New Japan Pro Wrestling has always been the gold standard for professional wrestling, especially when WWE would find itself in a slump. This is something that I haven’t really actively watched before, I was mostly just aware of things and that they were good. January 4th of this year, I watched Wrestle Kingdom 11 live and had my mind blown. Due to financial reasons, I had to end my subscription shortly after, but after seeing the card for this year’s Dominion show, I knew I had to get at least one more month. This show was maybe even more of a wild ride than my first event was.
Also, it’ll be pretty tough to find actual mid-match pictures like I normally do, so these are the best I can work with at the moment.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Manabu Nakanishi, and Jushin Thunder Liger v. Tiger Mask, Tiger Mask W, Togi Makabe, and Yuji Nagata
Since this is only my second New Japan event, I’m not very familiar with most of these guys. I know Jushin Thunder Liger (obviously) and I know that Tiger Mask W is actually Kota Ibushi, but not much more than that. Makabe and Tenzan are names I’m aware of, but I just don’t have the experience yet. I do find it interesting how NJPW events tend to start off with tag matches while WWE usually starts with two very quick and energetic guys, but NJPW also regularly has 10-man tag matches on most cards.
The match was honestly not that memorable, as I expected going in. After a segment where each man enters the ring to knock out the previous man and clear the ring, Makabe went to the top rope and was able to put away Nakanishi for the win.
Togi Makabe secures a victory for Tiger Mask, Tiger Mask W, and â€¦..
Los Ingobernables De Japon (Bushi, Evil, Sanada) (c) v. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page, Yujiro Takahashi) v. Chaos (Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii, Yoshi-Hashi) v. Suzuki-Gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru) v. Taguchi Japan (Ryusuke Taguchi, Ricochet, Juice Robinson): NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship Match
The gauntlet match is started off with the Bullet Club and Chaos. Page and Ishii start trying to outmuscle each other, which isn’t a game I’d like to engage in. Yujiro takes on Yoshi-hashi in the ring while Fale destroys the other two outside, leaving them in the crowd. Toru Yano gets the hot tag, but is quickly triple teamed. After a bit of a brawl, Yano sneaks out a quick roll-up on the Bullet Club.
Out next is the Suzuki-Gun team. Hot take incoming, but I don’t really like or care about Zack Sabre Jr. at all, but oh well. Just like that though, ZSJ gets a clever pin on Yano, and we’re already moving on to Taguchi Japan. Ricochet and Juice get in a lot of offense before Taguchi is isolated. Juice almost falls to a buzzsaw kick from Taichi, but he takes advantage of referee distraction to get a pinfall.
Los Ingobernables make their way to the ring as ZSJ locks Juice into an octopus hold, wearing him down even more before the final opponents even arrive. Evil dismantles Taguchi with chairs, Bushi strangles Juice with a shirt, and Sanada is mostly here to have a ridiculously tall mohawk I think. Ricochet gets in some creative offense against a double team, and I can’t believe how talented this man is. I’m stunned every time I see him. Taguchi gets back in with an ankle lock to Bushi, but can’t withstand the numbers of the champs.
Los Ingobernables de Japon retain their championships after a hard fought gauntlet.
Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero, Beretta) (c) v. Young Bucks (Nick & Matt Jackson): IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match
The Young Bucks are arguably the biggest thing in wrestling right now, and they’re in the hunt for their sixth run with championships. Beretta tries to overcome the challenges brothers, but he is downed as his partner gets powerbombed into the apron. Beretta is worked over by the Bucks for several minutes until a double stomp and tornado DDT give him some breathing room. Unfortunately for him, Rocky Romero gets a powerbomb on the entrance ramp just as soon as he gets back on the apron. Earning some classic babyface shine, Beretta uses the momentum of the challengers against them, hitting a vicious running knee and piledriver, but can only land two-count. Romero gets back in the match but falls to a backbreaker and a series of Sharpshooter submission holds. The broken champion can’t withstand the abuse, and he taps out.
The Young Bucks win the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships for the sixth time.
War Machine (Hanson, Raymond Rowe) (c) v. Guerrillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga, Tanga Roa): IWGP Tag Team Championship Match
I don’t know anything about the champions, but we’ve got even more Bullet Club with the challengers which is always exciting. Tama Tonga gets in most of the early offense, but Hanson is able to overpower him. Rowe and Tanga Roa start brawling, which ends in a beautiful deadlift German suplex from the champion. War Machine appear to be deceptively agile for their size; they remind me of NXT’s Heavy Machinery team, except actually taken seriously. Some absolutely monstrous tag team action almost puts away the Guerillas, and it gets me hooked considering I don’t even know what their finish even is. Some of Rowe’s kickouts are a little sloppy and almost miss the three. Hanson delivers a frog splash to Tama Tonga and an outside dive to Tanga Roa, but they can’t keep the challengers down. A collision with the referee leads to some chair usage from the challengers, followed shortly by a third title reign.
The Guerrillas Of Destiny win the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships, bringing more gold back to The Bullet Club.
Cody v. Michael Elgin
I’ve seen one Michael Elgin match (his ladder match against Omega) which was incredible, and I always loved Cody Rhodes in WWE, so I’m already digging this match before it begins. The arrogant heel, referencing his old Stardust character, does a cartwheel across the ring. Elgin throws a forearm at him and mocks his cartwheel. Some vicious chops from the big man are able to help control the pace and slow down The American Nightmare, until Cody sneaks out and hits Elgin with an Alabama Slam.
Cody plays such a damn good cocky heel, which gives Big Mike the perfect opportunity to mock him frequently. Elgin lands three German suplexes and a Falcon Arrow but gets frustrated when Cody kicks out. The “Son Of A Son Of A Plumber” hits a disaster kick to the outside, but eats a huge lariat. Cody slips away from Elgin yet again and lands the Cross Rhodes for the win.
Cody remains undefeated in New Japan, and earns another victory for Bullet Club.
Hiromu Takahashi (c) v. Kushida: IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
This and the final two matches are rematches from Wrestle Kingdom 11, which was an absolutely phenomenal card. I won’t argue that the main event is the most exciting of the bunch, but I’m really really really into this Takahashi/Kushida rivalry. Plus, Takahashi’s defense against Dragon Lee and Kushida’s victory over Will Ospreay at Best Of The Super Juniors are also on my list of the best matches of the year so far.
The match begins with trading forearms, which usually happens in the middle when both men are drained and fighting on instinct, but the animosity really works here. Even if you’ve never seen these two before, you’re clearly shown how much hatred they have for each other. Their chemistry is so strong and their offense incredibly innovative.
Takahashi goes for a sunset flip powerbomb to the outside, but Kushida turns it into an armbar before throwing the champion over the barricade. He sits Hiromu down in a chair, then sprints and jumps into him with a dropkick. The champ turns the tables with a quick German suplex, but hasn’t done enough to end the match. Kushida flips Takahashi off the top and into his Hoverboard lock, inflicting a lot of pain on the arm, but the champ escapes with a forearm and a lariat. Both men engage in hard kicks on the apron before Hiromu lands his sunset flip powerbomb on the outside, and Kushida’s head bounces off the ground. The challenger fights back and pulls off a Back To The Future from the second rope, leaving both men down for a while. After some closed fist strikes and stomps to head, the crowd actually begins to boo Kushida, but he locks in the Hoverboard Lock and forces the tapout. After the match, Bushi shows up and sprays green mist into the eyes of the new champion, making me wonder whether Bushi or Takahashi gets the first title shot.
Kushida recaptures the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship.
Minoru Suzuki (c) v. Hirooki Goto: NEVER Openweight Championship Match
I’m not familiar with Suzuki since this match had Katsuyori Shibata in in at Wrestle Kingdom 11 (hoping for a safe recovery), but he looks scary as hell. This apparently the first time a New Japan title has been defended in a lumberjack match, so this should be fun, but I’m just not as invested.
The chops from the champion are some of the most stuff I’ve ever seen, and it kinda makes me wish this could be Suzuki/Shibata. We run into some classic heel work when Suzuki’s lumberjacks pull Goto out and maul him outside the ring. The lumberjacks from Chaos try to break it up, but they’re overpowered while Suzuki sits down in the ring and waits for his meal to be delivered. While brawling, Suzuki taunts Jushin Thunder Liger, who has been on commentary since his match. Liger tries to throw a chair, but his held back by other announcers. The forearms these two deliver make my jaw hurt in another continent. Right as Goto is about to reclaim his title, Taichi sneaks back in and pulls the ref out of the ring. He then hits Goto in the head with a chair twice, destroying the chair in the process. Suzuki lands a dropkick followed by a piledriver to keep his title.
Minoru Suzuki retains the NEVER Openweight Championship with a little help from his friends.
Tetsuya Naito (c) v. Hiroshi Tanahashi: IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match
Essentially, Hiroshi Tanahashi is the John Cena of New Japan (but also a real life Final Fantasy character), and Tetsuya Naito is a more disrespectful CM Punk. We caught up now? Yeah, this stuff is great.
The story here is that Naito disrespects his championship, which infuriates the “ace” of the company. The title is horribly beaten up, and Naito tosses it into the ring without care, which makes Tanahashi blindside him outside of the ring. However, it doesn’t take long for the heel champion to go after the injured arm of Tanahashi. After warping his arm in a barricade and dropping him on the ramp, Naito waits as his opponent just barely makes it back before the twenty-count, which would disqualify him. Naito takes a break from working the arm to aggravate the challenger with slaps. Tanahashi knocks him down and starts punching the champion with closed fists, and even spits on him, which tempts the crowd to turn on him until Naito spits back. It now becomes a battle of which limb can be worked more, Tanahashi’s arm or Naito’s knee. Tanahashi delivers a big top rope frog splash to the outside, but won’t accept the countout win because it would prove nothing. Naito locks in another hard arm submission, but the announcers say “Tanahashi would rather die in the ring than tap to Naito”, just in case we aren’t aware of the stakes.
Tanahashi wants another splash, but it caught out with a hurricanrana. He gets back up to try again, but hits the mat as Naito rolls away. The heel hits a German suplex and a Destinies from the second rope, but Tanahashi comes alive with a suplex and two slingblades. One more attempt of the High Fly Flow (and a little shout-out to Shinsuke Nakamura) lands, but Naito finds a way to kick out. The ace locks in a submission that practically breaks the champion in half, and he taps after holding out for so long.
Hiroshi Tanahashi becomes the IWGP Intercontinental Champion once again, hoping to bring the prestige back to the title.
Kazuchika Okada (c) v. Kenny Omega: IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match
When Okada and Omega met at Wrestle Kingdom 11, Dave Meltzer gave the match 6 stars out of 5. To say that this is the most anticipated match of the year might be an understatement.
After all of the previous Bullet Club success, Omega looks to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the first time from the man with the third-longest total days as champion, who won this championship almost exactly a year ago from Naito at Dominion last year. After some rough offensive trades and attempted finishers, Okada hits an outside dive that seems to irritate his knee, giving Omega the perfect place to target. Omega takes it back outside and drops the champ’s knee onto one of the ringside tables. The challenger tries to jump from the barricade onto his opponent, but is shoved into another railing. Okada then jumps clear over the first barrier to crossbody Omega before going back to the ring. Kazuchika hits a neckbreaker and misses an elbow drop, and his mistake is deadly. After that, he fall victim to a pumphandle backbreaker, missile dropkick to the outside, and a springboard moonsault from the leader of the Bullet Club. After a long back and forth in the corner, Okada lands a Death Valley Driver on the apron, giving him some much needed breathing room. He gains some momentum and launches into the strongest shotgun dropkick I’ve ever seen. Omega lands a devastating top rope superplex followed by a jumping knee, but Okada responds with a series of Germans into the Rainmaker. Somehow, Kenny kicks out with a fraction of a second left. The champion jumps up for a dropkick that Omega turns into a powerbomb, and suddenly the tides have changed. Okada kicks the challenger to the outside, and then elbow drops him through a table.
After another vicious clothesline, Okada gives the ref the chance to end the match. The rest of Bullet Club comes out and Cody tries to literally throw in the towel, but the Young Bucks stop him. Kenny lands the V-Trigger knee and a reverse hurricanrana, but runs into a dropkick. Omega avoids another Rainmaker, hits a few more knees, but can’t seem to land his finisher. He finally lands the One-Winged Angel, but it’s too close to the edge of the ring and the champ gets his foot to the rope. Omega takes too long to attack again and is surprised with another Rainmaker, but both men are too drained to stand. At this point, they’ve surpassed the 45 minutes from their Wrestle Kingdom 11 match, but they just keep going and my energy hasn’t taken a single dip. Omega uses the ropes to set Okada up for another One-Winged Angel, but it gets reversed into a Tombstone Piledriver. The champion isn’t satisfied, but his final Rainmaker fails as Omega simply collapses due to exhaustion, the most clever dodge I’ve perhaps ever seen.
At 55 minutes (out of a 60 minute time limit), Omega just repeatedly tried to remove Okada’s head with his knees, but his hubris and need to use his finisher greets him with another dropkick and Tombstone. Not even a bridging German suplex puts away the challenger, and I can hear the old-guard of wrestling throwing a fit over the amount of kickouts. Two minutes left. They’re absolutely exhausted. One minute left. Snap dragon suplex from Omega, dropkick from Okada, and one more Rainmaker with 30 seconds left. Okada can’t manage to crawl to his opponent for the cover in time, and the bell rings.
Kazuchika Okada retains his championship via time limit draw.
I can’t help but feel that this match would easily be considered one of the absolute greatest matches of all time if it had a firm resolution, but I still think it deserves that discussion. I think it even managed to top their previous Wrestle Kingdom match. For the most part, each and every match improved upon what occurred previously, and my second New Japan Pro Wrestling event was a rousing success with several more Match Of The Year contenders. Adding NJPW to my watchlist will make my end of the year ranking the hardest wrestling list I’ve ever had to make, and we aren’t even halfway through the year yet. I can’t wait to see what the G1 tournament has to offer.
Did you watch New Japan’s Dominion show? How does it stack up to other 2017 wrestling cards? What was your favorite match? Let me know all of your thoughts down below, or @NickJPotter on Twitter.