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  • Connor Ewens

Let's Review: Wrestling Dontaku 2024

For the fourth time in the events 30 year history, New Japan make Wrestling Dontaku a 2-day event which they began doing in 2018. New Japan hasn't felt so influenced by foreign influences since the formation of the Bullet Club in 2013, with Jon Moxley and Nic Nemeth both top champions in the company right now. We are following their very successful Windy City Riot show which I enjoyed very much, how will New Japan's 2-day stay in Fukuoka go down? Let's find out, let's review.

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku @ Fukuoka Center, Fukuoka. 3rd & 4th of May 2024

Day 1

Oleg Boltin & Shoma Kato defeat Togi Makabe & Katsuya Murashima- **

The former olympian Boltin defeats the veteran Makabe with both men bring a young lion to team with them. Boltin is one third of the Openweight 6-man champions with Tanahashi and Yano. This was just an average opening tag match to put over Boltin who has been a working progress for New Japan for sometime now. I would have expected them to have the Kazakh featured on the main card more often by now, but they don't seem to be rushing his progress.

House of Torture (SHO & Yujiro Takahashi) defeat Just 5 Guys (DOUKI & TAKA Michinoku)- **

Well it is a House of Torture match so expectations are low, especially when we a have a match between the weakest members of the team. SHO and DOUKI had some nice interactions in this, but this was largely boring. Michinoku still looked good for 30+ year veteran. Yujiro uses his cane to get a cheap win for his team. Not as bad as most HoT matches, but still not great. The crowd reacted well though.

Just 5 Guys (Taichi & Yuya Uemura) defeat United Empire (Callum Newman & Great O-Khan)- **1/2

Uemura is holding the NJPW King of Pro Wrestling title. This was a fine tag match, some early grappling then gradually turning up the work rate. Taichi and O-Khan looked solid in here, whilst Yuya continues to be one of NJPW's brightest future stars. Newman unfortunately has the impossible task of filling the Will Ospreay sized hole in New Japan and he is far from ready for that spot. I hope he is able to pave his own path over the coming years, he is still very young, but right now he is being viewed as Ospreay-lite. Yuya and Newman had the best interactions of the match, possibly building to a future 1v1 contest. Yuya pins Newman whilst Taichi stares deeply into the camera. Decent match.

Guerrillas of Destiny (El Phantasmo, Hikuleo and Jado) defeat TMDK (Shane Haste, Mikey Nicholls & Kosei Fujita)- **

They need to rebrand the GOD, it just feels really weird that they keep the stable going when Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa are not a part of it. They are part of a far superior stable now. This followed the same formula as most matches featuring Hikuleo, he is the dominant one and the opposition rely on beating down Phantasmo to try and win. This was averagely worked but not exciting, I didn't find myself invested in this at any point. Phantasmo scores a flash pinfall with a roll-up and holding the tights. This feud looks set to continue.

Bullet Club (KENTA, Chase Owens & Taiji Ishimori) defeat Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) & Tiger Mask- *3/4

Poor Bishamon, being paired with Tiger Mask who is far past his prime and hasn't had a good match in years. Then, they are facing the coldest members of Bullet Club featuring below average wrestler Owens, KENTA who is both past his prime and also not even trying anymore, then Ishimori who has been good in the past but since his return from injury hasn't really done much. Just remove these men from Bullet Club please. Bishamon couldn't save this from being heatless and boring, poorly worked at times too. Owens pins Tiger Mask with the piledriver ahead of the tag title match the following night which I am dreading.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, Shingo Takagi and Hiromu Takahashi) defeat Bullet Club (Drilla Moloney, Clark Conners, Gabe Kidd and Gedo)- **1/2

It is another meaningless multi-man match that wasn't particularly good. These two factions have been feuding for a little while, with Takagi set to face Kidd tomorrow night for the Openweight championship. This was solid, pretty much everyone in this match are good workers except for the aging Gedo. The BC heeled it up well and there was good intensity between Takagi and Kidd. With Gedo involved though you know that he is taking the fall. This was fine but they have had quite a few matches now and none of them have been worthwhile. I do look forward to Kidd vs Takagi though, they had a nice exchange here.

House of Torture (EVIL, Ren Narita & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defeat El Desperado, Jon Moxley and Ren Narita- **1/4

It was pretty cool seeing Moxley be the first man to win the WWE, AEW and NJPW World championships, though I have not been the biggest fan of his recent overly-bloody style of wrestling. He had a great match against Naito though, so I'm glad his excursions to New Japan still bring out his best. Moxley and Umino have great chemistry together, Jon really helped make this guy a star. Unfortunately I saw a win for the HoT coming, because they need some legitimacy because why the fuck is Ren Narita challenging for the world championship?! Is your roster really that slim and poorly built? Yes. It is another average tag match with an attack before the bell. We see the usual cheating from the House with some poor wrestling in-between. I don't usually rely on Cagematch ratings because they can be done by anyone, but the House of Torture have a 1.65 rating out of 10 which is fucking hilarious. I agree with it though. I hate watching them. Moxley is beaten down before Shota saves with a chair in his hand. building to tomorrow night. I thought this was a waste.

Jeff Cobb defeats Zack Sabre Jr (c), NJPW Television Championship- ***3/4

Finally, after the longest undercard of all time we get to some good wrestling. I loved the series of matches these 2 had last year, so I was excited to see them run it back one more time. Cobb winning here was the right choice, he has busted his cass in Japan for a few years now and he deserves a good singles title reign. These two wrestled a great match, not a single moment was wasted. ZSJ was gunning for a submission victory since he has already pinned him before, whilst Cobb just wants to prove he can beat Zack and win that title. ZSJ showed his resilience kicking out of power moves and selling his rib injuries really well. The final few minutes saw Zack enter survival mode whilst Cobb entered beast mode. Cobb won by reversing an armbar into a powerbomb position, then transitioning into his Tour of the Islands to win. A great finish to a great match, the best match on the show.

David Finlay defeats Yota Tsuji- ***

I am a big fan of Tsuji, I think he has a great upside. I find myself conflicted with Finlay, he is a solid wrestler who I used to think was great but I think his heel turn has shone a light on his weaknesses as a performer. The match got off to a slow start with Finlay being a dominant heel filling the air with trash talk and an overly long rest hold. I watched this shit on x2 speed and I still found it slow. Tsuji injected some life after a big dive but then we went back into another rest hold. The match got better towards the end as they traded bigger blows and signature offence. Finlay used a shillelagh into a powerbomb for a good near fall, but he followed up with his Overkill finish. The match was good but not great, they lacked chemistry. Tsuji needs to improve at the little things, whilst Finlay needs to improve at the bigger things.

Nic Nemeth (c) defeats Hiroshi Tanahashi, IWGP Global Championship- ***1/4

Man this is a dream match that should have happened 5 years ago. President and director Tanahashi should not be main eventing shows anymore, he is a legend but extremely limited in the ring now. I will give him his props here though, he wrestled better than he has done in a while. I think Nemeth was a great opponent to keep Hiroshi looking strong and protected. This felt like a throwback wrestling match, two established veterans wrestling a well-paced back and forth. Nemeth retains which was expected, this was an enjoyable match. Post-match, Finlay is back and he attacks Nemeth, who beat him for the Global championship. Nemeth then challenges him to a match on Night 2 for the title. Finlay vs Nemeth 2? No thanks.

Overall, day 1 was a pretty weak show. 2 and a half hours of nothing worthwhile and then 3 good matches to close, but none of them breaking into 4 star territory. I expect day 2 to be a lot better and more focused.

Day 2

-There was a pre-show match where Katsuya Murashima and Togi Makabe defeated Jet Wei and Naoki Sakurajima. It won't be taken into the final overall review.

TMDK (Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls) defeat Shoma Kato & Tiger Mask- **

This was a non-title match as TMDK are the STRONG Tag champions, going up against a legend and a young lion guaranteed them a victory here. This was fine, Haste and Nicholls wrestled well and were entertaining. This was a way to give TMDK a dominant win as they continue their tag reign. They are not booked to defend at NJPW Resurgence which is odd.

United Empire (Francesco Akira & Great O-Khan) defeat Just 5 Guys (DOUKI & Yuya Uemura)- **1/4

Another tag match between these two factions and again it was fine. Like before, Yuya was the standout performer. We had a nice sequence between Akira and DOUKI ending with a flash pinfall win for the Empire. I'm not looking forward to the teased Yuya vs O-Khan feud.

TMDK (Kosei Fujita & Zack Sabre Jr) defeat United Empire (Callum Newman & Jeff Cobb)- ***

Now this is what an undercard tag match should be. 2 established names and 2 future stars working their best to get themselves over, have a good match and build towards the future. All 3 boxes were ticked here. More great selling here from ZSJ, Fujita and Newman were impressive and Cobb was a tank. Hopefully we will see Zack rise to become a world champion contender, I would also like to see Fujita and Cobb because they had some good chemistry here.

Guerrillas of Destiny (El Phantasmo & Hikuleo), El Desperado and Shota Umino defeat House of Torture (EVIL, SHO, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Yujiro Takahashi)- **1/2

Usually these House of Torture matches have excessive interference and cheating that it bogs down the whole match. For once, they actually didn't go overboard and used the heel tactics more sparingly. This was still a filler match, but they kept the formula simple and put over the good guys for a feel good finish. Umino got over strong ahead of his future world title match.

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Oleg Boltin defeat Just 5 Guys (Taichi & TAKA Michinoku)- **

My favourite part of this match was watching Taichi swat away the air guitar that Tanahashi throws at him. This was a mid match, Boltin got some exposure but I still don't know if he is fully ready for this spot. Maybe he just needs better opponents. Boring and one note throughout the whole thing, competently wrestled but nothing of note happened until post match where Boltin and Taichi got heated with each other, I imagine this will be his first major singles match upcoming.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, Yota Tsuji & Hiromu Takahashi) defeat Bullet Club (Clark Conners, David Finlay, Drilla Moloney & Gedo)- *1/2

What else do you want me to say? Booooooooring. Repetitive, formulaic booking that comes across as lazy and uninspired. There is some serious issues that New Japan need to address and I think it starts with them removing Gedo as the head booker because we are getting shows full of filler with only a couple of matches at the end worth anything. I am actually going to be very harsh on this purely because it feels like the exact same match we have seen a million times before and I swear I've watched this same match 5 times over the two days. Sort out your shit New Japan. It is hard hearing Chris Charlton actually sell these mediocre matches as being entertaining.

Bullet Club (Chase Owens & KENTA) defeat Bishamon (c), IWGP Tag Championships- *

Holy fuck New Japan what are you playing at. I read someone comment on this and complain how New Japan have fell into a shitty habit of booking from A-B-A. Why did they drop the titles back and forth between these 2? Why are they putting the titles on Owens and Kenta who are colder than ice and have zero forward momentum? They also suck right now! Bishamon should hold the titles for as long as it takes for NJPW to rebuild their awful tag division, which means they would probably have a Roman Reigns level of supremacy. This was a bad match, poorly worked by the BC and I feel like even Goto and Yoshi-Hashi weren't competing at their best, because how could they! Bad wrestling and bad booking. Sort. Your. Shit. New Japan. TMDK come out after for a stare down, then we have the GOD so I guess they're going for a 3-way tag for both titles? If so that is peak laziness because they literally ran this exact angle within the last year.

Shingo Takagi (c) defeats Gabe Kidd, NEVER Openweight Championship- ****1/4

Leaps and bounds ahead of anything else this on show. I was losing the will to watch this show but we finally got something worth our time here. This was a hard-hitting match, they really punished each other. Every move looked stiff and painful. Kidd is the clear bad guy, however he was getting some loud reactions from the crowd which was great to see. He has earned his place here. I think they relied too much on the no-selling spot which I think took away from this match, especially when we got the kick out at 1 because it did not feel as effective. Still, this was a great contest that displayed Kidd as Shingo's equal and even at times his superior. Kidd's dickhead antics were is undoing and eventually Takagi took the win with Last of the Dragons. Kidd has proved he deserves to be pushed and he needs to be pushed soon as possible. I would make him Bullet Club leader.

David Finlay defeats Nic Nemeth (c), IWGP Global Championship- ***1/2

As much as I hated the result, I think it was a necessary one. First because Nemeth has had a nice run in Japan, hopefully this isn't the end but I want him to be more focused on rebuilding TNA to former glory. Second, David Finlay really needs to use this to try and get himself over as a singles star because he has been mostly a flop since his heel turn. His great match at Wrestle Kingdom is due to him sharing the ring with Ospreay and Moxley. If this run flops too, then I don't see what else New Japan can do for him. They've really put their eggs in their Finlay basket. This match was a good one, Nemeth brought out the best in Finlay here and he has adjusted to the non-WWE style naturally. I thought the finish was a bit abrupt and flat but still enjoyable overall.

Jon Moxley (c) defeats Ren Narita, IWGP World Heavyweight Championship- **3/4

Before the match even begins, we see Shota Umino receive an unprotected chair shot to the head whilst handcuffed. Does that sound familiar to you? Didn't like it, I think chair shots to the head are stupid now. So they wrestled a House of Torture type match, but because it is Moxley I thought that maybe he could make this work since he loves the whole brawling/hardcore stuff. To an extent, he did, but not properly. The referee sees the cheating and there is no DQ but then the House are still distracting him whilst they cheat so that doesn't make sense. Then the referee also refuses to count the pin because he knows they have been cheating which I didn't like, your job is to count the pin. Narita took a brutal table bump that was awesome admittedly. Moxley gets help form El Desperado to clear out the House of Torture and take on Narita on his own, until the lights went off and we saw...EVIL. Boo. Moxley eventually wins the match with his Death Rider. There was some booking inconsistencies, plus Narita should not be in this position yet, but this was far from awful and received a boost from an invested crowd. I know Narita skipping the contender line was part of the story, but acknowledgement doesn't always make it acceptable. EVIL stays in the ring and stares down Moxley which fills me with fear, because I don't want to see the IWGP title reduced to House of Torture quality matches all of the time. We get a mini interaction between Shota and Moxley to close the show.

Overall, both days were overall quite a disappointment. Both days were 60-70% filler with the final matches being good. I think having a two day event was a bad idea, they could have trimmed the fat and had the 3 final matches of day 1 replace 3 filler matches from day 2 for a much better card. Kidd and Takagi was awesome, and there were some other good matches, but it is clear that Okada was right. New Japan are in serious trouble right now. They've always been in a struggle financially, but now the issues with the booking is clearer than it ever has been. The same shit, stale ideas and reusing and recycling angles they have already done recently. They need a major shake up backstage, hopefully that doesn't mean Tony Khan is the next buyer.

Thanks for reading, I will have another review coming shortly covering Backlash and Under Siege. Take it easy.


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