Monday, June 3, 2024

The History of NJPW Dominion (2014)

The Bullet Club has taken over, folks.  It's New Japan, 2014....

BodyMaker Colosseum - 6.21.14

By June 2014 the Bullet Club had gone through a major shift, as founder Prince Devitt left New Japan for TitanLand (following a Loser Leaves NJPW match at Invasion Attack), and was replaced as leader by the industry's hottest free agent AJ Styles.  AJ made a major statement from the start, capturing the IWGP Championship in his New Japan in-ring debut.  Also by this point buzzworthy indy tag team The Young Bucks had been added to the mix, making the Bullet Club a diverse, powerful stable.  The 2014 Dominion show was fairly strange compared to the others; with no IWGP Title match on the card it would instead by headlined by an Intercontinental Championship match (the third of five such NJPW PPVs that year), while IWGP Champion Styles was in a tag match third from the top.  What's weirder about this show is that by my count three of the five pre-intermission bouts scored **** or better, while none of the final four matches did.  What is this, a WWE show??  But Dominion 2014 was still a solid, easy to watch outing with some fine wrestling.

The show opened gorgeously with The Young Bucks vs. Time Splitters for the IWGP Jr. Tag belts.  This began with lots of innovative, fast-paced action, the Splitters mostly frustrating the Bucks.  Matt and Nick eventually took control after their patented head scissor/flying kick combo, and kept outmaneuvering Alex Shelley to keep him from escaping as they worked him over.  The Bucks broke out a slew of tandem moves over several minutes, and finally Shelley evaded them and got the hot tag.  Kushida ran wild, taking out both Bucks, but fell victim to a Doomsday Device dropkick for a two-count.  Time Splitters recovered and hit a tandem Sliced Bread for a nearfall.  Kushida went for the Hoverboard Lock but Matt countered with a tombstone setup for the IndyTaker.  The pin was broken up and the Bucks hit their tandem 450 splash for another two-count.  Finally they went for More Bang for Your Buck, but it was broken up, and Kushida snared a Hoverboard lock on Nick for the tapout finish.  Just an awesome, prototypical Bucks-Splitters match to kick off the show; exactly the kind of match you'd want from these teams.  ****1/2

The shortest match of the night, and the only one under ten minutes, pitted Tetsuya Naito against Tama Tonga in a crisp, energetic match.  Tonga attacked before the bell and controlled most of the early moments, taking the action outside and hitting a TKO-type move to drop Naito throat-first on the railing, which looked brutal.  Naito beat the 20-count and took over the match with a neckbreaker, and the remaining minutes featured quick back-and-forth action.  Tonga got the advantage with a backdrop suplex and the finishing sequence was full of reversals until Naito found a break and hit the Stardust Press for the win.  This was fun.  ***

Maybe the unexpected hit of the night for me (and I'm not sure why I was surprised by this) was Goto and Shibata vs. Yuji Nagata and Tomoaki Honma.  These four guys beat the shit out of each other for eleven minutes and it was glorious.  Honma attacked before the bell, pummeling Shibata with chops and stomps, but Shibata wasn't having it and engaged both guys with traded forearms.  Later in the match Shibata and Honma had an incredible striking battle, trading rapid-fire palm strikes until Honma leveled him with a lariat and tagged Nagata.  Shibata and Nagata then had a sick striking war of their own and traded backdrop suplexes.  Shibata and Nagata eventually spilled out of the ring as Goto and Honma fought inside.  Honma hit a blockbuster but missed his diving headbutt.  Goto landed a yushi guroshi but Honma countered the Shouten with a small package for a nearfall.  Goto then hit a Dominator-type move for the win.  Shibata and Nagata continued brawling all the way to the dressing room.  This was like a NEVER Openweight tag match, stiff as fuck and full of nonstop action.  ****
Next up was the NWA Tag Team Championship, with Tencozy defending against Killer Elite Squad.  For the third consecutive match someone attacked before the bell; Davey Boy and Tenzan paired off at the beginning, followed soon by Archer and Kojima.  Tencozy double-teamed Lance to get the advantage and Kojima did his signature chops.  Archer took over with a sidewalk slam and both guys took turns working over Kojima.  After several minutes Kojima finally made the tag to Tenzan, who dominated Archer, but Lance made a comeback and hit a top rope moonsault for a two-count.  KES hit a Hart Attack late in the match, but Tencozy answered with a 3-D.  KES did their double powerbomb finisher for a nearfall and it boiled down to Kojima and Davey trading lariats, but Kojima rebounded with a match-ending lariat to retain the belts.  This went perhaps a little long but it was an enjoyable, hard-hitting match.  ***1/2

Things picked up in a big way with the Jr. Heavyweight Championship, with Kota Ibushi defending against BOSJ winner Ricochet.  This started out fast and furious, with traded cruiserweight-style action.  Ricochet took over with a Zig Zag and standing shooting star press for a two-count, and then locked in an arm-trap cloverleaf.  Ibushi escaped, hit a top-rope dropkick and the Golden Triangle moonsault on the outside.  They got into a striking battle, which Ibushi won, and then hit a standing corkscrew moonsault (I'm still not sure how he does that).  Ricochet came back with a top rope dropkick of his own, followed by a picture-perfect over-the-ropes swan dive from the corner of the ring; the body control of this guy is off the charts.  Late in the match Ibushi blocked a top-rope move and hit a hurricanrana but Ricochet landed on his feet and did a Northern Lights suplex, floated over into a brainbuster for a nearfall.  They got into a machine-gun striking war and Ibushi won again, this time flipping Ricochet over with a lariat.  Ibushi delivered a Last Ride for a two-count but missed the Phoenix Splash.  Ricochet hit a springboard shooting star press for a nearfall but Ibushi took over again with a hurricanrana followed by a Phoenix suplex to retain the title.  A spectacular Jr. Heavyweight match.  ****1/2

Another match I liked more than expected was Minoru Suzuki and Takashi Iizuka vs Toru Yano and Kazushi Sakuraba.  This was an unruly brawl but it was kept interesting thanks to Iizuka and Yano's commitment to chaos, as well as Suzuki and Sakuraba's MMA influence.  Suzuki and Sakuraba started out with shoot-style action which was well-worked.  After a few minutes the two lunatics were tagged in and took turns cheating, with eye rakes, chokes, etc.  Suzuki then dragged Sakuraba to the entrance and choked him, as Iizuka hit Yano with a chair.  The de facto heels worked over Yano, taking turns with chokes.  Eventually Yano got the tag and Sakuraba worked over both opponents with MMA strikes.  Suzuki hit him with a corner kick and penalty kick, and then both men traded submissions.  Sakuraba snared a kimura lock but Iizuka broke it up.  Yano tagged back in and attempted the YTR chant three times but the heels kept stopping him.  Finally the fourth attempt was successful, and he cradled Suzuki for a nearfall but Iizuka pulled the referee out.  The heels each used weapons and Suzuki Gotch-piledrove Yano for the three-count, and then did the same to Sakuraba after the bell.  An ugly, unwieldy tag match, but it kept me entertained.  **3/4

The final three matches on this show were kind of a weird lineup for Dominion.  IWGP Champion AJ Styles and Yujiro Takahashi faced former champion Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii, in a match that felt like a tour show main event.  AJ and Okada started off, with Okada frustrating AJ for most of the exchanges.  After a few minutes Ishii and Takahashi tagged in; Takahashi kept trying to cheat but Ishii was too dominant for it to matter.  Takahashi took control after a painful-looking buckle bomb in which Ishii's head hit the pad very low.  The heels worked over Ishii for a while, with AJ slapping on a Muta lock only for Okada to break it up.  AJ tried to keep Ishii down with repeated forearm shots but Ishii kept walking into them and countered AJ's running charge with a powerslam.  He tagged Okada, who hit the flapjack, his emerald frosion neckbreaker, and his top rope elbow.  But when he went to do the Rainmaker pose, Takahashi interrupted (bastard!).  Okada hit AJ with his patented dropkick but AJ ducked the Rainmaker and hit his striking combo.  Ishii and Takahashi tagged back in, with Ishii dominating, landing a superplex, running lariat, and a Last Ride for a two-count.  AJ springboarded in with a phenomenal forearm and a Pele kick, followed by Takahashi hitting an Angle slam for the win.  This was a solid tag match but a bit underwhelming given the talent involved.  Odd choice for a tertiary main event on a Dominion card.  ***

The semi-main event was for the IWGP Tag Titles, with Anderson and Gallows facing Hiroshi Tanahashi and Togi Makabe.  This match started a little slow and basic but picked up big by the second half.  Tana and Anderson started off, with some good back and forth wrestling.  Then the power brokers each tagged in and took turns shoulderblocking each other before Gallows punched Makabe in the mouth, and Makabe oddly sold this shot for the rest of the match.  Doc took it outside and bashed Makabe with a piece of railing, while Anderson apron-bombed Tanahashi.  Back in the ring, Doc worked over Tanahashi as Anderson continued on the outside with Makabe, ramming him into the railing.  Tana rebounded on Doc with a flying forearm and finally made a tag.  Makabe pummeled Anderson for a while until Anderson hit a spinebuster and tagged Doc, and the two powerhouses had a battle of lariats, with Makabe getting the upperhand.  Makabe tagged Tana back in but Anderson & Gallows hit a reverse 3-D, followed by an Anderson TKO for a nearfall.  They went for the Magic Killer but Makabe broke it up, and Tana scored a slingblade.  He went for the Hi-Fly Flow but Anderson got his knees up and cradled him for a nearfall.  The finishing sequence had the crowd on the edge of their seats, as Makabe clotheslined both heels and powerbombed Anderson for a two-count, following it up with a Death Valley Driver which allowed Tana to hit the Hi-Fly Flow.  Makabe, the legal man, then went for the King Kong Knee but Doc knocked him off the turnbuckles with a chair shot and chokebombed him.  Guns & Gallows hit the Magic Killer on Tanahashi only for Makabe to interrupt, but he walked right into a Gun Stun and ate a Magic Killer for the pin.  The second half of this match was very high energy and got over huge.  ***1/2

Our main event was an IWGP Intercontinental Championship match with the once mega-over Shinsuke Nakamura vs. my least favorite New Japan PPV main eventer, Bad Luck Fale.  But don't worry, this match was good.  They had a feeling out process at first, with Nakamura using knee strikes to chop down his massive opponent.  Fale answered with a lariat and took the fight outside, leveling Nakamura with a shoulder tackle.  Back in the ring, Fale overpowered Nak for a few minutes until Nak came back with a spin kick, but missed his signature corner knee lift.  Nak hit a draping DDT instead, but Fale came back with a huge vertical suplex and Samoan drop.  Fale hit two running splashes for a nearfall and went for the Grenade, but Nak countered it with a one-legged dropkick.  He went for the Boma Ye but ate a lariat instead, and Fale scored with the Grenade.  Nakamura escaped the Bad Luck Fall however, and hit an impressive superplex, a backstabber, and an even more impressive reverse exploder to set up two Boma Ye knees, one off the second rope.  Fale miraculously kicked out of the pin and countered another Boma Ye attempt with a brutal spear.  From then it was all Fale, as he crushed Nak with a powerbomb, a Samoan drop, a top rope splash, and finally the Bad Luck Fall to win the Intercontinental Title.  Now, I've long been lukewarm at best on Fale, but he looked good here and his win gave the Bullet Club all the big championships.  As a Dominion main event it was certainly not the strongest, but as an I-C Title match it was good.  ***3/4

The 2014 edition was definitely well below the slew of fantastic installments since, with some excellent stuff in the first half but a middling second half.  The story being told was all about Bullet Club dominance, but some of it was unfortunately at the expense of great matches.  Still, this show is worth a watch for the two excellent Jr. bouts and the Goto/Shibata-Nagata/Honma slugfest.  Plus the main event is pretty good.

Best Match: Kota Ibushi vs. Ricochet
Worst Match: Suzuki/Iizuka vs. Yano/Sakuraba
What I'd Change: I know AJ Styles had just won the belt a month earlier, but I'd have had him defend against Ishii maybe - this show needed another big match at the top of the card.
Most Disappointing Match: Probably AJ/Takahashi vs. Okada/Ishii - three of those guys are among the best of all time.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Fale holding his own in the main event
Overall Rating: 7.5/10

And that's the final Dominion from before I started watching New Japan, as well as the final installment to emanate from BodyMaker Colosseum.  The next four shows will be a breeze to rewatch and review.  Stay tuned for those!


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