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ShittyLittleBoots

[2017-03-06-NJPW-45th Anniversary Show] Kazuchika Okada vs Tiger Mask W

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Okada vs. Tiger Mask W was one of those New Japan matches where nothing interesting happened until the 2nd half kicked in. Once Okada started to lay those stomps & slaps on W to get him fired up - that's when things got FANTASTIC. Seriously awesome freakin' stuff - enough for me to rate this pretty highly, but the dull first half prevents me from going even higher. ***3/4

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This definitely had a pretty middling start, wasn't a lot of focus or energy, but boy did they layer it in later with those shots and closed fists. Two tremendous nearfalls late, I had completely bought in since it was non title. Real strong finish too, unlike the Suzuki match, where Okada hits three rainmakers before going for a pin. ****

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I like that Tiger Mask W is basically Kota Ibushi playing a pissy Satoru Sayama. A simple start to the story, with TMW showing he can keep pace with the champion, boosting his confidence a little until Okada shuts him down. Okada's flying crossbody over the guardrail was a thing of beauty and he starts building that ace swagger as he slingshots in across TMW with the senton. When Tiger starts to heat up and show off, Okada cools him back down.The hiccups occur when they try to overdo it with some of the more elaborate spots and they come off looking awkward and out-of-place, especially that mess with the top rope spot and Okada corpsing as he prepositions Ibushi. But the basic execution was great and a big part of the visual presentation was Ibushi's bumping. This match also made me excited to see Okada in 10 years. Pissy ace Okada is terrific and Tiger Mask's heelish response to the bullying was great. Personally, I thought Tiger beating Okada in a non-title match with that Super Tiger Driver would have been a great route to go, with TMW emerging as a star and the two building to a title match down the road.

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The first half of this match is mediocre. Okada’s heat segments are excessively long. The exchanges are pretty, but sterile. (Okada’s dropkick & crossbody over the railing are truly things of beauty). It’s nothing but filler … just biding time until they get to the finishing stretch. This starts to take-off once Okada & Tiger Mask W get pissy with each other and start exchanging stiff, disrespectful stomps, slaps & punches. Tiger Mask W is throwing hard closed-fist punches and the referee has to play peacemaker and restrain both performers to prevent this from escalating into a full-on fight. Okada’s sorely missed cocky prick routine is terrific. From there, they crescendo into the finishing stretch -- busting out big spots, slick sequences & dramatic nearfalls. Okada’s been taking some nutty bumps this year, and that Tiger Bomb off the top rope is up there, if not slightly below, the top-rope Dragon Suplex he took against Omega. Good match. Could’ve been much better if New Japan showed some restraint with the match times. Snowflakes: ***¼

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I think they made a mistake here by not making the control segments at the beginning even longer. Like when Okada grabbed a Chinlock and then rammed a Forearm onto Tiger Mask W's back, you could feel the crowd was slowlly coming alive, and that really felt like a moment where Hayes and Gordy would cut-off the comeback attempts a couple of times, maybe give the faces a little shine before doing so, and gradually increase the heat by teasing the crowd more and more. Here, they just did some stupid cross-chop and Tiger Mask W was in control moments later, and even when he got all of his stuff in they still had time to do some heatless back and forth. If you're going to have a pedestrian first half of the match, make it so that it serves a purpose in the layout of the match, and it's not just because the match has to go 25 minutes. The second half ruled-it was nice to see Okada display a more aggressive side of him, and it's always a joy to see Ibushi's shootboxing background come into play. The slaps, head stomps and punches ruled as expected, but big spots also ruled, the top rope Tombstone tease was a perfect response to the Springboard Frankensteiner that has become a staple highspot in any bigger Ibushi match, and the top rope Tiger Driver was an unexpectedly satisfying pay-off. Even if the Red Ink may be the dumbest submission ever, and his Elbow Drop a classic example of how how sometimes focusing on form too much isn't such a good idea because you might lose impact, I think Okada did a relatively good job of adapting to Ibushi and bringing the fight to him. ***1/2

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