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NJPW ‘Road to Wrestling Dontaku 2018’ 4.23.18 Results & Review

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New Japan returns to Korakuen Hall for another edition of ‘Road to Wrestling Dontaku’, featuring a main event bout for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships. A strong positioning for these titles, which are generally relegated much lower than a main event. This says a lot about how much New Japan trust the LIJ juniors to end the show on a positive note. A lot more than just the main event happens so let’s go!

Yota Tsuji vs Yuya Uemura – 10 Minute Draw – *3/4
For the experience level of these two, you couldn’t have expected much better. I’ve already attached myself to Uemura. His style is very realistic, likely due to his amateur background. I can’t help but to see parallels between him and Katsuyori Shibata. None of his movements seem phony in any way. Right now I can’t say the same for Tsuji but he has a heavy hand for striking and that’s a big win in the pro column.

Nagata, Tenzan & Nakanishi def. Oka, Umino & Narita @ 11:21 via Nagata Lock II on Umino – **
One of the better young lion tag exhibitions in recent memory that I can remember. All three had enough time to shine in their respective roles. Narita was tasked with overcoming the numbers game of the veterans. Oka was able to overpower Tenzan. Ultimately, it was up to Umino to get the win for his team. He disrespected Nagata with a few slaps across the face and Nagata took exception, locked in the Nagata Lock II, forcing the ornery young lion to tap. The two stared violently into each other’s eye after the match. Real good stuff from each young lion but Umino came out looking like the leader of the pack.

Romero, YOH & SHO def. Iizuka, Taichi & TAKA @ 10:04 via DQ – *1/4
A whole lot of Iizuka biting and 3K struggling to sustain crowd support. There were points where 3K’s reactions were embarrassingly bad. A lot of low energy as they continued struggling to have the crowd rally behind them. Not too much to say for the Suzuki-Gun side.

Goto, Ishii, Yano, HASHI & Ospreay def. Juice, Makabe, Elgin, Henare & KUSHIDA @ 13:06 via Yano Cradle on Makabe – **1/4
The interactions between Ospreay and KUSHIDA were the big story here. Every time they enter the ring opposite of the other you know you’re in for a treat. Goto has been looking motivated and happy the last couple weeks. His spots with Juice were all really fluid and fun. Once again, Ishii and Henare squared off, this time starting the match. They will finally have a singles match, which is well overdue by now. This was a breeze to watch, as things always are when Ospreay and KUSHIDA have the spotlight.

Tanahashi, Finlay & Taguchi def. Okada, White & Gedo @ 10:10 via Finlay Prima Nocta on Gedo – *3/4
A showcase for Finlay and White as the two will be the main event the next night at Korakuen Hall for the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship. Way too much Gedo and Taguchi for my taste. They have nothing going on and their involvement seemed to really bog the match down. Okada and Tanahashi had about a minute together but ultimately this was the Finlay show. He hit a Prima Nocta out of nowhere, scoring a surprise win. Nothing significant here other than getting the point across that Finlay can win at a moment’s notice.

Suzuki, Archer & Smith def. Naito, EVIL & SANADA @ 12:47 via Magic Killer on EVIL – **1/4
The tension continues to build between Suzuki and Naito. A big portion of the match was Suzuki locking in a knee bar on Naito, even continuing to do so after the match. Suzuki-Gun laid out some young lions post-match and Naito refused help to the back, walking with a significant limp. Their feud has been very entertaining and now with a noticeable limp, things will only continue to be fun.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado (c) def. Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI @ 24:56 via Desperado Pinche Loco on Hiromu – ***1/4

Thanks to the addition of Hiromu, there is now plenty of noticable crowd interest in the junior tag division. They went twenty-five minutes and not once did they lose support from Korakuen. This was the longest junior title match since 2006 when El Samurai and Taguchi were defeated by Gedo and Jado. New Japan trusting this match to main event should tell everyone a lot about how they feel about Hiromu. He genuinely comes off like a star right now and him being the one to take the fall only added to the heartbreak.
They played upon both teams tropes really well, aiding in several believable false finishes. Kanemaru sprayed his whiskey mist, BUSHI returned the favor and Hiromu even landed his Dynamite Plunger, all for near falls. Ultimately, it was a Suzuki-Gun ref bump and Desperado dropping Hiromu on the tag titles with a Pinche Loco that had the champions retain.
Really well executed match that played off all the previous shenanigan filled matches and ended with a new shenanigan finish no one saw coming.

After the main event, Suzuki-Gun rushed the ring and laid out everyone they could. The crowd chanted Naito’s name but to no avail. Suzuki told them to show him and Suzuki-Gun respect because they are number one. That’s what ended the show.

Several good ‘Road to’ matches and a great main event this morning from New Japan. The length and positioning of the main event shows the trust the company has in Hiromu to close out a show. Interactions between Naito and Suzuki, Ospreay and KUSHIDA, as well as Nagata and Umino, were all the standout moments on the undercard. The next main event is between Finlay and White. They certainly won’t receive the same reaction of this night’s main event and it’ll be interesting to see how many show up in attendance. For a ‘Road to’ show this was about as good as one could realistically hope to see.

Recommended Match
Kanemaru & Desperado vs Hiromu & BUSHI

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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