Omega-Okada IV: Wrestling, as an art form, at its very best
The match, the main event of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Dominion supercard, would have been on the air in the States around 7 a.m., early for me on a Saturday, so I slept in and watched on a slight tape delay.
Looking back on it now, I am glad that I took the extra time to watch the semi-main event, in which Chris Jericho, yes, that Chris Jericho, defeated Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental title.
Three reasons why I was glad: psychology, psychology, psychology.
First, Omega-Okada IV. The series, dating back to Wrestle Kingdom 11 in January 2017, stood at 1-1-1, with Okada winning the Wrestle Kingdom match, the two fighting to a 60-minute draw at Dominion last June, then Omega stealing a win in the round-robin of the G1 Climax Tournament in August.
The stips for the fourth bout were two-out-of-three falls, no time limit, lending an air of finality to what has been the best series of matches in my years of following pro wrestling.
Going in, I assumed that Okada would retain the belt, just because Okada, basically. Okada seems to be the textbook definition of a top pro-wrestling heavyweight champion, his look, the way he carries himself, and of course with his workrate.
Okada comes across to me as a sort of modern-day Ric Flair, an in-his-prime Ric Flair, I should hasten to delineate.
Omega, The Best Bout Machine, is arguably the best worker of his generation, able to bring off top-shelf matches against a wide range of types of opponents.
But going in, I’m thinking New Japan keeps the belt on Okada, and allows Omega to go back to his ongoing storyline saga with his former Bullet Club mates, Cody Rhodes, the Young Bucks, Hangman Page, and his reformed Golden Lovers tag team with Kota Ibushi.
No harm, no foul. I mean, I want matches to go somewhere, but I’m not going to get mad at New Japan for giving us Omega-Okada IV, even if it’s just a one-off.
So, back to Jericho winning the I/C belt: now, I’m really thinking Okada is going to win. There’s no way New Japan is putting its top two singles belts on guys from Winnipeg, right?
The match starts. Again, it’s best-of-three falls. The first fall, as it should have, goes for a while, before Okada steals the pin with a reversal and cradle.
Psychology update: we’ve got Jericho winning the I/C belt, leading us to think Okada in the main event, to balance out the geography of the top two champs, and we’ve got Okada winning the first fall, and we all know that the guy who wins the first fall in a best-of-three is doomed to lose the final two.
But: Okada didn’t win with his finisher, The Rainmaker, a short-arm clothesline. He won with a basic roll-up. The Rainmaker is still in play. Maybe Okada still wins?
And, yes, honestly, this is how my head works during a wrestling match. Scary, I know.
The second fall goes to Omega, with his One-Winged Angel, a slam into a cradle from an electric chair. The match is even at a fall apiece, and the Rainmaker is still in play – and Omega had to use his finisher to get his fall.
He’s not going to hit two One-Winged Angels on Okada to win the belt, is he?
The third fall dives even deeper into psychology. First, we have a saga involving Ibushi, who as Omega’s second is at ringside, and is showing increasing concern for Omega, and seems itchy with the white towel that he appears to want to throw in on behalf of his tag partner.
With that still going on, Okada takes control, and works to a point where he has Omega set up for a Rainmaker, but in the process of trying to deliver the coup de grace, Okada collapses mid-attempt, bringing to mind the final minutes of Omega-Okada II, when a Rainmaker attempt missed because Omega collapsed just before Okada could land the clothesline.
Eventually, we get a Rainmaker from Okada, but he’s too exhausted to make the cover. Then we get another, but again, Okada was unable to get a clean pin attempt in time.
At this point, I’m thinking, I wonder if they’ve worked out a spot where Omega can reverse the Rainmaker into a One-Winged Angel.
No sooner had I completed the thought in my head was it happening in the ring. Omega reversed the short-armed clothesline, hit a quick, snappy One-Winged Angel, but Okada was under the ropes, and Omega was not able to make a cover.
There we have it, according to the psychology. Omega has hit his finisher for a second time, and isn’t able to capitalize. The match is Okada’s, for sure.
Except that it isn’t. Okada is dazed, head propped up on the bottom rope, unable to move. Omega signals a V-trigger, and delivers the absolutely most devastating V-trigger I have seen, then quickly gets Okada back into the electric chair for the One-Winged Angel.
Even now, I have to admit, I’m thinking, Okada will be the first to kick out of the One-Winged Angel.
Only when Red Shoes’ hand hit the mat to complete the count of three did my mind stop racing.
I tweeted later to the effect that I had just witnessed the best that the art form could ever produce, and on a second viewing later in the weekend, that thought was confirmed for me.
The technical and physical wizardry of Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada is without parallel, but what sets them apart is their abilities as storytellers.
If you were asked to explain to someone who knows nothing about pro wrestling what the art form is all about, and could only show them one match, this would be the match.
Omega-Okada IV was Shakespeare, William Faulkner, The Beatles, Miles Davis, Marlon Brando, Martin Scorsese, at their best.
It will be hard to watch Brock Lesnar defend against Roman Reigns yet again at SummerSlam, to be sure.