New Japan Pro Wrestling‘s two-night Wrestling Dontaku event on May 3-4 featured a variety of notable developments, including Taichi winning the NEVER Openweight Championship, the NJPW debut of El Phantasmo as a new member of the Bullet Club, a vignette teasing that a mysterious British guy might want to stab Juice Robinson, Hiroshi Tanahashi announcing he’ll return to the ring on June 5 (the final Best of the Super Juniors show) after taking time off due to injury, and Dragon Lee and Kazuchika Okada both retaining their titles.
The May 4 show also included the surprising, impending return of former IWGP Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho to the promotion next month for a high-profile match.
As you can see in the video above, which played after the show’s main event, the Fozzy frontman has, much like a certain WWE superstar, pivoted to using spooky doll imagery. However, Chris Jericho’s use of vintage children’s toys-gone-dark didn’t lead to the reveal of a Firefly Fun House, but to a challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship after a declaration that “I am ‘The Painmaker.'” Sounds like this guy was extremely confident that Sanada was not going to win that match!
Jericho worked four matches for NJPW between Wrestle Kingdom 12 and 13 and this is the first time he’s been seen in the promotion since his loss of the Intercontinental Championship on January 4 of this year. Since then, he signed with All Elite Wrestling and entered a feud with Kenny Omega for a grudge rematch from their WK 12 bout (which recently produced a confrontation between the two men at an indie show.) Though Y2J challenged Tanahashi backstage at the Tokyo Dome this year, it was unclear whether that match or any other would materialize for him in NJPW, though his contract, like Omega’s, reportedly allowed him to work for the Japanese company.
In kayfabe, Jericho’s challenge to Okada was accepted on the basis of basically star power, though Jay White had won a match that fans had been led to believe was a de facto number one contender’s bout for the Heavyweight Championship at Wrestling Hi no Kuni and had been set up as the most likely challenger for whoever won the Wrestling Dontaku match for that title. Okada vs. Jericho is now likely to be the main event of Dominion on June 9.