Every Title Change That Happened At NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2022

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2022 Tama Tonga EVIL

New Japan Pro Wrestling was at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome today, 1 May 2022, for their annual Wrestling Dontaku event. A mammoth card was on offer for the reported 8,162 fans in attendance, capped off with yet another battle between Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito for the former’s IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Okada would retain over the Los Ingobernables de Japon man, a match that lasted almost 35-minutes.

While ‘The Rainmaker’ would be successful in his championship defence, four other NJPW champions weren’t quite as lucky, as the company’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight, IWGP United States Heavyweight, IWGP Tag Team, and NEVER Openweight Championships all had new titleholders by the end of the show. Who left Fukuoka with New Japan gold?

New IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion: Taiji Ishimori

The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship was the penultimate championship to change hands during NJPW Wrestling Dontaku, as Taiji Ishimori defeated El Desperado in a near 15-minute clash to lift the championship. Ishimori countered Desperado’s second attempt at his patented Pinche Loco finisher into a Bone Lock for the submission victory.

El Desperado, a 12-year veteran, had reigned as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion since usurping Robbie Eagles last November at NJPW’s Power Struggle event, lasting 176 days as champion. Successful defences have since followed the Suzuki-gun member over Hiromu Takahashi, Master Wato, and SHO in what was Desperado’s second run with one of the company’s premier championships. His inaugural run lasted 147 days between February and July 2021.

With this win, Taiji Ishimori becomes a three-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, this being his first reign with the championship since dropping it in January 2021 to Hiromu Takahashi. That reign lasted 129 days, having started with a win over Takahashi in August 2020. During his previous stints as champion, ‘The Bone Soldier’ has endured title challenges from some of New Japan’s best, including Ryusuke Taguchi and the legendary WWE Hall of Famer Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger.

New IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion: Hiroshi Tanahashi

A new IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion was also crowned at Wrestling Dontaku, with the championship having been vacant coming into the 1 May card. Ultimately, Hiroshi Tanahashi was able to overcome Tomohiro Ishii to lift the title after executing a High Fly Flow on ‘The Stone Pitbull’. Tanahashi’s first challenger also seemingly revealed himself post-match, as Juice Robinson emerged, turning on his now-former ally and subsequently joining Bullet Club.

The United States Heavyweight Championship had previously been left vacant by SANADA, who was forced to relinquish the title after suffering a fractured left orbital bone during a New Japan Cup outing vs. Will Ospreay. He’d lasted just 49 days as champion after defeating Tanahashi on day fourteen of NJPW’s New Year’s Golden Series, with Tanahashi and Ospreay due to collide for the vacant title. The latter was ultimately replaced by Tomohiro Ishii after testing positive for COVID-19.

Hiroshi Tanahashi is now a three-time IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion, with his previous reigns lasting 84 days between August and November 2021, and 45 days between January and February of this year. His first reign with the title saw him defeat All Elite Wrestling star Lance Archer at last August’s Resurgence pay-per-view in Los Angeles, while his second run saw ‘The Ace’ regain the championship from KENTA. This took place as a No Disqualifications match on night two of NJPW’s annual Wrestle Kingdom this past January.

New IWGP Tag Team Champions: Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens

In NJPW’s heavyweight doubles division, The United Empire’s Jeff Cobb and Great-O-Khan’s reign as IWGP Tag Team Champions came to a sudden stop as they were dethroned by Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens, representing Bullet Club. This took the form of a three-way match, as CHAOS’ former champions Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI, collectively known as Bishamon, were also involved in the bout.

Cobb and Khan had just lifted their first set of IWGP Tag Team Championships three weeks ago when they dethroned Goto and HASHI on 9 April as part of the NJPW’s Hyper Battle tour. Together, the duo achieved no successful defences with the titles, though this did mark Great-O-Khan’s first championship in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Jeff Cobb, meanwhile, has previously enjoyed success as a NEVER Openweight Champion.

Although the overall Bullet Club faction has enjoyed multiple reigns with the IWGP Tag Team Championships through The Good Brothers and The Guerrillas of Destiny, this marks the first reign for Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens, both as a team and individually. Perhaps coincidentally, the title win for ‘The Rogue General’ and ‘The Crown Jewel’ came just two days shy of the nine-year anniversary of Bullet Club’s formation at NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2013, of which Fale is an original member.

New NEVER Openweight Champion: Tama Tonga

Rounding off Wrestling Dontaku’s title changes is Tama Tonga, who began his first reign with the NEVER Openweight Championship. Tonga pinned former Bullet Club brethren EVIL to lift the championship for the inaugural time, which also marks his first taste of singles gold after 12-years with NJPW, after performing the Gun Stun. In fact, this is the ex-Bullet Club member’s first singles championship since he reigned as Game Changer Wrestling’s World Champion in 2015.

EVIL was in the midst of his second run with the NEVER Openweight Championship prior to losing to Tama Tonga, a 117-day reign that began at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 as he defeated Tomohiro Ishii in just over 12-minutes. ‘The King of Darkness’ had enjoyed successful defences against both ‘The Stone Pitbull’ and Hiromu Takahashi, the former of which took the form of a Lumberjack Deathmatch. His first reign saw him reign for just ten days in November 2016 in between two reigns for Kaysuyori Shibata.

Although this marks the first singles championship for Tama Tonga in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, he’s a former seven-time IWGP Tag Team Champion and four-time NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champion, with his Guerrillas of Destiny partner Tanga Loa joining him for all but one of those reigns. Furthermore, Tonga is just the third athlete to capture a championship in NJPW, ROH, and CMLL, behind Rocky Romero and Matt Taven, as he’s a former ROH and CMLL World Tag Team Champion, too.

Full results from NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2022.