By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “Dominion”
Jun 4, 2023 in Osaka, Japan at Osaka Jo-Hall
Streamed on New Japan World
Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino provided live commentary. This is a large arena…
1. Will Ospreay defeated Lance Archer to become No. 11 contender for the IWGP U.S. Title at 8:13. The winner will face Kenny Omega. Archer attacked from behind and they immediately brawled to the floor. Ospreay hit a top-rope twisting press to the floor on Archer at 1:00. In the ring, Ospreay hit an enzuigiri and an OsCutter for a nearfall! He set up for a Hidden Blade, but Archer nailed a decapitating clothesline. They traded forearm shots, with Archer hitting much harder. Archer nailed a running Thesz Press at 4:00. Archer hit a rolling summersault from the ring apron onto Ospreay on the floor. Impressive move from the big man. In the ring, Archer set up for Blackout, but Ospreay fought free, and Will hit a flying forearm to the back of the head.
Ospreay hit a mid-ring Spanish Fly for a nearfall at 5:30, but Ospreay was selling a shoulder injury. Archer nailed Blackout/flipping Razor’s Edge slam! He got a believable nearfall. Archer hit a chokeslam for a believable nearfall at 7:30, and Archer was livid. Ospreay hit a spin kick to the back of the knee and a Hidden Blade, but Archer popped up at the one count! Ospreay hit two more running forearms, then he pulled off the elbow pad and hit another Hidden Blade to the back of the neck for the pin. That was fantastic for being just eight minutes.
* Ospreay got on the mic. “Kenny Omega! Remember me? I’m the guy you left covered in my own blood in the Tokyo Dome. You should have killed me when you had the chance, because I’m coming for revenge,” Ospreay said. He vowed he was bringing back the U.S. Title to Japan. Great fire from Ospreay on the mic.
2. “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, Bushi, and Titan defeated “Just 5 Guys” Taichi, Douki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and Taka Michinoku at 9:28. Charlton and Kelly talked about Yota Tsuji joining the LIJ faction; I think this happened at a press conference I didn’t see. LIJ attacked at the bell. Douki and Naito traded offense. Titan hit some quick kicks on Kanemaru, and LIJ worked over Kanemaru. Shingo dropped him with a chop at 5:00. Kanemaru finally hit a tornado DDT on Shingo. Taichi and Naito entered. Titan hit a springboard crossbody block on Taichi. Taichi fired back with an enzuigiri on Titan.
Taka entered at 8:00 and tied up Titan on the mat. Titan hit a kick to the jaw. Shingo nailed a Pumping Bomber clothesline on Taka. Bushi dove to the floor. Titan hit a top-rope doublestomp on Taka, then he tied up Taka’s legs, leaned back and applied the Muta Lock, with Taka quickly tapping out.
* Apparently Claudio Castagnoli isn’t in the building yet. Charlton gave an update that Claudio’s plane had landed but, he was a 40-minute drive away.
3. “United Empire” TJP and Francesco Akira (w/Dan Moloney) defeated Kushida and Kevin Knight to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles at 10:41. Kelly noted how Kushida and Knight collectively underperformed during BoSJ tournament. Akira and Knight opened, with Knight hitting a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker over his knee. Knight hit an Asai moonsault to the floor on all the heels. In the ring, Kushida and Knight worked over TJP. Akira hit a flip dive to the floor on both opponents at 2:30. In the ring, Akira hit a Doomsday Senton on Knight for a nearfall. TJP hit his Facewwash kicks on Knight in the corner. Kushida hit a basement dropkick on Akira’s face at 5:00, and he applied a cross-armbreaker, but Akira reached the ropes.
UE hit their team X-Factor on Kushida, then front-and-back kicks for a nearfall, but Knight made the save at 7:00. Knight hit a double Pele Kick on UE, and suddenly everyone was down. TJP applied his modified STF on Kushida, but Kushida reached the ropes. Kushida put Akira on his shoulders; Knight hit his impressive dropkick on Akira for a believable nearfall. Akira hit a top-rope stunner on Knight. UE again hit the front-and-back kicks on Knight, with Akira making the cover. New champs! Kelly again mentioned about Kushida’s losing streak and wondered “what happened” to him.
* Clark Connors walked to ringside and challenged TJP and Akira. Moloney, who also was in the ring, attacked TJP and Akira from behind! The crowd was shocked! Moloney and Connors beat up the new champs. (This was a fun shocker; I guess I hoped Connors was bringing out Ishimori, just so we could see he’s okay.) Connors nailed his No Chaser spike DDT. Kelly and Charlton were shocked because Connors and Moloney beat each other up in the BoSJ tournament, but now they are partners. This was perfectly done.
4. Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Jeff Cobb to retain the NJPW TV Title at 8:45. Kelly said this is already Sabre’s ninth title defense since he won the title on Jan. 1. These two recently fought to a 15-minute time-limit draw. Cobb charged him at the bell and he hit a shoulder tackle. He set up for the Tour of the Islands, but Sabre escaped, and Zack went for a cross-armbreaker. Cobb missed a standing moonsault, and Sabre twisted Cobb’s neck with his feet. Cobb dropped Sabre with a hard forearm shot. Zack fired back with some European Uppercuts. Cobb hit a back suplex for a nearfall at 3:00. Sabre applied a Dragon Sleeper, then back to a cross-armbreaker, and he tied up Cobb on the mat.
Sabre hit some Yes Kicks to the chest. Cobb set up for Spin Cycle, but Sabre applied a sleeper, so Cobb fell backward to escape at 6:00. Sabre hit a German Suplex and two running penalty kicks for a nearfall. Cobb hit a belly-to-belly overhead release suplex, then a modiied O’Connor Roll, then a Spin Cycle; Sabre tried to escape to the floor, but Cobb grabbed him and hit a German Suplex. Cobb set up for Tour of the Islands, but Sabre reversed it and got a Crucifix Bomb takedown for the pin! That finish came out of nowhere. Really good match.
* Sabre stopped at the English commentary table and spoke into the mic to Kevin Kelly, saying, “He’s just too strong. I haven’t been dropped anytime recently. What gets me through is mental tekkers.”
* A reminder that Aussie Open have vacated the tag titles, so the next match is for the belts.
5. “Bishamon” Yoshi-Hashi & Hirooki Goto defeated “United Empire” Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare and “House of Torture” EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi (w/Dick Togo) to win the IWGP Tag Titles at 14:20. The HoT attacked UE as UE walked to the ring. The bell finally sounded more than a minute after first contact. In the ring, UE worked over Goto. Everyone was brawling in and out of the ring. Togo hit Yoshi-Hashi with a chair at 3:30. In the ring, Goto hit a double bulldog on HoT. On the floor, EVIL whipped Goto into the guardrail at 6:00. In the ring, EVIL and Yujiro worked over Henare.
O-Khan hit a head-capture suplex on Yujiro. Henare hit a jumping knee on EVIL for a believable nearfall. UE hit double Mafia Kicks on Yujiro at 8:00, then front-and-back clotheslines on Yujiro. UE hit a team slam on Yujiro for a believable nearfall, but Togo pulled the ref from the ring. Sho ran into the ring and hit a low blow on O-Khan. All of the HoT beat down Goto. EVIL and Togo hit the Magic Killer team slam on Goto for a believable nearfall at 10:00. Yoh came to ringside and pulled Sho from the ring; Yoh is dressed like a skateboarder and Kelly mentioned Darby Allin. (FB2 match?)
Henare hit his football tackle on Goto. Yujiro hit the Pimp Juice jumping DDT on Goto for a believable nearfall. He set up for a second one but Goto blocked it. EVIL tried to hit a low blow on O-Khan, but GOK blocked it. Goto hit a Doomsday Bulldog on Yujiro. Bishamon then hit the Shoto team slam, with Goto pinning Yujiro. A really good fast-paced match. No one wanted to see HoT win, and I really thought they had won after Yujiro’s Pimp Juice.
* Music played and the screen showed a video for the “Bullet Club War Dogs.” Out of the back came Gabriel Kidd and Alex Coughlin! The commentary team was shocked they too have now joined Bullet Club. They beat up Goto and Yoshi-Hashi and left. Intriguing segment, as NJPW continues to jumpstart new feuds here.
* Time for the G1-Climax news! The competitors are, in order they were announced: Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Will Ospreay, Hiroshi Tanahashi, David Finlay, Shota Umino, Shingo Takagi, Tomohiro Ishii, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Hikuleo, Hirooki Goto, Yoshi-Hashi, Toru Yano, Kenta, Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi, Eddie Kingston, El Phantasmo, Ren Narita, EVIL, Chase Owens, Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan, Aaron Henare, Gabriel Kidd, Alex Coughlin, Shane Haste, Mikey Nicholls, Yota Tsuji, Kaito Kiyomiya.
Vetter’s Quick Reaction: The crowd popped for Kaito’s announcement. Kingston being in G1 has to be a dream come true. The other big news is that Tanga Loa is healthy and back; he’s been out a full year with a knee injury. I am also glad to see Ishii in the field, as there were rumors he wasn’t going to return this year. So, we have 32 in this year’s field, up from 28 last year. Presumably that means we have four Blocks of eight wrestlers, so everyone will have seven tournament actions. (I prefer this; let wrestlers have more days off between Block matches.) Of last year’s field, not returning are: Bad Luck Fale, Tom Lawlor, Lance Archer, Jonah, Jay White, and Juice Robinson.
6. David Finlay (w/Gedo, Coughlin, Kidd, Connors, Moloney) defeated El Phantasmo to retain the NEVER Openweight Title at 18:57. ELP came out first; Finlay came out with his entourage, but then he charged into the ring, and they immediately brawled to the floor. ELP hit an incredible springboard splash over the guardrail and onto Finlay, who was standing near the fans. Finlay threw ELP head-first into the ring post at 4:00. They fought on the ring apron, and ELP set up for the CR2/modified Styles Clash, but Finlay escaped, and they got into the ring. Kidd stopped at the commentary booth and said Finlay is the most dominant leader in Bullet Club history. Finlay hit a snap suplex at 7:00 and slowed the match down with a headlock on the mat.
ELP tied Finlay in the Tree of Woe and he stoo on Finlay’s groin. Phantasmo hit a tornado DDT for a nearfall at 12:00. He repeatedly stomped on Finlay in the corner. Finlay dropped him face-first on the top rope, then he hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker over the knee at 14:00. Finlay nailed a Dominator/face-first slam for a believable nearfall. ELP fired back with a Sudden Death superkick for a nearfall. ELP hit a top-rope flip dive onto the Bullet Club. He climbed to the top again, but Finlay shoved him to the floor. Finlay then powerbombed Phantasmo through a table set up at ringside at 18:00. Finlay rolled Phantasmo in the ring, hit the Trash Panda neckbreaker over his knee, and made a cocky, lazy cover for the pin.
* Finlay taunted Shingo Takagi, who was at ringside on Japanese commentary.
7. Hiromu Takahashi defeated Master Wato to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title at 19:49. Wato carried his BoSJ trophy. Hiromu wore his ‘octopus space alien’ jacket. These two were in opposite Blocks during the tournament so they didn’t have a match there. Wato dropped him with a shoulder tackle and a dropkick. They went to the floor, where Hiromu whipped Wato into a guardrail at 2:00. Hiromu hit his running shotgun dropkick off the ring apron to the floor; in the ring he got a nearfall. Hiromu hit a basement dropkick. They fought back to the floor and up the entrance ramp. Hiromu nailed a snap suplex on the ramp at 4:00.
Wato got back into the ring before being counted out, but Hiromu was still in charge, hitting some loud chops. Wato hit a flip dive to the floor. In the ring, Wato took control, and he went for the Vendival head submission hold, but Hiromu scrambled to the ropes at 7:30. Hiromu hit a Falcon Arrow slam. Wato applied Vendival, but Hiromu eventually reached the ropes at 10:00. Wato hit a corkscrew plancha to the floor. In the ring, Wato went for a springboard diving forearm, but Hiromu ducked it, and they were both down on the mat. Hiromu hit a shotgun dropkick into the corner, then the Dynamite Plunger sideslam for a believable nearfall at 12:00.
Wato hit a Tombstone Piledriver for a nearfall. Wato hit his double-arm Mousetrap slam for a believable nearfall at 14:00, then a German Suplex with a bridge for a nearfall. He went back to Vendival in the center of the ring, with Hiromu finally reaching the ropes at 16:30. Wato caught Hiromu with a spin kick to the head, then a German Suplex with a bridge for a beleivable nearfall. He went for another Mousetrap, but Hiromu avoided it. Hiromu hit a pair of superkicks. Hiromu set up for Time Bomb, but Wato escaped. Hiromu hit Time Bomb 2 for a believable nearfall at 19:00. “This crowd has come alive!” Gambino said. Hiromu hit the Time Bomb 2 for the pin. That was fantastic, and I actually expected Wato (coming off his run in BoSJ) to win this one.
8. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, and Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Jon Moxley, Claudi Castagnoli, and Shota Umino to retain the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag titles at 20:35. Castagnoli made it in time! He wore his ROH title. Kelly said his best advice is that “be so late that when you finally arrive, everyone is happy to see you.” Moxley’s team entered through the crowd. The commentary team agreed this match doesn’t even need titles on the line. Claudio and Tanahashi started with an intense lockup, and Claudio hit a European Uppercut in the corner. Hiroshi hit a twisting crossbody block.
Moxley and Ishii entered and traded shoulder tackles. Okada’s team hit basement dropkicks and cleared the ring, and we are back to Claudio-Hiroshi, and they traded forearm shots. Claudio hit a backbreaker over his knee. Shota tagged in at 3:00; he shoved Okada, who was on the ring apron, so Okada tagged in, and they immediately brawled to the floor, with Okada whipping Shota into a guardrail. Shota shoved Okada into the ring post, then he sent Okada into the guardrail. Shota hit him with a table and he did a Moxley-style strut.
In the ring, Moxley hit some Yes Kicks on Okada. Castagnoli hit a gut-wrench suplex on Okada for a nearfall at 5:30. “It is bizarre and surreal to see this happen,” Gambino said. Moxley applied a half-crab, but Ishii made the save. Moxley hit a Hart Attack Clothesline on Okada at 7:30. Tanahashi hit a basement dropkick on Claudio’s knee, and he dropped Shota with a punch. Hiroshi hit a dragon screw leg whip on Claudio. Ishii tagged in at 9:30 and battled Claudio for the first time, hitting a brainbuster. Ishii dropped Moxley with a blow, then Shota, before turning back to fighting Claudio. Claudio hit his Waterfall/reverse Angle Slam.
Moxley hit a series of punches on Ishii in the corner, then bit his forehead. Moxley hit a double clothesline at 11:30, then a piledriver on Ishii for a nearfall, but Tanahashi made the save. Moxley hit his elbow strikes to the side of Ishii’s head and a clothesline for a nearfall. Ishii fired back with a back suplex, but Moxley hopped up and they traded clotheslines, and Moxley hit a headbutt, then a Rollins-style Stomp on Ishii’s head for a nearfall. Really good action here. “You expected it to be wild, but this is another level,” Gambino said. Moxley is bleeding from his forehead after that headbutt. Moxley set up for Death Rider, but Ishii blocked it. Ishii hit a basement sliding dropkick on Moxley for a nearfall at 14:30.
Moxley hit a stunner but Ishii hopped up and hit a clothesline, and they both collapsed. (The 15:00 clock was right on.) Shota and Okada got in, and Okada hit a shotgun dropkick, and he applied the Money Clip sleeperhold, but Shota reached the ropes. Okada playfully, disrespectfully slapped him in the back of the head. Shota fired back with a dropkick. Claudio did the Giant Swing on Okada, with the crowd (I presume) counting along in Japanese. It was perhaps 15 rotations. Shota hit a standing powerbomb for a believable nearfall. Moxley dove through the ropes to the floor, and we’re back to just Shota and Okada in the ring again. Shota set up for the Death Rider double-arm DDT, but Okada blocked it. Okada hit the dropkick at 18:00.
Shota avoided the Rainmaker and he hit a Death Rider for a believable nearfall. Tanahashi hit a Sling Blade clothesline on Shota. Ishii hit a German Suplex on Moxley. Okada hit an assisted DDT for a believable nearfall on Umino at 19:30. Okada and Umino stood nose-to-nose and traded blows; Charlton said Okada shouted “Just try it.” Okada avoided the Death Rider and he hit the Rainmaker short-arm clothesline for the clean pin on Umino. That was just fantastic. I get it; you want the world title match last… but just like AEW’s Double or Nothing… this match should have been last.
* Moxley got on the mic. He said the BCC are the best wrestlers in the world. They played a video on the screen. We saw Bryan Danielson climbing a mountain in a desert. Danielson challenged Okada, saying, “in the desert, there will be no rain.” Okada got on the mic and said he would share a ring with Danielson. “I can make it rain anywhere,” he said. “The Forbidden Door will be open.” Kelly said “the Forbidden Door has been busted at the hinges.”
* A video package aired for the main event, including footage from the press conference I hadn’t seen, where Yota Tsuji announced he was joining Los Ingobernobles de Japon.
9. Sanada (w/Just 5 Guys) defeated Yota Tsuji (w/Los Ingobernobles de Japon) to retain the IWGP World Championship at 16:59. Shota wore shiny red pants with tassels around his boots. They opened with an intense lockup, and Tsuji has a slight height advantage, and appears to have an overall size advantage too. Tsuji ran at the ropes and did a backflip over the top rope to the floor at 3:00. WOW, and the crowd went nuts. In the ring, Sanada applied a Skull End dragon sleeper. Sanada went for a top-rope moonsault, but Tsuji got his knees up, and they were both down at 5:30.
They got up and traded hard chops and forearms, and Tsuji hit a backbreaker over his knee, then he applied a Boston Crab in the center of the ring, and he turned it into a pendulum, before dropping Sanada to the mat. He hit a modified Cop Killah backslide driver for a nearfall at 8:30. However, Tsuji missed a top-rope moonsault. Sanada hit a dropkick, sending Yota to the floor. Sanada hit a plancha to the floor at 10:30. In the ring, Yota hit a superkick and they were both down. They got up and traded LOUD chops. Yota hit a flipping powerbomb for a nearfall at 14:00.
They fought on the ropes in the corner, and Tsuji hit a Spanish Fly for a believable nearfall. Sanada went for his Deadfall/Jay White-style Blade Runner swinging faceplant, but Yota avoided it. Yota hit a Rollins-style Stomp for a believable nearfall at 16:00. This crowd was LOUD. Tsuji went for a spear, but Sanada hit a dropkick, then a top-rope moonsault, then a Shining Wizard, then the Deadfall for the pin. What a great match.
* Sanada got on the mic and told him to put in the work, get some results, and then you can challenge him again. Sanada vowed he would win G1 Climax and he would chose his challenger for Wrestle Kingdom. Taichi indicated it would be him; funny exchange. The confetti cannon went off to cover Sanada in golden streamers.
Final Thoughts: That six-man tag was epic and everything you could hope for. They could have gone twice as long and nobody would have minded one bit. Sanada-Tsuji was tremendous for second-best. I know there are many comparisons you could go with, but I thought of John Cena-Kevin Owens when Owens debuted… the crowd knew who Tsuji was from his Young Lion run, but most didn’t know what he is capable of doing, and what are his specialty moves. Point being, there was a lot of mystery over what he could do. Hiromu-Wato was really good for third place.
This was a tremendous show. Even the two matches that clocked in under 10 minutes were really impressive. Archer pulled out some big moves on the big stage. Cobb-Sabre felt like they could easily go to another draw, until Sabre pulled out that pin out of nowhere.
Wow, I loved having Gino Gambino in the booth. Not only does he provide good insight, I love having a Jesse Ventura-style heel trying to rationalize heel actions.