NJPW “Road to Dontaku” results (4/23): Vetter’s review of Hiromu Takahashi vs. David Finlay, Tetsuya Naito vs. Driller Moloney, Shingo Takagi vs. Clark Connors, Gabe Kidd vs. Bushi


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

New Japan Pro Wrestling “Road to Dontaku”
April 23, 2024 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Streamed live on New Japan World

Chris Charlton provided solo commentary as the show began, but TJP joined the booth before the first match. This show features a series of LIJ vs. Bullet Club War Dog matches.

* The show opened with a contract signing between Sho and Douki for the IWGP Juniors Title. EVIL sat down at the table as well as Sho, and Dick Togo stood in the background. There were some distractions and we saw Togo switch out the legit contract for a replacement! Douki signed the ‘new’ contract without seeing what the new one states. The contract now reads it is a NON-Title match! Charlton was livid at this chicanery. “Douki’s just been swindled!” he said.

1. “Bullet Club War Dogs” Kenta, Chase Owens, and Taiji Ishimori defeated Shoma Kato and “Bishamon” Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi at 8:31. All six brawled at the bell. Kenta tied Kato in a Boston Crab at 2:00, but the Young Lion reached the ropes. Chase worked over Kato. Goto entered and hit a back suplex on Owens at 4:30, and they traded forearm strikes. Goto hit a neckbreaker over his knee on Chase. Shoma got the hot tag and hit a dropkick on Ishimori at 6:30, and it was his turn to apply a Boston Crab, but Taiji powered out. Shoma re-applied it, but Ishimori reached the ropes. Ishimori hit a Divorce Court kneestrike on the left arm, and he applied the Bone Lock/modified STF, and Kato tapped out.

2. “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Zack Sabre Jr. and Kosei Fujita and Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste defeated El Desperado and Katsuya Murashima and El Phantasmo and Hikuleo (w/Jado) at 9:28. Fujita insisted on starting; he turned around and realized that Hikuleo was across from him and he tried to tag out but he had no takers. ELP hit a huracanrana on Fujita. Haste entered at 2:00, but Phantasmo hit a huracanrana on him, too. Charlton asked TJP about beating Taichi last night and his moving into the heavyweight division. Phantasmo hit an enzuigiri on Haste. Hikuleo made the hot tag and hit a Mafia Kick on Haste at 5:00.

Hikuleo hit a double clothesline on Haste and Nicholls, then a double suplex. Desperado tagged in for the first time and battled former teammate Sabre, hitting a back suplex on Zack. Zack tied him in an Octopus. Desperado applied a Stretch Muffler; Sabre turned it into a cross-armbreaker. Sabre hooked both arms and got a seatbelt cover for a nearfall. Desperado fired back with a spinebuster. Sabre hit a Pele Kick to the left arm. Fujita entered and focused on the damaged left arm. Katsuya entered and brawled with Fujita. Kosei applied a Boston Crab, and Murashima tapped out. Really good action, especially that Sabre-Desperado sequence.

3. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Boltin Oleg, and Toru Yano defeated “House of Torture” EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru (w/Dick Togo) to retain the NEVER Six-man Tag Titles at 13:29. Oleg hit a double clothesline and a bodyslam early on, showing off his power. Tanahashi hit a second-rope crossbody block on EVIL. Yano entered at 2:00 and immediately removed a corner pad; he playfully slapped EVIL on the back of the head. The heels began working Yano over. EVIL applied an abdominal stretch and grabbed teammates’ hands for added pressure. EVIL got a nearfall at 5:30 and the bell ‘rang’ to give him the victory, but of course it was just HoT shenanigans.

Kanemaru hit a DDT on Yano on the floor. Oleg got the hot tag at 7:00 and he hit shoulder tackles. He applied a belly-to-belly bearhug, then turned it into a suplex, on Kanemaru. Togo got tossed into the ring, so Bolten gave him a gutwrench suplex. Bolten then hit his gutwrench suplex on Kanemaru for a nearfall. Togo hit his knife-edge chop to Oleg’s groin for a nearfall at 9:30. Oleg hit a double suplex. Hiroshi got the hot tag and he hit a second-rope summersault senton on EVIL for a nearfall. EVIL hit a clothesline.

EVIL briefly beat up Tanahashi on the floor and sent him right back into the ring. Yujiro hit an Angle Slam for a nearfall at 12:00. Yujiro got his cane but the ref confiscated it. Togo choked Tanahashi with his wire. Yujiro set up for PImp Juice but Yano made the save. We had a series of several low blow uppercuts. Oleg hit his forward Finlay Roll on Yujiro, and Tanahashi immediately hit the High Fly Flow frog splash on Yujiro for the pin. Decent match with all the HoT hijinx we’ve come to expect.

4. Yota Tsuji defeated Gedo at 00:05. Tsuji hit a spear befothe bell and pinned Gedo. Yep, five seconds. (I have it at 11 seconds from first contact to pin, but it’s funnier to say the bell-to-bell was that short.)

5. Gabe Kidd defeated Bushi at 9:28. Bushi hit a dropkick at the bell, and Kidd rolled to the floor. Bushi followed and they brawled on the floor, going past the guardrail and up into the crowd. Kidd charged at Bushi, but Bushi caught him with a basement dropkick to the knee at 3:00. They finally got back into the ring at 5:00, and Kidd took control of the offense. Bushi caught him with a rewind kick, then a Canadian Destroyer for a nearfall. Bushi sprayed mist in his eyes at 8:30; Kidd bumped the referee. Bushi got a backslide for a visual pin but we didn’t have a referee. Kidd nailed a jumping piledriver for the pin.

6. Shingo Takagi defeated Clark Connors at 10:53. Connors looked like he was ready to charge at Shingo, but then he rolled to the floor at the bell to stall. In the ring, Shingo hit some chops. Connors knocked him down with a shoulder tackle at 1:30. They brawled back to the floor. Connors grabbed some ringside young boys and threw them on top of Shingo at 4:30. In the ring, Clark hit a spear for a nearfall. He applied a Full Nelson on the mat and kept Shingo grounded. Shingo fired back with a short-arm clothesline at 6:30, then some jab punches and chops in the corner. He hit a second-rope elbow drop and a back suplex.

They traded headbutts and forearm strikes. Connors hit a Pounce, then a powerslam for a nearfall at 9:00, then a sliding dropkick for a nearfall. Shingo hit a powerslam and the 10-minute call is spot-on. Shingo nailed a Made In Japan pump-handle slam for a nearfall. He nailed the Pumping Bomber clothesline for the pin. Good action; Connors is still technically a junior but he’s awfully big and has to be just under the 100 kig/220 pound weight limit, and he didn’t look out of place here at all going against Shingo.

7. Drilla Moloney defeated Tetsuya Naito at 10:10. Much like what I just wrote about Connors, the NJPW commentators have repeatedly said how Drilla cut weight to get to under 220 pounds but he sure looks bigger than that here, as he’s nearly identical in size to Naito. They immediately brawled to ringside, and Moloney threw him into the guardrail at 1:00. In the ring, Naito hit some punches. Drilla stood on Naito’s head and kept him grounded. Naito hit a basement dropkick to the back at 4:30. He hit a backbreaker over his knee, and he applied a legscissorslock around the neck and shoulders at 6:00.

They stood up and traded forearm strikes, and Drilla hit a dropkick. Drilla hit a doublestomp on the chest for a nearfall at 8:00. Drilla accidentally bumped the ref. Naito hit an enzuigiri and a Flatliner, and he re-applied a leglock around the neck. David Finlay ran to ringside and distracted Naito, who let go of the hold. Jake Lee, a top NOAH star I’ve seen a few times, hopped in the ring and traded forearm strikes with Naito! Lee is really tall and he hit a Helluva Kick. Maloney immediately hit a Drilla Killa swinging piledriver for the pin. “What in the hell is this all about?” Charlton shouted. Lee put one foot on Naito’s chest, then he stomped on him. Hiromu Takahashi ran in for the save.

8. David Finlay defeated Hiromu Takahashi at 20:05. No ring intros; I started the stopwatch at first contact. Jake Lee headed to the back as Finlay beat up Hiromu on the floor. They got in the ring and the ref called for the bell at 2:00 to begin the match. They went right back to the floor, where Finlay threw Hiromu head-first into the ring post. Finlay rolled Hiromu into the ring but the ref refused to count. He nailed a backbreaker over his knee at 6:00 and playfully kicked at Hiromu. Hiromu finally hit a head-scissors takedown, and he applied a modified Tarantula in the ropes.

Hiromu hit a running shotgun dropkick from the apron to the floor at 7:30, then he threw David back into the ring. Hiromu hit a basement dropkick but he was selling pain in his lower back. Finlay hit another backbreaker over his knee for a nearfall. He spun Hiromu in his arms then hit another backbreaker over his knee at 9:30. Finlay went for a spear but Hiromu caught him and applied a Triangle Choke. Hiromu got a rollup for a nearfall, and they were both down at 11:30. Finlay got his shillelagh but the ref saw it. Hiromu hit a superkick and grabbed the weapon, but he did the ‘Eddie spot,’ pretending he had been struck!

Hiromu hit a clothesline and the Dynamite Plunger for a nearfall. He hit a superkick and another clothesline. Hiromu hit a neckbreaker over his knee for a nearfall at 14:30. Finlay hit a clothesline, then the Dominator faceplant for a believable nearfall. HIromu again applied a Triangle Choke at 16:30, but FInlay eventually stood up and threw him into the corner. Finlay hit a neckbreaker over his knee for a believable nearfall. They got up and Finlay hit a series of European Uppercuts and Hiromu looked punch-drunk but remained on his feet for blow after blow. FInlay finally hit his pop-up knee strike to the sternum for the clean pin. A really good fight by Hiromu. Again, official bell time is about 18:00 even.

* Finlay got on the mic and said the fans thought they “saw cracks in my game,” but it was all for show. He basically said “while they thought I was playing checkers, I was really playing chess.”

Final Thoughts: A good show, highlighted by some fresh matchups and the surprise NJPW debut of Jake Lee. Hiromu-Finlay was really good, as was Moloney-Naito. I feel like they changed up those matchups to allow the juniors to have those fresh bouts against the heavyweights. It can’t be stressed enough how Boltin Oleg is single-handedly carrying those six-man tag belts. Toru Yano really doesn’t get in any offense, and Hiroshi hasn’t done much in the ring since his return from injury last week, so Boltin is left carrying the team to victories. Also, nothing wrong with a five-second squash match.


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