After a strong New Japan Cup tournament and a shock winner, all eyes were on NJPW as they put on their annual Dominion show. With a pretty stacked card with 3 well-built championship matches and a fresh contest for Tetsuya Naito’s double championships, did the show deliver? Let’s take a look. But first, in case you missed it:
EVIL defeated Kazuchika Okada to win the 2020 New Japan Cup
In one of the biggest shocks in recent memory, EVIL defeated Kazuchika Okada to win this year’s New Japan Cup. It was a fairly lacklustre match that could’ve achieved the same goal in 20 minutes, but the result itself was a major shock. Bullet Club interfered, which was somewhat confusing but set things up brilliantly for the post-match. EVIL once again hit a low blow before ending things with Okada.
Naito came to the ring to confront his challenger, commending him for being so ruthless throughout the tournament and offering up the LIJ fist bump. EVIL looked like he was going to accept, before changing his hand from a fist bump to a two-sweet, defecting to Bullet Club.
This was very interesting. It completely changed the all-LIJ aesthetic of the match and took EVIL’s character to somewhere different. It more than made up for the sub-par match that preceded the turn and increased interest from some fans (myself included) in the Dominion main event.
Match 1: Ryusuke Taguchi, Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata vs Gabriel Kidd, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma (9:25)
A decent opener. Gabriel Kidd continues to impress as a young lion. I can’t wait until he goes on his excursion. He and Taguchi kicked things off, going back and forth with holds until they reached a stalemate. Both men tagged out and in came Kojima and Honma. Honma missed the headbutt, as he usually does, and got worked over by everyone.
Kidd and Nagata had some strong exchanges, with Kidd more than holding his own against the veteran, with a dropkick and a Boston crab. The match came to an end with Nagata tapping out Gabe with a crossface, as many expected.
Match 2: Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu, BUSHI, SANADA) vs Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano and Yota Tsuji (10:15)
Hiromu had the word “why” written over and over again on his wrist tape, which was a nice nod to the betrayal by EVIL less than 24 hours earlier. We got Yano’s usual schtick, with him repeatedly being stopped from removing the turnbuckle pad before managing to take it off.
I didn’t take too many notes for this match, but it was a decent contest with Ishii and LIJ having good showings. Hiromu got the win with a Boston crab on Yota Tsuji – offering a bit of a call-back to his own time as a Young Lion.
Match 3: Master Wato, Yuya Uemura, Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Suzuki-Gun (DOUKI, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (9:44)
Here we got another showcase of the newly-debuted Master Wato, after a successful debut at the New Japan Cup finals. It looks like he’ll be feuding with Suzuki-Gun in the future, as a match against Yoshinobu Kanemaru was hinted at in this 6-man contest.
In terms of the match itself, it was nothing out of the ordinary. The usual Suzuki-Gun model. Chaotic brawl which makes its way to the outside, multi-man attacks on one opponent and the pin on the young lion if there’s one in the match. In this case there was, so Desperado pinned Uemura, getting some momentum for himself whilst keeping Wato fairly strong.
Wato got in some pretty decent offence, highlighted by a dive to the outside and a standing moonsault.
Match 4: Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori, Yujiro Takahashi) vs CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto) (9:42)
This was a much shorter match than expected but was still pretty decent. It was cool to see Okada and Ishimori interact some more, as I really enjoyed their match in the New Japan Cup quarter-finals.
Out of all the multi-man matches, this one flew by the quickest and remained entertaining, despite interference from Gedo on the outside. Ishimori once again impressed. It’s been great to see him getting a spotlight again after the majority of his 2019 was spent playing second fiddle to El Phantasmo.
Yujiro eventually got the win over Goto in somewhat of an upset. He got in some extra offence on Okada in the post-match, perhaps setting up a program between the two. This could be a good way at rebuilding Yujiro while many of the higher-level talents are unavailable due to travel restrictions.
Match 5: NEVER Openweight Championship Match – Shingo Takagi vs SHO (20:07)
This was yet another excellent chapter in the series between SHO and Takagi, with the two men tearing each other apart for 20 minutes. An absolute war.
We got a simple but effective narrative, with SHO relentlessly targeting the arm of his larger adversary in an attempt to nullify one of his biggest offensive weapons; the Pumping Bomber.
There was a lot of strike-based offence here, with tons of lariats and forearms. This was my absolute jam.
Both men looked absolutely fantastic in the end, with multiple kickouts at 1 and some near falls from the Shock Arrow and ‘Made in Japan’. SHO more than proved himself here, building on his value as a singles star – something which will be needed moving forward, with tag partner YOH out injured.
Shingo also came out looking strong, taking another step in his journey to make the NEVER title a properly openweight belt. This was taken further in the post-match, with Suzuki-Gun’s El Desperado laying out the champion and absconding with the belt. I very much look forward to that match.
Match 6: IWGP Tag Team Championship Match – Dangerous Tekkers vs Golden Aces (C) (28:43)
Given New Japan’s abysmal booking of their tag team divisions in recent years, I went into the match with extremely low expectations. Even a very strong build across the New Japan Cup events couldn’t get me fully invested in the match. The track record for tag title matches falling flat in most cases was just too much to get past.
But I was very pleasantly surprised. For nearly half an hour, the two teams battled in what was likely the best tag title match since Dominion 2018. It was paced well, with excellent counters, strong double teamwork and great technical wrestling – something we’ve come to expect from the likes of Sabre and Tanahashi. At many points, I was unsure about who would walk away with the win.
We got multiple big moves countered or avoided, with Zack preventing Ibushi from hitting the KamiGoye by flying into a sleeper hold, and Tanahashi reversing a backdrop suplex into a Sling Blade. This was very creative.
The Suzuki-Gun tandem eventually claimed the gold, after demolishing the knees of Hiroshi Tanahashi with multiple Dragon Screw leg whips. The brutal targeting of the legs of ‘The Ace’ was awesome, with Tanahashi making things more believable with his facial expressions.
Surprisingly, the standout in this match was Taichi. The Holy Emperor continues to impress after a strong 12 months that have seen him rise further up the card to battle New Japan’s most elite talents.
Hopefully, this run continues the upward trajectory that the tag division was on before lockdown came into effect.
Main Event: IWGP Heavyweight/Intercontinental Championship Match – Tetsuya Naito vs EVIL (37:59)
Frankly, this was bad.
EVIL debuted new music, a new entrance and a new look. He was accompanied by Bullet Club members, who were kicked out by Red Shoes Unno before the match began.
Things began pretty slowly and spilt to the outside. EVIL broke Milano’s scythe toy, prompting the commentator to hop the barrier. He was quickly taken care of, getting thrown into the barricade.
From there, things didn’t get much better. A gnarly-looking table spot which left Naito with a cut on his back was the first of many turns for the worse.
We got exposed turnbuckle spots, we got ref bumps, we got Bullet Club interference. What should’ve been a 20-25 minute match fuelled by emotion was turned into a nearly 40-minute contest that was plagued with unnecessary shenanigans. It was reminiscent of Naito’s match with KENTA from The New Beginning – it went long for the sake of going long.
The closing stretch came with a ton of outside nonsense. A man wearing a BUSHI mask and LIJ shirt appeared, choking out Naito with a chain. Red Shoes tried to get rid of him, which opened the door for EVIL. He hit a prone Naito with the stomp to the groin and followed up with Everything is EVIL.
It became apparent that the rally from Naito that the fans were expecting was not going to happen, as EVIL pinned his former pareja in the middle of the ring. A hush fell over the Osaka-Jo Hall audience, and viewers across the world lost their collective minds.
The man in the mask was revealed to be Dick Togo, which was pretty underwhelming for a lot of people.
As an LIJ fan, I’m very upset by the outcome. As a wrestling fan, I feel the result was unnecessary and the match itself fell very flat, failing to get to that 6th gear that we usually get in big-time matches. It didn’t help the new champion in any way. But I feel there are more possible options to be taken with EVIL as champion, which is very intriguing.
Overall, this was a pretty decent show. The undercard tag team matches were solid, the NEVER and tag title matches were very good. And while the heavyweight title match was overbooked and somewhat underwhelming, I’m excited to see what EVIL does now that he is at the top of the card.
What did you think of Dominion? Let us know in the comments!