The resurgence of Bullet Club that began at Wrestling Dontaku hit its peak on June 12 at the Dominion event in Osaka, where Jay White became the new IWGP World Heavyweight Champion.
White’s victory came as a surprise to many, who assumed New Japan would stick with championship stalwart Kazuchika Okada going into the Forbidden Door pay-per-view. That show will be co-promoted by AEW. White’s victory opens up several avenues for both AEW and New Japan going into the show, plus has repercussions going into New Japan’s marquee tournament, the G1 Climax 32.
Here are a few takeaways from the Dominon show going into those big summer events:
Bullet Club piles up the gold
Bullet Club’s rebuilding process has gone on for months. White had held the IWGP title before, a 54-day run that transitioned the title from Hiroshi Tanahashi back to Okada at the G-1 Supercard in Madison Square Garden back in 2019. This is his first reign with the new championship, and his title was foreshadowed when he interrupted the announcement of the Forbidden Door show on Dynamite.
White could face Adam Page at Forbidden Door. Page had challenged Okada before Dominion took place, but a one-on-one match doesn’t seem likely now.
Leaving Okada out of the title picture at Forbidden Door would be a mistake. Plus, Adam Cole’s presence on commentary recently, when Page challenged Okada, seemed to point toward Cole being part of the picture, as well. This could end up as a multi-person match, or perhaps even a four-way at Forbidden Door.
With that on the horizon, White’s reign could be another short one, but that’s irrelevant in the bigger picture, the resurgence of Bullet Club, which is about establishing the group as a major heel threat in multiple promotions.
White’s victory was preceded that night by Karl Anderson capturing the NEVER Openweight title from Tama Tonga, adding another belt to Bullet Club’s roster. House of Torture (EVIL, SHO, & Yujiro Takahashi) also retained the NEVER Openweight Six-Man titles with a win over Zach Sabre Jr, El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru from Suzuki-gun.
Taiji Ishimori, El Phantasmo and Ace Austin also scored win over Los Ingobernables de Japon in a six-man tag team match on the prelims. This was a preview of Junior Heavyweight Champion Ishimori’s upcoming title defense against Best of the Super Juniors winner, Hiromu Takahashi.
So, IMPACT, NJPW and AEW all host wrestlers with ties to Bullet Club. It’s an unusual situation for three bigger promotions to cooperate on this level. Can it be maintained? Only time will tell. In the meantime, it creates a fun series of crossover matches for each companies’ fans.
New Bullet Club member and IWGP U.S. Champion Juice Robinson was unable to make it to the show with appendicitis. He was stripped of the title, which ended up on Will Ospreay after he defeated SANADA to capture the vacant title.
Since Robinson is expected to challenge for the title once he’s healthy again, it puts Bullet Club in the title picture for every NJPW singles championship and the NEVER six-man titles. They also now include IMPACT’s X-Division Champion, Ace Austin.
The only blemish on the evening for Bullet Club was when Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens lost the IWGP tag team titles to Jeff Cobb and Great-O-Khan. That was not a surprise, given Cobb and O-Khan had been featured on AEW Dynamite and seemed destined for be a part of Forbidden Door.
G-1 Climax 32: A bigger field than ever
One of the highlights of the show was the announcement of the G-1 Climax 32 field. This year, there will be 28 participants, divided into four blocks of seven wrestlers. This will culminate in a semifinals and finals scenario to end the tournament instead of the usual block winners in a singles match. It will also lower the number of matches for each participant from nine to six.
Fans hoping for Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe or Claudio Castagnoli, who seems like a natural for NJPW) were left disappointed. The only person who could be considered a guest is Lance Archer. He knows the NJPW style and has experience working with many of his fellow entrants. The former Suzuki-gun member has a long history of working with New Japan and will participate in his sixth G-1.
JONAH, Tom Lawlor, David Finlay, Aaron Henare and El Phantasmo will make their G-1 debuts. Lawlor and JONAH have starred on the NJPW Strong show and fans in Japan will get their first real looks at them in a big-time NJPW setting. Henare and Findlay have not been high enough on the cards to get into a 20-man tournament, but the extra entrants allowed them to grab a spot.
El Phantasmo is an intriguing choice. The addition of Austin to Bullet Club’s junior heavyweight roster could mean they are looking at moving ELP to the heavyweight division. He’s a talented heel and will be completing the rare feat of competing in both the Best of the Super Juniors and the G-1 Climax in the same year.
Without knowing how the men will be divided into blocks, it’s difficult to predict much of anything yet. Still, Shingo Takagi and whoever leaves Forbidden Door without the IWGP title should end up in the mix down the stretch.
The biggest ever field of 28 goes to battle in G1 Climax 32 starting July 16!
Check out the lineup:https://t.co/VcSWHPvwjq
— NJPW Global (@njpwglobal) June 12, 2022
Shingo Takagi and Taichi keep the KOPW trophy interesting
The King of Pro Wrestling trophy spent two years with Toru Yano. It’s a unique title in NJPW in that the stipulations are different each time it’s defended. Each wrestler offers up a stipulation and fans vote online for which will be used in the match. With Yano, that usually involved something wacky, befitting his current comedy character.
Since the trophy has moved over to men such as Takagi and Taichi, the stipulations have been more interesting. At Dominion, Takagi and Taichi worked a 10-minute match in which each referee count was a point, most points wins. It wasn’t about getting a three count, it was piling up the one-counts and two-counts as well. They protected the men’s finishers by having each score a three count from theirs. This match and the one Takagi and Taichi worked in which the goal was to compile 30 total counts made for intriguing matches.
Takagi held on for an 11–10 win at Dominion, which might mean that matches will be more serious in the future, or less like a typical Toru Yano KOPW defense. This is good for the show and for the trophy. Pro wrestling is supposed to be a variety show, and the KOPW championship brings some intrigue with each defense.