I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Dominion was up there with Wrestle Kingdom for expectations coming in. Omega vs Okada IV would have guaranteed that by itself. Throw in Ospreay vs Takahashi, The Bucks vs LIJ, Jericho vs Naito and most people won’t just have their pants around their ankles but will be halfway to completion. Could it possibly live up to such a billing? I guess it’s time to find out.
Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defeated Roppongi 3K (SHO and YOH) to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
2018 marks the first Dominion since 2013 not to feature the Young Bucks in the Junior Tag Title match. That’s one hell of a run for Matt and Nick.
There is an argument to be made that their spot in the division has already been filled by Roppongi 3K who were coming into this off an impressive Best Of The Super Juniors. They’re also in the midst of a year-long storyline where we’re watching them mature as wrestlers. All the Suzuki-gun tricks that they used to fall for (from the sneak attack at the start to Satori Surprise) failed this time around. Roppongi 3K had fallen for them too many times before.
Except, maybe they haven’t matured quite enough. While SHO and YOH were ready for 90% of the shenanigans, the other 10% could still kill them. A shot to the head with the whiskey bottle followed by a Despy roll-up meant Suzuki-gun clung onto the titles by the tips of their cheating little fingers.
It was a fitting conclusion to a fun tale as it feels too soon for Roppongi 3K to regain the belts. They’re the best team in the division as it’s only their naivety that is holding them back. It will be interesting to see how New Japan finishes this story and whether this eventually leads to them fighting fire with fire.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Juice Robinson and David Finlay defeated CHAOS (Jay White and YOSHI-HASHI)
On a card packed with essential watches, this is one that you can breeze past. Three of these men are very talented wrestlers (the fourth is YOSHI-HASHI), and they are capable of great things. However, it’s hard to do that when you’re working for under eight minutes. They did what they had to do, and that’s all we can expect.
And what they had to do was set up Juice as Jay White’s next challenger as he pinned him clean. The very fact the US Title wasn’t defended on this show speaks to how it is floundering at the moment. To be honest, I’m not sure if this is the program to save it either. In saying that, it has the potential to be of fantastic quality, which is all I care about really.
As a final note, when that’s over and done with (and White inevitably retains) let’s push Young David and Sweary Juice in the direction of the tag titles. They’re a good team and would bring some pep to that division.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr) defeated CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano)
If this is building to Ishii vs Suzuki at the Strong Style Evolved shows in the UK, there is a decent chance I will cry with happiness. As long as it is in Manchester, of course. If it’s in Milton Keynes, it will be tears of sadness.
It was the interactions between those men that made this worth watching. I could watch those two brutes smack each other in the face all day. Then I’d hit rewind and do it all over again. I don’t know if I’m weird for thinking this, but there’s a beauty in the way they stand swinging those vicious forearms, battling to see who can stay on their feet. Give me more of that, please.
Elsewhere, Sabre made everyone happy by blocking a Yano low-blow with his thighs and then twisting the Master Thief up. It was all overshadowed by Suzuki and Ishii, though, as their battle continued in the post-match when Ishii came charging back to the ring. Please, please, please give me that fight.
Verdict: Three Stars
A piece of shit defeated Hirooki Goto and Taichi to win the NEVER Openweight Title
Seriously, New Japan? You’re going to do that? Fuck you and fuck Michael Elgin.
Rather than watching this, I suggest you go out and find a local charity that helps people who are either escaping or recovering from abuse. I’m sure any help that you can provide them will be much appreciated.
Verdict: Fuck Michael Elgin
The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (Evil and Sanada) to win the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Golly gosh do I love those Bucks of Youth. They’ve made the transition to heavyweight and slipped straight to the top of the division. This was truly fantastic.
And once again, it all revolved around an injured body part. This time, it was Nick who was in the wars as an early attempt at a Penalty Kick from the apron saw Evil duck out of the way causing his foot to hit the ring post. It was a nice twist on the chop into the post spot that we now see quite a lot.
From there, we got to see that it’s not only Matt Jackson who knows how to sell his ass off. Nick did a tremendous job showing how the damage to his right foot was taking it out of him. While he’d still go for the Superkicks, every single one saw him then drop to the floor, writhing in pain as the shock reverberated up his body.
Evil and Sanada, meanwhile, zoned in on that injured body part and did everything they could to make it worse. It’s worth mentioning that they had no problems keeping up with The Bucks. Sanada and Nick were able to get themselves into a game of one-upmanship early on as they showed off their athleticism while Evil played the muscle, dishing out significant damage whenever he could.
It looked like the foot injury was going to be decisive particularly when it caused Nick to slip off the top rope when going for the springboard into the Meltzer Driver. As they went into a fantastic closing sequence, though, they were able to change up the gameplan. Climbing to the top rope was easier than springboarding, and fittingly it would be More Bang For Your Buck that saw them gain their first Heavyweight Tag Title victory in New Japan.
I would have held off on that moment for a little bit longer, particularly with the out of Nick’s injury. However, that doesn’t take away from what was an outstanding bout. It proved that not only can The Bucks adapt to the heavyweight style, but the heavyweight teams can adapt to them. Suddenly, the New Japan tag scene feels quite exciting.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Bullet Club (Marty Scurll, Hangman Page and Cody) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi, Rey Mysterio and Jushin Thunder Liger
A small breather before we get into the business end of the card. This was fun while also being entirely inconsequential. Still, that’s one hell of a legends team, isn’t it?
It is worth saying that Rey Mysterio looked fantastic. He’s moving better than he has in years and hitting Frankensteiners like it’s 1999. I hope they’ve got him tied down for the Cow Palace show and that we eventually get the match with Liger.
Apart from that, there’s not much to say. Everyone went out and put on a good show with Cody’s classic heel gimmick working well against the uber babyfaces. That was perhaps a surprise until the events later in the night made it clear an IWGP Title shot is in his future.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Hiromu Takahashi defeated Will Ospreay to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Where the fuck do you start with this? There is no point trying to capture the madness that was this match. It was two men who have a cavalier approach to their own health going out and doing insane shit until one of them could no longer do insane shit. If that doesn’t sound wonderful to you, then I can’t help you.
Within seconds Hiromu was throwing Ospreay into the turnbuckle, then Will was flipping off stages, and from there I don’t really know what happened, but I loved it all. These two can work at a speed that shouldn’t be possible for two minutes, never mind twenty. Yet, they keep going. It’s like a perfect meal that you keep thinking is over then they bring another course. While you know you should probably stop, why would you? It’s too damn good.
And it all ended with Hiromu getting Belt-San back. The look of pure glee on his face at that moment was beautiful because that’s the thing that fuels his insanity. The reason he is willing to throw himself off the apron or be dropped on the back of his head is that it is all building towards him holding the title. You don’t need intricate psychology in his matches because that’s not the kind of man he is. He’s an obsessed man, one who will fight forever to get what he wants.
As for Will, I hope he’s off for a well-deserved rest. While I’m sure he would have liked his title reign to go a bit longer, he still delivered some outstanding wrestling throughout and cemented his place as one of the best wrestlers in the world.
Verdict: Four And Three Quarter Stars
Chris Jericho defeated Tetsuya Naito to win the IWGP Intercontinental Title
Jericho’s outfit choice was… interesting? Clockwork Orange via your da going through an emo stage.
Still, there’s no denying that the work he is doing in New Japan is sublime. It’s a comparison that’s been made before, but there’s an unhinged edge to it that brings to mind Terry Funk during his legendary feud with Ric Flair. The way he barrelled into Naito at the start of this one, dragging him around the ringside before powerbombing him through a table was perfect in its recklessness. Everything he does looks dangerous and is all the better for it.
It was also pivotal to the story they were telling. Naito is not used to this. While he’s been in fights before and been dragged around by the likes of Suzuki, he’s never had someone come at him with that level of ferocity. Jericho is like a man possessed and whatever is possessing him just wants to kick the shit out of everyone. He was able to fight back and even dig into a bit of that violence himself. However, he couldn’t reach those levels, and that would prove his downfall.
Because right from the start Jericho was a step ahead of Naito and he was never able to make up that difference. It would play into the finish as Y2J distracted the ref for a second before hitting a low blow followed by the Codebreaker. The fact that Jericho continued the attack after the bell (eventually bringing out Evil to make the save) suggests this is far from over and while the lead Ingobernable may not give a shit about the IC Title, you can bet he now gives a shit about Chris Jericho.
Verdict: Four Stars
Kenny Omega defeated Kazuchika Okada in a Two Out Of Three Falls Match to win the IWGP Heavyweight Title
Wow. If Takahashi vs Ospreay was hard to write about, then this is impossible.
I’ve now been watching New Japan for a year and a half. Throughout that time there has been precisely one IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada. The moment when he lost that title had to be historic and fuck me if that wasn’t exactly what it was. What a match.
I’m going to go through each fall individually because that’s the only way to even get close to covering everything I want to talk about. Even then I’m sure I’ll miss a few points. Buy me a pint someday, and we can discuss it in even more length.
Fall One – Kazuchika Okada wins in 28.47
If this had been all we got, it might not have been an instant classic, but I’m pretty sure everyone would have gone home happy. There was a worry that these two were going to try and wrestle for a ridiculous time (I do say that while being well aware that over an hour is still a ridiculous amount of time) and when they initially looked to be taking things slowly, I was worried that was going to be the case. If you’re planning to wrestle for two hours, you can’t start fast.
However, it didn’t take long for this to explode. It started with Okada’s attempt to hit his crossbody over the barrier and Kenny meeting him in mid-air with a V-Trigger. From there, everything ratcheted up a notch as Omega went to work on the upper back and neck area of Okada. He was controlling the action, and while the Rainmaker had his moments, Omega seemed to be heading for victory.
The problem was that while he was winning on points, it wasn’t decisive. These two men know each other inside and out. So, while they could hit big moves, neither could get a finisher off. Every time a One-Winged Angel or a Rainmaker seemed likely the other would come alive, slipping out of it desperately.
An idea that would prove to be the decisive factor because it was a desperate escape from a Rainmaker that opened up Omega to the first fall. Countering Okada with a Sunset Flip, Omega was caught off-guard when Okada countered his counter and got the three. Suddenly, the champion was in control.
Fall Two – Kenny Omega wins in 19.10
A fact that was apparently evident to him as he started the second fall like a king who knew his throne was secure. Omega had scared him in the first section of the match, but now he was in control. He was standing tall and shrugging off the slaps to the chest from a clearly demoralised Kenny.
All of which might have been a mistake. For a fire was lit under Omega as he turned this into a fight. Taking Okada to the floor, he brought out a table and in one of those beautiful callbacks that New Japan does so well Kenny delivered a stomp through it. Suddenly, he was in control, and I have no idea how these men were still going at the pace they were. Ordinary human beings would have been dead.
A Butterfly Piledriver set up the One-Winged Angel, and for the first time in a title match, he hit it in the centre of the ring. There was no kicking out of that.
Fall Three – Kenny Omega wins in 16.53
Not only was there no kicking out, but it also seemed like Okada was done. In between each fall, they were being given two minutes to recover. In that time their cornermen (Gedo and Kota Ibushi) would enter the ring to provide advice, water and whatever else was needed. Throughout this two minute period Okada did not leave the mat, and despite Gedo’s attempts to put off the restart, that’s where he started the third fall.
Omega looked to take instant advantage of that, flying across the ring with a V-Trigger. When he hoisted up Okada for the One-Winger Angel that impulse I mentioned in the first fall kicked in. The champion slipped out and somehow hit a Rainmaker sending both men crashing to the floor.
From there, this became a battle of two wounded warriors. There were moments where they were clinging to each other, both in the hope of an opportunity to cause more pain and because it was the only way they could stand. Omega couldn’t get Okada up for the Angel while an Okada Rainmaker essentially bounced off Kenny’s chest as the follow through was non-existent.
We also began to see how their reliance on certain moves hurt them. Okada’s Dropkick and Omega’s V-Trigger have been essential to these matches, and they both knew that. They were able to predict that the other man would go back to that barrel on a regular basis and react accordingly.
Even that became irrelevant, though. For in the final minutes there was no strategy to this, it was pure instinct. It was the two greatest wrestlers in the world swinging for the fences and giving everything they had. They’d poured their heart and soul into what they were doing, and all I could do was watch on, heart in mouth as they wowed me with the single greatest display of artistry and endurance I have ever seen.
Of course, Kenny won, and I am so happy for him. He deserves it more than most and the moment when he held off on receiving the title to hug the Bucks and Kota brought all the right kinds of tears.
However, this match went past wrestling storytelling and the belts involved. It became a work of art as two people gave their bodies to the thing they love. There aren’t words to describe how much I loved it in return.
Verdict: Five Stars
If you didn’t pick it up in the near 1000 word over the top declaration of marriage to Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada, I adored this show. It’s everything I want from wrestling, and if you aren’t watching it already, then I guess I’ve failed to convey that. Please, go and see it. It’s worth every second.