NJPW Dominion Review
So just… bear with me here. I essentially took a nap from midnight to 2am last night so I could get up and watch New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Dominion 6/9/18 show this morning, and I am writing this in the aftermath of the main event. I’mma do my best for you here, but honestly… I’ll just be happy if this isn’t little more than my mashing random keys on my laptop.
So this is a personally momentous occasion for me because Dominion 2018 has just become the first ever NJPW show that I watched live, as it happened. Thank you, NJPW World! Now I just have to figure out how to navigate that website a bit better so I can watch the BotSJ Final between Takahashi and Ishimori; I have heard that was a gorgeous affair. I was just telling my wife (who was questioning why I “stayed”/got up to watch Dominion live) that knowing results (especially when you also know how long the match is) really impacts my enjoyment of it, but still… Anyway, my first live NJPW show! So what I’m going to do is run down the matches and give you my thoughts and ratings. Easy stuff, right? Let’s go!
IWGP Junior Tag Team Title Match: Champions Desperado & Kanemaru vs. Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh)
Winners: El Desperado & Kanemaru
This was the opener of the show, and it featured the NJPW talent I was least familiar with before this show. I have seen Roppongi 3K in action before at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom, but that was the extent of my viewing experience with anyone involved. This was a fun opener, if ultimately a forgettable encounter. It was a rarity for this show in at least one regard in that the champions retained on what would be a night of title changes. It was all right and inoffensive, but a slow start to the show.
Rating: ** 3/4
Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. “Switchblade” Jay White & YOSHI-HASHI
Winners: Robinson & Finlay
This was a much more exciting tag bout as the second match of the card. CHAOS teammates White and YOSHI-HASHI were workable, but they weren’t quite on the same page, and commentary sold that by noting the White is a favored child of the stable and YOSHI will take all the heat for any mistakes made. Robinson ended up pinning United States champion White and celebrated post-match with the champ’s belt to set up an encounter down the line.
Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr vs. Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii
Winners: Suzuki & ZSJ
The highlights of this match were the faceoffs between Suzuki and Ishii, who seemed intent on squaring off and bludgeoning each other with forearms and slaps. The idea of having a tag team wrestling match seemed secondary to them, and they were far more into trading big shots. Sabre got in and worked his smug personality and submission style, eventually getting Yano to tap for the win. This as a third match was fine enough, but I got a little tired of the Suzuki/Ishii big man posturing stuff after a while. It was amusing but just got old after a while. Post-victory, those two continued brawling because they still felt unsettled (neither was involved in the decision, after all).
Rating: ** 3/4
NEVER Openweight Title Match: Champion Hirooki Goto vs. Taichi vs. Michael Elgin
This was the first match of the night that really caught me up in it. I’d never seen this Taichi guy before, but I already love him. He plays the cocky, precious, pretty boy heel gimmick that never fails to get a rise out of me. He spent most of the affair running from Elgin and Goto, and whenever he tried to get one of them to work with him against the third, he would pay for it. He eventually got tired of it all, threw his valet in the ring, and then clobbered both opponents with a mic stand while the referee was confused. It didn’t matter much as Elgin ran wild to end the match, Buckle Bombing Taichi all over the place before hitting his Elgin Bomb for three to become the new champ. Afterwards, he had a staredown with Goto, who lost his championship without being pinned.
Rating: *** 1/2
IWGP Tag Team Title Match: Champions EVIL & SANADA vs. The Young Bucks
Winners: The Bucks
I am a big fan of all four of these guys, so while the NEVER Openweight Title match was a success by me, this was the first contest on the card I was excited about before it happened. This was apparently the Bucks’ first title match after moving out of the Junior division. This was a drawn-out, intense match with a lot of quality false finish moments and a story based around Nick Jackson’s foot/ankle being injured after kicking the ringpost. Nick was unable to do several moves or follow up on those he could do throughout the match, giving EVIL and SANADA an advantage that they just couldn’t seal away. Ultimately, Nick recovered enough to hit his part of the Bucks’ team finish (More Bang For Your Buck), and the Bucks stole Los Ingobernables de Japon’s tag belts.
Rey Mysterio, Jushin Liger, & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Marty Scurll, Cody, & Adam Page
Winners: Bullet Club
Every time I watched NJPW before today, I heard about how Tanahashi is an elder statesman of the company, but he was the youngest member of his team! Justin Liger was born in 1964! He looked it here, too, as he just didn’t offer nearly as much as I have seen from him in the past. The highlights here were Scurll’s mind games and messing with everyone by refusing to face certain men and then tagging out and fleeing even when the faces tagged in the opponent he “wanted”; he is just a damn fun performer. The match itself was all right, if underwhelming; it just felt like they tried to do too many specific spots and there wasn’t much of a flow to anything. Cody nailed Liger with a Cross Rhodes without much build, and that was that. It was fine. Tanahashi and Rey did some good work, Marty was fun, Cody was rightly insufferable, and Hangman pulled his own weight and put on a show. It just felt like it should have added up to more for me.
Rating: ** 3/4
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match: Champion Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Here’s the aforementioned Takhashi, less than a week removed from his tearing down of the house (allegedly; like I said… I haven’t seen it, but the reviews have been outstanding) and getting a shot of Osprey’s title. Takahashi carried his momentum into this one beautifully, and these two put on a great match to further crown Takahashi when he put down Will with his Time Bomb. There were some great spots around Takahashi working his Triangle Hold, including a sick bomb by Osprey to get out of the second attempt. There was also a ludicrously silly running/flipping/diving move that Will on Hiromu hit after sprinting down the entry ramp. To this point, this was the match of the night.
Rating: **** 1/4
IWGP IC Title Match: Champion Tetsuya Naito vs. Chris Jericho
This was probably the best Jericho match I have seen in years, and that includes his contest against Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom in January. Naito didn’t even get out of the gate for an extended time, as Jericho destroyed him during the latter’s entrance, just beating him all around the ringside area and putting him through a table (and DDT-ing him onto another). The beating would commence for several minutes before the bell actually rang to start the match. Eventually Naito would gain control and get his suit off, and the two would have a proper match. Not a lot of Tranquilo from Naito, as this was intense from beginning to end. Naito would eventually get a bloody eye over the course of this one, and Jericho ended up taking the Intercontinental Title after a low blow into a Codebreaker.
Rating: **** 1/2
IWGP Title No Time Limit Best 2 of 3 Falls Match: Champion Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega
Okada loses his title just ten days shy of the two year anniversary of his title reign. If my dates are correct, he held the championship in this reign for 720 days. Wow! And in typical Okada fashion, he gave us a hell of a match. These two men famously went 1-1-1 against each other in 2017 with Kenny’s only win being in the G1 Climax tournament and not for the title (that match, incidentally, was my 2017 Match Of The Year). Their feud-ender here was an absolute treat. The total of the match was just a hair shy of SEVENTY MINUTES, and the story was that Kenny simply could not hit Okada with The One-Winged Angel for the bulk of the match. Okada got a flukey first fall win with a cradle, and from there, they just kept tearing into each other. Eventually, fatigue set in on Okada allowing Omega to hit TOWA for the second fall. In the third fall, both men were incredibly tired and battered, and Kenny was able to hit a defenseless Okada with another TOWA to finally win the IWGP championship. This was a tremendous bout with both guys starting hot and gradually selling the effects of the duration of the match. Ultimately, Kenny was just able to outlast his nemesis, and that got him the strap. Fantastic wrestling match with a well-told story.
As for the show overall, there were obviously no stinkers, and the worst matches were all average to above average. It was a bit long, and I’d have been fine if they cut the first and/or third matches, but really… who cares? You’re coming to this event for the last couple of contests, and they don’t disappoint.
So there you have them: my barely-conscious and hopefully coherent post-Dominion thoughts. What do you think? Did I get any ratings wrong here? What would you grades be? Let me know. And until next time… take care!