Metalhead’s Riff: Dominion 2015 (NJPW, A.J. Styles vs Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura vs Hirooki Goto)

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No great intro this week, no rant about the state of wrestling, no growling about WWE and/or RAW, just me enjoying myself because the most anticipated period of the year (for me) is finally upon us. I’m talking about NJPW’s Dominion of course which will also kick-start NJPW’s Summer of Madness in teh form of the highly anticipated G1 Climax tournament. So yeah I’m hyped and having fun anticipating and predicting. Then again I promised Widro I would do a Metalhead’s Thoughts on TNA’s PPV tomorrow so my good mood might not last.

But worries for later, let us have some fun looking at the Dominion card and trying to predict what will happen, the event will take place on July 5 at the Osaka-Jo hall in Osaka, Japan (obviously):

Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jushin Thunder Liger, Satoshi Kojima, Tiger Mask IV and Yohei Komatsu vs Manabu Nakanishi, Mascara Dorada, Ryusuke Taguchi, Yuji Nagata and Sho Tanaka

Dark match and the usual Japanese style tag team match that includes most names that don’t really have something to do right now. Then again, such efforts have routinely delivered some fun if not much else. Only thing that IS certain is: either Komatsu or Tanaka are taking the fall

Winner: Liger and Co

IWGP Junior heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Young Bucks (Nick and Matt Jackson) (c) vs ReDragon (Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish) vs Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero and Baretta)

Here is the thing. Will this match be great? Yes, it will, you don’t even need to doubt that, these teams have battled each-other many times already and  delivered each time. And there lies the problem. The Junior Heavyweight Tag Team scene is right on the verge of becoming bland, despite the awesome performances, because all these teams have been battling each-other all over the world for months now. The Super J-cup has highlighted how well Fish and O’Reilly could do solo if given the chance, so, after this one, it’s time to get out of the 3 or 4 teams scenario’s for this belt and do a full on CHaos (RPG Vice) vs Bullet Club (Young Bucks) feud. Meanwhile create and push some new teams so, once the feud is over, you immediately have fresh challengers. Don’t  get me wrong I love watching these guys go at it, but trop (look it up, it’s French) is simply too much. I would go with RPG Vice here, they could use another title run the best.

Winner: Roppongi Vice

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi) vs Tetsuya Naito and Tomoaki Honma

The obligatory Bullet Club/NJPW tag team battle, this one includes 4 wrestlers who will be featyured at the G1 climax and 3 (Takahashi, Fale and Naito) who have been a aimless lately. Honma, of course, doesn’t really need a direction, whatever he will do the crowd will love it. It’s that HonmaMania-Magic. I don’t expect too much to come out of this, except Honma fun of course, but I kinda hope it will amount to more than just a filler Tag Match, Takahashi and Naito need some sort of direction and Honma’s popularity could be exploited much more I think.

Winner; Honma and Naito

Katsuyori Shibata vs Kazuchi Sakuraba

The only issue I sometimes have with the Japanese “Strong Style”, is that, in some matches, it leans a bit too much towards worked MMA-style of matches, which is not really my things. Stiff kick and punches are all very well when integrated with other moves, but when a match is only kicks, opunches and take-downs I tend to have difficulties getting involved. Of course, they were exceptions, the Sakabura/Suzuki match at WK 9 serves as a shining example that such encounters can be great. Unfortunately such examples have been few and far between. So, Shibata has his work cut out for him. Can those two do as good as the Sakaruba/Suzuki thing without the benefit of an intense, years-long rivalry? I kind of doubt it. As for the winner, Shibata needs to be strong going into the G1 climax, so I go with him.

Winner: Shibata

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega (c) vs KUSHIDA

Now, this one I have very high expectations for. First good news, it doesn’t come with some silly Omega antics, meaning that Kenny will be concentrating on wrestling and not much else. Secondly KUSHIDA is fresh out of his Super J-Cup win and has a lot of momentum and fan-support going into this. This is the kind of match you went between those two, champion vs very serious challenger. Could KUSHIDA win? I certainly believe so. While Omega’s run as a champion has been the theater of the monstrosity that was his match against Taguchi at NB, it has also given us some good matches (against Shelley and Mascara Dorada) . So I’m not saying his run HAS to stop, his record is more positive than negative really, but I think this is THE moment for NJPW to push KUSHIDA to the moon, Surely he has the talent and crowd support to pull it off.

Winner: KUSHIDA

NEVER Openweight Championship: Togi Makabe (c) vs Tomohiro Ishii

Lately it has seemed every time I turned around, these two were going at it. This rivalry has been going on for some time, and this match has received some criticism (mainly in the form of the word: again?), but I guess having one last match between those two makes sense, Ishii was certainly entitled to a rematch. But this does need to be the end of it, the NEVER championship needs to move on and broaden it’s horizon. You can’t continue depending on just two guys (as good as their rivalry has been) if you want any championship to be taken seriously. I go for Makabe retaining, also because I have the feeling Ishii will become entagled in some Bullet Club affairs in the coming weeks. Expect one last war to the finish between those two.

Winner: Togi Makabe.

IGWP Tag Team Championship: The Kingdom (Matt Taven and Michael Bennett) (c) with Maria Kanellis vs Bullet Club (Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows) with Amber Gallows

And another in what is NJPW’s least interesting rivalry in progress for me. Let me guide you trough this. This whole thing began with Anderson’s crazy infatuation with Maria, which caused some friction with Gallows, which led to the first mixed match in years for NJPW, were Anderson apparently “got cured”, only nobody is sure if he is. What about the titles you ask? Well, yes, what about them. This is about NJPW office liking Maria and not much else and while it’s not like this feud has been particularly successful, it does need a proper pay-off I guess and this is it. Or so everybody hopes. I’m going with the Kingdom retaining since I have this feeling it’s gonna be a bad night for Bullet Club.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Toru Yano

At the start of this feud I had doubts. I mean Tanahashi vs Yano seemed like a real long-shot and I must admit I didn’t really like the Yano character. Ok I wasn’t supposed to like him but you get what I mean. Imagine my surprise then when I found myself actually enjoying their efforts. Added bonus was the fact Tanahashi’s back got much needed rest since he only had to perform short tag-team matches (mostly). And Yano did great hiding that fact with his rather amusing antics. Even Tanahashi displayed some comedic skills on occasions, so while not exactly world-shattering, this feud was at least entertaining. Everybody expect this to be the pay-off, and I tend to agree, especially with the G1 Climax on the horizon. After some slow months Tanahashi could  use the feud-ending win while Yano has already been well established as the one who can steal away victory from literally anybody in the blink of an eye which will serve him well in the upcoming tournament. So he doesn’t need to win. Then again, when it comes to Toru Yano, I’ve been wrong before…

Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Hirooki Goto (c) vs Shinsuke Nakamura

And yet another re-match some will say, but yet another one that makes sense? Goto ended Nakamura’s championship reign at Wrestling Dontaku, so Shinsuke was definitely entitled to a re-match. Add to that the fact that the previous match’s story was Nakamura refusing to take Goto seriously, only to be beaten in the end and we might have a very different attitude and demeanor from the former Champion. I expect Nakamura going all out from the start with Goto trying to survive the opening storm and then strike back. Nakamura could get his title back, but I don’t believe so, Goto has the skills to carry it, and, let’s face it, Nakamura doesn’t really need the IC title, it was always more the other way around. Besides, if the rumored slow-burning feud between Nakamura and Okada indeed comes true, they might as well get the IC title out of the picture right now.

Winner: Hirooki Goto

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: A.J. Styles vs Kazuchika Okada

The heated Styles/Okada rivalry finally comes full circle at Dominion and I can’t wait to see this go down. This feud started last year in April when the newly signed Styles attacked Okada and aligned himself with the Bullet Club. This would lead to the first match between those two, at Wrestling Dontaku, where Okada would lose  his title after a betrayal from Chaos Stable-mate Takahashi. Okada would be unsuccessful in the subsequent rematch also, but would go on to win the G1 climax and face Tanahashi at WK9, where he would, again, fail to recapture the coveted prize. Styles would win back the tiles at NB, while Okada got stuck in a storyline “slump”, believing he had lost his fire. Finally vanquishing Bad Luck Fale would cause Okada to regain his confidence and eventually lead to this one (who said NJPW didn’t have story-lines?). All this to explain how important this match is for NJPW. This is the end of a story, the end of a chapter and, more than likely the start of a new one. I firmly believe Okada will win here, it makes no sense having Styles keep the title at this point, but what’s going even more important is what will be going down afterwards. How will styles and Bullet Club react? How will Nakamura and CHaos react. Yes, this could be the start of a very exiting period for NJPW.

 

And there you have it. This year’s Dominion could be a very important one for NJPW as it has the potential to lay the tone for the rest of the year. Lots of re-matches, yes, but all with pay-off potential, and many possibilities to already hint at or even start with new feuds and rivalries. The cards have been dealt, if they’re played correctly this could be a Card of the Year contender, no doubt about it.

 

For my Match of the Week, I decided to go with the Tanahashi/Okada match from Dominion 2012, for obvious reasons, one has to stick with the theme of his column after all. If you want to have some fun, watch Okada’s performance here and then know that not that long before that match, TNA actually had Okada in its roster… And did absolutely nothing with him. And some still wonder why TNA is in so much trouble. Anyway, enjoy!

 

That’s all from me, see you all later and have fun!

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