New Japan Pro Wrestling Dontaku 2017 Recap

Written by: Jeff

@Fortknott

Hirai Kawato & Yoshitatsu vs. Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka

Kitamura is the massive Young Lion that looks to have been assembled in the remote Soviet laboratory that produced Ivan Drago and Jinder Mahal. He and Oka teamed up to face the fiery Young Lion Hirai Kawato and Yoshitatsu in an eight minute affair that really got over why Kitamura is capturing wrestling fans’ attention in recent months. 

Beyond the obvious freakish physique, the 31-year-old Young Lion is (duh) strong as hell. He picked up and slammed Kawato with one arm as if he were a bag of potatoes and also easy hoisted Yoshitatsu for a crisp vertical suplex. Beyond Oka looking improved but still green and some nice dropkicks from Kawato, there wasn’t much of note here.

Result: Kitamura submitted by Yoshitatsu’s Yoshitatsu Lock

Will Ospreay & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi

This match featured lower-midcard members of Bullet Club and CHAOS going at it. Early on there’s a cool sequence between Yoshi-Hashi and Yujiro where they tease one-legged Fisherman suplexes to each other until Yoshi-Hashi puts Yujiro in position for a Neckbreaker that would make DDP proud. His running may resemble that of a penguin but Yoshi-Hashi is a very skilled wrestler both offensively and with his selling. He carries most of this match because neither Yujiro nor Chase Owens are on his level skill-wise.

 

Best of the Super Juniors (BoSJ) is coming up later in May so we’re seeing more of Ospreay and the other Jr. Heavyweights than usual. Halfway through the match he hits an impressive somersault to the outside of the ring to remind us that we are about to enter the throes of Flippy Season.

 

Yoshi-Hashi gets worked over for a good while until he counters Chase Owens’ Package Piledriver attempt into a Butterfly Lock, Owens taps, and CHAOS goes up one over Bullet Club on the night.

 

Result: Chase Owens submitted by Yoshi-Hashi’s Butterfly Lock

 

Tiger Mask, Tiger Mask W & Togi Makabe vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata

Besides Tiger Mask W at 34, this match was an old-timers affair with the average age being 45.6 years. For some perspective, Yuji Nagata at 49 did his excursion trip in WCW during their height when NWO had taken over. Despite the expected decline in athleticism the guy can still work at a very high level. 

Nagata worked over Tiger Mask IV for a good while until Tiger Mask W entered the ring and showed off his gorgeous offense of sharp kicks and effortless high flying. New Japan should do everything in their power to get this guy into G1 Climax 27.    

The match ended with Togi Makabe going one-on-one with Manabu Nakanishi. At 44 Makabe still has something left in the tank although it feels like he’s wandering about somewhat aimlessly without Honma to tag with. Makabe nails Nakanishi with a King Kong Knee Drop for the pin. 

After the match, Liger walks through the crowd to interact some with the fans who love him. Good feels, the guy is an absolute legend and will be fun to watch in the BoSJ this spring.

Result: Makabe hits Nakanishi with King Kong Knee Drop, Pin

Beretta, Rocky Romero, Jado, Toru Yano & Hirooki Goto vs. Taka Michinoku, El Desperado, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Minoru Suzuki

This match featured the members of CHAOS currently feuding with Suzuki-Gun going up against their respective current feuds. Roppongi Vice won the Jr. Tag belts from Kanemaru and Taichi at Wrestling Toyonokuni last week, but the main angle of this match is the feud between Minoru Suzuki and Goto. On a previous Road To Dontaku show, Suzuki won the NEVER Openweight title from Goto in the main event.

After Goto hits Taka Michinoku with the GTR for the pin, a brawl ensues after which CHAOS ends up in one corner of the ring and Suzuki-Gun in the other. Suzuki pops off at Goto in Japanese, and you don’t have to understand what he’s saying to understand that he’s serious about still wanting to kick Goto’s ass. The crowd was really hot in anticipation of their inevitable rematch.

Suzuki, in typical beat-the-crap-outta-rookies fashion hits Kitamura with an insanely stiff forearm as he walks up the entrance ramp. I can only imagine what kind of stretching he puts them through in the dojo.

David Finlay vs. Cody

In Cody’s first singles match since Wrestle Kingdom 11, he faces off with young son of Fit Finlay who despite his steady improvement is struggling to find his fit on the roster since returning from injury. Right now he’s in what seems to be a temperature-taking match with Cody Rhodes to see what kind of skills they have and how the crowd reacts to them in a singles setting.

About that hot crowd from the last match…they went totally cold and weren’t into this match at all. These guys tried but the crowd being so dead took away from the match. 

The story of the match is Cody repeatedly trying to land Cross Rhodes with Finlay finding ways to escape and counter him, mostly using European Uppercuts. Eventually, Finlay gets too eager to land the European Uppercut and attempts one from the second rope, getting countered into the Cross Rhodes for a pin by Cody.

After the match, Cody cuts a promo asking for tougher competition. Hopefully we will get a chance to see what he can do with some of the staples of New Japan like a Goto or a Suzuki, not just up-and-coming gaijins like we’ve seen so far.

These guys tried but the crowd being so dead took even more away from what was a pretty bland match.

Result: Finlay hit with Cross Rhodes for the pin by Cody.

Kushida & Juice Robinson vs. Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito

Kushida and Juice face Hiromu and Naito, ostensibly to get their wins back from having both lost. Juice, Kushida, and Hiromu are all over with the crowd, but Naito is VERY over. The crowd erupts as soon as he appears, handing his grimy, beat-up belt to Hiromu who is apparently the Belt Whisperer.

Kushida looks to redeem himself from his embarrassing loss to Hiromu by immediately jumping all over him. He takes Hiromu outside the ring, kicking his ass all over the Fukuoka Kokusai Center to the point that Naito has to step in and get Kushida off of Hiromu. Naito returns to the ring to go at it with Juice.

Juice gets a lot of offense in on Naito, which really puts Juice over as a legitimate threat considering Naito’s kayfabe power level is through the roof. Naito’s selling pain in his knees, blurring kayfabe with reality as Naito has already had two operations on his knees and they’re a frequent target of his opponents’ ire. Eventually, Hiromu steps in and it’s between him and Kushida.

Kushida is easily the freshest man of the match, and as such does most of the athletic heavy lifting. His half of The match is built around countering Hiromu’s signature moves, at one point countering Hiromu’s Sunset Flip Apron-to-Floor Powerbomb into an armbar. However it’s not enough as he falls victim to another Timebomb and is pinned by Hiromu. 

The Kushida redemption tour will truly be something to behold.

IWGP Tag Team Championship 3-Way Match: War Machine (c) vs. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Guerillas of Destiny

This match featured the three-hundred pound hosses Hanson and Raymond Rowe in their first IWGP tag title defense. Their entrance was awesome, as they came to the ring playing their somber yet threatening theme and wearing For Honor style armor that really gets over the fact that these two guys are supposed to be a literal War Machine.

Hanson is the bigger of the two but he has some exceptional athleticism for a guy his size and it was breathtaking to watch him fly. Tenzan on the other hand looked very immobile and limited in his offense, accentuating the necessity to have gotten the Tag belts off of him and Kojima.

At one point, TenKoji taps into the power of Kokeshi and nails Raymond Rowe with some Honma-style headbutts. It was a touching tribute to the injured Honma, who recently regained his ability to walk. Eventually though Tenzan gets hit with Fallout from War Machine, who pins him to retain.

And it wouldn’t be a GoD match without loud cursing, as after the bell GoD attacks War Machine from behind setting up their next feud. On his way to the back, Roa says directly to the camera: “F___ three-way. F___ that sh__.” 

Amen, brother.

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship Match: Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi & Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Bushi, EVIL, Sanada)

Much of this match consisted of Taguchi comedy antics, which seemed to piss of Don Callis to no end. In previous shows Sanada has been repeatedly tying Taguchi into a human knot as pictured on Sanada’s new shirt, and Taguchi is determined to not get caught in it again – Taguchi and Bushi are the primary focus of this match, as Tanahashi has gotten his win back from Evil setting up the Naito Intercontinental title match at Dominion.

Ricochet is something else, man. As soon as he’s tagged in the match he’s pinballing all over the ring and the ropes. People criticize him as being the face of ‘flippys__t’, but he’s improving at knowing when to slow down and when to speed up in his matches. He’s at his best when he’s going one hundred miles an hour and using his agility to power his unique offense. For my money, Ricochet is as athletic a wrestler as we’ve ever seen.

Bushi hits Booker T’s classic taunt in what Kevin Kelly calls a Bushiroonie. Hilarious. Bushi sprays Taguchi with the poison mist, and ends up picking up the win over him with the MX. LIJ wins the NEVER 6-man belts, Bushi sets up his BoSJ rematch with Taguchi, and we’re all reminded that Bushi does indeed have theme music.

Result: Bushi hits MX on Taguchi for the pin.

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega

In a rematch of their New Japan Cup match where Omega was eliminated by Ishii in the first round, Ishii and Omega face off with the winner likely put in the driver’s seat as the number one contender to the IWGP Heavyweight title. That match was probably the best match of the tournament, so it should surprise no one who saw it that this match turned out to be another barnburner and the best match on this card.

Early on they brawl on the outside, with Ishii getting in most of the offense until Kenny hits a nasty Spinebuster to the apron that puts Ishii out of commission. Omega’s comeback offense mostly consists of knees, and Kenny Omega has some of the best worked knees in the business. They look and sound painful, which is hard to do without actually hurting the opponent. 

Throughout the match Omega works over Ishii’s back in order to soften him up for the One-Winged Angel. Much like their first match, Ishii constantly has to fight out of the position for the OWA. In the coolest reversal of the entire match, Omega goes for the One-Winged Angel and Ishii reverses it into a Poisoned Frankensteiner. World class stuff.
Unfortunately for Ishii and CHAOS, Kenny hits Ishii’s trademark Brainbuster and follows it up with a One-Winged Angel for the pin. This was a great match that made the price of admission of staying up until 4 AM on a weekday worth it.

Result: Omega pins Ishii after hitting the One-Winged Angel.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Bad Luck Fale

A few days before this match, New Japan released a pair of videos where Fale explains some of his upbringing and his path to being a wrestler. More than anything else, they humanized Fale in a way that doesn’t come across given his massive bully character and actually engages you in wanting to root for the big guy.

The interesting thing about Okada’s run this year has been the variety of styles he has faced. Suzuki was a cruel, masterful submission artist who tortured Okada for over thirty minutes, while Kota Ibushi Tiger Mask W represented a more aerial, agility-based style and Shibata represented a stiff striking style. Storyline-wise the recurring theme is that Okada is weakening as he has one difficult match after another.
The Fale match is supposed to be Okada’s triumph over a bigger, stronger opponent which is a rare opportunity given that Okada is one of the largest guys in New Japan.

Fale is believable as a hoss but it was simply not believable that he would beat Okada, and the relatively cold crowd reflected this – it’s possible that getting so hot for the last match left the crowd drained for this one.
Okada wins this match after 21 minutes with a Rainmaker, then calls out Omega setting up the Wrestle Kingdom 11 rematch at Dominion in Osaka. With Naito vs. Tanahashi in the semi-main and Okada vs. Omega in the main event, Dominion looks to be an awesome lead-in to G1 Climax season.

Result: Okada pins Fale with a Rainmaker

Conclusion: This was a predictable show, and really was meant more as a bridge to Best of the Super Juniors and Dominion than a landmark show in its own right. We’re only now getting into the meat of New Japan’s year, and we should eagerly anticipate what they have in store for us this summer, in particular Dominion and the 27th G1 Climax. 
 

Author: FTESWL

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