NJPW “Dominion” 2014 Preview & Predictions
June 21, 2014
Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium/Bodymaker Coliseum
Osaka, Japan

Fresh off one of the most entertaining Best of the Super Juniors tournaments in quite some time, New Japan Pro Wrestling returns with Saturday’s Dominion iPPV. This much anticipated card features a number of stand-out matches in a show that has been a surprise hit the past few years. Last year’s Kazuchika Okada vs. Togi Makabe IWGP Heavyweight Title match was better than it had any right to be and the show as a whole was one of NJPW’s most complete offerings of the year. The 2012 show featured Tokyo Sports’ 2012 Match of the Year between Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi.

Saturday’s show is in a weird position of being bottom-heavy with the main event, Shinsuke Nakamura defending his IWGP Intercontential Championship against Bullet Club muscle Bad Luke Fale, not feeling like a typical NJPW main. We know NJPW has attempted to build the IC Title as a true secondary to the IWGP Heavyweight Title and they’ve done a great job, Nakamura is the man but some still don’t see Bad Luke Fale as a main eventer, myself included. The last time they two did battle, it surprised the hell out of us and was actually pretty good. Could this one be the same? We’ll find out.  

The undercard is top-notch including what could very well be the most anticipated juniors match of all-time between Dragon Gate’s own Ricochet, fresh off his Best of the Super Juniors championship taking on IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion and bonafied star in the making Kota Ibushi. The undercard also features what should be a highly entertaining tag match between Kazuchika Okada and Wrestler of the Year contender Tomohiro Ishii taking on Bullet Club leader/IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles and Bullet Club’s newest member Yujiro Takahashi.

Yujiro cost Okada the title at May’s Wrestling Dontaku show and the match will continue the on-going feud between Okada and Styles. It’s a story-driven tag match that could absolutely deliver in-ring. The writing has been on the wall for quite some time and it appears it will finally happen as Hiroshi Tanahashi and Togi Makabe look to grab IWGP Tag Team gold when they take on the Bullet Club’s Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows. On the Jr. Tag side, The Young Bucks defend against the Time Splitters with the suddenly healthy Alex Shelley and Best of the Super Juniors runner-up KUSHIDA.

We will be covering the event live including live-tweeting and discussion on Twitter and we will have a full review immediately following the show early Saturday morning. If you want to watch along with us, we’ve included ordering information below the predictions.

Match # 1: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match
Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) (c) vs. Time Splitters (Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA)

Rich Kraetsch: I’m obviously a huge fan of The Young Bucks and love their act but I think it’s time to make a switch to these titles. It’s not for anything The Bucks have done or not done, but rather the upward momentum KUSHIDA has coming out of Best of the Super Juniors. I can’t imagine him taking a loss at this point, though you could argue getting the tag belts bumps him back down. Hmmm. I’ll go Time Splitters here mostly because I want to see the Bullet Club’s dominance of titles waver a bit but don’t be surprised if the Bucks hang on. Either way, this will be your run-of-the-mill Junior Tag, it’ll go 10-13 minutes, be pretty awesome and we’ll forget most of what happened in a week.

Prediction: Time Splitters

Joe Lanza: The Bucks have been the clear top tag team in the world for 2014, and have pumped new life into what had become a dry junior tag scene. KUSHIDA has some momentum coming off a great Super Juniors and I don’t think they’ll beat him twice in a row. I’ll say new champs.

Prediction: Time Splitters

Bryan Rose:  Could go either way, honestly. Bucks have held onto the belts for a while. Timesplitters could win them in a upset. I think the story they want to go with though is for Bullet Club to win all the titles. So in that case, I’d say that the Young Bucks retain. Besides, where else do you really go with these tag belts.

Prediction:  The Young Bucks

Jason Felix:Why is Shelley wrestling two weeks after his shoulder injury that was so severe that it knocked him out of the Best of the Super Juniors?  I’m really confused if that was a legit injury, so severe that it knocked him out of the semi-finals and finals of the Best of the Super Juniors.  Anyways, this match is really interesting.  The Time Splitters were supposed to win the Junior Tag belts last October before an injury to Shelley delayed it.  They lost a match to the Bucks back in February, but each of them defeated the Bucks in the Best of the Super Juniors.  This is really a toss up.  If Shelley is healthy, I think that the Time Splitters finally get the win that they seemed assured to get last October.  If he’s not, I’ll go with the Bucks.  Since I have to type something in the prediction line, I’ll go with the Splitters.

Prediction: Time Splitters

Match # 2:
Tetsuya Naito vs. Tama Tonga

Rich: Oh my god, could Naito actually lose this match? Well, no but can you imagine?! He can’t lose, right? No, he won’t. It’s been a hell of a fall for the 2013 G1 champion, this may be the bottom and there’s nowhere to go but up. He’ll have to win here but I’m not sure we can pinpoint a next step for him. It’s a definite fall from grace from a guy we were legitimately worried about winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

Joe: A mere six months after being in the co-main event of Wrestle Kingdom, Naito is working prelim against Tama Tonga, the directionless bottom guy of Bullet Club. This means one of two things. One, Naito is lost in the booking shuffle and is being fed an easy one. Or two, he’s being used to help get Tonga over as a single. I’m not sure if the latter is more of a conspiracy theory than a legitimate option, but Naito sure has been spectacular putting people over this year (Ishii, Fale). He’s having a fantastic in ring year despite the slide down the card.

Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

Bryan:  Well gee, I hope Naito does manage to beat TAMA TONGA. Tonga is good, but hasn’t been utilized at all, and is often the job guy. Naito seems to be in a rut with no real program at the moment, so I guess this is just a squash for him until they have something going for him. No idea why Naito wouldn’t win here.

Prediction:  Tetsuya Naito

Jason:Naito needs a win badly.  Tonga is the Bullet Club job guy.  Easy choice is Naito.

Prediction: Tetsuya Naito

Match # 3
Yuji Nagata & Tomoaki Honma vs. Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto

Rich: Part of me hopes this is a long match and everyone gives full effort but the other half of me knows what the goal is here — get Shibata and Goto over. As much as I want it to be a long, back and forth contest, they have to build those two and this should be a total destruction. Honma will be awesome, especially when he eats a Shibata flying dropkick, Nagata’s eyes will roll and this should be fun, even if they aren’t given but a few minutes.

Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto

Joe: Really, really hoping the impending Shibata/Nagata feud is a temporary diversion before Shibata & Goto battle over the tag titles with Tanahashi & Goto, followed by a Shibata/Tanahashi feud.

Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto

Bryan:  This should be really good given who’s in it, and can possibly be the show stealer if given the time. Nagata’s great, he’s just been put in shitty programs over the last 6-8 months. Honma is always great, as is Shibata and Goto. Should be exceptionally stiff. Given that Shibat and Goto seem to be in the tag team title hunt, a win for them here makes the most sense. But I wouldn’t mind a new Honma/Nagata team either. New Japan needs more tag teams that aren’t Killer Elite Squad or Tencozy.

Prediction:   Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto

Jason:This match should be great.  Great.  Great!  I am so excited to watch these guys hit and kick each other as hard as possible.  This is one of the easier matches to predict on the card.  Honma will take the fall after missing the SMILING HEADBUTT (he should be the only one that should be allowed to do a top rope headbutt anymore, in my humble and wacky opinion.)  Goto and Shibata should be the next tag title contenders, possibly as the main event of Kizuna Road.

Prediction: Katsuyori Shibata and Hirooki Goto

Match # 4: NWA World Tag Team Title Match
TenCozy (Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan)(c) vs. Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith, Jr.)

Rich: Somewhere in heaven (yes, I’m an atheist but go with me here), British Bulldog is looking down on his son Davey Boy Smith Jr. and is smiling from ear to ear. After facing off against Warlord approximately 900 times in one year, his son followed in his footsteps with this never-ending battle between TenCozy and KES. He learned it from you, Davey, he learned it by watching you! These dudes can probably wrestle with their eyes closed at this point. The problem with these matches is they are always kinda good, so it makes sense to continue booking them until they fall flat. I predicted last month KES would take the belt and I’m doing it again this time, KES wins.

Prediction: Killer Elite Squad

Joe: KES should have won the titles last month, but I guess they needed a one month holdover so they could do it here before the next full tour. If KES doesn’t win this month, i’ll be REAL confused.

Prediction:Killer Elite Squad

Bryan:  SPEAKING OF. I can’t believe we’re seeing this. Again. For the ten millionth time. I’m guessing KES wins the belts. And I hope they never wrestle each other again either, even if these matches range from ok to good.

Prediction: Killer Elite Squad

Jason:This could be the final match of the NWA series…which makes me sad, because that would mean that Bruce Tharpe won’t be showing up anymore (not that he’ll be at this show.)  KES needs some rehab after a really poor year, booking wise.  I don’t think they’ve won a tag team match this year in New Japan.  Oy… I just depressed myself, considering how much TenCozy has won this year.  Just a thought here.  They are announcing the G1 participants soon.  Perhaps they do some sort of injury angle to Tenzan to explain why he wouldn’t be in it this year, because I sure hope they learned their lesson after last year.  KES wins that titles and hopefully jump starts them for the G1.

Prediction: Killer Elite Squad

Match # 5: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match
Kota Ibushi (c) vs. Ricochet

Rich: Oh man, oh man, oh man…this match right here. I can’t even begin to describe my excitement for this one. Two weeks ago on the Voices of Wrestling podcast I said this match has literally zero chance of being bad outside of one of the guys getting hurt early. I seriously mean that, there is no way and no chance this isn’t at least somewhat exciting and I’d go as far to say it’s a mortal lock for match of the night. I feel bad for anyone who has to follow this because these two are going to tear the roof off. You have the only two men to win the Wrestling Observer’s Best Flying Wrestler award in the past five years doing battle on perhaps both men’s biggest stage ever. This is going to be great. Ricochet has all the momentum in the world and according to many sources, NJPW wants to continue booking him so this won’t be a squash to get their guy over. Ibushi has continued his upward momentum and is teetering on star level. Did I mention how much I’m looking forward to this? Ibushi wins here but the true winner is anyone who gets to watch this poetry in motion.

Prediction: Kota Ibushi

Joe: As pointed out by Dylan Hales, this is the most anticipated junior title match over the last decade (at minimum). You have arguably the top two juniors on the planet, peaking at the same time, facing off for the title coming off of some great performances and in the midst of great years. The bar is set very, very high (as in, MOTY high) for this match, and I can not wait to see if they can deliver. Ricochet wins, and we get more of these.

Prediction: Ricochet

Bryan:  Scratch what I said earlier, this should be the match to watch. You have Ricochet, who was awesome at the Best of the Super Junior tournament and had an amazing match with KUSHIDA in the finals. Ibushi has been on a roll lately having great matches with the likes of Tomohiro Ishii, among others. I’ve heard rumblings that they want to use Ricochet more, so maybe they’ll put the title on him if they want to move Ibushi to the heavyweight division. It makes sense considering Ibushi’s only defended the title a couple of times. I’ll go with Ricochet even though I’m not totally convinced here.

Prediction: Ricochet

Jason:Kota Ibushi is getting some G1 buzz this year (at least in my head) with the big time money match of Shinsuke Nakamura v. Kazuchika Okada seemingly further away than ever.  I said back in April that I thought Ibushi winning the IWGP Title from Okada would be an amazing story.  Ibushi should be moving up to heavyweight soon.  The writing seems to be on the wall after amazing close losses against Okada and Tomohiro Ishii.  Thus, I think Ricochet is going to win this.  This has match of the year potential written all over it.  I just hope they don’t go all “flipping and diving and avoiding” and instead wrestle a match that incorporates all the flipping and diving and avoiding and helps it make sense.  This should be a lot of fun.  Considering the Main Event, don’t be surprised if these two get the typical 25-30+ minutes that the usual New Japan main event gets.  I’m so excited for this and it doesn’t even involve Tomohiro Ishii.  I may wake up early and buy this show just to watch this match.  This should be great!  (Did I say that yet?)

Prediction: Ricochet

Match # 6
Kazushi Sakuraba & Toru Yano vs. Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka

Rich: I’m torn here. On one hand, I love Toru Yano and Minoru Suzuki. Their feud went 14 months too long (that is only a SLIGHT exaggeration) but they are still supremely entertaining. On the other hand, god do I hate everything Kazushi Sakuraba does. Iizuka is collateral, I can take or leave him. So where does that leave me with this match? I have no idea, I could enjoy it, but it has Sakuraba, but it has Yano! What about Suzuki’s entrance music? I love that tune. Bleh.

Prediction: Kazushi Sakuraba & Toru Yano

Joe: Enough already. And Sakuraba needs to get lost.

Prediction: Kazushi Sakuraba & Toru Yano

Bryan:  I don’t care. Well, ok, maybe a little. A Sakuraba/Suzuki feud sounds so infinitely more awesome than anything else these two have done all year. Problem is Yano and Iizuka are here, who are not great, or even good or acceptable and are really just trolls in the workrate department. This is prelude to something possibly good, at least I can look at it in that sense. I say Suzuki wins setting up a singles match for the two at the September PPV, maybe.

Prediction:  Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka

Jason:The Light!  I See The Light!  The greatest professional wrestler in the history of the universe, MINORU SUKZUKI has been in a year long dark tunnel and he can finally see the light.  This match is going to be setting up a couple singles matches, hopefully at Kizuna Road, as I don’t want to have these feuds drawn out past the G1.  Sakuraba usually taps out Iizuka in tags, so let’s go with that.

Prediction: Kazushi Sakuraba & Toru Yano

Match # 7
IWGP Heavyweight Champion A. J. Styles & Yujiro Takahashi vs. NEVER Openweight Champion Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada

Rich: This is an oddly put together match but it has the chance to be pretty awesome. Everyone in there can go, there’s the underlying story of Styles/Yujiro/Bullet Club vs. Okada and Ishii has had his most complete year ever. This is going to be a lot of fun. The real question is who wins? It doesn’t seem like either team can afford a loss here as Okada has been dying for a big win as of late and Ishii has been on a roll and could benefit from another victory. On the other side though, Styles needs to continue building if he’s going to be taken as a legitimate star in New Japan and the re-push of Yujiro could certainly use a big boost. This is a real tough one to pick, I’ll go with Ishii and Okada but I’m not confident in that whatsoever.

Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada

Joe: Okada has lost to Styles three times. That changes here as Okada pins AJ to set up another title challenge. This has the chance to be really good.

Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada

Bryan:  This is a weird one as I was thinking there would be a NEVER title match here, but I guess they’re holding it off. This is an interesting match, though. Okada needs a win after losing twice to AJ Styles. Yujiro needs a win to continue his feud with Ishii. So I’m not sure who wins out here. I’ll go with Yujiro since I think there are other plans for AJ and Okada down the road, especially at the G1.

Prediction:  AJ Styles & Yujiro Takahashi

Jason:There is no one in New Japan that has more Go Away heat with me than Yujiro Takahashi.  Yujiro never did much to impress me in the ring, but since his Bullet Club, he has looked really bad.  He looks like he is wrestling with a broken back.  He looks totally unmotivated.  He looks like all his charisma has been stolen from him from his babyface Ricky Rude pose counterpart, Ryusuke Taguchi (who himself is a Black Hole of Charisma.)  His character doesn’t fit with Bullet Club at all.  He’s attacked Okada twice and Okada still doesn’t have the time of day to deal with the turncoat in a singles match.  My point I’m trying to make is Yujiro is a waste of space.  Tomohiro Ishii has had the touch of gold this year, but man oh man, does he have his work out when his singles match vs. Yujiro takes place at Kizuna Road.  Now, let’s get into Okada and Styles.  Why in the world are the facing off in a tag team match?  Are they going ahead and booking Styles vs. Okada 3 (or 4 if you count their ROH Triple Threat) for Kizuna Road?  If not, then why are they in this tag team match.  If they go with that match, does Okada get his win back, finally, which would have given Styles one of the worst IWGP runs since Manabu Nakanishi?  Notice how I keep talking about the singles matches?  This match doesn’t interest me at all.  I’ve went back and forth on this one because I just can’t care about this tag team match when it’s sole purpose to just delay more singles matches.  Ishii and Takahashi (sadly) seems set in stone, so I’ll go with Okada pinning Styles to set up ANOTHER title opportunity for Okada.

Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada

Match # 8: IWGP Tag Team Title Match
Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Togi Makabe

Rich: It looks like I’m ready for the Bullet Club to take it on the chin. I’ve predicted losses for all of their members thus far and I see another one here. The plan for months now has been Tanahashi and Makabe with the title and I can’t see a scenario where they don’t leave Dominion as champions. Anderson and Gallows while talented, haven’t had a good run as of late and NJPW needs Tanahashi in a meaningful program. The sooner we get to Goto/Shibata vs. Tanahashi/Makabe for the titles, the better. Let’s start here.

Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Togi Makabe

Joe: As I’ve been predicting for months, I think Tanahashi & Makabe will win, and then be put in the old school position of drawing tag champions.

Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Togi Makabe

Bryan:  Should be a good match. I thought Shibata/Goto were being groomed for this spot, but I guess plans change. Or I’m just not paying attention. That happens a lot when it comes to me. I could see Bullet Club retaining if they want to go with the all belts deal. But Tanahashi and Makabe could also win leading to a feud between them and Goto/Shibata since they teased that a while ago. I say Bullet Club retains, but it could go either way.

Prediction: Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows

Jason:If you watched most of the Best of the Super Juniors, you’ll have gotten to enjoy Tanahashi and a random partner against Anderson & Gallows many, many, MANY FREAKING TIMES.  I am so burned out on that match.  Adding Makabe, in theory, should make it better.  Anderson & Gallows have had a really poor title run.  They’ve suffered two non-title losses in six months (hey hey WWE booking, kids!)  Tanahashi has been boxed out on the top of the card, so it would seem like a smart move to give him the tag team titles to help keep him in a prominent role, but in such a role to protect his aging body.  Makabe doesn’t do much for me, but he’s viewed as  a star and he and Tanahashi have the potential to headline New Japan shows.  I’m still torn on whether A.J. Styles will defend the IWGP Title again before the G1.  If he does not defend at Kizuna Road, then Tanahashi and Makabe could have a big main event title match against Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata.

Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Togi Makabe

Match # 9: IWGP Intercontinental Title Match
Shinsuke Nakamura(c) vs. Bad Luck Fale

Rich: I don’t often think a NJPW main event is one of the weakest matches on the card, but here we are. I’ve made it no secret, I’m not a fan of Bad Luck Fale and I think him in the main event is a total waste. His previous match with Nakamura was entertaining but it was helped tremendously by Nak getting busted open. I’m assuming we won’t have it this time and thus we’re going to get more of a straight wrestling match. Maybe it will be good, but I’ve seen nothing in Fale’s past that leads me to believe this will be anything worthwhile, even with the awesomeness of Nakamura. I think bigger and better things are in Nakamura’s future but as long as the goal is to have the IC Title as meaningful as the IWGP Heavyweight Title, he’s holding onto it.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Joe: The only reason for Fale to win this is if Nakamura is winning G1. So that’s what i’ll be telling myself if Fale ends the show celebrating with the belt. I think Fale stinks, but there has been a long term plan in place to push him big. I’ll go against the grain and say Nak retains, because I can’t justify predicting five title changes.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Bryan:  I think they want Bad Luck Fale to win here. I really hope not as he’s not ready at all, but that’s who they’re going with for some reason. And really, he hasn’t been TERRIBLE, but I can think of so many people who are better suited for this push than Bad Luck Fale. I say he gets the upset win. But I totally don’t mind if Nakamura retains. No, really guys. If you want to go with that, go ahead. I won’t complain.

Prediction:  Bad Luck Fale

Jason:I thought it was a mistake putting the Intercontinental Title back on Nakamura.  Almost everyone had thought that New Japan’s plan was Nakamura v. Okada at the Tokyo Dome.  Well, they are three steps from having that match.  Someone needs to win the IWGP Title. The other guy needs to win the G1. Nakamura needs to lose the Intercontinental Title (unless it’s a unification match.)  Nakamura needs to lose this belt eventually.  I’m fully in the camp that believes that the Bullet Club is going to get every title (I don’t want that to happen, I just think it’s going to happen.)  So I do feel like Fale is going to win the Title here.  New Japan loves this guy.  He pinned Nakamura clean in an Elimination Match back on 4/24.  He could have tossed him over the top rope per New Japan Elimination Match rules, but he pinned Shinsuke Nakamura.  That tells me how highly they think of him.  Fale wins with the second best move in professional wrestling today, the Bad Luck Fall.

Prediction: Bad Luck Fale

Order the show below: