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NJPW: Dontaku Tour Preview & Predictions



The 2019 Wrestling Dontaku tour will feature thirteen shows on NJPW World, eleven live and two video on demand. The tour begins on April 13th and will conclude May 4th. All eight titles will be featured along the way, coupled with key non-title matches that will dictate the challengers for June’s Dominion. Not every match on a thirteen day tour will be essential but I’m here to break down the big ones and attempt to predict where their program will take them next.

April 20th – Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Juice Robinson (c) vs Bad Luck Fale

This is a first time singles match and Juice’s third defense overall. He defeated Fale’s Bullet Club stablemate, Chase Owens, last months to retain the title and now Juice faces the Bullet Club heavy. Fale last held singles gold back in 2014 when he defeated Shinsuke Nakamura. The time of Fale being a singles champion looks to have come and gone. If this feud between Juice and Bullet Club were to continue the next reasonable option would be Jay White. Recently coming off the loss of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, going back to the U.S. title would be a major step down for White but you can make the case that the only reason he won the title in the first place was due to Omega’s departure.

Also on the card, Mikey Nicholls will face off in a singles match against Chase Owens. Nicholls made the save when Fale attacked Juice during his title defense against Owens. I can see Juice agreeing to a fair fight with Nicholls out of respect for his help. Also in the realm of possibility is Juice going back to ROH and defending against someone like Bully Ray. It isn’t exactly clear who challenges next but Juice will beat Fale.
Prediction: Juice Robinson

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Kota Ibushi (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr.

On his first defense of his newly won IWGP Intercontinental Championship, Kota Ibushi will be challenged by one of his most common foes, Zack Sabre Jr. They each have two wins against the other, Sabre having won both New Japan Cup meetings and Ibushi picking up victories over Sabre in back-to-back G1 Climax tournaments. This time, they fight over IWGP gold. The wins have gone back and forth in this rivalry, Sabre winning the most recent meeting in the New Japan Cup just last month. Since Sabre currently holds the RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship, I predict we see the continuation of their back and forth trend.

As for the next challenger, the easy choice would be Minoru Suzuki. This would keep Ibushi tied in with Suzuki-Gun and gives Suzuki a high-profile match for Dominion. Jay White is a wildcard right now. I can see him going after either the IC or U.S. title.
Prediction: Kota Ibushi

April 22nd – Korakuen Hall

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship
Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Hikuleo

Now that Tama & Tanga are set to tour ROH with their newly won ROH Tag Team Championships, I see this as a perfect excuse to have them also leave with the 6-Man titles in order to bring Hikuleo along for somewhat of an excursion. These titles don’t matter and they don’t produce good matches or bring anything significant to the table. Why not use them as a way to bring Hikuleo over? Tama & Tanga will be challenged by Makabe & Yano later in the tour for the IWGP Tag Team Championships, this match will serve as the precursor to that one. For the title’s next challengers, let it be Bully Ray’s squad in ROH.
Prediction: Tama, Tanga & Hikuleo

April 26th – Hiroshima Green Arena Sub Arena

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Roppongi 3K (c) vs Shingo Takagi & BUSHI

The year long redemption came full circle when SHO & YOH reclaimed the titles they lost, in the same arena they lost them. Now on their third reign, it’s time for them to defend the titles for the first time to prove it wasn’t a fluke. The journey has been long but if we finally get the payoff it’ll all be worth the wait. Say what you will about the lack of diversity in the junior tag scene, it’s nice that there’s been an overarching story to give the division something to sink your teeth into. I don’t see these titles making their way back onto Shingo. With Best of the Super Juniors beginning the following month, Shingo looks ready to make his rise in the singles division.
Prediction: Roppongi 3K

April 29th – Grand Messe Kumamoto

IWGP Tag Team Championship
Guerrillas of Destiny (c) vs Most Violent Players

Togi Makabe and Toru Yano will be making their first challenge for the IWGP Tag Team Championships since 2009 when they were defeated by Team 3D, ending their 322 day reign as champions. Back then, the team were known as the Most Violent Players. Yano turned on Makabe shortly after and started Chaos but the two are now back together. The Guerrillas of Destiny defeated M.V.P. back in February but both Makabe and Yano have defeated G.O.D. in the past, albeit with different partners. I expect the Guerrillas to be off doing a tour with ROH next month so I see M.V.P. picking up the win to hold the titles in the meantime. Maybe a Bullet Club team like Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens challenge while G.O.D. are away.
Prediction: Most Violent Players

Special Singles Match
Hirooki Goto vs Jay White

Nothing on the line but pride in this big-time main event. This is a first time ever singles match between the two and they should be viewed as polar opposites. Hirooki Goto has prided himself on doing things the right way. He joined Chaos and has remained loyal ever since. White used his time in Chaos as a way to launch himself in a different direction and along his journey won IWGP Heavyweight Championship on his first try. Goto, on the other hand, has come up short winning the title on eight different occasions. We should see some fire out of Goto and White will want to correct his loss to Okada by regrouping quickly. A true battle of ideologies that I don’t think Goto can win. White wins and challenges either Ibushi or Juice.
Prediction: Jay White

May 3rd – Fukuoka Convention Center

NEVER Openweight Championship
Jeff Cobb (c) vs Taichi

Coming in as both NEVER Openweight and ROH World TV Champion, Jeff Cobb meets Taichi in a first ever singles matches. Taichi has been on the rise ever since joining the heavyweight division last year, even managing to win the NEVER title over the fall. Both Cobb and Taichi are people the fans hoped would be in last year’s G1 Climax and holding the NEVER title would make the holder a guaranteed lock in tournament this time around. I believe Taichi gets the title back and uses it as a launching pad to join the G1 this year. He’s had a subtle feud going on with Toa Henare who would be a perfect first challenger for Taichi’s reign.
Prediction: Taichi

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Dragon Lee (c) vs Taiji Ishimori

These two met for the first time at MSG in a three way for the junior title. Ishimori came in as champion but Lee left with the title after having pinned the third man, Bandido. This will be the first time since 2016 that the junior title main evented a show outside of Korakuen Hall. The venue can hold over six thousand so it’s fitting to say this is a big deal for the division. The winner however isn’t much in question. Lee will retain on his first defense and these two will head into the following Best of the Super Juniors tour where the winner of the tournament will challenge Lee for the title at Dominion. Many people, Lee included, are hopeful it will be Hiromu Takahashi.
Prediction: Dragon Lee

May 4th – Fukuoka Convention Center

Special Singles Match
Tomohiro Ishii vs EVIL

The last time these two met in a singles match was back in 2016 for the ROH World TV Championship. A lot has changed for both men since then. EVIL challenged for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, won the NEVER Openweight Championship and has become a two time IWGP Tag Team Champion. Ishii has challenged for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship twice, won the IWGP Tag Team Championship and became a two time RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Champion. These bruisers share similar body types and wrestle as the two powerhouses of the division. Ishii’s 2-0 singles record is something EVIL will have to correct if he wants to establish himself as the dominant strongman of the two. 2019 looks to be the year of LIJ. SANADA fought for the New Japan Cup in his hometown and Naito is the heavy favorite to win the G1 Climax, so it only makes sense for EVIL to make his way through Ishii and make his challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Prediction: EVIL

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs SANADA

After their match for the New Japan Cup, Okada was impressed by SANADA so he told the crowd he would fight SANADA again when they returned from MSG. True to his word, we now have this match for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. SANADA is coming into the match holding an 0-5 record against Okada in singles matches. They had a match for the title last February which marked SANADA first and only challenge for the title to date, this will be his second attempt. Their last two singles matches have both felt like SANADA’s breakout, this will be the next big test. I don’t believe any rational fan really thinks that SANADA will win so it’s up to him to make the fans believe it’s his time. If he can do that, SANADA is well on his way to becoming the next big thing for the company. The match is Okada’s to win but SANADA has so much to gain with this performance. I believe EVIL comes out after to make the challenge.
Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Along with providing show reviews from across Japan, Robert McCauley is also an editor for FightboothPW.