New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Dominion is arguably the second biggest card of the year. With a lineup that includes the closing act of one of the greatest series of matches of all time and an older and more vulgar Chris Jericho challenging for the Intercontinental Title, Dominion 2018 looks to be one of the best of the year. AiPT!’s Mark Buckledee and Nathaniel Muir both watched the event and share their thoughts.
IWGP JR. Heavyweight Tag-Team Title Match: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (C) vs. Roppongi 3K
Nathaniel: Story of the match was Suzuki-Gun used heel tactics to try to stay a step ahead of Sho and Yoh. RPG3K seem to have an answer for every one but ended up losing in a mild upset. Fun match with a good story.
Mark: Roppongi 3K had a good BOSJ and you could see some of the growth here, especially from Sho. This match had a clear team to root for and it was entertaining match as Roppongi 3K fought the cheating tactics of their opponents. In the general scheme of things this was nothing special.
David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs. Jay White & YOSHI-HASHI
Nathaniel: White is impressive but reeks of mid card. Robinson pins White clean in the middle with Pulp Friction. Robinson looks to be the next challenger for the U.S. title. July 7th in San Francisco?
Mark: White’s opponents were his former friends from his days in the New Japan Dojo. Robinson was very well received by the Osaka crowd and he was the heart of what was good with this match. White is growing in confidence but he was overshadowed by Robinson in an okay match desigened to set up an IWGP US Title shot for Juice.
Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano vs. Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.
Nathaniel: Suzuki has the best entrance music in the business. Suzuki and Sabre are the current RevPro Undisputed British Tag Team Champions. Ishii and Suzuki trade stiff shots while Sabre wows the crowd with his crazy submissions. Yano goes for a low blow on Sabre who traps his arm between his legs and turns it into a sick arm and leg submission hold for the win. Suzuki and Sabre are amazing.
Mark; This was one of my favourite matches on the show, and a perfect undercard tag match. I loved that “Submission Master” Zack Sabre Jr only used 3 moves that weren’t actual submissions. Whenever Ishii & Suzuki faced off this was great, especially with Ishii poking the bear when he is usually the pokee and not the poker. After the match they kept going after each other.
NEVER Openweight Title Match: Hirooki Goto (C) vs. Michael Elgin vs. Taichi
Nathaniel: Elgin had his working boots on. Elgin pins Taichi after the spinning powerbomb. Match was better than expected, which isn’t saying much.
Mark: Elgin looks a lot leaner here: some online wags described him as “someone tried to draw Kurt Angle from memory.” I’m not a fan of 3 way matches at the best of times and I’m fairly apathetic to all three in this match so this didn’t do much for me. If you enjoy Elgin or Goto then you will enjoy this but not as much as a singles match between the two.
IWGP Tag Team Title Match: EVIL & SANADA (C) vs. The Young Bucks
Nathaniel: Matt has a bad back and Nick’s foot is injured during the match. LIJ exploits the Bucks’ injuries but the brothers keep trying to fight back. The Bucks play plucky babyfaces and win the belts after More Bang For Your Buck in an incredible display. Can we stop pretending the Bucks don’t know how to sell? After the match Matt tells Callis they need an commentator at All In and Callis happily agrees.
Mark: The trend of 2018 Young Bucks matches where Matt is unable to work at his usual pace due to back issues so Nick does most of the legwork in terms of impressive action continued. Here Nick injured his leg and the attention to detail is impressive and becomes the main focus of the match. This is a very slow paced Young Bucks match and it addresses many of the criticisms thrown at them while delivering an entertaining, dramatic match. You could argue that this dilutes what attracted a lot of fans to them in the first place. I liked this a lot although I can see many Young Bucks fans not enjoying it as much.
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jushin Liger, & Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Cody, Marty Scurll, and Hangman Page
Nathaniel: Tanahashi, Liger, and Mysterio could all make an argument for best pound for pound wrestler in the world during their peaks. Rey is still incredibly quick and smooth and was way over with the crowd. Cody pins Liger after the Cross Rhodes. Entertaining match that served its purpose.
Mark: This was designed as an introduction to Mysterio and it did the job. The half Lion mask, was a good touch. Mysterio came across as a big deal, he looked good and the Bullet Club team work well together. This wasn’t anything special but it did seem to set up a future Cody vs. Mysterio match.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title Match: Will Ospreay (C) vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Nathaniel: Both guys are great and I looked forward to seeing the match while being scared to watch it at the same time, if that makes sense. The two know each other so well they are able to counter everything. Hiromu with a butterfly piledriver then gets the pin and the title following a Time Bomb. They worked the safest match they could have done and I still cringed around ten times.
Mark: This started at a breakneck pace, including an impressive looking somersault senton off the apron from Ospreay. This had a lot of great action and innovation here. The story was that Hiromu, who was beloved by the Osaka crowd, had the Stormbreaker scouted and some of the best work was based around that. In the end Hiromu’s explosive offense let him finally win the IWGP Jr Title, a year after he lost it in the same venue. While it may not be the best Junior match in New Japan this year (Hiromu vs Ishimori may be better) it is definitely worth your time.
Intercontinental Title Match: Tetsuya Naito (C) vs. Chris Jericho
Nathaniel: Jericho in long pants and with Clockwork Orange style makeup. Jericho jumps Naito before the bell. Aside from hope spots from Naito, Jericho dominates. Naito bleeds under his eye and it looks horrible. Jericho wins out of nowhere with the Codebreaker. Match was fine, but seemed to be missing something. After the match, Jericho attaches Naito with his newly one IC belt before EVIL comes in for the save.
Mark: Much like his match against Omega in January, Jericho’s match had a lot of smoke and mirrors to make up for his age and ring rust. I loved the structure of this match with Jericho attacking before the bell and Naito struggling to get the momentum back. It was a good match but Jericho’s ring rust (which was noticeable towards the end) and Naito’s lack of urgency and desire meant that this was not as good as it could have been.
IWGP Heavyweight Title Match (2 out of 3 Falls No Time Limit): Kazuchika Okada (C) vs. Kenny Omega
Nathaniel: Series is tied at one win each with a draw. Incredibly fast paced first fall that ends after Okada goes for Rainmaker that Kenny turns into a sunset flip attempt but Okada sits down for the pin. Omega destroys Okada with a V Trigger and pins him with the One Winged Angel to tie the match.. After working a ridiculous pace the first two falls, the final one becomes a battle of attrition. Not sure if there has ever been better storytelling in a match. An exhausted Omega is somehow able to pin Okada in an amazing third fall. Not sure if this match will redefine star ratings like their Tokyo Dome match did, but it’s an all time classic.
Mark: I normally don’t like long matches due to my attention span. The Okada-Omega series hasn’t connected with me as well as it has for most people, so I won’t call this my match of the year. However, the match was very good and the storytelling in the last fall was incredible. The story in that fall, which focused on stamina and fatigue, was great and it added to the long term story behind Okada’s title reign and how long the matches have been. In addition to the match, the end sequence was incredible and it felt like the right result.
Top 5 Matches:
- Omega vs. Okada
- Takahashi vs. Ospreay
- The Young Bucks vs. LIJ
- Suzuki & Sabre vs. Ishii & Yano
- Jericho vs. Naito
Overall Thoughts: The main event had to be a classic in order to meet expectations, the Young Bucks proved (again) they know ring psychology, and Suzuki and Sabre are painful (in a good way) to watch. Despite having long term booking that makes sense, an atmosphere where wins and losses matter, and a noticeable lack of pancake batter, Dominion was an excellent show.
Top 5 Matches
- Omega vs Okada2
- Takahashi vs Ospreay
- Suzuki-Sabre Jr vs Ishii-Yano
- Young Bucks vs. EVIL & SANADA
- Jericho vs Naito
Overall Thoughts: A very good show. We had a great match in Omega vs Okada, a very good Junior Heavyweight Title match and 2 great tag team matches. This might not be the best introduction to New Japan but almost every match seemed to set up a new program or a new direction. I am really intrigued by what happens next for New Japan, with the continuing global expansion and the G1 Climax less than 2 months away.
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