The Dominion show will take place on the one-year anniversary of Kenny Omega defeating Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP title.
Chris Jericho generated headline news this past weekend with the announcement that he will main-event New Japan Pro Wrestling’s June 9 Dominion show against IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada.
Okada regained the belt from “Switchblade” Jay White during the G1 Supercard show at Madison Square Garden during WrestleMania weekend—marking the first time the IWGP title ever changed hands outside of Japan.
The Dominion show will take place on the one-year anniversary of Kenny Omega defeating Okada for the IWGP title, which took place in a phenomenal two-out-of-three falls match and ignited Omega’s run as champion.
Jericho’s return to New Japan is significant on multiple levels.
The current Okada title reign is designed to be historic. The goal is to reaffirm that Okada has no equal in the business. New Japan needs to provide Okada with the right opponents to make this happen, and Jericho is a perfect choice. In order to make Okada’s reign historic, New Japan will also need Omega to return so Okada can avenge his loss from June of 2018.
Jericho will be paid six figures for his weekend appearance in NJPW. Money plays a critical factor, as Sports Illustrated learned that Okada was so frustrated by his Ring of Honor payday from the MSG show that he is unlikely to ever return to the promotion.
This is especially relevant, considering that Jericho is employed by Tony Khan’s newly formed All Elite Wrestling, which is a promotion that would be thrilled to replace Ring of Honor in its working relationship with New Japan.
New Japan currently holds a working relationship with Ring of Honor. That partnership, first announced in Feb. 2014, continues this very month with the yearly War of the Worlds tour. But the upcoming four shows (May 8 in Buffalo, May 9 in Toronto, May 11 in Grand Rapids, and May 12 in Chicago) are missing many of New Japan’s most popular stars.
Although Bullet Club’s Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa (who are also, it should be noted, current ROH tag team champions) are on the tour, the shows do not feature mainstays from New Japan like Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi, Zack Sabre Jr., or Will Ospreay.
Allowing Jericho, who signed a three-year pact with AEW, and Omega, who is an Executive Vice President for AEW, to return for shows in Japan is a brilliant way to recruit New Japan to move away from ROH and instead work with AEW.
Even without a weekly television program, AEW has done a tremendous grassroots job of advertising Double or Nothing, and the presence of AEW’s stars is a benefit to any promotion. Jericho and Omega headline AEW’s inaugural Double or Nothing pay per view on May 25, and they caught the attention of the wrestling world this weekend with a surprise appearance (and ensuing brawl) this past Friday night at a Southern Honor Wrestling show in Canton, Georgia.
Whether New Japan needs an alliance with any promotion can be questioned, but the presence of Jericho back in New Japan cannot be overstated.
Jericho’s return will play an important role, as he is a longtime friend of New Japan head booker Gedo and a proven draw wherever he works.
If Jericho has been tasked with forming a working relationship with New Japan, then Tony Khan and AEW are in very good hands.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.