Wednesday, April 27, 2022

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2022 Preview & Predictions

Wow, has it really been four months since I did NJPW picks?  Jesus, I gotta get back on the horse.

Welcome to a long-overdue round of New Japan Pro Wrestling predictions here at  This weekend it's the annual Wrestling Dontaku show, and unlike most of NJPW's recent cards this one actually looks like a proper PPV lineup, with six championship matches and a pair of strong main events.  NJPW's product has been struggling of late, with travel limitations preventing some valuable talent from appearing, underfilled, noise-restricted arenas providing a less-than-exciting backdrop for the matches, and some questionable booking moves keeping the company from reaching its previous creative heights.  But the recent New Japan Cup and Windy City Riot both point to things picking back up in the coming months, and holy fuckin' shit, we're getting an AEW vs. NJPW PPV in June!

But first, let's look at the Dontaku lineup.....

Tatsumi Fujinami, Shingo Takagi & Bushi vs. Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & Taka Michinoku

Tatsumi Fujinami is making a rare in-ring appearance at the ripe age of 68.  I don't expect him to do much here, particularly since he's teaming with Shingo (and Bushi), who can easily carry the load for his side.  This match should be an enjoyable opener to warm up the crowd.  I don't see Fujinami's squad losing; I think Michinoku is here to eat a pin.

UPDATE: Fujinami has tested positive for COVID and is being replaced by a mystery partner.  No idea who that could be.  Maybe Kushida?

Pick: LIJ & TBD

Hiromu Takahashi vs. Yoh

This one should be pretty damn good - two of the Jr. Heavyweight division's most accomplished babyface stars facing off.  I wonder if the newly released Kushida will make an appearance on this show, either after this match or after the Jr. Title match later on.  I'm not sure if he's dealing with a no-compete or not, but his return to NJPW can't get here fast enough.  But that's neither here nor there.  The upshot is, this match should be really good and likely one of the best things on the show if given time.

Pick: Takahashi

Tanga Loa vs. Yujiro Takahashi

Guerrillas of Destiny are good guys now.  That's just weird.  And this is one of three House of Torture matches on this show, which means three matches on this show are likely going to be stupid.  I would hope Tanga can easily dispatch the rather piss-poor Yujiro.

Pick: Tanga Loa

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Douki

Wow, this division is in shambles.  Master Wato is a current title holder??  Eh, this might not be so good.  Probably won't go very long though.  I guess I'll go with the champs to retain?

Pick: Taguchi & Wato retain

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Jeff Cobb & Great O-Khan vs. Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens

Another tag division that isn't very healthy.  What are Fale and Owens doing here?  Yeesh.  This match would be better with just the first two teams but whatever, it should be alright.  I really hope United Empire gets a nice long run with the belts.  If Jeff Cobb isn't getting singles championships at least make him a dominant tag champ.

Pick: Cobb & O-Khan retain

NEVER Openweight Championship: Evil vs. Tama Tonga

This match was probably good in the G1 in 2017 or so.  In 2022 with Evil intentionally ruining all his matches to draw go-away heat, I don't have much hope for it.  To my knowledge Tama Tonga has never won a singles title in New Japan; I wonder if this could finally be his time now that he's a babyface.  I wouldn't be mad, especially if it means the NEVER Title gets real title defenses again.  What the hell, give the guy a run.

Pick: Tama

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: El Desperado vs. Taiji Ishimori

Wow, Desperado's had this belt almost six months now.  That's a dynasty for an IWGP Jr. Champ.  Time to give Ishimori a proper run with this thing.  If Kushida is indeed coming back you'd have a perfect setup for a long-awaited return match from 2019.

Pick: Ishimori

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Will Ospreay

This one could very well steal the show.  Sanada sadly went down with an injury right after winning his first major singles belt, but now we get what should be an absolutely killer match.  Ospreay is coming off a controversial loss to Jon Moxley, so I could see him winning the title here and having a rematch with Mox at Forbidden Door.  Then again they've been teasing Mox vs. Tanahashi for months now.  This could really go either way.  

UPDATE: Will Ospreay has contracted COVID and is off the show, replaced by Tomohiro Ishii.  While that match should still be fantastic, this is a sucky turn of events.  Goddammit.

Pick: Welp, now I gotta pick Tanahashi.

IWGP World Championship: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito

This is shockingly the third time in 2022 that we're getting this match.  Okada won a title defense in February, Naito returned the favor during the New Japan Cup, and now here we are again.  These two always deliver, so this should be a helluva main event.  There's no way Okada leaves without the title, thus the match is without suspense, but I'll take a great main event with a forgone conclusion over a crappy main event with an uncertain finish (ahem, Brock-Roman) any day.

Pick: Okada retains

Wrestling Dontaku 2022 has a chance to equal one or both of this year's Tokyo Dome shows, particularly if they keep the House of Torture interference shit down to a minimum.  We will see.  Onward to Chicago!

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