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NJPW ‘Road to Wrestling Dontaku 2018’ 4.24.18 Results & Review

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New Japan returns to Korakuen Hall for a second straight night, this time main evented by the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship. Also, a special singles match between Ishii and Henare, who have been battling in tag matches over the last four months. Will the payoff live up to expectations? It’s a singles match consisting of Ishii, of course it will. Let’s see what happened.

Nagata, Liger & Oka def. Tenzan, Umino & Narita @ 9:48 via Nagata Lock II on Umino – **1/4
The tension between Nagata and Umino reached a boiling point. Despite tagging out, Umino continued beating down the veteran in the middle of the ring. This beat down was long and vicious with Umino’s sights locked firmly onto Nagata. When Umino carried his frustrations onto Liger, Oka took offense and tried setting Umino back into his place. The closing stretch had both Nagata and Umino trading big time slaps before Nagata took the young lion down and forced him to submit. The feud between these two has been awesome. Umino is stepping up into the role of top young lion, exceeding all expectations each time he’s in the ring.

Iizuka, Taichi & TAKA def. Romero, SHO & YOH @ 8:55 via DQ on SHO – *3/4
Roppongi 3K decide to change up their strategy by attacking Suzuki-Gun before the match. This leads to no changes as SZKG are the masters of the brawling on the outside. Once again, SZKG attempt getting their win via shenanigans and once again it worked. When attempting to disarm Taichi of the microphone stand, SHO inadvertently hits the referee with the stand, leading to a disqualification. Nice story here with 3K continuing to suffer defeat in new ways to Suzuki-Gun.

Makabe, Elgin & KUSHIDA def. Yano, HASHI & Ospreay @ 8:12 via Makabe King Kong Knee Drop on Yano – **
Another fast-paced showdown between Ospreay and KUSHIDA which is always a pleasure. Tonight’s story was about Makabe and Elgin trying to find a way to counter Yano’s shenanigans. Despite various low blow attempts, Yano was unsuccessful at bringing down the big guys. Goofy little match but easy enough to watch.

Tomohiro Ishii def. Toa Henare @ 15:20 via Brainbuster – ***1/4
Want to showcase someone’s talent? Put them against Ishii. I cannot recall the last time Ishii had a less than great singles match. He disrespected Henare for a good portion of the opening but Korakuen firmly stayed behind Henare and once he fired up we were in for a treat. These two beat the hell out of one another in a standard-style Ishii match. Standard for some wrestlers could be considered boring but a standard Ishii match is never less than great. Extremely strong performance from Henare and his reactions were consistent from start to finish. They had Korakuen going nuts for everything they did in the closing stretch. Chops to the throat, big time suplexes, loud grunting, everything you could possibly want in an Ishii match. These two stole the show and that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

Suzuki, Archer, Smith, Kanemaru & Desperado def. Naito, EVIL, SANADA, Hiromu & BUSHI @ 13:28 via Suzuki Gotch-Style Piledriver on Hiromu – **1/4
Each member of Suzuki-Gun picked the juniors of LIJ. They made BUSHI work for a tag and once he did, Naito was taken down just as easy. Hiromu was basically left to fight his own battle in the closing stretch as SZKG eliminated all other LIJ members from the match. Suzuki made sure everyone knew Suzuki-Gun were number one by beating down Naito even more afterwards. Naito took the microphone and asked Suzuki what excuses he already has planned for when he loses his championship.

Okada, Goto & Gedo def. Tanahashi, Juice & Taguchi @ 14:02 via Okada Cobra Clutch on Taguchi – *3/4
The main story tonight was Chaos going out of their way to beat down Tanahashi, demanding that he quit. He spent the majority of the match on his back, writhing in pain. Okada had the win in his hands but instead decided to deliver a Tombstone Piledriver onto Tanahashi on the outside, then laugh about it before sliding back in the ring and forcing Taguchi to tap out to the Cobra Clutch. Juice took exception to the extra damage done to Tanahashi and tried to fight Chaos on his own but was pulled away by young lions. Strong and emotional storytelling as there are now doubts about Tanahashi’s well-being heading into his match against Okada next week.

IWGP US Heavyweight Championship
Jay White (c) def. David Finlay @ 26:49 via Blad Runner – **3/4

The support for Finlay was loud and constant throughout the nearly thirty minute match. Overall the pacing was really strong, especially considering their age, experience and length they went. You can tell they both have been trained well by the New Japan dojo. Personally, I did feel it went a little too long but there were enough great moments sprinkled in to reward you for sticking it out. Jay White had several creative moments and all the big spots were built up with a purpose. Unfortunately, when you’re in a main event in New Japan you tend to think you have to go long. They didn’t sprint, they were creative and made moments matter but it’s hard for me to recommend taking the time if you aren’t invested in either guy. If you like them, you were already going to watch. If you don’t, then this was borderline.
After the match, White tells Finlay that he’s proven he belongs in the main event but not against him. He says he’ll be watching the match between Okada and Tanahashi closely. That’s how the show concluded.

Overall this was an above average ‘Road to’ show. They peaked in the middle with the great match between Ishii and Henare but the main event was also good. It’s hard to recommend thirty a match between two of the lesser known, lesser followed men on the roster. If you do follow the White and Finlay feud then you should no doubt be making time to watch. The other key takeaways were the stories between Nagata and Umino and Okada looking down on Tanahashi. When was the last time Ishii had a bad singles match? If you can’t remember then definitely make time for Ishii and Henare.

Recommended Match
Tomohiro Ishii vs Toa Henare

Robert McCauley hasn't missed an NJPW show since the launch of NJPW World. Always be on the look out for his reviews where he shares results and gives his honest opinions on the goings-on of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

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