PARKS’S TAKE: NJPW Dominion exposes company’s lack of star power amid recent departures

By Greg Parks, PWTorch columnist


As I watched New Japan Dominion this past weekend, I was struck by the lack of star power throughout the card.

Oh, there was Naito, still there, wrestling in the opener but later challenging Jon Moxley for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. There was Hiroshi Tanahashi, hidden in a six-man tag to cover for his in-ring limitations. And there was Tomohiro Ishii, once again in contention for match of the night despite pushing 50 years old.

So in some ways, the old guard was still there, the wrestlers who were on top when New Japan truly went global. But all have been ravaged by age and injuries. And none has been replaced by the next generation of wrestlers. Yet.

Dominion isn’t some throw-away show; it’s traditionally one of the biggest events of the year for New Japan. It was headlined by the Best of the Super Juniors finals that saw El Desperado defeat Taiji Ishimori. A worthy main event, but this isn’t exactly the era of Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho and Kazuchika Okada.

All of those wrestlers and more have since departed New Japan for greener pastures in America. That lists extends to Will Ospreay, Jay White, and others who were once atop the New Japan food chain and have now left the company starving in that regard. There is a clear star power vacuum without them and it doesn’t seem likely to be filled anytime soon.

New Japan has built a culture of slowly breaking in its new talent, known as Young Lions. Rarely, if ever, do you seem them ascend to the top before years of “earning it” on the undercard. That was fine and dandy when NJPW stars hardly ever left to go elsewhere. Now, with so many leaving in such a short amount of time, that booking philosophy that New Japan has utilized for years could be seen as the reason there is such a dearth of top stars right now.

In watching Dominion, Moxley was the one star that really popped off the screen, and while he’s the top champion in the company, he wrestles for AEW. This is a short-term gig for him. That doesn’t really help New Japan in the long run.

In time, wrestlers like Shota Umino, Ren Narita, Yuya and Uemura among others could eventually replace the Naitos, Tanahashis, and Okadas of the world. Unfortunately, New Japan needs those replacements now. They’re simply not wired to replenish the lost talent in a way that is needed in 2024. Dominion was a prime example of what the company currently lacks in the star power department. They have an opportunity with the upcoming G1 Climax Tournament this summer to do something about it. We’ll see if the company decides to use that as a chance to push younger talent up the card instead of using it to reinforce already-made stars as they’ve done in the past.

(Read Greg Parks’s feature-length columns every week in the PWTorch Newsletter with a PWTorch VIP subscription. You can also listen to him every Sunday night on Wrestling Night America on the PWTorch Dailycast. Search “pwtorch” on your podcast app or watch on the PWTorch YouTube Channel.)

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