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Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW Wrestling Dontaku, 5/4/2018)

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#1 Boss Rock

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Posted 04 May 2018 - 10:58 PM

Despite the number of times these two have fought over the past 6 years (this being the 9th singles match), Okada and Tanahashi managed to have another great match. However, the unofficial "30 minute rule" was in full effect here and the beginning stretch of the match featured your typical NJPW main event padding. Even still, they found cool ways to introduce learned psychology, such as Tanahashi skinning the cat after being hit with the turnbuckle dropkick by Okada. Okada also tried to hit the tombstone multiple times but Tanahashi escaped each time. 


I was hoping to see Okada be a bit more aggressive considering he was out to kill Tanahashi in pretty much every tag match leading up to this bout, but things didn't really get cooking until the 10 minute mark when he began to crank on the neck of Tanahashi. It was here that we began to see much more of a struggle, as each man knew what move was coming and would try everything in their power to escape. Okada's cockiness and disrespect towards Tanahashi would allow the Ace to mount his comebacks, such as a High Fly Flow to the outside. Okada was finally able to hit the tombstone on Tanahashi, and somehow both men were spent even though Tanahashi took the higher impact move. 


The final 10 minutes was perhaps the most thrilling of any Okada title defense this year, with both men's hatred seeping through and Tanahashi returning Okada's disrespect. It was also interesting to see both men recover quickly from the other's signature moves. This wasn't just fighting spirit: it was both Okada and Tanahashi being battle-hardened from their prior matches together. They had taken so many dropkicks, slingblades, and suplexes that they no longer had the same effect they once had before. However, while Okada's focus had led him to victory at Wrestle Kingdom 10, it was his braggadocio at Wrestle Kingdom 9 that almost cost him this match. Having Tanahashi right where he wanted him, he instead chose to laugh and relish in the moment which allowed the Ace to fire back with strikes that nearly knocked the Rainmaker out. Still, Okada knew when to counter the High Fly Flow and looked to put Tanahashi away with the Rainmaker when we got one final callback. Tanahashi slapped Okada to escape the Rainmaker only for Okada to maintain wrist control, which won him the match at Wrestle Kingdom 10 and would become an instrumental part of his winning ways going forward. This time, Tanahashi was prepared and managed to do what no one else had: break wrist control. Tanahashi finally had the recipe to beat Okada but like his rival, who had been undone by his arrogance in the past, Tanahashi spent too much time playing to the crowd. Okada, desperate not to let Tanahashi surpass him again, grabbed his tights and pulled him in for the finishing blow.


Wow, I put down a lot more words than I expected. Even though I wrote three paragraphs gushing about this story, it wasn't a perfect match. The beginning was too padded and Okada seemed to sell exhaustion even though he had controlled most of the match simply to create more drama leading into the finishing stretch. That being said, this was an awesome main event match and a fitting way to close the book on this rivalry for good...I hope.



#2 SmartMark15

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Posted 05 May 2018 - 03:38 AM

Easily Okada's best title defenses of the year. Slow open yet still much more engaging than any other sequence he's done this year because of how hot the crowd was for Tanahashi.

Then we go into the truly great meat of the match when Tanahashi stands up to Okada's Rainmaker pose. What a moment. From there, the pace and intensity really picks up. Both guys worked their characters so well here with Okada doing some great heel work as the cocky ace disrespecting his predecessor. The finishing stretch was wonderfully tense and exciting with nice little changes from their past matches like the wrist struggle being done on foot and Tanahashi being able to escape it.


#3 ShittyLittleBoots

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Posted 05 May 2018 - 06:22 AM

Loved the beginning w/ Tana controlling things with a Headlock. Okada's control segment after that was very enjoyable as well w/ him targeting the neck of Tanahashi. The absolute best moment of the whole match was Tana getting to Okada's face during the Rainmaker pose, which was answered w/ a cocky smile by Okada. Awesome moment there. Lots of positives there, but this also had it's negatives - it did drag quite a bit in some segments (which was to be expected) & there was quite a bit of dull stuff in it, but overall, yeah, this was very good. I was not excited or interested in the match at all on paper & I didn't even feel like watching it in all honesty, but I am glad to see & say that they delivered a very good match. ***1/2

#4 El-P



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Posted 07 May 2018 - 05:37 PM

I really need to dig into this historical rivalry, this is only the second match of them together that I have seen. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had seen everything else. Even more I mean, because it was still wonderful pro-wrestling. A typical case of going long not being an issue at all, it's like watching a movie slowly unfold, taking its time and letting the audience spaces to breath. Hard to fathom Tanahashi is 41 and banged up as hell, because he still looks like one of the best wrestler in the world here. Tons of cool shit relating to their characters and zero excessive stuff in term of big spots. Yeah, just wonderful pro-wrestling. MOTYC.

#5 BigVanCrush

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 02:56 PM

I liked the match. The opening wasn't boring, the end was exciting and Tanahashi proved once again that Okada is nowhere near his level. This was easily Okada's best match since the Shibata classic last year and it's no surprise that it came courtesy of the guy who's been most reliable in dragging him to good matches. I like that it only took one Rainmaker to end the match and the finishing run wasn't overblown false finishes. Everything felt like it had a purpose and nothing felt wasted. Again, Tanahashi was great. I guess I'd go ****1/4-****1/2 on this one?

#6 CapitalTTruth

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Posted 16 May 2018 - 06:34 AM

I cosign most of what has been said here. I also need to revisit this feud, but this might actually be my favorite of their matches. It is a little reigned in and I think a lot better for it. Tanahashi avoiding he Rainmaker for so long was really nice. They played up how well they knew each other and how well they were able to counter and then put each other into somewhat new, bad spots.  MOTY contender - ****1/2

#7 bradhindsight

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Posted 16 May 2018 - 01:22 PM

Man Tanahashi was so great here - I think I liked this more than their last Wrestle Kingdom encounter. This didn't hit the NJPW excess that can at times turn me off in a main event. LOVED the tombstone stuff as a career-long callback and Tanahashi eventually grasping for slaps to try to fend off the Rainmaker. ****1/2 +

#8 Childs

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Posted 26 May 2018 - 10:33 AM

The crowd made this with their all-out affection for Tanahashi. And I dug the finishing stretch, with Tanahashi slapping the piss out of Okada to ward off the Rainmaker. But I didn't see the dense, psychological masterpiece that Meltzer and others described. Just struck me as a slower, less ornate version of their usual dynamic. There were callbacks and learned counters, sure, but they've been doing that for years. I actually thought it was weird that they started selling like they'd been in an epic war at the 20-minute mark. Because really, the match hadn't been terribly punishing to that point. This was an easy way to spend 35 minutes but not a MOTYC for me.

#9 Viking Hall

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 04:14 PM

Have to agree with the above that the crowd made a good match great here with just how into Tanahashi they were. Really fun, well paced match I thought with some cool moments (none cooler than Tanahashi getting into Okada's face). One of my favourite matches of the year so far, from a match I wasn't expecting to enjoy so much. A ****1/2 from me too.

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