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  • Connor Ewens

Let's Review: Wrestling Dontaku 2023

Updated: May 7, 2023

I finally found some free time to check out this show before I stay up to watch Backlash. The Best of the Super Juniors is just over the horizon, this event being the last major stop before the tournament begins. New Japan are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Wrestling Dontaku, though this is only the 18th show they have produced.


After SANADA won the World Championship he was immediately challenged by former LIJ stable & current Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi. I'm not super hyped for this match, but I look forward to see how the champ carries himself in his first reign at the top. Elswhere on the card there's more fighting between Bullet Club & ex-Bullet Club members, as well as Kazuchika Okada assembling a team of boys to challenge Strong Style for 6-man championships. Should be a solid night of wrestling. Let's Review.


May 3rd 2023- NJPW Presents Wrestling Dontaku 30th Anniversary


-Kevin Kelly & Chris Charlton provide English commentary


CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, YOH & Toru Yano) vs House of Torture (Dick Togo, EVIL, SHO, Yujiro Takahashi)

The HoT are carrying the IWGP Tag Team Championships after stealing them from Aussie Open. This is kept very short with mainly outside brawling, Togo eats a Shoto for a win for the CHAOS faction. After the bell, HoT beat down on Bishamon (Goto & Y-H) until Aussie Open come out and fight them away, reclaiming their titles in the process. The Aussies show respect for Bishamon, but none for House of Torture. They propose a 3-way Tag match for the gold. They better NOT hot potato the titles to HoT, they kinda suck. This wasn't a great way to start the show, but at least the match was kept under 5 minutes.


CHAOS win via pinfall (3:37)

1/5


United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs TMDK (Kosei Fujita, Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste)

Aussie Open stick around after the last segment for this match as a part of the UE. Aussie Open & TMDK have had a few matches together now, hopefully leading to a big epic of a tag match in the near future. Fujita is pissed at O-Khan for not showing him any respect. This was a sprint of a match just going over 5 minutes, but plenty of offence to be an enjoyable watch. Fujita almost manages to steal a pinfall over G-O-K, but he kicks out and replies with his Sheep Killer finisher for the win. A fun little tag match to actually heat the crowd.


United Empire win via pinfall (5:28)

2.5/5


United Empire (Aaron Henare, TJP & Francesco Akira) vs Shota Umino & Intergalactic Jetseters (KUSHIDA & Kevin Knight) 2.5/5

I love that Shota carries around Jon Moxley's death rider jacket, it's a nice character touch. Kushida & Knight only just defeated TJP & Akira for the junior tag titles recently, expectedly they have some great exchanges in this one. Some good wrestling from Henare & Umino too, I hope these two can finally reach the next level of their game soon. Kushida picks up the win for his team. Another short but explosive contest.


Intergalactic Jetseters & Shota Umino win via pinfall (6:28)

2.75/5


Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs Just 5 Guys (DOUKI, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

The battle between LiJ & J5G continues here, I think I saw this exact match back at Sakura Genesis. This is pretty much the same kind of flow and moves, with a few different exchanges. BUSHI & DOUKI get extra in-ring time since the BOSJ tournament is approaching. Though as usual BUSHI still takes the loss, tapping out to the stretch plum from Taichi. This was fine but I want things to change up between these two teams. I assume the direction we're heading for is Naito vs SANADA in the future which has a good story to tell.


Just 5 Guys win via submission

2/5


-New Japan release the confirmed match schedule for the upcoming Best of the Super Juniors tournament.


KENTA (c) vs Hikuleo for the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship

KENTA plays possum as the bell rings trying to get a quick roll-up but fails. Very clear match story told here, KENTA trying to chop down the big tree that is Hikuleo. After a ref bump KENTA begins to flatten Hikuleo with kendo sticks then locking him in a submission for a long time. Hikuleo manages to power through, power out and powerslam. We get a chokeslam for a win and a new champion. This was alright. Hikuleo is still green and being pushed too quickly, probably because of his size. KENTA has garnered a reputation for sometimes being lazy in matches, I think he did fine here though.


Hikuleo wins the title via pinfall (9:45)

2.25/5


Zack Sabre Jr (c) vs Jeff Cobb for the NJPW Television Championship

This should be a great clash of styles. Early on Zack is having a bad time as none of his offence seems to work. That is the story told, Zack throws everything he has but Cobb just withstands the punishment. Cobb prevents submissions, he would launch Zack distance if they collide. Zack even took big bumps from Irish whips into the corners. Cobb looked insanely dominant. The story beautifully switches on its head in the final stages, as now Cobb is trying all of his offence to put away Zack but either can't keep him down or Zack manages to escape into a submission. They scramble for a finish until the time limit expired after 15 minutes, under the television title rules. The two exchanged words, both visibly pissed they couldn't defeat each other, seemingly setting up a rematch sooner than later. This was a great match with great booking and I'm very excited to see their next encounter.


Match ends in a time limit draw (15:00)

3.75/5


Strong Style (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & Ren Narita) vs CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) & Hiroshi Tanahashi for the NEVER Openweight 6-man Championships

Weird not hearing Kaze Ni Nare when I see Suzuki enter. We have 5 seasoned veterans and the young Ren Narita in a very exciting match. Strong Style have held the belts for a couple months now, the team has been a great way to develop and showcase Narita who has star potential. Plenty of callbacks to past feuds when Tanahashi collided with Suzuki, Ishii colliding with Desperado. Always a joy to see Suzuki & Okada being mean, angry ass-kickers was great. This just felt like a felt, but also a brilliantly worked wrestling match. Ishii & Tanahashi had two major miscommunications that nearly cost then dearly. In the closing stages, Narita is really taking the fight to the former World Champion, but Okada executes the Rainmaker to win for his team.


This is the first title Okada has won that was not the world championship, very much looking forward to seeing how this progresses. Ishii & Tanahashi make up but I imagine there could be tension building within this all-star ensemble as we approach the G1 Climax. Excellent match. After the match, Shota Umino is out and wants to change things here in Japan. A video plays, announcing the return of Jon Moxley at Dominion. Very exciting. Commentary are hyping "who else will be a part of their team"? I'd love to see the Blackpool Combat Club gun for the 6-man titles.


CHAOS & Tanahashi win the titles via pinfall (19:36)

4.25/5


Tama Tonga (c) vs David Finlay for the NEVER Openweight Championship

It's been over a year since the Guerrillas of Destiny were ousted from Bullet Club and honestly I don't think the story has been paying off as well as it should be. Though I guess Bullet Club themselves are just not as entertaining and intense as they once were. Hopefully under the Finlay regime they regain some speed. This was an unusual match, very much felt like a western wrestling match rather than a New Japan match. It started out with a lot of fighting amongst the crowd. The story following that was Finlay being a dominant killer whilst Tonga just survived. He made some comebacks but mainly it was Finlay on the offence. Tonga survives count outs and nearfalls. After several powerbombs Jado even teases throwing in the towel but he stops and has faith in his man. Finlay keeps pulling up Tonga towards the end whe he hits his finisher. Finally, he let's him rest and picks up a victory.


Whilst I appreciate NJ trying something new, it didn't all go to plan. I enjoyed the story being told here, but this match went waaaay too long. There was a lot of heatless moments. I get they're trying to get Finlay over strong as a prick and reignite some fuel behind Bullet Club, but I dunno it just didn't work out as good as they thought. I thought this was a good match, could have been a great match with 10 minutes shaved off the side.


David Finlay wins the title via pinfall (25:01)

3/5


-Whilst Finlay is celebrating here comes former BC member El Phantasmo to attack him. I guess that is our feud heading towards Dominion.


SANADA (c) vs Hiromu Takahashi for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship

I'm torn on this because on one hand it's a battle between LiJ and former LiJ so the story works here and it'll be a great match. However, it's ridiculously predictable and I didn't really bite at any of Hiromu's nearfalls. I'd love to see Hiromu seriously challenge in the Heavyweight division, but I think that won't happen. He promised the biggest junior legend Jushin Thunder Liger that he would elevate and carry the division's legacy.


Simple story of the bigger champion trying to grind down the smaller challenger, looking for a submission finish. Hiromu really brings the fight to him though, showing real power and resilience but he cannot match Sanada physically. Eventually Hiromu is passing out in the skull end finish so Sanada let's go. Hits two moonsaults then the dead deadfall to win. I don't see why he just let's him pass out. Maybe he wants people to actually submit to his submission? Oh well, an excellent match here nonetheless.


SANADA retains via pinfall (27:30)

4/5


-After celebrations, the lights go out. A video plays, its the teaser that has been playing on NJPW shows for WEEKS. It is....Yota Tsuji. Huh, I don't know who they is. After a quick search, I do know who that is, I've even seen him live at Royal Quest. He was a young lion who went in excursion mainly to RevPro & CMLL. This is his return. He looks cool. He comes out and clears house including decking the champion. Risky move here to fast track him to the world title picture. It's proven to fail in recent history. Also, I would prefer SANADA to have matches against big names, prove he deserves the mantel of World champion. Oh well.


MOTN- Strong Style vs Okada, Ishii & Tanahashi


Overall- 56%

This was a solid to good New Japan show. The undercard is rarely anything to rave about but I think that first match was a bad way to start. The KENTA/Hikuleo match disappointed as did the Tonga/Finlay match. The rest of the card really delivered though, from the TV title match to the 6-man to the main event. We will see how these new story developments progress throughout the BOSJ tournament and as we get nearer to the G1 Climax.


Thank you for reading, lemme know you're thoughts on this show and if there are any other shows you want me to check out. Until next time, see ya.

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