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paul sosnowski

[2020-01-04-NJPW-Wrestle Kingdom 14 In Tokyo Dome: Night One] Kazuchika Okada vs Kota Ibushi

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My thoughts as of now are that this is the best Dome main event since the last Tana/Okada, and an instant classic. Slow build like in every big Okada match, but they make every headlock & all feel super compelling, and once the thing explodes & Ibushi goes into that fucking killer mode?? OH BOY. Those damn punches! That finishing stretch was something else too -- that V-Trigger got me good. What a goddamn match. ****1/2

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Sorta feel like it had the same padding issues as a lot of other Okada matches, but overall they did a great job building to the second half of the match and escalating everything. Ibushi snapping was of course the highlight but the last five minutes or so were terrific. Love Okada making the Michinoku Tombstone a part of his arsenal.

Their G1 match was better as it was more compact but this was absolutely a worthy sequel. ****1/2

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This was dripped in uncertainty. Either could've won in this match, no one would be shocked. It's a rare thing to feel from an Okada title defence - a danger of him losing the title. This big stakes match and both had a real x-factor to show for it. Ibushi really brought an aggressive intensity to his game in this match, more so than you usually see from him even when he's angry. Ibushi's kicks are normally quite stiff but his were brutal at the worst of times. There was one kick early in the match that caught Okada right beneath the ribs that made a nasty THUD sound. You can hear everyone wince at the same time, too. Ha. Okada was more cocky and arrogant, sporting a new look with short trunks instead of the knee length ones he usually wears. Okada spent some time in the match trying to egg Ibushi on to take more risks, show that cold spirit that he brings out rarely. And it all backfiring on him was just amazing stuff when Ibushi changed. Ibushi laid all he had into Okada with palm strikes and kicks while showing no vulnerability in return. Okada's selling of that moment was excellent as well. All Okada could do as a defence was keep grinding away on the neck of Ibushi, hitting gnarly dropkicks and tombstones. The last 10 minutes was gripping wrestling. Type of wrestling that you can get totally lost in. The counters at pivotal moments, the way they let things breathe, the nearfalls, the sells of exhaustion. 5*

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I thought the first half of the match as underwhelming. It gave me the sense that Ibushi was having an off night and Okada was taking pity on him. One spot in particular that drove this point home was the draping DDT. There was an attention to detail missing because with the way it played out, as soon as Okada hit the move, he just started non-chalantly walking around the ring like he wasn't seconds away from winning the match. Now if Red Shoes had have shown some urgency, the spot would have registered but as it played out, Okada took his time to give Ibushi a fighting chance.

The match didn't really pick up until Okada caught Ibushi with a stiff uppercut that fired Ibushi up. Kota did well to sell his anger and Okada took some extremely stiff shots for his trouble. From that point on, they worked another great Okada epic and the finishing flurry got over like crazy. Okada hitting rainmaker after rainmaker, baiting Ibushi into one final comeback only to counter it made for a thrilling and satisfactory Dome finish.

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