NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
WRESTLING DONTAKU 2019 NIGHT 2
MAY 4 2019
FUKUOKA CONVENTION CENTER
Watch: NJPW World
SHOTA UMINO & REN NARITA DEF. YOTA TSUJI & YUYA UEMURA
Another great match from the young lions. This time Uemura played the man in trouble and eventually made the hot tag to Tsuji.
I am really digging the Umino and Tsuji sequences in these matches these days. Umino hit a Missile Dropkick followed up by a Fisherman’s Suplex on Tsuji to get the win.
After the match, Narita stomps out Uemura to push their rivalry. ***1/4
MINORU SUZUKI, TAICHI, YOSHINOBU KANEMARU, EL DESPERADO & TAKA MICHINOKU DEF. JEFF COBB, YOSHI-HASHI, TOA HENARE, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI & TIGER MASK
Cobb got in Taichi’s face before the match started, but surprisingly, Suzukigun did not jump the other team before the match.
But the match did very much follow the usual Suzukigun formula, with lots of brawling outside. In this match, YOSHI-HASHI was Suzuki’s punching bag.
After a performance last night that is sure to be divisive (though overall, I liked it), Taichi actually looked really good here. He does have in-ring chemistry with Cobb and they had some good spots together in this match. Taichi also had a good outing with Henare in this match too, and eventually won the match with a Superkick on Henare. Taichi was so much better in this match a dick that kicks really hard and used more subtle heel tactics, and that’s what he should be from now on. ***1/2
JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER, TOGI MAKABE & TORU YANO DEF. TAMA TONGA, TANGA LOA & JADO.
I was skeptical of having Jado in this match. At first, I laughed because he had a shirt that said “So What? I don’t care,” on the front and “30 Years in the Biz,” on the back which is an obvious dig at Liger. But then the bell rang.
Oh dear Lord. Jado moved around worse than Honma did when he returned from his serious injury. The only two actual wrestling moves that Jado used in this match was two forearms to the back and the Crossface of JADO.
If you thought the MVP vs. GOD IWGP Tag title match was weak, then skip this match because their interactions in this were more boring than that match.
Yano got the win with a low blow and schoolboy roll up. This was the weakest New Japan multiman tag match I’ve seen in a long time. *3/4
JUICE ROBINSON, HIROOKI GOTO, MIKEY NICHOLLS & TOMOAKI HONMA DEF. JAY WHITE, BAD LUCK FALE, CHASE OWENS & HIKULEO
Fun match. Goto demanded that White start the match with him and in classic Bullet Club style, Owens jumped Goto instead to start the match.
The atch settled into Bullet Club working over Honma for a while.
Goto and White got some shots in on each other and seem to be continuing their feud.
Nicholls was only the legal man for like 15 seconds of this match near the beginning while Owens was being worked over. However he did do a lot of double team moves with Juice throughout the match, and they actually seem to be gelling as a team.
But eventually it came down to Juice vs. Hikuleo. Like he did last night, Hikuleo looked pretty good in this match, especially during the closing stretch against Juice. Juice of course eventually got the win with the Pulp Friction.
The announcers noted that with this loss, Bullet Club was now 0-5 on the Dontaku shows, which ironically enough are the anniversary of their formation.
That Time’s Up video played again after the match as Juice was walking up the ramp to the back. ***1/2
TAIJI ISHIMORI & EL PHANTASMO DEF. DRAGON LEE & WILL OSPREAY
To the surprise of no one, X was El Phantasmo. Even if the reveal was anticlimactic, this match did a great job in establishing ELP in the Junior Heavyweight division.
The story that Ospreay was surprised his friend would join Bullet Club was also played up. ELP refused a handshake at the beginning of this match from Ospreay.
The match was also rightfully the ELP show. He got to show off lots of his high flying moves. They have also teased him as a major rival to Ospreay as someone that also works a similar style to him.
Ishimori and Lee were in the match sparingly but they had a great chain wrestling exchange with each other to signal that their rivalry isn’t over.
ELP got the win when he superkicked Ospreay while he was going for the Os Cutter. ELP then nailed Ospreay with his Styles Clash-like finisher.
ELP initially came out to zero heat, but got some buzz by the end of this. A great booking decision to have ELP pin Ospreay to build another storyline for BOSJ. At only 9:48, this match did everything it needed to do. ***3/4
TETSUYA NAITO, SHINGO TAKAGI & BUSHI DEF. KOTA IBUSHI, SHO & YOH
A rematch from last night, but this one was superior.
Naito and Ibushi started and had some great chain wrestling exchanges. Later in the match, Naito spikes Ibushi with a modified Gloria that dropped Ibushi right on his neck and the top of his shoulders. It looked brutal and was probably a preview of what insane things they are going to do to each other at Dominion.
Later on in the match, there was also an awesome sequence that consisted of Ibushi vs. Takagi, though I think that singles match isn’t happening any time soon. Takagi hit a sweet Pop-up Death Valley Driver on Ibushi before both wrestlers tagged out.
The closing stretch between Naito and YOH was also really hot. YOH even got a near fall with a Falcon Arrow after countering a Naito Swinging DDT. YOH went for his new Dragon Suplex finisher, but Naito escaped, LIJ cleared the ring and, and Naito hit the Destino for the win.
Another LIJ vs. Ibushi multiman tag match on this tour that beautifully built towards the future. After the match, Naito was in the ring with the mic and asked for Ibushi to come in the ring, and Naito finally asked for the IC title rematch to be at Dominion which Ibushi accepted. ***3/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi came out to huge cheers. He promised he would return at the BOSJ Finals show on 6/5 at Sumo Hall. He said he would win the G1 again.
Jay White then came out and said that he was first in line to get an IWGP Heavyweight Title shot. White said that Tanahashi was at the back of the line, even behind Goto (lol). White then jumped Tanahashi and put his injured elbow in a steel chair and went to hit the arm with another steel chair but was restrained by the Young Lions.
TOMOHIRO ISHII DEF. EVIL
What a fucking fight. This started off with both guys trying to Shoulderblock each other down, and eventually EVIL came out on top in that exchange. They then went to hammering each other with a ton of forearms back-and-forth.
In between trying to kill each with stiff strikes, EVIL also continued the Scorpion Deathlock storyline and worked over Ishii’s leg. Ishii also eventually worked over EVIL’s leg a bit and applied a Scorpion Deathlock of his own to a thunderous response from the crowd.
This was the kind of match where two guys were going to beat each other up until one can’t stand up anymore. That is a bit different than most other big singles matches in New Japan, though there was still plenty of countering and escaping in this.
There were a lot of cool spots near the end of the match like both wrestlers Lariating each other at the same time into near unconsciousness and there were a couple of nasty looking headbutts from Ishii that made me cringe.
While EVIL got a couple of near falls towards the end, I thought Ishii won pretty definitively here. Ishii hit an absolutely savage looking Enziguri that saw his foot land right on EVIL’s jaw. Ishii then hit a running Lariat for a 2.9 count and followed that up with a Brainbuster for the win.
I thought this match was great, but there was something missing that kept me from rating it hire. While the finishing stretch saw a ton of bombs thrown and stiff strikes, I felt that perhaps EVIL needed a little more offense in to give the match a more dramatic ending. ****1/4
While Ishii was speaking to the media backstage, Taichi approached him with the NEVER Openweight Title so that seems to be the direction for that belt.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
KAZUCHIKA OKADA © DEF. SANADA
SANADA has a new look, that I can only call “Blonde Pirate.” It consisted of dark blue tights and boots with black and yellow accents that remind me of something pirate would wear. He has also stopped wearing his hair up like Marge Simpson and has dyed it completely blonde. He has also shaved his beard to a more reasonable length and also dyed it completely blonde. It looked really good, and I think it was a sign that SANADA will be permanently stepping up the ladder after this match.
This match started a little differently than most Okada title defenses. There was a lot of mat work early on and holds from Okada. I began to wonder if this was going Broadway. The announcers were also pointing out that while he is 0-5 in singles matches against Okada, in each successive one, SANADA manages to push the match length longer.
They certainly didn’t go Broadway, but I think there was an attempt to tease that they could in the first 20 minutes of this match.
The match had an interesting tempo where it was sped up at times and then slowed down, with a lot of holds worked in as well. That might not be for everyone, but I thought both of these guys are good enough wrestlers to pull that off.
There was an extended Skull End sequence where Okada looked like he was going to pass out and I legitimately thought it was over. Okada also briefly escaped from the Skull End twice but SANADA was able to lock it back on. Eventually, SANADA gave up, released the hold and hit a Moonsault on Okada while he was still on his stomach. SANADA rolled Okada on to his back, and went for another Moonsault, only for Okada to get his knees up. SANADA got too flashy after he had nearly KO’ed SANADA with the Skull End. This seems to be an LIJ thing when facing Okada. You’d think Naito would have warned him about doing that by now.
After that part, we got an extended closing stretch with lots of reversals of the Skull, Tombstone, and Rainmaker. SANADA even hit a Rainmaker of his own for a 2.9 count that made the crowd go wild. Okada caught SANADA while he was going for a Skull End where he uses the turnbuckles as leverage to flip over to apply it, and hit a Spinning Tombstone, followed by the Rainmaker for the win at 38:03, which was their longest match to date.
I loved this match. While it did not completely reject the Okada title match formula, I thought it had a few interesting departures from it, however, including the slow start and up and down tempo, especially during the first 20 minutes. Some may find that boring, but I loved it, and it is only going to be able to be pulled off by wrestlers of the caliber of Okada and SANADA. This was better than their New Japan Cup Finals match, and I think it was their best match ever. I think this might be my second favorite New Japan match this year, behind only Tanahashi vs. Omega. SANADA will still gain a lot in defeat from this. ****1/2
As Okada is celebrating his victory, a video plays, and it’s Jericho, channeling even more of a sick and twisted clown gimmick than he was before. The video even had a couple shots of clown dolls. Jericho being the genius that he is— now calling himself the Painmaker. He challenges Okada to a match at Dominion.
— NJPW Global (@njpwglobal) May 4, 2019
After the video ends, Okada, of course, accepts the challenge. This is pro-wrestling, you know.
The Dontaku tour had some great matches. They were however spread out, so even shows with great matches did not feel as strong top to bottom. This show, however, felt more like a big traditional New Japan tour ending show.
Despite the fact this show had one of the worst New Japan matches I’ve seen in quite some time, everything else meant something and/or was building to something. SANADA was further elevated. Naito teased neck breaking moves on Ibushi. El Phantasmo had a great debut and immediately entered into a feud with Will Ospreay. Even Young Lion Narita was teased something down the line against Uemura.
New Japan drew 6105 to this show. Last year, with Okada vs. Tanahashi on top, the number was 6307. Despite a weaker card on paper, and big matches spread out on other shows, this year’s two-night Wrestling Dontaku should still be considered a major success for New Japan.
While there were times during this tour where I felt I was unsure that New Japan was heading into any exciting directions and was coasting a bit. But this summer between BOSJ, Dominion and the G1 is shaping up to be absolutely killer and I think those tours and shows this year will be as good, if not better as they have been in the last few years. If you think the departure of The Elite has hurt New Japan, I’ve got some magic beans to sell you.
With the developments that occurred on this show it looks like Dominion is shaping up to feature:
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada © vs. Chris Jericho
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Kota Ibushi © vs. Tetsuya Naito
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White
Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Minoru Suzuki
NEVER Openweight Championship
Taichi © vs. Tomohiro Ishii