By Will Pruett
It turns out Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada are magic together. There is no other way to describe the insane chemistry they have in the ring. Take it from someone with a full sleeve of tattoos dedicated to Harry Potter, it’s magic. At NJPW Dominion they showed this magic once again in a 60 minute draw over the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
I’ve never enjoyed a 60 minute draw before. Honestly, I don’t usually enjoy long drawn out matches. While I’ll always go back and site Michaels vs. Hart at WrestleMania XII as one of my favorite wrestling moments, the first half hour is skippable. Orton and Cena literally had to try to blow each other up to make 60 minutes bearable at Bragging Rights 2009. People can talk all they want about the great 60 minute draws Ric Flair had in untelevised 1980s matches, but 99.5% of them sound boring to me. I can be easily bored in one hour and I wasn’t watching this.
I was interested for the entire 60 minutes and didn’t even realize 60 minutes were passing. I avoided spoilers prior to watching and watched with the Japanese commentary team (English was an available option, but I can’t handle Kevin Kelly calling NJPW. He’s not good at things.). I didn’t realize we were coming up on the time limit until about two minutes before the end.
One of the instincts we have as human beings, and especially wrestling fans, is comparison. People want to figure out if this Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada match was better than their Wrestle Kingdom 11 encounter. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter which match was better. It doesn’t matter which match gets more snowflakes on someone’s keyboard. It doesn’t matter which match a particular individual enjoyed more. Both of these matches are works of art and we, as appreciators of art, are lucky to have experienced them.
Instead of attempting to compare these matches, think of them as a series. We don’t sit around wondering which Star Wars film is better. While some have definitive rankings they follow, for the most part, we can all agree that Star Wars movies rule, as long as they aren’t the prequels (which still have their moments of greatness).
I’m going to suggest we think of Okada vs. Omega II as a just that, a sequel. Part of what made this match so good was the way it played on their Wrestle Kingdom 11 encounter. Omega spent the entirety of the Wrestle Kingdom 11 match trying to hit the One Winged Angel, but he never could. At Dominion, he did, but Okada was able to get to the ropes and break the pin. It was beautiful. It was heartbreaking. It was high art.
Friends, I’m not trying to fawn all over this match, but it’s honestly impossible not to.
The sheer exhaustion both Okada and Omega displayed at the end as they summoned all of their energy to hit one final move, praying it would put their opponent away, was palpable. There have been very few matches that could take me through an entire emotional journey, then tear my heart out. This is exactly what happened with each near fall. I didn’t take sides, but I wanted to see someone earn a victory.
In a couple weeks, I’ll be at the New Japan Pro Wrestling shows in Long Beach and I’ll see both of these men, but not against each other. Part of me wonders if NJPW is crazy enough to put the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on Cody Rhodes at this show. Could Cody back into the win Omega earned? This would be a quality way to make Omega the protagonist in NJPW’s ongoing story, establish Cody as an antagonist fans truly want to hate, and change the dynamic of an eventual Omega vs. Okada rematch.
Professional wrestling gives us moments of transcendence, but it rarely does so. It can bring exhilarating athletic action, but inspiring real emotion is a rare feat. This is the first match I’ve seen this year that has inspired real emotion in me. I’m eternally thankful for these moments.
This week’s essential viewing:
For the purposes of this column, this week will be presented as Thursday-Wednesday.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from NJPW Dominion (June 11, 2017) – Read the above essay, then go watch this f—ing match. It’s amazing.
Smackdown’s opening segment plus The Usos and The Colons vs. The New Day and Fashion Police (June 13, 2017) – This wasn’t transcendent, but it was a ton of fun. New Day entering with a live band was pure fire emoji. The Usos and all the subsequent promos produced some fun. The actual match was really enjoyable. This was good time-filling action from the Smackdown tag teams.
What I absolutely positively love in wrestling this week:
Marty and Sarah Love Wrestling – It’s a very podcast-filled week for my recommendations. I actually find myself looking forward to this show on a weekly basis and get excited when I see it has downloaded on Thursday mornings. It’s not serious. It’s filled with jokes it may take you an episode or two to catch on to. It has the best wrestler impressions in the world in a wide array of buddies. This is a gosh darn great show and you should add it to your weekly podcast consumption.
What I absolutely positively love in the world this week:
Harry Potter and the Sacred Text – This podcast is one of my favorite things in the world. It asks a simple question: “When was the last time you treated something you love as if it were sacred?” There is an element of sincerity to their exploration of the Harry Potter series that I truly love. They had a live show in Los Angeles on Tuesday night and it was a joy to experience a large group of like-minded Harry Potter nerds. If you love this book series, go to the beginning of this podcast feed and give it a shot.
Got something to say/react to in today’s piece? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wilpruett. Just let me know whether you’d like your name attached to your statement or not. Alternately, there’s a comment section just below this article, so comment away!
This has been a mail free week for me, which must mean everything I said in last week’s piece on how to fix 205 Live was absolutely correct. I’ll just sit here with a self satisfied smirk on my face rejoicing in my rightness.
SSMGOTW (Superfluous Shane McMahon Gif of the Week):
This week’s wrestling reading:
From time to time, I want to highlight some of the best wrestling reading I’ve found over the past week.
We’re Done Here:
This week may have felt thin on WWE talk, especially with Money in the Bank around the corner, but such is life. I promise to have more words to type about WWE soon-ish! Thanks, as always, for reading everyone. This week has been a burst of positivity in wrestling blog form. Since it’s so happy, I’ll leave you with Leslie Knope and these inspiring words…
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. Of interest to him are diversity in wrestling and wrestling as a theatrical art form. To contact, check him out on Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email him at email@example.com.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Frank Zarrillo discussing his film "The Wrestler: A QT Marshall Story", which includes appearances by Matt Riddle, Damian Priest, Gerald Brisco, Kevin Kelly, Steve Corino, and many more, the involvement of Marshall's wife and mother, and much more. Stick around after the interview for Powell's audio review of Wednesday's AEW Dynamite television show...