History was made in New Japan Pro Wrestling in the biggest, most momentous way possible!
After 719 grueling days and 12 successful and captivating defenses, “Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship has come to an end at NJPW’s Dominion main event. The loss occurred as a result of an intense, hard-hitting no-time-limit-2-out-of-3 falls match between the champion and his fierce rival, Kenny Omega.
Okada and Omega are no strangers to each other, as the pair has squared off three times prior to this match. Their first encounter took place at Wrestle Kingdom 11 and saw Okada defeat Omega in a match that has been described as nothing less than a ‘technical masterpiece’, earning them Match of the Year and the very first official 6* match from Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter ratings.
The two faced off a few months later, at last year’s Dominion event, which saw both of these athletes take each other to the very limit that neither man was able to secure a pin, resulting in a 60-minute draw and a 6.25* rating.
Their most recent encounter took place during the G1 Climax in 2017, where Omega was able to vanquish his foe for the 3-count, albeit in a non-title match and earning a 5.75* rating. As you can tell, when Omega and Okada battle, their battles are instant classics.
It seemed only natural that Omega was to be granted a title shot immediately because of that victory. After all, it is usually customary that a challenger that pins the champion during the G1 Climax receives a title shot at the next event. However, Kenny went on to other events (namely the Bullet Club ‘Civil War’ and the Golden☆Lovers’ reunion) while Okada went on to defend his championship in battles against EVIL, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito and others.
In the process, Okada has cemented his legacy as the greatest IWGP Heavyweight Champion in history. His title reign has been documented as the longest title reign in history, with the most successful title defenses (defeating the prior record-holder, Tanahashi, to do so).
However, Okada was unsatisfied with his draw against Kenny Omega the year before and wanted to silence all of the doubts, in the end, leading to Dominion 2018’s main event.
Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada waged war against each other in this hour-plus saga, with neither man having a clear advantage against the other. The story that was told in the ring was a culmination of their prior matches coming full-circle. The live crowd and NJPW World streamers were all emotionally invested, knowing something special was about to happen. They knew something major was about to occur. And then it happened.
Kenny Omega’s hand was raised in victory following the very move that he knew the champion could never vanquish: the One Winged Angel, a fitting conclusion to the finale of a rivalry that could not truly be encapsulated in words.
As a wrestling fan, I implore you to seek each of these matches out and view them. Saying this match was anything short of perfect would be doing both men an injustice to the art that was displayed. Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada are two of professional wrestling’s most prized and treasured wrestlers today and NJPW has truly struck diamonds and gold by having both in their roster today.
As for now, it’s now time for Kenny Omega’s time to shine as the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion. It looks as though Bullet Club is going to be fine after all.
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Image Credit: New Japan Professional Wrestling