NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
ROAD TO TOKYO DOME
DECEMBER 14, 2018
KORAKUEN HALL
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: NJPW World

Only two stops left before Wrestle Kingdom 13 and we have a solid card in Night 1 of Road to Tokyo Dome, featuring a very interesting Okada vs. Gedo match and a bunch of tag matches that might help heat up some rivalries and give us a glimpse of the trios that will confirm the pre-show Gauntlet match at the Dome.

TIGER MASK IV, JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER, TOMOAKI HONMA & KUSHIDA DEF. TOA HENARE, REN NARITA, AYATO YOSHIDA & YUYA UEMURA

The match lasted longer than I expected and I enjoyed every minute of the young lion’s showing, highlighting Yoshida and Narita’s work: these two have such a bright future. The always grumpy Tiger Mask got the win with a Tiger Driver, not before almost falling victim to a roll-up by Uemura. Everybody was on point here. After the match, Henare confronted Honma maybe setting up some future angle or even an interesting team for the Gauntlet match. ***¼

SHINGO TAKAGI DEF. SHOTA UMINO

Great showing by Umino who worked very hard to give Shingo a difficult time. The young lion almost got the win with a german suplex, survived a Noshigami and managed to avoid the Pumping Bomber during a key sequence. However, it was only a matter of time for Shingo to hit with his traditional moves, finishing things up with Last of the Dragon for the victory. This was Shingo’s first singles match in New Japan and he looked great while also allowing young Shota to shine. ***

HIROOKI GOTO & ROCKY ROMERO DEF. MINORU SUZUKI & TAKASHI IIZUKA

This was… just a match… that happened. Suzuki and Iizuka were pretty bad on the World Tag League (with the exception of the ZSJ/Taichi match) and they continued their string of mediocrity with this boring match that went on way longer than it should’ve gone. We had a brawl, the traditional Iizuka shenanigans, Rocky’s forever clotheslines and Suzuki roaring. Surprisingly, Rocky got the pin for the win, and he looked damn happy to have achieved that. This might open the doors for Rocky teaming with Goto at the Tokyo Dome Gauntlet match which would be cool in my opinion. **

TOMOHIRO ISHII, SHO & YOH DEF. TAICHI, EL DESPERADO & YOSHINOBU KANEMARU

Good match to build up the junior tag team championship match at the Dome. We got some nice teamwork by the SZG team with YOH shining in his usual ‘babyface in danger’ role. However, the highlight of this match was the unexpected but amazing interactions between Ishii and Kanemaru. When the Stone Pitbull got the hot tag, he destroyed everything in his path and opened the doors for a cool finishing stretch that featured Kanemaru wrestling like a madman to stop Ishii; he even managed to hit Deep Impact for a nearfall. Ishii eventually hit the brainbuster for the win, but damn, did Kanemaru rock in this one. ***¼





TAMA TONGA, TANGA ROA, TAIJI ISHIMORI & BAD LUCK FALE DEF. TETSUYA NAITO, EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI

I’m kind of tired of LIJ’s big tag matches, but they always deliver some fun action. This wasn’t exactly that case: the match was flat and while we got some good stuff by EVIL and SANADA, there wasn’t anything unforgettable about this one. Jado helped his peers get the advantage by hitting BUSHI with a kendo stick, leaving him totally vulnerable for GOD’s superbomb. My favorite part was Tama being a dick to Rocky and Kevin after the match. Skip this one if you’re short on time. **¾

KAZUCHIKA OKADA DEF. GEDO

Gedo came out in crutches, claiming he was involved in a car accident with a drunk driver that was wearing a Chaos shirt. He wanted to cancel the match but Okada faced him and quickly exposed the fake injuries. With his alibi now useless, Gedo quickly blinded Okada with a spray, punched him with brass knuckles and ordered Red Shoes to ring the bell.

Of course, Okada kicked out and we got a standard match that went a little bit too long for my taste. Gedo dominated at first, but then Okada made his comeback and started sweeping the floor with his former manager, who needed the interference of Jado to get a breath. Red Shoes got knocked out, Jay White appeared and aggressively attacked the Rainmaker, Rocky tried to save him but got a Blade Runner for his troubles. After some needed time to recover, Okada dispatched White and then hit Gedo the Tombstone and Rainmaker to Gedo for the win. But even after all that, Jay White still got the better of Okada, attacking him and leaving him hurt in the mat. The structure of this match was designed to allow some competitiveness between Okada and Gedo, and I had fun watching it but there were too many shenanigans that made me roll my eyes a couple of times. ***

White has looked great in this rivalry, managing to get the advantage over Okada in pretty much every direct or indirect match they’ve had so I think he won’t be able to actually beat Okada at the Dome… but I’m confident he will would like a superstar in defeat.

HIROSHI TANAHASHI, WILL OSPREAY, YANO TORU & TOGI MAKABE DEF. KENNY OMEGA, KOTA IBUSHI, YUJIRO TAKAHASHI & CHASE OWENS

The match started with some beautiful interactions between Ospreay and Ibushi: you could see the excitement in Ospreay’s eyes after it. The man is going to give us an epic performance at the Dome. We also got some sweet action between Tanahashi and Omega, both exchanged fast moves that – in case you forgot – reminded us that they’ve got some tremendous chemistry and are ready to blow the roof off the Tokyo Dome.

Yano and Makabe had some cool tag team moves and I’m sure the millions of Most Violent Players fans in existence were delighted to see that. Yujiro was okay, but once again Chase worked really hard even outshining some other competitors in the match. I really hope he gets a spot in the Gauntlet because he’s been a great worker for New Japan in 2018.

The last 5 minutes of the match were great as we got some fast-paced action that included Makabe kicking butt, Ospreay’s Sasuke Special and cool moves by Owens, who got close to scoring the pin for his team but got stopped by Tanahashi’s Slingblade and Ospreay’s OsCutter. Great stuff in this match to hype the Ibushi/Ospreay and Tanahashi/Omega rivalries, but I felt it ended just when it was starting to get more interesting. ***½

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’m going to be honest, I don’t need more hype for Wrestle Kingdom. My bar is already high, I can’t wait for January 4 and this Road to Tokyo Dome show did little to get me more excited. This was entertaining but unremarkable. The first two matches were good showcases for the young lions and later, we got decent build up for Tanahashi/Omega, Ibushi/Ospreay and Okada/White. If you’re short on time I would recommend watching the main event and maybe Ishii’s match. Also, be on the lookout for tomorrow’s Golden Lovers vs. Ospreay/Tanahashi, because that one could blow our minds.