Hey, folks! We’re going to cover not just today’s Wrestling Hi no Kuni (for full results, check here), but also the two title matches from the last week or so worth of Road to Wrestling Dontaku shows in this batch of match recommendations. On with the show!
As always, I’ve got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the folks in it, 3 is a match that’s worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.
Mind you, these are not star ratings. They’re not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you’re best off skipping. I have my biases, of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.
Road to Wrestling Dontaku 2019 (April 22)
Bullet Club (HIKULEO, Tama Tonga, & Tanga Loa) vs. Most Violent Players (Togi Makabe & Toru Yano) & Ryusuke Taguchi (c) (NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship) (2): Chaos from the Bullet Club squad from the jump, the action settles in the ring with Yano doing his thing but Jado’s subterfuge outweighs the Sublime Master Thief’s bag of tricks. Extended heat segment, finally the babyfaces turn it around, a bit of back and forth and Bullet Club almost have the titles won but are denied by their own inability to keep track of who’s meant to be legal. Interference, yadda yadda…
This is fine and honestly the interference comes off better than you’d expect and gets some real drama going late, but it’s nowhere near essential. Pass.
Road to Wrestling Dontaku 2019 – Aki no Kuni Sengoku Emaki (April 26)
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Shingo Takagi) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) (c) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship) (4): SHO and Shingo junior hossing it up early, action spilling to ringside and shifting to YOH being isolated by BUSHI while Takagi and Tanaka continue brawling on the floor. Back to them as the legal men after a frankly perfunctory amount of time, they beat the hell out of each other at length. Back to YOH and BUSHI, things get a bit back and forth on our way to a finish as the tension mounts and we get some escalations.
As a tag team match, this is kinda whatever, but as a preview of what a SHO/Shingo singles will look like, hopefully in Best of the Super Jr., it ruled. Just two hard-hitting dudes beating the crap out of each other, so that’s not as strong a recommendation it’d be if this was a really complete-feeling tag team match, but even so, worth watching!
Wrestling Hi no Kuni (April 29)
Ren Narita, Shota Umino, & Tomoaki Honma vs. Toa Henare, Yota Tsuji, & Yuya Uemura (4): Young lions cycling through, the more experienced pair of Umino and Narita with an edge that leads to Tsuji being isolated. Yota gets past Honma and tags Henare, we get a nice little exchange out of the heavyweights, Uemura gets a chance to shine, we head towards the finish with some pretty intense drama for an opening tag.
Overall I really liked this and I’m going to go a smidge higher than I usually do on young lion openers because I think this is a really good one for you to check in on if you generally skip these.
Jeff Cobb, Jushin Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask IV, & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku, & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (1): Suzuki-gun with their trademark start and this match continues to be very by the numbers for its duration. Taichi beating Cobb up with both his title belts is fun, as is Suzuki using Taguchi as a proxy for Liger and then getting into it with Jushin himself, but really there’s nothing here that you won’t find elsewhere and it just kind of meanders through the motions until it’s done. Pass.
Bullet Club (HIKULEO & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Dragon Lee & Will Ospreay (2): Bullet Club in control early as HIKULEO brings his strength to bear on Ospreay, but soon enough Lee gets the tag and he and Ishimori have a nice little preview of their upcoming singles match. Things get a little sloppy, off their game, Dragon stands up to the big Tongan for a nice beat and then Will comes back in hot and we head to our finish before things can escalate at all.
I was real excited at the beginning of this one with HIKULEO really starting things off with a solid performance, but between the lack of a true final act and the way the Lee/Ishimori stuff went off the rails, this really isn’t anything special.
Bad Luck Fale vs. Mikey Nicholls (2): Nicholls steps right up and offers his chin but his attempt to bait Fale in backfires and the big man takes him to the barricade for punishment! Pressing the attack in the ring, Mikey starts to rally and pray for his chance to overcome Bad Luck on our way to the finish.
This is your standard middling-good Fale match, it doesn’t develop into anything special but it doesn’t suck either.
Chase Owens vs. Juice Robinson (2): Grappling to start, then into the striking at Owens’ behest and that leads the Bullet Club man to take charge awhile. Juice with the comeback, a bit of back and forth, and right into the finish.
This feels like the proverbial “good television match”, just a nice little showcase for both guys that goes down smooth but isn’t really worth going out of your way for.
Chaos (Kazuchika Okada, Rocky Romero, SHO, Tomohiro Ishii, & YOH) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA, Shingo Takagi, & Tetsuya Naito) (3): SANADA and Okada to start, not wasting any time and the Rainmaker is quick to tie Cold Skull up in knots. The match breaks down, juniors at it, EVIL and Ishii with some center stage brawling on the floor and when the dust settles YOH is being worked over at length by LIJ. Hot tag from Ibushi, Golden Star running hot for a brief shining moment before the focus goes back to Tom and EVIL and then SANADA and Okada in turn.
A nice hype extended sequence of chaos with bodies flying feeds into our finish and overall this is fun but it doesn’t quite stand out from the other matches of its ilk recently.
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c) vs. Most Violent Players (Togi Makabe & Toru Yano) (IWGP Tag Team Championship) (3): GoD running hot early but Yano and Makabe are able to turn it right around and bring the fight to them bigtime, including a spike piledriver on the floor within the first minute or so of the match. The initial burst of violence fades and the tag champs work Yano over at length. Unchained King Kong with the save, running hot for a minute, it feels like the challengers have a real chance, and then Jado does his dirty work and we head into the finishing stretch.
I was really into the opening minutes of this match and then it just kinda faded to be your average solid Guerrillas of Destiny title defense. I do think either a shorter, more violent rematch or a longer match that burns hotter between these two teams could be really truly great, but as it is, this one sits right in the middle of the road.
Hirooki Goto vs. “Switchblade” Jay White (4): Switchblade trying to play mind games early but Goto isn’t having any of it and starts slowly building a head of steam up. Gedo sticks his nose in on the floor and White is able to pick things back up. Inevitably Hirooki starts to fight back into it, leading the way with kicks until again Gedo starts up with his evil ways. Jay has his way with Goto, hits the Saito to the floor, we move into a back and forth section as things escalate, Hirooki gets his sweet revenge on Gedo, and eventually heads to the finish.
This was good but it was just a click shy of what I hope for out of a New Japan main event. Indeed, much like the whole show it was fun and enjoyable but felt a bit like it was playing out on autopilot. Watch it for sure, you’re not gonna find better on this show, but it doesn’t quite creep all the way up to a must-watch recommendation.
There you have it, folks
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.