By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “Dontaku”
May 1, 2022 in Fukuoka, Japan at Fukuoka Dome
Streamed live on New Japan World
Kevin Kelley and Chris Charlton provided commentary. A long entrance ramp was opposite the hard camera and no fans were visible at ringside from the hard camera; it gave the unfortunate look that it is an empty room.
The big news entering this show was that Will Ospreay tested positive for COVID-19 and was off the show; Tomorhiro Ishii would take his place in a match against Hiroshi Tanahashi.
1. Taka Michinoku, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Shingo Takagi, Bushi, and Shiro Koshinaka at 10:14. Zack traded mat holds with the elderly Koshinaka, who was a last-minute replacement. Shingo worked over Taka. Koshinaka hit a top-rope flying butt attack at 9:00. Shingo brawled in the ring with Taichi. Bushi dove through the ropes on Sabre. Out of nowhere, Taichi got a Gedo Clutch rollup on Shingo for the pin. That is shocking. Top stars are almost never pinned in multi-man matches here.
2. Hiromu Takahashi defeated Yoh at 10:07. They traded chops to open and then did some fast reversals. Yoh hit a huracanrana to the floor, then a flip dive onto Hiromu at 2:30. In the ring, Hiromu hit a shotgun dropkick and a sit-out powerbomb. Yoh hit a Blue Thunder Bomb and they were both down. Hiromu hit a faceplant and they were both down again at 6:00. Hiromu hit a German Suplex. Yoh came back with a superkick and a neckbreaker over his knee, and the crowd was hot.
Yoh hit a Dragon Suplex for a nearfall. Hiromu suplexed Yoh into the corner turnbuckles, and they were both down at 9:00. Hiromu hit Time Bomb/modified DVD, then a Snow Plow driver for the pin. Really good action and I wished this had gone longer. Hiromu left the “Best of Super Juniors Tournament” trophy in the ring, as that tournament starts in two months.
3. Tanga Loa (w/Jado) defeated Yujiro Takahashi at 11:51. Yujiro attacked to start the match and they brawled at ringside. They wound up brawling up the long ramp. Sho attacked Tanga from behind. Yujiro hit a Fisherman’s suplex on the ramp at 3:00. They got back in the ring, but Yujiro was dominating. He applied a mid-ring crossface submission hold. Loa hit a Goldberg-style vertical suplex slam at 7:00 and he was fired up.
Loa hit a 619! He hit a top-rope flying clothesline for a nearfall. Yujiro hit a modified Angle Slam. The ref got bumped. Sho again interfered and hit a German Suplex on Loa. Jado hit a clothesline on Sho. Loa hit a powerbomb on Sho. However, Yujiro hit Pimp Juice/jumping DDT for a believable nearfall at 11:00. Loa hit a twisting Rock Bottom, then a sit-out piledriver for the clean pin. Good match, and I love that Loa overcame the outside cheating to win.
4. Master Wato and Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Douki to retain the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles at 9:09. Taguchi held his red underwear in his hands as he walked to ringside, implying he isn’t wearing any, and I groaned at this childish humor. Wato and Douki traded stiff forearms. Taguchi hit his flying butt attack on the heels. Douki hit a dive to the floor; Wato followed with a dive to the floor. In the ring, the heels worked over Wato.
Taguchi made the hot tag at 4:30 and hit his flying butt attacks. Kanemaru applied a Figure Four leg lock on Taguchi. Kanemaru hit a moonsault for a nearfall. Douki hit a springboard back elbow on both babyfaces. Kanemaru took a swig of his alcohol, and for some reason, yanked down the back of Taguchi’s pants, but he wound up accidentally spraying it on Douki. Taguchi got a rollup on Kanemaru for the pin. Blah. Easily the low point of this show.
5. Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale defeated Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan and Yoshi-Hoshi & Hirooki Goto in a tornado rules match to win the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles at 9:53. Cobb and O-Khan entered the match as champions. All six brawled immediately; no tags in this match. Cobb slammed Yoshi-Hoshi into the corner and got a nearfall. Owens and Fale jumped in the ring and they began working over Yoshi-Hoshi. Several guys piled onto Owens for a nearfall at 5:00.
Fale and Cobb stood toe to toe and the crowd popped as they began trading forearms. Cobb hit a powerslam. Goto and Yoshi-Hoshi hit their team slam on O-Khan for a nearfall at 7:30. Owens hit a flip dive to the floor. Goto escaped Cobb’s Tour of the Islands attempt, and he hit a neckbreaker over his knee. Cobb hit the Tour of the Islands, but Fale broke up the pin. Fale clotheslined Cobb to the floor. This allowed Owens to hit a top-rope elbow drop on Goto for the pin. Surprising finish, and great non-stop action. Cobb and O-Khan stood across the ring from Owens and Fale after the match, then left.
* The 20 names in the Best of Super Juniors Tournament were announced. Non-regulars include: Robbie Eagles, Titan, TJP, Clark Connors, Wheeler Yuta, Alex Zayne, Ace Austin, Francesco Akira and El Lindaman.
6. Tama Tonga (w/Jado) defeated EVIL (w/Dick Togo) at 14:30 to win the Never Openweight Championship. These two had a great match in the New Japan Cup a couple months ago. They brawled on the ramp, far from the ring. The bell rang a minute after I began my clock. They continued to brawl at ringside with EVIL in charge. In the ring, Tama fired up with several dropkicks, then a Stinger Splash for a nearfall at 6:30. Tama hit a top-rope frogsplash for a nearfall and he was fired up, removing his jacket.
Tama went for Gun Stun, but EVIL blocked it. Togo hit Tama with a chair; EVIL hit a Darkness Falls powerbomb for a believable nearfall at 10:00. Tama hit a hard clothesline and applied a Sharpshooter. The bell rang at 11:40 and Tama let go of the hold, thinking he won. Chris Charlton says it is a “bit of Montreal.” The ref got bumped. Togo hopped in the ring and choked Tonga. EVIL and Togo hit the Magic Killer faceplant. Jado chased off Togo.
Tama again couldn’t hit Gun Stun. EVIL couldn’t hit Everything is Evil. Tama finally nailed the Gun Stun and scored the pin. This was fun and the right outcome. Suddenly, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows hit the ring and attacked Jado and Tama Tonga! Tanga Loa ran to the ring to help, but Anderson and Gallows beat him up too.
7. Taiji Ishimori defeated Desperado to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title at 14:39. Ishimori dominated early and Desperado sold a left shoulder injury. Ishimori applied a leg lock around Desperado’s head. Desperado nailed a dragon screw leg whip at 5:30 and he immediately tied up Ishimori’s legs. Desperado hit a back suplex, but went right back to working on the injured left knee. Ishimori slammed Desperado’s injured shoulder into the ring post.
Desperado hit a spear, and they were both down at 8:30. Desperado hit a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall. Ishimori applied a Crippler Crossface at 11:30. Desperado applied the Stretch Muffler leglock, further injuring that knee. This has been really, really good mat-based offense. Desperado got Ishimori along his back and hit a modified piledriver for a nearfall at 13:30.
Desperado hit the Angels Wings/butterfly face plant. Desperado went for another, but Ishimori avoided it and went back to a Crippler Crossface, and Desperado tapped out. Wow, I didn’t expect that either. Kevin Kelly pointed out that it has been a great night for the Bullet Club.
8. Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Tomohiro Ishii to win the vacant IWGP U.S. Title at 23:29. Sanada suffered a broken orbital bone during the New Japan Cup and vacated the title. Again, this was supposed to be Tanahashi vs. Will Ospreay, but Ospreay was out after testing positive for COVID-19. They had an intense lockup and Hiroshi slapped him. They traded forearm shots and Ishii hit a suplex for a nearfall at 3:00. Tanahashi hit a second-rope flip. Ishii hit a basement dropkick on the knee then a dragon screw leg whip, and they were both down at 6:30.
Ishii went for a Sharpshooter, but Tanahashi escaped. Tanahashi hit some forearms, but it is just angered Ishii. Tanahashi hit a couple dragon screw leg whips and he turned it into a Texas Cloverleaf, but Ishii reached the ropes at 11:00. Ishii nailed a powerslam, and they were both down. Tanahashi slapped him in the face and hit a Dragon Suplex. Ishii popped up and hit his own Dragon Suplex. Tanahashi hit a Sling Blade clothesline for a nearfall at 13:30. Ishii nailed a top-rope superplex for a believable nearfall, and they were both down.
Tanahashi escaped a brainbuster attempt and he hit a swinging neckbreaker. Tanahashi hit a Dragon Suplex for a believable nearfall at 17:00. He nailed a top-rope frogsplash to the back, but he missed a second one; Ishii got a rollup for a believable nearfall, and they were both down. Tanahashi tried some short-arm clotheslines but Ishii no-sold them. Ishii hit a hard clothesline and was fired up. Ishii nailed the brainbuster for a believable nearfall at 20:00.
Tanahashi hit a faceplant. Ishii hit some headbutts; Tanahashi hit a headbutt that dropped Ishii at 22:00. Ishii hit a Sling Blade. Tanahashi hit a brainbuster. Tanahashi hit a Sling Blade but Ishii kicked out at 1. Tanahashi hit a top-rope crossbody block, then a top-rope frogsplash for the pin. Fantastic, just absolutely fantastic match.
* Hiroshi spoke on the mic. Chase Owens came out, wearing his tag title, and talked about how he beat Tanahashi last year. However, he said he doesn’t want a title match. A masked man, wearing a Bullet Club shirt, attacked Hiroshi from behind. He took off his mask and revealed it was Juice Robinson! Juice has joined Bullet Club! This was a shock, as everyone believed Juice Robinson’s New Japan contract had expired. Robinson waved goodbye to the fans in Chicago two weeks ago. Well-done swerve. Bravo
9. Kazuchika Okada defeated Tetsuya Naito to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at 34:11. They stalled at the bell but then traded hard forearm shots, and this was basic reversals at the start. They brawled to the floor at 6:00. In the ring, Naito hit a hangman’s neckbreaker out of the ropes at 9:00. This is a pace that feels like a 45-minute match. Okada hit a flapjack faceplant at 12:30. Okada nailed a neckbreaker over his knee for a nearfall, and he applied the Money Clip sleeperhold. Okada hit a dropkick, sending Naito tumbling the floor at 13:30.
They brawled on the floor, and it is worth reiterating how far away the fans are from the ring. Okada leaped over the guardrail and hit a crossbody block on the floor. In the ring, Okada hit a top-rope missile dropkick at 16:30. Okada applied the Money Clip, but Naito reached the ropes.
Naito began tying Okada up in a knot. Okada nailed a second-rope powerbomb at 21:30 and they were both down. Naito went for a Destino, but Okada avoided it. Okada nailed his shotgun dropkick to the chest at 23:30. Naito hit a Destino. Okada hit a piledriver at 27:00. Naito hit a German Suplex. Okada hit a dropkick. Okada hit a modified Michinoku Driver. Naito hit the Destino for a believable nearfall. Naito missed a top-rope corkscrew press and they were both down at 29:30.
They traded stiff forearms. Okada nailed a German Suplex. Okada hit a Bulldog Powerslam then a Rainmaker clothesline to score the pin. Good match; a bit methodical early, but highly watchable. Okada spoke on the mic and thanked the fans. Fireworks went off to close out the show.
* However, Jay White’s music hit! The announcers said it has been a year, almost to the day, since Jay White has been in Japan. Gedo attacked Okada from behind; White and Okada brawled. Jay grabbed the mic and said he’s the number one wrestler in Japan. Suddenly, there are six members of Bullet Club in the ring, and Karl Anderson acknowledged it was the ninth birthday of the Bullet Club. They poured a beer on the prone Okada. Anderson said the Bullet Club has had Prince Devitt, AJ Styles, and Kenny Omega as members in the past, but he proclaimed Jay White as the best wrestler in the world. White hit his Switchblade spinning faceplant on Okada to close out the show.
Final Thoughts: So much good stuff here, from great matches to surprising returns and a heel turn no one saw coming. Ishii vs. Tanahashi topped all expectations. Sure, it’s disappointing Ospreay missed this show, but what a superb replacement. Ospreay can still go after Tanahashi in coming weeks or months. I will give that best match, as it was nonstop action. Okada-Naito earned second-best.
The tag title switch really surprised me because the United Empire has been so hot; while neither Cobb nor O-Khan were pinned, I expected them to retain.
The unexpected appearance of Gallows and Anderson was also quite a treat, and that should be a hot match. The Juice Robinson swerve was just perfectly done. I fully believed he was taking time off from wrestling or headed to Impact on a permanent basis. From being there live in Chicago, watching him wave goodbye to fans, everyone fully believed his time in New Japan was over.
Including the short intermission where they announced the Best of Super Juniors members, this show clocked in at a full four-and-a-half hours.