One year ago, New Japan Pro Wrestling experimented with the main event of Dominion, a match slot of considerable stature, second only to the main event of Wrestle Kingdom, at least on par with the G1 Climax Final. For Dominion 2023 (or, technically, in a way no one has ever referred to any Dominion show: Dominion 6.4 in Osaka-jo Hall), IWGP World Champion SANADA defended against a returning wrestler, Yota Tsuji. And not merely a returning wrestler, it was Tsuji’s literal return match. Tsuji did not have any warm-up matches or multi-man tags in the lead-up; he was completely absent from the Road to Dominion tour.

Not content with that level of audacity, New Japan presents a junior heavyweight match, El Desperado vs. Taiji Ishimori, as the main event of Dominion 2024. Or, as only posters will ever call it, Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall. Not to be confused, of course, with the 2018 Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall, which contained one of the greatest matches in the history of wrestling. Or the 2019 version of Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall, which also had a match which went on last, which we call a main event.

And it’s not smply that a Junior Heavyweight match is main eventing a show of this caliber, essentially an unprecedented event. The brazenness is amplified by the fact that this match is an IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship defense, but the Best of the Super Juniors Final, a battle between two non-champions. As listed on their website—you know, the one that works— this is Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall~Best of the Super Jr. 31 Finals. And, just to throw another level of sophistry into the mix, technically El Desperado vs. Taiji Ishimori is “Double Main Event II.” 

Even so, this strategy brilliantly provokes speculation on intents and motivations:

  • Do they not trust EVIL and Moxley to credibly, emphatically, effectively main event their second biggest show of the year (which, again, shares the same title as the 2019 version)?
  • Were they uncomfortable with the main event of their mid-year culmination being a lumberjack death match?
  • Were they reticent to run with a SHO title defense as the main, since traditionally the BOSJ should have wrapped up before Dominion?
  • Did they forget that this is all fake and they control every aspect of it?
  • Why are HOT’s top heavyweight and junior booking so strongly, or at least so prominently and ubiquitously, if they don’t have the guts to follow through at the biggest events?
  • Again, did it slip their mind that this whole thing is theatrical and they literally write all of it themselves?
  • Have they lost the ability to perceive anything beyond a 3 week window anymore?

I’d like to bring up one more possibility, which might be a minor one, but worth considering: this raises the statue of the BOSJ Final, the capstone to their years-long push to establish the BOSJ truly as the Junior G1 Climax, not just a G1-esque tournament with different particulars. 

Pre-pandemic, they went full bore with that philosophy: the 2019 BOSJ, so fondly remembered (considering you remember the legendary final and a scattering of main events), was structured the exact same way as the G1 Climax: two ten-man blocks, single block nights, single match final, etc. They’ve reverted to different scheduling patterns since 2022—double block nights, a semi-finals—but the intent remains.

El Desperado and Taiji Ishimori, thus, find themselves in the most propitious position to benefit from these historical factors all aligning. For nearly half a decade now, they have been considered part of the Junior Big 3, an informal but frequently cited moniker for the junior heavyweight triumvirate of Desperado, Ishimori, and division kingpin Hiromu Takahashi. The company has been relentlessly espousing this Big Three framing for years now; wrestlers bring it up in backstage comments, it pops up in website interviews, official company writing never fails to mention is front and center when discussing the junior division as a whole. 

This main event is the realization, and final confirmation, of that notion.

The Top of a Division at the Top of the Card

A junior heavyweight match headlining Dominion is, indeed, a very big deal, and these two have earned the spot. Separately, there’s no doubt either one can carry this position. Less obviously, this specific pairing deserves the recognition as well. It’s not as immediately electrifying as other match-ups in the junior heavyweight ranks, but it’s the most compelling through its nuance and deftness. 

Quite simply, it’s two of the most heavily pushed wrestlers in the company. These two alone account for five of the last nine IWG Junior Heavyweight title reigns. There will have been 1381 days between the day Ishimori won the title in Summer 2020 to June 9th, 2024. 750 of those days saw one of these two men as champion. And since 2018, Ishimori’s debut as a New Japan roster member, they have two of the three highest win totals in BOSJ. 

This is the clearest evidence for the real existence of the Big 3. People might not actively see things this way, but this is indeed how they are pushed. Ishimori has the most wins, and second best win percentage: an astounding 43-20 record, a .682 win %. Ishimori has gone 7-2 a remarkable three times in this stretch. He is, quietly, one of the strongest pushed BOSJ competitors ever, certainly amongst those to have never won the tournament. Hiromu squeaks by Despy with a 37-16-1 record, and squeaks by Ishimori in win % at .698. Desperado is third in both categories, 35-18-1 and a .660 win %, but no one that participated in the most tournaments between 2018-2024 are even close in win percentage. 

This Dominion main event may, and should, be the pinnacle of this Big 3 era, or the Big 3 themselves. Last year’s Dominion experimentation focused upon elevating a new, youthful debutante. This year, the main event is between two elder statesmen of a division, both past 40. I guess they really are looking to emulate the heavyweights, after all. 

In fact, there’s even a connection to that scene. Much has been made of the Showa 57 group, the group of wrestling-related people that were born in 1982. At the zenith of the group, from a fan perspective, is Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi, but it also includes Shingo Takagi, Yuji Oksabayashi, Kazma Sakamoto, Tokyo Sports’ Okamoto… and a late entrant, someone just over the line, born in early 1983, Taiji Ishimori. Desperado, born in late 1983, just a couple of months after Kenny Omega, doesn’t seem to have made the cut. 

And so, as well preserved as the two of them are, Despy vs. Ishimori should signal the onset of the waning years of the current hierarchy of the junior division. Not the end, of course. Either one of them should move on to obliterating SHO and reclaiming the top prize in the circuit. But then, the winner of this match should take that title to Wrestle Kingdom and hand it off to one of the newer generation.

Technically, Master Wato (who made an appearance during the BOSJ semi-finals on June 3rd at Korakuen Hall) and Francesco Akira seem to be the most refined options… except that both of them had their knees detonate this year. Wato should be back to make a run later in the year, and hopefully his return will feel like a continuation of his story from February, of his genki-tsundere protege-mentor relationship with Desperado. Akira’s injury just occurred, so a Wrestle Kingdom run seems unlikely, especially since the injury canceled his Super Juniors run mid-way, right as his tournament was going to heat up.

An Overlooked Rivalry

Since the pandemic fucked everything beyond recognition in early 2020, El Desperado and Taiji Ishimori have met four times in singles matches, and four times in tag matches for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team championship (with a fifth, in February 2022, being a four-way involving Six or Nine and Flying Tiger). In those matches, they are an even 2-2 in the singles, and 2-2 in the regular tag matches. All of these matches are worth seeking out: they stand as some of the best junior wrestling in the company during this period.

For some reason, the 2020 BOSJ is not on World yet, despite containing one of the most famous matches of the era in the Despy-Hiromu final. Thanks to the perfectly stubbled Joel Abraham for finding it for me. I’m never going to that site again, so you’ll either have to find it on your own or bug Joel for the link.

The El Desperado vs. Taiji Ishimori rivalry stands hidden in the penumbra of other, more prominent junior rivalries, particularly the division-defining series between El Desperado and Hiromu Takahashi. Despy v. Ishimori does not contain any moments as legendary as when Desperado unmasked in the 2020 BOSJ final. And you won’t find any interactions between these two as impudent as seen throughout the Desperado-Hiromu feud, such as their overtly erotic, nonpareil fujoshi-bait interplay in 2018.

And sure, there was that incredible moment in 2020 when Despy compared Ishimori’s abs to a flip phone…

Or when Ishimori laid out some esoteric bon mot about Desperado not being able to talk himself to the title, replete with exaggerated shock at a comment no one but Ishimori himself considered scurrilous, which was kind of adorable:

Or their repartee before Dontaku 2022, where Despy gave Professional Wrestling Palaver 101 class (also note, Ishimori’s godawful, disconcerting “hair extensions in the big moments” phase was in full swing by now):

But beyond a few gems, their sardonically deferent back-and-forth doesn’t hold up to other in-division verbal conflicts. Ishimori was definitively anodyne on the mic until the last few years. And now, of course, he’s imbued with God’s GRACE, an absolutely baffling development which he has been relentlessly pushing for a couple of months now. It’s like they’ve been writing around English words Ishimori is physical incapable of pronouncing well. Or, back when they forced him to say FUCK EM, which he literally was unable to say, to the point where it didn’t even sound like words. If there’s one aspect to really make you ponder whether Ishimori will win this match or not, when by all measures of logic he should not, this abrupt shift in catch phrase should give substantial pause. Why now? And why… that?

But no, Despy and Ishimori is largely a story of ringwork and elegantly refined matches.

Even then, Ishimori’s rivalry with Hiromu also has more celebrated matches: the phenomenal, seminal BOSJ Final in 2018, and their June 2022 title match where they managed to draw 1400 to Korakuen at a time when hitting 1000 was exceptional. Even their BOSJ match last year, infamous as it was with Ishimori’s neck imploding from a routine bump, sticks in people’s minds more than either of the four Ishimori-Desperado matches. Ishimori and Hiromu have also faced each other ten times at this point.

You could argue that Desperado-Ishimori is a more arid rivalry, a colder and restrained counterpart to the smoldering excess of Despy-Hiromu or the grandiloquence of Hiromu-Ishimori’s peak matches. But as the division was being rebuilt in the nascent days of the pandemic, these four singles matches between El Desperado and Taiji Ishimori were fundamental. Not only the quality of them, but in establishing El Desperado as a valid member of the division’s elite, which had lost Dragon Lee to the pandemic, KUSHIDA to exasperation, Shingo Takagi and Will Ospreay to the heavyweights, amongst… others. These were the steps that got Desperado to the title, and confirmed his status once there. It didn’t have the overt charisma of Desperado-Hiromu, Ishimori-Hiromu, or either Despy or Hiromu with Robbie Eagles (since, despite the company posturing, this really is a tetrarchy… when Eagles is around, at least). Its chemistry is in the work, and in how dedicated the two are to being complete dickheads to each other.

Every Time They’ve Fought, A Champion Walked Down the Aisle… Until Now

A reason why the rivalry is so critical: all of the prior match-ups carried heavy, immediate stakes, even those mid-tour BOSJ matches. That’s because, in every match, one of them held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship at the time. In fact, half the time the other person held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team championship:

Match #1

  • Taiji Ishimori held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship, which he had won from Hiromu at the Jingu Stadium show on August 29, 2020
  • El Desperado was one-half of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, with Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Despy and Kanemaru won a tag title tournament, as the belts had been held up after YOH’s ACL injury forced R3K to abdicate.

Match #2

  • El Desperado held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship, which he had in a three-way match against El Phantasmo and BUSHI at Castle Attack on February 28, 2021. Hiromu, who had won the belt back from Ishimori at Wrestle Kingdom on January 5th, hurt his pec muscles and had to relinquish the title
  • Taiji Ishimori was one-half of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, with El Phantasmo. BULLET CLUB’S CUTEST TAG TEAM defeated R3K a two-and-a-half weeks before this match to claim the titles.

Match #3

  • El Desperado held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship, which he had traded back-and-forth with Robbie Eagles since Match #2, losing it in July 2021 and regaining it in November 2021, right before Super Juniors began

Match #4

  • El Desperado still held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship, in the same reign as Match #3.

And now, for their first confrontation completely bereft of gold, they are main eventing the second biggest stand-alone show of the year. It suggests an egalitarian pining in the wider booking scope: Hiromu is the clear star of the group, having won the most titles, had the most Wrestle Kingdom matches, etc. Desperado and Ishimori occupy a rung slightly lower, although I would suggest that Desperado has established himself as the 1B ace to Hiromu’s 1A. Certainly in drawing record there’s little to indicate that Hiromu is a substantially greater draw than Desperado at this point, especially if we’re looking at multiple promotions.

Spreading out the accolades is typically the kind of strategy that backfires in pro wrestling, which generally operates as a meritocracy some of the time, and political strife all the time. If it’s not believably warranted, the result could be cataclysmic, eroding fan trust. This main event appears to be the thing Despy and Ishimori can hold over Hiromu, a bit of leverage. We’ll see how the crowd responds on June 9th, and the fanbase responds beyond that show, but we’re confident that most would accept the worthiness of El Desperado and Taiji Ishimori in this spot. 

Simply put, Desperado and Ishimori have accumulated the credibility to stand atop the division, even without a title on either side.

A Rivalry Birthed in a Void

The major detriment to the rivalry, beyond the somewhat pedantic nature of it, is simple timing: all the matches took place with clap crowds. And during most miserable, disheartening 2021-2022 period of the pandemic.

It’s truly astounding, the natural, innate human capacity for sublimation and endurance. It’s baffling and beautiful, although in this case we’re not talking about heroical refugees of stunning perseverance, or the compelling defiance of those living under dictatorship. We’re talking about the ability to enjoy fake sports with crowds prohibited from cheering.

At the time, I contextualized it, because that was our only option. Sure, there was some kind of nonsense going on in Jacksonville, and putrid drivel seeping out from the septic tank membrane universe parallel to ours into Orlando… but those were not options. I had the option of capitulating to either nihilism or ennui. I chose ennui.

During this horrid period, the Desperado-Ishimori matches felt like hidden gems, tightly packed displays of technique and diablerie, two fuckfaces in battles of prowess and corruption. It was glorious. In the moment, I had trained myself to thoroughly tolerate the anguishing stretches of silence. Certainly, people were intently focused on the match, observing. The claps are representational, symbolic. They stand as an adequate substitute.

That’s what we forced ourselves to believe. And now, watching these matches back for this piece… it was fucking brutal. How in the world did I not swallow asphalt the second this godawful, life-spacing menace of pandemic conditions emerged. I refuse to believe that I was capable of this. I do not have the resolve, maturity, or resilience to have done this for over two years. None of us did, but I absolutely did not.

I died. That’s the only explanation. I got COVID, my lungs filled, my brain swelled, and I fucking died. Everything past December 2019 has been the hallucinogenic flutter of my brain being involuntarily halted, where I die in seconds but I experience a phantasmagorical lifetime in those brief moments. That explains how pitiful bastards like all of you managed to do it as well; I wished it to happen, as I metaphysically dissolve away.

That’s not to say the matches don’t hold up, with dense contextual support. The unfathomable smoothness of their chain wrestling, reversals, transitions. The compelling patterns and controls. The gleefully unprincipled transgressions, with the chairs, ring posts, title belts, low blows. Those are still there, they are just nearly goddamn unwatchable anymore. Compare any one of these matches to the BOSJ31’s semi-finals in Korakuen on June 3. I can’t say that these would have been acclaimed matches with a hot crowd; I can say that people that rate things properly would have lauded them. 

The second match is particularly dire. With the other three, the matches are tight but they evoke unfortunate memories. It’s like looking back on home movies from when you had severe jaundice: not a time to commemorate, and impossible to embrace retroactively. But with matches 1, 3, and 4, there is a minute amount of space for one to access the timeframe. Match #2 is just a straight up casualty of the era. 

Nearly 30 minutes long, with no rational basis for it, the Summer Struggle match is on an aptly named tour: an appropriate noun paired with the worst fucking season, beloved only by the legitimately demented. At this point, the tragic hopelessness of pandemic conditions had set in, especially in Japan, where they actually took things seriously. 2021 Japan was one continuously re-newed State of Emergency. This was the nadir, for sure, where New Japan’s recovery outlook became exponentially worse.

A pernicious paradox had been established: the amount of wrestlers on each show had to be limited, for safety reasons (this was also the period where New Japan was finally snake-bitten themselves, having to shut down in May 2021. In this timeframe, Desperado himself contracted COVID so badly he was hospitalized), and so there were less matches per show. That meant that, at a time when clap crowd dynamics lent itself to shorter matches, match lengths actually inflated to preposterous extremes to give the live crowd a decently timed show (the average G1 Climax match that year was 17:11). 

Desperado and Ishimori’s Summer Struggle match had the trademarks of many of these matches, especially of main events: the armature of an excellent match, but stretched to a molecular level, beyond coherency, and explicitly padded. And even then, it’s an excellent contest. It doesn’t feel egregiously long, and without the other matches, it wouldn’t feel as embellished. The work is crisp, fluid, and sensible, as all their matches are. It’s just impossible to separate that one from its brutal atmosphere.

This upcoming match at Dominion, then, should be fascinating as an example of a truly pandemic-confined feud bursting through to normalcy. How will the crowd respond to the erudite interplay of two cavalier wrestlers seeped in composure and ataraxia? How will they adapt to wrestling under routine conditions? Will they adjust their pace, dig into their repertoire, accentuate their charismatic indignance? Or will they lean into their strengths, confident the quality of the work and the competing slow burns, of leg vs. arm,  will pay off? Certainly they had to be encouraged by the Korakuen response, and assume Osaka-jo will display their usual ebullience. 

The Match Trademarks: Smooth Sequences and Unrepentant Wickedness 

The matches themselves have been tremendous, and highly technical. Except for the times they are smashing each other with chairs, or bumping the ref, or throwing each other into the exposed buckles. Aside from those things, which have all happened in every single match, it’s been solid, technical, clean work. Aside from gouging each other’s eyes and throwing low blows, in addition to all the other things. Besides all of that, they’ve been erudite affairs.

One thing to keep in mind: Ishimori does not get fairly assessed by anybody. Or, the harshness of his assessments linger, never diminishing in their potency, and people potently disregard his level of effort. Or, to put it another way: you’re all fucking wrong, except for the few of you who aren’t. Ishimori’s great, consistently reliable since the pandemic, besides a few clunkers mixed in (and, admittedly, in this tournament). One issue that hasn’t helped his cause is the formulaic nature of Ishimori’s matches. He has a pattern and he follows it, whether the match is 5 minutes or 15. You know that with Ishimori, unless the opponent is Yoshinobu Kanemaru, whom he can never defeat (except that one time that we do not acknowledge), once the bell rings you are getting an arm match. It may not start as one, but it’s going to turn into one.

He’ll do that thing where he flips the guy by the wrist, still holding the wrist, and does the front flip to wrench the arm. He loves that one. He does that textbook shoulderbreaker, and it rules every time. He locks in any number of variations on arm wrenches, arm barns, arm snaps. He’ll do the thing where he locks an arm or neck between his ankles and does the twist, like Zack Sabre Jr. does. That’s his equation for an arm match.

Desperado doesn’t get called out for it as much, but he is equally formulaic. At one point, Despy was a pure moves guy. He did his exquisite tope con hilo, he flew around the ring, and he compiled a litany of signature moves: Guitarra de Angel,, Guitarra de Muerta, Angel de Roja, Mad Splash, El Es Clero, Numero Dos, and eventually the Loco Mono and Pinche Loco. But once he accepted a mentorship of sorts from Yoshinobu Kanemaru, he turned into a leg match guy. You know what’s coming. The thing where he charges the corner, puts one of the guy’s legs on the second rope, dropkicks that leg, then dragon screws the other. The butterfly lock on the ground, where he takes crops or forearms, until he falls back, accidentally applying more pressure. When his opponent gets a ropebreak and Despy pretends to trip over their leg, dropping a knee. A Numero Dos early in the match to soften the leg. That’s what he does.

But then, sometimes he doesn’t. I say that you can guarantee an Desperado-Ishimori match will always frame itself around the arm v. leg dynamic, but that’s not actually the case. In the first two matches, it certainly was for the first two matches, both of which Despy won. But in the second two, Desperado barely worked the leg at all. 15 minutes into the third match, there had been almost zero legwork done by Desperado, and a miniscule amount in match #4. That’s one thing to keep an eye out for in match #5: when Desperado is able to establish and maintain his formula, it’s tough for Ishimori to overcome.

In both of those matches, Ishimori essentially dominated, not just working the arm, but simply thwarting Desperado and continually stymying any momentum Despy managed to build. In a way, one wonders whether this is Desperado, notorious for giving his opponent as much shine as possible, taking things a little too realistically. We imagine Despy cultivating a mindset for a match where he envisions proceedings as if they were legit. And, if wrestling were legit, Taiji Ishimori would be a big problem.

Despite being very, very short, Ishimori is a nightmare in every other facet. He’s incredible strong, with his bodybuilder’s frame. His instincts are remarkable. He’s renowned for his physical speed, and his reaction speed seems intuitively superlative. He’s completely devoid of ethics, morals, or principles, a defining feature since he entered the company in 2018, marking six full years of Taiji Ishimori being an incorrigible fuckface. He’s able to finish you with an elite submission and an elite move. He truly is an all-round package. It’s probably conjecture, but it’s easy to consider that Desperado defers to highlighting such magnificence.

Of course, in the ring, there is no deference, nor respect. The first match’s ending is a perfect example. Desperado had been trying to bump the ref during the match, and when he finally achieved the bump he went straight for his target: the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. Ishimori, though, self-conscious and educated, knew what was coming and beat Desperado to the punch with a rising knee. He set Despy up for the Bloody Cross, but noticed the ref was down. Knowing an finisher never works in that situation, he instead opted to grab the belt. 

Desperado, however, also keenly aware of the precedents in this situation, stalled. By the time Ishimori lined the belt shot up, the godawful, incompetent Marty Asami had arisen. Asami tried to grab the belt from Ishimori, turning him around, giving Desperado a clear avenue to low blow the fuck out of Ishimori’s D&B’s. A Pinche Loco followed, and the 1-2-3.

In match number two, they both opted for chairs. Ishimori had Despy’s arm around the ringpost, and used the two chair trick on Gullibility Deity Red Show Unno, smashing Desperado’s elbow as Unno retrieved the original chair. Desperado turned things around later, with far less subtlety. When Unno tried to take a chair away from him on the outside, Despy simply pushed Unno down as they struggled over the chair, then bashed away at Ishimori’s knee.

Ishimori has exposed one set of turnbuckles in all but the first  match, a HOT thing he was doing before HOT existed. In match #2, he exposed the buckles at 6:14. In match #3, this happened 7:20 into the bout, and in match #4, with it’s abbreviated length, the pads came off at 2:11.. The exposed buckles never played into the finish, or even had a direct effect on the finish, as they had in multiple Despy-Hiromu matches, but it was a common element.

But more than anything, it is the ungodly smoothness and fluidity of their work together that shines through. They have astounding chemistry, and have from the very first match. They find ways to reverse moves and holds on each other in captivating ways. And unexpected ones. Their go-to-sequence is reversing the submission finishers, toggling new positions from which to emerge. 

The Numero Dos and the Bone Lock do not inherently seem compatible, but these two make it work. And, not merely as a result of circumstances; there are other wrestlers where they engage in these complex, labyrinthine reversal sequences. It really is a product of their specific chemistry; it simply looks better against each other, and they perform much crisper and fluently.

And it’s not just limited to their submission finishers. In each match, Ishimori has attempted a La Mistica, been stood up, and the momentum turned into Guitarra de Angel, seamlessly. One thing missing has been much flying. Desperado has not broken out the tope con hilo in any of the matches, and the most Ishimori has done is a 450 in match 2, and a triangle moonsault in match 3. That’s something to keep an eye on; Desperado shockingly caught Hiromu off guard in their Wrestle Kingdom match, nailing Takahashi with a tope con hilo as Hiromu was making his entrance. With a cheering crowd for the first time in this match, and the main event of Dominion demanding a higher level of ambitious brashness, this might be the time to add that element to this rivalry. 

The Mask

This actually doesn’t have any bearing on the matches. Ishimori never went for Desperado’s mask, even in the midst of their most knavish behaviors back in 2020. Every time, Desperado came in with pristine mask, and every time he left with that mask in tact. Not even the laces in the back loosened. But, I did run through the masks in my treatment of Hiromu vs. Desperado, so I’ll run through it here as well.

Match #1:  The Classic – black base and white wings with gold trim, open face, white tassels in back (black pants w/ stripe and fringe). Black and white facepaint.

Match #2: The Sophisticated – pure black, black base and black wings w/ gold trim,  open face, long gold tassels in back (black pants w/ black stripe and gold fringe). Black and gold facepaint.

Match #3: The Classic – black base and white wings with gold trim, open face, white tassels in back (black pants w/ stripe and fringe). Black and white facepaint.

Match #4: The Classic – black base and white wings with gold trim, open face, white tassels in back (black pants w/ stripe and fringe). Black and white facepaint.

The Final Word

Thinking logically…

Let’s stop there. Logically, the booking of this division’s apex has been a total fucking mess. Desperado and Takahashi should not have fought at Wrestle Kingdom in such a meaningless, unsupported match. It was beneath them and their rivalry. It also left the company with fewer choices moving forward. They can’t run that match again, even though it is the one match that truly feels like a Dominion main event level contest, at least one that would be universally considered that.

Desperado should not have beaten Hiromu on that night to win the belt. Desperado should not have lost the belt to SHO a month later. We should not have had to endure a seasonal experiment, even if SHO is the one good HOT member. Not one of these decisions, even in isolation, was sustainable. They are totally divorced from each other, lacking coherency, consistency, or vision. Complete day-to-day booking.

Even so, we find ourselves here, with a match that, hopefully, will be considered worthy of its position at the top of the #2 show of the year. Either retroactively, by the quality of the match, or in anticipation, for the potentially double-digit readership of this piece.

Since Ishimori used to have a hang up about Despy’s gilden speaking ability, we’ll let the A Block champion have the final word:

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