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[2022-02-20-NJPW-New Years Golden Series] Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito


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Kazuchika Okada defends the IWGP World Heavyweight Title

Standard fare as far as New Japan’s main events these days are concerned. They start with some mat work, but it’s quickly forgotten about and doesn’t carry much weight. This also isn’t 2020 anymore, so the magic this pairing once created is long gone.

Without a cheering crowd living and dying with every near fall, it all falls into the trap of most Okada matches, which is to say it rings hollow. This is relatively brisk by modern NJPW standards, clocking in at just 27 minutes. Naito targets the neck to set up the Destino, and it’s fine and all. I can’t shake the feeling that the New Japan of several years ago, which excited me and had me optimistic about the future, is a completely different promotion than the soulless husk it is currently. There are issues here, so deeply entrenched in the epic main event formula that simply allowing crowds to cheer again won’t fix overnight. For one, they could do a better job of spacing out the high spots. Okada hits a DDT on the apron, and rather than capitalizing on it, immediately hits another DDT on the floor. Whether New Japan will overcome these obstacles remains to be seen. But for now, we’ll have to rely on small glimmers of hope like sporadic guest appearances from Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Tatsumi Fujinami, or STRONGHEARTS freshening up the undercards.

The crowd audibly popped when Naito hit a Stardust Press in the closing stretch, which felt like being transported back in time a few years when things were better and it was undoubtedly the high point of the match. Hold on to those moments, because for the time being, they are few and fleeting.

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  • paul sosnowski changed the title to [2022-02-20-NJPW-New Years Golden Series] Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito

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