New Japan kicked off the Road to Wrestling Dontaku tour with a star-powered main event on Friday.
The first of two consecutive nights at Korakuen Hall was capped by an elimination match featuring four of the five singles champions in the promotion, as well as the top contender for the IWGP Heavyweight title, longtime company ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Tana is set to challenge champ Kazuchika Okada for the promotion’s most prestigious title at Wrestling Dontaku next month. But first, the two and their respective stablemates will do battle in a series of tag matches on this tour.
Below are the night one results:
– Tetsuhiro Yagi defeated Yuya Uemura
Yagi won via submission with a Boston crab.
– Manabu Nakanishi defeated Tomoyuki Oka
Nakanishi won via submission with an Argentine backbreaker.
– Tiger Mask, Yuji Nagata & Shota Umino defeated Togi Makabe, Ryusuke Taguchi & Ren Narita
Tiger Mask got the win for his team, pinning Narita after a Tiger Driver.
– Taichi, TAKA Michinoku & Takashi Iizuka defeated Roppongi 3K (SHO, YOH & Rocky Romero)
Taichi pinned SHO after a Taichi Style Last Ride
– Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Toa Henare
Match ended when Ishii pinned Henare after a Vertical Brainbuster.
– BUSHI & Hirmou Takahashi & IWGP Tag Team Champions EVIL & SANADA defeated Killer Elite Squad & IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru
The Suzui-gun team jumped the LIJ team before the bell and cleared the ring, staying true to the Suzuki brand. SANADA fired back and hit Archer with a sweet dropkick, but was cut off by Kanemaru when going for the Paradise Lock. Kanemaru ended up in the hold himself, which didn’t get as big of a reaction as it typically does. Archer hit a Pounce and Suzuki-gun asserted control of the match.
SANADA was left to fend for himself for several minutes, until Takahashi made it back to the apron and got a tag. He scored a nearfall on Desperado after a low dropkick. EVIL tagged in and did some spots with Smith, who got a nearfall after a suplex. He scored another nearfall after a bodypress from Archer.
Archer missed the Hart Attack, and EVIL hit Smith with a DDT. BUSHI and Kanemaru tagged in, and the finish saw BUSHI kick out of Deep Impact and small package Kanemaru to score the pinfall for Los Ingobernables.
There was nothing wrong with this, but it didn’t have nearly the heat that you would expect from a semi-main at Korakuen.
– Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, David Finlay, Michael Elgin & KUSHIDA defeated IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada, NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto, IWGP United States Champion Jay White, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI in an elimination match
Tana did Taguchi’s captain spot and everyone ran wild on Jay White. Finlay looked good, and I continue to be impressed with the intensity he has shown in the early stages of his U.S. title quest. Finlay was cut off by the Chaos team, and Ospreay and White went to work on him. Ospreay had kinesio tape across his neck and traps.
Okada and Tana had a staredown, with the Ace attempting to take the Rainmaker’s focus away from attacking Finlay. Okada used a chinlock and transitioned to a standing side headlock, but Finlay used a suplex to escape and tagged in Tana. Tana ran wild on the entire Chaos team, including hitting a duel Dragon Screw on White and Goto.
Tana and Okada paired off and did a sequence together, which included Okada bumping a lot for Tana. Okada looked like he was hurting. Ospreay got a tag, and his next challenger, KUSHIDa, tagged in fr a great back and forth. KUSHIDA worked over Ospreay’s neck. Ospreay hit a 619, and KUSHIDA countered a springboard elbow attempt into a flying armbar. They went to the apron and teased a Spanish Fly, playing off the last Ospreay/Scurll match, bt Ospreay blocked it.
The eliminations started coming quickly near the fifteen minute mark, as Ospreay and KUSHIDA both went out when Ospreay hit a vertical suplex on KUSHIDA on the apron, and they rolled to the floor. Elgin tossed out YOSHI-HASHI. Goto tossed Elgin. Goto was thrown out by Juice, his next challenger. Juice was quickly thrown out by Okada.
Okada and Tana did another series of spots, and Okada applied the Cobra Clutch, but Tana slipped out and applied the Cloverleaf. White saved for Okada. Okada hit a dropkick to a prone Tanahashi as he sat on the top rope. They teased a duel elimination on the apron, and both were knocked to the floor by White and Finlay, leaving them the focal point of the closing minutes of the bout.
Finlay got a nearfall with a backbreaker, but White took control of the match, repeatedly firing Finlay into the turnbuckle pad. White tossed Finlay to the apron and teased a suplex to the floor, but tossed him back inside and hit one of his own.
The finish saw Finlay go for a cutter, dodge a Blade Runner, then hit the cutter, and clothesline White over the top for the victory. This was fun once they got down to the eliminations.
I understand the reasoning behind the advent of these elimination matches, in that they provide a way to beat guys without them having to do jobs, which is useful when booking some variation of the same tag match night after night on these tours. That said, the winners and losers of them have a lot less impact.