Metalhead Reviews NJPW’s Wrestling Dontaku 2016 (Ishii vs Naito, Jushin Liger vs KUSHIDA, Okada vs SANADA)

Lots to write abou today, so, without further ado, let’s see what Wrestling Dontaku had in store for us:

Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi defeated Captain New Japan and Juice Robinson in 2:26 via pinfall:

Apparently Captain New Japan shares the Bullet Club Hunter name with Yoshitatsu nowadays which doesn’t bode well for the gimmick. This was about giving Fale his monster aura back after his loss to Tanahashi, and, in that aspect, I guess it achieved its purpose. Fale hit the Grenade on the good Captain to bag the win. Thankfully this was short and to the point. Next.

Kazushi Sakuraba, YOSHI-HASHI, Will Ospreay and Gedo defeated Tiger Mask IV, Ryusuke Taguchi, Jay White and David Finlay in 7:23 via pinfall:

Aside from a overly long Sakuraba/Tiger Mask segment, this was fun. Unlike most NJPW veterans, Tiger Mask just seems to go through the motions nowadays, which does not make for a very interesting spectacle. Perhaps it IS time for him to hang up his boots. Otherwise, this easily achieved its purpose of putting over Ospreay who is one of the big favorites to win the upcoming BoSJ tournament. TNA must be kicking themselves right now. Entertaining stuff, only (minor) complaint is that I would have love to see even more interaction between Opsreay and the Young Lions (White and Finlay). But I’m sure we’ll be getting a lot of that in the future so there is that. Ospreay blasted Finlay with a Springboard Diamond Cutter for the win.

IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship Match – Ricochet and Matt Sydal defeated Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero and Barreta) (c) in 16:26 via pinfall:

Those two teams are always gonna have very good matches and this one was no exception. The fact that the Hot Potato Tag Team Titles changed hands once again didn’t even bother me this time because Ricochet and Sydal winning here does have some interesting implications. As you all probably know, Ricochet has been on top of the rumor mill lately, with many predicting he would end up in NXT for, at least, the Global Cruiserweight tournament if not more. Him and Sydal losing the titles at Invasion Attack and the rumors about his Prince Puma character being written off during the latest LU tapings seemed to confirm that. We’re now one month later and not only has Ricochet’s participation in NJPW BoSJ been officially confirmed but LU insiders now say the Prince Puma storyline ending was more an open ending than a definite one. And now this. Trust me, I know how NJPW works and there is no way they would put even a  hot potato belt on someone they though might end up in NXT/WWE in the coming weeks. All of this suggest that Ricochet has found some king of working agreement with both NJPW and LU and this is good news for both promotions. Stereo Shooting Star Presses for the very popular Sydal and Ricochet win.

NEVER Six-Man Tag Team Championship Match – The Elite (Kenny Omega, Matt and Nick Jackson) defeated Michael Elgin, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Yoshitatsu (c) in 14:03 via pinfall :

While I felt this was a notch below their Invasion Attack effort, this was still quite entertaining. The Elite is much more over nowadays than the Bullet Club is and their antics continue to amuse, Tanahashi and Omega had some red-hot exchanges and Elgin did an awesome comeback towards the end that was hugely over with the crowd. Odd man out was Yoshitatsu whose “Bullet Club Hunter” gimmick fails to connect with the masses. I of course realize He came back from a neck injury that was suppose to be career-ending, so a bit of ring-rust is certainly understandable, but, he just didn’t seem to gel with anyone out there. Some weapons were brought in which was a nice change of pace (as this seldom happens in NJPW) and served as a good tie-in to what would unfold post-match. Omega hit the One-Winged Angel on Yoshitatsu for the victory. I have no issue with this title change since,, as said before, The Elite and those belts are just made for each-other.

Post-match, Tanahashi demanded a re-match for Omega’s IC title. The Cleaner first refused but then said he would agree if they made this a ladder match. Now this is interesting as such gimmick matches seldom happen in NJPW making them all the more effective when they DO happen (pay attention WWE). I assume this will be Dominion’s co-main-event and rightfully so since this will more than likely be all kinds of awesome.

IWGP Tag Team Championship Match – Guerrillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) (c) defeated G. B. H. (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma) in 12:12 via pinfall:

In my preview, I said the Guerrillas had something to prove here, but, unfortunately, they kinda failed. When one of the promotion’s most beloved babyface (Honma) is put in a segment where the heels work over him and the crowd barely reacts then something is wrong. The Guerrillas don’t have heel heat, they don’t even have the wrong kind of heat they just have no heat at all. The team doesn’t connect with the audience and there is nothing GBH or Tonga himself could do to change that. I can’t believe I’m saying this but, in hindsight, the speculated-upon Fale/Tonga team would probably have worked better. And to make matters worse, GoD is now left with ZERO opponents going forward. It’s not all their fault of course, but something needs to happen for them and quick. OK match, nothing more.

NEVER Openweight Championship Match – Yuji Nagata defeated Katsuyori Shibata (c) in 11:53 via pinfall:

Rather short but good match between those two. The biggest surprise was of course Nagata actually proving his “I’m not done yet” point by beating Shibata. In a way, it does make sense. I will probably always be an advocate of veterans putting over younger wrestlers, but, since Shibata was the one who picked the fight here and humiliated the NJPW Dads whenever he had the occasion, I guess him getting his comeuppance against the Top Dad isn’t a bad choice. The crowd was certainly 200 % behind him and loved to see him win. The question is now, what’s next for Shibata. Is this the point where NJPW has him move on towards bigger things (and there are certainly untold stories left with Goto and Los ingobernables) or do Nagata and Shibata just trade the title in coming PPV’s? If it’s the former, expect Los Ingobernables’ EVIL to go after Nagata next, since something has been brewing between Los Ingobernables and JUSTICE (Nagata’s group) for months now. If it’s the latter, then they do have to be careful how they handle things. If Shibata just regains his title at Dominion and then moves on, this will come over as somewhat pointless. Whatever the case, what Shibata will do next might very well become THE angle of the coming months. Good stuff.

IWGP Jr heavyweight Championship Match KUSHIDA (c) defeated Jushin “Thunder” Liger in 14:37 via submission:

We all know that Liger can’t fly anymore like he used too, back in the 90’s. But, even at 51, Liger remains one of the most technically sound workers in the wrestling word. Add to that KISHIDA’s stellar groundwork and you’re left with something that’s a bit different than your average junior Heavyweight match but at least as good. KUSHIDA is really cementing his status as NJPW’s Junior Heavyweight Ace in recent months. It doesn’t matter to him who’s in the ring with him or what style they do, he can adapt to literally everything, he’s simply THAT good. And what more can I say about Liger? Even at 51, his class and work-ethic still puts many wrestlers much younger than him to shame. They continued with the story of Liger being desperate to prove he could still do it and that he was the one with the game-plan. But KUSHIDA countered and kept countering until Liger was ready to fall victim to the Hoverboard Lock. Great story, great work from both and nothing but respect for Liger, the guy indeed still has it.

Post-match, KUSHIDA expressed everyone’s feelings by stating he would like to see Liger continue for many years to come. Liger answered with a: “well, if the champ thinks so, I might have to challenge him again at some point”. Great ending to a match that was all about respect.

EVIL defeated Hirooki Goto in 9:53 via pinfall:

This could have done with some more minutes, but what they lacked in time, they made up in intensity and explosiveness. EVIL set the tone by knocking Goto’s head off with a couple of chairs and from there they worked an utlra-stiff brawling style match that had you on the edge of your seat. The finish did came a bit abruptly (EVIL hit the STO for a surprisingly clean finish) but this was very entertaining while it lasted. EVIL has been real impressive lately and he’s clearly being rewarded with a strong push. And Goto’s loss has reminded everybody that not every of Goto’s problems were solved by joining CHAOS. I sense some more storytelling coming here, especially if Shibata indeed moves away from the NEVER title scene. Short but very good.

Kazuchika Okada defeated SANADA in 15:11 via pinfall:

Another very good match. For those who only know him has TNA’s The Great Sanada, this performance must have been a real eye-opener as to what SANADA really can do. Some great back-and-forth, some really inventive counters to finishers, Okada was great (as always) and if this was SANADA’s NJPW exam, I’d say he passed it with flying colors. And yet, while this was the first singles match between those two, you couldn’t help but fell they didn’t go all out yet. This is the kind of matches where you KNOW the story is only just starting. And I’m right on board with what could become a great feud. Good job by both.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match – Tetsuya Naito (c) defeated Tomohiro Ishii in 30:33 via pinfall:

Let’s get this out of the way right from the start, this was awesome. But, before talk more about the match and Naito’s performance, allow me to put the spotlight on Ishii for a minute. I already called him one of NJPW’s most dependable worked and one of the pillars of their heavyweight division in the past, and Ishii’s performance proved that, if anything, I understated his importance to NJPW. I said before the match that this was a foregone conclusion, and it was. There was simply no way Naito would lose the title here. So the last thing you would expect is drama, right? Well yes, except if you put Ishii in there. The guy is just so great at selling, telling in-ring story and getting the crowd behind the action, making them care about what is happening inside that ring that you couldn’t help but feel that it COULD happen, the he COULD win. And even more, in the end, you WANTED him to win.  That my friends deserves nothing but the upmost respect. Ishii might very well become one of those superior workers who never wins the big one, but it doesn’t matter. He’ll still go down in history as one of NJPW’s or, indeed, the wrestling world’s all-time greats.

NJPW also did their part to make this one special, simply by having Okada and Gedo accompany Ishii. The message was clear, Okada is taking this war very seriously now and it’s become personel. And let’s face it, the sight of Okada standing in Ishii’s corner was totally a mark-out moment. As for Naito, he might disrespect the IWGP Heavyweight title but he looked and wrestled like a champion. There is no doubt in my mind he’s the best heel in wrestling right now. The pacing of this match was magnificent with layer upon layer being added so they could go all-out in the finishing stretch. In the meantime, Okada proved to be a great equalizer for Los Ingobernables’ presence in Naito’s corner, lashing out at Naito and EVIL like there was no tomorrow. This was a 30-minute that actually felt too short in a way, simply because both were so great and the story was so well-told you simply didn’t want this to end. But, unfortunately, all good things must end at some point and this awesome chapter in the CHAOS/Los Ingobernables war concluded with Naito hitting the Destino on Ishii.

Post-match, Okada cut a promo demanding a re-match. Naito being Naito he at first complete ignored the former champ before, eventually staring him down. Naito then cut his own promo, telling NJPW owner to listen to the pop he received from the crowd and stating he knew Okada wanted a re-match but… Tranquillo. Naito is so great in this role.


Recommended: Well, pretty much the whole damn show. Skip the opener and the Heavyweight Tag Team title match and all the rest will entertain you one way of the other. Three matches receive the MUST-WATCH billing: Liger vs KUSHIDA, Okada vs SANADA and (of course) Ishii vs Naito.

Conclusion: Another great show from NJPW. WWE might still be the number one promotion in the world, but when it come to deliver one great PPV after the other, NJPW simply has no competition right now. After the NJPW/RH joint Global Wars/War of the Worlds show, the spotlight will be on KUSHIDA, Will Ospreay, Ricochet and Volador Jr for the Bets of Super Junior tournament and, beyond that, we will no doubt see the Los Ingobernables/CHAOS war intensify towards Dominion. Don’t want to rub it in guys, but these ARE really great times to be a NJPW fan…

That’s all from me, see you all next week for the Global Wars Review and until then, have fun!

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