There is a difference between good and great, a lot of things that are good are absolutely stellar but what’s truly great is what stands the test of time forever. You’re only as good as your last gig, and sometimes we have to make a choice and find the passion and drive to create something that is truly larger than life, to create something that is quite simply immortal.
Wrestling as an entertainment platform is one that melds fiction and reality to create something that suspends our belief better than any form of entertainment, there is nothing that can compare to sports entertainment. Whether it is WWE or NJPW, the lore underlying them has a life of its own. It’s like anime in the real world, there’s no better way to put it.
Earlier this year I, and the rest of the wrestling world, had the pleasure of being absolutely blown away by the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 11, an absolute classic between The Rainmaker Kazuchika Okada and Bullet Club Boss Kenny Omega. The match impressed the wrestling world so much that famed wrestling critic Dave Meltzer rated the match the very first 6 out 5 stars. That review by the way did the match absolutely no favours, as with or without Meltzer’s broken review scale Okada vs Omega for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship was a match for the ages. Roughly six months later the follow up, Okada vs Omega II at NJPW Dominion in Okada, Japan was set in Stone for June 11 2017, once again for the top prize in Japanese wrestling.
Folks, when it comes to wrestling the sequel almost never lives up to the original. NJPW has always put on really good and entertaining matches, but nothing to set a standard for the industry. As much as I enjoyed the Okada and Tanashi Wrestle Kingdom series, it still wasn’t enough for me to equate it with what WWE was doing. Okada vs Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 11 was the first time I placed a non-WWE match in the same conversation as one of the all time great WWE matches, in my mind it was as good at Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker (Wrestlemania 25, 2009). Speaking of which, even the sequel to that match wasn’t nearly as good as the original.
Okada vs Omega II had an impossible act to follow, and just six short months removed. The venue wasn’t as lavish, the rest of the card was fine, but when the time came for the main event I expected it to be good, not great. To my most pleasant surprise, Okada vs Omega II was not only better than their industry shaking Wrestle Kingdom 11 match, but it’s quite possibly the greatest sequel in recent wrestling history. I can’t recall the last time a rematch to a WWE classic was better than the original.
Okada and Omega did something that most of the wrestling world has stopped caring about in this transparent internet age, and that is to make the dance real feel and legitimate, like a real sport. The match lasted the full 60 minute time limit with a finale that was unconventional and risky by modern day wrestling standards, but the way in which the story was told from the opening bell, the 60 minutes glided by without feeling like the match had outstayed its welcome.
In an age of crazy fast paced action and cheap thrills to pacify the short attention span of millennials, Okada and Omega put on a 60 minute war that had layers of emotion and story, all without being over the top. It’s quite simply the greatest match to have come out of Japan since the 60 minute classic between Giant Baba and Bruno Sammartino in 1967. Coincidentally, Omega vs Okada II was almost a mirror reflection of it in terms of pace and story. The crowd, the athleticism, everything about Okada vs Omega II at NJPW Dominion set a new bar for modern day wrestling. They mastered the art of telling an amazing story for 60 minutes without resorting to a battle of the finishing moves.
The ending of this dramatic contest will stand as one of my favourite, most unconventional endings to any match this side of Eddie Guerrero vs John Bradshaw Layfield (Judgment Day, 2004). In any other match, in any other context, in any other venue, that ending would have gotten a disapproval, but for Okada vs Omega II it was the best possible finale that left the audience in awe.
Dave Meltzer gave this match a 7 out of 5 stars by the way, but again a broken scale isn’t needed to vouch for the greatest rematch ever put together in Okada vs Omega II. Look for it, savour it, and be grateful that wrestling, be it America or Japan, New Japan or WWE, is the best it has ever been.