NJPW Road to Wrestling Dontaku 2018: Day 1
By Big Red Machine
From April 13, 2018
YUYA UEMURA vs. TETSUHIRO YAGI - 5/10
Wow. I think someone forgot to teach Uemura that the business is a work. Those strikes looked pretty brutal.
MANABU NAKANISHI vs. TOMOYUKI OKA - 3/10
Is Oka really going to get any better by working with broken down old Nakanishi all the time? Can't you put him in there with, like, Nagata or even someone like Tenzan who might be broken down but at least still changes his matches up rather than doing the same boring crap every time?
REN NARITA, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI, & TOGI MAKABE vs. YUJI NAGATA, SHOTA UMINO, & TIGER MASK IV - 5.5/10
CHAOS (Roppongi 3K & Rocky Romero) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Takashi Iizuka, TAKA Michinoku, & Taichi) - DUD!
Suzuki-Gun jumped the bell on their opponents, as is their custom. CHAOS shockingly managed to keep things within the confines of the ring for an entire minute or so before this became the same terrible Suzuki-Gun brawl we've all seen a million times already. You know the one. They go on the outside and stay there forever and the referee makes no effort to count them out, instead just following around and shouting at them as they use weapons right in front of his face. One of these weapon shots was also right in front of a fan who was holding both a Darryl Takahashi doll and a Naito teddy bear. Why is our rebellious attitudinal vaguely heel stable the one selling cute stuffed animal merchandise?
As usual, the referee finally begins to count someone out when the wrestlers are ready for their "tease the babyfaces getting counted out" spot, which happens in just about every match and no one ever believes it because no one ever actually does get counted out. We then got a bunch of spots with Iizuka biting people and things. Why is this man employed in a wrestling promotion that puts such a high emphasis on in-ring work? This man shouldn't be employed by any wrestling promotion above the level of the lowest-level indy that brings in some early 90s midcarder to be a big draw because that's all they can afford and the 90's midcarder is that desperate for work.
Stuff continued from there and didn't really get better. A few good moments between Rocky and TAKA do not make up for the other ten and a half minutes of this match that were pure torture.
TOA HENARE & HIROYOSHI TENZAN vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) - 4.75/10
Ishii and Henare did their hitting each other hard stuff, but the highlight of this match to me was Tenzan just not taking any of Yano's sh*t. Yano was- and always is- a coward, a cheater, and an asshole, and it was nice to finally see someone treat him the way he deserves.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Sanada, EVIL, Hiromu Takahashi, & BUSHI) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado, & the Killer Elite Squad) - 6.25/10
You don't get any extra points for guessing what Suzuki-Gun did before the bell rang. Stuff happened. LIJ won but got beaten down afterwards.
TEN-MAN ELIMINATION TAG TEAM MATCH:
Michael Elgin, KUSHIDA, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, & David Finlay Jr. vs. CHAOS (Will Ospreay, Jay White, YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto, & Kazuchika Okada) (w/Gedo) - 8/10
Ospreay and KUSHIDA had an excellent long sequence on the apron teasing eliminating each other before finally going off together in a double elimination. More stuff happened for a while. It was good, but not really notable. Tanahashi and Okada were, of course, great together. The most interesting aspect of the match, to me, was the little story they were hinting at with Jay White not just not being on the same page as the rest of CHAOS but seemingly not wanting to be, which culminated in White actually being the one to eliminate Tanahashi (while Finlay simultaneously eliminated Okada as they had been on the apron fighting with each other). This left Finlay and White have the spotlight to finish the match, and they did an admirable job. This was an awesome match that got me excited for Tanahashi vs. Okada, Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA, and White vs. Finlay, with that last one being the most impressive accomplishment.
A bad show from New Japan aside from the main event. I don't expect much from these Road to... shows, but they are at least supposed to leave me more excited for the big cards than I was going in, and while that did happen with the three matches I noted in the main event, it left me with a feeling of dread about everything else, so overall it detracted from my excitement rather than added to it, making this show a failure.