New Japan Pro Wrestling
Wrestling Hi no Kuni
April 29, 2019
Grand Messe Kumamoto

Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers:

Gerard Di Trolio: I previewed Sengoku Lord with John and ended up quite enjoying the show. I actually didn’t jump on the I don’t care if/I want Kenny Omega and The Elite to leave New Japan train until about December of last year. But after watching all of New Japan’s big shows so far this year, I’m glad I did. I’m really digging the direction they’re going in and they have had only a few blunders so far. Though since this show is going up against the final night of the Champion Carnival, I will be a little delayed in watching it. You can follow me on Twitter at @GerardDiTrolio

John Carroll: I’ll be honest, I suggested previewing this show in a dismissive manner (“does anyone actually want to do Hi no Kuni”?) and then Gerard called my bluff, so now what do I do? Follow me on Twitter @toshanshuinla if you want to help me count down the days till my (THIRD!) Japan trip. About 5 weeks to go!

Tomoaki Honma, Shota Umino & Ren Narita vs. Toa Henare, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura

Gerard: Should be a good opener. Honma while still limited is looking a little better in the ring these days. Umino & Narita vs. Tsuji & Uemura at Sengoku Lord was great opener and was as good as can be with the limits placed on the Young Lions’ style. Honma and Henare can definitely build on that to provide a hot opener. Prediction: Tomoaki Honma, Shota Umino & Ren Narita

John: I definitely agree with Gerard when he says that Honma looks better in the ring of late; I thought his awesome match with Taichi from the first round of the New Japan Cup was his turning point. He’ll never be what he used to be but he’s at least getting around the ring a little better these days than he was before. Other than that though this is a pretty standard young lion opener. Toa Henare is suddenly talking about getting the next NEVER title shot after Cobb-Taichi, which honestly he should probably beat someone other than a young lion if he’s gonna do that, but let’s take him at his word and thus assume he’s pinning Narita here. Prediction: Toa Henare, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura

Jeff Cobb, YOSHI-HASHI, Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Suzukigun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & TAKA Michinoku)

Gerard: Now begins the build to Tachi vs. Piglet… I mean Cobb. But seriously I am enjoying Taichi’s trash talk building to this NEVER title match. Given that Taichi wasn’t at MSG and Cobb doesn’t join the tour until the 4/26 show in Hiroshima, Taichi’s mocking of Cobb is a great way to build some heat for this match. And all the naysayers need to realize that Taichi remains very over with the audience. It will be interesting to get a taste of the chemistry between Cobb and Taichi here. And expect this Liger vs. Suzuki feud to get some more attention here. I’m beginning to think we’re going to get Liger vs. Suzuki at Dominion as basically part of a Liger Countdown to Retirement Series. Suzukigun will probably take this one as I expect Cobb to beat Taichi in their title match. Prediction: Suzukigun

John: Finally…..the piglet…..has come BACK……to Japan! Taichi has been waiting for this all tour long, as he finally gets to square off with the man he’ll challenge for the NEVER Openweight Title just a few days later (Wrestling Dontaku Night 1 on 5/3). I really like how they kind of subtly give Taichi stuff to bitch about when it comes to the office- in this case, booking him on the entire tour while his champion opponent gets to show up midway through- without going into Western-style “the office is definitely screwing with this guy” cliches. There’s obviously a very legitimate excuse for Cobb’s absence, given that he’s also the ROH World TV Champion and was busy appearing on their shows and all, but why would that matter to Taichi? Get in the ring, piglet! Suzuki vs. Liger indeed seems headed to a big match, although I think it could be for the BOSJ Finals show (given that it’s at Sumo Hall this year they have many seats to fill and one thinks that match could help while not taking away anything major from Dominion). It’s been probably the highlight of the entire tour so far, honestly, between their increasingly wild brawls and their great post-match promo work. Prediction: Suzukigun

Dragon Lee & Will Ospreay vs. Taiji Ishimori & Hikuleo

Gerard: Lee and Ishimori have been a highlight in all of the multiman tags they have faced each other in throughout this tour. The 4/22 Korakuen Hall main event with them in it being an example. Having them main event Wrestling Dontaku Night 1 is a great idea, because they are going to spend all tour building to it in great tag matches. Hikuleo is clearly the odd man out here, but I think he has shown some improvement since he has returned though he still has a ways to go with his in ring work. However the other three in this match should be able to work around his limitations. Expect a bunch of high flying and I’m thinking Ospreay will eventually pin Hikuleo. Prediction: Dragon Lee & Will Ospreay

John: I like Lee and Taiji and am looking forward to their upcoming junior title match on 5/3 but Hikuleo in anything at this point does nothing for me. I get that he’s still green and also coming back from a serious injury but he’s shown absolutely nothing so far. Having a dude be so much bigger than everyone in the company (and especially a LOT bigger than both his opponents in this match!) and yet also almost literally never do anything but take falls constantly is also a weird combination. We’re supposed to take him seriously to a degree because he’s big and bad, but then he just gets pinned all the time. It’s weird! Meanwhile Ospreay is back as well after missing the first half of this tour and seems a bit directionless at the moment, but I expect him to be a force in BOSJ, maybe even a strong pick for the finals. Prediction: Dragon Lee & Will Ospreay

Mikey Nicholls vs. Bad Luck Fale

Gerard: Well I was wrong on how good Juice vs. Fale was going to be. It exceeded my admittedly low expectations. That being said, I was probably the high man on that match. So will I give a little more leeway here? Probably not. The simple story in Juice vs. Fale was very much made by Juice’s performance and his connection to the crowd. I am curious to see what Nicholls can get out of Fale though. I didn’t think Nicholls vs. Owens at Sengoku Lord was a very good demonstration of what Nicholls can do. As far as the winner goes, my initial gut feeling was Fale. I didn’t think they would job him twice in quick succession because I think they still see him as literally the underboss for many midcarders. However they seem like they’re behind pushing Nicholls and I could see him beating Fale here, and with victories over Juice’s last two challengers, we will see Juice vs. Nicholls for the U.S. title at Dominion or whenever it is defended next. Prediction: Mikey Nicholls

John: The foreigners in New Japan on this tour, with the rather notable exception of ZSJ and to a lesser degree Jay White, are kind of a drag on all of these cards. Watching those three Korakuens especially was an odd mix- you had super exciting stuff with the young lions and Suzuki vs. Liger early on the card and really quite great hype matches with CHAOS and LIJ in the semi and main events, and then stuffed in between were matches with these two, the guys we’ll talk about it in our next match, GOD and others in what felt like total heat sinks. I surprisingly liked Mikey vs. Chase from Sengoku Lord last week quite a lot, but that has been a huge outlier for Nicholls in his NJPW run so far. I somehow doubt a singles match with Fale will bring his number of good matches up to two, but who knows I guess. If he’s getting the next US shot I guess he probably will win here, but I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s not happening because I’d really, really like it not to! Please for the love of god let someone who is actually over with the crowd get the next US title shot, even if it’s (gasp!) a Japanese person! Prediction: Bad Luck Fale

Juice Robinson vs. Chase Owens

Gerard: An interesting re-match. I loved their New Japan Cup match and thought their U.S. title match was passable but had all the Bullet Club shenanigans which dragged it down. Hopefully what we get here is what their U.S. title match should have been. Now are we going back to Juice vs. Owens at Dominion? I hope not. Owens has looked great lately, but Juice seems to have momentum coming out of his win against Fale and should have a fresh opponent for Dominion or whatever show he defends the U.S. title on next. I think Nicholls fits that bill, especially if he beats Fale. I know that’s not the most exciting choice and they’ve been teaming together but it’s at least fresh match for a title that is challenged for by foreigners about 95% of the time anyway. Prediction: Juice Robinson

John: I wasn’t as high on their NJC match as some people though I still liked it (went ***½), but boy did I ever hate their US Title match last month. Just an awful collection of everything I don’t want to see in professional wrestling. We’re getting this one again now because I guess they’re tied 1-1, and I think they can probably produce something pretty good again if we’re not going to get another interference-o-rama, but keep in mind that Kumamoto is one of the least heated New Japan crowds in the country even when the wrestlers are over everywhere else. Think we’re going to be in for a very dead crowd in these two back-to-back singles matches, so that could definitely hurt people’s enjoyment. Prediction: Juice Robinson

Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi, Tomohiro Ishii & Roppongi 3K vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)

Gerard: The announcement of inserting Ibushi into all of these multiman tags on the Wrestling Dontaku tour is a very exciting change. As has been noted many times by John, these CHAOS vs. LIJ always deliver on some level. But with Ibushi added to the mix, I expect these multimans to hit a new level entirely. And there’s the added bonus of getting to see Ibushi and Okada as teammates. This could end up being the best match on the undercard. Since we’re getting a lot of these CHAOS & Ibushi vs. LIJ matches on this tour, the finish is a total crapshoot. Prediction: LIJ, why not?

John: I’m writing my portion of the preview a few days after my colleague here, so I can indeed report that all the CHAOS & Ibushi vs. LIJ tags on the three straight Korakuens were really fun. Seeing Okada as IWGP Heavyweight Champion teaming up with Kota Ibushi as IC Champion brings back memories of when he would team with Nakamura, except Kota tries much, much harder in these things than Shinsuke ever did. LIJ seems to be winning virtually all of these matches on the tour, and it makes no sense to stop that momentum here with Dontaku right around the corner and the Okada-SANADA title match coming. Prediction: LIJ

IWGP Tag Team Championship
Guerillas of Destiny © vs. Togi Makabe & Toru Yano

Gerard: The build to this match has been fun, though unfortunately, the initial angle of Yano stealing the IWGP Tag titles at MSG was overshadowed by the horrendous Enzo & Cass worked shoot angle. The latest part of the storyline after the NEVER 6-Man title match at 4/22 in Korakuen Hall, saw Makabe, Yano & Taguchi retain their titles against GOD & Hikuleo. But post match, Yano again stole the IWGP tag titles. I think this could be a fun match if kept to about 10 minutes. The NEVER 6 man tag title match from 4/22 went over 14 minutes, and I thought it began to drag. Let Yano do his comedy spots early on, GOD will do their double team spots, have Makabe power up towards the end and get a near fall or two before a GOD victory, and I think this will be fine. Prediction: Guerillas of Destiny

John: I’m less into this GOD vs. Makabe & Yano feud than Gerard honestly. One big problem I have with the whole thing is this doesn’t feel like a reunion of a tag team that had a great, multi-year run in New Japan back in the day, it just feels like two dudes thrown together because CHAOS and Sekigun randomly team together now. I get that it was ten years ago that they last teamed, but jesus, you could do SOMETHING with it. Makabe and Yano have both not even bothered talking about it in their promos, which is just bizarre. It makes this feel like even more of a filler defense than it already is. Prediction: Guerillas of Destiny

Jay White vs. Hirooki Goto

Gerard: Look I get they are trying to keep White really strong now that he’s lost the IWGP title. I just don’t think there was any reason to have him beat Goto in the tag match that main evented the 4/22 show. It’s Goto is a geek booking in its purest form. Totally unnecessary in a match where the finish is a foregone conclusion. At least when White made Tanahashi tap out in a tag match leading to their title match, it made sense because there was very much still a chance that the Ace would gain his revenge and retain his title. That kind of drama isn’t possible here. Now that I’ve trashed the lead up to this match, let me say some nice things. I am on the Jay White train and actually have been since last summer following the Juice vs. White U.S. title match. And I think since this year has begun White has continued to improve especially as it pertains to growing into his character. I have also dug the work in the tag matches featuring Goto and White leading up to this match, finishes excluded. I think they have really great chemistry. And with Goto having some of the coolest offense of anyone in New Japan, I think it lends itself well to White’s counter and escape heavy style. With White being so over as a dastardly heel, Goto has also been getting some of the biggest babyface heat he has in ages in their tag matches leading up to this. I expect this to be quite heated and if these two guys have their working boots on, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t hit at least ****. Prediction: Jay White

John: Gerard really covered a lot of the booking problems I have with this match. I don’t agree that Jay White, just coming off an IWGP Heavyweight Title reign, needed a recovery win here. And even if he did, I definitely don’t agree that having poor Goto lose yet again was the right way to do it. I get that they needed a main event for this show, but Goto needs a pick me up at this point to even be effective in the gatekeeper role again, not another major loss. With that said, I would be shocked if they don’t have a great match here, which is what Goto usually has in big spots (outside of when he’s laid the occasional egg here or there), but I just don’t think this was remotely necessary. White has already been talking about another IWGP Heavyweight Title shot so I (sadly) think we’re in for another rematch at Dominion with Okada. Obviously this is my informed speculation but I think Okada defending his newly won title against the guy who beat him at the Tokyo Dome was always the plan for Dominion this year; what wasn’t supposed to happen was the Okada-White match at MSG, where White subbed in for the departed Kenny ‘Gamers Have No Rights’ Omega. Having that second match just two months before a third really does make Dominion feel like a retread this year, if that’s indeed where they’re going. But unless there’s something coming totally out of left field, I’m not sure where else there is to go, quite frankly. Prediction: Jay White