Kazuchika Okada vs Cody Rhodes
July 1, 2017
Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, CA
NJPW G1 Special in USA (Day 1)
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
I was there for this match! There was a lot of question about this main event, since many didn’t expect it to be the kind of great match Kazuchika Okada is known for. They both quickly shut up critics, as he and Cody Rhodes put on a championship match that almost stole the show.
It’s unclear why ANYONE would’ve questioned Okada’s ability to have a great match with anyone these days, let alone a talented guy like Cody who made the smartest career move when he left WWE. 2017 was the year Cody came into his own, not just in the ring but also his whole arrogant persona with beautiful wife Brandi Rhodes. The crowd hated him and loved Okada, making for a unique face vs heel dymamic that we sometimes don’t see much today anymore.
After some stalling early on, things picked up when Okada did his running dive over the barricade, which always pops the crowd and turns the momentum of the match from good to great. From there on it was textbook psychology and crisp action without the high risk spots, including a great arm drag off the top rope that looked fairly safe-yet-cool, and a series of Rainmaker attempts that always got a rise out of the crowd.
When Cody hit the Rainmaker, I can’t tell you how many people thought that was going to be the finish, including me. Television did not do justice to how great that near fall was and how close we all thought it was. Kenny Omega came out and teased throwing in the towel, which was a play off how Cody did the same thing during Omega’s match with Okada the month before (you know, the greatest match of all time). The fans wanted her to throw the towel, but she didn’t and Okada won anyway, leading to the expected huge pop. Phenomenal match.