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[2019-08-03-NJPW-G1 Climax 29: Night Thirteen] Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA


paul sosnowski
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The start of the match was the usual Okada vs SANADA (well, most NJ matches if I’m honest) but with Okada being the aggressor. He played to the crowd in a subtle way (that cocky smile and sarcastic slaps) which further got the crowd onto SANADA’s side, which is a very underrated part of Okada’s game. Which made an otherwise, generic, nothing first part of the match feel all the more fresh. This whole match in-fact reminds me of the Chono match post neck injury. They don’t have a total bombfest that most people expect from Japansee wrestling but they keep the crowd, and myself invested through the little things and their natural charisma. Also adding a few new, fresh ideas into the mix such as the Rainmaker counter by SANADA into the pop-up TKO which looked great. I loved the way they teased the 30 minute time limit finish. SANADA hitting the moonsault finally on Okada but him being on his stomach, causing SANADA to have to hit another one - it was pretty incredible to watch. Had my heart racing thinking that SANADA wasn’t going to do it. I think the match overall could’ve been better but it wasn’t bad, or terrible. It was borderline great, in my opinion. ****

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Really wish they had picked up the pace instead of going slow the first 15-20 minutes, but it was still solid stuff and both guys sold the damage and struggle well. The last 10 minutes are a dang near masterpiece though. Very few times my heart has skipped a beat during a match this year, but it did when Okada countered the first moonsault.

Tremendous final act for a match that could have been the best this year, but still very much worth watching. ****1/4

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I rewatched this again given the difference of opinions it has garnered. From a kayfabe sense, it makes no sense for SANADA to go slow as he is out of the tournament and has nothing to lose. The past two matches have shown he couldn’t beat Okada in 30 minutes, so why try that again? The tension of a draw doesn’t matter to me as Okada would still be in control of his whole destiny for the tournament so a draw with him is more than fine. Okadas methodical domination of the first ten minutes isn’t that interesting but he heels it up some and does pepper the neck for the Rainmaker. SANADA finally gets control and resorts to the paradise lock which is an awful move especially in this context. Flap jack and Okada is back on top. SANADA tries some more tricks and Okada regains the advantage and hits a tombstone. This is the first half of the match. Some nitpickiness here as SANADA then does a hangman neckbreaker and both are down selling damage for over a minute. That’s a long time for Okada to be hurt after one move. Forearm exchange resetting the match at the twenty minute mark. Fine but neither really lands too heavy of strikes. Okada picks pace up with the drop kick and SANADA fights out of another tombstone and into the dragon sleeper. SANADA hits a great tiger suplex for a fun nearfall. TKO gets another two and this where if NJPW clipped into the match, I could see it being heralded as a classic. Okada gets two short arm Rainmaker and goes for the kill but SANADA reverses. Crowd erupts and SANADA locks in the dragon sleeper again. Crowd heat dies a bit here as I think they don’t buy Okada tapping as we have five minutes to go. Okada helps the peril by fighting out and the getting clinched again. I wish the sleeper would have been built up more throughout the tournament. Red Shoes does his bullshit pointing to his ears like he can’t hear that he does every match. With three minutes left, this is where I think SANADA really could have developed more nuance in whether he should keep the hold or give it up. He goes for the moonsault, executes it poorly where he couldn’t land on nothing but knees and Okada gets them up. One minute left and SANADA chokes again which is dumb. Okada gets greedy and hits a drop kick and Rainmaker attempt. This goes into a TKO in a decent counter. Two moonsaults and SANADA wins. Watching this again, I picked up a lot more from especially Okadas performance and knowing the finish helped to where the first half wasn’t as dry as I had thought the first time where I was running on four hours of sleep. I still have issues with things like SANADAs strategy and overall performance but Misawa wasn’t exactly sterling in 6/8/90 although he did show spunk that I don’t think SANADA had here. Time will tell if this will catapult SANADA into stardom or be his career highlight. ***3/4

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I think most of New Japan, and specifically Okada, main events go much longer than they need to, so I was definitely not very excited about the prospect of him & SANADA going just about 30-minutes, BUT this was an exceptionally great New Japan main event. They had built a great story for the match, and the way it built inside that ring from the opening minutes to the unbelievably hot drama that was the last 10 or so, was simply fantastic. ****

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This is the type of match that I like to say "willed itself to being good". I agree that the early part didn't make a ton of sense and - much like many Okada matches in this tournament - it took  me a minute to get into it. However, they just sort of forced me to love it in the long run. NJPW matches to me are all about how I feel they organically flow, where the drama and momentum ebb and flow. There is so much going on that I often find that the momentum - for me - peaks early and then things just organically dip. This match kept climbing and climbing and just when i thought they were going to peak early and lose it (when Okada almost went out) they found a way to add just a little bit more without losing what they had built.  I think its a near 4.5 star final 1/3rd, but the first two thirds probably cap it at **** for me (could see this getting a quarter star bump)

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