By Evan Lopez, Columnist
The Pro Wrestling Industry has been turned upside down, and then back around, by two men. Those two men go by the name of Kenny Omega, and Kazuchika Okada.
Omega, and Okada respectively, wrestle for New Japan Pro Wrestling. The New Japan product is a lot different compared to the WWE in terms of presentation. The WWE has gone full circle with their desire to provide more family friendly programming, specifically for the kids. In hindsight, the WWE deems the sport of pro wrestling as “sports entertainment”, and cares more so on the entertainment aspect of their product rather than the actual wrestling and storylines.
NJPW on the other hand, takes the actual in-ring wrestling and wrestling psychology and holds Meltzer in high regard. In other words, NJPW is the perfect alternative and caters to mainly hardcore pro wrestling fans. So as I distinguish the differences between the WWE product and the NJPW product, you may now see why Dave Meltzer, a longtime credible pro wrestling journalist, could possibly be considered a “mark” for NJPW, thus why he gave each match in the Omega vs. Okada trilogy 6 stars, except the classic the two had on June 11th of this year, which received 6 Stars and ¼.
Dave Meltzer most definitely prefers the NJPW style of matches compared to the WWE style of matches. The last time Meltzer awarded a WWE match “5 Stars” was back in 2011 when CM Punk defeated John Cena at WWE Money in the Bank for the WWE Championship. Since then, Meltzer has deemed 22 matches “5 Stars”. 19 of those matches were NJPW matches. With the star ratings Meltzer gave the Omega vs Okada trilogy, it may be argued that the last match that the pair had was below 6 Stars. – SAMPLE- The first two matches were rightfully deserving of the “6 Star Match” label. Omega and Okada’s first match at Wrestle Kingdom 11 was arguably the best fight the two have had in their trilogy. The theme of Omega not being able to hit his finisher left everyone at home and in their seats anticipating and waiting for a One Winged Angel. As the long but great encounter went on, it was Okada who would win this epic showdown. Omega had his One Winged Angel finisher protected and the commentators really sold the fact that Kenny had not used his finisher. They did a great job of protecting his finisher, and the booker did a great job booking this match given the fact that although Kenny Omega is a hot commodity and an outstanding wrestler, they made sure one of their heavyweights who have been in the IWGP Title picture for longer was booked strong.
As for their second match at Dominion, it was nothing short of spectacular either. Omega and Okada again put on a clinic, and this time, Meltzer rated this match 6 Stars and ¼. When I read that rating, I thought it was crazy that these two dudes could even manage to top their last match with 6 stars, and then some. That to me, is an incredible accomplishment. Their latest match at this year’s G1 Finals, I feel most definitely was a mark move. This match didn’t have the intensity and storylines that the previous two did. It was 5.5 Stars at best. In my opinion although Meltzer’s ratings come personally from one man, Meltzer is one of the most credible dudes in the Pro Wrestling Journalism. I find his ratings to be top notch. I’ll sometimes have my personal opinions on particular stunning matches, and I’ll rate them personally, out of speculation and fun. I than look at Meltzer’s ratings to see if I’m “right” in a way. I like to see if I can compare my thoughts and analysis to his.
Another thing about people/fans like Meltzer, is that the match styles are different. The in-ring style of New Japan is very compelling to a niche fan’s eyes. They wrestle and are given the time they need to provide quality matches. They constantly give out exactly what the fans want. They tease the finisher, they do lots of strong style, they treat each match as if it’s sport they are engaging with, and they brawl to the end. They really put on great wrestling, where so the WWE focuses on their classic style of matches, and the urgency and storytelling of the matches are disregarded sometimes compared to NJPW. It’s almost as if the management at NJPW want nothing but pretty decent to great matches. On the 5 Star Scale, that’s about 3- maybe 6 Stars. In addition to the wrestlers wanting to or seemingly wanting to put on good matches, the crowds for New Japan are always engaged in the action. They are almost part of the show, if you will. These fans are as niche as you’ll find a good amount of the NXT crowd. The NJPW and NXT crowds differ from RAW or SmackDown Live crowds because they are different type of fans… most of the time.
Meltzer can’t be regarded so much as a mark, as WWE matches just can’t compare to NJPW matches. They are both in different boats when it comes to star ratings, and overall matches. I feel that he is always on the money when it comes to ratings, especially the Omega vs Okada ratings. The matches have a compelling storyline behind them, with two of the absolute best wrestlers in the world that can simply go with anyone. Meltzer just represents a true niche fan, but can sometimes put his bias in his ratings, but that is to expect in a product like New Japan’s.