(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Kazuchika Okada vs. Shinsuke Nakamura – NJPW G1 Climax 2012

njpw kazuchika okada shinsuke nakamura 2012

Two of the best wrestlers of the past ten years are Shinsuke Nakamura and Kazuchika Okada. One of them is still performing at an incredibly high standard today and is widely regarded as the best in-ring performer active today. The other, meanwhile, is a walking missed opportunity.

Nakamura came to North America after a highly successful run in the hopes of channeling his cult-favorite status into a newfound popularity among a different audience. Sadly, he has wallowed in insignificance through no fault of his own, leaving fans wondering what he could’ve been and looking to his past for solace.

Luckily, Nakamura’s past is filled with great matches, and today we look at one of the most important matches of his career.

It’s his first match of three with Kazuchika Okada from New Japan’s 2012 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

On January 4, 2012, Okada returned from a foreign excursion and debuted his new Rainmaker persona. Soon afterward, Okada joined Nakamura’s faction CHAOS, and became one of Nakamura’s regular stablemates. The two of them would team together on and off for the better part of the next four years until Nakamura would leave for WWE at the end of January 2016.

But while Okada was comfortable teaming with Nakamura and learning from him, those faction allegiances were put aside in the G1. It was every man for himself in that tournament, especially as stablemates were pitted against each other on a regular basis.

In this match, Nakamura was CHAOS’s leader while Okada was a relative newcomer to the group. At the same time, Okada was rising rapidly as a star in New Japan, especially now that he was a former IWGP Heavyweight Champion and had pinned the legendary Hiroshi Tanahashi. And since Nakamura had his own history with Tanahashi, he knew that this kid wasn’t just his underclassman; he couldn’t brush Okada off as an easy opponent.

Thus fans were in for a treat here. Nakamura was the older leader while Okada was the younger newcomer. But the newcomer had already proven his worth and wanted to get back to the top of the mountain. So would Okada continue down his path back to Tanahashi and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship? Or would Nakamura put him in his place and humble the cocky Rainmaker?

The match

This match originally took place on August 5th, 2012 and was rated **** out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer.

Nakamura has tape on his left shoulder as he teases locking up with Okada. Nakamura gets a clean break on the ropes and puts his head in Okada’s gut to mock him. They lock-up again and Nakamura gets an armlock in but Okada counters into a hammerlock. He gets a clean break and then poses to mock Nakamura and Nakamura smiles a bit. Nakamura teases a test of strength but then kicks Okada hard. Okada tries to block a kick but Nakamura makes him flinch and hicks him right in the chest. He hits some mocking stomps and when Okada gets to his feet Nakamura kicks his chest insanely hard. Okada catches his leg to block but Nakamura uses his free leg to his an enzuigiri. Nakamura charges but Okada trips him into the ropes and lands a running dropkick of his own that sends Nakamura to the floor.

At ringside, Okada pulls Nakamura’s neck through the steel barricade and then boots said barricade bar to push it into Nakamura some more. Nakamura tries to escape but Okada chases him down, forearms his neck and tosses him into the ringpost. Back in the ring, Okada locks in an armtrap chinlock to further target Nakamura’s weakened neck. Nakamura gets a ropebreak and tries fighting back with forearms but Okada elbows his leg on a kick and hits a huge uppercut. Okada pins with his foot on Nakamura’s chest but the referee refuses to count a ‘dishonorable’ pin. In response, Okada lands a neckbreaker that gets a two-count.

Okada applies a neck crank/chinlock but Nakamura gets a ropebreak so he hits more forearms and uppercuts. He sends Nakamura into a corner and charges but Nakamura gets his feet up and then lands a single-leg dropkick. Nakamura fires up and hits stiff kicks and knees. He lands his vibrations stomp and goes for a corner running knee strike but Okada dodges and Nakamura hits the turnbuckle pad instead. Okada charges this time. Nakamura counters and lifts him onto the top turnbuckle. Running corner kneelift. Nakamura pins but only gets two so he follows with a jumping kneedrop to Okada’s neck. Nakamura lands some stiff grounded knees and locks in a front chancery. Okada sinks down and his body goes limp. Nakamura flips him over for a pin. One, two, no, Okada survives.

Nakamura goes for his inverted Exploder suplex but Okada elbows out. Okada blocks a kick and boots Nakamura, and then hits an armtrap twisting neckbreaker. He hits more forearms but Nakamura hits back just as hard. Nakamura gets the advantage with his superior strikes and Okada sinks down to one knee. This allows Nakamura to slap Okada mockingly, but that backfires as Okada hits some stiff uppercuts and a flapjack for a two-count. Okada locks in his Deep In Debt modified facelock that, like most of Okada’s moves, targets his opponent’s neck. Nakamura struggles but eventually makes it to the ropes.

Okada hits his scoop slam/diving elbow drop combo and then mocks Nakamura’s signature pose. He signals the end and goes for his finisher. Rainma – no, Nakamura hits a kneelift. He follows with a counter windmill kick, a high-angle backstabber, and the inverted Exploder. Nakamura charges for the Boma Ye. Okada sidesteps and then charges but runs into another knee. Nakamura goes for a second-rope knee strike but Okada dropkicks him in midair. Both wrestlers go down.

Okada gets up first and hits a DDT for a two-count. Then he hits his Heavy Rain AA neckbreaker slam for another two-count. He goes for a Tombstone. Nakamura blocks and hits a knee to Okada’s face. Okada charges towards Nakamura in a corner but Nakamura hits a stiff elbow. Second-rope Boma Ye. Nakamura goes for another one. Boma – no, Okada hits first with a dropkick.

Both wrestlers take time getting up. Nakamura charges but runs unto a reverse neckbreaker. Okada tries the Rainmaker. Nakamura head-butts out and goes for a close-fisted punch. Okada ducks and tries the Rainmaker again. Nakamura hits first with yet another kneelift. BOMA YE connects! One, two, three! Nakamura wins!

Winner after 16:16: Shinsuke Nakamura


That was a solid match that showed that Okada could have a great match with more than just Tanahashi. He brought his A-game against his stable leader and did his best to beat a wrestler with much more experience. The match made sense from a creative perspective; Nakamura was the veteran and he put the arrogant upstart in his place. And yet, the match didn’t tell that story as effectively as it could’ve.

Okada was on offense for 2/3 of the match with the exception of a few lost strike exchanges here and there and Nakamura’s explosive burst towards the end. But given how the match was going, it seemed logical that Okada was going to win. He wrestled like the best pro-wrestlers from the 1990s: he picked a body part and targeted it constantly to soften it up for his big finisher. Okada used various drops, strikes, submission holds, and signature moves, all of which targeted Nakamura’s neck. He was so efficient with his neck-targeting that it was genuinely surprising that Nakamura was able to move at all for his comeback, much less move so quickly and smoothly. It seems like he was trying to suggest that Okada’s offense had such a minimal effect on him, but that’s not how it came off; instead, it came across as blatant no-selling that rendered so much of Okada’s careful attacking worthless. Okada as in full control of the match until Nakamura got a sudden second wind and hit a few big moves out of nowhere. In just a few minutes, Nakamura managed to do as much damage to Okada as Okada had done to him over 2/3 of the match. By wrestling like that, Nakamura’s win came across as unearned. Okada had a logical strategy and stuck to it while Nakamura just played his biggest hits, which was somehow enough to keep Okada down.

This match could’ve been better if it were longer and had more of a struggle from Nakamura. He withstood everything that Okada brought to him and bounced back so quickly. That sort of rushed finish caused this match to be disappointing, in spite of the great wrestling it showcased. It was clear these two wrestlers had great chemistry together yet only one of them – Okada – actually went to great depths so show that. Granted, Nakamura was indeed a guy that made the most out of so little. And yet, it was clear that Okada as a wrestler actually outperformed Nakamura. Conversely, both men were great as showmen, with Nakamura getting much more from the crowd than Okada did.

Final Rating: ****

There’s something different about Okada’s matches from 2012 to around 2017 that differ from 2017-onwards. His early matches seemed more scientific and commonsensical whereas his later matches were more show and high-spots. Some might call that a logical progression, but I don’t think that’s the case. Okada did everything right in this match and wrestled incredibly well. Nakamura did a great job of entertaining the crowd with his typical wackiness, but he never left his comfort zone. And considering how big of a deal Okada was supposed to be at the time, this was the perfect occasion for Nakamura to do so.

Luckily, these two men would go on to have two more G1 encounters in later years, and those matches were much better than this.

Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.