Wrestling Review: NJPW Dominion (2017)

In January, at Wrestle Kingdom 11, Kenny Omega and IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada had what is now being called one of the best matches of all time, and was rated at six-out-of-five stars by some of wrestling’s top sports journalists. Tonight, as New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) presents Dominion from a completely sold out Osaka-jo Hall in Japan, Okada and Omega will go one-on-one once more, with the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on the line. The IWGP intercontinental is also going to be hotly contested, as current champion, the disprespectful Tetsuya Naito faces the Ace of New Japan, Hiroshi Tanahashi. All the various tag team titles are on the line, and the NEVER Openweight title will be on the line as long time veteran Minoru Suzuki defends against Hirooki Goto in a lumberjack death match. The Junior Heavyweight Championship will also be on the line, as the winner of the Best of the Super Juniors 24 tournament, KUSHIDA, goes to war with long time rival and defending champion Hiromu Takahashi.

+ Kazuchika Okada (c) (w/ Gedo) vs Kenny Omega (w/ The Young Bucks) (IWGP Heavyweight Championship): the pressure these two would be on before the match even begun must have been crushing. I was too caught up in this to go move for move, but the athleticism on display from both men, and the willingness to risk and punish their own and each other’s bodies was at times unbelievable. This was a different kind of match compared to their million-miles-an-hour sprint from Wrestle Kingdom 11, but featured numerous call backs to the high moments from that meeting whilst simultaneously addressing some of the criticism (such as, no more ‘finisher spam’). Some slower, almost emotional moments really added to the feel this was more than “just a rematch”, and made the bigger moments that much more important, which overall made for an unforgettable contest. Despite still going on a bit too long, this was just as good as their first but for different reasons
+ Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs KUSHIDA (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship): KUSHIDA’s win in the Best of the Super Juniors 24 awarded him this match against Takahashi. Keeping these two in separate blocks was for the best, and in many ways gave away KUSHIDA winning when the BOSJ blocks were first announced. Their previous match at Sakura Genesis was less than two minutes and early on, this looked like it would go the same way, and the crowd showed it’s appreciation for the incredible pace. These two nearly killed each other all match and it made for an incredible showing
+ War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe) (c) vs Guerrillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (IWGP Tag Team Championships): I was as hyped for this as I was the main event, so it was going to be hard to live up to my expectations. Both the GoDs looked jacked, and the BIG BOIS from War Machine are just incredible to watch as they run and jump. One moment mid match as the GoDs slithered around the ring on their bellies was unsettling but amazing at the same time. This lived up to my expectations and more, with both teams looking fantastic
+ Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) (c) vs Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships): I am always impressed with the various tag team moves the Bucks can pull out, but it does get a bit silly when their opponents are kicking out of such big moves which could be finishers in other moments. Romero’s technical abilities impressed me, as did just how much seemingly really stiff punishment Beretta was taking. This was a lot of fun, even with the sometimes unbelievable Bucks tag team moves
+ Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL & SANADA) (c) vs. BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Taguchi Japan (Juice Robinson, Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Zack Sabre Jr.) (NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championships Five Way Gauntlet Match): this might be hard to write about without spoilers, because of the order they appear, but I’ll try. Adam Page sucks and should never be in the ring again. Yano was almost bearable in this match. Ishii is still fantastic and should have had a singles match of some sort here (feed him Cody). All of Suzuki-gun are painful to watch, except Suzuki himself, and ZSJ is so out-of-place in the more “serious” style of NJPW, though of course out comes Taguchi to ruin that argument. Ricochet is so damn good, and they are really going hard at making Juice a big deal. I miss Desperado in this match, but at least BUSHI fills my love of masked wrestlers for this match. This was a bit all over the place, due to the various teams, but the final stretch was the best, which I suppose is the desired outcome

njpw_dominion_2017_2.png
One fall, 60 minute time limit, two competitors, one championship. There was a lot of pressure on Okada and Omega following their battle from Wrestle Kingdom 11.

– Tetsuya Naito (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (IWGP Intercontinental Championship): Tanahashi continued to show a less savory side of his in-ring work, with the crowd giving Naito nuclear heat throughout (like, seriously, I almost half feared for his safety at times). Some wince-inducing straight slaps slowed the pace between a pair of very out-of-character botches from the pair. There was actually quite a few timing issues from both combatants, which put a damper on what I was really hoping could be match of the night. A sudden, and somewhat out of nowhere ending was surprising, but overall meant that the match never reached the peak it should have. This was a disappointment
– Minoru Suzuki (c) vs Hirooki Goto (NEVER Openweight Championship Lumberjack Death Match): despite having all of Suzuki-gun and CHAOS at ringside, I am a bit confused as to how this was a ‘death match’, because there was still rope breaks and very lmited weapon use (which there often is in NJPW matches anyway). It was not until the final five minutes or so that this was what I would call a ‘death match’, but it was a solid wrestling match, so make of that what you will
– Cody vs Michael Elgin: Cody had been asking for ‘someone bigger;, and damn if he didn’t get someone bigger in Elgin. I am glad Elgin got a bigger spotlight, but why Cody keeps being given these singles matches I don’t know. Admittedly, Big Mike didn’t look quite as big following on from War Machine, and Cody has been known to under-deliver in these NJPW matches, so it is no surprise this felt a little bit underwhelming. I don’t know if I was /expecting/ a better match, but Big Mike deserved a better opponent and Cody would have worked better with a different one
– TenKoji (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima), Jushin Thunder Liger & Manabu Nakanishi vs Tiger Mask, Tiger Mask W, Togi Makabe & Yuji Nagata: whoever this mysterious Tiger Mask W is, he truly is one of the best athletes on the roster. Liger and Tiger both shone brightly following their showing in the BOSJ tournament, but in the end this was an about average start to the show, and nothing particularly special. Nakanishi looked really out of sorts here

> Yujiro Takahashi had Pieter with him again. Oh sweet mercy, save me from myself

Should you watch this event: This was built around the Okada/Omega rematch, and if that is all you wanted it delivered in spades (though understandably, results may vary). A fantastic tag team title and an incredible Junior Heavyweight championship bout only added to the show. The IC title match between Naito/Tanahashi was disappointing, but the rest of the highlights above are worth watching. Don’t feel bad about skipping the negatives above, I almost wish I had.

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