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January 31, 2010 / TJ Hawke

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada from NJPW 2010


Recap from Lee Goodfellow:

This was Okada’s last match in his initial NJPW run, before he left for TNA. He looked so generic, a world apart from the gold chain wearing rainmaker he would become two years later.


The match begins with lock up, in which Okada powers Tanahashi to the ropes. Tana escapes and they break off, before meeting again for some wrestling in the centre of the ring. Tana takes Okada down but can’t keep them there, Okada gets up then brings Tana to the mat. Tana escapes his hold and gets the advantage with a mount into a headlock. Okada uses his momentum against him and rolls him up for a one count. Tana rolls back into the headlock only to become trapped in headscissors. After some struggling, they break away and both make it back to their feet.


The next exchange sees Okada taken down, but it doesn’t last long as he powers out of a chinlock. Okada struggles to down his foe with an armlock, Tana capitalises, countering and taking him to the mat. Okada gets to his feet but can’t break free, and Tana takes him down again, trying to lock his headlock in deeper. Again Okada makes it up, tries to free himself by running Tanahashi off the ropes, but the headlock cannot be broken. Okada’s second attempt is also unsuccessful. Attempt three does the trick, but this only leads to Tanahashi taking him down with a shoulder block. A frustrated Okada rushes to his feet and starts throwing forearm strikes. He is again knocked down, which only frustrates him more. He chops Tanahashi, throws him into the corner, but is met with a low dropkick as he charges at his foe.


Tanashashi stamps Okada’s left leg and chills out a bit, before going to the mat and working on the ankle. He stomps on the leg some more when he is again standing. Okada’s forearms and chops of frustration strike again, but to no avail. Okada, after being downed again, manages to irish whip Tanahashi into the corner, but Tana dodges the subsequent running strike attempt. Tana runs the ropes, and Okada finally catches a break as he manages to nail him with a dropkick. Forearm strikes, another irish whip, a running dropkick, then a low dropkick lead to a two count for young Okada. He nails some chops, but Tanahashi downs him with a diving strike after rebounding from the ropes. Okada again takes control with a scoop slam, but overestimates the damage it did as Tana dodges the following senton attempt. Tana then cockily attempts the same thing, even posing before the dive, but he also fails. They trade strikes in the centre, which ends with a running lariat from Okada. Tana makes it back to his feet only to receive a missile dropkick. Okada gets a two count. Okada gets another two count after a slam that I should know the name of.


The next series culminates in a Tanahashi dragon screw. After a low dropkick, Tana goes for the boston crab, but Okada flips him over. He can’t counter the second attempt, and Tana locks it in, but Okada makes it to the ropes. Tana stomps on Okada’s hurt leg. He charges at him, but gets german suplexed! Two count for Okada. They both get to their feet and trade strikes again. Okada begins to falter, then lands many forearms in a row. Tana responds with a slap, so Okada then slaps him many times. Okada charges, but Tana lands the sling blade. Tana lands a…Michinoku driver? Someone buy me a wrestling move dictionary. It only gets two, so he ascends to the top rope and nails Okada with the High Fly Flow. He scores the three count!


Lee’s thoughts:
This was a damn good match. It flowed so well, there wasn’t a wasted moment. The youngster/veteran dynamic worked fantastically, Tanahashi always looked like the ring general, but Okada showed enough explosiveness and fire for an upset victory to be believable. This one didn’t need a wild, nearfall and finisher packed closing stretch, and the decisiveness of Tanahashi’s victory played very well into the rematch when Okada returned in 2012, when he was much more Tana’s equal and ultimately managed to defeat him.

Match Rating: ***1/2


Thoughts from Ryan Clingman:

Before Kazuchika Okada was the rainmaker and before anyone would have even dreamed that he would have mainevented several shows as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion there was this match. Likewise this match took place before Hiroshi Tanahashi’s monumental title run beginning in the early part of 2011. The match came at a time were Tanahashi was a star and Okada wasn’t viewed at anywhere close to the level he is now, which really makes for an interesting dichotomy to look back on.


The match itself was a good fifteen minute match, but apart from the benefits of hindsight it wasn’t the most memorable match in the world. Yes the match had Okada going toe to toe with Tanahashi at points, but for the most part it was just a top star battling someone lower down on the card than him.


The real interesting aspect of the match comes due to the fact that we have the benefit of hindsight, because we know what Okada was to become and that is one of the biggest breakout stars of this year. Okada came out to a generic J-Pop entrance theme, with black hair, boots and trunks. Yes, he no sold the entrance of Tanahashi almost completely, but just by looking at Okada’s work in the ring I wouldn’t have thought that he would have excelled to this point.


Granted many things can happen in two years, however the funny thing is that when Okada made his return at the Tokyo Dome show this year to face YOSHI-HASHI the entire segment was a near disaster. Many people scoffed at Okada and were actual pretty angry that he was the one to bring such a colossal title reign to an end. But, fast forward six months and Okada has matured into one of the biggest young stars in the company and the fact that New Japan management were able to see that so early on is quite astonishing.


This match took place less than a month before Okada was set to depart for the United States to work for TNA for around six months. His tenure in TNA was less than spectacular, he had one or two good matches but for the most part he wasn’t used in a big way and the same can be said for Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi’s runs in TNA.


The success of Okada is a true testament to both Okada’s skill and New Japan’s ability to recognize a star. Not only that, but the will to stick with an upcoming prospect even in the face of adversity and I believe that this match is a testament to how a real star can be developed.


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