While you were likely sleeping, NJPW was helping fanatical wrestling fans remain conscious. NJPW Dominion ran from 3am to a little after 7am Sunday morning, but analogous to WWE's Tokyo show, it was absolutely worth it. Many wrestling fans criticize the lack of multiplicity on a wrestling card. It has become one of the main grievances with independent wrestling, and although WWE fixed most this dilemma - by dint of pushing the indie stars of its golden age - the structure, pacing and style of their matches occasionally is homogeneous.
Even though NJPW's PPVs run an hour longer than a typical American one, their PPVs oftentimes go by much faster. By having a different styled match or story, each match on a NJPW card has its own uniqueness, which avoids the risk of the PPV becoming repetitive and excessive. It does not mean everyone will love every match on a NJPW card, but a different match - for better or worse - will always be more creative than a by-the-books one. So, even when a different type of NJPW is not performing at an enthralling magnitude, it at the very least is something people are not used to typically seeing.
Obviously, an assortment of different matches is not the all-important element of a magnum opus wrestling PPV. Indubitably, though, it substantially helps a PPV be interesting and intriguing than dreary and flat out lazy. And, no matter how marvelous the matches might be individually, a PPV - as a whole - cannot become a topnotch one if all the matches are alike. The booker should have recognized how identical the matches would be and tweaked the card to avoid it from being one never-ending match.
NJPW's PPV opened with a triple-threat tag-match between the Young Bucks, Redragon and RPG Vice. The match accomplished exactly what an opener should. It was a fast-paced, action-packed opener, and it caused the crowded to become enthusiastic. It also never past its summit, which is a huge cardinal sin, since is risks the chance of burning the crowd out quickly. But, they kept the dramatic near-falls to a minimum, performed some creative sequences and then went home. It was simple yet effective.
The following match was Bullet Club vs. Naito and Honma, and its purpose was to make both Naito and Honma look like forces to be reckon with, to build them up for G-1 Climax. This was primarily an extended squash match; and, to a degree, a match where they cool the audience down rather than indicating that each match will be wilder than the former one (something a booker never wants to do, as a show is better when there are peaks and valleys than no letup). Nonetheless, this accomplished its objective of making Naito and Honma (who is such an excellent plucky babyface, by the way) look strong.
Shibata vs. Sakuraba was, again, a different match. This was more of a MMA influenced style of match, which is so much better than the choreographed MMA matches are. No one wants to watch a pretend MMA fight when he or she can watch the real thing. This match was super-stiff, physical and hard-hitting. They were literally beating the hell out of each other, proving that they are two tough and resilient men. The narrative of this was not about who hits the last move. It was about who can survive the longest without being knocked out. The wrestlers, by virtue of physicality and credible selling, narrated the story in an intense and powerful manner.
The 4th through 7th match were not perfect, but they were far from terrible. They were also all different from one another. Kenny Omega and Kuhisda was an effectively told culmination of a journey, with Kuhisda fighting through the immense pain of his wounded knee. Although, there is a thin line between fighting through and adapting to the kayfabe injury opposed to selling it whenever a wrestler pleases. Kuhisda, at times, did not sell just so he could do the cool spots he wanted, which hindered the match from being great.
Isshii and Makabe had their typical wall-to-wall, no letup match. The match is not every one's cup of teas -- as it lacks from long-term selling and has dubious fighting spirit moments, although the crowd always seems to enjoy it as an attraction/spectacle, and NJPW only does it once every card or so. The weakest point of NJPW is irrefutably their tag-division, as it yet again, was the worst part of the card. To its credit, the crowd enjoyed Maria's involvement and the Bullet Club got major heat for abusing her both verbally and physically. It was a popcorn match, but unlike WWE's popcorn matches, it had a purpose. It got Bullet Club more over as compassionless and scummy antagonists.
And, Tanahashi had a change of roles tonight, as he was in a more of the comedy match, opposed to the normal gut wrenching, ultra-dramatic match he is used to being in. The change of usage of him was a breath of fresh air, and it was a well-above average bridge match for the two upcoming main events.
At this point, knowing the four competitors in the co-main event and main event, this PPV would be either an above average or an all-time classic show, because even on their worst day, they could sleep walk themselves into having a good match, due how immaculate they are. On the flip side, they can outperform almost anyone on their best day.
Hirooki Goto defended his IWGP IC championship against Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura's body of work has launched him into the best wrestlers of today discussion. Furthermore, he has one of the most interesting, eye-grabbing personas ever. He is a cross-blend of Michael Jackson and a young Chris Jericho, yet he wrestles like a Kenta Kobashi. He acts like a metrosexual outside the ring, but inside the ring, he is just as tough, resilient and brilliant as anyone is. Frankly, it is a testament to how no-nonsense and unadulterated he is in the ring.
Both wrestlers worked a match that started deliberate but progressively became more intense and dramatic. The gradual build to the crescendo, the layers upon layers of storytelling and effortless transitions were all a work of art. It is also wiser and more realistic when wrestlers utilize fighting spirit in a desperate and last strength in their body type of way than an invincible type of way. Characters are more intriguing because of their weaknesses than strengths. A wrestler trying to overcome his weaknesses through perseverance is a commendable trait. If the wrestler is just invincible, then they are not really overcoming anything nor are they telling a compelling story. Nakamura understands greater than anyone does and also understands the importance of selling - as it is what makes a wrestler sympathetic and helps put moves over. Moves have no meaning or purpose if no one believably sells them.
Both Goto and Nakmura set the bar high, and most wrestlers could not top it, but luckily, AJ Styles and Kazuchika Okada are not most wrestlers. These two imaginative and virtuosos experienced wrestlers put on unparalleled exemplary five star match. It was about as unadulterated as a match gets.
NJPW fans are fed-up with AJ Styles and Bullet Club's tactics. By virtue of cheating and breaking NJPW tradition, Styles discovers new ways to retain his title. No one, up to this point, had discovered a way to overcome the unfair advantage Styles has. Okada dug down as far as he could go to overcome Styles and Bullet Club's tactics. He battled, scratched and clawed, and because he refused to lose due to Bullet Club's vintage nonsense, he dug as deep as he could within his inner-self to find the power to overcome these odds.
This was such an epic journey with no foreseeable ending. Both wrestler did an unparalleled job of creating the illusion that no one had the edge of the other and either could win the match. Each near-fall was also suspenseful and dramatic insofar as it seemed it would be the last. The match was moreover paced in a manner wherein everything seemed vital to where the match was headed and even the tiniest reversal could completely chance the dynamics of the match.
And, the gut-wrenching, ingeniously creative back-and-forth sequences during the go-home portion of the match were not only magical, but they are also in consideration as the greatest finishing sequence ever. Because of how effectively built up the Rainmaker is, the anticipation for it is like awaiting a volcano to erupt. So, they continuously teased it being delivered throughout the later parts of the match. It kept building and building, as AJ Styles kept coming up with ingenious ways to counter it. Styles also tried countering it and then transitioning the counter into his very well built up finisher too. It was a sequence in which you sense the end was coming but had no idea when or who would come out landing the last blow. Finally, with all the anticipation, eagerness, and buildup, Okada finally found a way to hit the Rainmaker. This match goes to show how much finishers can mean when someone treats them importantly and are not used as a dramatic near-fall to add cheap shock value into a match
Styles vs. Okada is currently the best match this year. That is not because it has been a poor year for matches. It has actually been a tremendous year. Which means, it is a testament to how exceptional this truly was. It was an instant classic and possessed one of the greatest finishing sequences ever. It is ironic because TJ Hawke from 411mania has continuously complained about AJ Styles' "lackluster" main event matches. As absurd as that is, it will be even more absurd if he downplays this magnum opus.
NJPW Dominion exceeded expectations. Not only did it have the best match of the year thus far on it, it just cemented itself as the best PPV from an in-ring perspective of the year too, just passing Wrestle Kingdom 9 by a nose hair. From top to bottom, this card had virtually everything. Any wrestling fan would enjoy something from this card and that is what truly makes a wrestling show special. NJPW simply understands what many companies in America do not.