Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kenny Omega
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan
(reviewed 01/04/2017) This is one of those matches that is so unappealing to me on paper that I might ruin it for myself even if it’s good. Hopefully I don’t do that, but man, I don’t know that this is going to be good. The promo package before the match certainly isn’t good, being simultaneously bland and hyperbolic, which certainly is an odd dichotomy. Omega’s tron and entrance are full-on Terminator cosplay, which is tiring. In an interesting touch, I think these two are the only two to enter through the middle of the entrance stage (aside from Hiromu, who came up through a trap door) as opposed to either side of it, though I could be wrong about that. Omega crumples one of Okada’s novelty dollar bills before the bell rings in a somewhat subtle moment that thankfully isn’t harped on. They start off with some Western-style chaining (which isn’t a good sign), and Omega takes control by going after Okada’s hair. Okada’s hair looks like shit here, either being totally un-dyed or dyed an odd greyish sandy color, and with Omega’s ratty locks, this is the worst hair I’ve seen in a main event in a long time, very much unbecoming of the Tokyo Dome main event. Omega works a headlock for a few minutes before they transition into some quick pin attempts and arm drags. It’s sort of amazing how Western this match feels so far, and I don’t like it one bit. After some reversals back and forth, Omega goes for the One-Winged Angel, but Okada frees himself so Omega just spits in his eye. Omega wastes some time on the outside, baiting Okada to chase him, and when he does, Omega eats a boot to the face for his troubles. A sliding dropkick sends Omega to the floor, where Okada whips him into the guard rail real hard and gives him a guard rail-hung DDT. Oddly, Okada brings a table out from under the ring, though Omega cuts him off before he can use it, and Okada simply does a big diving crossbody over the guard rail onto his opponent instead. Back in the ring, Okada goes to work with a chinlock before Omega outmaneuvers him and goes after his leg to get ahead. Omega then starts to target Okada’s back, which seems like an odd strategy. A rana sends the champ to the floor, and Omega follows it up with a tope con giro. On the floor, Omega scoop slams Okada onto the edge of the apron, with it being the first bit of offense in this match from Omega that I really like and the first bit of Okada selling in this match that I really like. Omega comes off the top with a really mean dropkick to the back of Okada’s head, clearly stiffing him more than necessary, and Omega is flabbergasted as to how it didn’t end the match. A brief Camel Clutch and piledriver attempt seem to signify that Omega is changing his game plan to neckwork, though you could argue that he’s targeting the spine in general. Okada evens things up with a big fireman’s carry slam that puts both men down, and he follows it up with some of his usual offense. Omega nearly fades in a faux-STF that has no business putting him away, but he springs to life and grabs the bottom rope to escape in one of many pandering moments. Okada misses a flying nothing off the top and can’t quite pull off the Tombstone piledriver either, settling for the Air Raid Crash to the knee before climbing the ropes. He comes down for what was probably meant to be an elbow drop, but it’s more of a flying nothing due to the fact that Omega was meant to get his knees up. The thing is, Omega barely manages to do so, probably out of an attempt to make it look like he did it at the VERY LAST POSSIBLE SECOND, so an attempt to make a spot feel big and epic fails because it barely achieves being a spot at all. Omega continues to target the champ’s back, sending him over the guard rail with a dropkick before hitting a pretty impressive and nutty springboard moonsault over the rail and onto Okada. Okada’s selling as he struggles to get back to the ring are a big much, but I appreciate it as a bit of pantomime. Omega cuts him off, though, tossing a folded table on top of him before running off the apron for a flying double stomp onto it and his opponent. Back in the ring, he follows it up with a powerbomb for a two count that people for some reason buy into. A subsequent Doctor Bomb is much more threatening, but again Okada kicks out. The Bucks set up the aforementioned table out on the floor, telling Omega to use it, and Omega drags the champ out onto the apron for something nefarious before Red Shoes stops him and orders him back in the ring. Okada gets whipped into the ropes, and afterward there’s a big zoom on his meanie face, signifying that this is Okada Comeback Time. Said comeback is thwarted, though, as Omega hits the one man More Bang for Your Buck for a two count. Here, we catch glimpse of a fairly big cut on Okada’s back from… somewhere? that isn’t bleeding at all and may actually just be a bruise. He’s able to send Omega to the floor with a dropkick and drags him up on the apron afterward, looking for a fireman’s carry slam onto the set up table. Omega frees himself and goes for the One-Winged Angel, but Okada slips into the ring to escape it. Back in the ring, Omega lays in a few chops before bouncing off the ropes for a move, and Okada backdrops him over the ropes and through the table out on the floor. The table really implodes, so you know Omega took it real hard, and what’s more, due to the arc of his descent, it looks like his back comes right down on the edge of the raised surface the ring is on, so he basically comes down on the edge of a bunch of wood/metal/plastic/some sort of hard surface your back isn’t meant to crash against. It’s a big, exciting spot, but goddamn is it dumb. Omega somehow manages to get back in the ring, only to be turned inside out on a springboard dropkick that earns Okada a nearfall. From here on, Omega’s facials and selling are obviously real over the top, because how could they not be? He’s able to avoid a DDT and really rock Okada with a slap before sitting the champ up on the top rope. Omega hits a top-rope dragon suplex that looks like it really kills poor Okada, which is probably the first time I’ve felt sympathy for the kid. A fisherman buster onto the knee looks to have Okada on his last legs, but he avoids a V-Trigger and hits a weirdly high German suplex. Omega in turn escapes a Rainmaker and hits a high knee, but Okada cuts him off with a dropkick that looks AMAZING from the first camera angle due to a bit of a shake at the moment of impact. Each man blocks another Rainmaker and V-Trigger before Omega connects with his move, hitting a poisonrana afterward. He follows it with another V-Trigger and a One-Winged Angel attempt, but Okada flips free from it and hits a Tombstone before making a big dramatic face. A Rainmaker looks to end things, but Omega kicks out, which is either the second or third time the move has ever been kicked out of. To his credit, Okada’s facials afterward are great for once, a picture of shocked despondency. He’s not quite sure how to react. Omega fights back with some shots to the gut and an eye rake, but a John Woo dropkick sends Omega back into the corner in a pretty fucking nutty way, and it’s obvious that he’s on the “dumb bumps = emotion and drama” kick. Okada goes for a Tombstone but Omega reverses it and hits the dumb-looking reverse gin n’ tonic everyone seems to be doing these days for a two count. Making big dramatic faces, both men trade shots back and forth, working up to their feet. Omega hits a snap dragon suplex and another V-Trigger for a two count, followed by yet another V-Trigger. He goes for the One-Winged Angel, but Okada grabs his wrist and slips free, using the leverage to yank him in for a Rainmaker in a neat spot reminiscent of last year’s main event. Okada goes for another, but Omega boots him in the face a bunch to avoid it, transitioning then into three really mean knees to the face that sound horrific, and Okada makes him pay with a Rainmaker that puts him right on the top of his head. Some reversals back and forth see Omega barely connect with a rough dropkick before awkwardly hitting a Rainmaker-style V-Trigger. He goes for the One-Winged Angel, seemingly rearranging Okada as to spike him on his head in a supermove version of it I guess, but Okada uses the opportunity to reverse it and hit a spinning Tombstone, topping it off with one final Rainmaker for the win.
As if the 1500 words before this weren’t evidence enough (or the goddamn 47 minute run time of this match), this is a match about excess, a match adhering to the school of thought that throwing more and more shit at the wall and taking more and more dumb, dangerous bumps equates to greater and greater quality. That school of thought is wrong, although certainly appealing and exciting. So too, this match is exciting at points, and seeing these two kill each other a bunch was certainly enjoyable for me on some level (especially since I really dislike these two, so go at it, boys, end your own careers as quick as you’d like), but there’s little to it past the “owww, that looked like it hurt” level. That might sound weird coming from a huge deathmatch fan, and that’s a point I thought about a lot, watching this match. In deathmatch wrestling, many people do think that more is better and that dumb bumps are the end all be all. They too are wrong, but while there are multiple levels to my enjoyment of deathmatches, the most base of those levels is seeing the spectacle of people hurting each other a bunch. I enjoy seeing dumb bumps sometimes, is what I mean. That by itself doesn’t really make for high art or a terribly compelling narrative or whatever terminology you’d like to use, and it doesn’t do it by itself in this match either. So, what I’m saying is, this match is about as good as a low-tier Tournament of Death match: flashy, gross, excessive, and completely forgettable.