Wrestling Dontaku Night One
- Yota Tsuji and Shota Umino vs. Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi
- Ren Narita, Tomoyuki Oka, and Yuji Nagata vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask, and Jyushin Thunder Liger
- Roppongi 3K (Sho, Yoh, Rocky Romero) vs. Takashi Iizuka, and Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer)
- Toa Henare, Michael Elgin, Togi Makabe, David Finlay, and Juice Robinson vs. YOSHI-HASHI, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii, Jay White, and Hirooki Goto
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship
- Guerrilas of Destiny (Tanga Loa and Tama Tonga) and Bad Luck Fale (c) vs. Marty Scurll and The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson)
- Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, SANADA, EVIL, and Tetsuya Naito vs. El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Tacihi, Zack Sabre Jr., and Minoru Suzuki
- KUSHIDA and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Will Ospreay and Kazuchika Okada
- Kota Ibushi vs. Cody
- Kenny Omega vs. Hangman Page
Wrestling Dontaku Night Two
- Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask, and Jyushin Thunder Liger vs. Yuya Uemura, Ren Narita, and Shota Umino
- Tomoyuki Oka and Yuji Nagata vs. Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi
- Roppongi 3K (Sho, Yoh, Rocky Romero) vs. Taka Michinoku, Taichi, and Takashi Iizuka
- Toa Henare and Togi Makabe vs. Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii
- Michael Elgin, David Finlay, and Juice Robinson vs. YOSHI-HASHI, Jay White, and Hirooki Goto
- Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA, and Tetsuya Naito vs. El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer), and Minoru Suzuki
- Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga, Bad Luck Fale, Kota Ibushi, and Kenny Omega vs. The Young Bucks, Marty Scurll, Hangman Page, and Cody
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
- Will Ospreay (c) vs. KUSHIDA
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
- Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
On May 3rd and 4th Wrestling Dontaku will take place in Fukuoka, and the two cards are stacked with potentially great matches. The two main storylines running through the two nights are the Bullet Club civil war, and the CHAOS vs. Hontai clash that culminates in the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight and IWGP Heavyweight Championship matches on night two. Along with this, Los Ingobernables de Japon continue their feud with Suzuki-gun, and Hirooki Goto faces his next NEVER Openweight challenger Michael Elgin in tag team matches.
Night one focuses on the Bullet Club, first with a Bullet Club vs. Bullet Club match for the NEVER Six Man Tag Team titles, and then with two singles matches between Kota Ibushi and Cody, and finally Kenny Omega and Hangman Page. GOD and Bad Luck Fale take on Marty Scurll and The Young Bucks, in what promises to be an intriguing match. Scurll has grudgingly been on Cody’s side in the split, so what that means for The Young Bucks going forward remains to be seen. I think that Scurll and the Young Bucks will beat their fellow Bullet Club members to become the new NEVER champions – it gives Scurll something to do while he’s out of the Jr. Heavyweight title picture, and gives The Young Bucks a new title for their collection.
Cody has really had his stock raised by the Bullet Club feud, and his work as a villain trying to manipulate the rest of Bullet Club has been excellent. Cody against Ibushi is a rematch from Wrestle Kingdom 12, and their match in January was very good, so I expect them to deliver again in Fukuoka. There will probably be some shenanigans here that allow Cody to win, setting up the ten-man tag team match on night two. Finally, Kenny against Hangman Page closes the first night, which really demonstrates the value that New Japan see in Page. His recent matches with Ibushi at the ROH Supercard of Honor and Jay White at Strong Style Evolved were excellent, and this match should be no different. I expect Kenny to beat Page to level the score between himself and Cody.
This leads into night two, when Bullet Club goes head-to-head in a ten-man tag team match, featuring the Golden Lovers teaming with the Bullet Club OGs Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, and Bad Luck Fale. On the other side is Cody, Hangman Page, Marty Scurll, and The Young Bucks. Apart from one tag match against Cody and Scurll at Strong Style Evolved, the Tongan faction of Bullet Club has kept out of the infighting, so it will be interesting to see what happens in this match. Will they be happy being part of Team Kenny, or will this just increase the split in Bullet Club even further? The last episode of Being the Elite hinted at Cody ending up abandoned by the rest of Bullet Club, so I think it’s possible that he ends up getting kicked out of the group here, although New Japan will probably want to keep the story playing out for longer. I think this match will involve a lot of shenanigans, but Cody’s team will finally emerge victorious to keep the feud going into the summer.
Night two is headlined by two big matches that see Will Ospreay and KUSHIDA face each other for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title, and Kazuchika Okada faces Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Title. Ospreay won the title at Wrestle Kingdom in a fatal-four way against KUSHIDA, Marty Scurll, and Hiromu Takahashi, and if he beats KUSHIDA he will have beaten all of his rivals from that match in singles matches to establish himself at the top of the division for the foreseeable future. This match has the potential to steal the show – Ospreay and KUSHIDA are two of the best junior heavyweights in the world at the moment, and their matches have always delivered. Ospreay in particular is on a hot streak this year, proving himself to be willing to do whatever it takes to elevate the Jr. Heavyweight title to new heights. With Best of the Super Juniors starting later this month I could see Ospreay winning the tournament for a second time to cement his position as champion. He debuted a new move at Wrestling Hi No Kuni called Storm Breaker, and KUSHIDA sold it like it killed him, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that is how Ospreay wins here.
As for the main event on night two, Okada has held the IWGP Heavyweight title since Dominion in June 2016, and is on the cusp of breaking the record for most successful title defences in one reign. The man who owns that record is his opponent, and despite the fact that Tanahashi is clearly no longer the Ace of New Japan, he has demonstrated that he can still put on a fantastic match this year. Okada and Tanahashi have a storied past that began in 2012 with the “rainmaker shock” – Okada returned from excursion and beat Tanahashi at The New Beginning for the IWGP Heavyweight Title. This led to a long rivalry between the two, culminating in Okada’s victory at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in 2016 solidifying his position as the Ace. Okada and Tanahashi haven’t faced each other since 2016 in singles competition, but the tag team matches on the tour have built up a lot of intrigue for this match. When Tanahashi first made his challenge at Sakura Genesis, Okada was very confident, but as the match came closer his confident façade started to crack. Following Tanahashi’s victory in the multi-man tag team match at Wrestling Hi No Kuni Okada charged back out and tried to attack him, eventually being restrained by Gedo. Okada even interrupted Tanahashi’s backstage post-match interview to try and fight him. Clearly Tanahashi has managed to get under Okada’s skin, and he is rattled ahead of this title match. Tanahashi has had an up-and-down year so far – victorious at Wrestle Kingdom against Jay White, then injured by Minoru Suzuki who took his Intercontinental title at The New Beginning in Sapporo. Tanahashi was beaten again in the final of the New Japan Cup by Zack Sabre Jr., but if the former Ace can find his mojo again for one night he might just have a chance to dethrone the Rainmaker. How Okada’s mental state factors into this match should be fascinating – will it cause him to make some unusual mistakes, or will it help him to be more aggressive? Ultimately, I think Okada wins this match to break Tanahashi’s record, but it will be close, and another great match in the storied rivalry between the two performers.
The newly crowned Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito leads Los Ingobernables de Japon against Suzuki-gun on both nights. Naito’s victory at Wrestling Hi No Kuni was something of a shock, but it seems like the potential match between Chris Jericho and Naito has been shelved for now and he will be moving forward as the IC champion. In his post-match interview at Hi No Kuni, Suzuki warned Naito that the “war is just beginning,” so these matches could potentially set up another challenger for the IC title. The most likely Suzuki-gun challenger would be Zack Sabre Jr., who beat Naito in the New Japan Cup, and faces LIJ in the ten-man tag team match on night one. El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Hiromu Takahashi, and BUSHI are all participants in the upcoming Best of the Super Juniors tournament, so the rivalry clearly isn’t finished yet. Hopefully EVIL and SANADA get to move on to new challengers now they defeated KES at Hi No Kuni, since there are some really interesting tag team matches they could have away from Suzuki-gun.
Finally, Hirooki Goto has put together a decent run as NEVER Openweight Champion since he defeated Minoru Suzuki at Wrestle Kingdom 12. His match against EVIL at The New Beginning in Osaka was only okay, but then he transitioned into a feud with Juice Robinson that culminated in an excellent match on the Road to Wrestling Dontaku tour. Juice has come on in leaps and bounds since he joined New Japan, and the crowd were really invested in him during his match with Goto. He came up short for a second time in a NEVER Championship match against Goto, but his stock keeps rising even in defeat. After the match Michael Elgin came out to make a challenge, and was interrupted by Taichi who also challenged Goto. Following the Hi No Kuni tag team match featuring Goto and Elgin, Taichi attacked them both, and in his post-match interview Goto seemed to accept Taichi’s challenge. Whether this will lead to a triple-threat match for the NEVER Title, or two singles matches remains to be seen. At Wrestling Dontaku Goto is facing Elgin in two multi-men tag team matches, so it remains to be seen whether Taichi will get involved, but it’s clear that Goto and Elgin will square off against each other in their matches. When the dust settles at Wrestling Dontaku the plans for New Japan’s summer will be clearer, starting with the Best of the Super Juniors tournament this month, and then Dominion at the start of June.
By Tokyo Wrestling Fan @twf87
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