How do you follow a massively-hyped match of the year candidate? Well, if you’re Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada… you just do it again. For longer. Leaving everyone somehow wanting even more than the 60 minutes they got!
We’re in Osaka-Jo Hall for this, and we start with a “dark” six man featuring the Young Lions…
Hirai Kawato, Katsuya Kitamura & Tetsuhiro Yagi vs. David Finlay, Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino
Finlay took a back seat as the Young Lions pushed and shoved among each other, and you know exactly what to expect here, with the Lions slapping the piss out of each other in the opening bell. It’s almost like they forgot how to do any moves! Kawato calms down a bit when Finlay comes in, and he actually enjoyed a little offence before Finlay landed a diving uppercut – which is where his team took over. Oka came in to slam Kawato for a near-fall, as did Umino, before we got Oka and Kitamura barging into each other with shoulder blocks.
Kitamura chopped and speared at Oka for a spell, before a deadlift gutwrench suplex took Oka into the corner. A spinebuster sees Oka free himself to tag in Finlay, as Kitamura brings in Yagi… and I think you can guess how this might just finish! Despite Yagi dropkicking Finlay for a near-fall, and Finlay taking some Young Lion triple teaming, the relative veteran is able to withstand a Yagi Boston crab and land a Stunner on Yagi to get the win. Simple enough for an opener, but really this was just a way to get the youngsters an outing in front of a bigger crowd. Of course, Kawato tried to bull into Finlay after the match, and those two went at it for a bit, just because Kawato’s still got a chip on his shoulder! **¼
Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Manabu Nakanishi, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tiger Mask W, Tiger Mask, Yuji Nagata & Togi Makabe
It’s a match we’ve seen variations of before – the elder statesmen of New Japan and a couple of tigers in masks. Nakanishi went for the Argentine backbreaker early, but Nagata slipped out quickly as the two Tigers kicked away on Nakanishi.
At the second go, Liger landed a tiltawhirl backbreaker to Tiger Mask, before W broke up a Romero special to a chorus of boos. Kojima’s machine-gun chops got some form of payback, but he was brought down from the top rope with a leaping overhead kick instead of his customary elbow drop. After Tenzan and Nagata traded throws, we got Nakanishi battering Makabe… only for him to stop dead in his tracks as Makabe took too long getting up for a spear. Whoops!
Makabe ended up taking the win though, after a clothesline to Nakanishi was followed up by a King Kong Kneedrop to the back of the head as we suddenly went to mute! Decent enough, but it’s such a waste of Tiger Mask W, or whomever he is! **
NEVER Six-Man Championships: Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale) vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi) vs. Taguchi Japan (Ryusuke Taguchi, Ricochet & Juice Robinson) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI) (c)
We’re working under gauntlet rules here, and since it’s a big show, it means that the New Japan cameraman (and Don Callis) can perve some more. The first two teams out are challengers in the form of the Bullet Club and CHAOS trios, and it’s a decent enough, by the numbers first-fall, with Fale and Ishii taking things outside in a bit to isolate YOSHI-HASHI… especially when Yano went out and was quickly caught.
Hangman Page gets a near-fall out of his bridging, deadlift pumphandle fallaway slam, before Yujiro’s Fisherman’s buster is turned into YOSHI-HASHI’s Bunker Buster. Yano tagged in after that and quickly removed the turnbuckle padding, only to get squashed by a Fale splash for another near-fall. Once Ishii clotheslined Fale to the outside, the Bullet Club looked to have the upper hand, but Yano knocks away the ref so he can low-blow Page and Yujiro before scoring the pin. Out next… Suzuki-gun!
Zack’s left his Corbyn tee at home, as they’re all dressed in Suzuki-gun black, and Zack makes short-work of Yano, after an attempted schoolboy was broken up, before flipping Yano down and bridging him for a pin inside a minute. Yep, that’s why Suzuki-gun have Zack!
Next up: Taguchi Japan! They start with a trio of hip attacks, before Zack took the train conductor offence, ending with a Juice cannonball. Taguchi set up for Zack to get whipped into his rear end, but instead Taichi and Kanemaru came in… and stopped Taguchi as he tried to nonchalantly exit. Once Zack’d done giving the Funky Weapon an uppercut, he took a barrage of offence from Ricochet and Juice for a near-fall, before Taichi’s buzzsaw kick earned him a near-fall over Juice.
In the end, Juice tried for a Pulp Friction, before ducking some Kanemaru whisky spraying… Taichi took it all, then the Pulp Friction as Taguchi Japan made it to the final round… but as the Ingobernables came out, Sabre jumped Juice with an Octopus hold to wear him down. BUSHI and his ridiculous mask brought up the rear as the champs targeted Juice, which nicely added a bow to Robinson’s recent struggles with the Ingobernables’ leader.
Ricochet tagged in and tried to take control, scoring with a 619 to BUSHI in the corner, before he unloaded with kicks to SANADA and EVIL, leading up to a neckbreaker/accidental DDT combo! Once Ricochet’d been clotheslined to the outside, we got a wacky superplex combo that saw Ricochet’s attempt at a powerbomb see SANADA’s leg land on his head and shoulders.
SANADA ducks a Benadryller before springing out of a DDT attempt, before Taguchi somehow got away with a low blow to BUSHI, who then needed SANADA to break up a cover from a Dodon as Taguchi tried to cheat his way to victory. Eventually, BUSHI’s caught in an ankle lock – that Taguchi clung onto for dear life – but a Skull End from SANADA led to BUSHI recovering to land the MX as we had a rareity… the six man champs retaining! A really good match given the circumstances, and it’s a pleasant surprise that we didn’t have a title change! ***¼
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships: Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) vs. Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) (c)
This is where the cynics could start formulating their own theories… with New Japan debuting in Long Beach, California next month, would the promotion want to have the Bucks on the show. As champions?
Of course we start with a superkick, as both of the Bucks are wearing bandannas just to confuse me. A double clothesline took the Bucks to the outside as Beretta went for – and connected with – a tope con hilo as he shook off that WrestleKingdom monkey from his back, whilst Romero took a barrage of offence onto the ring apron and into the ring posts. It seemed that the Bucks were playing with plan B, after isolating Romero didn’t work at WrestleKingdom…
With Romero still down and out, the Bucks just wiped the floor with Beretta, throwing him into a pair of boots as they did the Elite’s spot, just without Omega being there. You know, this format so far would have gotten booed thirty years ago, but in this day and age it just gets polite applause as Beretta manages to withstand it all and keep kicking out. Just when Romero had gotten back to the apron, one of the Bucks just pulled him down and powerbombed him onto the entrance ramp as a running knee got another near-fall on Beretta.
A rope-hung senton, then a 450 gets some more near-falls as the crowd just about started to buy into Beretta’s arse-kicking, but he rolls away from More Bang For Your Buck, then suplexes the Bucks into each other as he followed up with a German superplex! Beretta’s Shining Wizard and piledriver gets him a near-fall. Beretta gets a Dudebuster, with Romero returning at the last moment to turn it into a Strong Zero, but a senton bomb from Nick Jackson broke that up. A double ‘rana from Rocky and a pair of Forever lariats take the Bucks down, but a Sliced Bread #2 is turned into a backbreaker as things started to teeter back and forth, until the Bucks threw in a superkick or ten. A German suplex on the apron gets rid of Beretta, as Romero’s then caught in a Sharpshooter with a slingshot facebuster added in… but Rocky makes the ropes!
The Bucks keep targeting the Sharpshooter to wear down Romero’s already-hurt back, and that almost cost them as the hold was turned into an inside cradle, before an Indytaker and yet-another-Sharpshooter forced the submission. Well, this wasn’t your usual Bucks match, and it took me a while to get used to it. Unfortunately at this point, the junior tag titles are down there with the NEVER six-man belts in terms of prestige and “hot potato’ness”, but this was a pretty good match with some nice call-backs to their outing in January… if you can see past traditional heel work not getting the traditional reactions. ***¾
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe) (c)
We’re back with the big boys now, and the match that was rather “meh” when they were six-man tags on the Super Juniors’ tour undercards.
The Guerrillas try to jump War Machine, with some degree of success as they’re able to hit a fireman’s carry/spinning neckbreaker combo (Cryme Tyme’s old finisher, if you remember them) in the opening minute. Rowe retaliates with a uranage before Hanson comes in with a huge back body drop to Tama Tonga, before an attempt at the Bronco Buster’s cut-off as the Guerrillas just out-wrestle the champs.
Tanga Loa pops up from a T-bone suplex and replies with a German to Rowe… who does the same as this match descended into an uncontrolled mess. Do your job, Hattori! Loa cut-off Hanson’s corner-to-corner lariats, then spears Rowe, before falling into a Whoopee Cushion as the high-impact chaos continued. Rowe leans into forearms from Tonga, before Tanga Loa surprised him from behind with a Blue Thunder Bomb as a frog splash gets a near-fall for Tama.
Tama Tonga kicked out of the Decapitation – wheelbarrow into a clothesline – as War Machine then went for the Fall Out, but Tanga Loa superplexes Hanson before Tonga gets a near-fall with the Veleno jumping DDT. Hanson returns to spear away Tanga Loa from an attempt at the Guerrilla Warfare, before he returns to land a top rope splash on Tama Tonga for another two-count. Tama Tonga then countered a pop-up powerslam into a Gun Stun before shoving down the ref… that allowed Tanga Loa to bring in a chair, which Tonga misses with on Rowe. A second chair doesn’t miss as Tanga Loa swings it, setting up for the Guerrilla Warfare double-team DDT for the win. This match kinda left me cold; save for the finish, the Guerrillas largely outwrestled War Machine, and although this wasn’t anywhere near the same territory as their matches a year ago, this didn’t feel special. Ah well! ***
Cody vs. Michael Elgin
The knock on Cody in New Japan has been that he’s been one of those rare guys who’ve only worked the big shows. Undercard six-mans on tours have been a rareity for Cody, which has left some to feel that he’s been rather anonymous, despite allegedly being in the Bullet Club. Yeah, that’ll probably change with Long Beach on the horizon… Cody’s got “DAD” written on his wrist tape, as today marked the second year since Dusty Rhodes passed.
This was Big Mike’s first high profile match since the New Japan Cup, where he went out in the first round, and with a loss to Tetsuya Naito at The New Beginning in February, he’s on something of a losing streak here. He at least started by aping the Stardust cartwheel, before blasting Cody with a forearm as he tried to dish it back.
A stalling suplex kept Big Mike in charge, as did a series of brutal chops, before Cody’s attempt at returning fire with fire just angered Elgin. Cody backdrops out of a piledriver attempt, before his “pretty boy” pose just gets him grabbed around the through for a uranage. Ethan Page would be proud of that one! Mike’s slingshot splash from the apron in gives him a chance to hit the Cody/Love Making Demon pose, before going back to business with some deadlift German suplexes. A Falcon arrow gets a near-fall, before Cody’s twisting body press off the top rope put him right back in it, only for a Disaster Kick to be ducked and rolled through into a Blue Thunder Bomb from Elgin. After ducking a forearm, Cody rolled up Elgin into a Trailer Hitch, before later trapping Elgin in the ropes for a Flatliner that planted him head-first on the mat.
Out of nowhere, Elgin lariats Cody to the apron then tries to deadlift superplex him in from the apron, but Cody escaped and dragged Elgin back in from the corner for a Cross Rhodes for the win. This wasn’t bad, but it was just there – add my name to the list of those who are sorely disappointed that this rare Cody outing was a match that we really could have seen elsewhere on the indies. Cody really needs a tour in New Japan to build up a match, rather than just have him parachuting for the big cards. ***¼
After the match, Cody grabbed Kevin Kelly’s headset and rambled about Christopher Daniels, then Okada. I guess we know what match he wants next…
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA vs. Hiromu Takahashi (c)
After winning Best of the Super Juniors last weekend, I don’t think KUSHIDA’ll be squashed in two minutes like last time he faced Hiromu for the title. Speaking of, Hiromu shot out of the stage like he were Rey Mysterio on SmackDown fifteen years ago!
They started out fast with Hiromu teasing a Time Bomb, before they just laid into each other with forearms and cracking chops for the best part of the opening stages. KUSHIDA tried to charge at Takahashi, and just got an overhead belly-to-belly into the buckles for his trouble, before Hiromu looked to win with a chinlock.
A Falcon arrow gets Takahashi a near-fall as he kept the pressure up, before KUSHIDA blocked a spin kick and tried to get back into things, countering a sunset bomb with a cross armbreaker on the apron. That was a slick counter! What else was slick, was KUSHIDA doing his best Sabu impression, with boos in the background, as he vaulted over a guard rail after an insane run-up, into a dropkick that broke Hiromu into the front row!
Back in the ring, KUSHIDA kicked away at Hiromu’s arm, only for a handspring to get countered into a German suplex as the tides turned, allowing Takahashi to hit a Time Bomb for a near-fall. Takahashi tried the Time Bomb off the top rope as KUSHIDA went for a Hoverboard Lock, but it didn’t work as KUSHIDA threw himself to the mat with Hiromu in the Hoverboard Lock, before attempting Back To The Future. Instead, he just went back to the Hoverboard Lock, only for Hiromu to escape and land a clothesline instead.
We go back to the Time Bomb on the apron, but KUSHIDA countered with an attempted Sunset Bomb, only for Hiromu to land it eventually, sending the challenger cracking down to the floor. That’s a career shortener there, folks.
Takahashi takes KUSHIDA back into the ring rather than look for the count-out, and that leads him to a death valley driver into the corner, before KUSHIDA wonkily rolled up out of a Time Bomb for a near-fall. Like a madman, Hiromu tried for a top rope Time Bomb, but it’s countered into the Back to the Future off the top, with KUSHIDA unable to hold on after impact for the pinfall. The pair go back to chopping each other, before punching each other right in their God-damned-throats, just because they hate the very idea that the other could draw breath.
KUSHIDA gets up first and tries to stomp himself to victory, but the crowd’s disapproval gets shrugged off as he went to the Hoverboard Lock, wrenching away the wrist to force the submission! We have a new champion, as Hiromu was forced to give up either his belt or his wrist… and that my friends, is how you cap off a hell of a redemption story! A brutal match which perhaps could have been told a little later in the year, but this was sublime! ****¾
After the match, KUSHIDA took the microphone and starts a Mexican wave… which goes a lot better than you’d expect at the first time of asking! However, as the camera’s panning the crowd, BUSHI comes in and sprays KUSHIDA… and there’s your next match! A rematch from last year’s Destruction in Tokyo show, for those wondering.
Lumberjack Death Match for NEVER Openweight Championship: Hirooki Goto vs. Minoru Suzuki (c)
“Death Match” is a bit of a misnomer – there’s no panes of glass, barbed wire trampolines or any of that sickness here… it’s just a standard lumberjack match with a different name. Acting as lumberjacks here were Tomohiro Ishii, Jado, YOSHI-HASHI and Toru Yano for Goto, whilst Suzuki (of course) had TAKA Michinoku, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Zack Sabre Jr. Poor Taichi.
Actually, what am I saying? Stuff Taichi!
Anyway, the lumberjack stipulation is pretty much giving Suzuki-gun carte blanche to interfere, but at least Goto had CHAOS there to neutralise it as the lumberjacks “helped” by beating down Goto on the floor. Those lumberjacks them became useless as Suzuki took Goto into the crowd, before they all fought each other rather than take the combatants back to the ring.
When they did return to the ring, Suzuki tried for a Kimura before throwing Goto into his Suzuki-gun compadres for a mugging, whilst Jushin “Thunder” Liger threw a chair at Suzuki after he was taunted. Could THAT be next up? Goto nearly landed a version of the GTR, before TAKA Michinoku tried to stop Goto from flying off the top rope… and yeah, that interference was cut-off.
We missed a lot of the action outside as the camera focussed on Goto blocking a PK and dropping Suzuki with a clothesline, but it was Goto who dropped next after some forearms whilst CHAOS tried to keep the other lumberjacks down. An ushigoroshi out of nowhere gets Goto back in it, but then all of the lumberjacks hit the ring – again focusing on each other rather than their charge’s opponents. Somehow this led to a dive from YOSHI-HASHI, who landed a tope con hilo into the other lumberjacks as the match returned to its scheduled competitors, with Suzuki slipping into a rear naked choke…
…but a Gotch piledriver is countered into an ushigoroshi attempt, which Goto switched into a GTR that should have won it… but Taichi had snuck down to pull out the referee! Goto unloaded with forearms, but Taichi came in with a chairshot to the back of the head, before a Japanese chair shot popped off the seat as Suzuki was left to just hit the Gotch piledriver and retain. I wasn’t a fan of the massive involvement of the lumberjacks, which I felt detracted from the match, and this by no means felt like this feud was anywhere near done. Eh, it did the job it needed to, but it was the after the match stuff that looked more intriguing, as YOSHI-HASHI cleared the ring of Suzuki-gun and sent Minoru packing! **¾
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Hiroshi Tananashi vs. Tetsuya Naito (c)
On the last few tours, Naito’s gradually been destroying the Intercontinental title belt… meaning that the strap he came in with was dirty, fractured, and had some missing plates. Oh, and on the verge of being finished with as Naito threatened to complete the job if he kept hold of the belt today.
Tanahashi jumped Naito from behind after he’d thrown the belt into the ring, and it’s the champion who’s put on the defensive, getting sent into the guard railings as the pair went at it hammer and tongs. Despite having an injured/healing bicep, Tanahashi was throwing a lot of right hands, which eventually led to Naito ducking one and going for an armbar, to a chorus of boos!
For once, Osaka finally got Naito as a bad guy!
On the outside, Naito hits a tornado DDT, propelling himself off the apron as he looked to get a count-out, but Tanahashi barely beat that 20-count, allowing Naito to once again target that injured arm with a variety of armbars. All of that taunting made Tanahashi snap into life with a German suplex, before the crowd booed the hell out of him for raining down right hands on Naito. This Osaka crowd love nothing but squeaky-clean goodies, eh?
Tanahashi returned to his usual ways with a Dragon Screw, before his arm was dropped across the top rope as he looked to keep up, before trying to hit a German suplex off the second rope, eventually pulling Naito out of the corner, only for the champion to go back to the usual target. Naito took that second Dragon screw, as Tanahashi took him off the apron with the move, before connecting with a High Fly Flow to the floor!
Back inside, Tanahashi went for a Texas Cloverleaf, but Naito grabbed the hair to save himself as he then went back to the arm. The Gloria gets Naito a near-fall, before Tanahashi came back with a Catatonic (swinging side slam) – taking Naito down, but putting more pressure on that damaged arm. Another High Fly Flow was attempted, but quickly cut-off as the arm was targeted yet again in preparation for a top rope ‘rana… but Tanahashi rolled up and nearly stole a victory!
Tanahashi misses a High Fly Flow to put him back at square one, as the pair opted to just start slapping each other some more, before Tanahashi hit a straight-jacket German suplex for a near-fall. The arm again stops Tanahashi from a Dragon suplex, before a tornado DDT tool Tanahashi into the ropes as Naito started to get a wild look in his eyes. Was it panic or lack of control? A high German suplex after that suggested the former, as did a top rope Destino, but again Tanahashi kicked out at two!
The back and forth continued as the crowd crept off the edge of their seats, with Slingblades keeping Naito down… a High Fly Flow with the Nakamura fingers got another near-fall, so Tanahashi went back to the Cloverleaf, and after sinking it all the way back in like a Lion Tamer, Naito eventually tapped! A rather weird end, but given that Tanahashi had low-key been working over the knee like his arm had been worked over, it made sense and brought to an end, a hell of a story – Naito thinking he’d easily be able to smash through Tanahashi by going after his arm, whilst the Ace had to gut through it to beat his adversary and save the title from destruction. For my money, this was a shade below their WrestleKingdom outing, but I’m giving it the same rating – so sue me! ****¾
The sight of Jushin “Thunder” Liger praising to those above that Naito lost the belt was quite the thing… now, do New Japan get their Ace a new belt?!
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada (c)
After going just under 47 minutes at WrestleKingdom in a match that was universally labelled a match of the year contender… how do you beat that? Easy – do a Broadway!
Omega was out with the Young Bucks, whilst Okada had “just” Gedo with him, but it was truly one-on-one when they got going, with Okada teasing a Rainmaker in the opening moments as the pair escaped a lot of each other’s usual stuff. We had an early tease at the One Winged Angel, but that too was escaped, as this was quickly turning into the opening stretch of the first Ospreay/Ricochet match… without the flips.
Okada slid back into the ring to avoid a Terminator dive, with Okada instead connecting with a flip dive as he looked to tweak his knee on landing. That gave Omega something to target, with a springboard missile dropkick being inch perfect on that knee, before delivering a knee breaker onto a table at ringside… and that table didn’t break, which couldn’t have helped.
Back in the ring, Okada used a Victory Roll and kept on rolling through into the Red Ink STF, forcing Omega to crawl to the ropes for freedom, before his attempt at an Asai moonsault off the guard rails ended with Okada shoving Omega into the second set of barriers, as he set up for a huge run-up and that crossbody into no man’s land!
The pair reversed tombstones en route to a near-fall, as Okada landed his neckbreaker slam, before the tables turned again as Omega’s baseball slide took Okada to the floor for a top rope Asai moonsault! Now that’s what I call impressive athleticism! Omega followed up with a repeat of the top rope missile dropkick to Okada’s face, then a Dr Wily Bomb for a near-fall before landing the Finlay roll… and moonsaulting into Okada’s knees as the toll started to show on both guys.
Omega fights out of a top rope neckbreaker slam attempt, as he instead teases a sunset bomb, before switching out and going for the top rope Dragon suplex! Okada keeps elbowing free though, before eventually dishing out a death valley driver onto the apron. You know, that’s the hardest part of the ring, says everyone these days… A shotgun dropkick on the floor sends Omega back-first into the guard railings, allowing Okada to go under the ring for a table in yet another callback to WrestleKingdom… and that scary as all hell back body drop that Omega took. Kenny avoids it and teases a powerbomb through it instead to Okada, before he takes a dropkick as he tried to deliver a springboarded dropkick to the champ.
The top rope elbow drop took us past the 30 minute mark as Okada started teasing a Rainmaker again, only to get taken up top for a cross-legged superplex. A cross-legged over-the-knee brainbuster followed as Omega looked to wear down the neck and the knee of the champion, before teasing the One Winged Angel. That doesn’t work, nor does a V-Trigger as Okada insteads drilled him with a high German suplex, then another, before a Rainmaker connected for the first time for a near-fall.
Omega effortlessly countered a dropkick from Okada into a powerbomb, before snapping into a Dragon suplex, only for a dropkick to take his challenger off the top rope and to the floor as the match remained delicately poised. That table came back into shot, as Okada placed Omega onto it, then climbed to the top rope for an elbow drop onto a table that barely gave… yep, the Japanese table returned!
Another missile dropkick sent a kneeling Omega flying as he crawled back into the ring, before some more dropkicks led to a cover that ended when the ref noticed Omega’s hand was under the bottom rope. Amusingly, Omega punched away at what passed for a gut on Okada, who responded with a pair of Rainmakers, which seemed to be the cue for some more guests at ringside as the rest of Bullet Club came down… with Cody threatening to throw in the towel.
For some reason, only the Bucks were restraining him, as we had a tease of dissension from the Elite, but that just sparked Omega into a V-Trigger and a reverse ‘rana as Omega took that towel and threw it back out. Another V-Trigger gets cut-off with a dropkick, before a Rainmaker’s countered into another knee and then a V-Trigger to the back of the head! Somehow, Okada flipped out of a One Winged Angel, but had no answer to a second one… but at the last second, Okada stretched out his foot and made contact with the bottom rope to save his bacon! Holy hell that was awesome!
Omega taunted Okada with a gun pose, but Okada just grabbed the outstretched arm and turned it into a Rainmaker… Out. Of. Nowhere. Somehow, Omega got up first and sparked some back-and-forth strikes, leading to another snap Dragon, but Okada had no problem popping back with a dropkick as time started to tick away with that hour-long time limit looming.
Some knees almost got Omega the win, as did a V-Trigger to the back of the head, before Omega looked to prepare for another One Winged Angel! Again Okada escaped, hitting a Tombstone, but he was too spent and took way too long to make a cover… so Okada goes to pull Kenny up for another Rainmaker, but he slumped to his knees out of fatigue, as Okada’s Rainmaker swung and missed over his challenger. Holy crap, that’s subtle but oh-so-great!
With enough energy to stand, Omega blasted Okada with a pair of brutal V-Triggers as we entered the final five, and by this point it was pretty clear that a betting man would go for the time limit draw… but still they kept going, as a third V-Trigger could have got the win, but instead Omega went for something else, and took a dropkick as Okada yet again escaped! A spinning tombstone followed, but yet again Okada was too spent to make a cover.
Somehow, Okada deadlifted Omega into a bridging German for a near-fall, before returning to that dropkick as we got minute-by-minute countdowns. Another Rainmaker was attempted, but Omega grabbed the ropes, then elbowed free to lead to a snap Dragon suplex, but yet-another dropkick led to Okada landing a Rainmaker, with Omega landing on his head… but Okada again fell too far away and couldn’t make the cover… nor could he make it there before the time ran out! My big criticism of the WrestleKingdom match was that there was too much “dead air”, with a lot of “padding”… this had none of that. Going in knowing it went the distance, I was kept on tenterhooks, not even caring or noticing the time passing by until it was actively called out in the final ten minutes. I’m calling it, this topped WrestleKingdom! *****
So… where do we go from here? Do we have Kenny Omega win the G1 again to get his next shot? Do we seriously go with Cody, who was flat-out calling out Okada for the title? Either way, Okada/Omega has been THE series of the year, and will leave a certain section of the fanbase clamouring to see just where you go when you top a match that’s already broken the scale. Needless to say, there’ll also be another part of the audience annoyed that this was so good, thinking that WrestleKingdom’s outing was overhyped, but each to their own! Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada are machines!
As for the rest of the card… saying “it was alright” is a massive, massive understatement. Two ****¾ matches and a ***** will put this right up there with the already-crowded show of the year ballots – and whilst there was a lot of fluff in there in terms of multi-man matches, and matches that perhaps could have been spaced differently (I’m looking at the back-to-back tag title bouts), you’re going to be going some way to beat this as the event of 2017. This show alone was worth my ¥999 for the month… and then some! If you’re one of those fans who are online and bemoaning that there’s “no good wrestling these days”, open your eyes and at least give New Japan a try. There’s a reason so many are clamouring over them!