Kenny Omega is considered by many to be the best wrestler in the world. Chris Jericho is an unquestioned wrestling legend. They both showed why in Tokyo on Thursday.
Omega wrestled Jericho at Wrestle Kingdom 12, the annual Jan. 4 pro wrestling card at the Tokyo Dome. He won the no-DQ match after hitting his finisher, a one-handed electric chair driver known as the One Winged Angel, onto a chair. It was entertaining, it was flawed, it was funny, it went on forever, it was great.
As David Bixenspan wrote in a preview yesterday, Omega’s made his mark in the last few years wrestling in high-workrate matches—so much so that he even wrestles in a six-man tag team with The Young Bucks. He main-evented last year’s Wrestle Kingdom show in a 47-minute match with Kazuchika Okada that some considered the best match of all time; others thought their 60-minute draw in June was even better.
This one was long, too—almost 35 minutes—but it was different. It seemed to go into the closing segment almost instantly. Jericho hooked his Walls of Jericho finisher, a Boston crab, less than two minutes into the match. It was a lot like a WWE match with a part-timer—except that it was really long. Probably too long, in the sense that almost any 35-minute wrestling match is probably too long. But it was, on balance, brutal and snappy in all the ways you’d want a wrestling match to be.
The best drama of a match like this comes when one wrestler regains an advantage. Omega took control after escaping the Walls by flipping Jericho outside onto a camera man. He then kicked Jericho onto the announcer’s table, and then climbed to the top rope. Then came the spot of the match.
It continued like this. The two brawled in and out of the ring, with Omega escaping another Walls of Jericho attempt by grabbing first aid spray from under the ring and blasting it into Jericho’s eyes. Though blinded, Jericho got the upper hand by dodging a charge and shoving Omega into a chair that he’d set up in the corner seven minutes earlier. (This was one of two “Chekhov” spots in the match; later, Jericho went through a table he’d set up 17 minutes earlier. Chekhov’s chair and Chekhov’s table in the same match!)
The two went back and forth like this, with a bunch of clever set-ups to change the momentum. Omega is great. He’s a master of making moves look awesome. He has the only running knee in wrestling that doesn’t look like shit. Even his double-foot stomp on Jericho was tremendous.
Meanwhile, Jericho taught a masterclass in heel mannerisms. He beat up the young trainees at ringside. He stole a photographer’s camera. He sat down in a chair and took a break, which drew big laughs. The crowd laughed a few times, actually: It was a match that went pretty seamlessly between comedy and seriousness, between brawling and extended submission spots.
It was a great match to showcase the versatility and talent of Omega and the continued brilliance of Jericho, but it was also a pretty great advertisement. If this was the match that introduced a lot of wrestling fans to New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s annual January show, it was a pretty good start.