Omega Vs Okada IV: Dominion 6.9
Dominion 6.9, Osaka-Jo Hall 2018. Without any pretense, there is something in the air you can feel through the screen. Don Callis says on commentary
“One man is walking out of here without any doubt about who the best wrestler in the world is”
which is one of the truer statements ever uttered by someone behind the announce desk. Kenny is in absurd shape with striations on his chest you can see when he flexes. He looks like a man who has done nothing but lift, train and prepare for what is the most important match of his life. Okada’s music hits, he walks to the ring and despite the package Kenny has brought, any rational fan has to wonder how on earth can Okada be beaten. He has been the champion for 719 days turning back all challengers and has proven again and again there is no one better under the bright lights.
The match begins slowly. Some hold and counter hold stuff. Okada with his classic “chest tap” mind games which Kenny gives him right back. The crowd seems to be semi-split with a slight edge to Omega. Very quickly the match picks up the tempo and doesn’t stop. The first big sequence is an Okada Irish whip reversal that ends up with Kenny crashing into the barricade. Okada follows up with a Yakuza-style kick which puts Kenny into the second barricade row. When Okada tries to follow up with the splash Kenny staples him with a mid-flight standing V Trigger. It becomes evident at this point that these two athletes will best be emptying themselves in this match. The logical follow-up becomes how on earth can they keep this up for three falls.
The next big moment is Kenny hitting an absurd springboard onto Okada while he is on the floor between the first and second barricade. At this point, the match has been going for 12 minutes which in retrospect seems insane given they will be going for almost another hour. After some back and forth Okada gives Kenny a tombstone on the apron and follows it up with a brutal shotgun dropkick which sends Kenny ribs first into the barricade. Kenny is left on the floor and appears to be in agony. The story of his injured ribs will continue throughout the match. The announcers really sell the injury to the point where Callis expresses concern that Kota Ibushi is going to throw in the towel.
Kenny is able to regain control and executes a picture-perfect Terminator Dive to Okada on the floor. He follows that up with a dropkick off the top turnbuckle to Okada who he has rolled back into the ring. Throughout this match, Kenny is hitting him with chops that sound like shotgun blasts. Okada is hitting Kenny with dropkicks that are so perfect they look like video game animations. Every move is perfect, every sequence is perfect. There isn’t a single mistake.
The first fall occurs after a second Tombstone from Okada. He follows it up with a Rainmaker maker attempt which Kenny avoids but Okada sits down on Kenny in a mount and hooks his legs. One, two, three. First fall Okada. All Kenny has to do now is take two falls in a row off one of the greatest wrestlers ever.
One of the smartest things New Japan did was allow for a brief break between each fall. This helps to build the drama and also allows the match to breathe a bit. Juxtapose this with the recent FTR vs The Briscoes match (which was amazing) where there was no break and the match felt a little clunky in those moments.
When the match restarts Okada quickly takes control. A hanging DDT off the barricade, chop spots, and Okada putting Kenny in his Money Clip submission. Kenny returns fire with a backdrop on the apron followed by a double foot stomp to Okada on the floor (where Kenny has placed a table on top of him). Back and forth they continue to go. Kenny hits a leg trap SUPERPLEX (which I’ve never seen) and after ducking a finisher from Okada gives Okada the cleanest uranage (Rock Bottom for WWE fans) possibly ever. He absolutely spikes him. A sequence later, Kenny gets off a V Trigger followed by a One Winged Angel. He goes for the cover. One, two, three. Okada vs Omega now sits at one win each, one draw, and a two out of three falls match with one fall each.
The match begins again and Kenny tries for a quick finish which Okada counters into a picture-perfect Rainmaker. Omega’s foot clips Okada’s head as he is turned inside out. Callis smartly sells this immediately which means either it was planned which seems impossible or the wrestling gods were smiling and Callis improvised on the spot. Either way just another magic moment in this encounter.
Much like the time limit draw match Okada is exhausted and can’t get the cover right away. He crawls to Omega and essentially just throws an arm over him. Kenny barely kicks out. Kevin Kelly on commentary is doing a magnificent job. He is clearly aware that something transcendent is happening in front of him and he knows exactly when to speak and exactly when not to. Both men begin to sell their exhaustion. Okada gives Kenny a European Uppercut and Omega just kind of crumbles. Okada then Irish Whips him into the ropes. Same thing. Kenny cannot run and just crumples into the ropes.
They both regain a brief bust and after a counter, Kenny gives Okada a beautiful Styles Clash which draws an “AJ STYLES” chant from the crowd. Kevin Kelly points out Kenny used this move on Goto in the G1. Okada kicks out of the cover attempt which leads to Kenny tattooing him with a V trigger while Okada is helpless in the corner. Kenny looks for his finish but cannot lift Okada onto his shoulders. After another just ridiculous sequence that ends in an Okada kick out Ibushi from ringside suggests to Kenny that he should use the Phoenix Splash, Kota’s own finisher.
He tries, but Okada moves and dropkicks him for his trouble. Another counter to a tombstone ends up with Kenny hitting two V Triggers, Okada tries for another Tombstone, but can’t get it so he drop-kicks him twice instead. Both men are spent. They continue to battle, selling their exhaustion and an inability to connect cleanly with one final shot to put the other man away.
Omega and Okada end up on the ropes and Kenny seems to use his head as a post to push off of Okada’s chest to get to his feet. He lines up the V Trigger and hits it so cleanly that Kevin Kelly can only say “Jesus”. He gets Okada up on his shoulders. One Winged Angel. One, two, three. After an hour in the ring and the best match of the modern age, Kenny Omega is the new I.W.G.P. World Heavyweight Champion.
The moments after the match are beautiful. The Young Bucks come to the ring, Kenny gently refuses to take the belt until after he has hugged his friends. Ibushi Joins them. The circle is complete. Kenny has definitively defeated the greatest champion in New Japan history and he did it clean. He takes the microphone and sighs, overwhelmed. In his speech, he talks about taking New Japan global and the power of professional wrestling. He promises to stay and build something. It didn’t quite end that way, things rarely do. He did however give New Japan and the entire professional wrestling community something bigger. He and Okada gave everyone a perfect match.
The Legecy of Omega Vs Okada IV
The analysis of this match could be its own story. Dave Meltzer famously gave it 7 stars which continued his trend of breaking his own rating system during this feud. The match was universally acclaimed save for a few pockets of grumpy old men who didn’t think it had enough rear chin locks or whatever. As time passes the magnitude of what these two men accomplished seems to increase. Lots of other wrestlers have incredible matches, do breathtaking things, and blow fans’ minds. Regardless of those abilities, they can’t quite seem to reach the same heights.
Was it lightning in a bottle, or was it art at its highest level? Probably both. How do you codify art? It’s not a linear calculus. Also, there is an entire “universe” of fans who have no idea that it happened, or if they do it is a kind of vague awareness brought on by a Twitter beef or by their one friend who doesn’t think a guy using a tractor in a match means it was good.
For that one friend Okada vs Omega is the best wrestling match, ever. A long-form story that transcended its medium. An athletic spectacle that made every fan watching forget that it was a predetermined event. A selfless expression of passion, commitment, and love. Kenny Omega vs Kazucika Okada is in a word, perfect.
Will fans ever experience anything like this again? It’s hard to envision. That being said, the first step in finding magic is believing it is real. Either way, this rivalry will live on into the ages, rightfully taking a place in the annals of wrestling history. That is why art is magic, it transcends. In a way Kenny and Okada became immortal, their art will speak long after they are gone. It’s their Sistine Chapel, their White Album. Something permanent in a very temporary medium. A definitive expression of what wrestling can be. Something to be amazed by.
It’s a big scary beautiful world out there. Remember to lace ’em up.
Thomas Jay Hayes | @thomasjayhayes on Twitter