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Kevin’s NJPW Dominion Review

June 9, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW Dominion 2019
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Kevin’s NJPW Dominion Review  

NJPW Dominion
June 9th, 2019 | Osaka Jo-Hall in Osaka, Japan

It’s time for NJPW’s second biggest show of the year. Chris Jericho is lined up for a main event (not exciting), Will Ospreay is challenging for the Jr. Title (not ideal but okay), there’s another Naito/Ibushi match on tap (sweet), and a strong undercard could make this a special NJPW show.

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IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Jon Moxley vs. Shota Umino
Shota Umino has now faced Hiroshi Tanahashi and Jon Moxley in singles matches this year and he’s not even the best Young Lion. Surprising. Great reaction for Moxley. There’s a certain aura to him that is unlike anyone else in NJPW. It’s cool to see. Umino hit a tope onto Moxley during his entrance, looking to gain the upper hand. Moxley turned it around quickly, though Umino did get a near fall on a German suplex. Moxley won with Dirty Deeds in 3:52. A short but fun match that was there to showcase Moxley. [***]

Post-match, Jon Moxley stated his intentions to enter the G1 Climax. He surprisingly helped Umino to the back.

Satoshi Kojima vs. Shingo Takagi
The story here is that Shingo blames a lack of experience against heavyweights for his loss to Will Ospreay, so now he’s targeting them. I still say he should’ve won the tournament, but I dig this. I’m fired up for this match because it’s two guys I really enjoy. They beat on each other from the start and we nearly got a double countout during a forearm exchange early. I bought it as a finish to keep both guys alive as possible G1 Climax entrants. It was cool to see that the bully tactics Shingo used on juniors didn’t work here. Though Kojima doesn’t consistently work singles matches anymore, this was more of a level playing field than most of Shingo’s junior matches. Kojima no selling the Pumping Bomber had me out of my seat. Amazing. Shingo proved to be too much, firing up and winning with Last of the Dragon in 11:14. My kind of pro wrestling. Kojima can still go and Shingo is something special. One hell of a match. I might be the high man on it, but I loved it. [****]

Post-match, Shingo pulled a Moxley and said he wanted in the G1!

I have a message for Gedo. Please, for the love of everything, put Kojima in one final G1. Put him and Shingo in and leave out Taichi and Will Ospreay or something. A farewell run for him sounds outstanding.

Jushin Thunder Liger and YOSHI-HASHI vs. Minoru Suzuki and RevPro British Heavyweight Champion Zack Sabre Jr.
The deal here was the continuing beef between Suzuki and Liger, as well as some build for YOSHI-HASHI getting a RevPro Title shot. One of those sounds interesting and the other has YOSHI-HASHI. Sabre doesn’t take him seriously and neither do I. Don Callis suggested HASHI go on excursion to Siberia. Even Liger got so fed up with his partner that he entered the ring and slapped him around to wake him up. He finally did and Liger came in hot. He and Suzuki continued to go to war, which I loved. The Sabre/HASHI interactions were less fun. It ultimately led to HASHI shocking Sabre with a rollup to win in 9:39. A fine little tag but nothing more. [**¾]

Chase Owens, Jay White and Taiji Ishimori vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson and NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champion Ryusuke Taguchi
I love how Jay White looks so evil, while Tanahashi is just a pure babyface. For some reason, White remained focused on Tanahashi. You beat him. Leave him alone. Move on. Especially since they’ve wrestled 5 times in a couple of years and will probably face off again in the G1. The Taguchi/Ishimori stuff was a lot of fun. Their chemistry is quite strong for two guys who have only had one or two singles matches that I can recall. Juice and Owens renewed their feud from earlier this year. Come to think of it, I’d be all for another Juice/Jay program. Tanahashi beat Owens with a weird Final Cut variation in 9:48. This was alright but nothing you need to see and was kind of just there. [**½]

NEVER Openweight Championship: Taichi [c] vs. Tomohiro Ishii
We’re getting into the string of title matches on this show. I appreciated the story being told early on. Ishii got fed up with Taichi’s usual antics. When Taichi staled, Ishii laid him out with an elbow. Ishii took the microphone stand and some of Taichi’s other nonsense gimmicks and threw them aside, yelling that Taichi didn’t need them. It was like he was bringing out the tough fighter in the champion. When Taichi was on offense, the match was surprisingly better. Not that what he did was great, but Ishii made sure everything looked better than usual. On the flip side, Taichi looked awkward taking bumps for Ishii. It was like he wasn’t prepared. Anyway, Ishii won the title again with a Brainbuster in 11:16. This was one of the better Taichi matches ever. He still dragged it down, but this was enjoyable and didn’t overstay its welcome. [***½]

IWGP Tag Team Championship: The Guerrillas of Destiny [c] vs. EVIL and SANADA
It’s the most interesting team in NJPW challenging the worst. People like to harp on WWE’s tag division being bad, but NJPW’s is atrocious and has been for a long time. Who cares about this? The only entertaining thing about this match was Tanga Loa and EVIL shouting at each other. Besides that, I’ve really got nothing. We’ve seen these teams wrestle so many times and it isn’t getting any better. This had zero heat or emotion behind it. Though it went 16:38, it felt like it lasted 25-30 minutes. It was boring and almost impossible to care about. Then, Jado got involved for the finish and awkwardly stood there until BUSHI made a run in to even it out. Tama Tonga rolled up EVIL to retain in one of the worst tag matches of the year. A low point for an already bad division. [*¼]

Katsuyori Shibata is here to save us after that dreadful tag match! Fans seemed to think he would be cornering Dragon Lee, who has been paying tribute to him lately. Instead, Shibata stopped and pointed to the entrance behind him. AND OUT CAME KENTA! I didn’t love a lot of his WWE run (not blaming WWE for that one) but KENTA in NOAH/ROH was incredible. This was to announce that KENTA will be in the G1 Climax. Hyped!

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Dragon Lee [c] vs. Will Ospreay
I’ve seen a lot of talk that Will Ospreay is the best wrestler in the world. That’s absolutely laughable to me. However, he can still deliver great matches from time to time. Last time Willy won the BOSJ, he lost the Dominion shot at KUSHIDA. As impressive as the opening exchange was, I’m not a fan of the clichés it comes with. Both guys failing to hit their finishers, both whiffing on dropkicks, and the kip up staredown. It’s good stuff, but we’ve seen it a ton. The pace slowed from there, which was a good thing as they were able to build to something better. Lee had the spot of the night with a gorgeous/dangerous tope suicida while Ospreay was seated on the guardrail. Incredible. From there, the match took off. A ton of great counters and exchanges. It works because both men are freakishly athletic and can throw their fair share of stiff strikes. We got another overdone cliché with Ospreay landing on his feet on a super rana, though this one at least had the cool difference of coming on the outside. I popped hard for the knee strike to block the Oscutter. In the end, Ospreay won the title by hitting the Oscutter, holding on, and adding Storm Breaker in 20:07. Oh, look. Another match where Ospreay stays in that 15-20 minute range and it’s better than when he goes longer. They kept this tight and it felt like a real battle between equals. An insane match similar to the Will/Hiromu match last year. It was paced so well and we got something great out of it. [****½]

After the match, Will Ospreay told commentary that he’ll defend his title against Robbie Eagles at the Melbourne show.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Kota Ibushi [c] vs. Tetsuya Naito
Ibushi won their meetings in the New Japan Cup ’15 (****), G1 28 (****¼), 2019 New Japan Cup (****½), and G1 Supercard (****¼). Naito came out on top in the G1 27 (****¾). Needless to say, it’s one of the best in-ring rivalries in history. So, this was disgusting. It’s hard to talk about this match without discussing the dangers we saw from it. Naito targeted the neck, which is obvious against Ibushi. But when he hit him with a German suplex on the apron, this got worrisome. Ibushi landed sideways on his neck and I honestly don’t know how he didn’t break it. The spot is terrifying. Every single bump after that was hard to watch as I grew more and more concerned for their well-beings. I’m usually one okay with big bumps because wrestling is a dangerous business, but this was on a whole different level. Naito countering Kamigoya into a DDT was insane. He picked up the win after a few Destinos, mercifully ending this in 22:06. A great match that will probably be divisive because of the bumps. It did venture into overkill territory down the stretch, which I’m used to from most NJPW big matches. Still, a great addition to their rivalry. They should take time off from wrestling each other because if they keep it up, they won’t be around much longer. [****¼]

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada [c] vs. Chris Jericho
I haven’t loved Jericho’s NJPW run. The matches are solid but some go too long and his promos have been pretty one note. This match was a case where they never felt like they were on the same page. Jericho understands that the best thing for him to do now is work a brawling style. Kind of like the old Attitude Era main events. That’s why his match with Naito last year worked so well. However, Okada didn’t seem intent on that. Instead, he injected this with some of the tropes we’ve come to know in his matches. It’s as if he didn’t grasp that they needed to work something that would suit Jericho, not him. I do appreciate that it wasn’t entirely Okada formula. I’ll never complain about that. It’s just that this never clicked and went on for too long. We saw at Double or Nothing that Jericho shouldn’t be going 25+. Okada avoided the laughably bad Judas Effect elbow and cradled Jericho to retain at 25:43. A lackluster main event that dragged. I liked bits of it but sticking to a brawl and making it about 15 minutes works. But then again, Gedo would never book a Heavyweight Title match to go under 20. [**¾]

Jericho attacked Okada after the match until Tanahashi made the save from commentary. Jericho called himself the greatest of all time. I’m thinking Jericho/Tanahashi in the Tokyo Dome.

The final score: review Good
The 411
A step down from last years’ event for a few reasons. The IC, Jr. Heavyweight, and Shingo/Kojima matches all delivered. I also liked the Moxley/Umino match and the introduction of KENTA. The rest of the show didn’t do much for me. Some of the undercard is solid, but the Tag Team Title match was trash and that main event was disappointing even for me, who wasn’t expected much from it.

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NJPW Dominion, Kevin Pantoja