Friday, June 7, 2024

The History of NJPW Dominion (2021)

Well that was a rather short Dominion PPV, wasn't it?  Only five matches, two of which were barely over ten minutes.  Not only that, we got a very unexpected main event result, as for the third time that year someone won their first IWGP Title.  

After guest commentator Hiromu Takahashi addressed the crowd assuring everyone he'd be back in action soon, NJPW Dominion 2021 opened with a ten-man tag match, pitting members of Chaos plus Hiroshi Tanahashi against a Bullet Club squad let by Evil.  This boasted fast-paced action and was enjoyable while it lasted, but a sub-twelve-minute match featuring ten dudes isn't going to leave a lot of room for folks to get their shit in.  The biggest story coming out of this match was in the Juniors division, as Taiji Ishimori and Sho carried the third act of the match, culminating in Ishimori snaring the win with a Bloody Cross.  Pretty forgettable overall, but inoffensive.  **1/2

The second multi-man tag pitted Tetsuya Naito, Sanada and Bushi against Dangerous Tekkers and Douki, with the main story being Naito and Sanada meshing well as a new tag team.  Like the opener this was fine but too short to be very memorable.  Zack Sabre and Sanada had the best exchanges, with a lot of pinning combinations and reversals.  Finally after eleven-plus minutes Sanada scored an upset by countering a ZSJ European Clutch with a cradle of his own.  Thus Naito and Sanada are your new #1 contenders for the IWGP Tag belts.  I like that matchup and it's nice to see some new blood in the heavyweight tag ranks.  The temporary demotion of Naito rather telegraphed the main event result though...  **1/2
The show picked up big over its last three bouts, starting with a pretty excellent IWGP Jr. Title match, as Yoh challenged El Desperado for the strap.  After a feeling-out period, Desperado targeted Yoh's surgically repaired leg, first with a chair (via a misdirection wherein he tossed a bucket into the ring to distract the referee), and then with lots of wear-down holds.  Not taking the punishment lying down so to speak, Yoh returned the favor by going after Desperado's leg.  The match built with lots of high impact moves and a few moments where the action spilled to the outside.  The final moments saw numerous nearfalls and counters until Desperado hit a straight punch followed by his sitout Pedigree for the win.  Damn good stuff.  Ishimori came out after to challenge Desperado.  ****

Not to be outdone, Kota Ibushi and Jeff Cobb had a G1-worthy semi-main event, pitting Ibushi's Kamigoye against Jeff's Cobbgoye (see what he did there?).  Cobb dominated much of the action with his incredible power, while Ibushi defiantly took it all and kept getting up.  This match was almost all high-impact moves, with few wasted moments.  Cobb at one point countered a Kamigoye attempt with a wicked overhead belly-to-belly, followed by an insane F5-esque helicopter throw.  Ibushi came back and hit Kamigoye but Cobb kicked out and delivered Cobbgoye.  Too exhausted to cover right away, Cobb only got a two-count, went for a pop-up powerbomb but Ibushi hit a mid-air knee to the face and followed it with a second Kamigoye to win the match and put himself back in the title picture.  Unfortunately during the G1 finals he suffered a dislocated shoulder and to this day hasn't fully recovered from it.  Really good match.  ****1/4

The main event was of course to determine a new IWGP World Champion after the injury to Will Ospreay, as the company's Ace Kazuchika Okada faced its 2021 MVP Shingo Takagi.  These two have had better matches, but this was a pretty great main event, running 36 minutes that felt like 20 or so.  The first third of the match involved a lot of feeling out and mat grappling until Takagi blocked a senton drop with his knees into Okada's weakened back.  From there Okada's back became a problem, as Takagi hit numerous suplexes, both in and out of the ring, including a Made in Japan on the floor.  Okada tried multiple times to end the match with the Money Clip, but Takagi kept making the ropes.  Late in the match Okada hit his signature dropkick and went for the Rainmaker, but Shingo countered with an absolutely brutal-looking Rainmaker of his own for a nearfall.  Shingo came back to hit a pumping bomber and followed it up with Last of the Dragon to win the match and the IWGP Title.  The ending felt a little sudden to me but this was an excellent match.  ****1/2

So overall Dominion 2021 felt like an In Your House show almost, with two skippable undercard bouts and three big matches.  A far cry from the hugeness of the 2017 and 2018 Dominion shows, but still a solid PPV.

Best Match: Okada vs. Shingo
Worst Match: Probably the opener
What I'd Change: If I'm booking NJPW I'd probably put the belt back on Okada and have him restore the two separate championships, and then build up Shingo over the summer with a G1 win.
Most Disappointing Match: The 10-man
Most Pleasant Surprise: Nothing really
Overall Rating: 8/10

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