Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada (c) for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, NJPW Dominion – June 9th, 2018
This week’s match is a rare one to say the least.
For nearly two years, Kenny Omega has been chasing the IWGP World Heavyweight Title, and more specifically, the all-time longest reigning champion, Kazuchika Okada. Starting with Omega’s G1 Climax win in July of 2016, and accelerating with their purported six-star match at Wrestlekingdom the following January, Okada and Omega became widely considered to be the top two talents in the business today. In this match, the fourth in their rivalry, the audience is treated to a true denouement for the story and a massive achievement in the industry.
The truth of the matter is that it is extremely difficult to keep a belt on a wrestler and keep them interesting these days. It is almost impossible in the WWE as they are attempting to keep the product moving while juggling hours of television per week. In this, New Japan has a serious advantage. Running a few times a month instead of a few times a week, champions are not even present for every show. When not involved in matches with their current contenders, they usually find themselves in faction driven tag matches. With the spotlight moving constantly and a less strenuous schedule, the wrestlers are able to ensure that the title matches are not only given due build, but are able to perform at an extremely high level when those matches come along. It also allows a champion’s reign to last longer when necessary. That said, no one has ever had Okada’s reign.
Kazuchika Okada, protege of Shinsuke Nakamura and his successor as leader of the CHAOS faction, has held the IWGP title four times. His combined four reigns lasting longer than Tanahashi’s seven. Not unlike Ric Flair, part of Okada’s persona became the championship and how unlikely it is to take it off of him. Okada has truly beaten everyone there is to beat in the company, and this reign will be spoken about for years to come. After many (myself included) believed that the red-hot Tetsuya Naito would finally take the belt from him at the most recent Wrestlekingdom, he retained regardless and it was clear that their could be only one man to truly challenge The Rainmaker.
Kenny Omega began his career in Japan as a face, tagging with Kota Ibushi as The Golden Lovers ( I couldn’t figure out how to do those star things). He would eventually break off and, after denying intention to do so, join the then growing Bullet Club, then and perhaps now, the hottest faction in the business. Upon the exit of AJ Styles, Omega would assume leadership of the stable and moved towards that aforementioned G1 victory. Omega first lost to Okada at Wrestlekingdom, but would take the champion to a time limit draw at last year’s Dominion. A month later, during the 2017 G1 Tournament, Omega would beat Okada.
But not for the title. The pair were still tied up.
Both men would turn their attention to other feuds, and in a seemingly strange move, wouldn’t face each other at Wrestlekingdom this year.
Maybe this was part New Japan’s expansion.
Maybe the IWGP U.S. Title was made for Omega to take into the future.
But, shortly after the show, Omega lost that too. The Bullet Club was in disarray and Omega wasn’t the man he was just a few months earlier.
Things were about to change.
As The Bullet Club began to adjust to its new identity, Omega embraced his past, literally. Kota Ibushi and Kenny Omega reformed The Golden Lovers and Omega became what the crowd had made him anyway, a hero. Not only a hero, but the complete package he needed to be to truly challenge the seemingly indomitable Okada.
Omega/Okada IV is the perfect conclusion to the one of the most engaging wrestling narratives of all time and something that any fan alive today can appreciate. Though WWE always seems to strive for story over in-ring action, here it is proven that you can have both. Contested under two out of three falls rules, all involved are letting the audience know that there will be no doubt who the winner is. Personally, and from a strictly performance angle, I prefer the first match. But, the fourth is precisely what the narrative needed it to be. Omega’s journey is the stuff of a great novel, all of the pieces coming into play at perfect moments, taking a man from hero to villain, and back again. Omega finally defeating Okada on the appropriate stage, with no doubt who deserves to win is coronation not often seen in any promotion. The closest thing I can even think of is Daniel Bryan’s double victory at Wrestlemania 30. Even that legendary moment was not as perfectly executed as this. As mentioned before, a New Japan’s format certainly helped keep this interesting, but it is no excuse for other organizations. If anything, it should be studied by them.
This match, along with the rest of the excellent Dominion card, is available through the NJPW World streaming service.