5-Star Match Reviews: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega III - NJPW G1 Climax 2017, by Alex Podgorski

5-Star Match Reviews: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega III - NJPW G1 Climax 2017, by Alex Podgorski

In 2017 there was only one feud in wrestling that anyone talked about: Okada vs. Omega. Ever since their fantastic match at Wrestle Kingdom 11, fans all over the world wondered what they’d do next. They wondered whether these two phenomenal wrestlers would be able to match their first epic or somehow manage to out-do themselves.

To some people they did. They faced off again six months later at Dominion 6.11.17 and it was yet another amazing match. But no feud ever ends after only two matches. There’s GOT to be a third one to decide who the better man is and to tie up any loose ends. And that’s exactly what we got here.

Today we revisit the third encounter between NJPW wrestlers Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega from the 2017 G1 Climax Tournament.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story

There were two stories going on here. The first and most obvious one was the rivalry between Okada and Omega that had begun in January of that year. Omega put Okada away in a 48-minute epic at Wrestle Kingdom 11. Six months later, they had a rematch at Dominion that went to a 60-minute draw. Here, Omega hoped to even the score completely by finally doing the one thing that had eluded him: pinning Kazuchika Okada decisively.

But there was also a second, more pressing story going on. Both Omega and Okada were in the same block of the G1 that year. Going into this match, Omega had 12 points while Okada had 13. All Okada had to do to advance to the finals was draw with Omega. Meanwhile, Omega needed to beat Okada to get two more points, which would put him over Okada in terms of total tournament score and send him to the finals for the second straight year.

So not only was there an immediate urgency established for Omega to win within 30 minutes, but he also wanted to prove to everyone that, if the stars aligned, he could beat Okada decisively.

The match

This match took place on August 12, 2017.

Okada has a taped-up neck so he’s working hurt here. They start things off quickly with some hard strikes. Okada whips Omega for the dropkick but Omega hangs onto the ropes. Both a V-Trigger and a Rainmaker get dodged. Snap dragon suplex by Omega. Omega charges for a V-Trigger into the corner but Okada dodges and tries to place Omega on the top rope for the big dropkick. Omega kicks him away and goes for the One-Winged Angel (OWA). Okada escapes and dropkicks Omega from the top rope to the floor.

Omega gets whipped into the steel ring barricade then gets booted over it. Okada gets a running start and lands a huge running crossbody onto Omega. That looked cool. Okada tosses Omega back into the ring and lands a diving elbow drop. Rainmaker pose. He wants to end this early. Sensing danger, Omega counters by throwing Okada out of the ring. Diving plancha by Omega. Okada landed pretty hard and might’ve hurt his neck some more. Okada gets thrown back into the ring and Omega lands a vicious diving missile dropkick onto the back of Okada’s neck for a two-count. Omega follows this with a rear chinlock, cranking Okada’s already weakened neck as we reach the five-minute-mark.

Okada tries to drag himself to the ropes using his feet, but Omega pulls them away. He hits Bryan Danielson-style elbows to the collarbone and rips off the tape on Okada’s neck and shoulders. A pendulum backbreaker gets Omega a two-count, as does a flurry of hard strikes to the chest and back. Omega with a rear chinlock, then an Irish whip, but Okada reverses into a big boot. Okada goes for a senton but Omega gets his knees up. Omega teases a piledriver but Okada powers out of it. Okada charges with an elbow but misses, Omega charges, but walks into a reverse neckbreaker from Okada. They crisscross, Okada drops Omega with an elbow and lands a DDT. He tries to kip up Shawn Michaels-style, but doesn’t have the strength to do so. A basement running uppercut gets Okada a two-count as the fans chant for both guys equally. Okada tries for a Tombstone but can’t lift Omega up because of the damage to his left collar. It isn’t helping that Omega keeps hitting massive forearm clubs to that same spot.

We’re at the ten-minute mark as Omega tries a Tombstone of his own but Okada escapes. Omega goes for the fireman’s carry slam/moonsault combination, but Okada gets his knees up. Okada charges but walks into a snap Frankensteiner from Omega followed by a sliding dropkick to the back of the neck. But the Terminator doesn’t rise because Okada counters a charge into a flapjack. Okada tries to follow up with a Tombstone but Omega lands on three apron and slaps Okada hard in that same spot that’s causing him problems. Omega goes for a springboard but Okada dropkicks him in midair, sending him out of the ring. He teases a ringside Tombstone on Omega, but Omega counters into a poisoned frankensteiner. Wow, that looked brutal.

The referee brings doctors to check on Okada, who hasn’t moved. Omega trash-talks the ref as the crowd cheers for Okada. The commentators are selling this like it’s a real injury, especially as Okada grabs his fingers to see if he still has feeling in them. And as soon as Okada nods that he’s ok, Omega tosses the doctor away and throws Okada onto the apron. Then he teases the full nelson with a slow, dragged-out motion. No, he’s not going to do it. But he does. Dragon Suplex on the apron. Okada landed right on his neck. Omega follows with a fisherman neckbreaker. Okada’s neck gets smashed into Omega’s knee. The referee counts one, two, thr—no, Okada kicks out. Somehow that tough SOB kicks out.

But Omega isn’t done. He does the Bullet Club gesture and throws the referee aside. Then he gets Okada to his knees. V-Trigger knee strike. Followed by another. He gets Okada to his feet and Okada tries to fire back with forearms. But Omega answers with hard chops and clubs to the collar. Another V-trigg-no, Okada catches the leg. He fires back with forearms. Omega lands a third knee strike. One-Winged Ang—no, Okada counters into a Tombstone.

After a long time, Omega gets up first and teases an avalanche fisherman suplex, but Okada fights out with forearms. Massive shotgun dropkick by Okada from the top rope. Omega goes flying across the ring. Another running dropkick sends Omega flying into a corner. Okada with the Rainmaker, Omega blocks it, Okada fires back with chops and charges….and walks into a V-Trigger knee strike. He charges for another one, but Okada answers with a standing dropkick. Both men down again. This is crazy intense.

Okada goes for a Rainmaker, but Omega answers with another V-Trigger. He goes for a Kotaro Crusher, but Okada counters into a German suplex. Rainmaker, no, Omega ducks and lands a massive Uranage. One-Winged Angel! It’s countered. Rainmaker lariat. Both men go down. Omega kicks out at 2.9 at the twenty-minute mark.

Both men are slow to get up. Okada goes for a Tombstone but Omega counters into a victory roll for two. He tries a backslide but Okada kicks out again. But in doing so, Okada grabs Omega’s arm. A second Rainmaker. Then a third one right after. But he doesn’t go for the pin and fires up instead. He goes for a fourth one, but Omega ducks it. German suplex by Omega. Then a second one. Okada escapes a third one with elbows. And Omega answers with another poisoned Frankensteiner. He goes for the pin. One, two, thr—no, Okada kicks out at 2.99.

Omega signals the end. OWA attempt once more. Okada lands some elbows. Omega reverses into Croyt’s Wrath (deadlift Bridging German suplex)! One, two, thr—no, Okada kicks out again. Omega charges, but walks into another dropkick. Omega staggers, ducks a Rainmaker and lands a Rain Trigger knee! Followed by a double-underhook piledriver! He pins. Okada kicks out yet again. Another V-Trigger knee by Omega. One-Winged Angel connects! In the middle of the ring! One, two, three! That’s it! Omega has finally defeated Okada!  Omega advances to the finals of the G1! And the series is now 1-1-1!

Winner after 24:40: Kenny Omega 

Review

I liked this match a lot more than their second encounter. It felt more focused, had less filler and featured better selling and drama. Yes, Omega was his usual ‘explosive’ self, but he also seemed to focus more on Okada’s neck than he did in their previous big match. He displayed some proper psychology that made this match feel a bit more refreshing. By attacking Okada’s collar and weakening his neck, Omega was able to take advantage more easily, which helped him secure the victory.

And Okada was his usual amazing self here. He sold like a boss for Omega and had to fight from underneath more than in previous matches. In his previous matches, Okada had reached this almost godlike aura whereby he took a lot of punishment from his opponents yet always managed to overcome it in the end. That wasn’t the case here. Okada was vulnerable from the beginning and there were moments that looked like Okada was legit injured. He sold the damage to his neck incredibly well. He tried to keep what little positive momentum he had, but couldn’t do anything beyond a few short bursts because of that damage. And when he kept coming back to continue the match, he displayed tremendous heart and fighting spirit, which only made the crowd want to see him fight even more.

Of course, Omega winning here was the perfect choice to further his rivalry with Okada. First he lost, then he tied, and how he had won. But Omega’s win here wasn’t 100%, undeniably decisive. Because Okada was somewhat weak/injured, Omega’s win came across as hollow. He didn’t win because he did enough damage on his own to defeat Okada; he took advantage of an already-weakened Okada to do further damage to a body part. But a win was a win for Omega, and he used it to show that he was, at the very least, on Okada’s level. Luckily, this match’s result would be used to build up their next epic encounter, which would end up happening ten months later.

Final Rating: *****

While it doesn’t match up to their Tokyo Dome encounter in terms of epicness or significance, this is still a fantastic little match. It’s a primer in how to tell a straightforward yet dramatic story without having to take too much time. Okada’s taped neck foreshadowed all of Omega’s offense since he centered his strategy on attacking that body part. Omega showed some wrestling smarts by taking advantage of that weakness. And since the stakes were so incredibly high for both men, they had to hit as many high-risk moves as possible in order to win.

All in all, this match had the right mix of airtight psychology, limbwork, pure excitement, and daredevil acrobatics. And all of these elements came together in a way that moved their storied rivalry in the right direction. It goes to show that you don’t have to drag things out and put together a long match to tell a great story. Sometimes, having time constraints forces wrestlers to trim the fat and keep things focused, which is exactly what happened here.

Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here. Thanks for reading.