NJPW Dominion – July 12, 2020

Howdy!

In what I’m going to say is the first big-time, PPV-level card with actual fans in attendance, welcome to Dominion! Tonight, Tetsuya Naito defends the IWGP titles against LIJ turncoat EVIL, with both the NEVER openweight and Heavyweight tag belts on the line as well!

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

Dominion, for those that are new in class, is one of NJPW’s premier events. One could liken it to their Summerslam, it was touch and go when it came to whether or not it would take place this year. NJPW decided to pair it with the New Japan Cup and turn it into an entire few weeks of action, albeit a few weeks later than normal, as Dominion traditionally takes place in mid-to-late June with a few exceptions. The most famous match from the last few years of Dominion is probably the 2/3 Falls match between Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada.

Alrighty. When last we left our heroes, EVIL had just won the New Japan Cup and turned on Naito to join the Bullet Club, making their title match far more personal than we thought it was. Meanwhile, the Suzuki-Gun team of Zack Sabre Jr & Taichi had spent most of their tournament torturing the tag team champions, Kota Ibushi & Hiroshi Tanahashi, targeting the knee of the veteran Tanahashi and laying down a challenge for the straps. And after an upset in a killer match in the New Japan Cup, Roppongi 3K member SHO is set to take on NEVER openweight champ Shingo Takagi in the battle two guys who seemingly never have a bad match with each other. 

Let’s get this thing started! As a few people told me last time, less PBP on the undercard tags was appreciated, so I shall continue to shamelessly rob the style of Ioan Morris and keep it as concise as possible until we get to the main events today. But when we get to the main matches, settle in, because it’s gonna be the Okada match of reviews at that point. 

So you can just skip to the star ratings for those, then.

Tomoaki Honma/Togi Makabe/Gabriel Kidd vs Yuji Nagata/Ryusuke Taguchi/Satoshi Kojima

The vets jerk the curtain with our usual Young Lion as the proverbial red shirt. I actually have a soft spot for Kojima, as I’ve always been a fan of the chops and his lariat. Match is fine, if mostly pedestrian, as Nagata taps out Kidd with the crossface. (Nagata/Taguchi/Kojima over Honma/Makabe/Kidd, submission, 9:26)

THOUGHTS: **

Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI) vs CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano) & Yota Tsuji

Poor Hiromu. He actually got across how sad he was during this match over everything that has happened to LIJ. 3 guesses as to who did the job here and the first two don’t count. Fun spot as SANADA puts a Paradise Lock on Yano using the bottom rope, then puts one on Tsuji, positioning him to headbutt Yano off the dropkick. I maintain, as usual, that the Paradise Lock is the People’s Elbow of New Japan. Tsuji ended up getting one of the closest nearfalls I’ve seen in awhile on Hiromu, but the upset is not to be as Takahashi submits him with the Boston Crab soon after. Fun match. (LIJ over CHAOS/Tsuji, submission, 10:15)

THOUGHTS: **3/4

Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, DOUKI) vs Hyoroshi Tenzan/Master Wato/Yuya Uemura

WATO TIME~!!

*Ahem* I know this is not a bold statement in the year of our Lord 2020; Tenzan should not be wrestling, but if he has to, burying him in these tags is fine, I suppose. He’s got a lot of mobility issues because his ankles are just shot. With them wanting to heat up Desperado for later on in the show, he gets to win this one with the Pinche Loco on Uemura. Fine with me, I like Despy quite a bit. (Suzuki-Gun over Tenzan/Wato/Uemura, pinfall, 9:45)

THOUGHTS: **1/2

Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, Taiji Ishimori) vs CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada)

Man, I thought it was a joke when I heard that they were setting up Okada and Takahashi to feud. Hell, maybe Okada can elevate him? I’ve seen weirder things.

(Pause) I don’t know if the previous sentences should be considered a spoiler on the main event or not.

Anyway, match is a pretty normal tag. GEDO comes out to choke Okada outside the ring and leave Goto alone with Taiji and Yujiro, and that ends with a Bloody Cross into the Pimp Juice DDT to finish Hirooki. Post-match, Okada takes the Pimp Juice as well with Takahashi leaving him laying. (Bullet Club over CHAOS, pinfall, 9:43)

THOUGHTS: **1/4

Post-match, they disinfect the ring, which I’ve found out is something they have to do every hour, so that’s why sometimes there’s one break, sometimes there’s two. 

Okay, enough of this. Let’s get to the stuff we came to see. 

 

Shingo Takagi (C) vs SHO – NEVER Openweight title match

YES! INJECT IT INTO MY VEINS!! As usual, we start with them just trying to out-manly the other, as they run into each other with shoulders over and over again until SHO finally puts Shingo down first. SHO goes for the armbar, but Shingo makes the ropes quickly and takes a breather. SHO to the apron with a penalty kick, and he just decides “fuck it, why wait?” and goes for a German suplex on the apron. Takagi blocks it with elbows, so SHO sweeps his leg and dropkicks him back to the floor. Shingo is angered by this treatment and takes over on the floor, whipping SHO into the barricades. Back in, a suplex gets two. 

They exchange kicks that looked beyond stiff, then slug it out until Shingo drops SHO with a double chop. Spear by SHO is blocked into a DDT by Shingo, who comes off the ropes for the sliding lariat, avoided by SHO, spear by SHO! SHO with a stiff lariat and rolling Germans, into a bridging one for 2. Shingo back with a lariat that would have killed most mortals, then a snap Saito suplex for two. Another one, but SHO lurches up, complete with pinwheeling arms, and snaps off a German before falling over. Tremendous. 

They drop each other with clotheslines, and SHO just kicks Shingo in the head. Simple, nasty, and effective. They slug it out and then, in one of my favorite parts of the match, instead of throwing forearms at each other, they just dare the other to throw their best lariat, and they stand in front of it, taking the full-force brunt. THESE ARE REAL MEN, DAMNIT. SHO eventually hits Shingo with a high knee, but Shingo spins around coming off the ropes and clobbers SHO down with a lariat. Sliding lariat by Shingo into a Gory Bomb gets two. 

SHO comes back with a pop-up powerbomb, then hits a Last Ride onto the knees. SHO off the ropes, GIANT lariat drops Shingo! Cover, Shingo kicks out at one! Oh, fasten your motherfucking seatbelts, kids. Deadlift German with a bridge from SHO! 1, 2, no! Shingo escapes Shock Arrow, so SHO just clobbers him in the back of the head, then dares Shingo to take his shot. The Dragon fires away, no effect on SHO! SHO just nails Shingo with strikes as Shingo starts to fade, then clotheslines against the ropes, SHO off the ropes, they clothesline each other! No one goes down! Shingo hoists SHO up, Made in Japan by Shingo! 1, 2, NO! 

Shingo signals that he’s done with this shit, and winds up all the way back to last Tuesday, HUGE PUMPING BOMBER HITS! SHO KICKS OUT AT ONE!! Last of the Dragon attempt, SHO counters into a sleeper, then an armbar on the mat! Shingo tries to escape, SHO turns it into a straightjacket piledriver! 1, 2, NO! SHO comes off the ropes, back into the armbar, Shingo rolls him over for two, SHO kicks out but keeps the armbar on! SHO converts that to a triangle, Shingo escapes, Death Valley Driver by Takagi! SHO back up and firing strikes! Shingo with a headbutt to drop both guys! SHO misses a kick, Shingo hangs him up in the ropes, GTR by Takagi! Last of the Dragon by Takagi! 1, 2, 3!!! (Shingo Takagi over SHO, pinfall, 20:10)

THOUGHTS: ****1/2. I initially had it 1/4 off the the full monty, but I rewatched it and I just cannot pick amongst their matches together, so I decided on 4.5. There are a few minor, minor issues that are basically cosmetic, but they aren’t worth mentioning. The match was a fast-paced, strong style contest with these two just stiffing the shit out of each other, then selling like nuts to get it over. The comebacks, the pacing, the timing – these two have it all. I hope they fight again and again and again. 

Post-match, El Desperado attacks Shingo at the entranceway. Looks like that match against Ishii put some starch in his trousers!

Yeah, I’m old. 

Anyway, he holds up the NEVER title and clocks Shingo with it, so I assume Shingo will have something to say about that. 

The Golden Aces (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi) (C) vs Suzuki-Gun (Zack Sabre Jr & Taichi) – IWGP Tag team title match

Man, how much do I want to see Sabre with a title in NJPW that I’m actively rooting for anything involving Taichi? I must be on drugs. These two teams have been going at each other throughout the entire New Japan Cup in various combos, with Suzuki-Gun targeting the knee of Tanahashi at every opportunity. They’ve built it up sufficiently that it’s arguably the most-hyped IWGP tag title match in a long time, to the point where they’re up right before the main. I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the “Thank you for waiting” message on the canvas that’s very visible when Hiroshi comes out could very well be applied right back at New Japan, and I appreciate that they did. 

Pier-six brawl to start, instigated by Tanahashi after some jawjacking with Taichi. The champs haven’t even taken off their belts as Tanahashi stomps away on Taichi in the corner. The most beautiful babyfaces in any land clear the ring of Suzuki-Gun, then hit stereo planchas onto them on the outside. Back in now, Tanahashi gets tossed after an Ibushi tag. Ibushi makes a go of it for a bit, but ZSJ taunts him into a kick, caught by ZSJ into the kneebar, and now school is in session. ZSJ cranks on it, Ibushi makes the ropes, ZSJ drags Ibushi back to the heel corner and tags in Taichi, who comes in with his usual dazzling offense. 

Ibushi finally escapes with an impossibly high dropkick and tags in Tana, who doles out dragon-screw legwhips for everyone! He dominates until ZSJ hits him with a cheap shot and Taichi….chokes him with a rope. You know, maybe I don’t want this for Zack. At least, not enough to watch this nonsense, as Tacihi drags Tana to the floor and chokes him with a cable. On the other hand, it does give Hiroshi the chance to play sympathetic babyface, which he does better than anyone. And play it he does, as the heels just beat on him forever. Finally, he manages to avoid a kick from ZSJ and it’s hot tag Ibushi. 

Kota destroys both guys and moonsaults ZSJ for two. Zack frees himself and tags in Taichi, setting up the Taichi/Ibushi kick battle. Said kick battle is, of course, excellent as kicks are the thing that Taichi can do well. He really should have been a Rockette. ZSJ and Taichi put the faces in submission holds, but that gets broken as Ibushi and Tana escape and drop Suzuki-Gun with doubleteams. Ibushi with the Kamigoye to Taichi, but tries for a second one as ZSJ breaks that up by tackling Ibushi with a sleeper. Last Ride from Taichi gets two on Ibushi. Taichi superkick is blocked by Ibushi, who hits one of his own to put both guys on the mat. 

Tag to Tanahashi, who comes in and drops both heels, but he misses a Sling Blade and Taichi hits a jumping kick to put him down. Tag to ZSJ and he comes in and slaps Tana in the face with palm strikes, so Tana hits Zack once and Zack falls over like he’s been shot. I never get tired of ZSJ arrogantly picking a striking fight and losing. It amuses me so. Twist and Shout by Tana into a Sling Blade, but Taichi breaks it up. High Fly Flow from Tana on Zack, but Tana pops up right into a Taichi superkick, and Ibushi takes the Zack Driver and everyone is down. Tana recovers first and hits a Sling Blade on ZSJ. Tana goes up, but the High Fly Flow hits the knees and ZSJ rolls him over for two. 

Taichi brings in the iron fingers because the match was threatening to go from ‘very good’ to ‘great’ and Taichi can’t allow that. He clocks Ibushi with them, but Hiroshi avoids it and drops Taichi as ZSJ has taken the ref. Taichi comes back with a high angle Saito suplex, then grabs Tanahashi as ZSJ dragon-screws each leg twice while Taichi forces Tanahashi to stand, which is awesome. Then ZSJ does it four more times just to be a dick as Tanahashi screams in agony. Taichi and ZSJ stand over Tanahashi, who finally manages to stand on his feet…..and promptly gets destroyed, as a Superkick/Zack Driver combo finishes Tanahashi clean in the middle for the straps. Great finish. (Suzuki-Gun over Hiroshi Tanahashi/Kota Ibushi, pinfall, 28:45)

THOUGHTS: ***3/4. I’ve seen a ton of praise on the net for this match, and I guess I just don’t get it. It was very good, but for me it never quite turned the corner into great. There was a lot of bullshit from Taichi, and I don’t think you can possibly argue that the match really used ZSJ to his full potential and utilized his full skill set. But that having been said, the match was still very good in a lot of spots and Ibushi and Tana really went out there to make Sabre and Taichi just look like the better team, at least on a certain level. Overall, there wasn’t anything really WRONG here, but I also know I’ll probably never watch it again. The finishing sequence, though, was fantastic as it made ZSJ and Taichi look like the most sadistic motherfuckers on earth, but also made them look like the most dangerous motherfuckers on earth. Sometimes you see matches forget the latter, and only focus on the former, yet in this case they got both over. 

Taichi and ZSJ beat up Ibushi after the match and stack his lifeless corpse on Tana. 

Time to take another cleaning break.

Main event time! EVIL had been one of the most loyal LIJ soldiers there was, sticking with Naito since the beginning – but now, he’s thrown his lot in with the Bullet Club. Simple betrayal, as one guy wants what the other has, namely the two big belts. 

Tetsuya Naito (C)x2 vs EVIL – IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental title match

EVIL comes out with brand-new entrance music and a new look, as gone is the robe and the scythe. Apparently LIJ got to keep them in the divorce. His hair is down around his face and his dark eye makeup is gone. Naito comes out and, as usual, is phenomenal at selling the emotion of the moment he’s in. He closes his eyes briefly twice, really looking like he doesn’t want to do this, but makes his way to the ring anyway. Red Shoes won’t start the match until the Bullet Club leaves, even going so far as to threaten to DQ EVIL off the jump unless GEDO and the boys take a hike. 

Which they do, and we start proper. EVIL immediately bails and stalls outside the ring for the first minute, so Naito hits a baseball slide dropkick to send him to the railing. Naito is good and pissed off, tossing EVIL from railing to railing and hitting a dropkick on the floor. Back in with a cravat, but EVIL fires back and sends Naito to the floor now, wrapping his knee around the railing and prepping a table. EVIL over to Milano Collection A.T. now…..he breaks Milano’s imitation EVIL scythe! Hey, where’s he gonna get another one of those now that you’ve changed your gimmick, you son of a bitch? But he isn’t done, as Milano is so enraged that EVIL broke his toy that they surely don’t have hundreds of still in NJPW warehouses that Milano jumps the barricade and gets in EVIL’s face! EVIL sends Milano to the barricade now as the crowd lets EVIL know that he’s EVIL. 

Back in, EVIL removes the turnbuckle cover, sending Naito into it, then goes to work on the knee. Now, I think Naito is a really great babyface, actually, who sells the emotion of the match really well, but I’m not sure that he’s a great sympathetic babyface. They’re not the same thing – Naito is, frankly, a dick. He pulls hair, he spits on people, rakes the eyes, yet he gets over as a face due to his incredible charisma and the fact that he comes off like the coolest guy in there most of the time. He’s a great arrogant babyface, a great defiant babyface, but sympathetic? Not so much. So I’m not sure that this is working, at least for me. After getting cut off a few times, Naito makes a comeback. He controls for a bit, but EVIL comes back after Naito misses an enzuigiri and slams Naito’s knee into the mat to put a stop to that. 

EVIL to the apron, where he tries to take Naito off the apron knee-first, but Naito reverses that to a neckbreaker on the apron. Naito wants a piledriver from the apron through the table, but EVIL blocks that by going to the eyes, then takes Naito knee-first through the table! He wraps a chair around Naito’s leg and prepares to smash it, but Red Shoes has had enough and jumps down, grabbing a piece of the table to block EVIL from hitting Naito! Yes, he could just DQ him, but where would the fun be in that? Naito is in agony on the floor, but he manages to barely beat the count back in at 19.

EVIL puts Naito in a Scorpion Deathlock now, and I’m going to just say this here: based on what they wanted from this match, on how they wanted to elevate EVIL, Naito should have submitted here. It would have put EVIL over huge and Naito loses nothing after being put through the table and still managing to roll back in to face his fate, plus we’re at 20+ minutes in the match already. Gives EVIL a new finisher and he looks like the sadist that will take your knee apart to win. But Naito makes the ropes and we keep going. EVIL laughs at Naito’s pain, and Naito once again has facial expressions that are just spectacular, really conveying more than just “I’m in physical pain”, going all the way to “I can’t believe that you, my friend, would delight in my misery this much”. He really is an outstanding professional wrestler.

EVIL ramps up a bit now. Lariat gets two. Darkness Falls gets two. Everything is Evil gets blocked and Naito gets a modified Destino to buy some time. They slug it out and Naito hits the tornado DDT and Gloria for two. 30 minutes in now and Naito ‘ranas EVIL off the top rope. Destino hits….for two. At this point when I was watching this for the first time, I started to get a feeling right here. Second attempt is blocked and Naito gets sent into Red Shoes for the ref bump that we all knew was coming. And the camera IMMEDIATELY goes wide as we see JADO strolling towards the ring. Man, that’s some WCW NWO-era shit right there. Then, in a bit I admittedly found funny, while JADO is still waddling towards the ring, Taiji Ishimori sprints past him and leaps into the ring to take out Naito while JADO keeps walking at his leisurely pace, never breaking stride. 

JADO finally reaches the ring, but Hiromu sprints in for the save to take out both Bullet Club members! Naito gets back to his feet and goes for EVIL, but EVIL has a chair and cracks him over the head with it. Red Shoes is finally back in the ring as Everything is Evil gets blocked and Naito flapjacks EVIL into the top of the corner pad. Scorpion Deathdrop by Naito out of the corner gets two. Naito goes for Destino, but EVIL grabs the ref to block it and mule kicks Naito in the Destinos as BUSHI makes his way to ringside. You know, BUSHI looks a little…..different than he normally does. 

BUSHI claps his hands, trying to will Naito to his feet…..where he clocks Naito in the face! BUSHI reaches into his pocket and pulls out a garrote, since we’re apparently going full-on Godfather up in this house, and chokes Naito with it as Red Shoes checks on EVIL. BUSHI distracts the ref now, Greco-Roman stomp to the balls by EVIL! Man, I’m done with this shit. Let’s just get it over with. And EVIL apparently heard me, as he hits Everything is Evil and that’s going to give us a new champ(s). (EVIL over Tetsuya Naito, pinfall, 38:02)

THOUGHTS: **3/4. Length does not equal a great title match, and I have a lot more to say about that below. Regardless, this entire thing was an overbooked mess of run-ins, ref bumps, filler, and Naito trying his best to sell like crazy to put EVIL over. I’m not sure it worked, but I have more to say about that below as well. Suffice to say, this was the most underwhelming IWGP title match I’ve seen in a very long time, and that isn’t a reflection on the workers as much as it is on the match layout and choices in booking here. 

Post-match, BUSHI unmasks(?)….ah, I see, it’s DICK MOTHERFUCKING TOGO. Well, I’m more than behind that. Dick Togo takes me back to my nascent days in my dorm room, watching Michinoku Pro matches from Jack Epstein comps. They beat on Naito more after the match until Hiromu comes down for the save. I will say this – they have done an a-one, fantastic job of getting Takahashi over as a legit threat to the heavyweights and a main event guy in the span of the last few weeks. Naito is carried out as Hiromu lays down the challenge to EVIL for both of his titles, or just one if EVIL is too scared to put them both on the line. EVIL and Togo walk away, and that’ll do it.

Okay, that’s the end of show, you’ve got my star ratings and thoughts on the matches, for what’s that worth. What follows is long and is an attempt to do a deep dive into a few topics on NJPW that I think are worthy of discussion in light of this show. Skip it if you desire, but I’d appreciate any comments/discussion on these topics if y’all are interested, because I think they’re worth discussing. 

1. THE IWGP TITLE MATCH STYLE AND LENGTH:

A few years ago, KUSHIDA lost his IWGP Junior Heavyweight title to Hiromu Takahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 11. He challenged Takahashi to a rematch at Sakura Genesis, in a highly-hyped rematch. It was built as the co-main event to the show…..and KUSHIDA was defeated in 116 seconds by Takahashi in a dominant performance that no one saw coming.

If I may be so bold…..we need a KUSHIDA/Hiromu for the IWGP heavyweight title.

As I was watching the main event for the second time to review it, I saw opinions online that were very critical of the match time. I believe that this criticism has merit, and I’d like to take a brief look at some numbers here. I decided to go back to the beginning of Okada’s record-breaking reign to try to ascertain some stats on IWGP title matches over the last few years. 

That gives us a date range of June 19, 2016 (Okada regaining the title from Naito at Dominion) to now, which is a 4-year span. In that time period, the IWGP title has been defended on 29 separate occasions, with 24 of those 29 matches going at least 30+ minutes. That’s an astounding 82.76% of IWGP title matches. 

Now, that isn’t inherently BAD, per se, but the key is that the main event ‘style’ of NJPW is to have long, involved matches that go for extended periods of time, and that may not be best for all workers or styles or even for the stories trying to be told. For all complaints about the WWE main event style and its homogenization in North America (And I do find these complaints to be completely legitimate), New Japan is just as guilty of that same problem in certain aspects of its structure. There is absolutely no reason that EVIL and Naito had to go 38 minutes tonight to tell the story of that match, except that New Japan’s main event style dictated that it be so. And that’s an issue, because they had to fill and fill and fill in a match that needed to be much more concise in its storytelling.

We were spoiled by the Okada/Omega/Tanahashi trinity of guys who could lay out matches in a way that kept the attention of the audience but also created a specific type of epic storytelling feel that they could go out there for 45 minutes to an hour to tell their story and it worked because of the wrestlers involved. That doesn’t mean that everyone can or should do that style absent one of those guys in there to anchor the parts of the match that need it. 

Go back and watch the first Okada/Omega match from WK. Really watch it, and you can see the transitions, the selling, the pacing, it was all designed by guys who knew how to shape the peaks and valleys of the match to keep the attention of the audience through those ebbs and flows. They threw enough big beats in at various points in the match that you don’t get bored watching it, because the audience needs to catch it’s breath after different sequences make them pop. That wasn’t present in this match – they tried for it, but it didn’t work. 

And again, this really isn’t on the wrestlers – this is, to me, a symptom of the New Japan main event style, and the workers that are being asked to work it aren’t always suited to do so. It doesn’t mean that either Naito or EVIL are incapable of working this match with the right partner – in fact, both have worked **** and higher with the right opponent in long matches before. But they weren’t right to do this match with each other at this point in time and their careers, and that is something that should have been recognized before they were sent out there in the first place. 

2. EVIL? Really? EVIL?

Okay, so there was also quite a bit of virtual ink spilled on the subject of EVIL as the IWGP double champion. It seemed to range from “Well, GEDO is a genius, so….” to “GEDO has clearly lost his damn mind”. 

Okay, so let’s look at those two possibilities. 

A) GEDO is a genius. Well, there’s a case to be made that this is true. GEDO has been a great booker for the last several years in NJPW, I don’t think there’s a lot of question about that. You can make an argument in favor of almost every decision that he’s made, and if EVIL is his new project, then there’s a case to be made that he’s earned the benefit of the doubt. The comparison that I’ve seen most is Jay White, who came back from excursion in what could be generously be described as an ‘underwhelming’ re-debut against Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom, but developed into arguably the best heel in the business, partially because GEDO doggedly stuck with him, putting him over for the title, putting him in main events, having him take over the Bullet Club. He gave Jay the chance and didn’t give up on him, and Jay responded by rising to the challenge and justifying GEDO’s faith in that decision. At least, to me. I know that there are folks out there that don’t like Jay. But either way, he IS over where they want him to be, and part of that is that GEDO saw something that others didn’t. Perhaps this is the same case, that there’s a plan for EVIL that extends beyond GEDO having to deal with a depleted roster – regardless, GEDO has a track record that suggests he can make this work.

On the other hand…..

B) GEDO has clearly lost his damn mind. EVIL isn’t Jay White, because he’s been in the NJPW midcard for 5 years, while Jay was barely in the NJPW midcard before he got shot into main events. EVIL has been a costume character, with the scythe and the robe and that getup, and rebranding him may prove to be more difficult than GEDO thinks. EVIL has most assuredly had shots at the main event over the last 5 years and, to be frank, most of those efforts have been met with a resounding ‘meh’ from the fanbase. He’s not as fresh a face as they think he is; he’s the NJPW equivalent of Jinder Mahal to a certain extent, a midcarder that was anointed as the next champ. The choices that they made to elevate him will backfire because New Japan fans are different and the cheap heat isn’t serving to get him over as much as it’s making him look like a total fluke as opposed to a legitimate threat and champ. Because of that, he’ll be rejected as a main eventer. 

Me? I’m somewhere in the middle here. I don’t know if this is going to work, but I don’t normally doubt GEDO. That having been said, there is a very real storyline with LIJ, the faction that comes off as the coolest kids in the room, having to actually band together and fight up from betrayal, something that is unique to them as a challenge. We’ve already seen a bit of it with Hiromu and his emotional reaction to the turn, and if they follow that up with SANADA and Shingo later, they’ve got a real shot at getting this over as a big deal. I don’t know if that works to get EVIL over as much as it gives us a good storyline, but I can live with at least getting a good storyline. 

Finally, we also cannot dismiss out of hand the fact that GEDO is simply not working with his full roster. With so many folks not in NJPW that were in prominent positions beforehand (guys like Jay White, Will Ospreay, even lesser players like Jon Moxley and Juice Robinson), I’m sure that GEDO had to redo a bunch of his plans in the face of the pandemic. We may be seeing those pivots now, and with him needing new, fresh main eventers, EVIL may have looked like the solution for the time being. 

Or maybe EVIL was the plan all along.

Regardless, the next few months of New Japan should be super-interesting, to say the least. 

If you actually got this far, thanks for that! I had a few things to get off my chest and I’d like to hear what you all think. Where are we going in NJPW right now? Is the NJPW main event scene in good shape? 

See you in the comments. 

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote, 

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter