You can watch this match here.
Post by TJ Hawke:
This was the finals of the 2012 G1.
It is impossible to watch this match and have it not serve as a cold reminder that Kazuchika Okada was born to play the subtle heel. Look at the picture above. Really look at it. Compare that to every sheepish grin you seen Okada work with now and honestly tell me this man is not a natural heel. I dare you!
Anyway, this match does a number of things very well while still be very flawed. Let’s get the negative out of the way. The first thing that sticks out is that Anderson targeted Okada’s Rainmaker arm a solid amount, and Okada decided to stop selling it when he returned to offense. Now, you can make the argument that Anderson did not work on it all that much. If we accept that, then it’s just a story thread that was introduced and dropped. That is not much better.
The match also relies on a few tropes that have been plaguing NJPW singles matches for the past few years. The big one is the forearm-exchange sequence that genuinely had no place in this match, and it should be reserved for the wrestlers that make it look painful (your Shibatas, your Ishiis, etc.).
Now, for the good. It was so nice to re-visit both of these guys in the roles they were meant to play. Anderson is an energetic babyface who makes fun comebacks (compared to his sinfully boring work as a heel in the Bullet Club). Okada being a heel (by default, more than anything of course) meant that he controlled the majority of the match. His work in that situation always focuses on the neck, and that perfectly sets up the Rainmaker to be instant death.
They also got a lot of drama down the stretch from the two men desperately avoiding each other’s finishers. That is something that greatly appealed to me when I first started to watch NJPW (2012), as I see there being a lot more positives to be had from protecting finishes 99.99% of the time. The sequence was done with lots of reversals and missed-connections. Some people find these types of sequences tedious, but I have always though they help to make the finish really pop. Anyway, Okada eventually struck first and hit the Rainmaker after a tombstone to win the match and the G1. This was a very good match that should have been great. (***3/4)