Match Of The Week: Kazuchika Okada Vs. Kenny Omega

Pull up a seat. There's a lot to talk about...

As you've probably heard by now, many are branding Okada/Omega IV the best wrestling match of all time. Lots of people have said this - from smarky social media dons to New Japan newbies, excited Bullet Club fanboys to Dave actual Meltzer.

Not everybody was a fan. While most raved about the match, others bemoaned its length, and it's not hard to see why. It went over an hour, stretched over three epic falls. Personally, I can forgive the extraordinary length. After all, this was the culmination of an extraordinary feud.

However, before we examine why Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega was such an incredible bout, it's important to mention some of the other matches that took place at Dominion. Will Ospreay and Hiromu Takahashi lit up Osaka-jo hall with a blistering display of junior heavyweight violence; the Young Bucks triumphed over EVIL and SANADA in one of the best tag matches of 2018; and Chris Jericho single-handedly tore up the landscape of the industry once again, wrenching the IWGP Intercontinental Championship from a bloodied Tetsuya Naito.

Still, there was only ever going to be one match taking this spot - a fact which became apparent before it was even a third of the way through.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Kenny Omega
NJPW Dominion 2018
Osaka-jo Hall - Osaka, Japan

New Japan Pro Wrestling

Background: Omega and Okada's feud will go down in wrestling history, but isn't too difficult to explain. It's a great story, but not one full of needless complexity.

Bullet Club leader Omega won the 2016 G1 Climax, dispatching Hirooki Goto in the final, and progressed to a Wrestle Kingdom title match with The Rainmaker. Their first bout utterly blew the Tokyo Dome roof off, smashing Meltzer's 5-star rating system in the process - but crucially, Omega came up short.

The rematch came at Dominion 2017, a bout which many felt was even better than the original. It went to a time limit draw, the hour expiring as Okada crawled across the ring to make a cover on his challenger. A third match surely beckoned, but actually came much sooner than anticipated. Both men were drawn in the same block of the G1 Climax, and it was here that Kenny finally defeated New Japan's ace. However, it wasn't the most satisfying of victories. Okada had been severely weakened over the course of a punishing tournament, and Omega targeted his neck with utter ruthlessness. Crucially, it also wasn't for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

The record between the two stood at 1-1-1, but while many predicted that the decider would come at this year's Wrestle Kingdom, it wasn't to be. Omega went down to Naito in the final of the 2017 G1, the LIJ leader in the form of his life. Okada then held off his new challenger in the Tokyo Dome, continuing an unbelievable run of dominance as the top dog of New Japan (and, arguably, the entire wrestling world).

Having maintained his iron grip on the title throughout 2018, Okada saw off old foe Hiroshi Tanahashi to stake a claim as perhaps the greatest IWGP Heavyweight Champion ever. His moment in the sun was cut short, however, as Omega came out to challenge him at Dominion.

The feud's background is certainly dramatic, but only tells half the tale. The rest had been told in the ring over the course of three excellent matches - a theme that would continue into last weekend's epic.

New Japan Pro Wrestling

The Match: Understandably, this one starts slow - but it's not too long before the pace picks up, both men countering each other's finishers and tumbling to the outside. We get our first set piece spot of the match, as Okada charges into his signature crossbody over the guardrail, only for Omega to meet him with a crunching V-Trigger - the first of many.

The first fall appears to illustrate that Okada is still the more talented wrestler, but he's facing an Omega at the very top of his game. Kenny is certainly the more fired-up and frantic of the two, drilling his opponent with lots of knees and attempting a Reverse Rana...only for the champion to wisely snag the ropes. Omega continues to up the ante, attempting a Dragon Suplex from the top rope - but Okada counters it into a terrifying Tombstone on the apron.

The momentum is fully with the champion now as he blasts Omega with several big moves, but pauses to hit the Rainmaker pose, allowing Kenny to surprise him with a lightning-fast Dragon Suplex. It's perhaps a touch of foreshadowing, drawing attention to Okada's cockiness. Now it's Omega's turn to run through his repertoire - including a gigantic tope to the outside, harking back to their first match at Wrestle Kingdom 2017. However, Okada reverses each and every attempt at the One-Winged Angel.

Omega keeps his wits about him, ducking a Rainmaker attempt - but Okada busts out his best Bret Hart impersonation, trapping Kenny in a pinning predicament to win the first fall!

Okada's firmly on top now, standing over Omega in the middle of the ring, no-selling forearm strikes and chops. Kenny is forced to claw his way back into the match - and claw he does, exploding into life as only he can. He essentially wills himself onwards, somehow battling Okada to the outside and nailing a table-assisted stomp from the apron. It's another throwback to the pair's first encounter, but one with a crucial difference. This time, the table is never used again - but Okada becomes momentarily fascinated with using it. He almost pays for it in the form of a One-Winged Angel through the timber, but escapes in the nick of time. Still, like the earlier Rainmaker pose, it's another hint at Okada's overconfidence.

Back in the ring, another Rainmaker attempt is countered with a big Uranage. I'm not sure if it was initially intended to be one of the match's signature moments, but it certainly feels like one due to Omega's flawless execution. Despite managing to hang in there, Kenny's almost caught with another flash pinfall. Escaping it seems to boost his focus and fury. A sickening Piledriver follows, as does a V-Trigger, and finally the One-Winged Angel. Okada has never previously kicked out of the move - and that continues to ring true, as the challenger takes the second fall.

Once the break between falls is over, Omega rushes to press the advantage. He hits another V-Trigger, but his One-Winged Angel attempt is reversed into the Rainmaker. Both men are out on the canvas, totally spent - but there's still more to come. They battle back to their feet, and Kenny reaches deep down into his playbook - or, more accurately, reaches into somebody else's playbook - planting Okada with the finisher of his old foe, AJ Styles.

Still it's not enough, as Okada kicks out. By this point, both men are too tired to adhere to wrestling convention. There are shades of their second match, where Omega luckily avoided a Rainmaker by simply fainting beneath it. Kenny changes track, looking to the ringside Kota Ibushi for inspiration. He heads up top, but his Phoenix Splash fails to connect. Okada attempts to seize the advantage, but unthinkably, New Japan's ace has been pushed beyond his limits. He attempts another Rainmaker, only to bounce off Omega's torso, totally spent.

Kenny hits a German Suplex, and maintains his own wrist control. Keeping a firm grip on his opponent's wrist has been a key theme of Okada's reign, representing his hold not only on the championship, but on the company as a whole. Now it's Omega demonstrating his own desire, and another sign that his moment is near. He counters another Rainmaker into a One-Winged Angel, but the ropes appear to be Okada's saving grace. His lifeless body crashes into them, preventing a pinfall attempt - but Omega isn't done...

Kenny hurtles across the ring and launches himself into perhaps the biggest V-Trigger of his career, almost wiping out a ringside camera in the process. A final, exclamatory One-Winged Angel follows, and Okada is finally undone.

Everybody breathe.

New Japan Pro Wrestling

Aftermath: After the final bell, we were treated to some immediate developments. The Young Bucks hit the ring - newly won IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team titles in tow - and reconciled with their best friend. The reformed Elite stood alongside Ibushi, the picture of a happy ending...so of course their moment had to be ruined by Cody Rhodes, who ambled onto the ramp and established himself as the next challenger for the title.

Beyond that (because Omega will surely beat Cody) the consequences of this bout are very intriguing. Okada is fancied to tear into this year's G1 Climax with a vengeance, eager to earn a rematch at Wrestle Kingdom 2019. Then again, his victory isn't a sure thing. Imagine if Naito earned himself another shot. Imagine if Ibushi did!

It's unclear quite when Okada and Omega will meet again - or, moreover, if they should. Their four matches have provided some of the best professional wrestling ever seen, both in terms of in-ring drama and overall storytelling. The more you watch, the more there is to unpick and marvel at - but one thing is immediately clear: theirs is a chemistry not easily replicated. Perhaps not even in a lifetime.

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

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