Reviews

NJPW Dominion 6.12.2022 Review

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Welcome to TJR’s review of NJPW Dominion 2022. This was New Japan’s second-biggest show of the year and as such was filled with important matches.

The show had ten matches with some last-minute changes included here and there. There was also a big surprise teased at the beginning, which we’ll get into soon. But NJPW isn’t the only company concerned with this show; their partner AEW also had a stake in this show as it affected at least one of their announced matches for Forbidden Door. So what happened? Read on to find out.

Once again, these will be abridged reviews with me highlighting the key things in each match. I will be rating the matches using the star-rating scale, because mine isn’t broken and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If you want more detailed reviews of particular matches, check out my 5-star/Almost 5-star match review series. In those reviews, I go into extensive detail on in-ring action and storytelling.

Match #1: United Empire (TJP, Francesco Akira and Aaron Henare) defeated Six or Nine (Ryusuke Tagichi and Master Wato) and Hiroyoshi Tenzan

This was your token hot opener with the smaller juniors flying around and the bigger heavyweights bringing the power. Both TJP and Wato were the stand-outs for their sides as they showed great athleticism and speed. Then again, those words mean less and less now since these sorts of cruiserweight acrobatics can be seen on almost any show in almost any company. The only real story here came when heavyweight Henare duked it out with aging veteran Tenzan. Then, in a surprising turn of events, Henare made Tenzan tap out to, of all things, a full nelson. It might not be the flashiest of moves, but it was effective enough to give the United Empire a victory here.

Final Rating: **1/4

Match #2: Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori, El Phantasmo and Ace Austin) defeated Los Ignobernables de Japón (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi and Bushi)

This came across as two shorter matches rather than one. The first half was basically comedy with the BC doing all these long setup sequences…to hit back rakes. All three of them did this to Naito, which made sense since he was still a tad rusty from being injured. But once Hiromu tagged in, things changed. The match became a teaser for their upcoming Junior Heavyweight title match and included some of the same blistering offense we’ve seen from them before. They both sprinted around the ring and did some cool cruiserweight moves. It seemed like LIJ were on the path to victory…until Bushi tagged in. He wasn’t able to maintain the same pace as Hiromu, nor was he able to endure as much punishment as Naito. To that end, BC beat him up and pummeled him with several big moves to win. It made sense since neither Ishimori nor Hiromu could afford a loss here and they were the stars of their respective teams here. There wasn’t anything wrong with this match, but the BC’s antics come across as time wasters and there’s still plenty to go through still for this show.

Final Rating: **1/4

 

Match #3: Toru Yano defeated Doc Gallows

It’s Doc ‘all business’ Gallows vs. Toru ‘all funny business’ Yano. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything funny in this match. Not from a lack of trying, but because Yano didn’t really do anything he hadn’t already done before. He busted his same bag of tricks that he always does: pull on a piece of hair (or in this case, facial hair), run around the ring, beg for mercy, pull off the turnbuckle pad, and distract the ref until he can hit a low blow to steal the win. So poor Gallows did so much in this short amount of time only to still lose in the end. I don’t know why Yano still gets victories like this; he’s stale as a character and seems to have peaked in terms of creativity.

Final Rating: *1/2

 

Match #4: House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi and Sho) defeated Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre, Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and El Desperado) to retain the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championships

This was chaotic before the bell even rang. HoT attacked Suzuki-gun from behind and used the numbers advantage all throughout the match. They had Dick Togo with them and he was a major player in keeping things in HoT’s favor. Kanemaru was the centerpiece of the match as he put all four HoT guys in the Figure-4 leglock, including Togo. But no matter how strong Kanemaru’s resolve was, and no matter how quickly his teammates adapted to try and stop HoT’s shenanigans, it wasn’t enough. Even with bodies flying all over the place and finishers being spammed like they were being paid per move, HoT’s shenanigans were once again too much. Sho put something metal in his kneepad behind the referee’s back and when Kanemaru went to block/absorb a kick, that loaded leg did way more damage. HoT’s shenanigans usually lead to dreadful matches, but this one wasn’t bad at all. It was just…average.

Final Rating: **

 

Match #5: United Empire (Jeff Cobb and The Great O-Khan) defeated Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens) to win the IWGP Tag Team Championships

This was way more exciting than I thought it’d be. O-Khan’s usually very hit or miss in terms of what he does but he actually did fine here. And Fale was great as the monster that United Empire had to overcome. There was lots more back-and-forth action than I expected and the match had some good near-falls. Cobb was impressive with hit hot tag and how he threw Fale around, despite still having an injured left leg. But the star of the match was Owens who did most of the work for his team. He acted like a miniature Kenny Omega with his explosive offense and neck targeting. But not even he could overcome the more focused duo of Cobb and O-Khan. I think that Cobb in particular needed to look strong going into the G1 and as one of the tournament’s strongest competitors, he couldn’t afford to lose to one of the BC’s lower units on New Japan’s second-biggest show.

Final Rating: **3/4

Post-match, Rocky Romero attacked Cobb and O-Khan to get revenge but he was disposed of very easily. This might to lead to some big tag match at Forbidden Door, most likely a triangle/three-team match between United Empire, FTR and Roppongi Vice for the titles.

After that, they finally revealed the big announcement that was teased earlier on in the show: the 32nd annual G1 Climax tournament. And to celebrate New Japan’s 50th anniversary, this G1 will have the biggest field of competitors ever with 28 wrestlers. The announced participants in the G1 are:

  • Kazuchika Okada
  • Tama Tonga
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi
  • “Filthy” Tom Lawlor
  • Jonah (the former Bronson Reed)
  • YOSHI-HASHI
  • Hirooki Goto
  • Toru Yano
  • Tomohiro Ishii
  • Jeff Cobb
  • The Great O-Khan
  • Will Ospreay
  • Aaron Henare
  • Shingo Takagi
  • SANADA
  • Tetsuya Naito
  • Jay White
  • EVIL
  • KENTA
  • Yujiro Takahashi
  • Bad Luck Fale
  • Chase Owens
  • Juice Robinson
  • Taichi
  • Zack Sabre, Jr.
  • Lance Archer (who got a surprisingly loud pop when he was announced)
  • David Finlay
  • El Phantasmo

This tournament will be different as well because it will feature four blocks of seven instead of two blocks of ten. And as usual, the finals will take place in the famed Budokan Hall.

 

Match #6: Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Hirooki Goto to advance to face Jon Moxley at AEW/NJPW Forbidden Door

I was wrong with most of my predictions for this show, but at least I got one right. As expected, Tanahashi beat Goto to advance to Forbidden Door. The match was solid for being under fifteen minutes long. But since both men are more adept at longer and more drawn-out matches, they simply played the hits here. They skipped any drawn out heat segment or working a limb and just went for their biggest moves. Goto got some great near-falls on a nasty GTR in the corner and when he reversed a cradle onto Tanahashi. But just like I wrote in the preview, Goto just wasn’t in Tanahashi’s league. Tanahashi hit harder, had better counters, and managed to string together more offense to keep Goto down. And unfortunately, that predictability made this match hard to take too seriously. It was so obvious who was going to win and Goto didn’t get enough chances to try and convince people otherwise. Once a nearlyman, always a nearlyman.

Final Rating: ***1/4

 

Match #7: Shingo Takagi defeated Taichi by 11-10

To reiterate, this match took place under special rules. Each wrestler got a point for each second they had their opponent was in a pin. So a two-count would yield two points, a three-count three points (and no decision), etc. But instead of making this into a crappy novelty match, this contest actually worked well. The wrestlers couldn’t just avoid three-counts; they had to avoid being pinned in general. That proved difficult because both Takagi and Taichi had the same strategy: beat the crap out of their opponent and go for covers. Add to that a ten-minute time limit and you get a very exciting match. By the two-minutes-remaining mark, Takagi had a five point lead and Taichi was fading. But then he exploded and started channeling his mentor Kawada by absorbing tons of punishment and still pressing forward. Both men spammed finishers, traded amateur holds, and exchanged cradles to try and get even a single point. But in the end, Takagi won by only a single point. This was a great idea for a stipulation, even though it’s a bit convoluted to explain. I can see a pinfall expert like Bryan making use of this kind of match somewhere down the road. Easily the best match on the card so far.

Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Match #8: Karl Anderson defeated Tama Tonga to win the NEVER Openweight Championship

This was a teacher vs. student match in which both wrestlers were trying to see who was better at playing Randy Orton. Anderson was one of the founders of Cullet Club and Tonga was his protégé. When Anderson left New Japan Tonga took up his place as the BC’s premier tag wrestler. But now that Anderson has returned, he and Tonga disagree on some things, particularly the relationship between the BC and The Elite. Tonga tried to stand up for himself here but he should’ve known better. He was alone against both Anderson and Gallows, who ended up being an integral part of the match. Gallows landed a big chokeslam to set up the extended heat segment and he distracted Tonga long enough for Anderson to hit his RKO – sorry, Gun Stun – finisher. Tonga had a great babyface fight from underneath and actually came across as sympathetic here. He had some great near-falls and had a great closing counter sequence with Anderson to see who could drop the other first. It was a surprise to see Anderson defeat Tonga, but this might be the catalyst Tonga needs to break away from Bullet Club and strike out on his own.

Final Rating: ***1/4

 

Match #9: Will Ospreay defeated SANADA to win the vacant IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship

It appears that even though Robinson wanted to defend his title here, NJPW officials weren’t comfortable with this and vacated the title instead. That led to this one-on-one match between Ospreay and SANADA, and it was great. This is the environment in which Ospreay is at his best: shorter burst matches for lesser titles. He didn’t bust out every single trick he had here but he still wrestled well enough. He attacked SANADA’s injured eye towards the end to stop all the momentum SANADA had gotten up to that point. From there SANADA shifted from trying to win to trying to survive. He got some great counters in here and there but Ospreay was just one step ahead. And Ospreay just nailed SANADA with several brutal signature and finishing moves to win decisively. I’m just glad it didn’t go any longer than it did. A few more minutes and this match would’ve fallen into absurd territory with how blistering its pace was.

Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Match #10: Jay White defeated Kazuchika Okada to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship

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Once again, I was right with the match length as this one went just over 36 minutes. But unlike other Okada matches that have gone that long or longer, this one was…meh. There was a lot of dead air in this match. White stalled and stalled like crazy, stretching control segments out as much as possible. He mocked Okada and acted all cocky, and for the most part it was as if he was trying to bait Okada into attacking him to setup some miraculous comeback on Okada’s part. But then White adopted a strategy: he attacked Okada’s ribs and took the wind out of the champion. He maintained this strategy while also making full use of his manager Gedo, who got involved in the match several times. Okada did have a glimmer of a comeback at the end, but it wasn’t the decisive punctuation mark that Okada put on the tail end of his matches. Instead, White took full advantage of Okada’s penchant for adding more and more complexity to his closing stretches and hit a Blade Runner out of nowhere to beat the ace and win the title. It was alright in terms of story but way too plodding to be remembered as some sort of in-ring classic.

Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Overall Show Rating: 6/10

This was an alright show but wasn’t anything special. The first half was filled with forgettable multi-man matches that were carbon copies of matches we’ve all seen before many times. The second half started strong with two great singles matches. And in terms of ingenuity, nothing topped the Takagi/Taichi match with its unique parameters that both wrestlers used very well. The rest of the card was solid and the main-event, while impressive from an athletic and conditioning perspective, was a tad underwhelming. I’m glad that White was finally able to beat Okada and now Okada can free up his schedule to Rainmaker Hangman Page into oblivion. I can also predict that White will play a bigger role in whatever Adam Cole’s going on AEW Dynamite, considering that they’re “friends”, whatever that means.

With this show over, we only have one match finalized for AEW/NJPW Forbidden Door on June 26: Moxley vs. Tanahashi.

That should be great, especially considering Moxley has wanted to face Tanahashi for a very long time. The remaining matches should be announced over the next two weeks; though personally, I’m starting to get a bit worried. Forbidden Door hasn’t announced any more big singles matches and no one from AEW has been announced for this year’s enormous G1. They couldn’t even bother to spare Bryan, Samoa Joe, Malakai Black, or anyone else stuck in AEW but not doing much. If nothing big is announced soon, then I fear that Forbidden Door will be just like WK16 Night Three when they did New Japan vs. NOAH: a handful of mediocre dream matches on a card filled to the brim with nothing multi-man matches.

I was wrong with most of my predictions for Dominion; I hope I’m very wrong with this assessment for Forbidden Door as well.

Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.