By Cam Manning and Chris Nattannia II
Sequel….What is the first thing that comes to mind? A follow up flop based on an initial sensational debut.
Some of those “sequels” have left us asking, ”Why did I waste my time watching this?….It was not nearly as good as the first one!” Some prominent examples of this are Major League 2, Titanic 2 (yes that’s a real thing), and Caddyshack 2. Ah, but sometime….sometime, a sequel comes along that is not like the others….It takes your breath away just as the first one did….So we begin the story of Okada vs. Omega II.
On June 11th, the most anticipated rematch in wrestling history took place in Osaka Jo Hall, Japan for New Japan Pro Wrestling pitting Kenny Omega, a Canadian born wrestler who has been wrestling professionally for 17 years ( a.k.a. the cleaner, a IWGP Intercontinental Champion, 2 time Junior Heavyweight champion, a junior heavyweight tag team champion, a 2 time NEVER open weight 6 man tag champion and 2016 G1 Climax winner) and leader of the bullet club against Kazuchika Okada, a Japanese-born wrestler (Current IWPG and 4 time Heavyweight Champion, G1 Climax Champion 2012 & 2014 and the winner of the New Japan Cup, 2013) aka The Rainmaker and new face of Japanese pro wrestling.
In order to appreciate a good sequel, you must first see the original to appreciate and anticipate a sequel.
The match took place in The Tokyo Dome at Wrestle Kingdom 11 on January 4, 2017. These two incredible athletes and technically proficient wrestlers went 45 minutes in an instant classic and many called it the greatest wrestling match of all time. According to wrestling aficionado Dave Meltzer and his vast knowledge of the world wrestling along with a scoring system he had created Meltzer gave this match the first ever six star rating.
This had never been done before because his scale only went to five stars. This garnered a lot of scrutiny from hard-core wrestling fans saying that if you break a system to score match it can no longer be taken serious and used to judge other matches.
Wrestle kingdom is new Japan’s biggest event of the year and new Japan knowing that it had to make a big impact in the world of wrestling this year decided to pit its two greatest opponents and two greatest company wrestlers against each other for the biggest title the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
This match had to main event a PPV that was one of the most stacked cards in the past 20 years! This match had everything from high spots, mat based wrestling, drama, psychology and even a spoof of The Terminator. The backstory of this match with simple, who was going to take New Japan worldwide because in seven short months they would be putting on events in the United States for the first time in the companies illustrious history.
All throughout the match Kenny Omega was trying to hit is devastating finisher, the one winged Angel, but each time was thwarted by Okada’s amazing defense and incredible wrestling IQ. Throughout the 45 minutes Omega “took a liking but kept on ticking” until Okada hit his finishing move, The Rainmaker, for a third time in a row, finally ending Kenny’s pursuit of his IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
And like every original movie there was a cliffhanger at the end of this to set us up for a sequel.
Fast forward five months and New Japan’s summer show, Dominion, was right around the corner when the world found out that the instant classic was about to get its sequel in front of the crowd at Osaka Jo Hall as well as hundreds of thousands of people watching online around the world. In the build up to this match Kenny continually talked about how Okada had pushed him to his limit and that he didn’t have anything left in the tank.
And just like with any good movie Kenny knew the sequel had to have a plot twist in order for it to hold up. With this knowledge Omega added 15 pounds of muscle mass so he could withstand the beating he couldn’t take the first time around while keeping up his tremendous cardio and watching hours of tape on Okada to try to pin point his weaknesses and mental miscues.
After their critically acclaimed bout, Omega and Okada both knew that they had to bring their “A” game so this sequel wouldn’t end up like so many others and go “straight to DVD.” As a wrestling fan, I had stayed up until 5:45 AM just to witness greatness and boy did it deliver. Not only did the match pay homage to the first but built on the drama and tension and shear emotion from both wrestlers and fans in attendance.
We saw a run in by Kenny’s faction, The Bullet Club, which showed that his own brothers were mere seconds away from throwing in the towel a la Rocky IV, Kenny finally hitting his devastating One Winged Angel finisher, and a hour long marathon with both men leaving everything in the ring just to have it end in a draw after the last seconds had ticked away as Okada was about to capitalize and win the match.
When the final bell rang, medics had run down to the ring to check up on the fearsome competitors and everyone knew that they had just witnessed an even better match than the first. As days went by arguments started as to which match was better with many people picking the second, Dave Meltzer giving it a star rating of 6.25, besting their previous 6 star rating and the Internet being set ablaze by critics and fans alike.
As wrestling fans it shouldn’t matter which match was “better” but rather that we were able to see 2 of the greatest, if not the greatest, matches this world has ever seen. These two men put on nearly 2 hours of everything wrestling is supposed to be, athleticism, storytelling, ring psychology, brutal physicality and most of all FUN!
Regardless of what type of wrestling fan you are these matches have something for everyone.
If you have not seen either match do yourself a favor and clear your schedule for 2 hours, pop some popcorn, grab a beverage and hang on as this thrill ride takes you to extremes never seen before.