This weekend was an eventful one for wrestling, with two big shows happening across the Pacific in Japan. And the cool thing was, both ended up being really good shows. Dominion was one of the best shows of the year so far, and Beast in the East was a unique look at the WWE product that really showed off how good it could be.
On Saturday morning, I woke up to WWE’s The Beast in the East, a throwback of sorts to the old In Your House style of Pay Per View. Clocking in at just about two hours, it was originally supposed to be just a special house show during the WWE’s tour of Singapore and Japan. Plans changed when Brock Lesnar decided he wanted to go to Japan and visit an ailing friend there. Not one to waste an opportunity, WWE put him on the card and made an event out of it. Brock got to squash the New Day in a highly enjoyable fashion, and Chris Jericho had a great opening match with Neville. However, people are really going to be talking about two things coming out of this show.
The first was the excellent Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor match for the NXT Title. It was a great match, with tons of emotion, and everyone should go check it out if you haven’t already. Owens continues to be fantastic, and while I’m not sure how well Balor will transition to the main roster, he looks like an absolute star in NXT. The second thing was the commentary. Michael Cole and Byron Saxton were providing live commentary from the WWE studio, and it remarkably didn’t suck. In fact, it was good. Really good. Maybe my bar for Cole is just so incredibly low, but he completely floored me with how competent he was. He talked about the matches, the wrestler’s histories in Japan, and actually stayed on topic. I don’t know if it was the lack of JBL/Lawler distracting him, or if Vince decided to sleep in, but Michael Cole id a really great job.
The next morning, I woke up to NJPW’s Dominion, which was looking up to be one of their biggest shows of the year, certainly the biggest since January 4th’s WrestleKingdom. WrestleKingdom gave us two Match of the Year Candidates, and I was wondering how they were going to top it. I previewed this show last week, and I was really looking forward to it, going so far as to avoid Twitter when I woke up to not get any spoilers.
And it was worth it, Dominion was a fantastic show. KUSHIDA and Kenny Omega had a great match for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Belt, with KUSHIDA getting a well-deserved victory, Sakuraba and Shibata was extremely enjoyable, and even the Goto vs. Nakamura match that I wasn’t looking forward was good. But the real crown was AJ Styles defending the IWGP title against Okada. I had high hopes but even I was impressed with how good it was. The last few minutes in particular was some of the most exciting wrestling of the year. I need to rewatch some of it to really quantify how I feel about it, but at any rate, Dominion closed off a strong first half of the year for New Japan.