4/27 NJPW “Road to Wrestling Dontaku 2023” results: Vetter’s review of Hiromu Takahashi vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru for the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Championship, TJP and Francesco Akira vs. Kushida and Kevin Knight for the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Team Titles, Tetsuya Naito vs. Douki, Shingo Takagi and Bushi vs. Sanada and Taichi


By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)

New Japan Pro Wrestling “Road to Wrestling Dontaku 2023”
April 27, 2023 in Hiroshima, Japan at Sun Plaza Hall
Streamed on New Japan World

This show features two title matches and a special singles challenge. This is a large room with perhaps 700 to 1,000 in attendance. There is a second deck but the crowd there is sparse. We have Japanese-only commentary.

* A table was set up in the ring. Kushida and Kevin Knight, who are challenging for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles, sat down on one side of the table. Then, TJP and Francesco Akira came out, belts in their hands, and they sat at the table as well. Akira asked why they are doing a press conference right before the match, and it’s just making him angry. TJP said “we have had these titles a very long time.” They have the second-longest reign in NJPW history, and said they are looking past these two. Both teams signed a contract… which is just absurd because the match is taking place in a few hours. What if the champs refused to sign it?

Hiromu Takahashi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru then came to the table and signed a contract for their match later, and they brawled briefly.

1. “United Empire” Great-O-Khan and Aaron Henare defeated Oskar Leube and Boltin Oleg at 5:56. O-Khan and the muscular Oleg started; Oleg reminds me of Lars Sullivan in his thick, big body. GOK targeted Oleg’s left knee. Henare and Leube tagged in, and Henare applied the Full Nelson, with Leube tapping out. Very basic.

2. Yoh, Toru Yano, and “Bishamon” Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi defeated “The House of Torture” EVIL, Sho, Yujiro Takahashi, and Dick Togo at 4:52. The HoT attacked before the bell, and all eight brawled on the floor, then they worked over Yano in the ring. Goto and Yoshi-Hashi entered and beat up EVIL. Togo chocked Yoshi-Hashi with his wire. Yano hit low blows on Togo and EVIL. Bishamon hit their Shoto team slam on Togo to score the pin. Fast and non-stop pace.

3. Tama Tonga, Hikuleo, and Master Wato (w/Jado) vs. “The Bullet Club” David Finlay, Kenta, and Taiji Ishimori at 6:53. All six brawled at the bell. Kenta kicked at Hikuleo’s knee. Hikuleo applied a belly-to-belly bearhug. Hikuleo hit a double suplex at 1:30. Wato entered and hit a head-scissors takedown. The BC began working over Wato, with Ishimori choking him in the ropes. Tama Tonga entered at 4:00 and brawled with Finlay. Tama hit a Stinger Splash on Ishimori.

Ishimori came off the top rope, but Hikuleo caught him with a big boot. Wato hit a leg lariat on Finlay, then a plancha on Finlay, then a springboard flying forearm for a nearfall at 6:00. In the ring, Finlay nailed a spear on Wato for a believable nearfall. Finlay then nailed the Trash Panda neckbreaker over his knee for the pin. Another fast-paced match. Kenta and Hikuleo kept brawling after the bell; they face each other May 3, while Tama Tonga and Finlay square off that day as well.

4. “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Zack Sabre Jr., Shane Haste, and Mikey Nicholls defeated Jeff Cobb and “Aussie Open” Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher at 8:18. Haste and Fletcher opened. Sabre and Cobb locked up at 2:30, with Sabre applying a modified Triangle Choke, but Cobb powered out of it and slammed Sabre. Davis hit a senton on Sabre for a cocky nearfall at 4:00. Cobb hit a dropkick on Sabre. Nicholls made the hot tag and brawled with Davis, hitting a Death Valley Driver on Davis for a nearfall. Davis hit an overhead bodyslam on Nicholls for a nearfall at 7:00. Haste hit a DDT. Haste hit an assisted second-rope DDT to pin Fletcher. That was good but also surprisingly short.

5. Shota Umino and “Strong Style” Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, and Ren Narita defeated Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Tomoaki Honma, and Togi Makabe at 11:28. Shoto comes out separately, establishing he’s not on the ‘Strong Style’ faction. Desperado and Ishii started. Okada hit a senton on Minoru. Shota hit a diving forearm on Makabe. Okada’s team began working over Desperado in their corner. Suzuki hit two Helluva Kicks on Ishii at 5:30.

Suzuki and Okada brawled. Ren Narita entered and hit a series of forearms on Okada, then a Northern Lights suplex with a bridge for a nearfall at 8:00. Narita hit an overhead release suplex. Shota tagged himself in, which infuriated Ren! Honma entered and hit some chops on Shota, then his Kokeshi falling headbutt. Desperado and Ishii brawled on the floor. In the ring, Shota hit a release suplex on Honma for a nearfall, then the Death Rider double-arm DDT on Honma for the pin. Good match. I am intrigued by the Narita-Shota animosity.

6. “Just Five Guys” Sanada and Taichi defeated “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Shingo Takagi and Bushi at 8:13. Shingo and Taichi continued their never-ending feud and opened and they traded stiff kicks. They brawled to the floor and were nearly counted out, before diving back into the ring at 4:30. Sanada and Bushi finally entered for the fist time, with Sanada hitting a dropkick at 6:00. Bushi dove through the ropes onto Sanada. In the ring, Shingo applied Skull End sleeperhold on Bushi, who tapped out; every match is really short tonight.

7. Tetsuya Naito defeated Douki (w/Taka Michinoku, Taichi, Sanada) at 15:57. Douki made this challenge for a singles match a few weeks ago. Douki attacked before Naito had removed his button-down shirt; he dove onto Naito through the ropes. and in the ring, he immediately applied the ‘Douki-chokey’ modified Triangle Choke. They brawled on the floor. Naito hit his slingshot dropkick into the corner for a nearfall at 4:00. Naito applied a submission hold around the head and shoulders, but Douki reached the ropes.

Douki hit a springboard-back elbow and got a nearfall, then a top-rope doublestomp for a nearfall at 7:00. Naito hit a spinebuster, and they were both down. Naito hit a second-rope Blockbuster. They went to the floor, where Douki hit a DDT, and they were both down at 9:30. In the ring, Naito hit an enzuigiri. Douki re-applied the ‘Douki-chokey.’ Douki nailed a slingshot DDT for a nearfall at 14:00, and he was fired up. Douki hit an enzuigiri. Naito hit a Destino out of nowhere for a believable nearfall. Naito hit a brainbuster, then a second Destino for the pin. Solid match.

* Quick backstory: Kevin Knight and Kushida finished 2-7 in the Super Junior Tag League last December, tied for last place in the 10-team tournament. They lost to TJP and Francesco Akira in the tournament. Point being, I have no idea what they have done to ‘earn’ a title shot.

8. Kushida and Kevin Knight defeated TJP and Francesco Akira to win the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles at 19:00 even. TJP and Kushida started with a knucklelock and mat reversals. Akira and Knight entered at 2:00; Knight hit a shoulder tackle that dropped Akira. Knight went for a leapfrog while Akira was going for a dropkick, causing Knight to get hit in the groin. TJP and Akira began working over Knight in and out of the ring. Akira hit a flip dive off a turnbuckle onto both opponents on the floor at 6:30.

In the ring, Akira applied a Tarantula in the ropes on Kushida. Knight hit his jumping splash on Akira for a nearfall at 11:00. Knight hit his picture-perfect dropkick on TJP, then a plancha to the floor. In the ring, Knight hit his dropkick on Akira, who was seated on Kushida’s shoulders, for a nearfall. Akira hit their team X-Factor faceplant on Knight, then a top-rope doublestomp on Knight for a nearfall at 13:00.

Knight hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker over his knee on Akira, and they were both down. Kushida entered and hit a palm thrust on TJP, and he went for the Hoverboard Lock, but TJP avoided it. TJP applied an anklelock. Kushida got the Hoverboard Lock on at 16:30, but Akira made the save. TJP hit his Mambo Splash on Knight, then they hit their front-and-back kneestrikes on Knight for a believable nearfall, but Kushida made the save. Knight hit a jump-up Frankensteiner on Akira and he was fired up, then he hit a DDT on Akira for the pin. A shocking upset.

9. Hiromu Takahashi defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru to retain the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Championship at 31:44. Kanemaru kept Hiromu grounded early on. Hiromu applied a Figure Four Leglock, but Kanemaru reached the ropes at 5:30, and he rolled to the floor to regroup. Kanemaru pulled Takahashi off the ring apron and slammed his left knee on the thin mat on the floor, and Hiromu sold the pain in his knee. He got back in the ring at 9:00, but Kanemaru immediately hit a basement dropkick on the knee, and Hiromu rolled back to the floor to recover.

Back in the ring, Kanemaru applied a half-crab, and kept twisting the leg, as this has slowed to a crawl. Hiromu hit a headscissors takedown at 14:00 but immediately clutched at his knee. Kanemaru applied a Figure Four Leglock. Hiromu hit a Falcon Arrow but was in too much pain to make the cover. Kanemaru hit a DDT onto the thin mat on the floor at 17:00, and they were both down. In the ring, Kanemaru missed a moonsault. Hiromu hit a clothesline.

Kanemaru got a rollup; as Hiromu kicked out, Kanemaru intentionally slammed into the ref to knock him out. Kanemarug got a swig of alcohol. However, Hiromu hit a Death Valley Driver into the corner, then the Time Bomb slam for a believable nearfall at 20:00; I thought that was it. Kanemaru dropped Takahashi hard on his left knee again, then he hit a chop block, and he again applied a Figure Four Leglock, and Hiromu was on the verge of tapping out, but he reached the ropes at 23:00.

Kanemaru hit a tornado DDT, a moonsault, and a second-rope DDT for a believable nearfall. HIromu fired back with a pair of superkicks. Kanemaru hit a clothesline and a brainbuster; Kanemaru was slow to make a cover and only got a nearfall at 26:00. Kanemaru again applied a Figure Four Leglock, with Hiromu again reaching the ropes. Hiromu hit a brainbuster, and they were both down. Kanemaru got a rollup (same leg-hook he used previously to pin Hiromu) and got a believable nearfall at 30:30. Hiromu hit a Death Valley Driver for a believable nearfall, then a clothesline and the Time Bomb 2 for the pin. Solid match, but would have been far better in the 15-20 minute window.

* Hiromu Takahashi spoke on the mic in Japanese. He has previously challenged Sanada, so I presume that is what he talked about. He was covered in streamers from the confetti cannon to close the show.

Final Thoughts: I fully expected TJP and Akira vs. Kushida and Knight to be a good match, but I didn’t see a title change coming here. I’m truly of the mindset that a wrestler/team should earn a title shot, and not just be granted one out of nowhere. That said, Knight is a tremendous wrestler, and it was just a matter of time before one of the recent Young Lions got gold around his waist. I’ll go with that for best match.

Hiromu Takahashi is a fantastic wrestler. I find Kanemaru to be rather dull, and he sure didn’t change my opinion here. Hiromu sold like crazy, especially when he was in a Figure Four Leglock, teasing he wasn’t going to make the ropes. I just think this would have been far better if it were tighter and shorter; I don’t think many people want to see Kanemaru top 30 minutes in the ring. That said, Hiromu made it quite watchable.

SUPER JUNIOR UPDATE: New Japan has just released the names of the 20 competitors in this year’s “Best of Super Junior 30” with two notable outside names. Canadian Mike Bailey, who of course is on fire in the U.S. indies and Impact Wrestling, along with Brit Dan Moloney, who just joined “United Empire.” He’s a former NXT-UK wrestler who had just a handful of matches there.

A Block: Kushida, Ryusuke Taguchi, Lio Rush, Mike Bailey, Hiromu Takahashi, Titan, TJP, Sho, Taiji Ishimori, Douki.

B Block: El Desperado, Yoh, Master Wato, Kevin Knight, Bushi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Robbie Eagles, Francesco Akira, Clark Connors, Dan Moloney.


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