Dominion is to New Japan Pro Wrestling what SummerSlam is to WWE. The big summer show that represents the second-most important single day in their calendar.
This year, New Japan have stacked the show to an almost unprecedented level. After the success of Wrestle Kingdom 12 in January Chris Jericho is back. Rey Mysterio is in action with the company for the first time after his dream match with Jushin Thunder Liger had to be called off earlier in the year. And then there is the little matter of the latest chapter in the incredible title reign of Kazuchika Okada and his rivalry with Kenny Omega. In short, if you were to ever start watching more than just GIFs and youtube clips of New Japan, this Saturday is the time to do it. (Start times: 0:00am PDT/3:00am EDT/8:00am BST)
|1||Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c) Vs. Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh)||IWGP Juinor Heavyweight Tag Team Championship|
|2||Taguchi Japan (Juice Robinson & David Finlay) Vs. Chaos (Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi)||None|
|3||Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) Vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr)||None|
|4||Hirooki Goto (c) Vs. Michael Elgin Vs. Taichi||Triple Threat match for the NEVER Openweight Championship|
|5||Los Ingobernables de Japon (Evil & Sanada) (c) Vs. The Young Bucks (Nick & Matt Jackson)||IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship|
|6||Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jushin Thunder Liger, & Rey Mysterio Vs. Bullet Club (Cody, Hangman Page, & Marty Scurll)||None|
|7||Will Ospreay (c) Vs. Hiromu Takahashi||IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship|
|8||Tetsuya Naito (c) Vs. Chris Jericho||IWGP Intercontinental Championship|
|9||Kazuchika Okada (c) Vs. Kenny Omega||No time limit, two out of three falls for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship|
Nine matches, six titles on the line, and more than a few notable appearances. While there is a lot to of interest up and down this card, the final three matches are the headliners and have been talked about the most. Let’s start from the main event and work our way backwards.
Kazuchika Okada Vs. Kenny Omega
When Okada put away Zack Sabre Jr and then Hiroshi Tanahashi to break the record for most successful title defenses in a single reign the question was what next for the Rain Maker? Okada answered that question when he called out Kenny Omega one more time. At last year’s Dominion show the two fought to a remarkable 60 minute draw in what is easily the best match I have ever seen. That draw irked Okada, so he asked Kenny if they could go without a time limit this time. Kenny agreed but only if the match was also two out of three falls. So here we are.
New Japan very rarely puts stipulations into title matches, especially IWGP Heavyweight ones, but the fact that they are willing to allow these two to work like this is an incredible statement of trust. After their draw last year and their 27-minute war in the G1 that evened the score at 1-1-1 there was really nowhere for these two to go in a straight singles match. Now though, they can play with expectations and produce something truly remarkable. This match could go 90 minutes. It could go two hours. Whatever happens it is likely to be one for the ages.
Kenny has never asked for a shot at the Okada’s title. He earned his way there with his G1 win in 2016, and then Okada called him out for both of these Dominion matches. The Cleaner may have only picked up a three-count once on Okada, but he is in the champions head, and he represents the best chance to take the belt away from Okada since Naito at Wrestle Kingdom in January.
Prediction: Kenny Omega wins
Tetsuya Naito Vs. Chris Jericho
This match stems from a few throwaway comments about New Japan billing Wrestle Kingdom 12 as a “Double main event”. Naito said there was only one true main event, and Jericho seemed to take it to heart, attacking him the day after Wrestle Kingdom, and then again at Wrestling Dontaku in May. He left Naito bloodied and battered, but the leader of Los Ingobernable de Japon was just as Tranquilo as ever.
Jericho’s viciousness in New Japan is of stark contrast to he most recent WWE persona, but it matches incredibly well with Naito’s laid back, care-free character. While Naito can shake off most things, a brutal attack from a maniac in a scarf leaves a mark, and that mark could lead to a great match. Few wrestlers in history have been as brilliant at working a crowd as Chris Jericho, but Tetsuya Naito can give him a run for his money. Just two years ago Naito was the biggest heel in New Japan, now he is the most popular person in the company with the possible exception of Liger and Tanahashi.
There isn’t a wrestling fan alive that wants to boo Jericho, and yet he if that is the reaction he wants that is the reaction he will get. Against Kenny Omega in January they used a lot of outside brawling and weapons to create tension and drama. This could be more of the same, or the two showmen will just work their unique brands of magic to create something special.
Prediction: Tetsuya Naito wins
Will Ospreay Vs. Hiromu Takahashi
If the two heavyweight matches are the attention-grabbers, this one is the dark horse for match of the night. Will Ospreay has been in incredible form throughout 2018. While his match with Marty Scurll caused some serious concern for his well-being, he has shaken off what could have been a career-threatening injury as best he can and continued to be down-right amazing. Meanwhile, Hiromu Takahashi just put on an unbelievably good match to win this year’s Best of Super Juniors and earn his spot in this match.
Both of these wrestlers take risks to the point of recklessness, but by toeing that line they also produce truly exceptional matches that have completely changed the game for the Junior Heavyweight division. Ospreay is already a headliner around the world at the age of 25, Hiromu burst onto the scene in New Japan just 18 months ago and has carved out his own realm of craziness in the division. These two are going to look at the matches ahead of them on the card and say there is no reason they shouldn’t be on top. Ospreay matches are often watched through gritted teeth, but they are can’t miss.
Prediction: Will Ospreay retains
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jushin Thunder Liger, & Rey Mysterio Vs. Bullet Club (Cody, Hangman Page, & Marty Scurll)
Mysterio & Liger are two of the greatest juniors ever. Tanahashi is the foundation of New Japan’s current success. You couldn’t put together a more impressive trio of current wrestlers if you tried. While we will have to wait for Rey and Liger to get a match against each other, seeing them in the same ring will be good enough for now.
While Bullet Club has faded somewhat in New Japan this year, Cody has been one of the best western heels in recent years. A true coward, yet still capable of out-wrestling his opponents, he is more than ably seconded by Hangman Page, probably 2018’s most improved wrestler, and the comedic brilliance of Marty Scurll.
Cody and Tanahashi should make for an intriguing match in this one, and I will be curious to see if the bout ends with something between them leading to a singles match down the line. A feud with Tanahashi would be a great way to establish Cody as a serious player in NJPW.
Prediction: Tanahashi, Liger, & Mysterio win
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Evil & Sanada) (c) Vs. The Young Bucks (Nick & Matt Jackson)
The Young Bucks are the most decorated junior tag team in New Japan history, so it was only a matter of time before they stepped up to the heavyweight tag ranks. This match is their first shot at the heavyweight tag titles, and sees the reigning duo of Evil and Sanada face a real test.
The Bucks are known worldwide for their athleticism, timing, and superkicks, while both Evil and Sanada are more up-and-coming than they are established in the field. If the Young Bucks aren’t the best tag team in the world they are damn close, and that is simply not true of the LIJ pair. Not yet anyway. They have certainly put on some good matches, but this one will really test their mettle. Only their relatively new status as heavyweights could stand between the Bucks and more gold.
Prediction: LIJ retain
Hirooki Goto (c) Vs. Michael Elgin Vs. Taichi
This is perhaps the least interesting match on the card, and a disappointing spot for a wrestler like Hirooki Goto. After having argubly the match of the night with Minoru Suzuki to win the NEVER Openweight title at Wrestle Kingdom, a triple threat with Elgin and Taichi is some fall.
Both the challengers wanted a piece of Goto, and he decided to take them on at the same time. It should be short, and I’m sure there will be a good finishing sequence, but this match is easily the weakest on the card.
Prediction: Hirooki Goto retains
Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) Vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr)
One of those teams that are in the running for “best tag team in wrestling” is Suzuki and Sabre. The two have been putting on clinics as the Rev Pro tag champions, and recently Ishii dethroned Sabre Jr after a year-long reign. Add in Toru Yano’s history with Suzuki and you have all the makings of an extremely good match. Whether they will be given the time to really create some magic is up for debate, but it should be a very good match none the less.
Prediction: Suzuki-gun wins
Taguchi Japan (Juice Robinson & David Finlay) Vs. Chaos (Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi)
David Finlay and Jay White have a lot of history together, and none of it is very happy. Add in the fact that Juice Robinson is taking off and would be a more than worthy contender for White’s US title and you have a match that could have a few fireworks in it. Until Yoshi-Hashi gets involved. I don’t like Yoshi-Hashi.
Prediction: Taguchi Japan wins
Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c) Vs. Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh)
The opening bout! Sho and Yoh are both coming off extremely impressive performances in the Best of Super Juniors tournament, and while El Desperado and Kanemaru can more than hold their own, Roppongi 3K are future stars of the junior division. I would be stunned if they don’t get their titles back.
Prediction: Roppongi 3K win
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