Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii from NJPW 2017

This was a first round match in the 2017 New Japan Cup.

PolWres really nailed it the other day when he described NJPW main events as a “solved equation.”

The matches feature a lot of the same components. They objectively are successful with the live crowds. They get similar levels of praise from the same wrestling critics on the internet. NJPW figured out what people liked and has mostly stuck with it.

With that being said, their four big main events from this year so far (Okada/Omega, Elgin/Naito, Okada/Suzuki, and Ishii/Omega) have not all been the same match. You can even easily envisionĀ someone trying to explain that they’ve all been very different matches. On the surface, that may appear true.

Okada/Omega was the epic over-long-by-design clash of the titans. Suzuki/Okada was all about Okada’s ability to look slightly uncomfortable and/or constipated survive Suzuki’s submission. Elgin/Naito was a battle of strategy.

All of those matches though contained a lot of the same elements that overwhelmed the nuances they sought to utilize in order to distinguish themselves. They all went REALLY long and desperately struggled to fill their time well. Selling was this crazy adventure in all the matches, as the quality of it would fluctuate ridiculously (which was a major issue in those New Beginning main events that were entirely dependent upon selling). There was also this undeniable sense that nothing in the match mattered until the finishers sequence kicked in (though that may be a symptom of the time and selling issues to be fair).

Those are genuine foundation issues that are hard, if not impossible, to compensate for with other components. It doesn’t matter how pretty your wallpaper was if your house just fell down from poor craftsmanship.

With that in mind, Ishii and Omega really just went for a simpler version of that NJPW main event equation. There was not much in the way of nuance. It was just a thirty minute match that struggled to fill its time well and was more reliant on more traditional elements like avoiding finishers and building to a big finish. It got over tremendously well and was showered with praise from the same corners of online critics.

This equation is just too flawed though still and removing the attempts at nuance really did not help.

What’s funny was that it was only seven months or so ago that Ishii really showed people how EASILY one can change up the NJPW main event equation in an effective manner. His 2016 G1 Climax match with Okada was a thing of beauty. Ā It was all about attitude and recognizing that a sense of urgency can do wonders for the now-traditional components of a NJPW main event.

That’s what matches like Ishii vs. Omega so unsatisfying and frustrating. The physical effort is REALLY there. The crowd is dying to love them. The matches are SO close to actually being great. The main eventers are proving time and time again though that they are not willing to go in that direction.

The only silver lining is that the main events this year are continuing to get shorter and shorter. We may be down to 25 minutes by the NJ Cup Final. (**1/4)

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