Night two of Wrestling Dontaku finally brought this never-ending tour to an end. It wasn’t a horrible way to finish things off either. New Japan served up EVIL vs Ishii and a rematch of one of the best matches of the year so far, SANADA vs Okada. There was a real chance they were heading out on a high.
Shota Umino and Ren Narita defeated Yota Tsuji and Yuya Uemura
It’s becoming hard to say new things about these cubs. Umino and Narita continue to be ready for their excursions while Tsuji and Uemura are heading in the right direction. When you throw them all in the ring together, you know you are going to get something solid. Nothing is certain in the physical world of wrestling, but it would be no surprise to see all four of them eventually take prominent roles in the company.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, El Desperado, Taka Michinoku and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi, Jeff Cobb, Toa Henare, Tiger Mask and YOSHI-HASHI
Kevin Kelly joined me in being shocked that Suzuki-gun did not attack before the bell. Are they ill? Who volunteers to try and take Suzuki’s temperature? Not it.
There was no Liger in this match which gave us a break from him and Suzuki beating on each other. Instead, we got to see Toa Henare and Taichi go at it. Big Toa has been lobbying for a NEVER Title shot, and, sadly, this seemed to be Taichi responding with a resounding no. He had a fun interaction with Taichi and if I was booking this shit that is where he’d be heading, but the match ended with a Taichi Superkick and Henare eating the pin. It might be hard to claim he deserves a title shot now.
Outside of that, it was your usual Suzuki-gun vs Taguchi and a band of random wrestlers match.
Verdict: Three Stars
Most Violent Players (Togi Makabe and Toru Yano) and Jushin Thunder Liger defeated The Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Tonga Loa and Jado)
The Most Violent Players vs Guerrillas of Destiny has been a proper stinker of a feud, so I had no interest in paying this more than the smallest amount of attention. Liger was there, so that was nice, but outside of that, I could not have given a solitary shit. GOD suck, and while Yano and Makabe have their place in the company, this is not it.
Verdict: Two Stars (all of which are for Liger)
Juice Robinson, Hirooki Goto, Tomoaki Honma and Mikey Nicholls defeated The Bullet Club (Jay White, Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale and HIKULEO)
On their sixth anniversary, Bullet Club has been taking losses all over this weekend. I think this made them 0-5 which is not the best way to celebrate a birthday. That unit feels dead in the water which is coming from someone who thinks Jay White has been great. The stench of Fale and the Tongans hangs over them. If Switchblade had any sense, he’d ditch those cunts and grab Ishimori, Eagles, Chase and perhaps their newest debutant (more on him later) to go his own way.
I’m blabbing about all of this because I don’t want to talk about the match. White vs Goto was alright, but we’ve had that all tour, so it’s hard to get excited about it. Also, Chase is always great. God, I love Chase. Finally, they played the video hyping Juice’s next challenger again post-match, so that was a thing. I’m still not buying it being Chris Brookes. That probably means you should put your money on it being him because I am always wrong about this shit. There, I wrote a bunch of words. Well done me.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
The Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo) defeated Will Ospreay and Dragon Lee
After being teased for quite a while, El Phantasmo finally made his New Japan debut by beating Will Ospreay. That’s nae a bad way to say hi.
And, on the whole, it was a pretty solid performance. Phantasmo is a decent wrestler who was in with three incredible wrestlers so unless he properly shit himself he was always going to look alright. There were some things I would change as the rope walking spot makes his opponent look like a dope and the frat boy humour can be put in the bin, but I’m just a moany prick. He did good and Ospreay being Ospreay, he was going out of his way to make sure that would be the case.
The best part was Ishimori and Dragon Lee going at it, though. Those two are fantastic. I discovered this week that Dragon Lee is 23! That means when I first watched him wrestle he must have been 21. Fucking hell. It also means he’ll probably get better. Can he get better? Is that physically possible?
Anyway, this was probably the best match on the card so far. It was worked at a decent pace with everyone getting a little chance to shine. Fingers crossed Phantasmo and Ishimori are heading to the Junior Tag Division because it needs fresh faces.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi and BUSHI) defeated Kota Ibushi and Roppongi 3K (SHO and YOH)
It’s not often I will approve a straight rematch in the New Japan undercard, but this one gets an exception. On night one of Dontaku these six men had a good match, on night two they upped it to a great one.
It wasn’t just the combinations you’d expect that sparkled either. We know Kota vs Naito and SHO vs Shingo is incredible. However, we also got a bit of fun from Shingo vs Ibushi and Naito vs YOH. Everyone was working their arse off while Naito and Ibushi even found a way for Kota to take Gloria on his neck. Does anything sum up their feud better than that?
There wasn’t much complicated about this, and it’s probably not something you need to go out of your way to see, but it was a cracking six-man tag. They worked their arses off, and post-match Naito vs Ibushi was made official for Dominion. We all know that’s going to be special.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Before we got to our final two matches, The Ace returned. He’s been out having surgery (this one was a legit injury, he’s got the scar to prove it), but being Tanahashi, that was never going to keep him away for long. Tana announced he’d be back for the Best of the Super Junior’s final. He did this while wearing shorts with a suit jacket. While I’m no fashion expert, that’s a look even The Ace of the Universe is struggling to pull off.
Anyway, the speech brought out Jay White who was not impressed by Tanahashi claiming he was aiming for the Heavyweight Title again. Switchblade believes the line starts behind him and that The Ace is behind even Goto (that made me chuckle). Gedo then distracted Tana allowing White to attack and it was only the intervention of the Young Lions that prevented Knife Pervert going to work with a steel chair on Tana’s arm.
A straightforward angle to set up another White vs Tanahashi match. Those two don’t have incredible chemistry, so I’m not going to skip for joy at that news, but it’s a nice way to keep them busy pre-G1.
Tomohiro Ishii defeated EVIL
A lot of wrestling is beautiful and intricate. It features two men dancing between holds, crafting a story that will be paid off minutes, hours, days or even years down the line. Then you have EVIL vs Ishii which is two solid fuckers running into each other until one of them can’t stand up any more.
And sure, there was a story here. EVIL went after the leg and lower back of Ishii, setting him up to use the Stone Pitbull’s mentor’s Scorpion Deathlock against him. However, that was mere window dressing to the real delights of this match – the slightly dull appetiser we enjoyed but didn’t love, before we got to delight in the main course of them beating on each other.
We all know what that main course looks like too. It’s the Ishii special garnished with a shitload of violence. But it doesn’t matter how many times you see it you’d still to be mental not to shovel it in your gob. No-one does this better than Tomohiro Ishii, and in EVIL, he had a fantastic dance partner. It was a hard-hitting fight that threw beauty out the window in its quest to see how many elbows they could throw in a twenty-minute match.
I’m sure some idiot out there doesn’t like this style of wrestling, but that idiot ain’t me.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Kazuchika Okada defeated SANADA to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Title
SANADA is rocking a new look which has brought with it the death of (most of) the beard. While I did not hate the beard, it probably is an improvement. Then again, SANADA is always going to look like a sexy cunt because, well, look at him. Fuck, I kind of hate the bastard.
I got plenty of time to think about that stuff because the start of this match was agonisingly slow. SANADA and Okada were strolling around the ring, seemingly in no rush to take things up a gear. There would be flashes of them going to the next act only for them to slow it right back down again, dragging things to a standstill. With this going over thirty-eight minutes it made my complaints about Ishimori vs Dragon Lee being a bit long sound ridiculous.
As these two went on, the action did improve. Both men began to speed things up, running through their signature spots yet never able to get to a Rainmaker or a Skull End. Okada was probably having the better of it, but SANADA was there with him always providing the answer to the questions the champ asked. As we hit the twenty-five-minute mark, it finally began to feel like an exciting match.
That led to a tremendous final ten minutes built around the Skull End. SANADA’s recent performances have shown that he can get that move on from anywhere, and that proved the case again. By this point, Fukuoka was firmly in his corner, roaring him on as time after time he slipped into it. However, he was to make a mistake. With Okada out for the count in the hold, he just had to wait until the ref made his decision. Instead, he went to the Moonsault, not once but twice. By the time he climbed up for the second, Captain Kazu was awake, and he had enough left in him to get those knees up.
Not that Okada surviving was the death of SANADA, he still had a bit to give including a 2.9 count after hitting a Rainmaker if his own. The confidence seemed to be running through him, and ultimately that might have been his mistake. He went for a Sliced Bread Number Two, and it brought him right into position for the Spinning Tombstone. A Rainmaker later and SANADA once again couldn’t find a way past Kazuchika Okada. Although, in an interesting touch the two shared a half handshake half fist bump post-match, and you suspect the story between The Rainmaker and The Cold Skull is far from over.
I thought the last act of this match was fantastic, but I can’t go big on something that started so slowly. If it’s taking you twenty odd minutes to move onto things that grab the attention, then you’re doing something wrong. In my review of the first night, I mentioned that not everything has to be an epic and this was the perfect example. We could have had a fantastic fifteen to twenty match out of these two. Instead, we had a decent thirty-eight-minute one.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
We weren’t entirely done, though. Before Okada could make it rain the lights went out, and a familiar face appeared on the screen. It’s everyone’s favourite embarrassing da, Chris Jericho who has now dubbed himself The Painmaker. He’s laying down the challenge for Dominion and, unsurprisingly, Okada accepts. How exciting.
Start this show at Phantasmo’s debut, and you’ll have a lovely time. Even the main event (which I probably sound down on) is well worth a watch because you’ve got two fantastic wrestlers in there. EVIL and Ishii stole the show for me, but then again I love watching big men hit each other, so that should be no surprise. Now, onto Super Juniors which is never going to be a bad thing. Say hello to the flips!
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/