Match of the Week (13/07-20/07 2018): Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito (NJPW G1 Climax 28: Night 2)

Added by Miguel Camilleri

Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito are undoubtedly two of the best wrestlers in the world at the moment. Their resume, especially over the last 2 years, consists of countless excellent matches, some of which are arguably up there with the greatest of all time. What is more, they have both picked up numerous successes along the way, with both men reaching the pinnacle of New Japan Pro Wrestling by winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

Both men are also the last 2 winners of NJPW’s annual summer G1 Climax tournament, with Omega and Naito winning it in 2016 and 2017 respectively. In the years that either man won, they also beat the other to go on to win the tournament, with Omega beating Naito in the 2016 semi-final, and Naito beating Omega in the 2017 final. Both matches were absolutely incredible matches, and are often heralded as being some of the greatest matches of all time (by way of example, the 2016 match is the 2nd highest ranked match of all time on, whilst the 2017 match is ranked 14th).

It is with this in mind that when Omega & Naito were announced as being in the same block for the 2018 G1 Climax, people were naturally expecting their match to be one of, if not the, best matches of the whole tournament. Both men went into the G1 as two of the favourites to win the whole thing, and this match would be a big indicator of whether either man would actually go all the way. Furthermore, a controversial war of words between the two men in the weeks leading up to the match served to add further fuel to the fire.

The popularity of both Omega and Naito was on show as both men received big pops in their entrances, and there was a veritable buzz before and right after the bell rang. It was Omega that took control as proceedings got underway, however, and mocked Naito with the latter’s signature tranquilo taunt (calling back to their verbal back-and-forth in the process), after which he proceeded to mockingly clap Naito and spit in his face. This riled Naito up, who unleashed on Omega, and returned the favour by mocking Omega’s taunt and spitting on Omega, after which he did his own tranquilo taunt in the middle of the ring.

Once that was out of the way, the action continued in the ring, with Omega hitting Naito’s mid-section with a knee, followed by a suplex for the first two count for the match. Omega then proceeded to land a number of kicks to Naito’s back, before launching him into the turnbuckle. Omega then landed a backbreaker for another two count. He continued to work Naito’s back by locking in a camel clutch in the middle of the ring, from which Naito managed to get to the ropes. Omega did not let up, however, and hit a series of stiff forearms to Naito’s spine. After a stiff chop, Omega set up for one last forearm, but Naito turned over and hit his opponent with a flurry of strikes of his own. Omega countered by trying to land a powerbomb on his opponent, but Naito countered and eventually landed a hip toss followed by a dropkick to the back of Omega’s head.

Once Omega was back to his feet, he attempted a clothesline on Naito, who ducked out of the way, and once again spat in his opponent’s face. Omega was incensed, and proceeded to rake Naito’s eyes. This didn’t stop Naito, who managed to hit two successive neckbreakers on Omega right afterwards. He then whipped Omega into the corner, and attempted his corner slingshot dropkick. Omega caught Naito, however, and proceeded to hit him with the You Can’t Escape for the two count. He did not let up, and followed up by launching Naito into the ring apron with a suplex. Omega then started to rip off the protective mat on the outside, which allowed Naito enough time to fly off the apron and into Omega, causing the latter’s head to bounce off the unprotected floor.

Naito proceeded to roll Omega back into the ring, whip him into the corner once again, and this time successfully land the slingshot dropkick. He then landed a series of stiff forearms to his opponent’s back, but Omega quickly cut off this momentum by bouncing off the ropes and hitting Naito with a Frankensteiner. As Naito rolled to the outside, Omega prepared to hit a Rise of the Terminator, but Naito cut this off by rolling back into the ring and hitting a swing DDT off the ropes for a two count. A momentary lapse of concentration cost Naito, however, which allowed Omega to send him to the outside, and hit a dropkick through the ropes, sending Naito crashing through the guardrail. Omega then followed up with an amazing crossbody, flying from the ropes over the guardrail and into Naito.

Omega proceeded to roll Naito back into the ring, and perched himself up on the top rope. Naito quickly got up, however, and cut Omega off at the legs, sending him crashing into the turnbuckle. Naito himself then climbed up to prepare for a superplex, but Omega promptly slipped down, and returned the favour by dropping Naito into the turnbuckle in kind. Omega then hit Naito with a snap dragon suplex, followed by a gutwrench powerbomb for a two count. An incredible sequence followed, where Naito dodged a V-Trigger, tried to hit a suplex on Omega (who landed on his feet), blocked another V-Trigger, then attempted an enziguri, which Omega ducked out of the way from, and finally managed to hit the V-Trigger to the back of Naito’s head at the third time of asking. Omega then attempted to hit the One Winged Angel, but Naito countered by spiking Omega’s head on the mat with a reverse ‘rana.

Naito then once again took proceedings to the top rope, and managed to hit a hurricanrana, after which he hit the Gloria on Omega for the two count. He proceeded to attempt the Destino, which Omega countered with an elbow, only for Naito to hit an enziguri, attempt a crossbody (which Omega dodged), dodge an Omega clothesline, only to be met with a huge V-Trigger. Omega then lifted up Naito, who incredibly managed to shift into a Destino. He then went for another Destino, but Omega caught Naito, and shifted him into One Winged Angel. Naito tried to counter with a roll up, but Omega once again caught Naito, and hit him with a cradle piledriver for the two count.

Omega lifted a dead weight Naito, and tried to hook him for the dragon suplex, but Naito managed to fight out of it, which meant Omega had to resort to a spinning wheel back to the back of his opponent’s head instead. This sent Naito kneeling against the turnbuckle, leaving him in prime V-Trigger position – and Omega obliged, hitting a huge V-Trigger to the back of Naito’s head. Omega then hauled Naito onto the top rope, and once again set up for the dragon suplex – this time from the second rope. Although Naito managed to fight out of this, Omega shifted his position to lift Naito up for the One Winged Angel from the top rope. Naito just about managed to drop down, however, and hit a powerbomb on Omega from the second rope.

The fans were at fever pitch at this point, cheering Naito on as he managed to hit a second Destino, which Omega amazingly managed to kick out of at 2 and 7/8ths. Naito maintained wrist control, and went for another Destino, but Omega shifted him out of position, only to be met with an ura-nage suplex from Naito. The latter then went for the Destino once again, but Omega again shifted out of the way and tried to knee Naito in the face, only for Naito to block the knee, and land a huge slap to Omega’s face, followed by a wheel kick to the back of Omega’s head. Naito then made yet another Destino attempt, but Omega countered and sent Naito crashing to the mat with a brainbuster for the two count. Omega then proceeded to hit the Jay Driller for another two count – Naito just would not quit! Omega knew it was over at this point, and went on to hit another V-Trigger, after which he finally managed to hit the One Winged Angel to pick up the pinfall victory.

Wow. Another incredible match between these two men, who now have three genuine all-time great matches against each other. The G1 Climax has never seen a series of matches between two men as great as the Naito/Omega series, and I hope they continue to face off in the tournament every year for as long as they are both taking part in it. Magic is guaranteed to happen when these two are in the ring, and this match here damn sure was no exception.