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  1. Some meh "feeling out process" to start things off. Really nothing happened until Kenny started to attack Okada's knee, he beat the crap out of it, so naturally the champ completely no sells that work done on his knee to run full speed, counter stuff with that "damaged" knee & do his usual signature stuff. Nice. So the knee work was complete filler. Then again we get into a section where it feels like nothing is happening until out comes Bullet Club; they do some dumb drama w/ Cody almost throwing in the towel for Omega. After that the finishing stretch kicks in & it's pretty amazing - they went completely nuts just like in their Dome match. Kenny finally hitting the One Winged Angel only for Okada to get out of it via a rope break was terrific; spot of the match easily. So yep - this is something I would use as an example when bringing up the "going long for the sake of it" argument, because that's what this was; going long for the sake of it. It's frustrating because these 2 have a goddamn classic match in them, but they aren't gonna have it by going this damn long - in my eyes anyway. Great stretch after the Cody/BC drama, but overall a super weak match. **1/2
  2. I wasn’t expecting much from this match, but I ended up enjoying it a fair bit. I’ve found Okada’s recent work to be tiresome and dull, evoking the worst aspects of New Japan. The long-winded nature of his matches hasn’t helped matters, as NJPW continues to chase record-breaking match lengths not as an earned accomplishment, but to pad stats. This match isn’t without its issues. For one, the big moves could be spaced out better. Shingo hits a Death Valley Driver on the ramp and while the count-out tease is well-done, the first move after they get back into the ring is a Superplex. While the original wrist control spot from the Wrestle Kingdom 10 battle between Tanahashi and Okada felt justified and a symbol of Kazuchika’s stubbornness, it has since felt forced and merely been something Okada does in marquee matches. Then you have the dancey counter sequences, which are beyond tired at this point and only serve the purpose of filling time. I also think the finishing stretch dragged a tad bit too long. There’s less dead air here than in recent Okada matches. The early back work from Okada to Takagi is sold well, and the neck work added drama to the Money Clip attempts late in the match. Okada even does a wild dive over the guard in an attempt to win me back. Okada brings a sort of frenzied energy that has been sorely lacking from him in 2021. As is often the case with his best matches, Okada is fired up and has something to prove. Things get spicy once the match escalates, with Okada and Takagi putting force behind their strikes and blasting each other with elbows. After a back-and-forth closing stretch, Okada eventually finishes off Takagi with a dropkick, Landslide, and a Rainmaker. Firmly their best match together for my money. While I still firmly believe that less is more when it comes to New Japan, as a certain match earlier in the card displayed, there’s a lot to like here if you’re a fan of the style. If you’re not, this will do nothing to change your mind.
  3. Kazuchika Okada defends the IWGP World Heavyweight Title Standard fare as far as New Japan’s main events these days are concerned. They start with some mat work, but it’s quickly forgotten about and doesn’t carry much weight. This also isn’t 2020 anymore, so the magic this pairing once created is long gone. Without a cheering crowd living and dying with every near fall, it all falls into the trap of most Okada matches, which is to say it rings hollow. This is relatively brisk by modern NJPW standards, clocking in at just 27 minutes. Naito targets the neck to set up the Destino, and it’s fine and all. I can’t shake the feeling that the New Japan of several years ago, which excited me and had me optimistic about the future, is a completely different promotion than the soulless husk it is currently. There are issues here, so deeply entrenched in the epic main event formula that simply allowing crowds to cheer again won’t fix overnight. For one, they could do a better job of spacing out the high spots. Okada hits a DDT on the apron, and rather than capitalizing on it, immediately hits another DDT on the floor. Whether New Japan will overcome these obstacles remains to be seen. But for now, we’ll have to rely on small glimmers of hope like sporadic guest appearances from Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Tatsumi Fujinami, or STRONGHEARTS freshening up the undercards. The crowd audibly popped when Naito hit a Stardust Press in the closing stretch, which felt like being transported back in time a few years when things were better and it was undoubtedly the high point of the match. Hold on to those moments, because for the time being, they are few and fleeting.
  4. This was the antithesis of most New Japan undercard tags. STRONGHEARTS are such a breath of fresh air, bringing new life to the promotion. Fujinami's great at picking his spots even at 69, which led to a cool moment at the beginning where he stood up to Okada. Kojima and T-Hawk beat the tar out of one another, but it eventually came down to the STRONGHEARTS & Fujinami group isolating Kojima and working over his leg. Tanahashi got the hot tag, and everyone ate a Dragon Screw except Fujinami. Tanahashi slapped the old man and delivered Fujinami's signature Dragon Screw, which elicited an audible reaction from the crowd. Everyone entered the pool, and it led to TM4 hitting a dive on Fujinami. The final stretch between Okada and T-Hawk was breathtakingly quick, but not so much as to be overbearing. A spry, breezy eight-man tag that played to everyone's strengths and got in and out in under 15 minutes. New Japan could use more matches like this.
  5. It's late and I don't have a ton to say about it, but I thought this was another great match on this show. I really liked the way this built like a world title match with the slow crescendo to the string of big moves and nearfalls at the end, and once again, it didn't seem bloated or anything. I know that's not a rave review, but I'm tired.
  6. I mainly just made this thread to give Carl Greco a thread against someone pretty random, and lo and behold it turned out to be Okada. But actually think this could be fun as it's someone who is nearly the antithesis of him and what made him great and yet also is objectively far more popular. What say you, my friends?
  7. Suzuki's leg work was so fantastic - his performance was all around one of the best that I've seen. Perfect character work & his work on top was just superb. Okada's selling was for the most part really great, as in when he was taking that beating he sold super well, but every time it was time for him to get some comeback moves in, he kinda dropped the leg selling & that it ultimately what prevents this classic from being a stone cold 5-star classic. ****3/4
  8. The homecoming and debut of The Rainmaker gimmick for Okada. This is around 5 minutes total. His look is something else - his face especially in comparison to today. This is very cookie-cutter, with no heat, but I'll tell you what - the guy could hit a dropkick, including a big seated dropkick off the top rope. Rainmaker pose draws crickets and its an awful clothesline this time out anyway.
  9. A very good match, but also one where you get the impression that in the worker's head, they think the match is great and it never came all the way together for me in that regard. We have seen a good bit of limb and body control work from Okada in this run now and this was the weakest of those narratives. Goto doesn't do many compelling things on top and Okada's facials and overall demeanor isn't as strong as it was in the Naito match. Goto works the neck of Okada as well and does have short bursts like the running clotheslines that look effective but their isn't much follow up. Okada continues to have a system that he employs into his singles matches the more you watch such as gaining the advantage by hitting a dropkick with his opponent sitting on the top rope. The finish has a good many kick outs of all the big moves of both men minus the RainMaker. The RainMaker gets hit and again is enough on the first try for Okada to win. ***1/2
  10. What can I even say? This was so unbelievably out-of-this-world great. I was rooting for Shibata all the way through - but in the end, I wasn't mad/sad one bit that he lost because of how goddamn amazing this match. My immediate reaction was that it ranks right up there w/ the best All Japan classics of the 90's, and after re-watching the match I think there's only one match I'd put above it - 06/03/94. This match was full of amazing moments, character work & storytelling. Loved the early parts where Shibata kept Okada grounded with those amazing headlocks of his - love the somewhat WoS-esq stuff he has been pulling out lately. Shibata was simply making Okada his bitch at that point. Well, that made the young Rainmaker a bit upset, in his usual clean break spot he started beating the shit out of Shibata, which wasn't very wise as that lead to Shibata continuing to make Okada his bitch by doing exactly what Okada did to him, but twice as effective. Goddamn loved Okada's character work throughout the thing - he was getting beaten to death by Shibata, but he still is the new ace, the cocky youngster so he has to go & try to go toe-to-toe with him trading strikes. The whole finishing stretch was just a fantastic cherry on top of an all-time great cake - in the end Okada survived the ass beating The Wrestler gave him. This was so fucking phenomenal. *****
  11. Kazuchika Okada defends the IWGP Heavyweight title. Pretty good stuff from Jericho here in between the aggressive attacks, heel stuff and generally trying to stay one step ahead of Okada story wise. I like Okada in general but this was a nothing performance. Aside from the gloating at the start, he contributed nothing to the match. Good finish with Okada outmaneuvering the "brawler" Jericho with a simple wrestling move. The pacing was pretty lethargic though and large parts fell flat. Not bad but hugely disappointing. ***
  12. Really enjoyed this one especially the performance of Nicholls. He did everything with aggression and every strike he delivered was stiff even busting open Okada's chest in the process. You can tell motivated and had something to prove. Okada for his part was his standard self but was so giving making the crowd actually believe an upset is going to happen. Good stuff.
  13. We all know the great chemistry these two guys have together as well as the pitfalls many of their matches fall into. Still prefer their match from earlier this year, but this was a fun bout with the story of Okada needing the victory and Tanahashi needing only to run out the clock. I enjoyed the leg work for what it was even though (of course) it doesn't really go anywhere. I still liked that there were hints of the leg selling towards the end. Just hints though. Of course, the good stuff is in the finish and these two are quiet great at it. I'm a big fan of the finisher counter style they work so all the near misses for the Rainmaker especially that sudden left hand were some of my favorite spots. The finish was a big shock for me despite the track record and made for a nice surprise for me. Really good stuff here. ****1/4
  14. Sabre is killing it this year., and this is wonderfully laid out. Okada isn’t that good on the mat, but that’s fine, because he doesn’t have to be. He gets some holds in, which makes sense with his lucha training, but Sabre mostly dominating him while he screams in pain is what’s supposed to happen, and boy does it. Sabre knows it’s gonna happen, too, escaping anything with arrogant ease. Just like in the Tanahashi/Sabre final, this is built around the fact that Sabre can control the mat and counter most things (that first dropkick counter whooooo), but the size advantage is such that it makes sense that a few big moves can finish him. And Zack is cocky enough to occasionally get into striking exchanges to set up those openings. He sells the hell out of a big DDT, too, going to his neck and shoulders constantly in the second half of the match and eventually not being able to completely lock things in at the end. Great stuff, and it might not even be my 2nd favorite Zack Sabre Jr. match of the past few weeks.
  15. Tenryu's retirement match and also one of the most surreal pro wrestling matches I have ever watched. Tenryu is just completely broken down here, in the last few years he could barely walk but here he can't even do that and categorizing what he does here as "walking" doesn't really seem right. Still I totally get why this would win the Tokyo Sports Match Of The Year. I've seen people call this match sad and I'd agree with that. I don't think that makes it a bad match though. Wrestling is about emotion and symbolism, not execution. Tenryu can't do anything except stiff the shit out Okada for real, and to his credit Okada daring Tenryu to shoot punch him in the face some more is about as close as I can get to liking him. A lot of Okada's offence doesn't look good, and Tenryu didn't have the strength to Powerbomb him properly but I don't think it really took away from the match. If anything that Tenryu was so broken down added to the match really. You'd have him making all these gigantic faces indicating he's hurtin a lot and you're not even sure if he's selling or just expressing that he's 65. Eventually Okada sticks to just doing the one move he has that looks good (the Dropkick) and it becomes even better. The post-match was heavy. Tenryu's first words about his final being something roughly like "shit I lost" was so great and so Tenryu. Man. I can't remember if I cried or not while watching the post-match. That Tenryu would have something this special against Okada in 2015 is unreal. Compare this to Taue's retirement match and you'll get the best explanation of the gap between them. This match will have a special place in my heart for sure.
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