Editor’s Note: Every day this week, we’ll take you back to one of Dave Meltzer’s top-rated matches of the past year, starting with No. 10 and going through No. 1. What follows is an edited version of Dave’s writeup of that match from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter with the context relatively intact.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega
NJPW Dominion | June 11
Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega followed one of the greatest pro wrestling matches of all-time with an even better sequel: a 60:00 draw for the IWGP title in the main event of the June 1th Dominion show from Osaka Jo Hall.
When it was over, both men collapsed on the mat selling complete exhaustion. It was the first 60:00 draw in an IWGP heavyweight championship match since a March 26, 2005, title match with Satoshi Kojima vs. Manabu Nakanishi. There were three other previous one hour draws in IWGP title matches: a March 5, 2003, match with Nakanishi vs. Yuji Nagata, an October 21, 2002, match with Nagata vs. Masahiro Chono, and an August 8, 1988, match with Tatsumi Fujinami defending against Antonio Inoki.
In a match filled with memorable moments, perhaps the best was Omega being done and Okada throwing the Rainmaker, but Omega collapsed to the ground as he threw it, causing the champion to miss the move and go flying.
The key story of the match they were trying to tell is that Omega is the first person that Okada can’t beat with the Rainmaker as he hit him with it multiple times, but we still don’t know if Okada can survive the One Winged Angel. Omega hit the move once during the match but Okada’s foot was on the ropes.
A 60:00 match is far riskier today when a 30:00 match seems like an eternity. The idea of such a match had got so much talk that in his pre-match interview, Omega downplayed it by saying this match would not last the nearly 47 minutes of the first one, and it was not going 60.
Kazuchika Okada retained the IWGP heavyweight title with a 60:00 draw with Kenny Omega
Omega used a huracanrana on the floor and teased the Terminator dive, but Okada kicked him. Okada used a running flip dive and started selling like he hurt his left knee. Omega worked on the knee with a dropkick and a 70s Brisco avalanche leg dive. He worked it over with a kneebreaker and the figure four leglock, which Okada reversed as they got into the ropes. Omega gave him a kneebreaker on the apron and threw the knee on top of the table. Omega went for a moonsault off the guardrail, but Okada shoved him and Omega flew into the other guardrail. Okada did the running crossbody over the guard rail onto Omega and drove him through the second guardrail.
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They both reversed out of tombstone attempts. Okada missed an elbow off the top. Omega did a top rope Asai moonsault to the floor where he nearly lost his balance for a second. Omega used a missile dropkick to the back of the head for a near fall. Omega did a power bomb, a forward fireman’s carry, and middle rope moonsault, but Okada got his knees up. They teased both a top rope piledriver and a top rope dragon superplex, neither of which they did. Okada did a Death Valley bomb on the apron and a running Woo (Suwa) dropkick into the guard rail. Okada set up a table. Omega did a top rope superplex with knee pressure but missed a knee. They each got out of the Rainmaker and One Winged Angel. Okada used two German suplexes and hit the Rainmaker. Okada went for his big dropkick but Omega power bombed him. That was incredible.
Okada later dropkicked him off the top to the floor. He put Omega on the table and came off the top rope with an elbow through the table, which cracked but didn’t fully break. Okada used a missile dropkick and a low dropkick. Omega was selling like he had no strength. Omega was throwing weak punches to the stomach and Okada hit two Rainmakers. Okada wanted the ref to stop it and Cody came out and wanted to throw in the towel, but the Bucks stopped him. Then Omega suddenly exploded with a jumping knee and a reverse huracanrana. He went for another knee but got hit with an Okada dropkick. Omega hit some running knees and hit the One Winged Angel for the first time in their two matches, but Okada got his foot on the ropes.
Okada hit another rainmaker and then stumbled. Omega hit the Fast Dragon suplex but Okada hit another dropkick. They traded elbows and Omega hit the running knees for a near fall. Omega went for the One Winged Angel but Okada reversed into a tombstone. Okada went for another Rainmaker, but Omega collapsed, causing Okada to miss. Both were trying gut wrenches to set up a tombstone but couldn’t get the other up. Omega hit all kinds of elbows and knees. He went for another One Winged Angel but Okada got out and hit a dropkick to the back. Okada hit a spinning tombstone, but then collapsed and couldn’t cover him. Okada did another German suplex, and another dropkick. Omega then started throwing backwards elbows and another snap dragon suplex.
Okada hit another dropkick, hit the Rainmaker, and collapsed. Okada was crawling trying to get the pin when the bell rang. They didn’t gimmick the time at all as it was right at 60:00.
You could argue that Omega as challenger should have been the one crawling. The match story was all about Omega’s survival so from that standpoint, Okada should have been trying for the pin at the end, but it really doesn’t matter. After their January 4th match, which was one of the best matches I’ve ever seen, I watched the Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada match from 1994, which many call the best match ever. Obviously, that is subjective and there are tons of matches that can fit into that category, but more people I know would say Misawa vs. Kawada then any other. I would say the two were comparable, but they were different.
Misawa vs. Kawada was more like a fight and more heated like an incredible sports contest. Omega vs. Okada I was more spectacular when it came to moves as we’re 23 years later but every bit as dramatic, which is ultimately the goal. What I can say is that while this match was not as heated as either of those two matches, it was more intense, featured better selling, was more dramatic, and told a better story than either.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the greatest match they’ve ever seen. This was better than those two matches that I thought were the best ones I’d ever seen. It was the two best wrestlers in the world at this point in time, both in the best match of their lives. We are seeing history with this Okada championship run and this Omega vs. Okada program. This is the modern version of the 1989 Flair-Steamboat series, which consisted of three major national shows (they also did dozens of house show matches, most of which were close to the level, at least one of which was above the level, of the three national matches, which is something Omega and Okada didn’t do).
Omega and Okada are right now scheduled for three matches this year, and after two, they are well ahead in comparison, even factoring in the time and place elements. I don’t know how you could top it, except some day, like everything, it will happen.
Okada vs. Omega II basically broke the bank on superlatives, if the first match was one of the few ****** matches in history, this may have been the first Milky Way Galaxy match. And this was hardly the perfect time or place, even if Osaka and Dominion ahead of time looked like it would be. This wasn’t the usual super hot Osaka crowd, and the main event’s bell rang roughly four hours after the start of the show, and followed a match of the year contender with the emotional draining element of Tanahashi, fighting with one arm, beating Naito, who had been destroying and defacing the IC title belt.
Omega vs. Okada was a very different match from the first one. The first one went 46:40, building to the key moves late. This time, going 60:00, they had to pull out all the stops. Omega survived multiple Rainmakers, including one just seconds before the finish. Omega finally hit the One Winged Angel, but Okada got his leg over the ropes to stop the count.
There was no vibe of a 60:00 main event as the show was going on. The key undercard matches all were given time and if you’re planning a one hour broadway, you normally wouldn’t start it four hours into the show, nor have so many long matches underneath. They were building the apparent finishing sequences around 40:00 in to where it felt like there simply wasn’t enough left to go much longer. At the 50:00 mark, you had to think it was going to a one hour draw, but New Japan had done a finish in the Tenzan vs. Kojima match just 11 seconds shy of 60 minutes in a big 2005 match.
There is expected to be a third meeting before the end of the year. Okada’s run as champion over the past year should go down as legendary with the title defenses against Marufuji, the two with Omega, Minoru Suzuki, and Katsuyori Shibata all being among the best matches of the past year, as well as a strong non-title win over Tiger Mask W and a very good match with Bad Luck Fale.
The Okada vs. Omega future storyline really revolves around what decision Omega makes come January. If he stays, he should get a long run as champion and be the international face of the company. Given his performances, for Japan, he as champion with Japanese stars chasing him should work, and for expansion internationally, he’s the better face of the company than Okada.
This leads to the U.S. title tournament that the company is doing on 7/1 and 7/2 in Long Beach. Omega is in the tournament. For a WWE-weaned modern fan, a U.S. title would seem below the level of Omega, although when WWE put the title on John Cena, its biggest star, the title never meant more. It’s the man who makes the belt today and if Omega wins, it goes from being just another mid-card title, to a main event level title, similar to how Shinsuke Nakamura elevated the IC title, as did Naito, and as likely will Tanahashi.
Best Of The Rest:
– Omega vs. Okada I
– Omega vs. Okada II
– Omega vs. Naito
– Keith Lee vs. Donovan Dijak
– WALTER vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
– Tanahashi vs. Naito
– Okada vs. Shibata
– Will Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA
– Naito vs. Michael Elgin