KARACHI: Pro wrestling is perhaps the most controversial art form in the world. Its scripted nature turns off people who think it has to be ‘real’ to be enjoyed. Suspension of disbelief is the backbone of artistic experience and if it wasn’t the case, then Bane perhaps actually died in The Dark Knight Rises.
If one truly understands the art of wrestling, nothing beats it in terms of pure storytelling. Granted there is a lot of mediocre wrestling happening these days, but when done right, the experience is as magical and uplifting as watching cosmos unfold its secrets.
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WWE often does things right by delivering exceptional stories and quality wrestling. The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 25, CM Punk vs John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011, Steve Austin vs Bret Hart in a submission match at Wrestlemania 13 are always counted amongst the greatest wrestling matches in the history. But fans who follow the industry outside the WWE perhaps just witnessed the greatest professional wrestling match ever on January 4.
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) Wrestle Kingdom 11 is an annual show held in Japan, similar to WWE’s Wrestlemania. It’s the biggest non-WWE wrestling event of the year, as NJPW is the second largest wrestling promotion in the world. The 11th edition saw a gaijin (Japanese word for ‘foreigner’) Kenny Omega fight the Japanese native Kazuchika Okada, the reigning defending IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
The story going into the match was that Omega wanted to take NJPW international and be the face of the company, while Okada was in fact the top guy. The two men fought their hearts out in an almost hour-long battle.
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Most casual wrestling fans wouldn’t even know their names. So how come two relatively lesser-known wrestlers outperformed the icons such as The Undertaker, Michaels and Bret Hart? Well, one has to watch it to believe it. A storm has brewed up on the internet in the past three days with fans dubbing it the best match ever. In fact, it’s not just the fans. Even Dave Meltzer, a pro wrestling journalist at Wrestling Observer, couldn’t disagree. He gave the match 6 stars on a scale of 5.
“This match had every single element of a great match. It had the hard-hitting, great athletic ability, the drama, the length, build, psychology. You take any great classic match in history and this match had something from that in it,” Meltzer said in a podcast.
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When a fan asked him on Twitter if it was the best match in Wrestle Kingdom history, he responded, “Evidently and easily. And considering last year's main event (another 5 star match between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Okada for the same title), that says a lot.”
But it’s not just the best bout in Wrestle Kingdom history but could be the best in pro wrestling history as well. “Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada may have put on the greatest match in pro wrestling history,” Meltzer said in the Wrestling Observer.
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He added, “A number of people after the match stated that it was the greatest match they’d ever seen. Personally, I’d say the same thing. As people were leaving the Tokyo Dome the murmur in the crowd was that it was the greatest pro wrestling match ever, and at restaurants in the area after the show, and on the subway, that was the main topic of conversation. The talk backstage was also that it was the greatest match anyone had ever seen.”
Before they joined the WWE, AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura were two men who were considered the best athletes to have never stepped foot in the biggest wrestling promotion in the world. With this match, Omega and Okada have taken that spot. WWE or not, the two have made history. And if someone asks why you became a wrestling fan, you can respond, ‘I became a wrestling fan so one day, I could watch Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada’.
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