Man, New Japan can't catch a break this year. Due to COVID breakouts in Japan, the company had to postpone two big stadium shows (as well as push Dominion back by a day), but also they've had two top singles champions in 2021 vacate their titles due to injury. Both tag team divisions are basically nonexistent right now, and the Juniors division is running on fumes. Ya know, I can't help but notice all this seemed to coincide with their inexplicable decision to do away with the Intercontinental Title. Are the two things related, I dunno.....
Anyway, this *Monday* is the annual Dominion show, historically the company's second-biggest PPV of the year, historically in among the best shows in a given year. Not so much in 2020. And probably not in 2021 either, although this lineup does have some potential. We only have five matches, two of which are multi-man clusterfucks, but the three singles bouts on the card should all be pretty great. If those three deliver the goods and the two openers are watchable at worst, Dominion could be one of those smaller, no-fat shows that ends up being one of the best of the year. We'll see. Let's take a look.....
Hiroshi Tanahashi/Hirooki Goto/Tomohiro Ishii/Yoshi-Hashi/Sho vs. Evil/Taiji Ishimori/Chase Owens/El Phantasmo/Yujiro Takahashi
For some reason a ten-man tag always feels much more special than a six or eight-man. Here we have Chaos-plus-Tanahashi against the Evil wing of the Bullet Club. If this gets a decent amount of time and the guys are motivated to deliver more than a garden-variety opening match, this could be a lot of fun. I guess based on the lineups this will probably set up Tana vs. Evil, and maybe either Goto or Ishii vs. Phantasmo?
Pick: I don't think it matters much, but to throw the crowd a bone and start things off on a lighter note, the babyfaces should probably win.
Tetsuya Naito/Sanada/Bushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr./Taichi/Douki
So this one is interesting. Zack and Taichi just regained the Tag Titles and now they're facing three of the LIJ fellas. Could they be setting up Naito and Sanada as challengers? I wouldn't mind seeing that. Man, that tag division is barely even there at this point. This company needs to recruit some teams. Naito could probably use a good six months working tag bouts to give his knees a rest.
Pick: I'll go with the good guys here too, to set up a big tag team match down the line.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: El Desperado vs. Yoh
Okay, now we get to the meat of the show. Desperado, the company's backup guy after Hiromu Takahashi was forced to forfeit the belt, faces the other half of RPG3K, Yoh. This match was scheduled to take place at Wrestling Dontaku but the company had its own COVID outbreak and both guys were pulled from the show. This should be a fine contest, as these Jr. Title matches usually are. But this is another division that's really suffering right now, without a top star. Time to make some.
Pick: I'd say Desperado retains since Sho and Yoh are one of two Jr. tag teams in the company.
Kota Ibushi vs. Jeff Cobb
This should be fantastic. Ibushi's dramatic title run was oddly cut short at Sakura Genesis, in a loss to the guy who ended up vacating the belt six weeks later. Probably should've just kept the title on Ibushi for a while, eh? So now Ibushi will face Will Ospreay's number-two guy, Jeff Cobb. Man, it really throws a wrench in the United Empire gimmick to have their leader on the shelf for the next six months or whatever. Does Cobb get a big win here to elevate him while Ospreay is away, or does Ibushi get a bit of redemption after his surprising title loss? The more productive outcome would probably be the former; they need more guys in title contention and Ibushi could withstand a loss here more than Cobb.
Pick: Jeff Cobb
IWGP World Championship: Kazuchika Okada vs. Shingo Takagi
Alright, the weak-looking new belt is currently without an owner, so it's time for the current #1 contender to face the previous #1 contender. I don't get why New Japan doesn't have tournaments to fill title vacancies. They always just throw a singles match together to determine a new champion. Dominion could've had an 8-man tourney and it would've stood out as a show, plus it would be a way to work around their depleted roster. But oh well, this match will be great regardless. Okada and Shingo have had multiple excellent showings before. I know Okada has been working hurt, so I don't know if that means he isn't in a place to be the champion again, or if they'll go the safe route and put the belt back on the Ace. Shingo has been a company MVP the last couple years so I wouldn't be sad to see him win it, but at the same time I feel like there have been a lot of first-time champions since 2019. Maybe too many. Jay White won it for two months in 2019, then Evil won it for two months in 2020, then Ibushi won it for three months, then Ospreay won it for six weeks. The title needs stability and Okada would be the guy who could restore that. Shingo might be a good candidate to win this year's G1 and then win his first title at the Dome.
Pretty strange times in NJPW these days. I hope Japan can get these outbreaks under control and NJPW can chug along until everyone is healthy again. Their whole 2021 schedule seems to be up in the air; besides the two stadium shows there's the G1 to plan, and they still have to make up that Madison Square Garden show they were forced to cancel last year. This company needs some good luck.....
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