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NJPW on AXS TV Report 3-13-15: Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada from WrestleKingdom 8

Naito | NJPW

By Bryan Rose, WrestlingObserver.com

Tetsuya Naito had a good story coming into WrestleKingdom 8. After missing a good chunk of 2013 due to a knee injury, he returned and won the G1 Climax tournament, securing the right to face Okada for the IWGP title. But for some reason, it didn’t click. People weren’t into the story of Naito’s quest of becoming the top man in the promotion. Heading into the match, people were actually booing in him arenas and cheering on Okada.

In my eyes, Tetsuya Naito is good. Really good. Actually he’s really great. Is he IWGP title material? I think if it were the right place, right time, yeah, for sure. But this wasn’t feeling like the right time to go with it. People liked Okada too much to root for the real underdog story, and that hurt the main event of the yearly January 4 Tokyo Dome show. In fact, it hurt it so much when a poll came out asking what championship match they would prefer, fans voted for the Intercontinental title match over the IWGP Heavyweight title match.

Okada is interviewed to start off the show. He says that he didn’t feel like he had the momentum going in. He had to get through a lot to get to that point. It seemed like he was going for something that he didn’t completely earn. He thought the fans would vote for their match to headline, but in the end its not a big deal. He didn’t blame Naito, it was his own fault and he needed to take it up a notch.

The match aired, which of course took place at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan on January 4, 2014. I remembered this being good, but not out of this world great. One of the problems is that whenever you do big stadium shows, the heat isn’t as intense as, say, Korakuen Hall. So they have this match. It’s a really good one! I wasn’t feeling it a few minutes in because I didn’t feel the heat was there. But they really built this up to a great match at the end, pulling out all the stops, and by the end the people were totally into it. Okada wins the match, retaining the IWGP championship with the Rainmaker.

I have it at ****1/4. They’ve had better matches in the past, but this was a really great championship match, highlighted by some great commentary. The one knock I have to take on the commentary is that Ranallo is sort of being repetitive with the factoids. It’s been established that yes, Okada did train in Toryumon before coming to New Japan, but I don’t need to hear it every time he’s in the ring. I’m making it a bigger deal than it sounds, as overall I still enjoy the commentary tremendously, but it is a nitpick.

Okada says in a post match interview not to underestimate the IWGP heavyweight champion. Naito comes in, dejected. He couldn't make his dream come true. What’s wrong with being jealous, having a dream? He’ll try again. Today wasn’t his day, but he promises to return to this stage with the championship around his waist. He calls himself the face of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Reflecting back, Okada saw that Natio was tougher when he came back from his injury. He saw that he hesitated at times, which cost him. He was tough, but not that tough.

NEXT WEEK: Hiroshi Tanahashi takes on Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental championship, also from WrestleKingdom 8.