NJPW on AXS – Season 3 Episode 9
Before the episode begins, we are shown a picture of Jim Ross and his late wife Jan, with the words, "In memory of Jan Ross." Nothing but love and support for JR in this difficult time.
Tonight's episode opens with Tanahashi talking about his return in the 2016 G1 Tournament, and that the 2 months of rest before the tournament were not enough to fully heal. He describes his bicep tear injury, and how he had to present a different style, develop a strong lower body, and use his words to make up for his physical shortcomings. By the time he got through Ishii, he believes "the gears started to work," and he believes that he can still go with Okada despite the age gap.
Both outstanding competitors make their way out for this huge A Block match. Each has a record of 5-3, and the winner will go on to the G1 Finals. Jim Ross and Josh Barnett are on commentary, and JR wonders if Okada feels disrespected because Tanahashi was chosen to enter the ring after the IWGP Heavyweight Champ. He compares this rivalry to Flair-Steamboat, Rock-Austin, Brisco-Funk, now Tanahashi-Okada. We go to commercial break.
When we come back we get the bell for the start of the match. The crowd popping hard for Tanahashi, and both men fight for control with neither coming out on top after a series of holds. Crowd is all Tanahashi as they lock up a second time, ending with Okada backing Tana into the ropes. He fakes the big slap to the chest! Tanahashi reverses and does the exact same, but follows with a slap to the face of Okada!
Okada takes control with a headlock and shoulder tackle, and rolls Tanahashi up into a reverse neckbreaker. Missile dropkick and big elbow from the top rope, and Okada is already calling for Rainmaker! Inside cradle counter from Tanahashi, but Okada responds with a drop kick as both wrestlers need time to recover.
After some time on the outside, Okada comes back in and takes control with a springboard senton. Okada with an interesting submission/pinfall combo that takes a toll on the former champion. Tanahashi back up and able to counter a boot from Okada with a dropkick to the champion's leg. Tanahashi works over Okada's leg now and slows down the match with a shin lock as we enter a commercial break.
Tanahashi still in control of Okada's leg when we return, but Okada makes his way to the bottom rope to break the hold. After a bit of back and forth between the turnbuckles, Okada regains control with an elevated back body drop on Tanahashi. Running elbow by Okada to drop Tanahashi to the mat. DDT and a quick kip-up, followed by a diving spinning uppercut for a near fall.
Quick follow up by Okada, who locks on a modified STF. Tanahashi crawls to the bottom rope and both wrestlers regroup on the mat. Despite his best efforts, Okada can't keep Tanahashi down, and meets a flying elbow! Crowd is split and both men start trading forearms in the middle of the ring. Okada able to set Tanahashi up on the turnbuckle, and hits the standing dropkick to send Tana over the ropes to the outside floor!
Action on the outside and Okada send Tanahashi into the railing. Tanahashi catches Okada coming in with the boot and slams his leg into the rail, followed by a dragon screw to the right leg of Okada. Tanahashi goes to the top with Okada on the outside, and leaps off the turnbuckle to the floor to connect with the High Fly Flow!
When we return from commercial, both men are recovering after the massive collision. Tanahashi goes to the top rope again with Okada in the ring, but Okada runs in with a European Uppercut. Okada now on the ropes with Tanahashi still on the top turnbuckle. Tanahashi fights off his opponent but misses the High Fly Flow, and Okada rallies back with a series of dropkicks. Sling blade out of nowhere by Tanahashi before we head to another commercial.
We return to both wrestlers recovering again from this highly physical match. Tanahashi charges Okada and gets flipped over the ropes to the apron. Back to his feet and Okada tries to knock Tanahashi off the apron, only to end up in a battle of forearm strikes. Okada's kick attempt is blocked, and Tanahashi drives Okada's right leg into the ropes. Another dragon screw to the right leg of Okada onto the apron, and Tanahashi runs into the ring to lock on the Texas Cloverleaf. Somehow Okada makes it to the bottom rope for the break.
As they regroup, Okada whips Tanahashi into the ropes, but misses a dropkick when Tana counters by holding the ropes to stop his momentum. Modified sling blade into a bulldog and Tanahashi again goes to the top looking for his finisher! High Fly Flow to the back of Okada, and he goes up again to hit yet another. This time Okada puts his knees up and counters, but both men are struggling to get to their feet.
Okada calls for the Tombstone, but Tanahashi flips it around to connect with a Tombstone piledriver of his own! Neckbreaker with a sling blade modification, and Okada counters another High Fly Flow with a dropkick! Okada misses Rainmaker, but hits a German Suplex. Rainmaker by Okada! He goes for another but Tanahashi counters with a bridging suplex. Modified Tombstone by Okada but only 2! Less than a minute remaining in the match, and what an incredible build to that frantic sequence.
Somehow Tanahashi powers back up yet again and hits another sling blade. Tanahashi hits the High Fly Flow! And another one! Tanahashi goes for the cover, but at the count of 2, the match reaches the 30-minute time limit. The result is a draw, meaning that both men are eliminated from the G-1 Tournament!
Winner: Draw (30 Minute Time Limit)
We come back from commercial break to both wrestlers on the mat after this outstanding matchup. Tanahashi and Okada limp out of the arena, and Okada says in his post-match interview that the match was "a perfect draw." Now, he must focus on defending his IWGP Heavyweight Title.
Tanahashi is unable to stand for his interview out of exhaustion, and answers questions from the floor. He knows NJPW won't make his return easy, and his dream of winning two championships back to back is now over. Slowly climbing to his feet, he tells us to remember "the end is the beginning."
We now go to Block A winner Hirooki Goto, who says the joke is on everyone who doubted him. He plans to show everyone what real strong style is all about in the G-1 Finals.
In a separate recorded interview with Tanahashi, he talks about the goals he set out to accomplish in his Match with Okada at G-1 Climax. He wants everyone to know that he can still wrestle with the best in the world at a championship level. Until next time, that's all for this week's NJPW on AXS!
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