86. Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kenny Omega (2/3 Falls Match for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, NJPW Dominion 2018)

So now we come to the fourth and final match between Okada and Kenny Omega. Their first was a stone cold classic; their second still very good, but bloated and full of under/no-selling; their third a (relatively) brief second stone cold classic. Their fourth, this time a 2/3 Falls Match for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, had no time limit…so I feared both wrestlers’ penchant for excess would be nurtured. I was right…

Meltzer’s ratings for the first two Okada/Omega matches broke his five star rating. This fourth bout breaks it again…reaching a mind-blowing 7 stars (bear in mind, I read his ratings AFTER watching, so that had no bearing on my expectations). So, basically, the greatest bout in the history of wrestling. Period. And I wouldn’t even say it’s in the top 10 matches of all time…

This is the culmination (for now) of the feud between Okada and Omega, and of Omega’s journey to the top of NJPW. In their three matches together, they had one victory each and a draw. Okada, looking for an opponent for his record-breaking thirteenth title defence, just had to pick the man who had a G1 Climax pinfall victory over him: Kenny Omega. Omega accepted…but wanted a 2/3 Falls match.

As soon as I learned this was going to have no time limit and be 2/3 Falls bout, I feared the worst. Their second bout could have been a stone cold classic, but instead they had to drag it out to a 60 minute draw. The first twenty minutes were unnecessary, and the final ten minutes dragged on and on. However, their third bout, just under half an hour, was another classic. The two wrestlers just needed to curb their excesses.

Here, their excesses are on full show, once again. Don’t get me wrong, I feel 2/3 Falls bouts should be long. A regular match is twenty minutes, so a 2/3 Falls match should be at least double that length. I hate those 2/3 Falls bouts that go twenty minutes or less. What is the point? Just make it a regular match! But then again, you can go in the opposite direction and go on for too long…just like this match.

Don’t get me wrong; the second half of the first fall and all of the second fall are cracking. The two take a while to get going, a necessary consequence of pacing for a hour-plus bout. When they get into their stride, the two create mesmerising sequence after mesmerising seqeunce. They offer counter after counter, playing back sequences from previous matches with a different twist.

And, although it drags the match down (especially towards the end), they sell their exhaustion very well…that is, until the next sequence comes along and both wrestlers are hurtling across the ring. The third fall (of course it goes to a third fall! Few 2/3 Falls Matches don’t go to a third fall) is spoiled by this over-selling exhaustion to sprinting across the ring like The Flash. That’s not the only flaw of the third fall. The two just seem to repeat themselves, offering nothing new or innovative.

As a display of athleticism, endurance and sheer guts, this bout is second to none. It’s an impressive sight to behold…but it’s more spectacle than substance. There was more depth snd psychology to their previous bouts. They took everything to excess, even more excessive than their bloated second bout. Of course, I don’t mean to say this is a bad bout. It’s very good, often great…but only in stuttering motions. By far the worst bout they had together.

Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)

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

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