XP Report: NJPW Dominion 2018

After going to Wrestling Dontaku in Fukuoka, the main event of NJPW’s Dominion was supposed to be epic: Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada. Two out of Three Falls. NO Time Limit. For the following days, I was wrestling with myself if I should actually do the trip to Osaka and catch that legendary matchup?

I finally came to the conclusion that this is an opportunity that I shouldn’t and wouldn’t miss and went to my local convenience store to purchase the tickets. To my horror and agony, they were sold-out, with more than one-month to go until the Osaka-jo Hall would actually open the gates for the event.

Fortunately, I was able to purchase tickets via internet, even though I anticipated sitting in the foreigner’s section by doing so. In Fukuoka I am normally one of a handful, if at all, foreigners but I was sure that people would make the trip to Osaka for this historic match-up. While I am by no means an elitist fan who is very adamant how someone HAS to attend a show, I go by the rule of thumb that you shouldn’t annoy or harass the people sitting around you and then you’re good in my book.

Weeeelll, I wasn’t that lucky this time, because there were some very chant-happy people around me, who created some kind of a noise bubble around our section, what didn’t made it really possible to enjoy the great, natural atmosphere of the building.

At the end of the day, it didn’t ruin this great night, but it was a little bit annoying. The main event though, made more than up for it. I’ve seen Ibushi-Nakamura at WK9, Tanahashi-Okada at Wrestling Dontaku and fantastic matches from Dragon Gate or All Japan Pro Wrestling, but this was definitely the best match I’ve ever witnessed and it naturally also held up when I rewatched it on NJPW World.

I think there were some very smart storytelling devices they used to tease different things, which I considered absolutely brilliant. There were three things that really stood out to me in the end, that made this legendary bout even more enjoyable.

The Towel

Kota Ibushi, seconding Kenny Omega in the biggest fight of his career, was at ringside and for the most time of the match, held a white towel in his hand. After featuring Ibushi heavily in the promo video before the bout, presenting him basically as the savior of Kenny’s soul, I couldn’t help myself but think that a heel turn might be incoming. Over two decades of watching Pro Wrestling religiously, my mind was conditioned to expect a heel turn. Of course, this would go against anything Ibushi’s character stands for, but I was so invested in a potential title win by Kenny, that I couldn’t count out any possibility why Omega wouldn’t win.

The Finishers

When Kazuchika Okada defeated Kenny Omega via flash pinfall, I couldn’t help but think ‘Oh, oh, he didn’t even land the Rainmaker yet’. As we all know, the Best Bout Machine was able to put it to a draw after hitting the One Winged Angel against Okada, what, again, made me worry, that Omega used his finisher ‘up’ to tie the first two falls. You could say that I was maybe just too invested in the match (what is actually not a bad thing) and tended to overanalyze those things. As we know, there were two more OWAs to follow which made Kenny finally champion!

The Table

What was one of the smartest foreign object spots I can remember, in their first encounter at Wrestle Kingdom 11, there was a brilliant table spot that came out of nowhere, caught everybody by surprise and was very well setup. It took a long time from actually setting the table up and Kenny crashing through. So this time when the table was used in their fourth, legendary match, everybody expected an over-the-top bump by one of those competitors and a potentially brutal spot was teased, when Kenny tried to let Okada crash through the table with a Dragon Suplex. BUT..it never happened. The table never broke and it was something that didn’t receive a pay off what doesn’t happen in today’s wrestling or ever for that matter. A brilliant call back and also a statement for the overall safety of the match compared to their previous encounters.

 

The Best of the Rest

Dominion was by no means a one-match-show, but still the rest of the card was widely overshadowed by the historic main event. The first two matches were decent but nothing special. I liked the exchanges between Tomohiro Ishii and Minoru Suzuki in their tag match and, god knows, Ishii finally deserves a nice program again. Then the first really good match happened in a very good tag title match between the Young Bucks and EVIL & SANADA. While I thought it was a bit early to win the title at their very first challenge, maybe they valued the showclosing picture more with the Bucks and some more title gold. Afterwards the debut of Rey Mysterio Jr. happened after being forced to cancel his first appearance a couple of months back. It was a cool showcase and the team of Tanahashi, Liger and Rey really made for a great visual, not only because it was fitting with the color schemes. Three absolute legends together and the crowd was up for this one as well.

The Junior Heavyweight Title Match went as expected.  It is impossible for Hiromu and Ospreay to have a bad match, I guess, but I only really dug the final couple of minutes. Both are sometimes too much daredevil and take too many risks, which shouldn’t be necessary. Hiromu’s win though really surprised me and the crowd was suuuper hot for this one.

The co-main event was the return of Chris Jericho in an anticipated brawl for the IWGP Intercontinantel Title against Tetsuya Naito. I wasn’t too high on the Jericho-Omega match and it wasn’t too different here, but it was really something different on the card and I think you have to applaud Chris Jericho for making another reinvention in his storied career by turning into a crazy brawler alá Tiger Jeet Singh or Bruiser Brody. He really cemented the role with this match and by winning the title we can at least expect Jericho to have a run for this year, probably including the next incarnation of Wrestle Kingdom.

All in all, I left the event with an extremely positive feeling. Seeing something like this live is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I will surely treasure it for a long time. Hanging out afterwards within the Osaka Castle grounds, it was a picture-perfect ending to a fantastic event.

Next XP Report will be something very different, because I’m going to see Big Japan Pro Wrestling at Hakata Star Lanes on the 24th June. And stay tuned for the third part of the Junior Series!

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