Kazuchika Okada defends the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against Tetsuya Naito in the main event of Wrestling Dontaku today.
Naito is challenging Okada for the World title for the second time this year. Okada won their first title bout at New Year's Golden Series in February, but Naito got his win back in the New Japan Cup tournament. The two are even 6-6 in their 12 career singles matches.
Five other titles will also be on the line tonight.
Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tomohiro Ishii will square off for the IWGP United States Heavyweight title, left vacant when SANADA suffered an injury. Tanahashi and Will Ospreay had been set to do battle for the vacant title, but Ospreay was pulled from the card due to testing positive for COVID-19.
El Desperado will defend the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship against former title holder Taiji Ishimori.
EVIL defends the NEVER Openweight Championship against Tama Tonga.
United Empire's Great-O-Khan and Jeff Cobb defend the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team titles against Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI, and Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens in a three-way.
The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles will be on the line, as Ryusuke Taguchi and Master Wato defend against Yoshinobu Kanemaru and DOUKI.
Tanga Loa will take on Yujiro Takahashi in a singles match.
In another singles contest, Hiromu Takahashi will face YOH.
In the opener, Shingo Takagi, BUSHI, and a mystery partner face Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi, and TAKA Michinoku. Tatsumi Fujinami was set to team with Shingo and BUSHI, but also tested positive for COVID-19 and was pulled from the show.
Our live coverage begins at 4 a.m. Eastern time.
Taichi, TAKA Michinoku & Zack Sabre Jr. (Suzuki-gun) defeated BUSHI, Shingo Takagi, & Shiro Koshinaka
Shiro Koshinaka, perhaps best known for his work as a top New Japan junior in the 80s and tag wrestler in the 90s, was revealed to be the mystery partner for LIJ.
This was a fairly by the numbers opening tag — with the inclusion of Shiro Koshinaka, of course.
Koshinaka opened the match against ZSJ and had a deal of success. Once BUSHI took Koshinaka's place, ZSJ took control of the match. ZSJ and the rest of Suzuki-gun worked to isolate BUSHI, eventually leading to a hot-tag into Shingo.
After a TAKA and Shingo exchange, the match broke down as Suzuki-gun hit the ring. LIJ turned things around, helping Koshinaka land some of his signature hip attacks. Finally, as the fog cleared, Shingo and Taichi were left alone. The pair had a quick back and forth, ending with a Gedo clutch from Taichi which brought the match to an end.
It looks like we're gearing up for a KOPW rematch between Taichi and Shingo — oh boy.
Hiromu Takahashi defeated YOH
Something about this just didn't connect with me. There was a lot to like, but this match felt off time from time.
The match began with both men trading strikes in the center of the ring. As things picked up, the pair walked through a slick exchange, ending with YOH reversing a powerbomb and transitioning into a tope con hilo to establish an early lead.
After answering a YOH dropkick with one of his own, Hiromu connected with a sudden powerbomb; YOH responded with a falcon arrow, resetting the match just as the match reached the five-minute mark. Hiromu landed a victory royal, a German suplex, and a lariat, only for YOH to kick out at one. YOH rallied with a colossal kick, DNV, and tiger suplex but failed to connect with the direct drive. Hiromu fought back into a position of control with a lariat, timebomb, and timebomb 2, leading to a Hiromu pinfall victory.
After Hiromu won, he left his BOSJ trophy in the ring. Hiromu will presumably try for another, seeing as the tournament is just around the corner.
Tanga Loa defeated Yujiro Takahashi
Yujiro started the match by slamming Tanga into the barricade and the ring post. Tanga fought back with some slams, forcing Yujiro to escape to the floor. Tanga met Yujiro on the ramp, but SHO jumped Tanga, leading to a House of Torture beatdown. Yujiro landed a fisherman buster on the ramp, cementing his control.
After kicking out of a second fisherman buster and escaping a crossface, Tanga landed a suplex to reset the match. A t-bone suplex, 619, and top rope clothesline left Tanga with a near fall.
Yujiro tried fighting back but couldn't find anything substantial. Tanga landed a spear right before a referee bump let SHO land a quick suplex. Tanga avoided SHO's wrench and took him back with a powerbomb, but SHO's distraction bought Yujiro enough time to connect with pimp juice; Tanga kicked out.
After fighting off HoT and kicking out of Yujiro's attempt at closing the match, Tanga landed a reverse driver. Tanga pinned Yujiro to score the win.
After the match, Tanga posed with Yujiro's NEVER Six-Man belt, so it's safe to assume GoD will be challenging for the title soon.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships: Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi (Six Or Nine) (c) defeated DOUKI & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (Suzuki-gun)
This was not good, but if you're into butt-based wrestling, this match might be for you.
Taguchi came to the ring with his underwear in hand—he apparently decided to go commando in this defense.
The match opened with a fun sequence between all four men. Wato landed a tope con hilo, but Kanemaru prevented him from following up; this led to the first real control segment, with Suzuki-gun working to keep Wato away from Taguchi.
Taguchi eventually made the save, landing a ton of hip attacks. After the rescue, Suzuki-gun turned their attention to Taguchi, paying particular attention to his leg. A while later, Wato returned the favor, saving Taguchi in effect.
Kanemaru tried blinding Taguchi with a mouth full of liquor but pulled Taguchi's pant's down first—big mistake. Taguchi, while not rocking nonederwear, was wearing a thong. Taguchi landed a bare-butt hip attack, forcing Kanemaru to blind his own partner. Taguchi then pinned Kanemaru, planting his tuchus on Kanemaru's face during the cover.
IWGP Tag Team Championships: Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens (BULLET CLUB) defeated Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI (Bishamon) and Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb (United Empire) (c)
This wasn't great or anything, but it probably over-delivered, all things considered.
The opening exchange was pretty content dense. The match started with Bishamon and Bullet Club focusing United Empire. With UE temporarily taken care of, the BC pairing turned their attention to Bishamon. Once given a moment to breathe, UE returned fire.
This back and forth continued; the teams constantly traded control and cute spots, eventually building to some intense sequences. Things were ultimately ended as Fale launched Owens from the top rope to deliver their new rocket launcher elbow drop. Owens then pinned Goto to win the match and the titles.
A video package revealed the lineup for the upcoming Best of Super Juniors tournament. The tournament this year will feature two blocks.
A Block: Ryusuke Taguchi, YOH, Clark Conners Hiromu Takahashi, Alex Zayne, Francesco Akira, Taiji Ishimori, SHO, and Impact's Ace Austin
B Block: Master Wato, Robbie Eagles, BUSHI, El Desperado, DOUKI, TJP, El Phantasmo, CMLL's Titan, GLEAT's El Lindaman, and AEW's Wheeler Yuta
Overall, this looks to be a great lineup with many fresh faces. This is certainly a tournament to look forward to.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Tama Tonga defeated EVIL (c)
This was bad.
The match started with a brawl outside of the ring. The pair eventually found their way into the ring, only for the action to spill back outside moments later. EVIL landed a suplex to the floor and slammed Tama into the barricade before taunting him with a live microphone.
EVIL maintained control in the ring for some time, but Tama eventually rallied by reversing a suplex. Tama took out Dick Togo while holding his newfound lead.
EVIL tried throwing Tama into Togo, but this backfired. After taking out the manager (again), Tama landed a drop and crossbody but couldn't connect with the gun stun. This led to a brief struggle for control, ending with a chair shot from Togo. EVIL landed darkness falls, but Tama managed to kick out.
Tama bounced out of a whip into an exposed corner with a lariat. Tama locked in a sharpshooter in the center of the ring. Togo rang the bell on the outside, making Tama think he won the match while buying EVIL another break. As the referee tried to figure out what happened, Togo hit the ring to choke Tama with his rope. EVIL and Togo hit the magic killer and set up for a super powerbomb. Before they could deliver the tandem finish, Jado hit EVIL with a stick, saving Tama.
After escaping defeat, Tama tried desperately for his finisher. After a long struggle, Tama landed a gun stun and pinned EVIL to win the NEVER Openweight championship.
Before he could celebrate, old guard Bullet Club members Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows hit the ring and took out Tama. The Good Brothers are back in New Japan.
Anderson and Gallows wore Bullet Club colors during their return to Japan, making their allegiance known. After taking Tama out, the pair beat down Jado and Tanga Loa.
Karl Anderson posed with and dropped Tama on the NEVER belt, perhaps setting up a future title challenge.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Taiji Ishimori defeated El Desperado (c)
This match opened with chain wrestling that turned into an energized sequence. Things slowed down after Ishimori drove Desperado into an exposed turnbuckle, leading to a ground control segment.
Desperado turned things back around with a dragonscrew which he followed with a ground control segment of his own. Ishimori retook control by slamming Desperado into the corner post. Desperado's work on the mat paid off, however, as Ishimori's leg gave out, buying Desperado enough time to avoid a dive and land a spear.
Ishimori continued to land leg-based moves, and each time he was left in agony. Desperado tried for pinche loco twice, but Ishimori managed to wiggle free each time. Desperado locked in numero dos, but Ishimori transitioned into a cobra twist; Desperado escaped the twist by lifting Ishimori into position and dropping him with a driver.
Desperado finally connected with pinche loco but was not satisfied with one. Ishimori reversed Desperado's second attempt, transitioning into a bone lock. Ishimori held on, eventually forcing Desperado to submit. Ishimori is the IWGP Junior champion.
Two title wins and a big return—tonight is a big Bullet Club night, it seems.
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Tomohiro Ishii
This match was extraordinary.
This match opened with a passionate back and forth that evolved into an extended strike exchange. After striking down Tanahashi, Ishii landed a suplex to further establish his early lead.
Tanahashi fought back with a flurry of his signature offense. Tanahashi tried focusing on the leg, but Ishii responded with a leg whip of his own. Ishii continued to use light leg-based moves while still landing his go-tos for an interesting change of pace.
Ishii tried for a superplex but was stuffed by Tanahashi; Tanahashi then landed a dragonscrew on an elevated Ishii to gain a significant lead. Tanahashi locked in the Texas cloverleaf, forcing Ishii into the ropes. Even after Ishii escaped, Tanahashi maintained his focus, targeting Ishii's leg.
Ishii landed a quick powerslam to reset the match. Tanahashi connected with a dragon suplex, as did Ishii. Ishii hit a lariat, Tanahashi, a pair of slingblades.
Tanahashi landed a German suplex for a near fall before setting up for high fly flow; Ishii cut Tanahashi off on the top rope with a running headbutt that slumped the ace. This time, Ishii connected with the superplex but only scored a two count.
Ishii grew desperate after Tanahashi continued to kick out of his devastating offense. Ishii tried for a brainbuster, but Tanahashi reversed into twist and shout. Another dragon suplex opened Ishii up for a high fly flow. After the first, Tanahashi tried for another div, but Ishii rolled out of the way and tried for a quick pin; Tanahashi barely escaped.
Ishii dropped Tanahashi with a tremendous lariat; Tanahashi kicked out at one. Ishii hit another lariat and the brainbuster; Tanahashi kicked out again. Tanahashi bought a moment to breathe with a reverse slingblade, but Ishii responded with a barrage of headbutts. Tanahashi answered Ishii's headbutts with some of his own, but Ishii landed a slingblade to stop any potential shifts in momentum.
Ishii tried for another brainbuster, but Tanahashi slipped free. Tanahashi hit a brainbuster of his own and a slingblade; Ishii kicked out at one. Tanahashi then hit a crossbody to a standing Ishii and high fly flow to bring this match to a climatic end.
After the match, Chase Owens came to the ring and distracted Tanahashi long enough for a masked man to jump the new United States champion. After dropping Tanahashi, the man removed his mask to reveal Bullet Club's newest member, Juice Robinson.
Juice Robinson has fooled the world, it seems.
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) defeated Tetsuya Naito
I feel that New Japan has visited this well one too many times. That's not to say this match didn't have its moments of brilliance; of course it did. We've just been fed this match so many times, especially when things seem slow, that it feels like a crutch. It's entirely understandable, but frustrating nonetheless.
The match opened with a familiar exchange, as each man knew enough about the other to prevent any significant offense. Okada was the first to successfully strike, landing a DDT to establish an early lead.
Naito rolled to the floor to try to slow Okada's advance. As Okada attempted to pursue the challenger, Naito caught Okada with a whip into the barricade and a DDT to the concrete; Naito had wholly reversed the match's momentum.
Back in the ring, Naito led an extended sequence. Okada began to turn things around with a boot and a flapjack. An air raid crash let Okada transition into the money clip for the first time. This was followed by a sudden dropkick that sent Naito to the floor, cementing Okada's newfound control.
On the outside, Okada landed a running crossbody over the barricade. Back in the ring, Okada connected with a picture-perfect dropkick from the top rope before locking the money clip in again.
Okada tried for the rainmaker but met Naito resistance. Naito reversed into a spinebuster, effectively resetting the match. Naito hit Gloria and locked in pluma blanca, forcing Okada into the ropes.
Naito set Okada up for a frakensteiner, but Okada reversed into a top rope powerbomb. Naito tried to hold on, even going for a Destino, but two quick clotheslines allowed Okada to maintain his wave of offense.
Naito avoided Okada's attempts at rainmaker, all the while reigning in shots to the neck. This fed into Naito landing Destino, only to score a near fall. When he tried again, Okada reversed into a tombstone.
Okada hit landslide but failed to follow up. Naito answered in this momentary lapse of offense, landing a second Destino; Okada kicked out. A desperate Naito then attempted stardust press but came up short, resting the match again.
Naito dropped Okada with a slap before trying for another Destino. Okada slipped free, landed an emerald flowsion, and pulled Naito to his feet for a rainmaker. Okada hit his finish and pinned Naito to retain his belt.
After Okada's show-closing promo, Jay White's music hit. Jay White himself walked to the ring and grabbed a microphone. Before he could say anything, Okada swatted the microphone from his hand and held his belt high. Gedo then jumped Okada; White joined in on the beatdown. White hit Bladerunner and held the belt high.
After taking out the champion, White grabbed the microphone again. He hyped himself up while the rest of Bullet Club, including the new and returning members, flanked his side. The House of Torture subgroup did not join them.
Karl Anderson then grabbed a microphone. After singing a 'happy birthday' to Bullet Club, Anderson introduced all of the members and sold White as the greatest wrestler alive.
White hit Okada with another Bladerunner to close the show.
Tonight was Bullet Club's night.