After nearly two years chasing after the richest prize in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Kenny Omega finally accomplished a lifelong dream this Saturday at NJPW Dominion, defeating Kazuchika Okada to become the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
In many respects, it was one of the most heavily anticipated matches in wrestling history. After their first encounter at Wrestle Kingdom 12 was given an astonishing “six stars” from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and the rematch went to an even more shocking 60-minute time limit draw, the pure hype surrouding the enevitable “final encounter” made it nearly impossible to live up to.
The stipulation at Dominion was simple. The first man to score two falls would leave as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. No time limits. No other goals or distractions. Just two of the greatest rivals the business has ever seen fighting in a two-fall classic where there must be a winner, by any means necessary.
It was Okada who scored the first fall, countering a roll-up attempt from The Cleaner for his own pinning combination 28:48 into the bout. Both competitors were allowed two minute breaks in between rounds, and received support from their cornermen (Gedo and Kota Ibushi, respectively). Omega took the second fall at 50:34 after connecting with the One Winged Angel finisher.
To the great surprise of no one, the two fought past the one hour mark, repeatedly delivering move after move which both men narrowly scoring the final fall on over a dozen different occasions. Finally, after absorbing the shock of multiple Rainmakers to the chest, even busting out the Styles Clash at one point, Omega sank two back-to-back One Winged Angels to pick up the third and final fall at roughly 69:39.
As for Okada, his historic championship reign comes to an end at exactly 720 days, surpassing the previous record set by Shinya Hashimoto by more than seven months. He successfully retained the title a record twelve times – with one victory and one draw over Omega – surpassing Hiroshi Tanahashi’s previous number of eleven defenses. But the numbers are only one side of the story,. Both in records broken and quality of matches, not to mention the tangible growth New Japan has seen during his two years on top of the company, the Rainmaker will go down as the single greatest heavyweight champion of the last 30 years.