Shingo Takagi and Kazuchika Okada face off for the vacant IWGP World Heavyweight Championship as New Japan headed to Osaka for Dominion.
Taiji Ishimori, El Phantasmo, Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL pinned SHO, YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Hiroshi Tanahashi in 11:50 (***)
SANADA, Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI pinned Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi & DOUKI in 11:31 (***)
El Desperado pinned YOH in 23:40 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship (****)
Kota Ibushi pinned Jeff Cobb in 19:54 (****)
Shingo Takagi pinned Kazuchika Okada in 36:06 to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (****½)
New Japan’s moved to Osaka for their annual Dominion show. Yes, they kept the Dominion 6.6 title even though it’s on June 7… and we’ve got live English commentary here, with Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton on the remote call alongside Rocky Romero.
The show opened with Monday Night Hiromu Takahashi running out to gee up the crowd in Osaka, while telling us his injury is healing up nicely. He’ll want to challenge for the junior title when he’s back…
Bullet Club (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens, Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & SHO
I mean, with Tanahashi in the opener, they sure do seem to be leaving the trope-y path for him to challenge for the title at the end of the show, right? Unless (loud gulp) it’s EVIL?
Owens and Tanahashi start us off, as Chase’s hair pull took Tanahashi into the corner. There’s no clean break, but Tanahashi’s able to respond with a crossbody out of the corner before SHO came in to help charge down Owens with double shoulder tackles. Yujiro and YOSHI-HASHI come in next, but it’s YOSHI-HASHI who pulled ahead with a low dropkick before Goto came in to hiptoss him onto Yujiro as EVIL’s attempt to run in was quickly dealt with.
Eventually the Bullet Club take things outside briefly, before focusing on YOSHI-HASHI back inside. Yujiro’s leg drop, elbow drop and falling headbutt lands for a two-count, while EVIL unties a corner pad as we see YOSHI-HASHI get his back raked, including with a Van Terminator back rake. Hopefully it scratched that itch.
EVIL’s in to slam YOSHI-HASHI, before an eye rake led to YOSHI-HASHI getting chucked into the exposed corner. YOSHI-HASHI fires back with a spin kick, then brought in Tomohiro Ishii, whose eyes were instantly raked. That’s shrugged off as the CHAOS lads cleaned house, with a double spear from SHO helping out.
Dick Togo grabs Ishii’s leg in the corner as EVIL came back with a Fisherman buster for a two-count, but Ishii fought back with a suplex on Ishimori. In comes SHO to kick away at Ishimori, following up with a cross armbar that ELP flew in to break up. That spawned a Parade of Moves, ending with a Slingblade from Tanahashi to Ishimori, before SHO’s Shock Arrow was countered out of, with Ishimori deftly turning SHO into a Cipher UTAKI. Another bit of flying from ELP nearly gets the job done, before Dick Togo choked away on Ishii with the garotte in the corner… which leaves SHO with no help as a Bloody Cross put him down for the count. A decent enough opener, with commentary hinting that Ishimori might have pushed himself into contention for a junior title – either the tag or singles title. ***
Post-match, EVIL lays out Hirooki Goto with one of the NEVER trios titles, and I guess that’s a feud for the next tour. EVIL and Friends going for the six-man titles, which is a big turnaround from a year ago when EVIL literally binned his share of those belts.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI)
Sabre and Taichi won the tag titles on Tuesday – and instantly threw out a challenge to any tag team in the world. I guess SANADA & Tetsuya Naito are trying to put themselves in that spot, based on this line-up…
Naito and Taichi start proceedings, but Naito… double-legs the referee? When things get serious, Naito elbowed Taichi into the ropes, only for Taichi to throttle his way back into contention. That drew in SANADA and Sabre, before all four men swung and missed on their way to a stand-off.
Tags bring in DOUKI and BUSHI, with the latter taking some headscissors before he returned with headscissors of his own. BUSHI’s chucked outside as LIJ tasted the guard rails, where Taichi grabbed a cable to choke Naito with… which I swear brought down some of the lighting temporarily.
Back inside, BUSHI’s cornered before Taichi tried to choke BUSHI into a pin. DOUKI’s back with a slam, but he misses a leaping stomp as BUSHI rolled away, before BUSHI struck back with an enziguiri. Tags bring in Naito and Taichi, with Naito running wild ahead of a neckbreaker on Taichi… Combinacion Cabron’s avoided by Taichi, but Naito tags in SANADA to hit a double hiptoss, then a low dropkick for a two-count on Taichi.
Sabre’s in with a Cobra Twist on SANADA, but a hiptoss broke it up as SANADA instead looked to pull Sabre into a Paradise lock, but it’s broken up as the Suzuki-gun trio ganged up on SANADA, leading to a Sabre PK for a two-count. Things break down as BUSHI knocked down Taichi with a tope suicida on the floor, before DOUKI dished one out to BUSHI for good measure…
SANADA looks for an O’Connor roll, but he and Sabre counter from Skull Ends into Euro clutches, before SANADA repositioned things and turned a Euro clutch into a Tiger suplex-like bridge to snake the win. An unusual finish as the new tag team champions lose the first skirmish against potential new challengers. ***
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: YOH vs. El Desperado (c)
Originally scheduled for the second night of Wrestling Dontaku last month, Covid protocols led to this match getting pulled… but things circled back around as YOH finally got his shot at El Desperado.
From the opening lock-up, YOH takes Desperado into the ropes before faking out a cheapshot a la Okada. Desperado had no such qualms, going for YOH’s ear before a headlock takedown led to some back-and-forth on the mat. YOH works the wrist en route to an armdrag, before Desperado tried to use the ref as a human shield en route to a low dropkick.
YOH leaps over that shot to his repaired knee, then came in with a dropkick to take Desperado outside, only for Desperado to pull YOH outside and into the railings. Desperado goes under the ring for a bucket, chucking it into the ring to distract the referee so he could whack YOH’s knee with a chair.
Back inside, Desperado stomps away on the knee, before a knee drop and a splash to the previously-injured joint helped get a two-count. A sunset flip out of YOH gets a two-count, before a deathlock tied up YOH in the middle of the ring. Despy mockingly applauds YOH as he pulled him into a front facelock, letting go before the eventual rope break forced the separation.
YOH tries to fight back with elbows and flying forearms, but that knee’s already compromised. A neckbreaker gets YOH a two-count, before he went after Desperado’s leg with an inverted Dragon screw. He retained the focus on Desperado’s leg, trapping him in a kneeling, modified Figure Four (apparently called a Prison lock), which forced Desperado to drag his way to the ropes for the break. Desperado, ahem, seemingly desperately dives in for a Numero Dos, but YOH scurried to the ropes for a quick break, with the pair then looking to trade shots until a back suplex and a regular suplex from Desperado turned the tide. YOH slips out of a Guitarra del Angel, but lands badly on his knee in doing so.
Desperado takes things outside, and blocks a whip into the rails, only to get sent flying with a shotgun dropkick from YOH. A plancha keeps Desperado on the floor, as did a tope con giro, before YOH rolled Desperado back inside to break the count. He followed that up with a missile dropkick and a Titanic for a near-fall, but Desperado goes right back to the bad knee with a dropkick and a Dragon screw in the corner.
The pair trade elbows as they returned to the middle of the ring, but again that bad knee was the easy target for Desperado… who’s caught with a leaping Flatliner as he went for a clothesline. Desperado quickly shrugs it off for an Angle Slam, before Guitarra del Angel planted YOH for a near-fall. An attempt to roll YOH into Numero Dos was countered, as YOH came back with the Star Gazer (a calf slicer), turning it into almost a Lasso from El Paso before Desperado got to the rope.
YOH comes close with a Dragon suplex, before an attempt at the Direct Drive was blocked as a headbutt from Desperado took YOH back down. From there, Desperado looks for Pinche Loco, but it’s blocked as YOH gets a roll-up for a two-count. A superkick’s next, but Desperado just punches out YOH, before he lifted him up for Pinche Loco for the win. They went at a good pace, but Desperado going for the knee so early on perhaps wiped out a lot of YOH’s chances – and restricted him to just one moment in the match where he looked close to winning. ****
Post-match, Taiji Ishimori, El Phantasmo and SHO came out – the Bullet Club pair “had a scoop”: they’re challenging SHO & YOH for the junior tag titles on the Kizuna Road tour… while Ishimori snatched the mic and called out Desperado for a junior title shot.
Jeff Cobb vs. Kota Ibushi
Another match that was delayed through New Japan’s month of cancellations… and one that had quite some intrigue around.
Ibushi tries to stick and run against Cobb, but Cobb keeps Ibushi at close quarters with strikes, before a double-leg takedown had Ibushi on the deck for some ground and pound. He’s able to roll to the floor for a break, only for Cobb to follow out and charge him into the ring post. Back inside, a diving kick from Ibushi takes Cobb down… only for Cobb to charge Ibushi into the corners as he made his power advantage pay.
Cobb nearly nicked an early win with a roll-up out of one of those corner charges, before he kept Ibushi grounded with a bear hug. Ibushi clutches the ropes to break the hold, but Cobb stomped away on the break ahead of a chinlock on the mat. Standing on Ibushi’s back, Cobb just walked over the former double champion as he stopped to parade his Empire towel. Ibushi kicks out of a nonchalant cover at one, rising to slap Cobb before a diving knee just crushed Ibushi into the corner.
A headbutt and a clothesline decked Ibushi again, but a standing moonsault from Cobb’s blocked… and that allowed Ibushi an opening. A combo of strikes took down Cobb ahead of a standing moonsault that landed for a two-count, before Cobb struck back with a back suplex for a two-count. Cobb followed with his standing moonsault for a two-count, before Ibushi low bridged him outside.
Ibushi pulled himself up and went for a plancha… but Cobb caught him with ease, as a powerbomb attempt needed to be fought out of. Instead, Ibushi makes it back to the apron for a springboard moonsault into the aisle, before an attempted elevated German suplex back into the ring was blocked… leading to Ibushi’s top rope ‘rana bringing them in instead for a two-count.
A Bomaye knee from Ibushi’s next for a two-count, but a Kamigoye from Ibushi’s pulled up and turned into an overhead belly-to-belly as we crossed the 15-minute mark. Cobb followed up with a running back suplex for a two-count, before he pulled Ibushi out of the corner, but that Spin Cycle was avoided. Instead, he just pulls Ibushi and spun him like he was Brock Lesnar F5’ing Shannon Moore back in the day.
Cobb looks for a Tour of the Islands, but Ibushi slipped out and hit a head kick, before a swift Kamigoye landed for a near-fall. Another Kamigoye’s caught as Cobb then flipped Ibushi down and drilled him for his own Cobbi-goye. Cobb couldn’t make the quick cover as Ibushi remained frozen and contorted on the mat, but was able to regain enough to kick out at two.
From there, Cobb pulls Ibushi up for a Tour of the Islands, but it’s countered with a roll-up for a two-count… before Ibushi’s Meteora-like Kamigoye stopped a powerbomb ahead of one big Kamigoye for the win. They packed a fair amount into their twenty minutes, with Cobb ragdolling Ibushi for fun… but in the end it was those Kamigoye that got Ibushi over the line, and surely a little closer to the head of the line for a shot at his old title? ****
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Shingo Takagi vs. Kazuchika Okada
These two have only two prior singles outings, both of which came in the last nine months – with Okada beating Shingo in last year’s G1, while Shingo eliminated Okada in the first round of this year’s New Japan Cup. An unexpected rubber match, then, to decide who takes the IWGP title that Will Ospreay was forced to vacate last month.
We’ve a measured start, with Shingo looking for a cross armbar early, but it’s neutralised by Okada, who ended up having to fight out of an armbar. A side headlock has Shingo grounded, as the deliberate pace makes you assume they’re going long early…
Okada wrings in that side headlock, but Shingo gets free… only to eventually get booted down as Okada looked to control the pace again. A missed back senton from Okada opened the door for Shingo to take things outside, where he charges Okada’s back into the ring apron, then into the guard rails for good measure.
A quick suplex leaves Shingo on the floor, before they headed back inside as running knees to the midsection and a shoulder block had Okada down. Bodyscissors from Shingo keep Okada down, before he countered a tombstone attempt into a powerslam for a quick two-count, only for Okada’s sliding back elbow to knock Shingo down. Okada’s DDT gets a two-count, before Okada lifted him up and dropkicked him to the outside.
Okada builds up with a draping DDT off the railings, before he busted out Heavy Rain and a Money Clip back inside… but Shingo’s quickly in the ropes. Shingo recovers to blast Okada with the elbow/jab/lariat sequence, before a noshigami was countered back into the Money Clip… then back into the noshigami as Okada’s attempt at a backslide was thwarted. A quick roll-up takes Okada into the buckles, before Shingo racked Okada! That’s spun out into a gutbuster or two, getting Shingo a two-count to boot, before he took Okada into the corner for the violence party of chops and forearms.
Shingo pushes aside the referee and ends up taking a shotgun dropkick from Okada, who went back to the Money Clip… but again they’re by the ropes as Shingo forced the quick break. A quick flurry sees Shingo miss a sliding lariat and get caught back in that Money Clip, before Okada scooped him up for a hurried tombstone. An awkward landing keeps Shingo on the back foot as we go back to the Money Clip, which Okada was able to hold onto for a while longer this time.
Getting to the rope, Shingo pulls himself outside to get a breather, but Okada followed him and teased a tombstone on the floor. It’s blocked as Shingo clutches onto the guard rails, then pulled up Okada for a swift Made in Japan on the outside. That looked brutal! The double count-out starts as both men tried to pull themselves back to their feet. Okada slips off the apron, but still manages to beat the count.
Running clotheslines smother Okada in the corner, before he took him up top for the Stay Dream – a death valley driver off the middle rope. Okada kicks out at two as Shingo slowly began to dictate the pace, throwing a sliding lariat in for good measure, before he looked for a Last of the Dragon. Okada resists, and gets clobbered with a clothesline instead, along with some rapid-fire left-right elbows as we passed the 30-minute mark.
Right on cue, Okada nails a dropkick to cut off Shingo, then a second tombstone, this time without a corkscrew, before he… took his own Rainmaker?! Shingo scouted it! Another standing ten count is quickly stopped as the pair get back to their feet for back-and-forth right hands. Shingo looks stunned at Okada’s strikes, but the retort from Shingo has Okada doubled over, before an attempt at a spinning rainmaker got countered into a death valley driver from Shingo.
Shingo measures up for a Pumping Bomber, but Okada ducked and backslides his way in for a short Rainmaker… keeping hold of the arm for a second Rainmaker, before we get the pose. It’d been so long, the production crew forgot to do the zoom out… but not to worry, Shingo’s back with a Rainmaker of his own seconds later. A Pumping Bomber obliterates Okada for a near-fall, before a Last of the Dragon was wriggled out of.
Okada swings again, then pulled Shingo back up for a tombstone, only to get caught with a Dragon suplex. A sliding punch lays out Okada, and all that’s left is for the Last of the Dragon… and NEW! Shingo Takagi pulls off what some may call the upset! This didn’t have the balls-to-the-wall feeling of prior matches, but this was a lovely match that didn’t rely on the sizzle and instead provided a little more steak. 519 days from his last title, Okada’s got a longer wait for his next reign as it’s Shingo Takagi’s time now, having made the most of his second shot after falling short at Dontaku a month ago… ****½
In his title celebration, Shingo called out Kota Ibushi as his first challenger – they’d only had one match beforehand, in last year’s G1… and I’d expect that they’ll be holding that title match off for one of the bigger Summer Struggle dates.
New Japan returns to the road in a week’s time, with the first of three back-to-back shows at Korakuen Hall as they start their Kizuna Road tour. It’s amazing how much more optimistic you can be for a tour after a good show like this, huh?
With these truncated shows, it’s hard for a show to be “highly rated”, especially on the law of averages – but Dominion was one of the brighter shows from the current troubled spell of New Japan’s history. A new champion – one that was perhaps unexpected – and three matches to go in your notebook, while also setting up stuff for the quickly-upcoming Kizuna Road tour… it might not be as hot as it was, and there’s still depth issues in big spots, but Dominion showed that New Japan can still put on good shows, albeit with their relatively wafer-thin roster.