NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 5/3/2011

Written by: Colin Rinehart

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku PPV
May 3rd, 2011
Fukuoka International Center, Fukuoka, Japan
Attendance: 6,500

New Japan rolls into Fukuoka tonight for their big annual May PPV event, Wrestling Dontaku. Tonight we’ve got some major match-ups on the card, including Hiroshi Tanahashi defending his IWGP Heavyweight title against longtime rival Shinsuke Nakamura as well as both a Heavyweight and Jr. Heavyweight tag team title match to go along with a CMLL Middleweight title match among other goodies tonight. This show is long as hell too, clocking in at a little over four hours. Really stacked card honestly and I can’t wait to watch it, so let’s jump right into it again.

Manabu Nakanishi/Tomoaki Honma/Hiromu Takahashi vs. Jado/Gedo/Killer Rabbit

I see we only have one of the Killer Rabbits on the show tonight instead of the two man crew they threw out a few weeks back. Typical throwaway NJPW PPV opener here in which Honma does a bit of his offense before letting young Takahashi in to show some fire. Finally old man Nakanishi hops in and does a nifty double suplex spot with Jado & Gedo before he makes Rabbit submit almost instantly when he locks him into the Argentine backbreaker at 4:36. I don’t really get the logic of even booking matches like these on PPVs as usually you’d want something fast-paced and fun that goes atleast 10 minutes to open a show, but then again I’m not booking New Japan now am I? 1/2*

TAKA Michinoku/Taichi vs. Tiger Mask IV/KUSHIDA

Well this is an interesting little match up of both experienced and young juniors here. Imagine if Taichi had been around ten years ago for Kaentai? He would have been like a wrestling version of Ken Jeong. KUSHIDA immediately botches a leap to the top turnbuckle just as the match begins unfortunately, and we’re off with a whimper. Always fun to watch TAKA and Taichi work together, but KUSHIDA is sloppy again and TMIV is showing no interest (so basically he’s just doing his normal thing). Taichi winds up winning the match after giving the Black Mephisto to KUSHIDA at 6:43. Another throwaway filler match, but it had a few fun moments atleast. *1/2

Takashi Iizuka/Toru Yano/Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan/Wataru Inoue/King Fale

Another filler match here, but atleast it’s the last one before we start heading into the good stuff on this card. Not much structure to this match at all, as it’s mostly just listless brawling around the ring mixed in with a few random tags and double-team maneuver attempts. Tenzan beats down on Iizuka for a bit to start before we go into quick and random tags again. Iizuka nails Fale with his metal glove (and the announcer screams as if he just shot him in the face) and then Yano finishes him off with the Oni Koroshi powerbomb at 7:57. Another filler match but atleast this one had somewhat of a point to it (getting more heat for Iizuka/Yano/Ishii with the heel tactics finish). Still completely skippable. *

CMLL World Middleweight Title Match
Jushin Liger
© vs. Mascara Dorada

Liger actually won this belt one year ago to the date after defeating Negro Casas on last year’s Dontaku show. Dorada has shown some promise from the work I’ve seen of him both in Japan and Mexico, and Liger is practically incapable of having a bad match. Liger’s rocking the all white hair look tonight and Dorada wants to play mind games early, threatening to walk out on the match. He hops back into the ring in stylish fashion and we’re off. They do some nice mat and foot work for the opening minutes until Dorada tries to get fancy and Liger wrenches him into a Mexican surfboard. He transitions into a camel clutch briefly, but Dorada counters into a hybrid Indian deathlock/bow and arrow stretch submission. He follows up with some flashy springboarding work before sending Liger to the outside floor with a ‘rana. He teases a dive at first and then turns around and takes out Liger on the second somersault plancha attempt. Wow, we even get a replay! I can’t remember the last time I saw a replay in the middle of a match on a puro show. Dorada scrambles to another corner but Liger then wipes Dorada out with a plancha of his own. They briefly re-enter the ring but of course Liger is sent out immediately again and this time Dorada takes him out with somersualt plancha (and he even lands on his feet). Unsatisfied, Dorada delivers a moonsault from the turnbuckle to the floor on Liger and then waits for him to be counted out. Liger makes it back in at 19 though. Dorada hits a spectacular corkscrew senton on Liger, but doesn’t even try to pin him. You should have struck while the iron was hot my dear Dorada. He delivers an old fashioned moonsault but that doesn’t satisfy him so he goes up for another one, but Liger gets his knees up this time. Liger gives him a Liger Bomb and the brainbuster to retain at 10:04. This one started off shaky, as Liger looked a bit frail and sloppy tonight for once and caused some confusion in the early going, but once Dorada decided he was just going to dazzle this crowd until they forgot about it, everything came together. Tons of awesome and innovative stuff from Dorada, and the story of the match was perfect with Dorada continuously trying to one-up Liger with more and more flashier aerial moves until he took one chance too many and Liger pounced on him. The sheer willpower to make this match work by Dorada elevated this above what could have been standard fare. ***

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match
Apollo 55 (Prince Devitt/Ryusuke Taguchi)
© vs. No Remorse Corps (Davey Richards/Rocky Romero)

Well now, this looks like it could be a barrel of fun. I believe this is Davey’s first match in New Japan since last winter. Taguchi and Richards start us off with some nice wristlock exchanges. For those American ROH fans who aren’t fans of Davey Richards style, this match might turn you around on him because he plays the arrogant and rambunctious foreign heel perfectly here, flipping off the crowd and jawing with them at ringside with a shit eating grin on his face all the while. Apollo 55 dominate early and tease simultaneous dives, but instead they just throw them into the crowd. Taguchi launches himself off of a guard rail to give Davey an axe handle in a nifty spot. Tag rules go out the window as NRC dropkick their opponents onto the floor on the other side of the ring before taking them out with perfect simultaneous tope suicidas. Devitt starts getting worked over in the corner by the heels, but the crowd just sits on their hands. This is why Fukuoka crowds often times suck. Nevertheless both teams provide an excellent tag team contest here. Heel Davey Richards is so much better than babyface Davey Richards. Taguchi tries for the three amigos suplex but Davey counters out of the last one. Taguchi and Davey trade some great counters and a German suplex from Davey gets a two count. They try a doomsday device leaping knee but that doesn’t work either. Taguchi is working his ass off and making himself look like the star of his team instead of Devitt. Davey eats a sickeningly stiff kick and both men tag out to their partners. Rocky gets sent to the floor and Devitt goes for the tope, but Davey trips him up for some massive heat. My god, is Fukuoka coming alive? Devitt wipes everyone out with his usual swan-dive plancha and then heads back to the ring. Davey hits a sick springboard DDT on Devitt, but the Irishman kicks out at two. Taguchi breaks up another doomsday device and then both Davey and Rocky wind up inadvertently kicking each other’s leg as Taguchi scrambles in another creative spot. Devitt hits a nasty double-stomp off the top on Rocky, but Davey breaks the pin up briefly only for Taguchi to wipe him out with a plancha. Finally Devitt ends it with the Bloody Sunday on Romero to retain at 17:41. This was downright spectacular, like a crazy fireworks show with four guys launching themselves all over the place with no regard for their own safety and mixing and matching all kinds of incredibly innovative double-team spots and sequences. Easily one of the best straight-up two on two tag team matches I’ve seen this year. ****

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match
Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard/Karl Anderson)
© vs. CHAOS/NO LIMIT (Tetsuya Naito/Yujiro Takahashi)

Naito and Takahashi defeated Tenzan and Inoue a few weeks back to earn this title shot, and these four are very familiar with each other. They start off with each team trading frequent tags, trying to get some serious offense in. Bernard overpowers Naito with ease despite his speed. He nearly kills Naito with a sick powerbomb out of the ring right onto the edge of the ring apron (AKA the hardest part of the ring. Not much in the way of heat in this match unfortunately though, as the crowd seems bored by the extended beatdown that Naito is taking, which lasts nearly ten minutes. Finally Takahashi tags in and gets a bit of life out of the crowd as he does his best to fight off both Bernard and Anderson. Takahashi gives Bernard a German suplex and a rejuvenated Naito hops back into the mix to take it to Anderson. Naito delivers a great top rope frankensteiner to Anderson, but he kicks out at two. Anderson and Naito trade near falls while Takahashi and Bernard brawl on the floor. Back inside Bad Intentions takes firm control of the rest of the match and then finishes Naito off with the Bernard Driver to retain at 19:49. This was a bit underwhelming honestly, I expected more out of these four guys who are all very familiar with each others work. There was some solid action in this one down the finishing stretch, but they lost the crowd halfway through during the Naito beatdown and the match never really regained it’s footing after that. **1/2

We take a short intermission at this point to see some ads for the upcoming G1 Climax tournament among other things. When we return, it’s time for an inter-promotional tag team match.

Special Tag Team Match
Hirooki Goto/Tama Tonga vs. Takashi Sugiura/Makoto Hashi

Odd to see Sugiura (the GHC Champion for NOAH at the time this was filmed) show up on an NJPW show just for a random filler tag match like this. Hashi and Tonga start us off and it’s not long before Tonga nearly kills himself with a crazy plancha on Hashi out of the ring onto the concrete floor. Sugs and Hashi team up on Tonga for a bit in their corner. Sugiura doesn’t seem to be very motivated tonight, but atleast Goto and Tonga are their usual fun selves. Goto delivers the Shouten Kai to Hashi and that’s enough to give him the win at 9:43. Decent little tag match, Goto and Tonga both looked good, but there wasn’t really anything to this match other than four guys just kind of going through the motions for ten minutes. **

Yuji Nagata vs. Masato Tanaka

Gee, this match up seems strangely familiar. Oh, right, it’s because they’ve wrestled each other 12 billion times over the last five years. Good thing they have such outstanding chemistry and it never gets boring though. They start off with some trademark strike exchanges, each man getting in some stiff blows. Nagata sends Tanaka to the floor with a flurry of stiff high kicks and then tosses him into the guard-rail. Tanaka fires back with a lariat and then sets up half of a table’s legs from underneath the ring, which he promptly knee-drops Nagata onto without breaking it. Tanaka continues to target Nagata’s leg with nasty steel chairshots, once while he’s prone on the floor and a second time against the steel ring post. Back in the ring the legwork continues and the crowd comes alive, chanting Nagata’s name while Tanaka works a figure four leglock on him. Nagata teases reversing the figure four so the pressure would be on Tanaka and the crowd bites like fish catching bait, but when Nagata finally does roll over and reverse the hold, they show almost nothing. Fuck this crowd with a rusty spoon, these two are working some simple and brilliant mat and submission wrestling and this crowd only comes alive sporadically at all the wrong times. Finally the leglock is broken and Tanaka nails Nagata in the corner with a running forearm before steadfastly going right back to work on the leg. Nagata responds with a huge release German suplex. He counters a tornado DDT attempt by Tanaka into a beautiful dragonscrew suplex and then throws in a brainbuster for good measure. Nagata starts his comeback and tries for a top rope exploder, but Tanaka counters into a sunset flip powerbomb followed by the Sliding D for a two count. Tanaka delivers a superplex to Nagata and when they hit the mat, Nagata maintains the hold, rolls through, and delivers a brainbuster of his own to Tanaka before collapsing under the pressure. Outstanding ring psychology in that sequence. They fight to the top turnbuckle, where Nagata delivers an overhead belly-to-belly superplex for another near fall. Back on their feet Tanaka lays in as many forearms as he can, but it only incenses Nagata further to attack him. Tanaka takes out Nagata’s leg with a chop-block and then piles on another Sliding D to his face and this is simply brilliant stuff here, like watching Tanaka pick apart a body piece-by-piece. Tanaka attempts another Sliding D, but Nagata counters right into a nasty reverse armbar. Tanaka is on his last legs and Nagata just keeps giving him one back-drop suplex after another until finally the third or fourth one is enough to put Tanaka away at 14:53. This was another outstanding match-up in a long running series between these two men, and they worked about as good of a mat, submission, and psychology ground war match that anyone could ask for. The only problem was that the crowd sucked and they sat on their hands often through-out this match despite the impeccable limb and counter wrestling magic they had performed right before their very eyes. Fuck you Fukuoka, this match was brilliant. ****

Togi Makabe vs. Satoshi Kojima

These two have had continuing problems throughout the last year, so this could be seen as a grudge match of sorts. As you’d expect the action quickly spills to the floor where they trade whips into the steel guard rail before brawling up to the entrance ramp. Kojima lariats Makabe on the ramp and they make their way back to the ring. Kojima works him over with a top rope elbow for a near fall. Kojima keeps firing away but Makabe starts doing his trademark drunken Japanese version of the Hulk Up routine, throwing in a Randy Orton-like snap powerslam and a Samoan drop on top of that as well. Kojima blocks an exploder suplex and Makabe nails him with a bridging northern lights suplex for a two count. Makabe no-sells a DDT, but apparently an Ace Crusher is enough to put him down momentarily. Kojima delivers a top rope ace crusher on Makabe for good measure, but instead of pinning his man he taunts the crowd and takes off his elbow pad to set up for a lariat. Makabe lariats him instead (karma!). They trade right hands and go into a stiff exchange of repeated lariat attempts that Kojima keeps blocking before blasting Makabe over the back of the head with another forearm. Makabe decides it’s puro Hogan time though and the power Makabe-mania starts running wild, brother. Makabe German suplexes Kojima off the top rope and then finishes him off with the King Kong knee drop at 11:51. Well that was a rather anti-climactic ending to a very solid match. This desperately could have used a few additional minutes to establish some kind of story for the match, but as it stands it’s still a decent effort by both men. **3/4

After the match Taichi and TAKA, members of the Kojima’s Army stable, hit the ring to talk to him, but instead they betray and attack Kojima. Suddenly, Minoru FUCKING Suzuki comes out to the ring and locks a headlock onto Kojima. Makabe decides to come back and save the man he just defeated. Minoru walks off like a badass, blowing him a nice little kiss before Makabe reseonds with a nice “Fuck you” and pair of middle fingers. Makabe helps Kojima back up and they embrace with a firm handshake, seemingly turning Kojima face here. This is why New Japan is far and away the best company in Japan right now, because they actually put some effort into establishing angles and alliances, babyfaces and heels. They mix the strong style with sports entertainment perfectly.

IWGP Heavyweight Title Match
Hiroshi Tanahashi
© vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

This is like the Red Sox vs. Yankees or Celtics vs. Lakers here in the sense that Tanahashi and Nakamura are eternal rivals bound to one another. I still can’t decide who’s the better air guitarist between the two either. Just as you’d expect, this winds up being another fantastic chapter in their rivalry. Both men begin cautiously, testing the waters with basic hold and counter exchanges. They’re very evenly matched on the mat, but Tanahashi gets the better of Nakamura with a flying cross-body from the second rope. Being the cocky son of a bitch he is, Tanahashi celebrates a bit too early and Nakamura makes him pay for it with nasty precision kicks and knee strikes. Tanahashi targets Nakamura’s leg with a dropkick and sends him out to the floor before wiping out Nakamura outside of the ring with a tope con hilo off the apron. Back in the ring Tana goes back to work on Sexy Naka’s leg, but this only awakens the angry drunken beast inside of Nakamura and he comes alive with a flurry of brashly stiff knees to the gut. Nakamura coils himself around Tanahashi like a snake with a sleeper hold briedly before coming alive with some forearm shots. Somersault senton from the second rope gets Tana a two count. Tana tries a Boston crab for a bit, but Nakamura fights it off and nails him with an enziguri. Nakamura misses the Boma Ye knee in the corner, but delivers a beautiful back drop suplex instead and the crowd comes alive. Tana blocks another Boma Ye knee attempt with the Sling Blade. Nakamura fights off a waistlock briefly before eating a German for another near fall. Falcon Arrow from Tanahashi but he misses the High Fly Flow frog splash. Nakamura just destroys Tanahashi in the back of the head with a sickeningly stiff Boma Ye knee strike and the crowd continues to go nuts. Nakamura lays in even more Boma Ye knees to a downed Tanahashi, but he misses the last one. Nakamura tries an armbar but Tanahashi continues to fight him off until he gets the rope break. Nakamura again goes for the flying armbar, but this time Tanahashi counters right out of it into a sickening Dragon suplex! That was a counter sequence of Gods my readers, and it nearly gets the three count on Nakamura. Tanahashi hits the High Fly Flow frog splash off the top once, then goes for a second High Fly Flow but Nakamura stands up and just punches him square in the face! Next they go into a Matrix-like sequence of kung-fu strikes that keep missing until finally Nakamura nails Tanahashi with a spinning high kick. Nakamura leas off the second rope only to eat a dropkick from Tanahashi, who then climbs to the top and delivers a High Fly Flow-like cross-body before delivering yet another damned frog splash to finally finish Nakamura off and retain his title at 20:17. I may have gone overboard in some of the move-by-move analysis here, but it’s simply a testament to how utterly captivated I was by this match, just like most any other time these two meet in the ring. This is another easy contender for New Japan match of the year thus far and I wouldn’t be shocked to see people award it that honor by the end of year’s time even. Simply outstanding work from everyone involved. ****1/4

After the match Tanahashi is awarded a few trophies and awards, probably for having the best hair in all of Japan, before he’s handed his title back to celebrate the victory further. Lots of little kids in the crowd who love Tanahashi are sitting in the front rows chanting and cheering for an exhausted Hiroshi Tanahashi, who continues to dance and play air-guitar like a badass anyways. Is there anything this wonderful man can’t do? This is like the feel-good babyface moment of the year, when suddenly who should show up but a returning Hirooki Goto, fresh off a stint with CMLL in Mexico. Goto departed for Mexico way after he and Tanahashi had a falling out during a tag team match at the New Japan Cup finals PPV back in March, and something tells me he’s not here to apologize for that. No, in fact he’s here to give Tanahashi the sickest head-butt I’ve ever seen in my life, which nearly knocks Tanahashi unconscious. Goto storms off afterwards. Someone’s moody.

Bottom Line: As you can very clearly see, this show was down right amazing. There were fantastic matches all over the card (three different ****+ matches), as well as a few solid midcard matches and plenty of major angle advancements, as well as two brilliantly executed face and heel turns. This is just about everything you could want out of a show really, and this ranks right up there with Money in the Bank so far as the one of the very best shows of 2011. Thumbs way up.

Score: 9.5/10

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