83. Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kenny Omega (IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11)

Time to move from one famed Okada feud to another, one that began with a match that set the wrestling world on fire. Dave Meltzer rated the match 6 stars (yes, 6 stars out of five!), and it won countless Match of the Year (2017) awards. And, truly, Okada vs Kenny Omega deserves all the plaudits it was given. Every once in a while, some things do live up to the hype, and Okada vs Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 11 indeed lives up to the hype.

I heard loads about this match at the time, with plenty of people highly recommending it to me. But I gave it a miss. Five years later, with my NJPW World subscription, I was able to finally seek out this Holy Grail of wrestling. Yes, my initial impression of Okada being overrated had changed after absorbing his epic rivalrly with the fantastic Hiroshi Tanahashi. There, he looked, for a time, like Tanahashi’s equal…then slowly began to surpass him (both in the storyline and in terms of in-ring action).

But I’d watched all of their IWGP Heavyweight title matches (I may watch their non-title matches someday), but it was time to watch the famed Omega vs Okada. And right from the start, I was hooked. I under-estimated Okada’s abilities at first…and had only a brief knowledge of Omega, mainly from AEW (I did watch a fantastic NJPW tag team match between The Golden Lovers (Omega and Kobi Ibushi) against Cody Rhodes and Marty Scurll). And…yes, he was good, even very good. Great? Maybe…

That is, until I saw this match. In some ways, it mirrors my favourite match of all-time (please don’t roll your eyes!): HBK vs Taker, Mania 25. That’s a very good match until Taker takes that sickening botched dive to the outside…and from that point on, it turns into something heavenly. Okada vs Omega is rivetting from the get-go, each trying to out-wrestle one another, until Omega executes an impressive moonsault to a prone Okada by the front row…and from that point on, this match transforms into something heavenly.

For a match that goes just shy of 50 minutes, there’s almost no wasted motion, as one JR would say. Yes, there’s adequate room for selling, but not am excessive amount (something that Taker and HHH were guilty of in their Mania Hell in a Cell match). Everything has a purpose, everything leads logically to something else…which is more and more becoming a rarity in modern day wrestling.

One thing that stands out is the perfect utilisation of the table. Yes, the overused table, something which the crowd often clamour for in loud unison. Here, it’s Chekov’s gun, used in the build up to the match (Omega hit his One-Winged Angle finisher through a table a week beforehand) and teased throughout it…until Okada gets his revenge. One of the best use of a table in wrestling history…

And the final fifteen minutes are unbelievable. Yes, it is easy to rush into hyperbole talking about much-loved matches such as this one, but it is deserving of all the praise…and more. Perhaps they both undersold and oversold their exhaustion in the last ten minutes of a fifty minute match, but I think that follows the nature of the match. Both of these men have the stamina of ten men, and I can buy the adrenaline coursing through their veins, making them overcome their exhaustion as they fight for victory.

Just go and watch this match. Right now. I watched it on NJPW World (only 999 yen a month!), but you’ll be able to find it for free…

Hammy’s Rating: ***** (out of 5)

(Click here for more of ‘A Wrestling Match A Day‘)


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