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31 Days of Wrestling (12/12/17): Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega (G1 Climax 27 Finals)


Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2017 produced for us.

In an alternate universe, Tetsuya Naito would be the Ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling.

He was made for the spot the “Ace of the Universe” Hiroshi Tanahashi will eventually vacate when the day comes. The “Stardust Genius” defeated the Ace at the finals of 2013 G1 Climax to earn the right to main event Wrestle Kingdom 8 for the IWGP Heavyweight title against the champion Kazuchika Okada.

After he overcame the odds that were his tag team partner Yujiro Takahashi’s (now Bullet Club’s Tokyo Pimp) betrayal, his knee injury and surgery, it was certain that he would now be NJPW’s shuyaku (top star) after this G1 win.

But after a few months, his momentum and fan support slipped through his fingers. His and Okada’s main event slot at NJPW’s biggest show of the year soon followed, after a fan vote where they opted for Tanahashi and then-champion Shinsuke Nakamura’s Intercontinental title match to go on last.

Fast forward to this year at the G1 Climax 27 Finals, Naito, now the charismatic leader of the villainous Los Ingobernables de Japon, found himself in a familiar situation with a familiar face. After he won the A block and overcame Tanahashi also in a trilogy of matches, he stood across the ring with the winner of the B block, IWGP US Champion Kenny Omega—the man that crushed his chances of entering the finals last year.

Both men were hungry. Aside from capturing the elusive IWGP Heavyweight title, Omega aimed to make history once again and become the only gaijin (foreigner) to win the tournament twice in a row. Naito, on the other hand, wanted his redemption from four years ago.

What followed soon after was a hard-hitting, brutal 34-minute classic—the longest in the history of G1 Climax Final matches—where both men pulled out all the stops.




The momentum kept on changing between the two competitors all throughout the match, but during the later parts, Omega seemingly had this in the bag as he rained on Naito with his vicious V-Triggers that sucked all of Naito’s remaining energy.


But in a sudden burst of energy, the tranquilo Naito dug in deep in his arsenal and unleashed what was left from the “Stardust Genius” in the past. He tried to hit his old finisher, the Stardust Press, on a lying Omega, but to no avail. The old Tetsuya Naito couldn’t finish the job, after all.


Omega tried to get the momentum back on his side, but Naito now had his number. After four different Destinos, Omega stayed down for the 1-2-3, and Tetsuya Naito would again face Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 12.

After the match, Naito once again declared that he is the “shuyaku”—just as he did four years prior. But the difference now were the cheering fans that surrounded him. No truer words had been said.

If you wondered whether Naito and Omega could still top their G1 face-off from the previous year, they just did with this match. Individually, they are two of the best in the world right now, and together, they are magic inside the ring, even without a proper build.

Some of the long-time fans of NJPW may say that this year’s G1 Climax was the most predictable of all. But despite this, NJPW still found a way to reward dedicated fans who stayed for this four-year ride of Naito’s redemption with long-term, compelling storytelling.

As with Omega, he is set to face his biggest challenger to date in Chris Jericho at the Tokyo Dome. But with all the bickering on the side coming from him and Naito regarding the “double main event” placement on the card, this feud may be far from over.

*****

31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2017. 

Read our previous entries: 

#1: The Okada/Omega Trilogy 
#2: Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker (WrestleMania 33) 
#3: The Mae Young Classic Finals 
#4: Billy Suede vs. Jake De Leon (Wrevolution X 2017) 
#5: WarGames 
#6: Prince Puma vs. Pentagon Dark (Ultima Lucha Tres) 
#7: Fatal Four Way for the WWE Universal Championship (SummerSlam) 
#8: Manami Toyota's Retirement 
#9: Jinder Mahal Wins the WWE Championship 
#10: Roman Reigns Tries To Take The Torch (No Mercy 2017) 
#11: Hanzello Shilva vs. Aldrin Richards (MWF Balikbayan 2017)

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