Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Dominion 7.5: have we already seen the best show of the summer?

In the last few years, New Japan Pro Wrestling has grown from just another Japanese wrestling company into easily the second largest brand in professional wrestling today. They have done so with a mix of straight forward puroresu aesthetics: highly competitive matches with high work rates, solid storytelling and psychology, and clean finishes—usually, at least.

Their fandom is on the rise worldwide thanks to the AXS television series airing classic matches of the last few years as well as the far more significant (IMHO) New Japan World. The streaming service is cheaper than WWE Network, but offers almost every New Japan show in history. Much like WWE, it also includes live streaming of all its current fare. This will be thoroughly impressive later this month as the G1 Climax tournament starts (more in the future), but it also makes shows like the epic Dominion 7.5 well worth watching.

Much like January's Wrestle Kingdom event, Dominion 7.5 was built to be a supercard in a company already known for great pay-per-views. While Jim Ross and Matt Striker did not call the action in English for this event, the wonderful thing about NJPW is that so much of the action speaks for itself.

I talked about the undercard in my preview last week, but the likes of Kenny Omega, KUSHIDA, the Young Bucks and RPG Vice put on some amazing action. The Bullet Club (Anderson & Gallows) and The Kingdom tore each other apart. KUSHIDA stole one title from the collected Bullet Club, but Anderson & Gallows retrieved the Heavyweight tag belt.

The battle between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Toru Yano proved to be a great start to the main event portion of the show. Tanahashi can be best described as the Japanese John Cena, but unlike Cena his constant victories do not turn off nearly as many fans. He can best be compared to the current US champion Cena. He's a guy you can depend on for great matches, but don't expect him to lose much. He didn't here either, but the number of false finishes between Tanahashi and Yano was impressive.

Japanese artist Kyobashi+ did this amazing
illustration of red ninja Nakamura.
The semi-main event for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship went about as I expected. Hirooki Goto seems cemented into his new position as the successor for the title, but that didn't mean Shinsuke Nakamura was going quietly into the night. Nakamura brought it to the man that took his title and Goto answered in kind. With stiff chops and kicks, this one echoed through the arena. But in the end, Nakamura seems ready to go back into IWGP Heavyweight title competition, so his loss here comes as no surprise.

The main event featured AJ Styles defending the aforementioned heavyweight belt against Kazuchika Okada. Every time these to men face off, a lot is made out of Okada's time as Okato in TNA, where he was barely a jobber to guys like Styles. But as "The Rainmaker", Okada is now an amazing star. Everything about this fight was designed to keep fans on the edge of their seats, starting with the Bullet Club's ejection from ringside about five minutes in.

While Styles vs. Okada isn't a new encounter, this was easily their best match. Copyright: NJPW.
While Styles isn't used to going it alone, everyone knows how good "The Phenomenal One" is in the ring. He didn't lose a step against Okada, but without outside interference, he had to deal with multiple surges from "The Rainmaker". But no matter what he threw at Styles, Okada couldn't seem to get the champion down. Okada's impressive clothesline, also called the Rainmaker, has never failed in winning him a match immediately after its use. But somehow Styles resisted two of the devastating blows in the battle. Ultimately it would be a third strike with the Rainmaker that he just could not answer. As the 63rd IWGP Heavyweight champion, he now enters his third reign with the title.

New Japan put on an amazing show on Sunday, but they are not a company that rests on their laurels. Their biggest tournament of the year, the round robin G1 Climax, kicks off in less than two weeks. I will have a rundown of the competitors in what should be an amazing three weeks in the days ahead.

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