NJPW Road to Dontaku 4/19, Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
by Zachariah Dominello
Match 1: BUSHI, Tiger Mask and Jushin Liger Thunder vs. Mascara Dorada, El Desperado and Ryusuke Taguchi
It was good to see Mascara Dorada back in New Japan. He was one of the highlights of the FantasticaMania shows earlier this year, and he was also the highlight of this match.
Fun, fast paced opener with some good high flying action. Taguchi, who should be hot after his win over Prince Devitt at Invasion Attack (but isn’t really), hit Dodon on BUSHI to get the win for his team at 9’20”.
After the match, all competitors shook hands and showed good sportsmanship, even Desperado, who was apprehensive at first about shaking Jushin Thunder Liger’s hand, but eventually did. I thought those two were building to a match. Did they have it already? I got the feeling that their feud was pretty much over after this.
Match 2: Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Yohei Komatsu and Manabu Nakanishi
One of my favourite up and coming wrestlers, Yohei Komatsu, made a rare appearance in a match that WASN’T the opener. Though it was only the second match on the card. Still, baby steps. I think it’s clear who’ll be taking the pin in this match (Sorry, Yohei). Komatsu has the unenviable task of teaming with Nakanishi, who has not looked great lately.
Good strong man battling between Tenzan and Nakanishi. I was legitimately excited for Komatsu when he got tagged in for the first time, he got a good pop and chant from the crowd too, until Kojima chopped him to death. Komatsu plays the scrappy underdog role very well.
Nakanishi looked a lot better tonight than he did at the last show, not just in the ring, but even engaging better with the crowd.
The final sequence between Komatsu and Kojima was wonderful. Komatsu spent the majority of the match getting beaten to a pulp, but when Kojima went for his lariat for the finish, Komatsu avoided it and got fired up, hitting a good sequence of moves on Kojima. The crowd was super behind Komatsu at this stage. Inevitably, Kojima hit the lariat on Komatsu for the pin at 11’05”.
Good match all round. Nakanishi looked better than usual, and Komatsu held his own in the ring with the veterans, and probably got the biggest pop out of all of them.
Match 3: Jado, Gedo, Takashi Iizuka and Toru Yano vs. Taichi, TAKA Michinoku, Shelton “X” Benjamin and Minoru Suzuki
Well this match was as good as can be expected, meaning not very. But in the spirit of positivity, Shelton Benjamin wasn’t too bad! I’m always surprised by how strong he is when he shows his power game in the ring. He threw Iizuka and Gedo around like they were rag dolls – pretty impressive! Not so impressive is Minoru, Yano, Taichi and TAKA’s respective shticks. Minoru and Yano’s routine is older than history itself, as is Taichi and TAKA’s. These guys need some new material ASAP.
The finish involved Iizuka hitting Taichi with the Iron Finger from Hell, leading to a roll up by Yano for the win at 9’38”.
No harassing of Shimpei Nogami by Iizuka either, I guess he’s saving it for the more expensive iPPV in May.
Match 4: KUSHIDA, Tomoaki Honma, Tetsuya Naito vs. YOSHI-HASHI, Yujiro Takahashi and Tomohiro Ishii
As much as I’ve enjoyed the rivalry between Naito and Ishii, and I’ve enjoyed it A LOT, I think they’ve done pretty much all there is to do with each other in the ring at this point, so I wasn’t too excited about another 6-man tag with them on opposing sides. That’s why I enjoyed this match quite a lot; Naito and Ishii barely touched each other. Instead, Naito and YOSHI-HASHI worked a lot of the match together, while Ishii and Honma had an excellent final sequence.
Honma was looking good against Ishii, getting in some strong offense, but it looked like the match was heading towards a typical Honma loss after he missed his diving headbutt on Ishii. Then out of nowhere, Honma reversed Ishii’s brainbuster into the Pillar Crash for the huge surprise win over Ishii at 10’55”.
Really great final few minutes. Honma’s reaction to the surprise win was fantastic! Looks like he’s challenging Ishii to the Never title at Wrestling Dontaku in May.
Match 5: Captain New Japan and Yuji Nagata vs. Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata
Goto and Nagata started off strong together, then Shibata and the Captain were tagged in and Shibata put the Captain in a 30-minute headlock, which was not the most exciting thing in the world.
Things picked up and it wasn’t a bad match in the end, which is as much as you can ask for when Captain New Japan is involved.
Goto pinned the Captain with Shouten Kai at 10’53”.
One thing that bothered me was Shibata going for the Captain’s mask. It felt a bit out of character for Shibata, as it’s something more of a heel character would do. Seemed a bit unnecessary.
Match 6: Alex Koslov, Rocky Romero and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Nick Jackson, Matt Jackson and Bad Luck Fale
Best match of the show so far. It’s good to see Romero and Koslov back in the fold. All guys involved brought their A game to this one. Well paced, well put together, good spots, but not a spot fest.
Koslov and Romero hit the Contract Killer on Nick Jackson for the win at 11’47”. I look forward to the Bucks vs. Romero and Koslov at Wrestling Dontaku for the titles. Should be a fun match!
Match 7: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tama Tonga
Tonga started out strong getting the early jump on Okada. Though the ending was never in question, with Tonga taking the loss after a Rainmaker by Okada, Tonga looked pretty good and got in a lot of offense on Okada. Tonga took the Rainmaker like a champ and ate the loss at a quick 6’15”. Good, short match. No Styles appearance afterwards.
Match 8: Tougi Makabe and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Doc Gallows and “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson
Fairly slow paced match with Tanahashi taking a lot of offense by Anderson and Gallows. The match slowly picked up pace and built up towards the big finish where Tanahashi pinned Anderson with the High Fly Flow at 14’46”. Good match to send the fans home happy. Tanahashi rocked the post match air guitar, even though he looked to be in a bit of pain.
Good show overall. Nothing spectacular, but some of the matches were fun and they did a good job of building up the Wrestling Dontaku event in Fukuoka on May 3rd.
The opening match was a lot of fun, but match of the night goes to Nakamura, Romero & Koslov vs. the Young Bucks and Bad Luck Fale.
MVP of the night goes to Yohei Komatsu for making from the opening match to the second match on the card. Baby steps!
Thanks for reading and see you at the next one!