This past weekend, New Japan Pro Wrestling put on their second biggest show of the year with Dominion.
It featured a Match of the Year contender, a huge new signing and a lot more. But what did the show tell us? Here’s five things we all learned from the show.
1. New Japan didn’t finish well
Dominion was a fantastic show with, debatably, match of the year so far taking place on the card. A night that featured huge announcements and the majority of the show has received great reviews worldwide. But, in a surprising change to regular New Japan Shows, the event ended rather flatly. Chris Jericho vs Kazuchika Okada was never going to be match of the night and the match, as a whole, was quite good. However ‘The Alpha’ seems to be struggling with diminishing returns. His matches follow a certain pattern that, due to his age, are less flashy/technical and are built upon a more ‘brawling’ style. Due to this, all his matches feel very similar. And this show was the most obvious edition of this mindset as the crowd seemed to turn on the ‘post-match shenanigans’. After losing, Jericho attacked ‘The Rainmaker’ who was eventually saved by his former rival, Hiroshi Tanahashi.
So, as many would expect, Jericho would be run off, ‘The Ace’ would hand Okada his belt and send the crowd home happy. However instead of this, the show ended incredibly flatly as Okada and Tanahashi walked out and the show just… ended. Not a great final image.
2. Ibushi and Naito need time apart
This was honestly uncomfortable to watch. Many, many people have touted this match as one of the two best matches on the card but whilst I absolutely adore both men involved, I hated this. Yes, it was technically sound with great storytelling throughout but I watched most of it through my hands. It was legitimately cringe-worthy – I was just watching two men kill each other. The infamous spot, that you will almost definitely have seen by now, where Ibushi’s head hit the apron and snapped sideways was horrific and I legitimately thought he was knocked out. And then the spot immediately after? A reverse-rana from the top rope. I wasn’t watching two characters I enjoyed tell a story that just so happened to be in a ring because I couldn’t remove myself from the reality of the situation. It was horrible to watch and both men NEED to be kept apart over this summer’s G1.
3. A Legend Debuts
Right, enough negativity! Onto the great things from this show. At one point, Shibata made his way to the ring, of course, to the delight of everyone. However, he was not alone. Following in behind him was a man who is a legend in Japanese wrestling who had never set foot in a New Japan ring… until now. KENTA has arrived in New Japan Pro Wrestling and the gravity of this situation cannot be overstated. A man synonymous with Pro Wrestling Noah and Ring of Honor, many thought he would never make it to the company based purely from a respect point of view and his age. However, the former Hideo Itami in WWE wasted little time in making his presence known as he announced he will be participating in this summer’s G1 Climax tournament. Alongside fellow announcements from Jon Moxley and Shingo Takagi, this year’s tournament already has more hype than many before it.
4. ‘Death Rider’ isn’t the Devil
When it was announced that Jon Moxley would be taking on Young Lion Shota Umino, the wrestling world collectively prayed for the upstart. And… it was proven to be well founded. Whilst Umino put up a fight and looked incredibly brave, the former Dean Ambrose was non-phased and picked up the win with the ‘Death Rider’ in just under four minutes. However, it is clear Moxley is not a heel; at least not in Japan. Post match, after announcing he too will compete in the G1, he picked up Umino with the crowd and viewers at home expecting a beat down but instead, Jon carried the rookie to the back after earning respect for him.
It’s a great angle to take as many expected Moxley to come in, clean house and brutalise Young Lions as he does so. But having this angle – with Moxley as a violent but heroic character – adds layers to him that are absolutely required and harks back to the original Moxley of CZW. It also seems that Moxley has claimed Umino as his personal Young Lion… interesting.
5. Ospreay Reclaims His Crown
Well this was just amazing. Will Ospreay has had one of the best weeks of his, somehow still, young career. In under seven days, he has put on two stonewall Match of the Year contenders on two of New Japan’s biggest stages and proved he is more than ready to be one of the main faces of the company. Dragon Lee should not be forgotten as he was absolutely incredible but all the headlines will go to Ospreay which is hugely deserved.
Whilst Will is aiming for heavyweight status, it makes sense for him to have one last run at the top of the Junior division. He is someone who can draw mass attention to the division, as previously shown, and can help make new stars of the company when he leaves for his next chapter and until Takahashi returns. A fantastic, fantastic match that I urge you to check out if you haven’t already.
Overall, Dominion was undoubtedly a great show. Ospreay and Lee stole the show but guys like Suzuki, Moxley, KENTA and Takagi are definitely going to be in the headlines as well.
However, it does create the question of what Chris Jericho’s role will be moving forward as it doesn’t look to optimistic after this show. Only the future will tell.
You can find me on Twitter @McIverTheMark. Thanks for reading.