In July 2018, I sat on the same couch and watched a highly anticipated main event in New Japan Pro Wrestling. It was my recently new favourite wrestler, Kenny Omega challenging Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. At this point it would be the fourth collision between these two game-changing wrestlers in only 19 months and they had 3 unbelievable matches to live up to.
It is still one of my fondest viewing experiences as I watched in almost disbelief as the best wrestling match of all time (in my opinion of course) unfolded on my television screen. Unfortunately, that kind of experience seems a long time ago now. This morning's experience was one of disbelief but I'd take the 2018 vintage over the 2020 version any day.
Below is statistics and analysis to cover the 3 feature matches from today's New Japan Dominion card.
Double Championship Match - IWGP and Intercontinental
Tetsuya Naito(C) vs EVIL
Tetsuya Naito's historic double championship reign came to an abrupt end as he was betrayed and taken advantage of by EVIL and Bullet Club. Not many saw this as a posibility as commentary before and throughout the NJ Cup focussed on Takagi and Takahashi and often SANADA.
Statistically, Naito severely out did EVIL throughout this match. He won in strikes, strikedowns, grapples, dives and even utilising reversals. Reason being EVIL relied heavily on fouls and interference to overcome his former LIJ leader.
This is the second championship match of the night where fouls and quite considerable rule breaks saw championships change hands. This wasn't a convincing usurping of the 'king', this was the weak banding together to undercut the strong by any means necessary.
IWGP Tag Championship Match
Golden Ace(C) vs Dangerous Tekkers
This was a battle of a tag team affair that started frenetically and ended in brutally decisive fashion. However the question has to be asked, where was Kota Ibushi, as Dangerous Tekkers hit 8 Double Team Dragon Screw Leg Whips on Hiroshi Tanahashi?
This match saw an up and down performance from Golden Ace as they battled Dangerous Tekkers' underhanded means, the foul clock coming in at 17-1 in their favour. The extremeness of this finishing stretch is noted clearly via the flow of offence where you'll notice this phase of offence dwarves the rest of the match.
Dangerous Tekkers looked a dominating force by the end of this match but they did clearly benefit from bending the rules. Would a more decisive referee cut this tactic out from under them and cost them the match?
NEVER Openweight Championship
SHO vs Shingo Tagaki
This was another tremendous match featuring Shingo Takagi who had one of the best 2019s in the world. This match however, was a progression of the stepping up of SHO after the two men came together in a cracking NJ Cup match.
58% of the total offence and 2 big victories in 5 minute periods of the match compared to Takagi's far narrower victories saw SHO really show off what he could do. Over 100 strikes, 11 of which were strikedowns and he was even able to hit his finisher on the champion.
SHO looked every part up to the standard of Shingo in this match, expect him to seriously challenge Hiromu Takahashi over the next 12 months.