WRESTLE DONTAKU on 5/3/09
review by Mike Campbell
New Japan returns to Fukuoka for their semi-regular May extravaganza! Tanahashi defends the IWGP Title against New Japan Cup winner Hirooki Goto! Hiroyoshi Tenzan returns and reunites Tenkoji, Iizuka has another chain match, and the remnants of GBH go to war with CHAOS!
Togi Makabe.... learns that it takes more than a chair to the head and stretcher job to be accepted as a babyface
MILANO COLLECTION AT/TAICHI ISHIKARI vs. RYUSUKE TAGUCHI/PRINCE DEVITT
Hey, it’s a match where Ishikari isn’t jobbing! At first this looks like it’ll be a typical, lower card, junior spotfest, but then Milano hurts Taguchi’s leg and this starts going somewhere. Taguchi’s selling is very good for the most part, and he’s good at trying to keep the leg in focus, even if he’s on offense. When they do their dive sequence, Taguchi’s dive is from the corner and he uses his arm strength to carry him over, and when Taguchi and Devitt do their double lung blower, Taguchi drops down with Devitt instead of holding up Ishikari the whole time. The highlight is after the leg has been thoroughly worn down, Milano does the same standing Dragon screw that initially hurt the knee, and Taguchi’s reaction is perfect, you know he’s all but finished.
Milano and Ishikari are fun, for the most part, at working over the leg, although they’re not as overtly heelish about it as you’d expect a former Toryumon/Dragon Gate wrestler and Kawada underling to be. This is probably the strongest that Ishikari has looked in a New Japan ring. He’s good at keeping Taguchi down, and also fending off Devitt toward the end to let Milano finish off Taguchi. The only one who really doesn’t have a definite role is Devitt, he works his usual spots and has a couple of dives, but he’s content to stay out of the way and let the story with Taguchi’s knee pan out. The finish is even smart, with Milano working his way up to the Victoria Milanese, and trying to use his mid range offense, like the Italian Revolution and Armani Shoe Exchange first, before finally putting him away. ***
WATARU INOUE/AKIRA/KAZUCHIKA OKADA vs. TOMOHIRO ISHII/JADO/BLACK TIGER
The only purpose here seems to be to continue the Wataru/Ishii feud, which is what this does, so it’s impossible to fault the workers for it. The heels put the hurt on AKIRA and Okada for a bit, and there’s a nice sequence where everyone takes out everyone else, ending with Ishii creaming AKIRA with a lariat and then collapsing so that all six were down. Wataru and Ishii have a couple of Kobashi/Sasaki like chop exchanges, and then wind up brawling on the floor to a DCOR. There’s nothing great, but nothing outright offensive either.MANABU NAKANISHI/TAKAO OMORI vs. RIKI CHOSYU/MASAHIRO CHONO
New Japan really ought to sign Omori and make these two a full time team. Not because I’m such a big fan of them, or because they’re so great, but because it’d give Nakanishi something to do that doesn’t involve the IWGP Title. As for this mess, it’s about what you’d expect out of these four, lots of chops, kicks, and lariats, timid execution, and very little else of worth. Chosyu gets double teamed in the corner and catches Manabu’s leg on a kick attempt, he drags him to the other corner so Chono can hit a Yakuza kick that barely made contact. Things looked bleak for Chono, until Omori hit Nakanishi by accident and one Yakuza kick later Chono was in control. It ends with Nakanishi hitting Chosyu with an alleged spear (looked more like he hit Chosyu and then Chosyu fell down himself) and quickly finishes him off with the Argentine Backbreaker. I’d have been let down, if I honestly expected anything going into it.
SHINSUKE NAKAMURA/TORU YANO vs. TOGI MAKABE/TOMOAKI HONMA
The best thing shown here is the video package (so that those of us who haven’t set seen the 4/5 show yet will know why this match is happening), it nicely sums up the storyline surrounding the formation of CHAOS, as well as showing that GBH always had a history of betrayal, so Yano turning on Makabe shouldn’t be a big shock. What’s really jarring about the match is the lack of heat, most likely because there’s no reason to really root for GBH. It’s not like they’ve done anything especially good, they were simply betrayed by their fellow heels who made their own stable. It doesn’t help that Nakamura doesn’t do anything especially heelish, other than having a sneer on his face and try to throw extra stiff kicks. At least Yano brings the bell hammer into the play to help get sympathy on Honma.
The match itself is your typical tag match formula with Honma in peril, but he’s far from Ricky Morton for showing the effects the heels are having on him. The blood (courtesy of Yano using the bell hammer) is a nice touch, but that’s about it. Makabe’s hot tag is probably the best moment of the match, because he so fired up, but, again, he doesn’t do anything particularly good and doesn’t give the fans a reason to root for him. It’d have been cool to see Makabe throw himself onto Honma to take a chair shot the way Tenzan did for Iizuka. Honma tags back in, and looks like he’s going to have some success against Nakamura, but gets planted with the Landslide for the obvious finish.
JYUSHIN LYGER/CIMA vs. TIGER MASK/KOJI KANEMOTO
If not for the Lyger/Koji exchanges, this would be a waste. Koji and Tiger don’t let CIMA do much of anything to look good at all, and Tiger is as unremarkable as ever. It’s not like Lyger and Koji tear down the house or anything, but they work well enough together to keep the match interesting. Koji and Tiger try to bully around CIMA like he’s some green boy, and when Lyger tags in, he starts targeting Koji’s knee in revenge. The last five or so minutes are quite good, with Lyger charging into Koji’s overhead belly to belly, and Lyger ducking the roundhouse kick and hitting the shotei. Lyger gets a nice near fall from the Lygerbomb, and Koji sunset flips his way out of a second attempt. CIMA hits one of his only big moves, the corner to corner dropkick on Kanemoto, which allows Lyger to hit the brainbuster and CTB. Between here and his performance on 2/15, Lyger has also ‘still got it.
YUJI NAGATA vs. TAKASHI IIZUKA (Dog Collar Chain Death Match)
Despite some of their efforts, this isn’t on par with the chain match between Tenzan and Iizuka in November. Mostly because of how long the match goes, compared with the amount of original and interesting things that were done. Nagata and Iizuka both had some nice moments, but this could have been easily cut in half and not been any worse for wear. There’s so much time of nothing more than brawling and choking using the chain, which is par for the course for these sorts of matches, but its lacking a real sense of hate to give it credibility.
Where this scores major points is when Iizuka and Nagata shy away from the same old stuff, and find new, and clever, things to do. Nagata’s comeback after Iizuka’s big control segment focused on working over the arm, which had a smart moment when Iizuka went to choke Nagata with the chain, and Nagata grabbed his arm and snapped it over the shoulder. Iizuka gets his own little smart spot when Nagata is preparing to do it again, and Iizuka hits him with the chain to stop him. Nagata switched to his seated armbar, and Iizuka escaped that by biting him. Iizuka’s selling of the arm was great for about three minutes, and then it was gone Iizuka exposing the turnbuckle to work over Nagata was another nice addition. Iizuka’s escape attempt was rather amusing, as was Nagata pulling him into the post to thwart it. They’ve also got a nice finish, with Nagata tying Iizuka up in the ropes and kicking him in the head until the ref stops the match. So it’s not like this is totally devoid of good things, but there’s not nearly enough engrossing elements for the twenty plus minutes of this.
HIROYOSHI TENZAN/SATOSHI KOJIMA vs. GIANT BERNARD/KARL ANDERSON (#1 Contenders Match for the IWGP Tag Team Titles)
It’s been hard to be a Tenzan fanboy over the last couple of years. Tenzan is almost to the point of Manabu Nakanishi regarding erratic booking, he’ll seem to be on the verge of a big push, and then he’ll be putting everyone over. He’s also had several long stretches of inactivity due to injury. This match doesn’t help the Tenzan fanboys at all. There’s nothing wrong with Tenkoji losing, considering they’re wrestling for the ‘honor’ of getting fed to Team 3D, but it seems counterproductive to make a big deal about the match being Tenzan’s return from injury only to make him the weak link.
There isn’t anything outright bad about the match. It’s simply unremarkable until the last five or so minutes. Tenzan gets to show off a bit against Bernard, chopping him down with the Mongolian chops, and hitting an impressive German suplex. Tenzan gets into trouble for a bit, and makes the hot tag to Kojima. There’s nothing to differentiate this from any run of the mill formula tag match. The match looks to be going somewhere after Bernard accidentally splashes Anderson, and it looks like Tenkoji are one or two moves away from the win. Bernard tries to redeem himself with a chair, but winds up hitting Anderson again, and putting Anderson in that much more danger. If nothing else, the match is protective of Tenkoji’s big offense. The only big move that Anderson kicks out of is the Tenkoji cutter, which they haven’t used to win a match with in forever. Bernard makes the save in various ways after the diving headbutt, Anaconda Vice, and Kojima’s lariat. Bernard gives Anderson an opening and he manages to give Tenzan the Gun Stun and get the pin. Again, there’s nothing wrong with the booking, Bernard and Anderson are the perfect team to feed to Team 3D, but there’s really no reason, other than burying Tenzan, to have the lowest ranked guy take several finishers, and then score the pin after only one of his own.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI © vs. HIROOKI GOTO (IWGP Heavyweight Title)
The first half of this looked to be on par with their great 11/07 match. Tanahashi and Goto looked to be laying the groundwork for something out of pre split AJPW with building the match around playing off previous spots and sequences from the previous match. The early matwork to start made for some nice eye candy, and the exchange of Tanahashi and Goto dodging each other was also very nice. Tanahashi targeted Goto’s knee early, but didn’t go right for the kill, but instead used the knee simply to keep himself out of major trouble. He eventually has to go for the kill and keep on the leg, and he’s as fun as he was before. The only real knock on the first half is how early Tanahashi whips out the Texas Cloverleaf, which he’d used to beat Goto before, it was way too early in the match to go there and nobody believed that he could put Goto away that quickly.
After their long slap exchange, this starts coming apart. Goto is the bigger offender by a decent margin, but Tanahashi isn’t blameless at all. The idiocy starts with Tanahashi completely blowing off a backdrop suplex, only to sell a second one like death. Tanahashi also tries going back to the Cloverleaf and the silence is deafening. It says a lot when Goto applying a generic armbar (think your average U.S. squash circa 1987 sort of armbar) gets a louder reaction than Tanahashi’s subsequent attempts at the Cloverleaf. As for Goto, I was wondering if he’d taken on 2003 Yuji Nagata as someone to emulate. As soon as Goto gets control of the match, which comes after the second backdrop suplex, he throws out all of his big moves, Shouten included, within two minutes, and none of them mean a thing. While it wasn’t Goto’s fault that the Cloverleaf had no heat at all, he didn’t help by powering out of it a la Austin/Hart, especially after they’d already established that Goto had a bad wheel. Tanahashi brings the home stretch a bit of sensibility by playing possum on Goto for a small package near fall, and going back to the knee with the Dragon screw. He follows up with a reverse Sling Blade the usual two High Fly Flows for the win. Even with its flaws, this is good enough to stand on its own as the best match of the show, but its far away from their previous classic. ***
Conclusion: Out of the three big shows of 2009 that I’ve seen (along with 1/4 and 2/15) this is easily the worst, there’s a lot of fun stuff, but there isn’t a whole lot beyond that. Tanahashi and Goto have done much better with one another, and there’s really no good excuse as to why the opening junior tag is better than just about everything else. Recommendation to avoid this show.
For more of Mike Campbell's reviews, visit his site at http://splashmountain.150m.com