The fifth and final part of NJPW on AXS’ coverage of NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9 is here and it’s a fun one. For the third time, AXS TV viewers will be treated to a match between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada. The series, of course, kicked off with their first Tokyo Dome match at Wrestle Kingdom 7, which was soon followed by their classic at Invasion Attack. Since then, both men matured as professional wrestlers. Okada was no longer a brash, young punk that was shocking the company. He was expected to not only put on high quality at this point, but to come out on top in those matches. Tanahashi’s role is no different than the one he’s portraying in November 2015. He’s the company ace. Men, women, and children — they all love him. How can you not love Hiroshi Tanahashi?
Tanahashi, who is shown in a dapper black sport coat, is interviewed about his feud with Okada.
I was still trying to overthrow the previous generation. I was very desperate. I was looking at things from down below…from down here to up. When Okada came back, he was already up here. It came out of the blue.
Two years ago, was it? We fought in the Tokyo Dome. I thought I widened our gap, but he was going nowhere. His potential and his youth worked in his favor. This rivalry involves so many elements. Okada is no longer just part of a heel group. He’s become one of the central figures of New Japan.
In the semifinal, Nakamura and Ibushi fought an unbelievable battle. There was pressure from the competitiveness between the wrestlers. I wasn’t sure what was expected of us after a match like that.
I want to make it clear who the winner and loser is. I’d rather win in a blowout rather than a close match.
I often feel like I’m repeating myself when I write these reviews, but week after week, Mauro Ranallo and Josh Barnett deliver extremely high quality announcing that backs some of the best professional wrestling in the world. They are so good at setting the stage. Anything that Tanahashi didn’t gloss over in his pre-match interview (which is my favorite up to this point in the series), those two covered before the opening bell. Yes, they have the benefit of hindsight and not watching this live, but both men come into the booth incredibly prepared and it pays off in the final product.
I adore the way Ranallo and Barnett call this show, and more in particular, this match. They present the match as if they’re watching history in the making. Ranallo’s excitement camethrough so well when Tanahashi dove over the barricade with his death-defying High Fly Flow to the floor. That’s what I want when I listen to the commentators. They sound so jacked up, so excited to be calling this match, and as a result, it sucks me in.
If there was one point of the broadcast that I didn’t enjoy, I thought both Ranallo and Barnett were too timid when calling Tanahashi’s kickout of The Rainmaker. It didn’t come across as a big deal to me, which annoys me. That was a big, big deal when it happened.
The in-ring action speaks for itself. This is a match that could win Match of the Year. It’s an all-time great match, arguably the greatest in the series between Okada and Tanahashi, and arguably the greatest in New Japan’s current run of greatness. It’s a special match, one aided even more by great English commentary.
Barnett reiterated the point Tanahashi made during his pre-match promo at the beginning of the broadcast as Okada walked backstage, crying, over his defeat. Tanahashi was dominant in that match. Okada had a few glimpses of hope, but other than that, he was completely dominant. That’s the way Tanahashi wanted the match to go.
Okada’s post-match interview was up next.
I don’t think we were just fighting for a belt. If I don’t liven up New Japan Pro Wrestling, who’s going to make money rain? It’s not just becoming a champion. Next year at Tokyo Dome, I’ll make sure to liven it up. I’ll become a champion right away.
Tanahashi was left to close things out once again.
Anyone would agree that Okada is already a star. He will reign for years to come. I know that he’s probably going to surpass many older guys. But that flow of an era is one of the beauties about pro wrestling. That’s inevitable.
Final Thoughts: At the bare minimum, this episode of NJPW on AXS made me incredibly excited for Wrestle Kingdom 10. The rivalry between Okada and Tanahashi is wonderful thing, and the English translations only add to what is already an amazingly intriguing feud. I highly recommend checking out this episode of NJPW on AXS. One of the best episodes yet.