88. Kenny Omega vs Tetsuo Naito (NJPW G1 Climax 2017)

Now we come to the second singles match between Kenny Omega and Tetsuo Naito, a year later at G1 Climax 2017. They had an awe-inspiring match at G1 Climax 2016; could the two do it again (click here to read my review)? I’ve read plenty of praise about this one, many people preferring it over their first clash. And while a lot of that praise is warranted, I still prefer their first clash. In the final stretch, this one veers into absurd overkill.

To put this one into context: this happened the night after Omega had defeated Okada. Yes, that match was utterly brilliant; their second best clash in my opinion. Omega was on a high, eager to win the G1 Climax and earn a shot at Okada’s IWGP World title. Naito, however, wanted to avenge his loss to Omega at the previous year’s G1 Climax..and also earn a shot at Okada (they had a deeper history together).

But how do you top a five star classic? After this match, I felt exhausted. Much like after watching a Christopher Nolan film, I felt dizzy, my eyes hurt, and I struggled to comprehend what I’d just witnessed. This spectacle, with more (metaphorical) explosions than a summer blockbuster, had blown me away. Yes, I told myself. They had topped their previous match.

These two started off by dropping each other on their heads/necks. And. never stopped. I thought the beginning of their first match was heated and fast-paced. Here, they go for killer moves straight away. Omega tries a piledriver onto the announcer’s table that goes horribly wrong. Seriously, I thought one or both wrestlers were legitimately injured. Germam suplxes, more piledrivers, insane-looking DDTs…these men look like they want to killy each other.

After having a breather and a cup of tea, I thought about the match as a whole, and the last five minutes. Yes, it certainly was impressive, two men looking to break the other’s neck. No mercy here. There are great seqeunces, great counters, and plenty of moments where I cringed at moves. But…but unlike their first match, I didn’t feel gripped. In that story, each wrestler targeted a body part, and each wrestler sold their injury admirably. Here, they sell exhaustion…but that’s about all they sell.

Omega sells his neck infrequently, and Naito doesn’t sell his neck at all. It makes all the big moves feel meaningless. That’s especially true towards the end, which is a glut of big moves and Naito hitting four finishers in a row. To elaborate on my mention of Christopher Nolan: sometimes you are too focused on the lengthy exposition, or the sheer scales of the action scenes, to take in what is actually going on. After reflection, maybe a day or two later, you realise it was all just smoke and mirrors, with little else behind it (I’m thinking specifically about Inception, Interstellar, and to a lesser degree, The Dark Knight Rises).

And, yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the match (as I did Inception…but the jury is out on the other two Nolan films!!!). But because there was a gripping story underpinning their previous bout, I could sink my teeth into it. Here, it’s just big move after big move, until you are numb with the events happening on the screen and it becomes a ridiculous blur of no-selling and neck-dropping.

(A little off course, but I really don’t like Naito’s Destino DDT finisher. It looks like ot takes as much effort from the taker as it does the giver to make the move work! Naito has to backflip over his opponent’s shoulder to land the move…and it always looks like the opponent (well, Omega in this instance) is lifting Naito up so he cam get sufficient leverage. Seeing it 3/4 times in a row really exposed Naito’s finisher to me. I understand that with most wrestling moves, the onis is on the taker…but here it looked too obvious that Onega was lifting Naito up!)

A spectacular spectacle, of course, but it’s one I don’t feel compelled to return to anytime soon.

Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)

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


2 thoughts on “88. Kenny Omega vs Tetsuo Naito (NJPW G1 Climax 2017)

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