NJPW Road To Wrestling Dontaku (24/4/18) Review

That will hurt. Credit: NJPW

In a lot of ways, this card is a mirror image of the one from the night before. While the matches have had a few tweaks, they’re hitting the same storyline beats, and in reality, it’s all about the main event – or at least it was. Because then they only went and added Ishii vs Henare. I’ve been calling for that since Tag League, suddenly, I’m quite excited.

Quick note: I’m going to change things up slightly and replace the pictures with NJPW’s post-match interviews. They’re an important part of the company’s storytelling, so it seems fitting.

Yuji Nagata, Jushin Thunder Liger and Tomoyuki Oka defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Shota Umino and Ren Narita

Oka has betrayed his pack mates by teaming up with a couple of the dads. Thankfully, Tenzan was happy to jump to the other side.

Once again, this was all about Umino and Nagata. Right from the start, Shota was throwing the old stink-eye across the ring. Then, when he got a chance to rumble with Yuji, he’d leap at it. There were times when he’d tagged out, but continue going anyway. The ref and his partners having to drag him away from his desperate need to fight his trainer.

All of which is great, because those two are making these matches unmissable. They’ve got fantastic chemistry while Nagata’s willingness to be slapped in the face by the rookie is admirable. There were moments here where those two were beating on each other and quite frankly everyone else involved could have gone home.

Of course, it’s not Shota’s turn yet, so he would once again fall to the Exploder followed by a Crossface. If New Japan has any sense, these two will continue this war for a while yet.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Takashi Iizuka and Taka Michinoku) defeated Roppongi 3K (SHO, YOH and Rocky Romero)

I’m not reviewing it again. It’s shit. Don’t bother. They even managed to make it worse by adding a dumb finish as SHO accidentally clocked the ref with the mic stand after attempting to grab it away from Taichi.

The ref saw Suzuki-gun take it into the ring. He then watched them wrestle over it and knew what was happening. Why the hell would he decide to DQ SHO?

I’m only angry about this because it suggests we’re going to get more of these six facing-off. Fuck watching that again.

Verdict: One And A Half Stars

Togi Makabe, KUSHIDA and a piece of shit defeated CHAOS (Will Ospreay, YOSHI-HASHI and Toru Yano)

Rather than spending time watching a shit wrestle, I suggest you contribute to Mo’s GoFundMe which is helping her raise money to face the lawsuit that Elgin has brought against her.

Or, perhaps you could look up a local shelter or charity which helps sufferers of abuse and either donate to them or offer your services in some way?

If you’re unaware of why I am suggesting this, please consider taking the time to read this article.

Verdict: Fuck Michael Elgin

Tomohiro Ishii defeated Toa Henare

Yes, yes, yes! Ah, I am so glad that New Japan gave us this. Let the big boys hit each other for a bit.

There was a simple story here, but it was an effective one. For months now, Henare has been throwing himself at Ishii whenever he gets the chance. He’s pinpointed the Stone Pitbull as the toughest dog in the yard, and he wants to bite him. The problem is, Ishii doesn’t respect a man who only recently graduated from Young Lionhood. While Ishii will beat him up, he still doesn’t believe Henare is on his level.

That’s a feeling that was apparent from the start. Ishii wrestled this like it was a Young Lion match and he was dishing out lessons. Little touches like locking in a headlock and refusing to let it go or going for a Boston Crab all spoke towards his lack of respect for Toa Henare.

Ishii’s problem was that Henare isn’t a man to go away quietly. It didn’t matter what he did. The youngster kept coming back for more. He kept fighting back and demanding that Ishii treat him as an equal. Barrelling into the Pitbull and even throwing some of those Ishii style chops to the throat. Henare wanted to prove he was a warrior and prove it he did.

For what initially felt like an exhibition for Ishii, didn’t stay that way. As the time went on Henare began to chip away at the brick wall, suddenly, the RevPro champion found himself on the backfoot. There was a period where they were slapping the hell out of each other, and when Ishii went to hit the ropes afterwards, he suddenly pulled up, grabbing his side as the pain from Henare’s blows registered in his brain. It was a sensational piece of selling and that one grimace did more for Henare than anything that’s happened in his career so far.

Sadly, much like Umino, it’s not yet Henare’s time. While one day he may pin Ishii, it wasn’t to be this day. He ate a huge lariat, spinning through the air before being hoisted up for the Brainbuster. However, you’ve got to hope that in putting up a fight like that, Henare might have earned the respect of Tomohiro Ishii.

Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr, El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Evil, Sanada, Hiromu Takahashi and Bushi)

Another Suzuki-gun match that we’ve seen before. Don’t get me wrong this wasn’t as bad as the Iizuka fiasco, but that didn’t make it any more original. I hope you’ll excuse if I stick to bullet points.

  • Suzuki is still trying to murder Naito and continued to work over the injured leg.
  • Desperado and Takahashi like slapping each other.
  • Killer Elite Squad has the upper hand over Evil and Sanada.

Gosh, it’s a lot quicker when you do it like that, isn’t it?

Verdict: Three Stars

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto and Gedo) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson and Rysuke Taguchi

I love goofball Okada, but the one thing I love even more than that is dickhead Okada. We got a lot of dickhead Okada here.

There is a decent chance that the champ is making a mistake, though. Despite his history with Tanahashi, it’s becoming clear he’s decided the Ace is beneath him. He treated old Tana’ like something he’d found on the bottom of his shoe, and to be fair; Tanahashi might deserve it. Every time the two of them stepped foot in the ring together, Okada came out on top. He was so dominant that he was even able to break away from Taguchi during the finishing stretch to deliver one final Tombstone on the floor, leaving the Ace a broken shell of a man.

Okada’s heel like nature seemed to bring it out of Goto too, who was being all kinds of aggressive with Juice. They did a lot to heat those two up here, as even when the bell rang they kept going at each other. It led to the fantastic image of Goto and Juice beating on each other while in the background Okada sat on the ring apron staring down at his fallen foe.

There was one final touch, as Okada went for another Tombstone post-match only for Gedo and the Young Lions to stop him. Since then, Jay White has been taking credit for this, playing into the idea that he is corrupting CHAOS from the inside. I love that storyline and hope it proves to be their final destination. A CHAOS splinter around an evil Okada being manipulated by Switchblade could be a lot of fun, particularly with LIJ now embracing their babyface reactions.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Jay White defeated David Finlay

In many ways, this was a sister match to Ishii vs Henare. Both of them played on the storyline of one wrestler having no respect for the other and treating them like they are still a Young Lion. The difference for Finlay and White is they had years of history to play with.

And play with it they did. This featured callbacks to everything from the night before, to their days as Young Lions. Early on, we saw White try and turn the tide by using the ref as a shield, something he’d done in their tag the previous day. This time, however, Finlay blocked the kick that followed up, maintaining his momentum. Then, later on, Jay went for the Boston Crab. Sneeringly asking whether Finlay remembered it, a callback to his victories in their days as rookies.

These little touches spoke to the incredible chemistry these two have. When you think about it, it’s astounding that they can headline a show for New Japan, but headline they did and they lived up to that billing. Finlay was all fire here, throwing himself across the ring at White with every opportunity he got. He has this frantic wrestling style that seems to require a run-up to get going. It allows him to burst out from underneath, throwing his heart and soul into moves in an attempt to get the win.

It’s a style that works as a perfect contrast to Switchblade. Where Finlay is red hot passion, White is cold manipulation. If there were any doubts left as to his ability to play this character, this should be the end of them. The way he hunted Finlay down, mocking him whenever he got a chance and waiting for his opportunity to strike was perfect. He’s become a killer. That smug look on his face when he’s in control making it all the more satisfying when Dave was able to build momentum and knock him off his perch.

Unfortunately, Finlay joins both Umino and Henare in it not being his time. In a fantastic closing stretch, Young David slipped out of a Blade Runner to hit a Backstabber out of a Backdrop Suplex before following up with a Brainbuster on his knee which looked like it would get him the win. Except, White was lying in wait. When Finlay went for the Stunner, Jay managed to hoist him up into the air before dropping him seamlessly into a Blade Runner. It was an effortless finish to a fantastic match.

I know people still don’t like Jay White, which is fair enough, like who you want to. However, I think he is a star and Wrestle Kingdom aside, he’s stepped up to everything NJPW asked of him. He took David Finlay, a guy who has done nothing for over a year and headlined a show with him. They should join Hiromu vs Dragon Lee and Scurll vs Ospreay as being forever enemies. I don’t care what promotion they’re in or where they are in their careers, they should always be opponents, and we should get to watch it another hundred times before they hang it up.

Verdict: Four And A Half Stars

Overall Show

It was a two match show with the added bonus of a fun Young Lion outing and some intriguing storytelling from Okada. Honestly, unless you fancy a whole bunch of mid-card multi-man tags, I’d just watch Henare vs Ishii and White vs Finlay. The rest of it can wait. Still, those were great and definitely worthy of your time.

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