Inside Pulse 12

Metalhead Previews NJPW’s Wrestling Dontaku 2016 (Naito vs Ishii, Okada vs SANADA, EVIL vs Goto)

NJPW’s Wrestling Dontaku will take place this Tuesday (May 3) at the Fukuoaka Center in Fukuoka, Japan. This will be the Thirteenth event under the Wrestling Dontaku name. Originally NJPW also planned to promte a Wrestling Hinokuni show,just days before Dontaku with Hinokuni being centered around the NJPW/Bullet Club feud and Dontaku around the CHAOS/Los Ingobernables feud. But the tragic earthquake that hit Japan and, more specifically, Kumamoto (the place where Hinokuni was supposed to be held), forced the promotion to cancel the event. Cards where re-shuffled and the two top-matches of Hinokuni where moved to the last “Road to Wrestling Dontaku” show. In those matches, Tanahashi defeated bad Luck fale and Kenny Omega defeated Michael Elgin in a very good match to retain is intercontinental title. And now, withouth further ado, let’s take a look at what Wrestling Dontaku has in store for us:

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale and Yushiro Takahashi) vs Juice Robinson and Captain New Japan:

As always, not much can be expected from a match involving Fale, Takahashi and the good captain. This is the usual “Fale recently lost a singles match (to Tanahashi) so let’s re-establish his monster heel aura by giving him a cheap win” affair. At least this should be short and to the point.

Winner: Bullet Club

CHAOS (Gedo, Kasushi Sakuraba, Will Ospreay and YOSHI-HASHI) vs David Finlay, Jay White, Ryusuke Taguchi and Tiger Mask:

The usual NJPW multi-man tag match, solely designed to get as many people as possible on the card. Gedo and Taguchi will bring comedy, Tiger Mask will most likely take on the ring-post (as he usually does in such matches) and it will be up to the rest to bring the wrestling and excitement. And, it must be said, Ospreay, YOSHI-HASHI, Sakuraba, White (who could be on is way to ROH pretty soon) and Finlay should be more than up to the task. I must say that after his amazing performance against KUSHIDA at Invasion Attack, I would have expected Ospreay to be booked in a different match here ( a singles match against Los Ingobernables’ BUSHI would have made a lot of sense) but I guess that, with the cancellation of Wrestling Hinokuni, they had to make choices. I still expect Ospreay to play the star role here as I have no doubt he will have a major role in the upcoming Junior Heavyweight tournaments. Expect him to take the win for his team in spectacular fashion.

Winner: CHAOS

IWGP Junior heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match – Roppongi Vice (Beretta and Rocky Romero) (c) vs Matt Sydal and Ricochet:

The plot thickens when it come to Ricochet. When he and Sydall lost the titles at Invasion Attack, it seemed pretty obvious Ricochet was on his way to NXT for at least the Global Cruiserweight tournament. Even more so when it seemed his Prince Puma character had been written off during recent LU tapings. But now, about a month later, not only is Ricochet still appearing for NJPW but he has confirmed he was going to participate in NJPW’s Best of Super Junior Tournament in May. AND news came that his LU character wasn’t as written off as first reported. So what does all of this mean for Ricochet’s future? You tell me, I have no idea anymore.0In any case, this does heighten the interest for a match that was, at first, just another re-match to confirm RPG Vice’s win. And given the fact the IWGP Junior tag title are NJPW’s resident hot-potatoe belts, literally anything can happen here. Ricochet took the pin last month, so if NJPW indeed has a major role for him in mind for the BOSJ , things should be different this time around. For RPG VICe, things doesn’t change much one way or the other. If they retain, they’ll soon once again tangle with reDRagon and/or The Young Bucks, If they lose, they’ll get a re-match soon enough. But the main attraction is Ricochet because the way he’s booked here might give us an indication about his future. I’m still gonna go for RPG Vice here, just because those belts desperately need some stability.

Winner: RPG Vice

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship Match – Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin and Yoshitatsu (c) vs The Elite (Kenny Omega, Nick and Matt Jackson):

As much as I think that The Elite and the NEVER 6-man tag titles are made for each-other, I don’t think Omega and Co will win here. And that has everything to do with the way the last Road To show ended. After beating Fale earlier on the card, Tanahashi showed up at the end of Omega’s victorious IC title defense against Elgin and challenged The Cleaner to a re-match for the title (the two fought for the vacant IC title at New beginnings). Omega responded with a low-blow and claimed he and Tanahashi would never wrestle each-other again. Which of course means they will, most likely at Dominion. And, obviously, the easiest way for NJPW to get there is having Tanahashi pin Omega during this match. For the rest, this should be loads of fun.

Winner: Tanahashi and Co

IWGP Tag Team Championship Match – Guerillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa) (c) vs Great Bash Heel (Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe):

Not sure what to think of this one to be honest. The Guerillas have failed to make much of an impression since their win at Invasion attack (mostly due to Tanga Roa really struggling in the ring) so this re-match feels somewhat underwhelming. The champs saving grace might be that NJPW is usually much more patient than, say, WWE but I guess all depends on how much faith NJPW booker Gedo has left in the Guerillas of Destiny. The other problem they might have is that they do not really have any face team lined up as future challengers. GBH as champions can always go against any combination of Bullet Club/Los Ingobernables members, but, for the Guerillas, the only option seem to be TenKoji at this point and TenKoji getting “one last shot” at the tag titles has been done to death already, so I really don’t know. I’ll still go for the Guerillas retaining and getting a few more months to prove themselves, but, NJPW would be well inspired to throw  new and fresh challengers at them post-match or run the risk of both the Guerillas team and the tag belts becoming an afterthought.

Winner: Guerillas of Destiny

NEVER Openweight Championship Match – Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs Yuji Nagata:

It must be said, the Shibata/Angry NJPW Dads feud has turned out to be stroke of genius by NJPW. Not only has this given the NJPW legends something meaningful to do, it has also put over Shibata and allowed him to add some layers to his character. The question is now, how does this feud ends? Because this is THE match this feud was building to (nobody really expects the fourth member of the Dad’s Club, Nakanishi, to have a singles match, let alone a title match, at this stage of his career). At first glance, Shibata should always win here. While Nagata and Co can still go in the ring, their role nowadays is to put others over, not to get title reigns. But, when you look a bit closer, an upset isn’t entirely out of the question. Shibata has been excellent in his role of resident NJPW ass-kicker in recent times, which might put him in line for a long-overdue push towards either the IC title or the Heavyweight title. But that means he has to lose the NEVER title at some point. Could this happen here? Well, I wouldn’t discount it out of hand. Nagata might not be a bad choice as interim champion and has a natural feud simmering with Los Ingobernables, which could give us an EVIL vs Nagata feud and an opportunity for NJPW toi give the much-improved EVIL a serious push. Meanwhile, NJPW could easily open new doors for Shibata during this year’s G1. Of course, the same could be said about Shibata when it comes to Los Ingobernables. Imagine a Shibata vs EVIL match, where Shibata loses his title due to interference from Naito. Guess where that could lead to… Anyway, this won’t be pretty, this won’t be fancy but this WILL be a bout of incredibly intense, hard-hitting, ass-kicking awesomeness. You can take my word on it.

Winner: Katsuyori Shibata

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match – KUSHIDA (c) vs Jushin “Thunder” Liger:

Now, sit up straight and pay attention kids, because this is the perfect example on how to use your legendary veterans the right way. When this started, everybody was thinking this would be your classic “passing of the torch moments, few were actually considering Liger could win. So what did NJPW do? They upped the ante by having Liger declare he wanted, needed even to be a 12-time Junior Heavyweight champion. They showed his frustration by having him grow more aggressive with KUSHIDA inside and outside the ring. Hell they even had Liger attack KUSHIDA with a chair, which is the kind of behavior we haven’t seen from Liger since his CTU days. Well, on second thought, I can’t even remember if Liger EVER attacked anyone with a chair, even during his heel days. This has considerably heightened the buzz for this match, to the point that quite a few are now actively entertaining the possibility of a Liger win here. And this was a very smart play, because, let’s face it, scratch the surface of every puroresu fan and it’s likely you’ll find a Liger fan lurking underneath. So, the buzz is there, the anticipation is there, some might have ordered the champagne already to celebrate the victory of their hero, but, the question remains, does Liger indeed have a chance here?

Quite simply, no he doesn’t. Nothing has changed, Liger is still a 51 year old veteran who knows his days as a champion are over. Whether he’s a 11 or 12-time champion won’t make any difference, the guy is a legend and will have his name carved in wrestling history forever. What HAS changed is the perception of the match and that’s all for KUSHIDA’s benefit. KUSHIDA is NJPW’s current Junior Heavyweight Ace. He’s great in the ring, is very popular and he’s only getting started. With two big Junior heavyweight tournaments coming up, NJPW needs their Ace to be as strong as possible. They’ve dune a great job already, by giving him strong title defense against BUSHI, ACH and Will Ospreay, but how do you top that? Simply by giving him a meaningful and competitive match against the greatest Junior Heavyweight that ever existed. Meaningful and competitive means his eventual victory will matter that much more. KUSHIDA’s victory over a Liger that has been presented as desperate to get “his” title back will cement the former’s status as the latter’s successor. And THAT, my friends, is how you’re supposed to do things. Should be quite a spectacle.

Winner: KUSHIDA

EVIL vs Hirooki Goto:

Six months ago, this match would have been met with general indifference. Takaaki Watanabe had just come back from his ROH learning trip and had been repackaged as EVIL, Los Ingobernables’ enforcer-type figure. To say he struggled a bit with the role at first is an understatement. Meanwhile Goto was growing stale fast and found himself wandering around aimlessly from card to card. 6 months later and both wrestler’s situation is very different. EVIL went from hesitant to confidant, from just standing there in Naito’s shadow to a important part of Los Ingobernables’s success, from  somebody many were ready to write off after just a few months to a strong candidate for break-out star of the year. Goto benefited immensely from joining CHAOS. The wrestler who was previously aimless is now working with a purpose, helping get CHAOS over the loss of Nakamura and has managed to get the fans interested in him once again. So it’s kinda fitting that the two wrestlers who benefited the most from the current CHAOS/Los Ingobernables war are now clashing. An added bonus is that it’s very difficult to pick a winner here. Goto has been booked strongly ever since he joined CHAOS so he is slight favorite here. But EVIL is now the one with most potential. If NJPW wants too, they can easily push him towards, say, the NEVER title. Or have him form a team with SANADA and go after the tag titles if they wanna play it safe for a bit longer. But I dare say EVIL is ready for bigger things right now, and a win over Goto could help him achieve those.

Winner: EVIL

SANADA vs Kazuchika Okada:

BIG match for SANADA. At times of writing the former TNA wrestler IS working full-time for NJPW. But as a freelancer. I believe that the way this match is received will play a big part in SANADA getting a much sought-after NJPW contract. And SANADA really has the opportunity to do something big here. TNA observers always thought that more could have been done with him when he was over there. Which hardly makes him an exception, on a side-note it’s mind-boggling to me that three of the four wrestlers involved in this card’s two top matches (Naito, Okada and SANADA) where once part of TNA and that the best the ^promotion managed was give them derivative gimmicks and llet them wrestle as little as possible. But I digress. SANADA finally gets his opportunity in NJPW and I have no doubt he will grab it with both hands. Can he win? Well, the cards are not exactly right for that to happen. We all now that NJPW is almost certainly building things up towards a huge Naito vs Okada re-match at Dominion, so Okada will most likely win here. But sometimes, a close loss in a competitive match can be as important as a win. If the promotion follows through on it of course. Once the Tanahashi/Omega feud is over, NJPW will need new players for their Intercontinental Title scene. I can’t think of a better candidate than a SANADA backed up by a group who vowed to take over NJPW, can you?

Winner: Kazuchika Okada

IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match – Tetsuya Naito (c) vs Tomohiro Ishii:

This is one of those happy occasions where everybody knows who’s going to win but no-one really cares because it’s going to be awesome. This is Ishii’s first shot at the big one, so this IS a big deal. Ishii has been one of NJPW’s most dependable workers for years now, one of the pillars of their heavyweight  division. But aside from being a great worker, Ishii also has the ability to get the crowds behind himself or his opponents, whatever suits the match better so the atmosphere should be great. The only thing they need to be careful of is to does the amount of outside interference carefully. It’s almost a given the other Los Ingobernables members will get involved, and possibly CHAOS too and there is nothing wrong with that. As long as they don’t forget to let Naito and ishhi have the great match we all now they can have of course. Can’t wait for this one.

Winner: Tetsuya Naito

 

Wrestling Dontaku  is a card loaded with big matches and that looks great on paper. The question we then always asks is, can they deliver? Given NJPW’s track record with big matches, I’m not even remotely worried. As always, you can expect a full review as soon as I can write it. See you all later and have fun!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,