Sunday, June 10, 2018
NJPW Dominion Review
Dominion is New Japan’s second biggest show of the year. Last year, they just repeated most of their Wrestle Kingdom card. This year, things are different, though the main events just see guys from WK swapped around.
Roppongi 3K beat the champions in singles matches during the BOTSJ. SHO, YOH, and Desperado were great in the tournament. Kanemaru? Not so much. The challengers were ready for the champs, jumping them before the bell to turn the tables. That was kind of the story of this match. Roppongi 3K has become wise to the tricks of the Suzuki-Gun duo. They had counters for their stuff and managed to avoid a lot of Suzuki-Gun shenanigans. Near the end, Sho even got free of a low blow and looked to pick up the win with the Shock Arrow. However, Desperado countered, we got a ref bump and Kanemaru brought out the whiskey spit. That set up a Desperado rollup as the champs retained in 9:29. I enjoyed the story this told. RPG 3K were so close to overcoming from all they’ve learned, it just wasn’t enough.
This was here to continue the feud between Juice and Jay, though Finlay still has issues with the US Champion. Juice and David have won several tags in a row. YOSHI wasn’t a fan of Jay jumping Juice before the bell, continuing the trend of Jay being in CHAOS but not really being in CHAOS. Finlay took the heat for his guys. We got the great old school hot tag behind the referee’s back spot. Classic. The real hot tag didn’t have a ton of fire, but Juice was sure to involve the crowd in a lot of what he does. He has so much confidence in everything he does now. He ended up scoring the victory by hitting Pulp Friction on Jay White in 7:26! A big win for Juice as he pinned the US Heavyweight Champion. It should set up a title match, maybe at the Cow Palace. The match itself was some solid tag team wrestling. Dominion is off to a good start.
RevPro with some big representation. Ishii and Suzuki were at each other’s throats instantly. That was the main appeal of this match. Watching Suzuki and Ishii go to war. Yano was way out of his element and that played into a lot of the comedy he brought to the table. It ended up being a nice little addition to stand out in this match. Basically, when Yano was in, he was screaming and running. When Ishii was in, he was all about taking it right to Suzuki, even if it meant getting beat up. Sabre had some revenge on his mind as well, considering Ishii took the RevPro title from him. The finish was stellar, as Yano went to low blow Sabre, but he locked his knees together and blocked it. From there, Sabre slapped on a vicious armbar and Yano tapped in 8:42. Another strong tag match, though this was my favorite so far. The personalities involved made it work, while the intensity of Ishii/Suzuki was enough to have me dying to see their singles match.
Post-match, Ishii went after Suzuki in the aisle. They fought back to the ring and began dueling with chairs. They ended up fighting at ringside by just slapping the shit out of each other.
I can’t stand Elgin, Taichi usually sucks, and Goto hasn’t meant much of anything since Okada Rainmakered him to the mid-card. Needless to say, I was not excited about this match. I will say, Elgin is in fantastic shape. This was mildly interesting to watch, as it featured some of the usual triple threat tropes we see in WWE. Like when one guy does a move and has to break up the pin because another guy tries to steal the pin right in front of him. Or the tower of doom spot. Stuff like that. Parts of this felt like an Elgin showcase since he was clearly booked to look the strongest. Just as Elgin and Goto began to do battle like their G1 banger in 2015, Taichi used the microphone stand to interrupt. He laughed like a villain, but his follow up offense wasn’t enough. The finish was cool, as Elgin lifted Taichi straight from a Gedo Clutch and into a Buckle Bomb. He then hit a second Buckle Bomb on Taichi into Goto and added the Elgin Bomb to win the title in 13:46. The first Westerner to hold the title. This was better than I expected. I thought it would be awful, but it was pretty good. A few too many obvious tropes were leaned on, but again, it was fine. However, not a fan of Elgin as champion, especially considering how folks have turned on him this year.
The Bucks recently moved to the heavyweight division to prove they’re the best. Not sure what exactly they did to earn a shot except lose to the Golden Lovers. Still, this looked like one of the more interesting bouts. The Bucks worked better as a unit, having been a team forever, but the sheer size and strength of the champions was too much at points. Matt is STILL selling a back injury from Wrestle Kingdom, while Nick had his foot worked on and commentary sold it like it was broken. I wasn’t a fan of this match having a tower of doom spot, when we literally just got one in the previous match. Anyway, Nick’s foot came into play a lot. It stopped them from hitting an Indytaker and led to the champions hitting one of their own. The Bucks weathered the storm and survived a lot, before finally hitting More Bang For Your Buck and capturing the titles in 15:03. This was great. The Bucks have finally looked like a great tag team to me this year. They stepped away from their one dimensional comfort zone and have delivered some bangers. The selling was great and the action was fierce. I do think Nick did a bit too much with the bad foot, but that’s not a major gripe. Other than the Golden Lovers match, I believe this was my favorite Bucks outing ever.
I do question the booking here. Before you Young Bucks fans get on me, hear me out. I think the Bucks should’ve lost here. Have their foot and back issues, plus size difference, present a new challenge. They relied a lot on their greatest hits and I think the better story would be that costing them. They could spend the next few months regrouping, win the World Tag League and win the big on in the Tokyo Dome. Just a thought.
This is a strange sounding six man tag. Marty, who kind of started this whole thing, was eager to talk smack to Mysterio, but did his best to avoid him. When he got his hands on Marty, he was all over him. He and Tanahashi did well in the early stages. Liger came in and eventually became the man to take the heat segment. Great spot for him as he was clearly the guy who would be booked the weakest on his team, but is so beloved that the crowd would sympathize. Mysterio and Tanahashi came in and did their things at separate times. Liger and Cody ended up as the legal men, with Liger falling to Cross Rhodes in 11:35. This mostly felt like a typical NJPW multi-man tag, except for the addition of Mysterio, who looked good.
It’s the best junior in the world! Oh, and Ospreay is there, too. Their match in February was fantastic (****½) and Hiromu is coming off an incredible BOTSJ run. When these two wrestle, I want them to give us a reckless war. Of course, in the opening minutes, Will nearly killed himself with an insane dive off the ramp. However, Will slowed the pace because he realized how much Hiromu thrives in a fast paced match. Hiromu got going, showcasing some heavyweight like strikes that Will did his best to fire back. There were some awesome spots, like Will’s deadlift superplex followed by the Burning Star Press, or Hiromu hitting a Destroyer and going right into the triangle choke. To counter, Ospreay basically folded Hiromu and dropped him on his head. That kicked off an absolutely wild final few minutes. Hiromu countered Strom Breaker into the triangle choke. Though Ospreay didn’t quit, it was enough to wear him down for a corner DVD and Time Bomb to regain the gold in 20:20. Hiromu lost in February, saw Will hurt his neck a few months later, and came back with a newly developed submission to take back Mr. Belt. The match played off that and featured some of the frantic action we want from these two.
The story for this goes back six months. Jericho came out in a strange face painted goth getup. NJPW Jericho has been billed a more vicious, brutal character. He showed that by attacking Naito before the bell and powerbombing him through a table and hitting a DDT on another. Once the bell rang, Jericho tried for a quick win, but Naito was resilient. From there, these guys went to war, throwing big moves in and outside of the ring. That included Naito throwing a piledriver on a table. The match went back inside, but kept up the aggressive nature. Even when Jericho applied the Walls, he held it and reared back as if he was trying to do more than win. He wanted to hurt Naito. Jericho countering Naito’s rebound attack into a Codebreaker was one of my favorite spots. In the end, Jericho used a low blow and the Codebreaker to surprisingly become the IC Champion in 17:16. I’m really glad this wasn’t overly long. The pre-match attack set the tone for a war and they told a great story. Jericho badly wanted that tenth IC Title, but also wanted to destroy Naito. They had a match fitting of that.
Post-match, Jericho continued the attack on Tetsuya Naito. Poor Naito lost at WK and again here. As Jericho whipped him with his belt, EVIL hit the ring and traded blows with Jericho. He hit a lariat to knock him down and got the belt. Jericho left with his title before he could get whipped. I’m all for Jericho vs. EVIL.
All their matches been grossly rated by Dave Meltzer. I have their WK11 match at ****¼ (Okada won), the Dominion time limit draw at ***½, and Kenny’s G1 win at ****¾. It’s tiebreaker time, folks. Anyway, the first fall mostly went as you’d expect. They gave us some of the usual early Okada formula, though I liked how Omega had things scouted. For example, cutting off Okada’s guardrail cross body with a V-Trigger was great and looked painful. Omega was out to control the pace, saying he had more stamina. They both went for their finishers, yet were unable to connect. Knowing he beat Okada the one time he hit the One Winged Angel, Omega went for it a bit too much and Okada had counters ready. One counter led to a rollup situation. Okada blocked one and sat on Omega to take the first fall at 28:47. There was a two minute rest period in between falls. With the lead, Okada grew cocky. He smiled during the break and acted like he had this in the bag. To be fair, when you’ve barely been pinned twice in two years, getting pinned twice in a row in two matches seems highly unlikely. Omega had to try something new, bringing a table into play. When he hit a double stomp onto the table onto Okada, the champion began making sounds like Shane McMahon earlier this year. Okada is obsessed with proving himself in each match, so he went to use the table back on Kenny and call back to the huge back body drop spot Omega took. Omega stopped it and we got a call back to the dragon suplex through a table that Omega used to win the US Title last July. Omega never let up, pouncing on Okada at every chance. He finally hit the One Winged Angel to even the score after 47:47. The next fall began interestingly, as Okada was still dazed from the finisher, so Omega quickly hit a V-Trigger. However, Okada hit a Rainmaker out of desperation to get some breathing room. The final stretch was a tremendous show of how exhausted these guys were and how desperate they were to win. Omega hitting a One Winged Angel while basically falling over was great. Okada was dazed and completely out of it. Omega eventually hit another One Winged Angel to finally end Okada’s reign of terror after 64:50. Is this the best match ever? Absolutely not. It is an incredible one that is a MOTYC? Yes. I think this was better than their WK match and much better than their last Dominion outing. They told a great story and for the most part, they paced the match very well. There were tons of callbacks to their history and they all worked. My only gripe is that it didn’t play off their G1 match enough. That night showed that coming right at Okada was the best strategy instead of playing into his hands. If Omega really believed he had the stamina advantage, he could’ve come out hot like he did in the G1. Regardless, this is a tremendous match and I love that they didn’t try something absurd like going 75 minutes for the sake of it.
Overall: Hands down, the best NJPW show of the year. In fact, I’d only put it behind TakeOver: New Orleans for the show of the year. There was no filler on the card. Even the early tags had meaning (building Juice/White and Ishii/Suzuki). All the titles, except one changed hands, giving the company a fresh feeling for the first time in ages, especially at the top. Bucks/EVIL & SANADA was great, Naito/Jericho took a vicious story, and the Jr. Title was outrageous. The main event lived up to the hype and it all added up to one hell of a show.