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31 Days of Wrestling (12/2/15): Tanahashi vs. Okada (Wrestle Kingdom 9)

Salutations, and welcome to Day 2 of 31 Days of Wrestling, where we look at the matches that best summarized 2015 as a whole! Without any further delay, let's take a look at the first huge main event that took place in said year!

#2: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, Wrestle Kingdom 9 (January 4, 2015)

It's no secret that every time Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada are in the same ring together, magic is bound to happen. And at Wrestle Kingdom 9, for the second time, these two headlined the Tokyo Dome and once again showed why they belong to the position that they are in today.

While the match quality is what was expected of these two once-in-a-lifetime marvels, their January 4 match in particular holds more significance as compared to their previous bouts for many reasons.

For starters, they main evented the first ever Tokyo Dome show of any kind that was made available not only through NJPW's freshly-minted streaming service, NJPW World (for only 999 yen a month), but also aired on American PPV for the first time ever through the company's deal with Jeff Jarrett's Global Force Wrestling (GFW).

So in many ways, Wrestle Kingdom 9 became the most accessible January 4 Tokyo Dome Show at that point, a far cry from the days of old when tape traders used to see these events as rarities within the wrestling community.

And then you consider the fact that Good Ol' JR, the legendary Jim Ross himself, along with Matt Striker, did commentary for the event. It was hard to believe that there would ever be a point that JR would be involved in any NJPW show, but here we are. His legendary commentary stylings, coupled with Matt Striker's play-by-play calls, made for a unique yet satisfying pairing for those who opted to purchase the English version of the broadcast. So whether fans would choose the English commentary or go for Shunpei Nogami's passionate commentary style, they cannot go wrong.

So when you think about it, the pressure was on NJPW to deliver. They have both the native and international fans to cater to in their biggest and most accessible Wrestle Kingdom to date, and they needed big names to headline such an important event. Who better than the Ace of the Universe and the Rainmaker, the men who took NJPW by fire since their initial meeting in February of 2012?

Okada may have lost the match against Tanahashi, a recurring theme of sorts for the Rainmaker (two Tokyo Dome main event losses, his match with Naito being bumped to the semi-final via fan voting), but this match may also have set the wheels in motion for his much-awaited retribution.

Don't be surprised if at Wrestle Kingdom 10, we would see Okada finally ending Tanahashi's red-hot Tokyo Dome winning streak and secure his place as the man in New Japan.

One thing was for sure: fans' tastes were evolving, and this match helped drive that point along.

Cover photo from NJPW.


See our previous entries for 31 Days of Wrestling:

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