MAY 3, 2023


The 30th anniversary of Wrestling Dontaku saw 5 title matches on the show, an impactful return, and Hiromu Takahashi looking to make history as a double champion against SANADA! It’s Wrestling Dontaku 2023!


  • In a dark match, Ryohei Oiwa was unsuccessful in his Hat Trick Challenge, losing to Oskar Leube after going to five-minute draws with Boltin Oleg and Yuto Nakashima. Oiwa will not be getting his $1,500 barbecue feast.
  • CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano, YOH & YOSHI-HASHI) def. House of Torture (Dick Togo, EVIL, SHO & Yujiro Takahashi) – House of Torture came out with the stolen IWGP Tag Team Titles. YOSHI-HASHI pinned Togo after the Shoto. In a Heyman Special after the match, Aussie Open ran off an attacking EVIL and Yujiro and challenged them and Bishamon to a three-way match that has since been booked for Dominion.
  • United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) def. TMDK (Kosei Fujita, Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste) – O-Khan tapped out Fujita with the Sheep Killer.
  • Intergalactic Jet Setters (Kevin Knight & KUSHIDA) & Shota Umino def. United Empire (Aaron Henare, Francesco Akira & TJP) – KUSHIDA pinned TJP with a hammerlock inside cradle.
  • Just 5 Guys (DOUKI, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (w/TAKA Michinoku) def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito) – New KOPW Champion Taichi submitted BUSHI with his Seitei Jujiro.


KENTA failed in his third defense of the title. Hikuleo became the 4th STRONG Openweight Champion.

This result surprised me, although it really shouldn’t have. After his exclusion from the New Japan Cup, it’s easy to forget that Hikuleo is the reason Jay White is out of New Japan. But New Japan has high hopes for him, which is why he got the highlight win over White and the title win here over KENTA.

KENTA tried all of his usual shenanigans, with two ref bumps, two nut shots, and the involvement of a kendo stick. But Hikuleo fought through it all and hit a big ass chokeslam to win the title. This was better than I thought it would be, which has been a trend with these Hikuleo matches in Japan. The crowd was into him, and I like how he works as a big guy. New Japan has a decent track record with big men in the Bushiroad-era, and I think Hikuleo has a chance to round into a quality asset as he continues developing. ***1/4

ZACK SABRE JR. © (W/ TMDK) VS. JEFF COBB (w/ United Empire) went to a TIME LIMIT DRAW

This was Sabre’s sixth successful defense of the title. The time limit finally came into play, as Sabre got saved by the bell as the 15 minutes expired on Cobb. Neither man was happy with the result, and a rematch was agreed to in the ring and later officially signed for Dominion.

This match was the first time Sabre worked from behind in one of these title matches, as Cobb’s power game overwhelmed Sabre to start. Sabre was able to get some submissions on at points with counter moves, like countering the Spin Cycle into a choke and maneuvering out of a superplex into a top-rope octopus. But Cobb’s raw strength proved to be a matchup nightmare for Sabre as more often than not, he would get stuffed on his signature offense. Sabre was able to avoid the Tour of the Islands by locking on a desperation armbar, hoping to get a miracle flash submission in the final seconds. But Cobb pulled Sabre up into a suplex before the bell rang, calling for the end of the match.

With a real finishing stretch, I would have gone 4 stars on this one. These two are obviously great, and the story of Sabre suddenly being on the wrong side of a style clash was fun to watch play out. I think the rematch will see Cobb finish the job and win the title, thus introducing an interesting new challenge and style of title match the TV Title gets us. ***3/4


The Strong Style team failed in their second defense of the titles. Okada, Ishii, & Tanahashi become the 26th NEVER Openweight Six-Man Champions. Surprisingly, this is the first time Okada has won a title other than the IWGP Heavyweight/World Heavyweight Championship in his entire professional wrestling career.

If you didn’t believe that New Japan was in a generation shift, look at the names in this match. Okada, Tanahashi, Ishii, Suzuki. A few years ago, those guys would be in the highlight ticket-selling singles matches on the card. And here, they weren’t even the focus of the match. Desperado was showcased continuing his battle with Tomohiro Ishii that started at Capital Collision. This entire match came together because Ren Narita was pissed that he lost to Okada in a 2v2 tag back on the New Japan Cup tour. Not only is this match a signal of a changing of the guard in New Japan, but it’s also part of why I think six-man/trios titles can be greatly useful when they’re well booked. These top names are not only in a marquee position on the card, they’re also in a less physically demanding spot as one guy in a field of six compared to a singles match.

This match ruled too. Suzuki ripped at Tanahashi’s recently broken rib with punches and an octopus stretch, and Ishii and Desperado had a fun exchange that made me hope for a Desperado G1 run at some point in the future. Ishii and Tanahashi had a bit of miscommunication, building on the issue that Ishii had in teaming with a non-CHAOS member to begin with. The focus came down to Narita trying to get his win back over Okada. Strong Style ran an offensive combination that ended in a Narita suplex that the crowd bit on as a nearfall. The challenger team came back with a combo of their own, and while Narita was able to counter the spinning Rainmaker, Okada countered the Octopus Stretch into the Cobra Flowsion and got the win with the Rainmaker. ****

After the match, Shota Umino – Narita’s partner in that March 11th tag – came out. While Narita couldn’t get his win back, Umino wanted to try his luck at Dominion. And he was coming with his own partner in the form of Jon Moxley. Okada told Umino and Moxley to fuck off before getting Tanahashi and Ishii to shake hands. Awesome stuff here, and Moxley standing across the ring from Okada feels like money. Please, please, please get Bryan Danielson on that plane. Danielson/Okada, even in a six-man, will send me to another plane of existence.


Tama Tonga failed in his second defense of the title. David Finlay becomes the 39th NEVER Openweight Champion.

On the 10th anniversary of Bullet Club forming, new Bullet Club leader David Finlay needed to come up big. Even with the expulsion of any dissenting voices in the group, he still came up short in the New Japan Cup. Finlay had something to prove here on this important day, specifically against Tama Tonga, one of the core four members of the group he now led. That statement was made as Finlay stood tall with the NEVER Openweight Title as Tama was stretchered to the back after an extended ass-whipping.

This match started with the typical New Japan back-and-forth. They brawled in the crowd early, Finlay took control back in the ring, and Tama fought back with his big offense. But instead of a big New Japan closing stretch, Finlay shoved Tama off the top rope into the barricade on the floor, then gave him an unrelenting beatdown. He threw him into the ringpost before powerbombing him half a dozen times in the ring. Finlay wanted Tama to quit, but Tama slapped him in the face. Finlay wanted Jado to throw in the towel, but he refused. Finlay decided to send a message by hitting Into Oblivion – the thankfully-renamed Trash Panda – three times. After picking Tama’s shoulders up the first two times, the let the match end with the third one to score the win and the title in dominant fashion. The goal of this match was to make it clear that David Finlay is a player now. He was vicious in this one, symbolizing the new generation of Bullet Club that he wanted to usher in. He needed to look like a killer here, and that’s exactly what he did. ***1/2

After the match, Finlay was jumped by a returning El Phantasmo. The match has been set for Dominion, and the crowd is fully into ELP as a babyface. Get ready people, the ELP Train is about to leave the station.


This was SANADA’s first defense of the title.

The SANADA experiment needs a little more time to see if it’s taken. While this show did sell out weeks in advance with 4,489 in the building, the IWGP Champion SANADA came out to crickets. To quote Chael Sonnen, you could hear a rat piss on cotton. At the bell, the crowd was firmly into Hiromu. While SANADA isn’t box office poison, it’s not a good sign when your World Champion comes out to relative silence. It’s also only been one big show that SANADA has been on top, so it could just be a matter of time and getting familiar with the new SANADA. But with his next challenge set for Dominion, we’re gonna find out just how well this SANADA repackaging has worked from a business perspective.

But first, this match with Hiromu. The crowd being firmly into Hiromu helped this match a ton. SANADA worked on Hiromu’s neck, starting with a one-man Magic Killer from the apron to the floor. The neck work led to more use of the Skull End, which almost made Hiromu pass out toward the end of the match. But Hiromu fought through with his counters, getting his knees up on a moonsault attempt. Hiromu hit Time Bomb 1 for a nearfall, but after that, SANADA used his heavyweight power to drill Hiromu with forearms while the crowd screamed for the challenger. Hiromu fired up, landing a lariat that took SANADA down before hitting the Time Bomb 2 for a closer nearfall. Hiromu went for the ultra-rare Time Bomb 2.5, but SANADA got out and locked Hiromu in the Skull End. He hit the moonsault for a nearfall, with Hiromu countering the Deadfall with a Hiromu Roll as a last gasp. SANADA kicked out, and a Shining Wizard and a successful Deadfall would put Hiromu away and earn SANADA his first title defense. ****1/4

After the match, SANADA was confronted by his next challenger. In the preview, I noted that most people were expecting Tetsuya Naito to make a challenge for Dominion. Some people had Shingo Takagi as a dark-horse option for a title defense, although I think that was more wishful thinking. But I don’t think there was a soul on Earth outside of Gedo that saw Yota Tsuji returning from excursion to clear the ring of Just 5 Guys and spear SANADA out of his boots before standing tall with the Heavyweight Title. Before he left, he made sure to give the Los Ingobernables salute, making sure SANADA knew who sent their regards. The match is official for Dominion 6.4, as SANADA will defend the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against Yota Tsuji.

This is such a ballsy move from Gedo, but it lines up with his history as a booker. When he has a guy that he sees as a star, he doesn’t wait. Okada beat Tanahashi a month after his return from excursion. Jay White returned against Tanahashi at the Dome, and pinned Kenny Omega a month later. When Gedo sees a star, he straps the rocket to their back and sends them flying. I didn’t see much of Tsuji on his excursion, but he looked like the business here and the crowd was into him. With one of these two going into Forbidden Door and most likely the G1 Climax as IWGP World Champion, we are firmly entering a new era of New Japan.