Friday, May 31, 2024

The History of NJPW Dominion (2013)

We've entered the Bullet Club era!

BodyMaker Colosseum - 6.22.13

New Japan was firing on all cylinders in 2013, with an incredible slew of big PPVs plus an awesome G1 tournament, and Dominion was no exception.  The company had found its second Ace in Kazuchika Okada, who now enjoyed a lengthy second IWGP Title reign, but a brand new stable was creating a huge buzz and would take the puroresu world by storm.  Jr. Heavyweight babyface Prince Devitt had turned on his Apollo 55 partner Taguchi and formed Bullet Club, a foursome consisting of gaijin wrestlers that also included Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Karl Anderson (by year's end The Young Bucks and Doc Gallows would be added to the group).  Bullet Club usurped Chaos as the most notorious heel stable and would assert their dominance over the next several years.  But the first top for Devitt was NJPW's Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi!

But first the undercard...

The opener featured the burgeoning Jr. Tag division, as Forever Hooligans defended the championship against Time Splitters.  Alex Kozlov began the proceedings by singing the Russian anthem, and all I have to say is Kozlov is no Nikolai Volkoff.  The match started with Alex Shelley putting on a grappling clinic against Kozlov, making use of European style wrestling to control the action.  Soon Kushida and Romero tagged in and provided the wild, fast-paced Jr. moves.  After a skirmish on the outside involving the railing, the heels took over and worked Shelley while Kushida was down, repeatedly cutting off the tag attempts.  Finally Kushida got the hot tag in and cleaned house.  Romero blocked a Time Splitter attempt and nearly won with a small package, then Kozlov came back in and the Hooligans hit their Demolition-style finisher on Kushida for a nearfall.  Time Splitters hit their signature sequence of chain moves, but the Hooligans nailed Kushida with a Torture Rack/flying knee combination to retain the belts.  This was a very fun Jr. tag bout that would soon become the standard match type for New Japan PPV openers.  ***1/2

The next available match on NJPW World (they're missing the Bullet Club-Nagata/Honma/Captin NJ six-man for some reason) is a triple threat IWGP Heavyweight Tag Title match, with champions Tencozy vs. Toru Yano & Iizuka vs. Killer Elite Squad.  KES attacked Tencozy at the bell and dominated both teams during the opening stretch, but Chaos took the fight outside, taping Archer and Davey to the railing and going to work on Tencozy.  After a few minutes KES broke free and had back and forth exchanges with Tencozy.  KES hit their double powerbomb on Yano but the referee had been bumped and there was no pin.  Tencozy hit their Tencozy Cutter on Archer for a nearfall before Kojima lariated the crap out of him to get the pin.  This was mildly fun and chaotic, but a bit tedious at times.  **1/2

Next up was the NWA Championship, with Manabu Nakanishi challenging Rob Conway.  This match was fun after a few minutes when Nakanishi made a comeback, but pretty dull when Conway was in control.  After hitting a dive to the outside, Nakanishi leveled Conway with a lariat and a spear, and slapped on the Torture Rack, but Conway escaped.  Nakanishi went to the top rope but Bruce Tharpe distracted him, allowing Conway to use his Ego Trip neckbreaker for the win.  This was mediocre.  **
Things picked up somewhat with Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii facing Minoru Suzuki & Shelton Benjamin.  The crowd was fully behind the Chaos team, who were briefly in control at the outset, but soon Suzuki-Gun out-heeled them.  Suzuki bloodied Ishii's mouth with a very stiff shot, and the heels worked over Ishii for a while.  Ishii made a comeback and a brutal striking battle broke out.  Ishii scored with a spinning powerslam and tagged Nakamura, who killed Suzuki with knee strikes.  But Shelton joined the fray and controlled Nak, hitting a vaulting top rope overhead throw for a two-count.  Nakamura came back with a reverse exploder but fell victim to Paydirt for the three-count.  Ishii and Suzuki continued fighting all the way to the back.  This is what I'd call a good match with a lot of great moments.  ***1/2

In a return match from Dominion 2011, former friends Tetsuya Naito and Yujiro Takahashi squared off again.  This featured strong grappling to start, with Naito firmly in control and the crowd way into him.  At one point Naito tweaked his knee and Takahashi took over, working his injured leg.  Naito eventually made a comeback but Takahashi landed a superplex, a high-angle Olympic Slam, and a catch-German suplex before locking in an inverted Figure Four.  Naito escaped and dodged a moonsault attempt before stunning Takahashi with a high-angle German suplex, followed by the Stardust Press for the three.  This was a marked improvement over their 2011 match.  Solid stuff.  ***1/4

Match of the Night honors went to Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata.  God damn.  This was an all-out assault that started with both guys trying to kill each other and only escalated from there.  Barely a moment of rest for either, they had numerous brutal striking battles, a series of traded backdrop suplexes, and traded palm strikes that led to both guys knocking each other out.  In the closing minutes they broke out their big moves; Shibata survived a spinning flapjack and hit a yushi guroshi directly into a sleeper/Penalty Kick for the win. This was fucking awesome.  Best match of any Dominion card thus far.  ****3/4

The semi-main event pitted Hiroshi Tanahashi against brand new top heel and Bullet Club leader Prince Devitt.  This match started out pretty chaotic, with copious Club interference early on to keep Devitt in control.  The action spilled to the outside, where Devitt hit a brutal running dropkick that almost knocked Tanahashi over the railing.  Devitt wore him down with Daniel Bryan repeated elbows, and later teased his trademark dive to the outside, as a distraction to allow Anderson to apron powerbomb Tanahashi.  The Ace finally made a comeback, hitting an outside Hi-Fly Flow on Devitt and Bad Luck Fale, followed by multiple Dragon Screws and a Texas Cloverleaf.  Late in the match Devitt crushed Tana with a double stomp to back of his head, followed by another off the top rope.  He landed a reverse Bloody Sunday for a two-count and went for the Coup de Grace but missed.  Tana hit a slingblade and straitjacket suplex, but Fale stopped his Hi-Fly Flow attempt with a Grenade, allowing Devitt to win the match after Bloody Sunday.  This was a really good match hurt a little by the over-the-top interference and the tainted finish.  But I get that they were going for Bullet Club dominance by any means necessary.  ****

Our main event, for the IWGP Title, was Kazuchika Okada defending against former champ Togi Makabe.  The story of this match was the cocky young heel champ facing the grizzled babyface veteran and earning his stripes along the way.  Makabe took Okada to school for several minutes early on, but Okada hit draping DDT on floor for near countout.  Okada took control for the next segment until Makabe would finally stand for no more and began brutalizing him with strikes.  Okada hit his flying elbow and did the Rainmaker pose but Makabe defiantly got right in his face.  Makabe hit him with a series of lariats but Okada took them and kept coming back for more.  Okada took over again after a gorgeous dropkick, and locked in Red Ink.  Okada was too weakened to hold onto it however, and Makabe made the ropes.  The action spilled to the floor again, where Makabe countered a charge with a brutal spinning powerslam to the mats, and then powerbombed Okada through a ringside table.  Makabe threw him back in and hit the spider suplex but missed the King Kong knee, leading to a spectacular finishing sequence.  Okada kicked out after a German suplex and nailed the Tombstone/Rainmaker combination to retain the title.  Post-match Prince Devitt appeared and challenged Okada for the title.  This was an excellent, action-packed main event with a compelling story.  Can't argue with any of that.  ****1/2

The 2013 Dominion boasted a just-fine undercard and then knocked it out of the park with the final three bouts.  Up through the Naito-Takahashi match I was thinking, "Eh, this show is alright," but Goto-Shibata, Tanahashi-Devitt and Okada-Makabe launched this show way above the next level.  2013 was an incredible year for New Japan PPVs, between WrestleKingdom 7, the amazing King of Pro-Wrestling show, and Power Struggle, and this Dominion card fits right in.  Seek it out, especially for the last three bouts.

Best Match: Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata
Worst Match: Rob Conway vs. Manabu Nakanishi
What I'd Change: I mean, you could leave off the NWA Title match, but aside from that there's not much to complain about on this show
Most Disappointing Match: I guess the Heavyweight Tag Title match?
Most Pleasant Surprise: I wasn't expecting Okada-Makabe to be as good as it was
Overall Rating: 8.5/10


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