Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tatsumi Fujinami vs Zack Sabre Jr, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshiaki Fujiwara (3/1/2022)

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What is perfect professional wrestling? Is it the flashiest moves? On the contrary, is it two men running into each other or hitting each other as hard as they possibly can? Better yet, maybe it’s a big dumb epic of bad control segments with monologues every other minute? Does such a thing even exist? I don’t know. What I do know is that on March 1st, six of history’s most beloved pro wrestlers made me feel something that simply put, I have never felt before.

This beautiful little thing starts to shape up before the bell even rings. Firstly, the greatest ring announcer ever in Kero Tanaka is doing the introductions for the match. To one side of him stands a team of menacing villains, Suzuki-gun member Zack Sabre Jr. alongside his boss, Minoru Suzuki. Completing the team is a man armed with an aura of almost mythical proportions: Yoshiaka Fujiwara. Immediately, the element of tough love is established, as a refused fist bump brings the MiSu – Fujiwara dynamic to the fore.

That’s especially striking considering who’s opposite them, as the ultimate team of New Japan aces stood proudly across the ring. Two of those men have defined my entire pro wrestling fandom, my two favourite wrestlers ever in fact, Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Alongside them is of course ‘The Dragon’ himself: Tatsumi Fujinami. Together, these men carry NJPW’s entire history with them on their respective robes, only intensifying that feeling of celebration. Together, they represent all the changes that NJPW has gone through in its 50 years of history.

Me? Well I’m just fascinated by the whole thing, watching along like a little kid, sporting a giddy smile on my face

The youngsters start the match and Okada shows his grappling prowess here which is very rare to see from him, almost like he’s trying to impress the icons. It’s awesome and they fight to a stalemate. Then we get Fujinami and Suzuki going at it in a dream match pairing to a round of applause from the crowd. That aforementioned ‘tough love’ dynamic soon comes into play also, with MiSu refusing to tag Fujiwara at first when Tanahashi comes in.

Fujiwara then does it a few seconds later anyway and they get into an almost father – son battle, slapping each other and it’s instantly just the greatest thing in the world. Then there’s Okada, trying to get cocky with Fujiwara via a headbutt only to be swiftly taught a lesson as far as who has the hardest head. He even headbutts the exposed steel turnbuckle twice! Later, Fujiwara and Fujinami share a grappling exchange of their own, clearly struggling but doing it anyway because of their arrogance, which is charming in itself.

Quite easily, Fujiwara steals the show here even though the others are great, just because of his amazing aura and that undeniable charisma during stuff like his headbutt-oriented one-upmanship with Suzuki. Lot of attention to detail here too, as the younger (relatively) wrestlers go out of their way to make the legends look like killers, especially Fujiwara. Doing the little things right is a cliché at this point but in this case, they really do the little things right. 

Moments like the triple Fujiwara Armbar and the Dragonscrews, with Okada just not being able to do it at the last moment, fearful that he couldn’t live up to the heroes of the past. It’s such a wonderfully human moment, as relatable as the revered ‘Rainmaker’ could ever possibly be. Eventually, Okada and Suzuki close the match in typical Okada vs. Suzuki fashion, producing an awesome closing stretch until the current ace scores the win with his famed finish.

Wrestling is supposed to make you feel stuff, to get you emotionally invested in these guys playing warrior, fighting to entertain us. For me, that’s what this did. I had a big smile on my face throughout, just happy from start to finish. So yeah, I don’t know if perfect professional wrestling even exists or not and if it does, then I don’t know what it is. All I know is that personally, I couldn’t want anymore than what we got here, this little thing was perfection for me.

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