Brock Lesnar vs. Kazuchika Okada: The tale of two world champions
Of the two men leading the pack in the biggest wrestling companies today, there has been an interesting dichotomy and similarity to their reigns as World Champions atop the mountain.
WWE might feature two world champions on their roster, but we all know despite the age of the title itself, Universal Champion Brock Lesnar is the big dog (pun intended) in the company.
This year both World Championships in the Big E (no not the pancake stuffing wrestler spanking behemoth) have changed hands a total of nine times. The WWE Championship, the premier title of the WWE has been bandied around six times alone, but lost its prestige the moment the undeserving Jinder Mahal got his hands on it.
The Universal Championship has found its home among some top class shoulders. From Smackdown's current uber heel Kevin Owens, who carried the belt into the year, to the grand Superstar returnee Goldberg, who didn't seem like he'd missed a step, and on the meaty hands of the beast incarnate, Brock Lesnar!
WWE's staunchest critics will agree that it's the man that makes the title and Brock Lesnar is one hell of a man. A champion though? That's slightly questionable.
A true champion is one that fights tooth and nail to secure a victory and no champion has epitomised this more than Kazuchika Okada.The IWGP World Heavyweight champion has been on a tear ever since he slew the dragon that is Hiroshi Tanahashi and defended his title successfully at WrestleKingdom 10.
Though there was the minor hiccup of a loss to Tetsuya Naito, since regaining the title, Okada has performed on an elite level far above his peers with the exception of one man.
That man is none other than the Elite leader himself, Kenny Omega. The Okada-Omega trilogy is well documented, having pretty much-dominated all conversations in the pro wrestling business this year. The sublime three-match series saw Okada walk away as champion but provided for an intriguing subplot to a larger arc that has been brewing ever since Okada defined himself as the Ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling.
At the prime of his career, he launched himself with the aforementioned match against Tanahashi. The face-off would be a final [for now] between the two, allowing Okada to exorcise the demons of losses to the man known as NJPW's Ace.
With that win, Okada conquered the promotion. Fast forward a year later, at the top of the mountain and a new arc began for The Rainmaker. In a thrilling six-star main event, Kazuchika Okada was brought to the brink by Kenny Omega. Omega didn't even get to hit his patented One-Winged Angel finisher, and after multiple Rain Makers, he was put down.
Okada had just scratched through. This is the arc that has simmered over the past year for the champion. Okada has had eight championship matches since he began his reign, seven of these in this very year.
In each match, whether against Omega or the returning Minoru Suzuki, or fending off Naito's lieutenant EVIL or Omega's muscle Bad Luck Fale, Okada has emerged champion but not unscathed.
In fact, one thing has been proven with each contest is that Okada is just a few more minutes and one move closer to being put down. It makes sense then that the man to dethrone him would be the only one to have interrupted his reign at the top so far.
Naito who seeks his own redemption in main eventing WrestleKingdom is primed to take out Okada at the year's edition. Now above all, Naito has also found a chink in the champions armour. The clock is ticking, it's time to see how much longer Okada can stand tall.
On the other spectrum of arcs is Brock Lesnar. Like with Okada before him, Lesnar's arc is of a champion facing challengers left, right and centre. The idea of it all is building towards a mega showdown and Wrestlemania match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns.
When (not if) they do headline Wrestlemania this time around, the two men will have come full circle and a long way.
Despite the multiple tries since, the final coronation of Roman Reigns atop the food chain will occur once he vanquishes The Beast. More importantly, this will be the clash between the two men that have dealt the vaunted Undertaker his only two losses at Wrestlemania.
Lesnar will, of course, have the advantage, having not only won a match against Reigns this year but pinned him as well. As one can rightfully see, unlike Okada, whose arc carries as much weight in conflict with Naitos, Lesnar's is pretty much informed by how it builds to and for Roman Reigns.
Lesnar like with Okada, has faced off challengers, but unlike him, the arc has been of building a behemoth who just cannot be put down. At the centre of it is the protection of another finishing move: the F5. In his short three title defenses, one title win and five overall matches this year, not one person has kicked out of the F5. It's called a finishing move for a reason.
However, the story told seems to only indicate that eventually that one Superstar who might kick out of the F5 is Roman Reigns.
It's not that the arc shouldn't be told or isn't exciting, but the way in which WWE has gone about it has been terrible. They not only booked themselves into a corner by throwing upstart talents like Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman into the fire, and uninspired one finish move matches. But none of the matches, apart from maybe Lesnar's one against AJ Styles, has told a story beyond Brock's absolute one finisher win.
Brock's dominance hasn't really been displayed. The stagnant form in which the arc is developing as a whole will unnecessarily just paint Reigns as the underdog and then nothing else.
Pro wrestling pundits often categorise NJPW into the 'sports' aspect, while WWE purely fixates on entertainment. But it's safe to say that the WWE hasn't been up to par with their element, and while weaving in intoxicating wrestling, NJPW have managed to produce a story for the ages that fit well into one of modern day wrestling's greatest title reigns.
Despite how great some individual Lesnar matches have been this year, WWE should have strung up the right kind of build to it. NJPW, on the other hand, have let two parts of a wonderful conflict simmer for years and as 4th January approaches, the pay off seems explosive.
This saga of two individual reigns has been interesting, to say the least.