New Japan Pro Wrestling
Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-Jo Hall
June 9th, 2018
Watch: NJPW World
Meet our previewers
- Joe Lanza: Hello. I am the leader of the hardcore wrestling intelligentsia, a top scoop breaker, and a cop caller. Wait, what?
- Joel Abraham: I’m going to Dominion, and you’re not. Host of the Super J-Cast.
- John Carroll: I wish I was going to Dominion, damn you Joel! I’m gonna have to settle for going to an anime convention this weekend instead, which isn’t at all a good substitute, but at least I’ll be hosting two Japanese pro wrestling panels again! Follow me @toshanshuinla if you want to see my attempts to bring puroresu to the weeb masses. BTW, no cops at pride.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru © vs. Roppongi 3K
Joe Lanza: This feud has ruled and is a good example of the improved downcard booking focus in New Japan this year, with a couple of good three way tags and two hot singles matches in the BoSJ to heat up what I presume will be the big R3K win/blowoff. With the LIJ team (Hiromu & BUSHI) finally out of the way, there’s a good chance that this will eclipse the previous three ways that admittedly over delivered. Prediction: R3K
Joel Abraham: Having the Jr. Heavyweight Tag titles on the line in a straight tag match is my favourite way of starting a show, which is great for me because I’m going to Dominion. There’s been some excellent buildup throughout the BoSJ, with hot matches between SHO/Despy and YOH/Nobu, and the R3K boys picking up the wins. The BoSJ was something of a coming out party for Despy, SHO and YOH, and these four clearly know each other well and have good chemistry. I’m sure that given a good 15 minutes or so, this could be a terrific opener. I expect the J-Pop Yum Yum Boys to win the titles so that the SZG pair can move on to new things and possibly pave the way for the return of one Kyosuke Mikami. Prediction: R3K
John Carroll: El Desperado and SHO were two of my MVPs of the Best of the Super Junior, along with Hiromu & Dragon Lee (cheap plug: you can hear me break all of that down with the great Joe Gagne on this week’s new Wrestling Omakase!), and I have very little doubt they can tear the house down again here in this tag team title match. It looks pretty obvious that Roppongi 3K are going to win back the titles- it’s the only title match result on this entire show that I feel reasonably confident about, actually- as Desperado really should be working as the top heel of the junior heavyweight singles division now. This should be Desperado and Hiromu’s division going forward, with both SHO & YOH (but especially SHO) showing at BOSJ that they’ll be ready to move up into the singles division as soon as they’re called upon as well. Quite simply put, New Japan is stacked with talented young juniors right now. Yoshinobu Kanemaru is not one of them, however, and I think he eats a pin here. Prediction: Roppongi 3K
Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Jay White & YOSHI-HASHI
Joe Lanza: Finlay & White are Tito Santana & Rick Martel for millenials, linked for eternity to fight forever. On a Wrestle Kingdom show sometime in the 2040s, you can bet these men will be going at it in a Rambo while a 97-year old Yoshiaki Fujiwara is being praised in niche circles as the best worker in the company. Sticking to the millenial theme, I will illustrate the motivations of Finlay by using a popular meme. Broke: David Finlay wants to win the United States title from Jay White. Galaxy Brain: Finlay cares nothing about titles and desperately wants, no needs, to prove to himself that he can beat this man, and will promptly retire when he finally does so. That won’t happen here, as this is a likely set-up for a Juice Robinson United States title shot, perhaps in San Francisco. Prediction: Juice & Finlay
Joel Abraham: I was slightly disappointed not to get a Juice v Switchblade U.S. Title match here, given that I’m going to Dominion. Juice v Switchblade should be a terrific match, and quite possibly Juice’s first title win in NJPW which has been built up to be a huge moment with all of Juice’s near-misses. Even so, this tag match will be a lot of fun, and it’s good to see things like this built on the relatively short history of the U.S. Title. I’m a fan of all of these guys (except YOSHI-HASHI), they have great chemistry together (except YOSHI-HASHI), they’ve all had big title matches this year (except YOSHI-HASHI) and have bright futures in the company (except YOSHI-HASHI). Jay White and YOSHI-HASHI is a very weird pairing so it’ll be interesting to see how they interact. I expect White to bail on YOSHI-HASHI, who will get pinned by Juice to give him some all-important MOMENTUM leading into the U.S. Title match at the Cow Palace. Predction: Juice & Finlay
John Carroll: Is Juice-White the US Title match for the Cow Palace? It might be, but it’s worth keeping in mind that before we get to San Francisco we have not one, not two, but THREE Korakuen shows on the Kizuna Road tour that will need main events. One of them could easily be headlined by the Super Strong Machine retirement match, granted, but that still leaves two more, and I could easily see this Juice-White match taking place there and White getting a bigger challenger for the Cow Palace instead. But anyway, uh, this match will be fine. I like White more than a lot of you but this is still probably the only match on this entire card I’m not into at all really. Prediction: Juice & Finlay
Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano vs. Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.
Joe Lanza: This should be for the RevPro tag titles, because why not? Unless Suzuki & Sabre are losing, which isn’t likely, it would add a little juice as they continue to build towards an apparent Ishii RevPro World Title defense against Suzuki back in the UK. Prediction: Suzuki & Sabre
Joel Abraham: The big question here is this: Which theme will the Suzukigun team come out to? Will it be Kaze-ni-Nare? I certainly hope so, because I want to sing along, given that I’m going to Dominion. However, I am also a fan of the music of Zack Sabre Jr., as can be heard on the most recent episode of the excellent Music of the Mat podcast, with Andrew Rich. The Ishii/Yano tag team does nothing for me, but the RPW Undisputed British Tag Team champions of Suzuki and ZSJ are a force to be reckoned with. Interactions between Ishii/ZSJ and Ishii/Suzuki should be great, and although we’ve seen Yano/Suzuki done to death, Yano/ZSJ could be a lot of fun. I believe the purpose of this match is to set up a future RevPro British Heavyweight title match between Ishii and Suzuki, possibly at Strong Style Evolved in the UK. Therefore, expect Suzuki to pick up the pinfall, probably over Yano, to give him some all-important MOMENTUM leading into that title match. Prediction: Suzuki & ZSJ
John Carroll: Yeah, as Joel said it looks like we’re building up a Suzuki-Ishii title match for RevPro, probably for their upcoming Strong Style Evolved UK tour. New Japan having quietly put together their own little international alliance is one of those things that probably should get talked about more than it does, as it makes NJPW look more major league and at the same time elevates the other companies as well. How cool must it be to be a regular RevPro fan knowing that Suzuki and Ishii are building up their upcoming match for your title on New Japan’s second biggest standalone show of the year? Anyway, yeah, Suzuki & ZSJ are probably going to win this. I like them as a team a lot, they really work well together, and I think they’re more than capable of getting a good match out of an Ishii/Yano team that, like Joel, I don’t really enjoy much. Prediction: Suzuki & ZSJ
NEVER Openweight Championship
Hirooki Goto © vs. Taichi vs. Michael Elgin
Joe Lanza: What the fuck is happening here? I mean, I’d rather just see Goto vs Elgin, or even Goto vs Taichi, but I’m tired of complaining about three way booking and then taking hard L’s when the matches end up delivering, so I’ll just save my breath and hope for the best. Prediction: Goto, but that’s probably just my wishful thinking, as I smell a title change followed by these three men battling into perpetuity passing the belt back and forth.
Joel Abraham: I’m also slightly miffed at this being a three-way, because as ZSJ says, triple threats are rubbish. Given that I’m going to Dominion, I don’t want to see a rubbish match. However, I think this could be a lot of fun. The assholery of Taichi should complement the stoic power of Elgin and Goto, and I’m sure there will be some enjoyable spots and a good pace. All three are capable of having great matches. Elgin has plenty of experience in this type of match, which should play a factor. Maybe he’ll be busting out some high-flying moves with his new slimmed-down physique. However, I expect Taichi to claim his first NJPW singles title and enjoy a glorious reign forevermore. Prediction: Our Lord Taichi
John Carroll: Look, I have no idea which way this is going. I’m pretty sure Elgin isn’t winning, but as far as Goto retaining or Taichi taking the title, I don’t really have a clue. I know what I want to happen, obviously, and that would of course be Taichi beginning his glorious reign as YOUR NEVER Openweight Champion. Taichi even told us what he would do if he became champion: use the “openweight” designation as an excuse to pick on the junior heavyweights, which would rule. I’ll proudly be wearing my HOLY EMPEROR shirt this weekend and rooting him on, but sadly as an impartial expert (cough) I have to tell you that I feel Goto winning is ultimately more likely. Like with every title match on this show other than the opener I don’t feel super confident about that pick, I could see it going either way, but gun to my head I think Goto takes it. Hopefully I’m wrong! Prediction: Hirooki Goto
IWGP Tag Team Championship
EVIL & SANADA © vs. The Young Bucks
Joe Lanza: A title change wouldn’t shock me, but I think the Bucks can stand to wait a bit longer to win the big boy belts, although some may have forgotten that this is their second crack at them (they faced the Briscoes when NJPW was flirting with combining the tag divisions and stripped the “heavyweight” designation from the titles). I like that LIJ successfully fended off KES, bucking the trend of careless title changes and potentially setting up the solid, long term reign this championship desperately needs. I think the champs will retain, if only for no other reason that EVIL & SANADA would have nothing else to do, while the Bucks can keep busy with the trios belts and the Elite drama. Prediction: LIJ
Joel Abraham: The Bucks are already NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions, but I think they win again here, becoming double champs, dripping with gold. This would enable them to defend the belts whilst EVIL and SANADA are busy with the G1. There is also the caveat of the Bucks’ contracts which are up in six months, but I do expect them to continue to work with NJPW in future and becoming heavyweight tag champions would be a fine statement of long-term intent for both parties. Either way, this should be a great match, which is doubly good because I’m going to Dominion. Prediction: The Young Bucks
John Carroll: EVIL & SANADA have breathed new life into this heavyweight tag team division this year, as Gedo finally did what many of us were screaming for him to do for years: put two native heavyweights together who were legitimate upper midcarders in their own right and let them have a lengthy run. This is the reign we all thought we were getting when Shibata & Goto won them at the Dome (before they lost them right back a month later), and it’s been just as good as I would have guessed, which makes the fact that we sat through heatless gaijin vs. gaijin matches for the past 4 damn years look even more infuriating in hindsight. But anyway, this match! I have little doubt the Bucks, who are almost always good in NJPW where they tone down their goofy bullshit greatly, can have a really good match with two very good professional wrestlers. Who’s winning is again a little difficult to call- on one hand, EVIL & SANADA have had the belts since January and easily can move on at this point. But on the other hand, the Bucks already hold the NEVER six-man titles, and likely won’t be in the G1. Does it matter to Gedo if the heavyweight tag team champions are nowhere to be found for the entire long G1 tour? That’s a bit of an open question, and one that will come up again with another title on this show as well, but I think the answer is probably yes. So I’m going with EVIL & SANADA to retain here and maybe drop the belts to the Bucks in a rematch on the Destruction tour or something. Prediction: EVIL & SANADA
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jushin Thunder Liger & Rey Mysterio Jr vs. BULLET CLUB (Cody, Hangman Page & Marty Scurll)
Joe Lanza: This is random as fuck, and i’m here for it. This card features zero meaningless 6-man or 8-man tags, and this is another example of care suddenly being put into the downcard booking. We easily could have gotten a forgettable, meaningless, 3-star Tanahashi/Makabe/Taguchi vs BC trios match in this spot, but instead we get… Juniors being booked into programs not centered around the title! Liger doing something of storyline significance! A junior violently attacking a heavyweight to set it up! It’s as if World Class Tag Team heard people bragging that you could easily skip the first two thirds of any New Japan card and said “Yeah, well, let’s see you skip these title matches, blood feuds, and REY MYSTERIO JR, ya fuckers!”. Good god this card is stacked. Prediction: Bullet Club
Joel Abraham: It’s a Fire Pro Wrestling special! A shame this isn’t for the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship, because I would love to see Liger as a champion again, and I’m going to Dominion. Where are the Freebird rules when you need them? On paper, this is wonderful heroes v villains matchmaking and will be great fun. I was expecting a Rey Mysterio singles match, so I don’t know whether he’s not 100% or they’re saving a singles match for the Cow Palace. It could be Rey v Liger, Rey v Ospreay or Rey v Scurll. Perhaps something happens here to set that up. I also expect Cody to pick up the pinfall here to establish himself as a challenger for Omega at in San Francisco. How about this: Things break down between Liger and Rey, allowing Cody to pin Tanahashi. Bingo. Prediction: Bullet Club
John Carroll: This was set up by a fun angle on the BOSJ finals show, as Scurll jumped Tanahashi in a pretty shocking moment. It’s not every day in New Japan that a junior jumps any heavyweight for a beatdown, let alone one of the biggest stars in company history! That lead to Jushin Liger making the save (to an enormous ovation) and the challenge being laid down for this 6-man tag team match. Like the others I’m a little surprised that Mysterio is not in a singles match on this show, but it’s actually kind of an ingenious move if you’re reasonably confident Mysterio is going to stick around for at least a little while. Why waste a singles match on the Dominion undercard fourth from the top if you don’t have to? Expect a lot of cheap heat by Cody, some fun stuff with Rey, and probably a BULLET CLUB win in the end (although I expect Liger will be the one to eat the pin here). Prediction: BULLET CLUB
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay © vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Joe Lanza: I’m very torn here. On one hand, Will Ospreay is in the midst of what could be a legendary, all time great junior title reign. On the other hand, Hiromu is coming off a great BoSJ, a classic finals victory, and it feels like the right time to belt him up.. A second loss to Will doesn’t seem like it fits, but Will’s reign probably should end yet with potential matches against Taiji Ishimori and Rey Mysterio Jr already set up, fully cooked, and ready to go. There is no bad decision, but there is no good one either. Positive momentum ends either way. I say Will wins, Hiromu will ultimately be fine (he’ll get another turn soon enough), and the loaded, red hot junior scene continues to kick ass. Prediction: Will Ospreay
Joel Abraham: It’s Hiromu’s time. I can’t see Ospreay getting two wins over Hiromu, three if you include the Wrestle Kingdom four way. Hiromu is too beloved, too hot, and too damn good to be sent to the back of the line once again. He’s one of the best wrestlers in the world, the fans adore him and he’s moved past the Daryl silliness to establish himself as a serious, main event player. Now is the time to capitalise and for him to become the champion, while Ospreay takes a well-earned rest and goes home to enjoy a Nandos Full Platter, extra hot, with Peri Peri fries, garlic bread and a bottomless soft drink. For Hiromu, I smell a long-term feud with El Desperado/Kyosuke Mikami, a story seven years in the making. This will be an incredible match, I’m going to Dominion etc. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi
John Carroll: I’ll go one step further than Joel: I think Hiromu showed in the BOSJ that, if you take him as a complete package (in ring work, charisma, overness, interview skills, etc), he is not “one of” the best wrestlers in the world today, he is THE best wrestler in the world today, period. Nobody else on earth right now is having the sheer variety of outstanding matches he had in the BOSJ, from a crazy lucha-inspired brawl with Desperado to a total spotfest with Dragon Lee to a super, five-star New Japan main event epic with Ishimori. And that’s just in one tournament, not even discussing the great junior tag title match he had at Korakuen Hall and the awesome title match he had with Ospreay at New Beginning, among others. I know some of you might be higher on other guys, including his opponent in this match, but I really think Hiromu is the all around top man in wrestling right now. And as such, he should become the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion here. Again, it wouldn’t really shock me if Ospreay retained, but I think the rumors that he won’t be around much this summer (supposedly his girlfriend Bea Priestley informed STARDOM, where she works, that the two of them would be in Australia & New Zealand all summer looking to build up the scene there) tips things slightly more in the favor of Hiromu winning. True, you could in theory have Ospreay retain even if that rumor is true, since it’s not like the Junior title will be defended during the G1 Climax anyway. But I think it makes more sense to have Hiromu win here just to keep your junior champion at least in sight on the undercards. We’ll see which way it ultimately goes. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Tetsuya Naito © vs. Chris Jericho
Joe Lanza: Jericho is here for two reasons. Pop business and put people over. The only real question is whether he has a third novelty match in him, and who it would be against. Hiroshi Tanahashi is the obvious answer. Of course, that third match could be Naito/Jericho II, if Jericho wins this one and they turn it into a program. Either way, if Jericho has a third match in the cards, it’ll be in the Cow Palace. Prediction: I’ll go out on a limb and say Jericho wins, and Naito gets his win back in San Francisco.
Joel Abraham: For all we talk about Naito’s ability to take big Ls and stay popular, a loss to Jericho here would be a step too far. Losing to a record-breaking, all-time great champion like Okada is one thing, but losing to an ageing part-time gaijin on the second biggest show of the year would suck. Jericho doesn’t need to win this, and I wouldn’t want to send home all the Naito fans unhappy for the two biggest shows of the year. I’m not even sure Jericho works the Cow Palace show, given his loyalty to WWE on home soil. An intense, bloody match with plenty of plunder that ends with a Naito win, and Jericho can go off to do his worked shoot shenanigans on the cruise with Sami Callihan. P.S. I’m going to Dominion. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito
John Carroll: Believe it or not I don’t feel as strongly as Joel does RE: a Naito loss potentially ruining him here. I think Jericho is a big enough worldwide star, and over enough in NJPW after the Omega Dome match (listen to the way Japanese crowds react to him now for his run-in and his promo inserts, it’s night and day compared to how it was early in the Omega feud), that Naito could survive a loss to him. Whether or not that loss actually happens depends obviously on if they’ve got Jericho locked in for more dates. Bottom line is they’re gonna have to get this white belt off of Naito in time for him to be either challenger or even potentially champion at the Tokyo Dome, because it seems highly unlikely that next year’s Wrestle Kingdom is main evented by anything but Okada-Naito again (why wouldn’t you go back to that match after it did your biggest number in 15 years or whatever, with nothing else nearly as big really on the immediate horizon?). Having Naito lose to Jericho in screwy fashion is certainly one way to do it, and you can move Jericho on to another potential money match with Tanahashi to drop the title. However, again, it all comes down to whether they have more dates on Chris than just this one. If they don’t, obviously Naito retaining is a mortal lock. I’m gonna join Joe Lanza out on his limb and say that they do have more dates on Jericho and he’s winning here. Naito is gonna be okay folks: he’s either winning the G1 again or he’s winning the IWGP Heavyweight Title in October, depending on how the main event goes. Prediction: Chris Jericho
IWGP Heavyweight Championship- 2 out of 3 Falls, No Time Limit
Kazuchika Okada © vs. Kenny Omega
Joe Lanza: I have no idea what these two lunatics have planned, but what is certain is half the people reading this will love it and lavish it with countless stars, and the other half will loathe what is sure to be a masturbatory showing of excess and pushing of limits. Kenny is a genius, and lately it’s all landed, but not everything he concocts does. Both stips make sense for the story. Nobody has taken Okada to the limit quite like Kenny. They have fought to a stalemate thus far, although the IWGP title still resides around Okada’s waist. You’d think this is the conclusion, but the stips actually leave a lot of room to keep this thing 50/50. Japanese fans rarely see best-of-three, so I think the crowd will pop for all three (two?) falls. The no time limit bit scares me. Will Omega drag Okada into something far too ambitious, bore everyone to death, and tarnish the series? It’s a possibility. It’s also possible we see some next level shit that pushes the limits of what pro wrestling is capable of. This is the most intriguing match of 2018, because anything can happen, and not all of it is potentially good. Prediction: Fall one, Kenny. Fall two, Okada. Fall three, Okada. Kenny can now claim he beat the unbeatable champ twice. We march on.
Joel Abraham: The unpredictability is key here. I couldn’t say with any real confidence who wins, or even how long the match goes. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’re done in less than 40 minutes, or if they push 90. Kenny has spoken about how crucial the first fall will be, which must mean he’s dropping that one and struggling to come from behind to beat the champ. I guarantee that the closing stretch will be mind-meltingly awesome, and I’ll certainly be on the edge of my seat at Osaka-jo Hall (I’m going to Dominion). Kota Ibushi will surely be at ringside, and the power of love will help propel Kenny to victory. Some have speculated there’ll be an Ibushi heel turn, revenge for Kenny costing him victory over AJ Styles at Invasion Attack 2015, but that would seem too cheap and unworthy of the stories that Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi like to tell. That said, we may see some seeds being sown here. I think it’s the right time for a new champion, with Okada having broken all the records and seemingly run out of challengers, and the bilingual Omega ready to take the baton and lead New Japan into a new era of global expansion, if Harold Meij has anything to say about it. Kenny wins, Ibushi wins the G1, and we get the greatest match of all time at Wrestle Kingdom 13. Hurrah! Prediction: Kenny Omega
John Carroll: Look, like the others have said, I have no fucking clue who is winning this. That’s a good thing, right? We want to have an IWGP Heavyweight Title match that’s unpredictable, and this one certainly is that. I’ve gone back and forth on this for literally days now, because really neither result would surprise me: on the one hand, you don’t want Okada to get so far ahead in the single reign defense record that no one else will ever be able to even tease getting there in the future. On the other hand, if Gedo’s idea is to make Okada into this generation’s transcendent super-ace, this is the exact kind of match he should win: a match where he faces one of his generational rivals at the absolute top of their game and unambiguously vanquishes him. If Okada wins, he goes into another G1 as the unbeatable champion and again gets to chase the elusive “winning the G1 while champion” goal. But on the other hand if he loses, he’s a mortal lock to win the G1, which he hasn’t done in a while now and is probably due for. See what I mean about being able to make convincing arguments in either direction here? A Kenny victory almost seems like it sets thing up on too predictable of a course: Kenny wins here, Naito beats him during the G1, Okada wins the G1, Naito beats Kenny for the title at King of Pro Wrestling to set up the big Naito-Okada rematch. On the other hand, that stuff would all make sense, get us where we should be going, and result in some stellar matches in the process, so maybe predictable isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But ultimately I’m gonna go with my gut here: if you really want Okada to be “this generation’s Inoki”, well, Inoki wins here. And so will Okada. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada