Dominion, by definition, means to gain control over something. Following this weekend’s Dominion event, is New Japan Pro Wrestling setting itself up to make a run at global dominance?
2018 could be a telling year for New Japan. With Bullet Club rising to dominance, the launch of New Japan World (New Japan’s English YouTube Channel) and Dave Meltzer’s love affair with Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada matches, NJPW is solidifying itself as a global brand in the world of professional wrestling.
Many hardcore wrestling fans and wrestling websites are tuning in to New Japan as the alternative to WWE programming. Throw in its partnership with Ring of Honor and it is easily the second most talked-about organization by wrestling pundits today.
Last year, New Japan held the G1 Special in the USA in Long Beach, California. This event was the first time the promotion independently produced a show in the United States. They followed up with another strong Long Beach show in March 2018. This event saw the much-anticipated match between the Golden Lovers and the Young Bucks.
During the AXS TV special event, New Japan announced it would return to the US in July 2018 with another G1 Special at the Cow Palace in California. The following day, NJPW announced Strong Style Evolved UK, a two-day event held in the UK on June 30 and July 1.
When you look at the steps New Japan has taken in recent years to go more global, the aftermath of Dominion 2018 could be foreshadowing where this company is headed and its priorities for the next few months. Take a look at some of their current champions coming out of Saturday night’s show:
- IWGP World Heavyweight Champion – Kenny Omega (Canada)
- IWGP Intercontinental Champion – Chris Jericho (Canada)
- IWGP US Heavyweight Champion – Jay White (New Zealand)
- IWGP Tag Team Champions – The Young Bucks (USA)
- Never Openweight Champion – Michael Elgin (Canada)
- Never Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions – Bullet Club – Marty Scurll (England) and The Young Bucks (USA)
Only the IWGP Junior Heavyweight and IWGP Junior Tag Team Champions are from Japan. Do you think it’s a coincidence that all of these English speaking gaijin gained titles at Dominion or is New Japan implementing a business strategy that we’ve seen WWE implement without much success recently?
When WWE was launching the WWE Network in India, Jinder Mahal conveniently became WWE Champion. Many speculated this was to help promote the network and spike sales as WWE toured there.
What’s the difference between the two?
For starters, one might argue Mahal is nowhere near as talented as the champions listed above. All of those guys are known for their ability to put on high quality, entertaining matches, something AJ Styles couldn’t even get out of the ‘Modern Day Maharaja’.
Speaking of AJ Styles, the ‘Phenomenal One’ should have been the champion during that tour. Even in India, AJ is still a much bigger star than the Canadian-born Mahal. In New Japan, Kenny Omega, Chris Jericho, and the Young Bucks are some of the most well-known acts in the world.
Finally, Mahal was at best a mid-card act before his meteoric rise to WWE Champion. Mahal was thrust into the main event seen in some hot-shot booking. New Japan, on the other hand, appears to have a very solid plan in place for this UK and US tour about to take place or they got very, very lucky.
The culmination of the Okada/Omega feud has come at the perfect place and time. This is a multi-year story paying off to give Omega a title reign right before this international tour. The Young Bucks, who have been lobbying to become a heavyweight team for years, finally got their shot at Dominion and won the titles. Marty Scurll, who is arguably the most popular British wrestler in the world right now, got a win in a six-man tag team match over three wrestling legends at Dominion in Jushin Thunder Liger, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Rey Mysterio. New Japan seems to have had a plan and found the right guys at the right time to make a splash in other international markets.
What’s the next step?
If you look at what New Japan had done prior to Kenny Omega’s rise to the leader of Bullet Club, The Elite, and The Golden Elite, the promotion seemed to be a developmental system for WWE. Finn Balor (Prince Devitt), AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and Shinsuke Nakamura were all major players prior to being snatched up by WWE/NXT.
Even War Raiders (War Machine – Hanson and Rowe), Ricochet, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish, and Adam Cole spent some time in Japan, wrestling on major shows and holding championships before coming to WWE/NXT.
NJPW seems to have turned the tables and are focused on pushing guys loyal to their brand or, at least, anti-establishment when it comes to WWE. Time will tell if the Golden Elite finds their way to signing contracts for Vince McMahon, but it looks like New Japan is making a push to keep it’s most world-renowned stars happy and willing to stay. How do you get them to stay? Increase earning potential and give them big pushes. Being a champion sure won’t hurt either.
In addition to the champions coming out of Dominion, New Japan also has been able to land some familiar names to most wrestling fans. Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio have reportedly turned down full-time offers to WWE to work dates for New Japan.
Jericho, at least, should be a factor in New Japan for the short-term future. He’s a champion and has several New Japan/ROH guys wrestling on his upcoming cruise. Mysterio seems to be set up for potential feuds with several of the junior heavyweights and could tear the house down with guys like Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll, Hiromu Takahashi, Taiji Ishimori, and KUSHIDA.
Don’t forget about Cody Rhodes either. It was recently announced that he would be Kenny Omega’s first challenger for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at NJPW‘s G1 Special in San Francisco next month. Although a loss this early into the ‘Best-Bout-Machine’s reign is unlikely, it bodes well for Cody’s future within the company and would put him in contention for other titles, such as the IWGP United States Championship, down the line.
Considering Omega was the first man to hold the aforementioned championship – and was first attacked by the ‘American Nightmare’ following his defeat to Jay White when he lost the title – a champion vs. champion match between Cody and Omega at one of the major events next year would be a huge international draw for the New Japan Pro Wrestling.
2018 Paying Dividends
New Japan, at the very least, appears to be committed to pushing North American and UK stars during their overseas tour. This push of highly qualified and recognizable talent should definitely pay off at the gates. The company is definitely hoping this translates into increased buy-rates for New Japan World or, maybe, something even larger.
AXS TV pays solid fees for New Japan programming. Could the promotion also be looking to cash-in on something similar to WWE‘s Smackdown on Fox deal? Time will tell. One thing is for sure, however, if you are a fan of professional wrestling and aren’t in love with WWE programming, New Japan is worth a look. You might just like what you see.