New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS - Episode 3 Review
1) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada - IWGP Heavyweight Title Match - Invasion Attack 2013
As someone who still considers themself a new fan of NJPW, I had mixed feelings heading into this bout. These two blew me away at WK9 earlier this month however the match that aired between them on last week's show from WK7 didn't really do much for me. Given that it's been recognized as the weakest match in their series, I headed into this match expecting something much better and not only did I get that, I got something that was on a completely different level than anything I had ever seen. This match blew their encounter from a few months prior at WK7 out of the water and somehow managed to outdo their effort at this year's Wrestle Kingdom event. Much like I was at WK9, I became so invested in this match that I was glued to the screen the entire time. It's not often you can say that nowadays in pro wrestling. From the time the bell rang, this one had a special feeling to it. I couldn't tell quite what it was, but I knew I was in for something spectacular. I think the best way to describe this match would be as a rollercoaster ride. It had everything that the perfect wrestling match should have - drama, emotion, storytelling, thrilling action. It was all put on display here. One exchange that truly exemplifies the greatness of this match came around 25 minutes in. Okada had attempted to hit the rainmaker lariat several times throughout the match, but was unsuccessful. At this point in the bout, he FINALLLY nailed Tanahashi with it and the crowd explodes as you hear the smack of Okada's arm against the throat of Tanahashi, he got ALL of that lariat! Okada looks as if he's going to win the title, BUT WAIT - Okada nailed Tanahashi with the same arm that had been worked over the entire match! Okada falls to the mat in pain as his adversary lays ripe for the picking in the center of the ring. The way they pieced things together like this is part of what made this match so fantastic. Just absolutely brilliant stuff. The big story that came out of this match came to fruition in the final few minutes as we saw Okada dig down to a place that he didn't even know he had. The commentators did a PHENOMENAL JOB of accentuating the story that the two athletes were telling in the ring. It's moments like this that remind me of why I'm a wrestling fan. As Okada kicked out of Tanahashi's frog splash, I got chills as the commentators proclaimed what I just realized, we are seeing what Okada is truly made of here. After seeing this match, I can confirm the statement that many have made by saying that this is the Austin/Rock, Flair/Steamboat, etc of this era. This match in particular is one of the greatest matches I've ever seen. If you've never seen this, it's something I HIGHLY recommend. It's well worth going out of your way to see. The definition of a classic.
Match rating - *****
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