NJPW Dominion 2023 (6/4/2023)- Osaka, Japan
IWGP UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP #1 CONTENDERSHIP TOURNAMENT FINALS: Lance Archer vs. Will Ospreay- 7.75/10
Archer jumped Ospreay during his entrance. They told a good story with Ospreay’s shoulder, including the nice little touch that due to that injury, the Hidden Blade wasn’t as effective as it usually is, with Archer kicking out at one on the first one, and it taking several in a row to put Archer down once and for all.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, Titan, BUSHI, & Shingo Takagi) vs. JUST FIVE GUYS (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, DOUKI, TAKA Michinoku, & Taichi)- 6/10
Action happened. LIJ won.
IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: Intergalactic Jet Setters (Kevin Knight & KUSHIDA)(c) vs. Catch 22 (Francesco Akira & TJP) (w/Dan Moloney)- 7.5/10
More action, but thus time there was more high-flying. Catch 22 won the belts back, which makes me wonder why they even lost them in the first place if Intergalactic Jet Setters were going to hold the belts for just over a month and have zero successful defenses.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- decent
Clark Connors came down the ramp and distracted the new champs, at which point Dan Moloney attacked them from behind. Okay. We’ve set up new challengers in the standard lazy New Japan way.
NJPW WORLD TV TITLE MATCH: Zack Sabre Jr.(c) (w/Kosei Fujita) vs. Jeff Cobb- 6.5/10
The story here was about how Zack would be able to use all of his cool leverage moves on someone who is built as thickly as Cobb is. They did a decent job with it, but it felt like they didn’t have the time they needed to make it exciting. The match only went 8:46. This is a match I would have given more time to. For example, all of the time that the eight-man tag got. This is New Japan’s SummerSlam. It doesn’t need a random eight-man tag. Imagine that finish (Tour of the Islands countered into a Crucifix Pin) after Cobb has dominated for twelve minutes, interspersed with Zack occasionally managing to catch a hold at the right angle put Cobb in real danger of tapping.
TORANDO TAG TEAM MATCH FOR THE VACANT IWGP TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP AND NJPW STRONG OPENWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. United Empire (Aaron Henare & Great-O-Khan) vs. House of Torture (Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL) (w/Dick Togo)- 8/10
House of Torture jumped Bishamon from behind during their entrance. Dick Togo interfered freely, taking advantage of the fact that there are no DQs in a three-way. After way too much time, Yoh came out to help Bishamon. No one came out for United Empire, because they’re bad stablemates. Other than that one detail, I really enjoyed this as your interference-filled scramble match kind of brawl. Bishamom won the belts, so good for them.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- meh
Gabriel Kidd and Alex Coughlin came out in Bullet Club shirts and attacked Bishamon. That’s three scrubs Bullet Club has picked up tonight.
THE G1 CLIMAX PARTICIPANTS ARE ANNOUNCED- Based on the number of wrestlers announced, I think the finals will be some time in November. When each block has about six guys who feel like they’re just in there to do jobs, the tournament ceases to feel like a big deal. It’s the same protectionist booking as the rest of the year, but with singles matches instead of six-man tags. The G1 used to feel special precisely because everyone in it was a least a medium-sized name, and thus you couldn’t do the overly-protectionist booking that they favored the rest of the year. The idea of Kiyomiya or Eddie Kingston coming in to wrestle guys like Ospreay and Tanahashi is a lot less appealing if in order to see that match, I also have to sit through five matches with a painfully obvious winner, and where even if there is an upset, I know that upset won’t mean anything or lead to anything because it feels like it was only done so that points could work out the way the booker wanted to, rather than being the start of something big for the guy scored the upset win.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE MATCH: David Finlay(c) (w/Alex Coughlin, Clark Connors, Gabriel Kidd, Dan Moloney, & Gedo) vs. El Phantasmo- 7.5/10
This was a very good version of the Bullet Club interference match, as they held it off for key moments. I really don’t care for either of these guys, but they really got me into this match. El Phantasmo started to look like the great babyface he was in RevPro five years ago, feuding with David Starr and chasing the British Cruiserweight Championship. That powerbomb through a table definitely should have been a DQ, and it really annoyed me that they couldn’t have had any of the five members of Bullet Club on the outside be distracting the referee for it. Finlay got the win after the aforementioned powerbomb through a table followed by a combination of big moves in the ring, but they did more than enough here to set El Phantasmo up for a rematch. The problem, of course, is that NJPW doesn’t do the logical thing in situations like this and quickly book a rematch, so by the time they get back around to doing a rematch (if they ever do), the issue will be cold.
IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH: Hiromu Takahashi(c) vs. Master Wato- 7.75/10
I could have done without the vertical suplex on the ramp followed by the Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys™. Ditto Hiromu sending Wato into the barricades early on. They completely ignored count-out rules, and for spots that didn’t even matter, as that opening work on Wato’s back became irrelevant after this, as when they got back into the ring, it just turned into both guys working the head and neck. It started to feel very repetitive by the end, like they were just trading head-drops for nearfalls.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT SIX-MAN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: Hiroshi Tanahashi & CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii)(c) vs. Shota Umino & Blackpool Combat Club (Jon Moxley & Claudio Castagnoli)- 8.75/10
This was twenty minutes of really fun pro wrestling action. And that’s all I’m going to be able to say about it right now because in the post-match segment…
BRYAN DANILESON WANTS A MATCH WITH OKADA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Holy f*cking f*ck. F*ck. F*ck. Holy f*ck. I CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS MATCH!
IWGP WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH: Sanada(c) (w/Just Five Guys) vs. Yota Tsuji (w/Los Ingobernables de Japon)- 8.5/10
Spearing someone mid-leapfrog is one of my favorite spots, and they made it work here so beautifully (and especially after that shoulder tackle as well) to really set the tone that Tsuji could be for real. Then they kind of killed that by (after a Tsuji dive) having Sanada counter the next spear and lock in the Skull End… only for Sanada to then do his usually dumbf*ck spot where he gives up a perfectly good submission hold in order to go for a Moonsault, which gets countered. What a f*cking idiot.
From there on, they told the story of Tsuji’s dominance, and Sanada’s ability to make the necessary adjustment. Chief among these were coming up with various ways to counter the spear. Sanada won with the Deadfall. I will admit that I am a little confused as to why they would bring Tsuji back with such a big push right away, only to have him lose. If he had been built up for a few months beforehand, that would have been one thing, but they threw him right in there with Sanada… and then beat him cleanly. I didn't see that coming. Tsuji definitely didn't seem out of place in this main event spot.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- interesting
LIJ walked out on Yota Tsuji. Okay. That’s a good shake-up there, as you couldn’t have him, Shingo, and Naito in the same stable if you were going to try to make him a major star while also maintaining the two of them. I imagine from this that we will be getting Tsuji vs. Naito at the Tokyo Dome. Sanada put Tsuji over, then said he would win the G1 as champion and thus earn the right to pick his challenger… and he indicated that he would pick Taichi. Uch.
This was a pretty great show from New Japan. The wrestling was high-quality, nothing dragged the card down, and it was very easy to sit through, which isn’t the case for many of New Japan’s big shows. I still find the booking to be uninteresting (other than Naito vs. Tsuji stuff, but I don’t have much faith that that will be handled well in the end), but it was also made very clear that they are trying hard to elevate new wrestlers in a big way, and that makes them worth paying more attention to.
NJPW, RevPro, CMLL, DDT, etc
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