98. Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay (NJPW G1 Climax 32 Final)

The G1 Climax 32 reached its climax…so of course, I had to watch it! It culminated in Kazuchika Okada against Will Ospreay, with the victor earning a World title shot at Wrestle Kingdom 17. These two have a stories rivalry, with some much-loved bouts behind them (two of them, at Wrestle Kingdom 15 and 16, rated at above 5* by Dave Meltzer!). Would this be another 5*+ classic?

I haven’t watched any of their other bouts, but if this battle is anything to go by, I have been missing out! These are easily two of the best in the world, and they have awesome chemistry together (you can have two all time greats facing off against each other, but if they have poor chemistry, then there won’t be much to see). You can tell they’re familiar with each other as well, and it’s probably one of those bouts that will improve even more after watching their back catalogue.

After watching Ospreay vs Shingo Takagi earlier on in the G1 Climax 32 (click here for my review), the biggest criticism I had of him was his lack of selling and love of big moves/endless rapid counters over story and selling. Yes, it creates a spectacle, but one with little substance. Here, there was a clear story, a clear history between the two told in their faces and throughout the bout itself.

Everything here is so smooth, so slick, and yet lacks the overly-choreographed nature of other Ospreay bouts I’ve seen. This feels like a fight, with a burning hatred between the wrestlers. Each attack the weak point of the other: the neck/head. Of course, Okada weakens the neck to prepare for his finisher, The Rainmaker. And the same is true of Ospreay: to prepare for his finisher, the Oscutter. But there’s also the extra layer of the two wanting to hurt each other properly, to try to end the other’s career.

Especially in the case of Ospreay, the apprentice taking on the master once again, trying to overcome his mentor. This is his ticket to main event Wrestle Kingdom, yet his mentor is in the way.

In fact, this is atypical of either’s usual formula. It lacks the slow first half build of the Okada blueprint, or the constant flips and rapid pace of Ospreay’s blueprint. Instead, it’s a heady blend of the two, not too slow, not too fast, but excelling in selling and drama. Under-selling is something I’ve criticised both for in the last, but here both sell like a million bucks. Textbook selling, if you will.

As good as this bout was, however, I never felt overwhelmed and truly drawn in to it. It was as if I was admiring a wonderful piece of art, but never being able to fully engage with it. Perhaps it’s (like I’ve mentioned before) my lack of knowledge of the history between the two, or my lack of engagement with either wrestler. I appreciate both as great wrestlers, but never feel myself rooting for them as I would a personal favourite.

But, then again, that’s on me. I need to go back and review this rivalry, to fully apprehend the nuances and grievances between the two. So, for now, I can’t rate it as a 5* match. So close to greatness…yet I felt I could only appreciate it from afar, rather than hanging on the egde of my seat.

I hate to say it, but if you’ve seen the previous two clashes between the two, you’ve seen this one. Their first match was a five star classic, their second bout was bogged down by an excessive ending. This third bout is a mix of those, and doesn’t really do anything different. There’s an electric chair reversal into a sunset flip powerbomb off the tope rope, but apart from that, the two wrestlers simply copy and paste from their two previous clashes.

And, to be fair, it’s still creates a good bout. There’s tension over who could win. Omega plays the cocky, arrogant wrestler really well, openly mocking Naito to encourage fan support (which works a treat). From that point of view, this bout has the psychological edge over their second encounter, which was just big move after big move ad infinitum. But, eventuallt, it does descend into big move after big love, with little story or meaning behind what is happening.

Of course, it isn’t a bad match. If you haven’t seen either of their previous two bouts, you’ll love this one. But, after seeing those two, you’ll appreciate this is a series of diminishing returns. Their first G1 Climax remains their best.

Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)

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


One thought on “98. Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay (NJPW G1 Climax 32 Final)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.