On Wednesday, June 11th, Kazuchika Okada, and Kenny Omega faced each other for the second time this year, and in doing so managed to create a number of moments that stood out as being the greatest of the modern era. Before they faced one another, they hyped up their match up in a collection of promos declaring what they would do to the other when they met again for the IWGP Championship. To further build the match, before the introductions a video was shown on the big screen showing those that have held the title in the past. Whether it was North Americans such as Scott Norton, Vader or Brock Lesnar, or legendary names from Japan such as Antonio Inoki, the Keiji Mutoh (The Great Muta) and Shinsuke Nakamura, those that have held the title are people whose names are etched forever in history.
‘The Cleaner’ made his way to the ring led by his Bullet Club colleagues and Elite brethren Matt and Nick Jackson, the Young Bucks. Then, as Omega stood in the ring, the music of the Rainmaker chimed in. As Okada made his way to the ring, the Rainmaker bills fell from the ceiling above. The pageantry surrounding this match was quite special, as were the entrances of the combatants. The fans began to immediately show their enthusiasm for the match, and they were divided regarding who they hoped would walk away as the winner.
When the men initially locked up, they went to the ground and attempted to get the better of the other, each working on the limbs of the other. It was fairly even and a stalemate took place early on, each man countering the other as they delivered clotheslines, headlocks, and shoulder tackles. The story these two were prepared to tell early on was a slow build that ramped up quickly. Omega shoved Okada early on, with the intent of firing up the champion in hoped that a mistake would happen. What the result of their early exchanges did was immediately engage the fans in following them, and where the story would go.
Both men attempted to go for their finishing moves early on, either the Rainmaker clothesline or the one winged angel, but to no avail. When things began to slow down, one thought that it gave Okada the advantage, but Omega attempted to get the better of the champion by playing possum and hitting him with a hurricanrana. Then Okada hit him with a somersault plancha, but landed on his knee awkwardly, leaving him open for Omega to capitalize. And capitalize he did,; as Okada attempted to come into the ring Omega attacked the knee and began to systematically work on the injury. Omega was like a shark smelling blood, hitting him with a dropkick, figure-four leg lock and an atomic knee drop, relentlessly working the body part. The champion was writhing in pain and screaming in agony. Omega went as far as to hold Okada’s wrist in order to prevent him from touching the ropes. Even when Okada did manage to break free, the challenger would follow him and continue working the knee.
With both men outside the ring, Omega dropped Okada knee first onto the table, seriously hindering the champion’s mobility. Once they made their way back into the ring, Omega hit kicks to the head, neck, and back of the champion, but that only to upset him. Okada attempted to change the complexion of the match by hitting a flapjack out of desperation. Okada locked in a submission at one point, wearing him down and tying up his legs in the process. It was intended to slow down Omega, and the champion used the rest to regain the strength in his knee. Okada took chance after chance, even leaping over the barricade at ringside and hitting Omega with a cross body block.
The two men were relentless as they continued to hit each other with signature moves. The match was a true test of their endurance and strength. At one point, Omega hit a top rope Asai moon sault to the floor. He was relentless with his strikes, and he used his raw strength to gut wrench his opponent into a powerbomb. Finally, both men were exhausted as they met in the center of the ring and exchanged slaps, elbows, and forearms from one another, even as the sold the results of their opponent’s attacks earlier. Both men climbed to the top turnbuckle at one point, and Omega attempted a powerbomb and Okada battled to try to turn it into a top rope Dragon Suplex. The exchange between them on the top rope went on for a few minutes and ended with Okada hitting Omega with a death valley driver on the ring apron. Matt and Nick Jackson attempted to tend to their partner outside the ring, but as Omega attempted to make it to his feet he was hit with what Kevin Kelly called a shotgun dropkick, wiping him out and hitting the barricade at ringside.
The longer the match went, the better both men got. Since a table had been planted at ringside earlier, there were instances where either Okada or Omega was going to go through it. Okada signaled for the Rainmaker, and when Omega realized that his wrist was locked he fought back and broke away. As the match approached the 30-minute mark, they again stood atop the top rope. Omega hit a super plex while ensuring Okada’s leg received the brunt of it. He followed that up by hitting a shoulder breaker on Okada. The story then changed, as it wasn’t just Okada’s knee that was wounded, but his head and neck as well. An incredible combination of moves took place, in particular, Okada hitting some nasty German suplexes on Omega, but after a Rainmaker clothesline ‘The Cleaner’ kicked out. He had hit Omega with some of his best shots, only to have the challenger kick out.
When it appeared as though Omega was going to be finished with a drop kick, he caught Okada in mid-air and hit a powerbomb. As the referee tended to the champion, Omega attempted to regain his senses in the corner. He then hit a snap dragon suplex on the champion, but to no avail, as Okada responded by hitting Omega with a dropkick as the challenger sat on the top turnbuckle. Both men were fighting exhaustion, and it was at this point where Okada laid out Omega on the table and hit an elbow from the top rope, hurting himself in the process. Kevin Kelly had said Okada hits it he wins and if he misses he loses, but what happens if he hits it and hurts himself in the process?
Okada rolled Omega into the ring and hit his kneeling opponent with a dropkick from the top rope. In fact, he hit three consecutive dropkicks as Omega sat in the ring. When Okada attempted to pin the challenger, he reached under the rope out of desperation. Okada then hit not one, but two Rainmaker clotheslines. Omega appeared unconscious, but struggled to gather his bearings and get to his feet. It was at this point where Cody, followed by the rest of Bullet Club, came to the ring and attempted to throw in the towel to concede the match on Omega’s behalf. However, the Young Bucks held him off. With all this happening outside the ring, Omega hit a high knee and a reverse hurricanrana out of desperation. This got the Bullet Club fired up, and both men began hitting each other with strike after strike as the match was approaching a close.
After Omega hit the one winged angel, Okada was able to rest his leg on the bottom rope, breaking the count. Omega was dazed but still regained his senses enough to aim at Okada, only to set himself up for another Rainmaker clothesline. That was the fourth of the match, with each being different from the other. Once again both men stood in the centre of the ring and hit one another with forearm after forearm. Omega thought he had the better of Okada, only to be caught off guard by the champion. I hadn’t realized just how good Okada’s dropkick, as he gets unbelievable elevation, especially considering his size and height.
After hitting a couple of knees on Okada, Omega pinned the champion, only to find the count seemed a tad slow. Okada picked up a beaten Omega, who collapsed, thus avoiding a fifth Rainmaker. Both men attempted to hit a tombstone piledriver, only to have the other block. Some of the knee strikes to the head of Okada looked so stiff I’m surprised his head wasn’t knocked clean off his shoulders.
Just as they announced that the match had hit the 55 minute mark, and it seemed as though Omega was setting up the champion for the finish, the champion fought back. Really, both men were running on fumes, only to come back with a burst of energy and then collapse once they were spent. As the seconds of the match ticked down, a beaten Omega laid on one side of the ring as Okada desperately crawled over to make a pin, only to have time expire.
For everything these two did to one another in this match, it was without question the night that time stood still.
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