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Kazuchika Okada vs. Katsuyori Shibata (NJPW Sakura Genesis 04/09/17)

kazuchika okada katsuyori shibata

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#1 ShittyLittleBoots

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Posted 09 April 2017 - 01:03 PM

What can I even say? This was so unbelievably out-of-this-world great. I was rooting for Shibata all the way through - but in the end, I wasn't mad/sad one bit that he lost because of how goddamn amazing this match. My immediate reaction was that it ranks right up there w/ the best All Japan classics of the 90's, and after re-watching the match I think there's only one match I'd put above it - 06/03/94.

This match was full of amazing moments, character work & storytelling. Loved the early parts where Shibata kept Okada grounded with those amazing headlocks of his - love the somewhat WoS-esq stuff he has been pulling out lately. Shibata was simply making Okada his bitch at that point. Well, that made the young Rainmaker a bit upset, in his usual clean break spot he started beating the shit out of Shibata, which wasn't very wise as that lead to Shibata continuing to make Okada his bitch by doing exactly what Okada did to him, but twice as effective. Goddamn loved Okada's character work throughout the thing - he was getting beaten to death by Shibata, but he still is the new ace, the cocky youngster so he has to go & try to go toe-to-toe with him trading strikes. The whole finishing stretch was just a fantastic cherry on top of an all-time great cake - in the end Okada survived the ass beating The Wrestler gave him. This was so fucking phenomenal. *****



#2 GOTNW

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Posted 09 April 2017 - 04:29 PM

I am going to give this a big fat no on the "best match ever/five star match" hype it's getting, though unlike many of the contemporary New Japan matches that do get that same hype I did think it was a great match.


The opening matwork varied. I liked that they continued it after the first (few) strike exchanges, that and the bigger use of submissions is one element of the match that really reminded me of 80s New Japan classics that went even longer. The MMA matwork they opened with wasn't very good. Shibata just moved from position to position, not really attempting anything, while Okada looked as uncomfortable as he did the last time someone tried to do the same thing against him (Nagata in a G1 match). You could explain that with Shibata projecting his dominance or whatever, but I don't find it very interesting to watch wrestlers do nothing or move from one nothingnes to another. The WOS matwork was cool-a nice touch of Shibata picking it up new techniques in his run as the british champion. Then there was the headlock, which, happened, and they moved onto strike exchanges, the sequences you'd expect from them and occasional holds. Okada heeling it up was amusing, and it basically allowed him to stooge for Shibata's strikes a bunch, and caused the best part of the match, which is Okada stubbornly trying to match Shibata and geating beat up over and over again. It's been a long time since their 2012 G1 match where their incompatibility caused them to have a subpar match that consisted of a million forearms, a dropkick and a rainmaker-but they still give nods that Shibata is "different" than the usual Okada opponent, as Okada has to work to get moves like his flapjack and the diving elbow drop it, while it's usually a given that he'll hit them. There are no nearfalls-they milk Shibata's submission for all they're worth (and both Okada and Red Shoes deserve credit for their work there). Props to Okada for holding for Shibata's leg to prevent his figure four from reaching maximal efficiency, that was a cool detail, as was Shibata grabbing hold of Okada's arm in the Octopus Hold so Okada couldn't escape. Shibata refusing to go down after being hit with the Rainmaker was probably the most iconic moment of the match- so much attention has been given to that move, with everyone having a counter to it, everyone avoiding it, and Okada winning with it over and over again with it despite it all. It's not like it's some super dangerous move, it's just a convoluted Lariat, making a fitting no-sell that much sweeter. The ridiculousness of them building drama over holding hands could justly be attacked as a wrong turn in New Japan style, but it's here and it isn't going away, and it was used about as well as it could've here, with Shibata giving Okada a does of his own medicine by constantly laying into him while using it, only for that same trick to be what started Okada's comeback victory.

So there was a lot going on to say the least. I wouldn't be surprised one bit if folks who are generally predisposed to disliking New Japan style thought this match was average or even bad. I'm really open to symbolism in pro-wrestling, and it's probably why I liked the match as much as I did, but I really don't see anything *all time great* about the match. There are plenty of matches with better beatdowns, better comebacks, more focus in the matwork and more cohesion in interwining the matwork and the rest of the match, matches where the dominance of one wrestler doesn't telegraph the comeback and so on. Aaaaaaaaand..........even in a match where he gets beaten up all the time I still get annoyed by Okada's stupid offence and feel like he's getting in too much. ****



#3 joeg

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Posted 09 April 2017 - 10:39 PM

I enjoyed to opening matwork. What I thought of the opening matwork was that it showed Okada was overmatched as one he was taken down he couldn't get back to his base. But he wasn't so overmatched that he couldn't maintain wrist control and scramble to the ropes.

 

I thought the striking exchanges told a simple story- Shibata hits really fucking hard, Okada does not.

 

For me the mat work and striking exchanges built this tension that Okada was out toughed by Shibata and his title was in serious jepordy. Honestly these are my favorite matches in recent years- the athletic flippy wrestler vs bad ass motherfucker shooter match up. Nakamura vs Saku, Ibushi vs Nakamura, Styles vs MiSu, Tanahashi vs MiSu, and now this match.  



#4 Jetlag

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Posted 10 April 2017 - 01:49 AM

Liked this a lot, mostly for Shibata putting an intensily violent beating on Okada. Shibata is a weird wrestler who looks like the heir to the Tenryu/Kawada type japanese wrestlers and then decides to work like a US indy trained monkey, but he got that stuff out of the way early and concentrated on stomping Okada to a pulp. This had the usual NJPW diseases, so you had the somewhat choreographed opening, loooong middle portion with the stupid elbow exchanges, sometimes random transitions and "hit a move, then wander around" Dragon Gate shit, but Shibata's general disdain was entertaining enough and the brutal ending moments were some real japanese wrestling. Shibata had all these cool moments here he unleashes his fury and basically tries to make a man out of Okada. I also like how he worked the overly long submission nearfalls. I didn't really like how Okada just absorbed everything Shibata had, but atleast he had the decency not to get overly cute with his comebacks. I agree about all the rainmaker spots being great, as it really seemed Okada was so beaten up he had no hitting power. I also loved the spot where Shibata teases the "finisher steal" and just slaps Okada like a bitch. I guess for such a long match this was indeed great.



#5 KawadaSmile

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Posted 10 April 2017 - 02:51 PM

I agree with Jetlag's point about Okada absorbing everything Shibata threw at him (including some of the nastiest suplexes I've seen recently).

 

Okada was already outmatched in terms of striking and matwork by MiSu in his last title defense, and to see they went for a similar story here was actually surprising. However, whereas MiSu was a more cynical individual who was pretty much toying with Okada until his big comeback, Shibata is angrier, and he also made Okada indulge into his Shibata-isms.

 

I do have some issues with this match though. Okada's offense was almost laughably bad at points - his elbow drop looked awful, and the first proper Rainmaker was curiously the worst of the match as well, not to mention him trying to be as aggressive as Shibata, while a nice idea and a good story, just didn't come off that good. It could be justified that he had shitty lariats due to armwork, but then again he did connect with quite a few hard hitting ones to seal the victory.

Also, the first portion of the match, while having the purpose of establishing that Shibata was superior, felt needlessly long.

 

**** 1/4 feels about right.

 

 

Worried about Shibata though. Years of ridiculous and unnecessary headbutts are on the verge of ending his career.



#6 William Bologna

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Posted 10 April 2017 - 05:56 PM

I don't know. It was good, but it didn't make any sense.

 

I think my real problem is that I don't really buy Okada. As mentioned above, when he stood there with Shibata, he looked overmatched. So what does he do to counteract that? Nothing really. He can't hit as hard; he's not as good at submissions; he's not a flyer; he doesn't cheat.

 

You can get away with getting beat on and then winning out of nowhere if you've got a killer finish, but the Rainmaker isn't it. So i just didn't "believe" it when that mediocre clothesline took out Shibata.

 

Also, I thought Okada's transitions were lacking - it was just "this time I'll get up faster." It started with that first one where he set Shibata on the top rope and dropkicked him off. Shibata just let him pick him up and swing him around, I guess? Think how much more sense that would have made if he'd poked him in the eyes first.



#7 Tenese Sarwieh

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 06:11 AM

This was amazing to watch and I loved the story of Okada being overmatched by Shibata trying to prove he’s a badass. From the matwork, forearms, kicks, and that headbutt only for Okada to hold on and pull out the victory was brilliant. Easily a MOTYC for me.



#8 bradhindsight

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 06:35 AM

I liked the overall story here, it's very similar to what we've seen with Okada vs Omega and vs Suzuki. He wrestles Shibata's match and overcomes him in the end. I thought Shibata was tremendous in this match, and I felt his strikes and the urgency he had was even greater than the WK match with Goto and anything I'd seen from him this year. Maybe some credit goes to Okada there too (who I liked better than the Omega match, but not as much as his performance against Suzuki). I was not a big fan of the opening stretch here, and this is coming from someone that had little issue with the opening stanza of Okada/Omega. The grappling sucked, let's be honest. The seemingly random limb work went nowhere and was never sold. That's a 180 from the Suzuki match for Okada.

 

Into the meat of the match and that's Okada absorbing a ton of punishment and I was nearly convinced the belt was changing hands - especially after (what I thought was) the PK late in the match where Shibata then grabbed the wrist and started that narrative. I was actually imploring him to cover him - there were only a handful of kickouts iirc, one weird random one halfway through when Shibata rolled him back into the ring and maybe one late? Shibata was certainly bent on destroying him and then choking him out, which was a different kind of drama vs. kickout/kickout/kickout to make Okada look great. I actually liked this aspect a good bit in hindsight. No issue with the first semi-missed Rainmaker, that's pretty standard from Okada and he didn't go for the cover. The last one was the KO, and I liked it much more than the one shot he got in to take out Suzuki. I don't think you get a better singles performance out of Shibata, and it's bittersweet that he's now out after the year he's had.  ****1/2



#9 Jordan

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 06:59 PM

At the sum, this was really good, great even. The matwork had some highs and lows and yeah Okada looked pretty bad through most of it but it got the point across and I liked Shibata's mixed in WoS stuff and I'm a sucker for the early armbar scare that crowds seem to always eat up no matter what era it is. I think my least favorite part of this was the back to back "knock your opponent outside, throw them into the guardrail, and hit a move" segments that felt like blatant filler. I think the strike exchanges, like the matwork, had the good (Shibata's violence) and the bad (the length, Okada's responses) but again, they served their purpose. Finally the finishing stretch was filled with awesome stuff. Shibata standing tall through The Rainmaker conjured up memories of Hashimoto/Choshu and the submissions were well done and packed with drama. I can understand Okada's comeback feeling cheap to people but I think I prefer it over an extended comeback which I just don't think he could pull off and it's not like it wasn't well executed. So yeah, great match, definitely a MOTYC even if it had some things in it that make me roll my eyes when it comes to NJPW main events. Hopefully Shibata's alright.



#10 soup23

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 07:29 AM

Had no issues with the matwork whatsoever. It showed Shibata's dominance and him sizing Okada up while not being caught being dictated by Okada. Okada was on the defense for the vast majority of the match and that is an area he excels well in. I thought the WK match really faltered when he took over on Omega and locked him up in mindless submissions. Here, mostly everything was focused on the neck region and the cravate submission was a good time killer. It is Okada's performance here that makes the match legendary as I thought he failed to match Omega at Wrestle Kingdom. Here, he was just a hair under the sublime performance that Shibata laid out. Shibata left it all in the ring as evidenced by his health in the wake of the match. No match from the New Japan revival has grabbed me as much as this one from a cohesive storyline, selling and performance standpoint. This felt like the apex of the style overall. ***** 



#11 BigVanCrush

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Posted 29 April 2017 - 07:34 PM

Live, I was really grumpy and didn't enjoy the match because I knew Okada was going to win and I figured it'd come after 30+ minutes of New Japan wanting me to buy into some bullshit. On rewatch, with the grumpiness a non factor, I think this is the best IWGP Title match since maybe 2007. There's a lot about this match that I like. Shibata smashing Okada in exchanges when Okada tries to show Shibata he can hang is great. Shibata showing Okada that he can beat him on the mat because Okada is lost is great. The manjigatame was awesome. The rainmaker bitch slap from Shibata was great. The first Rainmaker failing to do max damage is fantastic. Shibata kicking the shit out of Okada's arm late in the match was awesome. Shibata cocking back a forearm as he gets hit with the final Rainmaker ruled. The outcome doesn't bother me as much as it did live because the destination to get to that outcome is so goddamn good. For as much as the Omega match was an athletic exhibition, this felt like a war for the heavyweight title. For as much as the Suzuki match frustrated me because they wanted me to buy that Okada could make his comeback after having his legs ripped apart by one of the most dangerous guys to ever set foot in a ring, this match was believable. For as much shit as I (and a lot of others) give Okada, he wasn't as annoying here as he usually is. His comeback wasn't the same cutesy bullcrap it always is. When he finally hits the Rainmaker to lead to the hand holding zoom in, it feels like he earned it instead of just flipping the 'it's my turn now' switch. At the end, this was the most 'complete' Okada match I can think of in a long time. Certainly his best since the Tanahashi matches in 2013. *****



#12 Boss Rock

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 03:08 PM

Loved this match. I'm actually a very big fan of Okada even he does deserve criticism for his strikes and spotty offensive selling. Still, really great story of Okada being obsessed with trying to prove he could beat Shibata at his own game but could not, relying on his endurance and unreal ability to absorb punishment to keep hanging on. Felt the ending was a bit weird where Okada was finally able to just kick Shibata enough times to hit the Rainmaker, but before then this match was damn near flawless.

 

****3/4, Okada's best since King of Pro Wrestling 2013 and if not Shibata's best, then a close second to his G1 match with Ishii.



#13 JKWebb

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Posted 22 June 2017 - 06:58 AM

I really like Shibata, and that didn't change watching this match.  From my perspective, his performance was the most intriguing of the match.  A lot has been laid out above, but I thought his dramatics and intensity were great.  So, in my world, this is probably around a **** match.  I sincerely don't mean any offense at all by this, but it's surprising to see this mentioned alongside the classics from All Japan in the 90's.  There seems to be a lack of structure or storytelling that I feel disconnected from or unable to find that would put this in that high of regard for me.  I really don't mean any offense by that either.  I sincerely think that is one of the great things about wrestling, and tapping into another discussion on the board, that is why I see wrestling as an art we can all enjoy our own tastes in.  I personally just can't compare it to those classics, or even to (for example) Ibushi and Nakamura from a few years back.  I guess that's why I can't go as high as some in my world, but, nonetheless I had a great time watching this.  After that insane headbutt, it really grabbed me when Shibata started working the submission following.  Ross had another good call here on AXS.  I have a son that is three, and he wandered out of his bedroom when this started.  So, I let him watch the first 10 minutes or so with me.  It was funny hearing him talk about Shibata and Okada.  He asked me about Chibata and ToeKada when he woke up this morning.  I do like the story of Okada trying to play Shibata's game.  This is one I'd like to come back to in a few months and see where it lands.



#14 EricR

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Posted 23 June 2017 - 05:22 PM

Any chance someone can PM Phil a copy of this match? I wrote it up and want him to watch it. 



#15 SAMS

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 09:32 AM

Okada comes into this match on the hot streak of his life - with Meltzer chucking snowflakes around like a kid on Christmas morning - and Shibata is on the precipice of completing his three year journey to challenge for the IWGP Title following his New Japan Cup victory.


For an extremely crude rundown the match unfolded like so:

  • Opening mat work.

  • First strike exchange.

  • Draped DDT on the floor by Okada.

  • Second strike exchange.

  • Shibata kicking shit out of Okada turns into a third strike exchange: sit down version.

  • Quick flurry where both guys hit a dropkick and a German Suplex.

  • Shibata fights off a Rainmaker by kicking at Okada’s injured arm before the infamous headbutt.

  • Finishing stretch. Shibata locks on an Octopus Hold, followed by a Sleeper, kicks some more tar out of Okada but eats three Rainmakers. 1, 2, 3.


Firstly, I think Okada is a good wrestler. I’ve heard others express the same opinion. Now, if you were to point to a match that showcased exactly why Okada is a good wrestler, and to some people he’s an exceptional wrestler, this match would not be it. I don’t want to be too harsh here, but this was a pretty poor performance by Little Kazu. Clearly they were following the “challenger is elevated in defeat” template; giving Shibata the bulk of the match before the conquering champion emerges victorious. The action is punctuated with three (three!?) distinct strike exchanges, and each one is lost decisively by Okada. Time and again he goes toe to toe with Shibata and comes to regret it. In and of itself, this isn’t bad. In many ways it’s good. Explicitly it plays to Shibata’s strengths: which are hitting guys really hard and displaying what New Japan Strong Style™ is supposed to be all about, and it’s all thoroughly entertaining. What niggles at me, however, is how thoroughly dominated Okada is from bell to bell - from the sloppy mat work at the beginning until he’s eating his millionth kick to the chest just before the end. For him to then just hit a couple moves for the win is a bit rich for me.


A continuing issue I have with Okada is how willingly he throws away his most devastating mid-level move. This happened in the WK11 match as well, but how little effect his draped DDT has on the flow of a match, especially from a narrative perspective, is just confusing to me. Whether this is an example of the argument that certain moves mean more, or less, in different contexts could well answer the question, but it looks so much better, and so much more barbarous than anything else in his arsenal that I can’t reconcile it. Also, in order to actually get on offense I got the impression that Shibata basically let Okada take control. The most glaring example being roughly just before the twenty minute mark, during the second big strike exchange. Shibata blocks Okada’s first attempt at a Rainmaker and they both find themselves on their knees, face to face. Slowly and deliberately they go back and forth with forearm after forearm until Shibata starts upping the pace. Now every time Okada hits one Shibata returns instantly. Harder, stronger. Okada feebly tries to match Shibata’s ferocity but is rocked by one particularly hard strike. Then another. Shibata is in control and cruising but then he does, nothing. He just stands there and allows a broken Okada to recover, and then hit two meek looking uppercut forearms and a neckbreaker. From there Okada takes control, goes on to hit a missile dropkick from the top rope and the match continues. Now, the point isn’t that Okada took control, it’s that he didn’t have the requisite move that allowed him to take control, it was merely gifted to him - he hadn’t earned it. Some of this can be placed on match structure, and it takes two to tango, but Okada’s lacking moveset, or at least his inability to access it properly, is entirely his own doing.


Honestly, I didn’t hate this match, in fact, despite its luster fading somewhat on rewatch, I really loved this match. Shibata was the clear fan favourite from the off and Okada did a few subtle things here and there to let us know he was willing to play the heel. Lots of Shibata’s offense, when he wasn’t straight up punking Okada, focused on the right arm, attempting to nullify Okada’s greatest weapon. And, when he gets up to full speed, I can’t say there’s many current guys I enjoy watching more than Shibata. Underneath that fighting spirit facade there is true greatness and it is a crying shame that this likely will be his final match. Ultimately, one’s mileage when it comes to this match, I think, hinges entirely on how receptive you are to Shibata “The Wrestler”. Everything he did, from working over the arm, to his execution, was on point, but without that, I’m not sure how much there is to hang your hat on.



#16 El-P

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Posted 28 December 2017 - 02:07 PM

Finally watched this. For most of the match, I thought it was basically the best of current New Japan big match style, with a simple yet great story told : Shibata hits harder and is a better wrestler, but Okada can take a beating and come back, not always in the fairest way. Yet there is one thing at the very end that keeps it from reaching the MOTYC level for me : Okada's final win comes from... not doing much. I have a hard time buying his offense putting down Shibata like it finally did. It seems too easy. Okada is excellent at taking a beating, countering stuff, selling, but not exactly the most impressive offensive worker. There's something unengaging about his offense to me. Hell, unengaging in general.

 

So yeah, Shibata did great, although his matches are very much patterned (and that's coming from someone who hasn't watch any NJ since the 2017 Dome Show, but had watched the 16 G1 entirely) and as an old-school Takada (and shoot-style in the broadest meaning, hence Takada) fan, the early matwork was kinda there. Shibata's shit looks great but it's also very gimmicky as in "he plays the role of the no nonsense wrestler", we get it, but it always leads to the same sequences in every big matches. 

 

They did the best with their stuff though and had a legit great match in the process, but Okada not being *that great* and Shibata being what he is keeps it from reaching MOTYC status to me (as snowflake goes, that means it would probably plateau at ****1/4 to me)

 

Kevin Kelly mentionning 5* and 6* matches automatically makes him completely shitty BTW.







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