May brings New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestling Donaku card, a two night affair. It sets up a big weekend of wrestling as WWE Backlash is on Sunday (well, Monday for me!) I’d best get started…
The opener, the Bullet Club team of Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Young Lions Ren Narita & Shota Umino was pretty rudimentary stuff. I’ll go 2.5/5 as there was nothing wrong here, but this was a fairly basic, skippable match, Owens getting the win with the Package Piledriver.
Jushin Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Tiger Mask IV vs. Tetsuhiro Yagi, Tomoyuki Oka, & Yuji Nagata was better (2.5/5). I liked Oka’s cockiness with Liger and the veterans (Nagata included!) showing the Young Lions some tough love. A better match than the opener, with some good interactions between the Lions and the veterans.
Roppongi 3K (Rocky Romero, SHO, & YOH) vs. Suzuki-gun (Davey Boy Smith, Jr., Lance Archer, & Takashi Iizuka) was far too short to rate. It was looking like this was going to be a good ‘big men vs little men’ match, then it suddenly ended while I was typing the opening paragraph…yeah, organisation isn’t my strong point.
Chaos (Hirooki Goto, “Switchblade” Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. David Finlay, Juice Robinson, Michael Elgin, Toa Henare, & Togi Makabe was a fine ten man tag match (3/5) I could have watched more of this to be honest, I really enjoyed seeing everyone involved in the mix and was genuinely intrigued by who was going to pick up the win. I was pleased it was Jay White, who was treated like a star here (getting the win, separate entrance to his team mates)…I’m predicting a White – Juice match in San Francisco for the US Title. I think that could be a great match. I could see Juice winning – it feels like he’s worthy of a title, plus he’s had a few setbacks….eventually, Juice needs to win the big match or people will see him as an ‘also-ran’.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, & Tanga Loa) (c) vs. Bullet Club (Marty Scurll, Matt Jackson, & Nick Jackson) for the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship was a really fun match (3.5/5) that saw Scrull and the Bucks beat their fellow Bullet Club members. Scrull and the Bucks were the stars of this match with some excellent triple team moves and I’m hoping the titles stay on them for a bit. I find the 6 Man Tag Titles to be more interesting when a team is involved with the titles, either holding them or chasing them (i.e Taguchi Japan or Los Ingobernables) rather than random trios trading the titles.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, & Zack Sabre, Jr.) was another good multi man match (3.5/5). I really enjoyed Suzuki-gun’s beat down of Naito and the wild brawling made the match unpredictable. The LIJ vs Suzuki-gun feud has been a good one….
Chaos (Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA was a fine tag match and I debated giving it 4/5. However, I relented and went with 3.5/5 – I didn’t think it was quite long enough to warrant a higher mark. I thought Kushida and Ospreay were brilliant here, lots of acrobatic moves, stiff strikes and great focus on the respective injuries of both men. It left me looking forward to their IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title match on night two…
Cody Rhodes vs. Kota Ibushi was a contrast to the previous matches, a slower more methodical match, telling the story of Cody’s obsession with Ibushi. I liked the match, though I think anyone watching this match cold, with no idea of the history between the two would have struggled with this one. I reckon it’s 3.5/5, but it wouldn’t shock me to see a range of different scores around the internet.
Hangman Page vs. Kenny Omega got off to a crazy start, with Cody jumping Omega pre bell. It led to a chaotic start, with Cody interfering, then a bit of a lull before a pretty good, if definitive end. I gave it 3.5/5 – it was a fine match, but never quite went to that next level. Still, a good main event and another good showing for the underrated Page.
Overall – 3.18/5.00. A pretty solid card, albeit with nothing spectacular on it.
Jushin Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Tiger Mask IV vs. Ren Narita, Shota Umino, & Tomoyuki Oka was a really fun opener (3/5) I really enjoyed the Young Lions jumping the veterans and triple teaming them, desperately trying to get the win. Watching the veterans fight back brutally and get the win was damn entertaining.
Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Tetsuhiro Yagi & Yuji Nagata was a decent match, though nothing special (2.5/5). It was better than Chase and Yujiro’s match on Night 1, thanks to the evergreen Nagata.
Roppongi 3K (Rocky Romero, SHO, & YOH) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, TAKA Michinoku, & Takashi Iizuka) seemed like a decent contest, though I was distracted by my children refusing to go to bed. I’ll go 2.5/5 for the match and my parenting skills.
Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs. Toa Henare & Togi Makabe was mainly about Henare trying to beat Ishii, an ongoing story in New Japan. I enjoyed watching their battle (I missed their 1 on 1 match earlier in the tour) and felt that raised the match beyond the usual mid card tag match standard (3/.5)
Chaos (Hirooki Goto, “Switchblade” Jay White, & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. David Finlay, Juice Robinson, & Michael Elgin was a surprisingly good match. What looked like a throwaway multi man match was actually quite a close contest, with everyone getting some time to shine. I was surprised YOSHI-HASHI got the win – he’s the one with the least going on and is potentially Japan’s least intimidating wrestler. Still, a good match with a interesting post match face off between White and Juice…3.5/5
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Suzuki-gun (Davey Boy Smith, Jr., El Desperado, Lance Archer, Minoru Suzuki, & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) was just chaos (3.5/5). A crazy brawl, followed by Chris Jericho beating Naito senseless after the match. The match was fine, but the post match was the big thing here – Jericho running riot in Japan in one of my favourite things he’s ever done.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, & Tanga Loa) & Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) vs. Bullet Club (Cody Rhodes, Hangman Page, Marty Scurll, Matt Jackson, & Nick Jackson) was more of an angle than a match. I couldn’t turn away though – watching the story of the Bullet Club and it’s splits and falling outs has been great over the past few months. I’ll go 3.5/5 – whether it’s was Scrull’s comedy antics in trying to slam Fale, the drama between the Bucks and the Golden Lover or Cody antagonizing Kenny and the fans, I was gripped.
KUSHIDA vs. Will Ospreay for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship was fantastic (4/5)…based around Ospreay’s injured neck, this match told a great story of a champion who never gives up and always finds a way to win, regardless of the circumstances. There were some crazy moves in this one…I’ve never seen a Spanish Fly DDT for example and the springboard Oscutter was awesome. I liked the post match too, with the debuting Bone Soldier…that’s three great angles in one night.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship had some great history behind it – Okada is trying to break Tanahashi’s IWGP Title defence record and it was him who stopped Tanahashi’s streak at 11. I was determined to give this match a chance – I have a tendency to fall asleep due to fatigue during big matches like these. So I watched it Sunday evening, in isolation from the rest of the card. I’m glad I did – the match was brilliant (4.5/5) Watching Tanahashi struggle to win another IWGP Title against the ace of New Japan was a great story and the crowd and commentary team were along for the ride too. No one thought Tanahashi was going to win before the match, but there were moments where the crowd bought in on a Tanahashi win . Mine was when Tanahashi gave Okada the Rainmaker (Okada’s finisher, a wrist clutch lariat) – I honestly thought it might be a Tanahashi win, despite knowing the result (damn you Twitter!) A great effort from both men that was utterly compelling. A mention for the English commentary team too, who I thought were excellent here – they were serious and invested…compare that to WWE’s commentary team….
The post match was even better – Okada challenged Kenny Omega for another match, with no time limits and Omega upped the ante by asking for the match to be two out of three falls…I can’t wait. The match is slated to take place at Dominion in June and in my opinion, could eclipse The Young Bucks vs Golden Lovers match from Strong Style Evolved (my match of the year so far)
Overall – 3.33/5.00 – A fine card with two superb matches on top and lots of good multi-man matches.
So, with Wrestling Dontaku in the books, it’s time for WWE Backlash, to complete my wrestling weekend. The highest praise I can give Wrestling Dontaku is that it’s refreshed my interest in wrestling. I was feeling a bit flat after Wrestlemania weekend, but now I feel excited about wrestling again. I think the announcement of Omega – Okada IV next month is the key – I loved their first two matches and missed the third match, so I have an incentive to watch that match and am excited for next month’s New Japan card, which was looking pretty good even before the announcement…