review by Alan Counihan
On paper, New Japan’s “WRESTLING DONTAKU 2009” PPV emanating from the Fukuoka International Center looked like a show with a mixed bag for an undercard and a potentially stellar main event. Now having watched it, I think that was pretty much exactly how the show went.
The opener pitted the team of Prince Devitt and Ryusuke Taguchi against Milano Collection AT and Taichi (Ishikari) in the first of three encounters these tandems will have this week. It was an all action ten minutes that at times was really awesome; however there were one or two shaky moments. I figure by the end of this week the chemistry will be much better and I look for their 5/6 Korakuen match to be the best of the series. Taichi has improved a lot, and Devitt continues to be one of the most impressive juniors in Japan right now. I look for him to do big things in the BOSJ if he stays healthy (touch wood!).
The next two matches featured the likes of Wataru Inoue, Riki Choshu, Takao Omori, Masahiro Chono and Black Tiger. They were absolutely nothing to write home about. Up next was a match I had high hopes for because the angles leading into it were so hot – CHAOS (Nakamura & Yano) vs. GBH (Makabe & Honma). Unfortunately, the crowd just weren’t into the match at all, and the brawling was pretty pedestrian. Nakamura was a far better heel on the NOAH show in March, but then again he was against men the crowd loved in Go Shiozaki and Takashi Sugiura. Whereas here, the crowd didn’t know what to make of Makabe and Honma in a face role. Very disappointing match.
Following on from that there was a unique tag match pitting Koji Kanemoto & Tiger Mask against Jushin Liger and Dragon Gate’s CIMA. This went probably exactly as anyone familiar with four wrestlers in recent time would expect. Liger and Tiger have seen better days, Kanemoto didn’t seem too interested in selling for CIMA, and CIMA himself wasn’t exactly all that over with the New Japan crowd. The match was alright but nothing you need to go out of your way to see.
After several weak matches, the undercard was looking pretty bad at this point. Luckily Yuji Nagata and Takashi Iizuka really turned things on in their Dog Collar Chain Death Match. This was a brutal affair that’s not for the weak of heart. There were sickening strikes a plenty, and tons of intense brawling. The blood flowed early for both men. The big spot was Iizuka trapping Nagata’s neck between the middle and top ropes and dishing out severe punishment. However Nagata managed to reverse the situation and when he put Iizuka in the same position he ended the match in devastating fashion, with a fearsome kick to the head for a KO. Great stuff.
Next up was a tag to determine the number one contenders for Team 3D’s titles. The CHAOS team of Giant Bernard and Karl “The Machine Gun” Anderson squared off against Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima. This was a fun tag, much better than I expected. Anderson got the first major win of his NJPW career, putting down Tenzan with a “Gun Stun” (RKO). With that we were onto the main event:
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hirooki Goto
This was a rematch of the November 2007 classic that these two had when Goto burst onto the Heavyweight scene after returning from Mexico. The match started out with some intense mat wrestling which Goto slightly got the better of. It wasn’t long before Tanahashi targeted the leg of the challenger, hitting a Dragon Screw through the ropes. It was the Texas Cloverleaf that put Goto away in 2007, so it looked like they were going to build off that story with Tanahashi going after the leg again. About 15 minutes in there was a fearsome slap exchange with both men whaling on each other. Goto put an end to it by stealing a page out of the Necro Butcher playbook and crushing Tanahashi with two stiff right crosses.
Goto took control and started droppin’ bombs on the champ. The first big nearfall came when he hit his Shouten finisher. This all led into a great submission counter exchange (with Tana trying for the Cloverleaf) where Goto came out on top with his super stretchy looking arm submission. I legit thought Tana was going to tap, the referee and ring attendants sold it so well as SERIOUS DANGER and Goto just kept wrenching and wrenching. Tanahashi got the ropes to a huge reaction.
Goto then channeled the man who he replaced as the third “New Musketeer”, Katsuyori Shibata, and hit the PK (Penalty Kick). That didn’t keep Tanahashi down either. As Goto was going for the kill with another Shouten, Tana reversed and got a big nearfall off a small package. He then hit a series of vicious bridging suplexes for even bigger nearfalls. Then after a High Fly Flow to the knees, he locked on the move they were building to – The Cloverleaf. This was a scene as dramatic as the armbar as Goto crawled, bleeding from the mouth, to make the ropes. Tanahashi kept the pressure on and Goto tried to keep fighting, but multiple High Fly Flows to the back and then the stomach were too much and he stayed down for 3.
The match went nearly 30 minutes and was a true war of attrition. This Fukuoka crowd was by no means easy; you had to really win them over to get any kind of noise out of them. However by the end of the match they were rocking. They were extremely hot for all the nearfalls and for the submission teases, and there were loud “Goto” and “Tanahashi” calls. Both wrestlers put on amazing performances.
Like I said at the outset, the show ended up being what it looked like on paper. The main event was excellent and the undercard had some good, some bad and a lot of mediocre. Overall, a good outing for New Japan.
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