NJPW DOMINION 2013
June 22, 2013
Osaka Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Japan
DARK MATCH: TAKA Michinoku and Taichi vs. Jushin Thunder Liger and Tiger Mask IV
Really hot crowd in Osaka. They set the building up a little differently and it looks really pretty packed too. Lots of antics from TAKA and Taichi. Taichi stalled a bunch at the start, as he’s want to do. TAKA pulled the referee out of the ring within the first two minutes and they used a crutch on both Liger and Tiger, then tried to unmask them both. Tiger and Liger eventually fought back and Tiger gave Taichi a butterfly superplex for two before things broke down. Liger took out TAKA outside, while in the ring Taichi used his new heavy knee brace and a Gedo clutch to steal the win. If you like TAKA and Taichi’s over the top cheating routine, this was the match for you.
Winners via pinfall (7:10): TAKA Michinoku and Taichi (**)
MATCH 1: IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
Forever Hooligans (Rocky Romero and Alex Koslov) (CHAMPIONS) vs. Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA)
If it seems like these two teams face each other every month, well. Shelley made it to final of the Best Of The Super Juniors a couple of weeks ago so has a ton of momentum coming into this. Before the match, Koslov made everyone stand while he sung the Russian national anthem. Everybody did and even applauded his bad rendition, because Japanese fans aren’t jerks.
Time Splitters completely controlled things early, before Romero tripped Shelley from the floor. Shelley got worked over and Forever Hooligans repeatedly prevented the tag any time Shelley made an opportunity to get to KUSHIDA. Shelley finally managed to take both out long enough to tag KUSHIDA, who made a big comeback. A scary somersault dive by KUSHIDA took out Koslov. Romero countered the double team sliced bread and blocked a moonsault with his knees for a close two. Forever Hooligans managed to isolate KUSHIDA and hit a couple of double teams for near falls. When Koslov then missed a shooting star, it looked like Time Splitters might win. But Koslov saved Romero from the double team sliced bread and they double dropkicked Shelley coming off the top. That left KUSHIDA and Koslov, who caught KUSHIDA in mid handspring elbow. Romero then came off the top with the flying kneedrop to get the pin.
I was a little surprised Shelley and KUSHIDA didn’t win, since Shelley was coming off the BOSJ finals. Either way, this was easily the best match I’ve seen these two teams have together. The Osaka crowd helped because they were super into this.
Winners via pinfall and still champions (13:08): Forever Hooligans (****)
MATCH 2: Bullet Club (Karl Anderson, Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale) vs. Yuji Nagata, Tomoaki Honma and Captain New Japan
Honma replaced Taguchi, who was injured during BOSJ. Captain New Japan had a new blue costume to match Nagata. Also, it seems to be made of velour. Anderson attacked Nagata on the bell. Both Honma and Nagata refused to tag in Captain. Not because they hate him but because he’s not very good. Bullet Club focused on Honma, before Nagata fought back. Finally, Nagata relented and tagged Captain, who actually fared well. For a while. Then he missed a diving headbutt. After Fale took out Nagata and Honma, Anderson then gave him a Gun Stun and Fale finished Captain with an elevated Samoan Spike. Not much to this, but it served it’s purpose.
Winners via pinfall (8:20): Bullet Club (**1/4)
MATCH 3: IWGP TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP THREE WAY MATCH
Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima (CHAMPIONS) vs. Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr.) vs. Toru Yano and Takashi Iizuka
Yano attacked the commentator again before the match and handcuffed him to the rail. Iizuka and Yano are the GHC Tag Team Champions, Archer and Smith the NWA Tag Team Champions and Tenzan and Kojima obviously IWGP Tag Team Champions. This started as a brawl and pretty much stayed that way. All three teams ended up fighting around the ring and in the crowd. Yano and Iizuka taped KES to the rail and beat down TenKoji. KES eventually got free and ran them off, so Yano and Iizuka beat up Tenzan outside instead. TenKoji eventually fought back on everyone, until the referee got bumped. Yano hit a pair of low blows and Iizuka brought out the IRON FINGER. KES broke that up and hit Yano with a Killer Bomb, but the referee was still down. They then tried one on Kojima, but Iizuka used the Iron Finger on Smith. TenKoji hit a TenKoji Cutter on Archer for two, before Kojima finally hit a lariat to get the pin and retain. After the match though, Yano stole the IWGP belts and ran off. Like the four way in May, this was frenetic enough that it never really got boring. I preferred that one to this though.
Winners via pinfall and still champions (12:20): Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima (**3/4)
MATCH 4: NWA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Rob Conway (CHAMPION) vs. Manabu Nakanishi
Conway did a lot of flexing. Nakanishi out powered Conway anyway, but a thumb to the eye gave Conway the advantage. He threatened to break Nakanishi’s neck again, which wasn’t very nice. The crowd got into Nakanishi when he fought back and actually hit a plancha. A big clothesline set up the Argentine backbreaker but Conway went to the eyes to escape. Nakanishi hit a big german suplex before Bruce Tharpe got on the apron. And the distraction led to Conway sending Nakanishi into the post and hitting the Ego Trip for the three count.
This was a match. It wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t that good either. At this point in his career I’m not sure putting Nakanishi in singles matches is the best use of him. Or if it ever was. Particularly against Rob Conway. I guess they want to pair Conway with guys who have most experience wrestling Americans? If so, at least this one is now out of the way.
Winner via pinfall and still champion (8:31): Rob Conway (*1/2)
MATCH 5: Shinsuke Nakamura and Tomohiro Ishii vs. Minoru Suzuki and Shelton “X” Benjamin
Shinsuke went to Mexico again and came back with an even greater new look.
Nakamura and Suzuki had a grappling battle to start. Ishii tagged in and wanted Suzuki, but Suzuki dismissively tagged Benjamin in instead. Which didn’t stop Ishii from attacking Suzuki anyway. He actually won a forearm battle with Suzuki to a big reaction from the crowd, before Suzuki and Benjamin took over. Taichi and his crutch got involved as well. The crowd were really into it any time Ishii showed some fight against Suzuki. Ishii finally caught Suzuki with a powerslam and Nakamura ran wild. Suzuki caught Nakamura in a sleeper and Shelton almost won with a german suplex. While Ishii and Suzuki fought outside, Shelton leapt to the top rope and gave Nakamura a throw for two. Shinsuke countered Paydirt and went for the Boma Ye but Suzuki caught him in a sleeper and tried the Gotch Piledriver. Ishii nailed him with a lariat though. As they fought outside again, a series of counters then lead to Benjamin getting a surprise win with Paydirt. Ishii and Suzuki continued brawling after the match and fought all the way backstage, while Shelton gave one of the young boys a DDT on the stage.
Well I sure wasn’t expecting Shelton to get the fall on Nakamura, especially since Nakamura no longer has the Intercontinental Title. Clearly he’s being positioned for a bigger role with NJPW going forward, it would seem. This did an awesome job of getting people excited for a Suzuki and Ishii singles match, if they weren’t excited already. That has to happen soon, hopefully during the G1 and hopefully either in Korakuen Hall or in Osaka. Really good match.
Winners via pinfall (12:39): Minoru Suzuki and Shelton Benjamin (***3/4)
There was a segment after intermission where Kazushi Sakuraba and Yuji Nagata pinky swore on something, presumably them having a match somewhere down the line.
MATCH 6: Tetsuya Naito vs. Yujiro Takahashi
Naito injured his knee back in August of last year and was forced to have surgery after an attack by Yujiro in October. Yujiro made his entrance complete with sexy nurses.
Naito had a new half mask during his entrance. Not sure he was too comfortable with it. Yujiro of course went after Naito’s leg pretty quickly. Yujiro tried to use a chair but the referee stopped him. Naito fought back but Yujiro hit a belly to belly superplex for two. He got near falls with an olympic slam and a german suplex as well, before applying a reverse figure four which Naito got to the ropes in. Naito kicked out of a lariat before Yujiro missed a moonsault. Naito finally fought back from there and in the end finished Yujiro with the Stardust Press. I don’t know how close to 100% Naito actually is, but he didn’t look his best at times here. Which is to be expected. Yujiro’s best seems to be long gone.
Winner via pinfall (15:00): Tetsuya Naito (***)
MATCH 7: Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata
Their match in May ended in a double KO, so this is the rematch. Goto hit an immediate lariat and they wasted no time laying into each other. Shibata put on a figure four and took a series of slaps, before Shibata gave Goto repeated elbows in the corner and followed that up with a brutal hesitation dropkick. Lots of suplexes and strikes here. They traded back suplexes before Shibata broke out a pelÃ© kick. Like in May it descended into a slap battle but this time both got back up. Shibata landed a big kick. Goto came back with a headbutt, then Shibata hit a sickening headbutt of his own. Really sick. They teased another double KO but both beat the count at 8 to a big roar. After an exchange of boots Goto hit a spinning clothesline for two. Goto then hit a penalty kick and the Ura Shouten for a near fall. He tried a regular Shouten but Shibata escaped behind and applied a sleeper. A DVD and a fireman’s carry neckbreaker set up another sleeper. With Goto choked out, Shibata then delivered a penalty kick for the win.
That was thirteen minutes of brutality. They went at it right from the opening bell and didn’t let up, which is pretty much what people expected from the first match. Doing it over two matches turned out pretty great, the tease of the second double KO in particular got a far bigger reaction than it would have otherwise. Definitely worth a watch. Shibata helped Goto up after the match out of respect.
Winner via pinfall (13:14): Katsuyori Shibata (****1/2)
MATCH 8: Prince Devitt vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Devitt ran the table in the BOSJ and announced he was going after the heavyweights next. But, he won’t be dropping the Junior Title and wants to hold both belts at the same time. Tanahashi decided to try and one up Devitt’s light up jacket with these sunglasses.
Devitt had the Bullet Club at ringside with him. They provided plenty of ‘moral support’ as Anderson and Tonga tried to get involved early on. Devitt ended up goading Tanahashi outside and Fale hit a clothesline while Anderson distracted the referee. Fale also laid out Captain New Japan, just because. Devitt did damage to Tanahashi outside with a back suplex on the rail and a running dropkick, before working him over, with the occasional assist from the Bullet Club. At one point Devitt teased a dive but distracted the referee instead, while Anderson powerbombed Tanahashi on the ring apron. Tanahashi managed to make a comeback, which involved taking out the other Bullet Club members when needed. Tanahashi hit a High Fly Flow onto Devitt and Fale on the floor. The match stayed in the ring for a while and went back and forth, with Devitt almost winning with a reverse Bloody Sunday but missing the double stomp. When Tanahashi went for a High Fly Flow though, Fale pulled him off the top rope into the Samoan Spike. Devitt then hit the Bloody Sunday for the pin.
How much you enjoy this depends on how much the novelty of the Bullet Club interference entertains you or not, because that’s what most of the match was built around. Personally, I’m okay with it. No doubt it took down the pure wrestling quality a bit, but there has to be a trade off if the Bullet Club and Devitt in particular are going to work in their role. I’m pretty sure the winner of this was already confirmed to get the next shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Title, but that would become clearer later.
Winner via pinfall (15:34): Prince Devitt (****)
MATCH 9: IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Kazuchika Okada (CHAMPION) vs. Togi Makabe
Stan Hansen came out for the pre match rituals. Lots of chants for Makabe. After an even start Makabe avoided an early Rainmaker attempt and tried to turn the match into a fight. Okada dropkicked Makabe off the turnbuckles to the floor, then hit a draping DDT off the rail. Makabe beat the count, but it allowed Okada to take control. Makabe fought back and the crowd were clearly behind him. Okada hit an elbow drop to set up the Rainmaker but Makabe got right back up. They traded forearms and Okada stayed on his feet after two clotheslines. A third knocked him down but he came back with his big dropkick. Makabe hit a german suplex for a near fall. He then hit a DVD but Okada avoided the King Kong Kneedrop. Okada then applied the Red Ink but Makabe made the ropes.
Okada got a near fall with Heavy Rain before trying a tombstone on the floor, which Makabe blocked before hitting a powerslam. He then fetched a table to powerbomb Okada through. But Okada kicked out of a second powerbomb in the ring. After a Spider German Suplex, Makabe missed the King Kong Kneedrop again and Okada hit a dropkick to the back. But Makabe reversed a tombstone and ducked a Rainmaker, before hitting a dragon suplex for a super close near fall that the crowd went nuts for. Finally Okada got the tombstone seconds later after ducking a clothesline, then nailed the Rainmaker for the pin.
The crowd really bought that near fall at the end and it seemed pretty clear, they wanted Makabe to win. Thankfully, at least for Okada, he didn’t. Makabe isn’t going to win any best wrestler awards any time soon, but New Japan crowds clearly love him and this was definitely at the higher end of his performances. Okada got to prove his toughness and although the crowd were more behind Makabe, he won’t have that scenario again in his next title match.
Winner via pinfall and still champion (25:05): Kazuchika Okada (****1/4)
Hansen presented Okada with the belt after the match, before the Bullet Club interrupted Gedo and Okada’s celebrations. Devitt said he was BOSJ winner, Junior Heavyweight Champion and just beat Tanahashi and Okada was next. Okada accepted the challenge, but not before issuing one of his own, with Devitt having to defend the Junior Title against Gedo first.
The top matches on the show make this a clear recommendation. The main event, Shibata-Goto and the Junior tag all exceeded my expectations and Devitt-Tanahashi and the Suzuki tag pretty much met them. The crowd was reported at just over 7,000 and they took the show up a notch. Osaka might be the best New Japan crowd and they were into almost everything. Apparently the G1 show from Osaka will be on iPPV. If so, count me in.