If you are a regular visitor to this site, you know that I review WWE RAW. And if you have read my reviews over the last few months you know how fed up I am currently getting with the WWE product. RAW has become painful to get through since Wrestlemania. Half the time I’m watching RAW I tend to be browsing my computer or phone. It is usually more interesting than what is on my TV. A few weeks ago my cat played with a sock for 20 minutes and that was one of the best parts of RAW.
Watching RAW over the last few months has killed some of my love for pro wrestling. And I never thought it would get that bad. I’m 30 years old and have been watching pro wrestling since I was 3. I never grew out of it. It has always been my “escape” from the real world. But today’s current WWE product is actually making me want to pay more attention to the real world than escape from it.
But the WWE is not the only thing in the world of pro wrestling anymore. There are so many other promotions out there putting on a quality product. And by now I’m sure you know one of them is New Japan Pro Wrestling. I started watching New Japan a couple years ago after Kenny Omega won the G1. I had always wanted to watch it. And the WWE’s boring product at the time pushed me to New Japan.
And it has not let me down ever since.
New Japan constantly delivers with every big show. And over the last few years it has delivered some of the best wrestling I have ever seen. Unlike the WWE, New Japan tells all of its stories in the ring. They don’t push awful storylines down your throat. I have yet to be let down by any big New Japan show.
Of course, the time I started watching New Japan was right around the ascent of Kenny Omega. Omega had the rocket strapped to him when he was made the new leader of Bullet Club. There were a good amount of people who questioned if he could be the star that AJ Styles and Finn Balor were. But Omega not only did, but he surpassed both men and has become a bigger international star than anyone possibly thought.
Omega won the G1 in 2016 and went on to challenge Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 11. While Omega failed to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, he made it known that he was one of the best wrestlers in the world today and put on a phenomenal match with Okada. At Dominion in 2017, Okada and Omega wrestling to a 60 minute time limit draw. After that match Omega went on to become the inaugural IWGP United States Champion, but he also had to deal with dissension in the Bullet Club. He also beat Okada in a match in the 2017 G1. But at the same time he joined forces again with former partner Kota Ibushi. It was a great story as Omega tried to reach the top of New Japan, but also had to deal with the struggles of his quest for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship tearing the Bullet Club apart.
Then after Wrestling Dontaku, Okada challenged Omega to another Title match. Their record against each other in singles matches was 1-1-1. And in order for there to be an actual winner, Okada wanted to have no time limit. Omega came back and wanted to make it two-out-of-three falls. They agreed, and the match was on.
Many people wondered if these two could top any of their previous matches. Well guess what? They did. I’ve watched the match twice now, and I feel confident in saying this:
Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega at Dominion 2018 was the greatest pro wrestling match I have ever seen.
The previous match that held this Title for me was Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker from Wrestlemania 25. Yeah I know, there have been greater matches in Japan and around the world. But I loved that match at the time and could go back and watch it time and time again.
But watching Okada vs Omega at Dominion, and I just couldn’t help but be captivated from bell to bell with what these two were doing. As Dave Meltzer pointed out, it was the culmination of almost two years of a story between these two. It brought to an end Okada’s 720 day reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion which was the longest ever. The match started off slow but continued to build up as time went on. And you know what was great? They weren’t constantly kicking out of finishers left and right. Omega kicked out of one Rainmaker, and that was after Okada struggled to get over and pin him. We didn’t have to sit through Roman Reigns kicking out of five F5s or Brock Lesnar kicking out of everything. They told a tremendous story without going finisher heavy like they do in the WWE.
As the match went on both men sold the struggle of the battle. Okada went for a Rainmaker, but was out of energy and couldn’t deliver it as he collapsed to the ground. This of course was the opposite of what happened in one of their previous matches where it was Omega that collapsed as Okada went for the Rainmaker. But even still, both men would find sudden bursts of energy. Okada was still hitting picture perfect dropkicks. Omega was still hitting V-triggers left and right. Each man was able to counter the others finisher at will. Of course, this plays off their previous battles again with each man being so familiar with the other. The One Winged Angel has been treated as a move of death in New Japan. No one has kicked out of it. So when Omega hit it to even the falls at one a piece, Okada was STILL selling it after the two minute break and the third fall began. Dropkicks, v-triggers, tombstones, reverse frankensteiner, counter after counter, I was on the edge of my seat. Then Omega is finally able to hit the One Winged Angel again and finally capture the IWGP Heavyweight Title.
But the story wasn’t done. After the match, the Young Bucks came out and celebrated with Omega and Ibushi. Omega even hugged them before accepting the Title. His friends even came before the Title he had been chasing for the last two years. The Golden Elite was formed. The crowd was fully ready for Omega’s win. Once the third fall came, the crowd was ready to explode for an Omega win. And they did when he won. Okada’s reign was excellent, and he churned out great match after great match. But they wanted to see a new Champion. And while many people, including myself, were hoping for Naito to win it at Wrestle Kingdom, this ended up being the better story. It was the culmination of everything Omega had been working for. Omega failed to win the Title, lost some of his friends that were close to him, but ended up working harder than ever to get back to the top. And now he is the toast of the wrestling world.
This match, the story, everything building up to Omega’s win and the end of Okada’s reign is what we love about pro wrestling. It was filled with drama at every turn. And you know what it is the best part? The story was told in the ring pretty much every time. That is the way pro wrestling is suppose to be done. You can have storylines. You can have backstage interviews. But the main story should be told in the ring.
The WWE has dumbed down pro wrestling. If you took this match and put it in front of a regular WWE crowd they would not react the same way. Hell, I would expect some of the crowd to laugh at the spots where both men sold exhaustion and couldn’t hit a move. Some day I hope that changes. Maybe Triple H really will change the product for the better when he takes over. But until then we have to deal with Vince McMahon’s version of pro wrestling with the WWE. And it is one that continues to get blown away by other promotions when it comes to in ring work. If New Japan can continue to have people talking about them, and great matches like this, maybe they can be competitive with the WWE one day. Competition makes better business, as evident by the Monday Night Wars.
What Omega and Okada did at Dominion this past Saturday was about as perfect as it could get. I expect Dave Meltzer to give it 7 stars. And you know what? No one can argue that. This match was the best pro wrestling match I ever saw. Will it be topped some day? It might. But you have to tell a two year story to perfection in order to do it. And I can’t see anyone doing that any time soon.
And while New Japan is putting out gem after gem for every big show, the WWE continues to put out dud after dud. But don’t worry, they are giving us Jinder Mahal vs Roman Reigns on RAW tonight in addition to having it at Money in the Bank. At this point the Big Dawg looks like a little puppy compared to Kenny Omega. Unlike Reigns, I look forward to Omega’s journey at the top and where he goes. At this point, he doesn’t need the WWE. The WWE needs him.
Just when I thought my love for pro wrestling was slipping away, Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada gave me a new shot of life. New Japan is here to stay. I look forward to the journey they are about to go on. If you are down on RAW and the WWE in general, give New Japan a shot if you haven’t already. It will be well worth your time.
Until Next Time,
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka