Kazuchika Okada defended the IWGP heavyweight championship for a record twelfth time against Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestling Dontaku today, effectively ending a classic feud that made Okada what he is today. Okada pinned “The Ace”in a tremendous main event then Okada listed the names he has defeated one-by-one. The last time Okada was in Osaka, he wrestled for one hour with Kenny Omega at last year’s Dominion. This led to Kenny Omega making his way to the time to challenge Okada to really see who the better man is at NJPW Dominion in June in a Two Out Of Three Falls match with no time-limit for the IWGP heavyweight championship. “The Best Bout Machine” vs “The Rainmaker” defined 2017 with a trilogy that will never be forgotten and now it’s time to settle the score after a 1-1 record between them and one one-hour draw. This is what we know after Wrestling Dontaku 2018 but let’s dig a little deeper shall we, this rematch of Omega vs Okada, after all, is seventeen months in the making for the biggest prize in NJPW.
“This is one of the greatest matches I have ever seen. If Dynamite Kid vs Tiger Mask and (Ric) Flair vs (Ricky) Steamboat classics had a baby, it’s name would be Omega vs Okada” Mick Foley said after watching the first bout at Wrestle Kingdom 11 last January. The matches somehow got even better after that when Dominion rolled around in June and the match went to a one-hour draw with a dramatic finish featuring Cody Rhodes of Bullet Club almost throwing in the towel on Bullet Club leader Kenny Omega. That match at Dominion earned six and a half stars from The Wrestling Observer, breaking the star rating system. Omega evened the score in August 2017 during the G1 Climax Semi-Finals when he finally pinned Okada with a One Winged Angel but the championship wasn’t on the line in the tournament setting. The question is: what else are Omega and Okada willing to do to win this next match after top rope Dragon Suplexes and over two hours in the ring together in singles matches was hardly enough?
Kenny Omega announced as Okada’s next challenger is something many NJPW fans have been waiting for. NJPW is a company that prides itself on amazing in-ring storytelling but this is a great example of spectacular storytelling that writes itself outside the ring. Kazuchika Okada has solidified himself as probably the best World Champion of this era with his two and a half year reign as IWGP heavyweight champion. Okada has taken down challenger after challenger from Bad Luck Fale to two New Japan Cup winners in back to back years, Katsuyori Shibata and Zack Sabre Jr. Many didn’t know how long Okada could keep up that pace last year but now Okada has proven to be the new “Ace” and near unbeatable.
This is the biggest match of Kenny Omega’s career on June 9 and Omega is going to make the most of it. Could Omega’s IWGP United States Championship reign have been NJPW’s way of setting up Omega for bigger things and seeing how the reception would be? Omega’s IWGP US title reign was a big success, winning at the G1 In USA special (NJPW’s first North American event) in a tournament finals against Tomohiro Ishii and holding onto the title for seven months before losing to “Switchblade” Jay White. The American fanbase is 100% behind Kenny Omega and this would be the perfect time for NJPW to capitalize on the North American expansion by having a champion that pleases both sides of the fence. Venues like The Cow Palace in Los Angeles could be headlined by a Canadian IWGP Heavyweight Champion in Kenny Omega in the future or the championship stays on Okada for the foreseeable future.
Kota Ibushi is an interesting monkey wrench in this situation and so are Bullet Club. Omega has isolated his former friends in favor of a Golden Lovers reunion with Kota Ibushi and The Golden Lovers beat The Young Bucks at NJPW Strong Style Evolved in California in March. Could Cody interfere in Omega vs Okada part four the same way he did in part two at Dominion last year? Hopefully Kota Ibushi and Bullet Club stay in the back, allowing the best to be decided in the ring between Omega and Okada. Originally all signs pointed to Kota Ibushi being the man to challenge Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and possibly win it with a battle between the Golden Lovers leading to Wrestle Kingdom. The dust never settled from Okada vs Omega so it’s time to give the world what they want and Ibushi will surely challenge the winner. “The Best Bout Machine” has been waiting his entire career for this and at Dominion 2018, Kenny Omega should finally become IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Kazuchika Okada would face backlash for winning yet another championship main event whereas Omega would be celebrated around the world.