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[2015-01-04-NJPW-Wrestle Kingdom 9] Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada

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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.

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These guys really do have a tough time getting the Tokyo Dome invested in these first two Dome matches. Especially for their opening sequences, even when the action shows hints of getting exciting, it takes a while to get them going. I thought that the first half was only marginally better than their last Dome match and it still suffered from generally slow pacing and an uninterested crowd. The ramp spots were slightly better worked at least and I did enjoy things enough that once things started picking up towards the end, it was a lot of fun. Not quite the same urgency I wanted in the finish as the selling segments did kind of stunt the momentum here and there. But, I liked Tanahashi going back to the leg and the final High Fly Flows really did look quite great.



****1/4

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IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada - NJPW 1/4/15

I like the booking of having them part for the entire calendar year of 2014 before reprising the rivalry. I have seen the first six matches and really enjoyed the wrestling. Like most, I thought the Invasion Attack match was the best of the lot and the one that deserves praise as one of the greatest matches of all time. 

I enjoy slow starts a lot more than most wrestling fans. It allows me to get into the action, study the combatants, look for little things about them and I enjoy the little mini battles, you know the tests of strength on a top wristlock or the shouldertackles. It gives me a feel. Tempers flare when Okada mockingly gives Tanahashi a clean break only to pop him with an elbow. Embarassment and then still gives him the cheapshot. I loved Tanahashi's response. He throws the ref out of the way and rocks Okada with a hard shot. A nice, vigorous firefight breaks out this much better than that stupid Fighting Spirit shit. Tanahashi gets the upper hand and wants to hit his patented senton from the middle, but Okada ROCKS him with a flying European Uppercut that sends him flying off the top rope to the floor. Wicked bump. This takes the place of the usual spot where Okada dropkicks his opponent from the top rope. This is the story of the first 15 minutes, lots of scouting. Okada knew Tanahashi was going for the senton and sent him flying. I love that spot as a transition as it is a big bump and signals definitively the start of the Okada control segment. Okada kicks Tanahashi's ass on the floor, hangsman DDT from the railing to the floor. I recall the Tombstone Piledriver is very critical in this feud. I am wondering if that DDT will lead anywhere. Hey they are going for the Tombstone on the ramp, nice no one hits it. Just a lot of struggle. That will definitely play a role later. Tanahashi does a little air guitar showboating and channels his idol, Keiji Mutoh by trying to run down the ramp but Okada is lying in wait and nails him with a vicious F-U on the ramp. Great highspot! I thought this match was really clicking at a high level at this point. Back in the ring, I thought they kinda took a half step backwards. Not that was bad, but it felt like they de-escalated. A lot more scouting spots which I like. Each wrestler evading common spots. I think my favorite was Okada hitting a flapjack to counter the Sling Blade. Okada invites for the Fighting Spirit breakdown to begin. Ugh. I guess there is at least a little character work here. Okada is definitely playing the cocky challenger still. He is the one in control and he is slapping Tanahashi mockingly and telling Tanahashi to hit him when it is clear Tanahashi is hurting. So when Tanahashi hits him it doesnt pack quite a punch so Okada can tee off on him. So it is humiliation and kicking a dog while it is down. So the psychology is at least a little more interesting, I am still not that enthused by it. Then it happens. The moment you are waiting for in every Tanahashi match when he is going to go for the knee. Catches the kick...ELBOWS THE KNEE! No Dragon Leg Screw. Okada fights back and hits a raucous dropkick that sends Tanahashi flying! Looks like the action is starting to pick back up...Okada definitely ahead on points for the first 15 minutes as Tanahashi has not really gotten anything started yet. Okada is really starting to roll. Tanahashi blocks the obvious and aforementioned Okada dropkick to the top turnbuckle. However eats canvas on the High Fly Flow. Too early, brutha (which Gedo points out). I love Okada's urgency with Tanahashi down, he can really let his shit fly and not worry about it being countered. He rattles off three of his big highspots concluding with the top rope Macho Man elbow.  RAINMAKER POSE~! Then it hit him, this first 18-20 minutes has been Okada's control segment now we have climaxed and we are going to hit Tanahashi's. 

Rainmaker thwarted and Tanahashi snaps off the Dragon Leg Screw. It is like clockwork. It is good, logical clockwork. You have Okada run through his shit and now Tanahashi so when that finish hits nobody is going to know who will win. Great layout. Okada takes a fucking tremendous bump going ass over tea kettle on the floor over the railing when Tanahashi dropkicked the bad leg. HOLY SHIT! TANAHASHI HIGH FLY FLOW FROM THE TOP TO THE FLOOR OVER THE RAILING! FUCKING EH! THAT WAS AWESOME! Tanahashi is looking to finish this off with High Fly Flow but Okada rolls through and he is thinking...TOMBSTONE?!!? TANAHASHI REVERSES IT! TANAHASHI NAILS THE TOMBSTONE! I LEGIT JUST POPPED IN MY IRELAND HOTEL ROOM! I am a huge Tanahashi fan and man that Tombstone made me a fan in that moment. I know that is so crucial for the win. 2 HIGH FLY FLOWS CONNECT! 1-2-NO! YA SHITTING ME!

Tanahashi teases the Rainmaker. Ahhhh finisher stealing. The Rainmaker is a stupid finisher to steal because it is very easy to get countered and then you end up being hit with the Rainmaker. Thats what happens! Tanahashi clobbers him with a RAINMAKER~! 1-2-NO! So where do we go from here. Weird part. They trade bridging Suplexes (Tanahashi had not yet hit his Capture or Dragon suplex). There is another Tombstone attempt by Okada because the Tombston is crucial and Tanahashi rana'd out. I love that the Tombstone is more protected than either man's finisher in this series. Okada hits that signature high dropkick. Part of me liked it because it felt like desperation. Like each man was hurling out what they know. they know it is their B-Material but fuck their A-Material didnt work. Part me didnt like it because I feel like the B-Material should precede the A-Material. Ultimately I thought the heat was in the Tombstone->High Fly Flow->Kickout->Rainmaker->Kickout and then they lost a little sumthin sumthin. I ended up loving the actual finish. Tanahashi goes back to his bread & butter using dragon leg screws. Then he hits High Fly Flow while Okada's leg was hung up on the ropes and then smoked with another for good measure. 

These guys are clinical and I love them for it. They are rooted in the fundamentals and they build to great matches. Invasion Attack still remains my favorite, but I am going to go ahead and put this at #2. I liked the scouting early on. I liked how Okada earned that control segment. Loved the layout and pacing. Tanahashi's control segment was fucking money and just electric. The finish was interesting but not really overdone like late era AJPW or NOAH. There was only one Rainmaker and 2 High Fly Flow Segments. It was just they put filler in the finish. I really enjoyed it with me watching even more wrestling now I dont think this makes my Top 100 list for next year, on the bubble for sure. I would say this Top 10 for New Japan from what I have seen in the modern era. I really enjoy these two together. ****3/4  

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