On June 9th 2018 New Japan Pro Wrestling put on their annual Dominion PPV. Generally seen as their 2nd biggest non-tournament show of the year it is often the setting for a number of high profile matches. The 2018 show was no different featuring: The Young Bucks (record 7 time former Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions) win the Heavyweight titles for the first time, the team of Cody, Adam Page and ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll defeat an extraordinary team of legends made up of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Rey Mysterio & Jushin Thunder Liger, Hiromu Takahashi beat Will Ospreay in a classic to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship and some guy called Chris Jericho pinned Tetsuya Naito to win the IWGP Intercontinental title. And then after what had been an excellent show up to that point it was time for the main event. The next chapter in the most incredible series of matches wrestling may have ever seen.
Kazuchika Okada is for me the best professional wrestler on the planet, and given I didn’t live in the eras of Bruno Sammartino or Ric Flair and was only young when Austin was at his peak I also believe Okada to be the greatest of all time. He is a 5 time IWGP Heavyweight Champion with a combined total of over 1500 days (and counting) as champion. He has had a good – great match with pretty much every star to have been in NJPW within the last 6 or so years. But even in the most distinguished careers every guy has their equal, that guy they just click with; Flair had Ricky Steamboat, Bret had Shawn, Austin had The Rock. Kazuchika Okada seemed to have that in 8 time IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi… but then it all changed from the day Kenny Omega won the 2016 G1 Tournament to set up a match against Okada for the title in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom the next year.
Although Okada kept his title the match was so critically acclaimed it made as big or maybe a bigger star out of Omega. And of course like with any great wrestling match the rematch wasn’t far away as at the 2017 Dominion PPV the two went at it again, the result being a 60 minute draw that many said was even better than their first encounter. Their 3rd match came as part of the 2017 G1 Tournament with this time Omega getting the win in a non title match. It was some time before we got to see the two go at it again, but ahead of the 2018 Dominion PPV the Champion Okada called out Omega as his next challenger. Omega would accept but suggest the match be made a 2 out of 3 falls match with no time limit. And so with the score set at 1 win for Okada, 1 win for Omega and 1 time limit draw the two best in the world would settle the score with the most prestigious championship in the business at stake, but to win one would have to beat the other… TWICE!
New Japan Pro Wrestling ‘Dominion 6.9 (2018)’; IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega with Kota Ibushi vs Kazuchika Okada (C) with Gedo – No Time Limit 2 out of 3 Falls Match
A video is played with dramatic music throughout that highlights Omega’s previous unsuccessful matches against Okada as well as his fall-outs with then fellow Bullet Club members The Young Bucks and Cody. This is interspersed with footage of Omega walking and struggling emotionally with his anguish, until he picks up a feather than turns into his friend Kota Ibushi. Ibushi is painted as Omega’s savior and shining light as we see the two reuniting and re-forming their tag team ‘The Golden Lovers’. Ibushi asks Omega (in Japanese but with English subtitles on the screen) “are you ready?” … “have you prepared yourself for what is to come?” … “what did it cost?” Ibushi asks, we then see the Bullet Club logo on the screen before it vanishes into pieces, with Omega then saying “Everything”. This video was excellent.
Billed as The Best Bout Machine Omega makes his way to the ring, with Ibushi not far behind him, played out with his old, epic ‘Devil’s Sky’ music. Colour Commentator for the English NJPW commentary Don Callis noted to the lead announcer Kevin Kelly that “Omega looks shredded” and he was not wrong! Kelly himself pointed out that so far Omega and Okada had gone 2 hours 11 minutes and 26 seconds in their three previous encounters with the score all tied at 1-1-1. The Champion Okada came out next with long-time former manager Gedo accompanying him. His ‘Okada bucks’ (gold notes with his face on) came raining down on the entrance ramp as he wore his traditional Rainmaker outfit with Gold Chains around his neck and his colorful and sparkling attire, he really comes across as the champion he is just based on the aura of his appearance alone.
You could sense from the crowd there was a nervous tension in the air. I remember watching it at the time it happened I too felt kind of nervously excited, just because of the magnitude of this match. I knew history was about to happen, that with the two best in the business all tied up that after this we would know who the better man was. I knew something big was about to happen, but little did I know the levels these two professional wrestlers were about to take their art-form to over the course of this match. The referee, as is traditional in NJPW, patted down and checked both competitors in what is a normal thing for them but as a westerner it really to me adds to the ‘big fight feel’ the match had. Okada fist bumped Gedo as Omega hugged and then had a few words of advice from Ibushi as the crowd let out various shouts and chants of support before the bell rung and the match was underway.
They eventually lock up but its a stalemate in the early going. Interestingly the crowd chants for “O-KA-DA” are firmly shouted down by those of “KENNY”. They exchange very basic holds and exchanges in the early stages, which is hardly a shock given how much of the match was still to go. At one stage Okada teased hitting Kenny in the corner of the ring, but instead nonchalantly patted him instead, before then Omega reversed roles and did the same thing back. The pace quickened as Omega missed his signature V-Trigger knee strike, Okada went for a Tombstone but Omega got out of it, and then they each missed their finishers as the champion couldn’t connect with his Rainmaker clothesline and the challenger was unsuccessful trying the One Winged Angel. Eventually both men fell to the outside over the ropes to the floor outside. Kota Ibushi was seen looking on as the two competitors in the match exchanged forearm strikes, this lead to Omega flying into the barricade and then Okada striking him over the barrier. The crowd clapped in anticipation as Okada went for a flying crossbody over the barricade but Omega caught Okada in MID AIR with a vicious V-Trigger to his THROAT which looked nasty.
Omega backbody-dropped Okada onto the fallen barrier before dragging him back into the ring for a nearfall. Omega continued his assault on Okada for another nearfall, and then hit him with some really hard kicks to his back as Gedo from ringside tried to cheer Okada on and get the crowd behind him but Omega continued to hit Okada down as the clock went to 10 minutes gone of the match. After another nearfall Omega hit Okada with some seriously hard-looking chops in the corner of the ring and then hit a backbreaker for a 2 count. Kenny continued to be on top in the match as he had Okada in a form of crossface submission move before transitioning into a camel clutch, until Okada was able to dive onto the bottom ropes to break the hold. Both men got to their feet as Gedo continued to very vocally play cheerleader for Okada from the outside of the ring. The two exchanged strikes, Omega hit more huge chops, but then Okada was able to to get somewhat into the match as he caught Omega with a flapjack slam as Omega came running of the ropes, possibly going for a V-Trigger. This left both men down again. The referee for the match by the way is affectionately known as ‘Red Shoes’ (because… he wears red shoes… obviously…), he’s essentially like to NJPW today what Earl Hebner was to the E in the attitude era.
The crowd continued to chant as both men exchanged strikes again, an Okada running elbow sent Omega down before charging at him in the corner and then hitting a ddt for a 2 count. Omega then fought out of a cobra clutch before going for a moonsault but with Okada in the ring he went to the outside but collided with the railings nearby instead of his opponent. Okada then went to the top and after an exchange Okada kicked Omega’s head but Kenny countered with a Snaprana to send Okada down and Kenny followed up by dropkicking Okada over the railings. The crowd tried to get behind Omega again as he extraordinarily springboarded off the ropes and onto Okada on the outside over the barricade, it really was an amazing leap. Both back in the ring after a nearfall and seeming to get in charge Omega went for a V-Trigger but Okada dodged it and went for a German, only for Omega to get to his feet and kick Okada before going for a snaprana again but Okada hung onto the ropes before hitting a German Suplex to Omega for a nearfall. Okada got hold of Omega’s wrist in preparation for a Rainmaker but intelligently Omega ran both of them into the corner of the ring. With both men on the top rope they exchanged strikes before eventually Omega tried to get Okada down but somehow they both ended on the apron and Okada hit a Tombstone on to the apron! Okada followed up by dropkicking Omega off the apron and into the barricade HARD, as Red Shoes asked Kenny if he could carry on, Don Callis on commentary noted that Ibushi was nearby with a towel in his hand teasing the idea he may throw it in on Kenny’s behalf, Okada put Omega back in the ring and hit a standing dropkick off the top but Omega kicked out at 2.
Omega was really selling the pain he was in. Okada hit a diving elbow drop off the top, and did his pose that is usually a pre-cursor to the Rainmaker but suddenly Omega sent Okada to the outside. The crowd clapped as Omega did a pretty incredible dive onto Okada out of the ring.
Omega though was still hurt as the clock reached 25 minutes. He put Okada in to the ring before hitting a dropkick off the top to the back of Okada’s head for a nearfall. After that Okada got out of a possible snap dragon suplex but Omega got out of a One Winged Angel, Okada went for a Rainmaker but couldn’t, Omega hit a V Trigger but couldn’t hit his finisher, Omega did though have Okada in an Electric Chair position and hit a powerlift German suplex for a 2 count. With the crowd cheering on Kenny hit the V Trigger but again couldn’t hit the One Winged Angel as Okada (who is famed for his exceptional dropkicks) hit the dropkick two times before letting out a mighty roar as Omega looked dazed, Okada went for the rainmaker again but Kenny countered with the V Trigger and got another nearfall. Both men eventually got back to their feet and Okada hit a Tombstone and again let out a roar of defiance. He went for the Rainmaker but Omega rolled out of it only for Okada to fall down and trap his body weight on Omega on the ground keeping his legs down and with a form of Cradle pin Okada got the 1, 2, 3 and the first fall. This fall was worth ****1/2 on its own!
There was a 2 minute break between the falls. Gedo and Ibushi saw to their men as both were exhausted. Kevin Kelly and Don Callis put over the size of the task for Kenny Omega now; to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship he would have to do something he hasn’t managed in his career up to this point in beating Okada twice… IN A ROW!
The 2nd fall had a much more aggressive start to it than the first, Okada kicked Omega to the outside and continued his attack punishing Kenny on the railings. Omega tried a moonsault off the railings but Okada pushed him off and into another set of railings further back… OUCH! Not long after Okada hit a DDT on Omega on to the floor outside the ring. Okada went back in to the ring and seemed happy to take a count out win, Omega got back in at 8 (I should point out if you don’t know that NJPW have their counts to 20 as opposed to the 10 count seen in the US or England). Kenny tried in vain to mount a fightback and eventually Okada took control with a Cobra Clutch hold that he had begun to use around that time, Omega hit a stunner to escape followed by a chop and then a back suplex. He then hit Okada with another back suplex only this one was on to the ring apron. Omega then retrieved a table from under the ring and eventually threw the table onto Okada and came diving off the ring and hit a footstomp to Okada with the table on top of him. Kenny Omega then set up the table but Kazuchika Okada threw Kenny into the ringpost. With both men back in the ring Okada went for a senton but Omega got his legs up to block, and eventually Okada hit a Suplex to send both men down again. A shotgun dropkick ala Finn Balor sent Okada into the corner before some serious chops were dished out, and then Omega hit an avalanche superplex off the top rope at around 10 minutes into the 2nd fall.
Omega hit a series of strikes before saying ‘you can’t escape’ and hitting a rolling drop move and trying to follow with a moonsault only for Okada to have his knees up, and followed up with a huge uppercut to Omega. The champion then pointed to the table outside the ring but after going for a backdrop it was Omega who hit a big ddt. With both men on the apron it was then Omega who pointed to the table and after they teased a suplex through the table (with the crowd going wild for the possibility) it was Omega who got the better of it with as after Okada tried to fight out he was hit with a reverserana on the floor by Omega. Kenny instructed the referee to count Okada out as Gedo tried to cheer his man on. Okada though then hit a Rainmaker on the outside but he struggled to get in to the ring. He did JUST at a count of 19 but was immediately hit with a V Trigger. Kenny went for the One Winged Angel but Okada got out with a Tombstone to Omega. He went for the Rainmaker but Omega countered with a cool-looking Spike Urinagi. Both men got to their feet and exchanged elbow strikes, as commentary sold how tired Okada was, Omega hit a hard looking uppercut, they exchanged strikes again until Omega hit a Dragon suplex before they each hit great looking dropkicks. Omega hit a powerbomb, then a V-Trigger and then Okada went to try and get another cradle pin, only for Omega to hit another V-Trigger and then a Piledriver-type move for a very close nearfall. As the crowd chanted loudly for KENNY and eventually Omega hit another V-Trigger and then hit the One Winged Angel (which it was pointed has NEVER been kicked out of by anyone) and Kenny Omega got the pin to level the scores at a fall each. This fall was worth ****3/4 alone, the wrestling itself combined with the incredible story-telling from both men made it spectacular to watch.
Gedo was heavily stalling during the break, clearly concerned for Okada. Omega immediately hit a V-Trigger and went for the One Winged Angel, but Okada got out of it and failed a Rainmaker attempt and both men were down again. The crowd were very loud at this point knowing the finale of this classic was not far away. Gedo slapped away at the canvas trying to get the crowd into it even more as the total time of the match hit 50 minutes, Okada went for another Tombstone but Omega held on to Okada and the two exchanged strikes again shortly after, an uppercut by Okada sent Omega into the ropes, Okada went for a dropkick but Omega was so tired he held onto the ropes and so Okada just kicked thin air. Omega tried for a Piledriver but Okada held onto the ropes, Omega clubbed away more at Okada’s back and went for a powerbomb… only to transition and then hit a STYLES CLASH! This only got a 2 count as Okada lept to the bottom rope just before the 2, the crowd chanted the name of another former IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles… wonder what happened to him…
Omega hit a V-Trigger in the corner and went for the One Winged Angel but collapsed from exhaustion. He tried again and after both men exchanged counters until Omega hit a form of spike-drop move but Okada kicked out at 2. Kota Ibushi got on to the apron to seem to try and motivate his friend Omega, commentary cleverly explained that Ibushi was in fact giving Kenny instructions, and then after Kenny went to the top rope and went for Ibushi’s finishing move the Phoenix Splash… but Okada moved out the way and later hit a dropkick to Omega’s back, he went for a Tombstone but Omega cameback with a V-Trigger to send Okada down. Kenny then hit THREE V-Triggers but Okada somehow cameback with a dropkick. He went for a Tombstone but couldn’t, he did though hit a dropkick and then as he went for a Rainmaker Okada collapsed this time as it was now he that was too tired. The crowd loudly chanted more-so for Omega as the ref began the double count (can you IMAGINE), he only though got to a count of 7/20. Both men whilst on their knees hit one another but we so incredibly worn out they were really weak strikes as both sold the toll the match had taken on them really well.
The strikes did get more aggressive as they went on before Omega hit a headbutt, and then suddenly Okada hit a Rainmaker, but he maintained hold of Kenny’s wrist so he could then hit the move again! Both men fell to the floor with Kenny looking out of it as Okada willed himself to Omega. He went for a Rainmaker again but Kenny cameback with a German Suplex to the delight of the majority of the 12,000 people in the arena. Kenny kept hold of Okada’s chest and went for another German only for Kazuchika to counter with a suplex of his own, but he then got hold of Omega’s wrist (which commentary pointed out), he went for the Rainmaker but Kenny countered with a snap German Suplex attempt only for Okada to break out and then he got hit with a spike reverserana by Omega. Kenny used the ref to pull himself up but Okada dropkicked Omega as he came running off the ropes looking for a V-Trigger. Okada went for a Rainmaker but Kenny countered into the One Winged Angel! Okada was exhausted and went against the ropes and Omega was too exhausted to make the cover. The crowd chanted for Omega as he willed himself to his feet before hit hit a HUGE V-Trigger to the back of Okada’s head. He then hit the One Winged Angel and then got the 1, 2, 3! The match went in total for 1 hour, 4 minutes and 50 seconds.
2-1 to your winner and NEW IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega
Commentary went crazy and the crowd were equally loud at what was a massively huge moment. There were even people in the crowd that were crying. This was a monumentally big moment in New Japan Pro Wrestling history for a number of reasons; the end of the legendary reign of Okada and the beginning of a new era under Omega as champion. Both men were tended to in the ring, and then The Young Bucks made their way down from the ramp before coming in to the ring. Omega was announced as the winner as Red Shoes went to hand the belt to Omega. However he shunned it to instead hug The Young Bucks before Ibushi joined in for a group hug which the crowd were delighted with. Omega saw making this up with his friends as more of a priority to him in that moment than the championship belt he had wanted for so long. Beautiful stuff. Okada was helped to the back as Omega celebrated with his friends. Omega cut a promo after as they formed ‘The Golden Elite’ (a combination of The Elite team he had with The Bucks and The Golden Lovers tag team he had with Ibushi).
I am not the first person to state this by any means, and many people with way more knowledge than me on the topic have said the same thing; this was the greatest match I have ever seen in the history of professional wrestling. The two best wrestlers on the planet and two of the best ever each had their best performances of their lives against one another in the same match. It saw the end of the best title reign (or at least one of) of the modern era, and the climax of the nearly 2 year chase for the belt by Omega. There have been two matches I’ve ever watched that changed my entire outlook on professional wrestling; the Mankind vs Undertaker Cell match, and this one.
In the year that followed the match A LOT has happened in the careers of the two competitors. Omega eventually lost the title at this year’s WrestleKingdom show to Hiroshi Tanahashi in his final New Japan match before he signed with AEW. Okada meanwhile has now regained the title from Jay White at the MSG show in April of WrestleMania weekend. Although he defends the title at this year’s Dominion show against some guy called Chris Jericho so that could well change soon. Oh and btw yes I’ve used pics but ofc they aren’t mine, so credit to who they belong to. Not that they’ll mind I hope as I don’t make any money from this blog… for now… But I hope you all like this recap. Maybe I’ll do more soon. Maybe I’ll do some more NJPW matches or shows or from other companies I really don’t know. What I know for sure is NOTHING I watch will ever top the fourth match between Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega .