NJPW 5/3/2012: DONTAKU
@ Fukuoka International Center
- I want everyone to keep in mind that we are in the Fukuoka International Center for this event. That means do not go into this expecting a molten crowd all night. It's just not how they roll there and it has been that way for a long while. I know some people's enjoyment of wrestling is based more or less around how hot a crowd is. While they were not molten, it was clear that the crowd enjoyed most everything they saw. Whereas signature moves are noisemakers everywhere else, Fukuoka acts like a collective smark and only loudly reacts to the goods. It makes things feel special really, so please don't let them hinder your enjoyment.
- Officially trying to not overrate things anymore and keep a better, more consistent scale. Also going to try and make the review spoiler-free. I figure a big show that I've been spoiled on is as good a time as any to switch it up!
1. Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Jado vs. Strong Man, Captain New Japan & Tama Tonga:
Fun, fun, fun opener. Great to see Strong Man back in NJPW. Fun with Captain, Jado, Strong Man, and the final Tonga/Ishii stuff is wicked. Yummy ending sequence and final spot. Great little PPV opener. I'd say this reaches ★★★ because of the fun factor and dat finish.
2. Taichi & TAKA Michinoku vs. Ryusuke Taguchi & KUSHIDA:
Taguchi shines in this one. He has been really consistent of late. TAKA makes his presence known much more than he usually does and I'm very good with that. The heel team makes this very entertaining. The match itself is not that special... until the outstanding final moments. Love x infinity that finish. I don't care if you watch the match but seek the finish!
3. Rocky Romero & Gedo vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask:
Rocky makes it known that while he has to surrender the title, he is and will remain the champion for an undisclosed amount of time. In short, this is a quick Tiger Mask match in that it is formulaic and below average. FOREVER! and Liger's post-match speech (Rocky demasked Tiger) really aided in making the titles feel important and that's really all that matters in a lose-lose situation as this.
4. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title:
Prince Devitt (c) vs. Low Ki:
Incredible match. Low Ki comes in and puts on the best performance of the entire evening in this match. I'd liken this to a top notch NOAH junior match... that actually has pacing and selling. This is like a 90s NJ junior match even. For the most part, it really is that good. Devitt is taped on his left side midsection and that sets the basis for the layers upon layers of awesome psych in this one. Ki's early control is never boring and shows his improvement as an all around wrestler. Interconnecting callbacky contiuationary countery goodness wrapped inside a logical layout. The transitions and the flow of momentum are beautiful. They bust out two or three sequences that straight blew me away. If I had to complain, it would be that Devitt could have been more expressive in selling the pain of a few holds. That's the only thing I can pick at this for and I'll not spoil it. Again, Ki was pure genius here and this is must see IMO. The look on the winner's face is genuine. All this without reaching overkill and ending when it should have. Mmm. ★★★★½ [86%]
[spoiler]- Devitt's earliest point of control has Ki in a double leg lock. Ki misses a fucking top rope to table ghetto stomp and sells an ankle, and does so minorly throughout, including after a wicked abesigiri counter off a Devitt spin kick try! Unintentional almost surely, but the bad ankle lands on the bottom rope when Low Ki lands a shallow Phoenix right onto Devitt's knees. Guess who's gut hurts after that? Guess who follows that up? GD, what pinpoint string offense! Also seen earlier when Ki takes the Devitt Dive like a champ! Devitt lands on the back on Ki's head and neck... so when they get back in Devitt does the double stomp to said area... which gets followed up with a headfirst push into the buckle and a reverse Bloody Sunday~! The whole corner spot sequence at the end is similar and just brilliant, and should have been botched numerous times but it was executed perfectly. I was fucking applauding. Yeah.[/spoiler]
5. IWGP Tag Team Title:
Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima (c) vs. Toru Yano & Takashi Iizuka
WILDEST FUCKING IIZUKA INTRO IN YEARS (for the IIzuka lovers out there)! He actually seems like a legitimate, to-be-feared 1980s style heel again. One of the better Nogami moments here. This is fairly average in the middle but the ride home makes it all worth it. Great sports entertainment match and finish, and big props to Marty (sounds like Marty Isaami, not checking) for taking a vicious bump. ★★★¼
6. Special Tag Match:
Togi Makabe & Yuji Nagata vs. Minoru Suzuki & Yoshihiro Takayama
It's in this match that I noticed the projection style entranceway with its rising/lowering screen thing which is a cool addition (even if it did get stuck momentarily here and there). Went into this with low expectations. Makabe and Takayama are broken, Nagata doesn't try at home and Suzuki only tries when everyone else wants to. Well, whaddaya know, they all went into this and put on a quality wrasslin' match. Opening minutes are wonderful old men being wonderful old men. HQ antics in this from everyone. Suzuki-gun as a stable were great. Takayama being agile and channeling TAKA at one point <3. Takayama hates poor Marty (fuck it, right or wrong that's his name now). He and at least two others get spit on. Two or three really cool counters and unique spots. [Yeah, credit this whole show for incorporating innovative spots and layouts into their matches. The shift back toward a more classic NJ style seems to have stuck.] This is a good, satisfying match. I think this is the type of match the Ditch's of the world will enjoy. A unique layout featuring hard hitting heavyweights without overkill or downtime, featuring a quality finish. Takayama being an air traffic controller, Nagata bringing it, Makabe being a motivated fucking rhino, and MiSu simply trying helps bring this to the bottom tip of four. ★★★¾-★★★★. [79%]
7. Special Singles Match:
Karl Anderson vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Remember the new translucent entrance curtain I was talking about? Yeah, Shinsuke gets mad love the second he appears. Anderson too gets a respectable pop. Oh Fukuoka. Man, when sequences paid off, the pops in this made the good stuff feel special. They just die when they think Anderson botches something when little do they know... These two are brilliance in a basket. Anderson does not go the leg route this time, and they each attack the others' arms as background psych to the main dual neck work. I hope Shinsuke continues to use the fake-out kick to the face, and you may have already seen his improvement to the corner knee.
This picks up at "K.A. Point" and doesn't turn back. A punch-the-air finish at the end of a great finishing stretch. Solid ★★★★ [81%]
8. Special Tag Match:
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tetsuya Naito vs. Masato Tanaka Image & Yujiro Takahashi
If you were a random viewer, you'd think the only person the crowd cared about on this whole show was Tanahashi. Boy, is he over in this one and has them in the palm of his hand throughout (except on the flippy senton of course). First chunk is standard everyone, to the point it almost turned boring. Keyword - almost. Then, Yujiro lights it up with a few decent moves and it turns into an almost handicap match with Naito being the odd man out. Hey man, it worked and ran just the right length. I expect you'll get right into this. ★★★½ Naito is not pleased afterward... Dun, dun, dun.
9. IWGP Heavyweight Title:
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Hirooki Goto
Okay, Okada's money entrance is right up there with Taker's. They all have to wait for it to stop raining to begin the pre-match. It sets Okada apart and makes him feel like a king. His mannerisms go a long way as well. The boy has a presence to him, that's for sure. "Ni-ju-yon sai chanpion" gets repeated many a time. You know who gets name dropped? "Shibata Katsuyori" and "Steve Jobs". Awesome. Okay, this is a little rough around the edges. It's sloppy a couple times and they screw up a Rainmaker dodge spot partway through (though the champ saves the spot), but that's about it. Okada keeps getting better and better; he simply belongs. What facials, what character, what selling, what a fucking wrestler he is. Goto decides to put on his first great performance in about a year too. He really makes it seem like this is his. That smile, you'll know the one. He busts out some old tricks and leaves the "Goto formula" at home. Hey, why not? Okada shows up with his brand of strikes again. I marked huge for a couple of them. The ending is up there with the Tanahashi finish for epicness. They both sell their necks like champs, and I appreciate Goto noticeably doing so after the tombstone. The move doesn't end you, but it will take out your neck, and that's a great thing to me. Again, messy at times and it dragged the littlest bit in the middle, but this is a great match in the end. ★★★★¼ [83%]
Afterward -[spoiler]Tanahashi arrives: "GEDO! Sh!". Beyond challenging Okada for his title, he challenges him to speak for himself. Okada receives loud chants and says something that goes over very well. Long live the Rainmaker.[/spoiler]
I want to reiterate the uniqueness point I made in the old dudes tag. They're really shying away from 2.9sy finishes in less important matches and that means the matches feel more special at the end. Strong Style hath returned (kind of). 1, 4-9 are all worth a watch (and #2's finish!). The Jr. Title match is a top 10 end of the year MOTYC. 4 matches around ★★★★ or better. One of the best shows of the last bunch of years. SEEK THIS EVENT~!