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[2017-02-05-NJPW-New Beginning in Sapporo] Kazuchika Okada vs Minoru Suzuki

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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

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Quite possibly the best single Okada performance. I felt like it had some faults, like the needless interference breaking the very good flow that the match had up until that point, but nothing that makes me rank this very, very highly.

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I didn't like this match nearly on that level. I thought Okada's offense looked really bad in comparison to Suzuki, who looked like a killer. Selling wasn't good enough to warrant 40 minutes of leg work, nor was the crowd heat. Lots of good stuff in the match from Suzuki and the final sequence was cool as usual, but overall it was a good match that went waaaaaay too long.

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I didn't like this match nearly on that level. I thought Okada's offense looked really bad in comparison to Suzuki, who looked like a killer. Selling wasn't good enough to warrant 40 minutes of leg work, nor was the crowd heat. Lots of good stuff in the match from Suzuki and the final sequence was cool as usual, but overall it was a good match that went waaaaaay too long.

 

Yeah, I agree. Suzuki was great but it's another example of Okada not deviating from his standard game plan, to the point where he exposes himself and puts himself in jeopardy..but not in the "he's the champ, he's got to do whatever he can to keep the title" kind of way. I thought Okada's best offense came during his slap exchange with Suzuki, where he actually put some heat behind his strikes. Some of those submission teases were milked way too long and at weird times in the match. Lot of start-stop momentum, that made the whole thing feel like a clunker. It was a good match but they had too much time to kill.

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Suzuki was masterful here - he's frantic early, both inside and outside the ring as he goes after the knee. I could certainly see a case for there being one too many kneebar sequences, mainly because they were long(ish) to start so it didn't really build until Gedo started teasing throwing in the towel (a great touch). I liked Suzuki transitioning to the sleeper then. Clearly the knee stuff wasn't going anywhere. I thought Okada's selling was perfectly fine. When he wasn't in a hold for a bit you'd see the knee improve. He'd sell on offense. His comebacks were all logical, he never got the tombstone because of the knee - instead working in levels of the lariat to finally put him away.

 

Didn't have an issue with the interference as it was quickly done away with and is really just to give a false (potential) finish ot the crowd. Made sense given the group anyway. I actually thought the crowd was pretty into it, the quiet shock early of Suzuki decimating him paid off when he did make his comebacks.

 

****1/4

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Suzuki is incredible in this match. His aura & authenticity is just ... something else. Very few performers in the world can convey sadism & violence as authentically as he does. His complete annihilation of Okada is an absolute treat to watch. HIs facial expressions, mannerisms, stiffness ... Suzuki is a stone cold killer in this match. Okada elevates Suzuki's heeling with a good babyface performance underneath. In terms of emoting & drawing sympathy, I agree that this may very well be the best babyface Okada performance I've ever seen. His screaming & cries of desperation really sold me on the leg being completely destroyed ... but his refusal to deviate from his signature spots & his lack of creativity really hurt this match for me. His selling in the knee-bars (did not have an issue with them milking this at all; thought it worked & Gedo almost throwing in the towel was a terrific touch) is excellent, but he struggled to convincingly sell the residual effects when he was on the offensive & that completely took me out of the match. In all honesty, I'd probably be calling this match a classic if Suzuki won. The storytelling here initially seemed to be about Suzuki exposing Okada's lack of flexibility & that leading to Okada's downfall. Instead, as it fleshed out, it became more & more about Okada's resilience and him overcoming the odds, which wasn't nearly as compelling. Good, but flawed, match. Rating: ***¼

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Wasn't a big fan of this. I think it was hurt by being on such a dull and lackluster show beforehand, then doing a 40 minute match with 30 minutes of leg locks. It was hard to keep my attention at that point of the show, and the match that had such heat and violence during the build being centered around submissions also felt off to me. And all that leg work was really kind of pointless since it didn't prevent Okada from doing any of his normal jumpy moves. He still go all of his shit in regardless. I was getting real HHH vs Rollins vibes from the whole thing.

 

There was a big chunk devoted to leg locks with Gedo thinking about throwing in the towel, and it had zero drama for me because Gedo's comedic over acting, plus Okada had shown the leg work wasn't that bad anyway since he could still do his dropkick/missile dropkick/flying elbow. I found it mostly pretty dull. Weirdly, Okada sold his knee better in the 6 man tag at the Osaka show than he did during this big title match. I don't know how we live in a world where Michael Elgin was in a better match than Okada vs Suzuki, but here we are.

 

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There was a point where people buried All Japan for putting Suzuki in super long main events, among other things, but we'll focus on just that for right now. The criticism came from that fact that, frankly, he's not very good at super long matches and he also had opponents that weren't going to work within his style in a longer match without the whole thing falling apart. You would have thought, at some point, that someone would have figured out that 20-25 was the sweet spot for Suzuki in main events...but nope.

 

Now onto this debacle. I thought this match sucked. It was a long, boring match where nothing mattered until Okada's comeback. When people bitch about Okada matches, this is the kind of shit they're talking about. He gets killed for the entire match and then flips the "OK I win now" switch in a way that's more infuriating than entertaining. Here we had Suzuki, certainly the most 'legit' guy that New Japan has access to right now, tore at Okada's legs for almost the entirety of the match and Okada shrugged it off like it was nothing. They just sat in leglocks, there was never a moment where I bought Okada was going to submit. I also didn't buy Okada doing bullshit like high jump dropkicks and flying elbows and tombstones after having his legs ripped at all match. This should have been 20 minutes shorter. Hell, chop 25 off of this and do something unique by having a main event that ends in under 20. As it stands, this was 40 minutes of bullshit that wasn't particularly compelling or good. *

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Thought this was a very good match, but obviously a bit flawed. Okada getting in some of his normal offense was weird, but I think they did a great job of making Suzuki looking like an absolute monster while Okada did all he could to persevere and pull victory from out of the jaws of defeat. One of my favorite spots was Suzuki just laying into Okada with slaps and yet he just walks him down like "Yeah, I know I'm getting my ass kicked but I don't care. I'm not backing down".

 

Still too long and there should have been more with the offensive selling, but I still bought the ending of Okada digging down REALLY deep.

 

****1/4.

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When people bitch about Okada matches, this is the kind of shit they're talking about. He gets killed for the entire match and then flips the "OK I win now" switch in a way that's more infuriating than entertaining.

I feel like I'm the only person who had the Shibata match ruined for me by this, but this is exactly why I didn't love it.

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Ross did a great job calling this on AXS, and I didn't hear the original commentary. So, I'm not sure the difference that might have made for me. I thought this was super entertaining and specifically because of Suzuki. Like someone else mentioned, he just looked like a monster. I really liked his facial expressions and antics. He made this a fun match. I thought it was really good, but I wouldn't consider it "great" (to me).

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My favorite Suzuki match (that I've seen) is still the one against AJ Styles from 08/01/2014. It's a classic. I actually like that match more than any of the recent big matches from NJ like Okada/Omega or Okada/Shibata.

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