On Thursday May 3rd, New Japan Pro Wrestling presents day one of the 2018 Dontaku two-day event. After weeks of lead up to this event, via the Road to Dontaku shows, the promotion is set to present one of their biggest shows of the year. While there were a number of notable matches on the undercard each day, there are also a few important standouts. Before identifying those that garnered a great deal of attention, let's look at other matches that make up day one.
The Dontaku Day 1 Lineup
They include: 'young boys' Ren Narita & Shota Umino vs. Bullet Club's Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi; Tetsuhiro Yagi, Tomoyuki Oka and Yuji Nagata vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask and Jushin 'Thunder' Liger; Roppongi 3K and Rocky Romero vs. the Suzuki-gun team of Ilzuka, Davey Boy Smith Jr and Lance Archer; Toa Henare, Michael Elgin, Togi Makabe, David Finley and Juice Robinson vs. the CHAOS team of Hirooki Goto, Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano and YOSHI-HASHI; and all of Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi, Bushi, Sanada, EVIL and Tetsuya Naito) vs. another Suzuki-gun team of leader Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr. Taichi, Kanemaru, and El Desperado.
Each of these matches could prove to be quite special, providing fans a great deal of excitement leading up to the main matches, which are focussed on ongoing animosity between all involved, and a rivalry that doesn't seem close to ending any time soon.
NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship Match: BULLET CLUB (Tama Tonga, Thong Loa & Bad Luck Fale) vs. BULLET CLUB (Young Bucks and Marty Scurll)
Many may call this a Bullet Club implosion, while it could be seen as those that were there from the beginning taking issue with those that claim to be the only members that anyone cares about. Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale, along with Fergal Devitt and Karl Anderson, were the first to call Bullet Club their home, and are now dubbed the 'core four' since they created and initially lead it forward.
However, following the addition of the likes of the Young Bucks and Marty Scurll, it appears there is a divide between the two parts of the faction. While no one can argue the heights that the Bucks, Scurll, and Cody have brought to the group to, Fale and Tonga remain focused on Bullet Club's roots and don't want those lost in this notion of 'Bullet Club isn't fine'. This match could see other members of the faction play a part as well.
Will the champions retain the titles, or will the more popular international members of the faction use their cagy in-ring tactics to capture the championships? There are a clear size, weight and height disadvantage facing the Bucks and Scurll. However, will that size advantage end up being a disadvantage for the less mobile Fale? If Hangman Page and Cody get involved, we could be seeing new champions. This is one unique instance where regardless of the result, Bullet Club will walk away with the championships.
KUSHIDA & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Will Ospreay and Kazuchika Okada
Another key match that many will be sure to have their eyes on during Day One is the above-mentioned tag team battle. The purpose of the match-up is to align two separate feuds by pairing the participants off (and in this case, Okada and Ospreay are both parts of the CHAOS faction), not necessarily see if they can work with their teammate but more to see if they can hold off from putting a beating on their opposition before they face each other the following day. Kushida and Ospreay's battles in the Junior heavyweight division have made for some noteworthy matches. This isn't the first time they have faced each other, and it likely won't be their last either.
Many may recall their matches against one another at events such as the Kings of Pro Wrestling in 2017 or the Best of the Super Juniors Finals. Their battles have been among the highest rated in the world. While disappointment may be felt by the loser, respect between the competitors will also be there. The inclusion of long-time rivals Okada and Tanahashi speak for itself. Both men are so familiar with one another as to anticipate moves the other may attempt to use at any moment. This being a tag team match, all involved could be more driven to save themselves somewhat for a championship matchup.
Kota Ibushi vs. 'The American Nightmare' Cody
If any match encompasses both hostility and jealousy, it is this one. Ibushi came to the aid of his long-time friend and former tag team partner Kenny Omega a few months ago, who was attacked by Cody as the culmination of internal battles over the leadership and direction of the Bullet Club. Ibushi has been referred to as a 'home wrecker,' and is often considered a reason for why Omega and Cody aren't on the same page. If their match against one another at Wrestle Kingdom is any indication of what to expect, fans can anticipate outside forces to play a part, causing this match to end unceremoniously.
Fans can anticipate that the grudge between them is no closer to coming to an end as long as Omega continues to be treated the way he has been by Cody. Could Ibushi become an unofficial member of the Bullet Club and continue to throw the balance of power in Omega's favor? This highly competitive match will give fans a chance to see who ultimately is able to walk away as the winner, and who isn't able, to walk away.
Kenny Omega vs. Hangman Page
This final match up also shows the division that exists within the Bullet Club. While the Young Bucks are divided between their friendship with Omega and allegiance to Cody, Hangman Page is clearly in the corner of Cody and thus has no problem taking up the issue with Omega. One of the most exciting things to note about this match is that it will use that animosity amongst team members as a backdrop as they try to settle their issues with one another.
However, much like the Ibushi and Cody match listed above, we are unlikely to see a resolution on the first night of Dontaku, as these men will face each other once again the following night in a tag match. The goal is to determine who will move ahead with the Bullet Club, and who may be unable to move at all. Fans can anticipate another stiff match up with an array of strikes that will put one man on top and another one out of commission.
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