(02/11) Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Hirooki Goto

New Japan Pro Wrestling
Bodymaker Coliseum (Osaka, Japan)
IWGP Heavyweight Championship

Okada and Goto were faced with a challenging task going on after the draining, exhaustive match that was Ishii vs. Naito. I thought they handled it smartly.

The first seven-ish minutes of the match are spent trading holds, sitting in holds, and generally easing into the match. That was a real professional move but also ultimately in their best interests. Rather than go out full steam while the crowd was still recovering from the near fall-fest of the prior match, Okada and Goto gave time for the crowd to collectively gather its breath. The work itself was fine – if not basic – which is all it needed to be.

The match shifted into the body proper when Goto hit a Saito suplex, clotheslined Okada outside the ring, and followed up on him with a spinning heel kick against the guardrail. Back in the ring, Okada hit his first big spot of the match to transition onto offense. With Goto perched – in a seated position – on the top turnbuckle, Okada dropkicked him square in the chest to knock him to the mat. The kick connected squarely with Goto’s upper chest, which gives you an idea of just how athletically impressive of a move it was to pull off.

The near fall portion of the math began with Goto knocking down Okada with a stiff forearm, which in a way is a testament to how they built the match. Following the Ishii match, they were able to get a big reaction at the start of the stretch run with a relatively simple, stiff forearm. The near fall section was really strong. Okada kicked out of Goto’s finisher relatively early during the run. Okada pulled out a couple of nice cutoff drop kicks while Goto got a big reaction for using a Shibata-like soccer kick for a near fall.

After several rainmaker teases, Okada finally hit the move on Goto to put him down. The match worked into such a (controlled) frenzy by the end that when Okada did connect with the Rainmaker, it felt deflating if you were rooting for a title change (which all else being equal, I usually am). Goto sold the Rainmaker like a champ.

I know I have not held to this thus far, but I am going to try to refrain from comparing 2014 matches on the initial viewings. I’ll save that for end of the period lists and for when I re-watch the top matches later on to drill down on the quality further. I’ll just say that I liked this a lot.

Also, while I know this GIF will be included with every single blog and message board post that discusses this match, I still feel obligated to include it. So here is Okada, his giant sword, and a dinosaur.

Okada Dinosaur

Main Event | Must Watch | Hype/Quality

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