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[2022-01-04-NJPW-Wrestle Kingdom 16] Kazuchika Okada vs Shingo Takagi


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I wasn’t expecting much from this match, but I ended up enjoying it a fair bit. I’ve found Okada’s recent work to be tiresome and dull, evoking the worst aspects of New Japan. The long-winded nature of his matches hasn’t helped matters, as NJPW continues to chase record-breaking match lengths not as an earned accomplishment, but to pad stats. 

This match isn’t without its issues. For one, the big moves could be spaced out better. Shingo hits a Death Valley Driver on the ramp and while the count-out tease is well-done, the first move after they get back into the ring is a Superplex. While the original wrist control spot from the Wrestle Kingdom 10 battle between Tanahashi and Okada felt justified and a symbol of Kazuchika’s stubbornness, it has since felt forced and merely been something Okada does in marquee matches. Then you have the dancey counter sequences, which are beyond tired at this point and only serve the purpose of filling time. I also think the finishing stretch dragged a tad bit too long.

There’s less dead air here than in recent Okada matches. The early back work from Okada to Takagi is sold well, and the neck work added drama to the Money Clip attempts late in the match. Okada even does a wild dive over the guard in an attempt to win me back. Okada brings a sort of frenzied energy that has been sorely lacking from him in 2021. As is often the case with his best matches, Okada is fired up and has something to prove. Things get spicy once the match escalates, with Okada and Takagi putting force behind their strikes and blasting each other with elbows. After a back-and-forth closing stretch, Okada eventually finishes off Takagi with a dropkick, Landslide, and a Rainmaker. Firmly their best match together for my money.

While I still firmly believe that less is more when it comes to New Japan, as a certain match earlier in the card displayed, there’s a lot to like here if you’re a fan of the style. If you’re not, this will do nothing to change your mind.

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  • paul sosnowski changed the title to [2022-01-04-NJPW-Wrestle Kingdom 16] Kazuchika Okada vs Shingo Takagi

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