashi took this match easier than the rest which meant KUSHIDA got to shine twice as much. He even nailed a West Coast Pop on Okada for a great near fall. KUSHIDA went for his signature tilt a whirl into the Hoverboard lock but Okada reversed into the tombstone. After dropkicking Tanahashi out of the ring he finished KUSHIDA off with the Rainmaker. Chaos gets their revenge from earlier in the tour. ***3/4

Cody def. Kota Ibushi

I figured this was the direction they would go here, as Cody has now defeated both Golden Lovers in back to back singles matches, and is 3-0 against them in the last month.

Cody did a ton of heel shtick throughout the bulk of the match. This was paced slower than their Wrestle Kingdom encounter. Move for move this wasn’t as good as that previous match, but this match did have a stronger narrative, which Don Callis and Kevin Kelly did a great job covering. The match picked up during a heated slap exchange and eventually a table was brought into play. Ibushi double stomped Cody while he was prone on the table but the table didn’t break, leading to Ibushi giving maybe the most sadistic smile I’ve ever seen from him as he realized he was going to get to do it again. He did it again.

On one Kamigoye attempt Cody avoided it by collapsing away from Ibushi’s center line, which was reminiscent of Omega collapsing to avoid Okada’s Rainmaker at Dominion last year. Ibushi took a huge chance on a springboard dive from inside the ring over the guardrail outside, which looked like Cody almost side stepped but Ibushi managed to “get enough of him”. Cody hit a Cross Rhodes as Ibushi was coming into the ring and Ibushi valiantly kicked out. Cody put Ibushi away with his new finish, a version of the Vertebreaker named Din’s Fire (A Zelda reference), which didn’t look great. Cody gets his biggest win in NJPW to date. ***1/2

Kenny Omega def. Adam Page

This was Adam Page’s first singles main event in NJPW and all eyes were on him to see if he could deliver. He absolutely did. This was a Kenny Omega style main event, with some added brutality to the heat segment at the beginning of the match. Cody came out before the bell to help Page double team Omega and although Omega fended him off it led to Page driving Omega into a table on the outside with The Rite of Passage just minutes into the contest. This spot cut the top of Omega’s head open, which is a kind of juicing we don’t see as often in pro wrestling, and made for a striking image with the red blood in Omega’s golden hair. Page followed this with a DDT on a chair inside the ring. They were getting over the idea that Page could win this by blitzing Omega early.

There was a lot of physicality outside the ring as well, including a cool sequence where Page nailed his buckshot lariat from over the guard rail. From there the match began to slow down, as Page took control. Page scored a near fall off a top rope neckbreaker, with Omega surviving by getting his foot on the ropes. Page attempted another Buck Shot lariat only to eat a vicious V-Trigger knee. From here on Page’s kickouts were incredibly weak, him just barely able to lift his shoulder, which I thought added a nice touch. Omega finally vanquished his former brother with the One-Winged Angel.

I loved how much Omega gave Page here. We’ve seen it in his matches with guys like Juice and Trent, but Omega is one of the best at giving his opponent a lot of offense and still maintaining his stature as one of the top tier guys. Page looked like a killer for brutalizing Omega the way he did and Omega looks like a hero for surviving it all and winning. ****1/4

Afterwards Omega cuts a promo mostly in Japanese, like a true babyface. Though he still has unfinished business with Cody I wouldn’t be surprised to see him challenging for the title at Dominion.

Final Thoughts:

The top 3 matches were all quite good. The main event was the only truly great match but Cody/Ibushi had elements that I’m sure will contribute to the larger story later on, so I would check that out too if you have time.