New Japan Pro Wrestling will present one of their biggest cards of 2018 early Saturday morning with the annual Dominion card from a sold-out Osaka-jo Hall.
The card is as deep as any show this year, built around the fourth match between Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega, a feud that has produced some of the greatest matches of the era and lifted New Japan’s visibility around the world, specifically in the U.S. market.
The show also features Chris Jericho’s return to the company following a successful program with Kenny Omega that peaked with their match at Wrestle Kingdom this past January and led to a significant jump in New Japan World subscribers.
We will have a post-match up Saturday afternoon with WH Park & I chatting about the card for members of the POST Wrestling Café, which you can join at www.POSTwrestlingCafe.com.
Below is a preview of the show, which kicks off early Saturday at 3 am Eastern on New Japan World:
KAZUCHIKA OKADA VS KENNY OMEGA IN A 2/3 FALLS, NO TIME LIMIT MATCH FOR THE IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE
This has extraordinary expectations attached following their three matches in 2017 that were as good as any three-match series in history. The title reign of Okada’s is the closest this generation will have to that of Bruno Sammartino’s reigns, in that it will be a run that will be discussed and debated for years to come among the all-time greatest title runs. The toughest role is going to be on the man that follows Okada and it’s a short list of candidates capable, Omega being one of them that can take the title and have a great run with it. An Omega win and subsequent title defense at the Cow Palace should spark a lot of interest in that card and sets up Okada for a big G1 run as the former champion chasing for the first time in over two years. The argument against is that Okada’s run is not stale, there are legs left with it and Gedo has crafted something magical that could grow even larger. There is no opponent waiting in the wings for Okada after this match, but given its G1 season, you don’t need an opponent until October and the G1 will create that opponent.
In terms of the actual match, 2/3 Falls are always difficult, and it will be a task to make the first two falls impactful and maintain the drama when most assume it will go the full three falls and be a marathon match. The fact remains, they have had a blow away 47-minute match, a dynamite 60-minute match and a phenomenal 30-minute match, so my concern is non-existent that this will be another classic. The booking is most intriguing and can be debated ad nauseam, Gedo has built such a reputation that no one should question the direction.
TETSUYA NAITO VS CHRIS JERICHO FOR THE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE
Unlike Wrestle Kingdom, where you could argue what the main event is worldwide, this does feel like the second most important match on the show because the main event has so much history behind it. This match could have easily headlined the Cow Palace on its own, but I’ve always been apprehensive to assume that Jericho would work a non-WWE show in the United States and this may have been the only option available for Jericho, which strengthens this card.
I’ve enjoyed Jericho’s promos a lot, he feels extremely motivated and having the time of his life with New Japan where the restrictions are out the window and he can build a program in his mind and execute without resistance.
I don’t expect both Omega and Jericho to leave with titles, and if I’m forced to go with one Canadian winning, I would lean towards Omega.
Jericho has always had the mindset that he can lose every time out and he will remain over, but if I have several more dates on Jericho with New Japan and given his proven ability to add business to New Japan World, I wouldn’t want to beat him soon following Wrestle Kingdom.
If Jericho is winding down with New Japan and focusing on Fozzy or another WWE stint, then sure, Naito should be winning this match and it’s a big win for him. It’s not all that different from a Brock Lesnar match where his future is unknown and that dictates how you book the match.
I expect a very different match from the main event and wouldn’t be surprised if there is blood in this one as the build-up essentially calls for it.
WILL OSPREAY VS HIROMU TAKAHASHI FOR THE IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE
This is going to be an excellent match as Ospreay is having his best year to date and Takahashi is on fire following the Best of the Super Juniors tournament.
They had a great press conference this week with Ospreay playing audio from Dave Meltzer comparing Ospreay to the Dynamite Kid and making the point that you should enjoy him while he lasts, which is the same point Don Callis has made on the actual broadcasts.
Ospreay confronted Takahashi after the BOSJ win stating he is 2-0 against Takahashi and placing his back against the wall that would lead you to believe Takahashi is winning. Personally, I feel there is so much left with Ospreay as the champion with the inevitable match with Rey Mysterio, his recent tease with Kota Ibushi, the non-title loss to Taiji Ishimori in the tournament and other new additions to the division.
I’d lean towards Ospreay retaining and expect these two to go out with the mindset of topping anything else on the card, which is a scary proposition but not out of the realm of possibility at all.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI, JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER & REY MYSTERIO VS CODY, HANGMAN PAGE & MARTY SCURLL
This should be a very fun match and set up several matches, possibly at the Cow Palace next month.
Mysterio seems tied to Marty Scurll and would make sense for the July 7th show, which this show needs to put all the proper pieces in place for.
I can see Tanahashi being paired with Cody or Page next month. There is also the possibility of Omega winning the title and leads to a title defense against Cody stemming from Cody’s win at Supercard of Honor in April.
I expect Mysterio to be the star of the match, him and Tanahashi working together will be a cool visual.
It will be interesting to see who takes the fall in the match, my assumption is The Bullet Club wins and there are several challenges set up to build up to July 7th.
EVIL & SANADA VS THE YOUNG BUCKS FOR THE IWGP TAG TITLES
It feels strange to label this match as the ‘sleeper match’ on the show, but this deep down the card it’s how I view this one.
The Bucks are going to be terrific opponents for EVIL and Sanada, specifically the latter, who should shine in this style of a match where athleticism will stand out that much more.
I’m all for the idea of placing the titles onto the Bucks, who are the most over of the teams, in particular, the U.S. where the Bucks can have a major match at the Cow Palace as champions.
The one drawback is that it creates an interesting predicament as The Bucks are set to challenge The Briscoes for the ROH tag titles at Best in the World on June 29th and would seem like a tipoff that the Bucks would have to win that match.
HIROOKI GOTO VS MICHAEL ELGIN VS TAICHI FOR THE NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE
Who knows what to expect in this match and if the three will gel. If this was a straight singles match involving Got and Elgin, you would expect it to deliver but Taichi is the curveball. This doesn’t feel all too important and Goto retaining seems the logical outcome until they have a focused idea for Goto and a program for him to sink his teeth into.
TOMOHIRO ISHII & TORU YANO VS MINORU SUZUKI & ZACK SABRE JR.
It’s Sabre’s return to New Japan after being off for the BOSJ tour.
It appears they are building towards a singles match with Ishii and Suzuki, so they should be the focus of the match. Yano seems designated to take the fall. This should be a fine tag match with their restriction being the time allotted on such a deep show.
JAY WHITE & YOSHI-HASHI VS JUICE ROBINSON & DAVID FINLAY
I only expect this match to last 8-10 minutes, but it should be an entertaining tag match.
It’s notable that White finds himself as U.S. champion so low on this show as it’s been a struggle for him to follow Omega as champion. He should have a larger role on the Cow Palace show and this tag match could set up his challenger for that card with Robinson as a likely candidate.
EL DESPERADO & YOSHINOBU KANEMARU VS ROPPONGI 3K FOR THE IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TITLES
Desperado is coming off a terrific performance in the Best of the Super Juniors and the same goes for Sho and Yoh, while Kanemaru was technically part of the tournament too.
I expect this to be a hot opening match and the outcome is almost irrelevant. Roppongi 3K have already had reigns as the champions that another one doesn’t hold a lot of weight, but they are future stars, specifically Tanaka, who I am very high on.
This probably deserves the “sleeper” label more than the IWGP tag title match but it emphasizes the depth on this card when this opener could headline a Korakuen Hall card.