87. Kenny Omega vs Tetsuo Naito (NJPW G1 Climax 2016)

Google ‘Kenny Omega’s Top 10 NJPW Matches,’ and I can guarantee the first three places will be taken up by his famed matches against Kazuchika Okada. So, that only leaves seven other places…and it seems two of those are mostl taken up with Omega’s G1 Climax clashes against Tetsuo Naito. Their G1 Glimax 2017 clash is usually rated higher than their earlier 2016 clash, but I’m all in favour of absorbing media in chronological order. Thus, I found another NJPW classic with Omega vs Naito at G1 Climax 2016!

Anyone who calls themselves ‘The Best xxx’ obviously had a large chip on their shoulder, and as ‘The Best Bout Machine’ Omega puts pressure on himself before even entering the ring. However, for the limited exposure I’ve had to Kenny, he’s always impressed (if a little prone to excess and underselling). Naito…Naito is an undiscovered country. I watched one bout pitting him against Okada (I forget when), and I was left shrugging my shoulders. Both looked good, but not great, putting in a minimal amount of effort. Here, this is the first ever singles match between Omega and Naito, pitting heel against heel. And right from the start, their chemistry lit up the screen.

You can just tell, can’t you, when you’re going to witness a special wrestling match (well, most of the time). But even in the first five minutes, I was glued to the screen. These two were already setting a frantic pace and building a gripping story. Naito targeting Omega’s knee (so Omega couldn’t lift up for the One-Winged Angel), and Omega targeting Naito’s back/neck.

Although I mentioned that omega is prone to underselling, here he sells his injured knee beautifully. He’s struggling more and more throughout the match to put weight on his injured leg. Thus, when Naito applies leg submissions, you can believe Omega may tap put. The same applies to Naito and his spot-on selling, as well. One of my major criticisms the Omega/Okada bouts was a propensity to undersell (and sometimes oversell). Here, the selling from both competitors is nigh-on perfect. The turning point for the match is a brutal looking powerbomb from Omega to Naito through the announcer’s table…following by Omega’s springboard tope con hilo that lands on Naito…and the floor.

From there, the two just out and out try to destroy each other. Naito busts out two of the most innovative counters to the One-Winged Angel I’ve seen thus far. They never fall into the realms of excess, or forget the story/psychology underpinning the bout in favour on endless finishers. A clear five star match, one that’s made me eager to seek out more Naito matches.

Hammy’s Rating: ***** (out of 5)

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


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