One year ago at the 2014 NJPW/ROH Global Wars shows, Cedric Alexander was booked to face Kazuchika Okada in what could have been his long-awaited breakout match. Instead, he was taken out by The Decade and had to sit out those shows. His biggest shot since he got into Ring of Honor, gone just like that. Just a couple weeks ago, New Japan returned to pit its best against Ring of Honor once again. This time, Alexander was healthy, Alexander was ready, and Alexander would get his chance to prove his mettle against the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion, “The Rainmaker” Okada. That years’ delay definitely built up anticipation for this bout and, especially now, Cedric was craving a big win to break his rut.
Okato is the name I knew Okada under first, having watched him in TNA. Not extensively, of course; seeing how good he’s been and how dominant he’s been since returning to Japan, you might not guess that he was never higher than the bottom of the card on Impact. Style-wise, I respect Okada but he’s not my favorite. He reminds me a lot of Randy Orton: when you need a great match he will give you a great match, but his style is characterized more by perfection and fluidity than nuance or edge. Okada can do it all and do it well, versatile enough to face any opponent and skilled enough to conquer. Also he’s the first top guy I can remember who is still being touted for their great dropkick; usually the Maven curse keeps the great dropkickers down. Whatever Okada’s gonna do, he’s gonna make sure it’s optimum quality.
I’ve been a fan of Cedric Alexander since he got to Ring of Honor, but not without reservations. What he’s good at are your general indy rising star staples: speed, acrobatic dives, power strikes, hard drops. You can put him in a match with anyone and he’ll show you he belongs. The one thing he’s been missing is that big win, but obviously that seems to point to some deeper flaw in his game. The need for aggression sticks out, but that can’t be all of it. Matt Sydal is not really an aggressive soul but he still manages to get it done. Against a wrestler as effortlessly solid as Kazuchika Okada, the fact that Alexander wants the win isn’t going to be quite enough. He’ll have to bring a new level of game.
Kazuchika Okada vs Cedric Alexander
The match kicks off with an armlock exchange that Alexander gets the better of, but Okada gets him to the ropes and a clean break. Next there’s an armdrag exchange that Okada wins but he backs off rather than exploit it. They go into a few more exchanges, jockeying for advantage. Alexander lays into Okada with the same striking style he’s been using all match – measured and powerful – but Okada weathers them all, then unleashes a blitz which gets him a two count. The next skirmish ends with Okada on the outside and Alexander hitting a dive. Okada starts to pull ahead with a rush that ends with a sliding European, then a top rope elbow drop. Cedric ducks the Rainmaker and scores a tornado DDT, then later blocks the tombstone to hit his Kick to Kill Part 2. Okada tries to even things up with a dropkick but Alexander ducks it, only to fall prey to it following another exchange. Okada spikes him with the tombstone piledriver, then hits the Rainmaker lariat and scores the three.
Wasn’t so much an arc in this match as a line, but an angled line at least. Cedric basically threw all his offense at Okada who absorbed it and knocked him back with more. He starts off hot but, as Okada takes the fight to him, he loses steam. Rather than the arc dipping and Cedric then getting a second wind to bring it up, he fights his hardest at the beginning and his later flurries have the air of desperation rather than re-energization. It made sense on that score but that’s not really an exciting trajectory. Rather than anyone getting extended offense, the match was constructed around a series of fairly even exchanges where one person would eke out the upper hand, then the other would, and back again. No one established any superiority on any metric so there was no tension. So while athletically and technically the match was sound, story-wise it fell short. Unfortunately there is a lot of this that can be hung on Alexander.
One thing that came clear to me in watching this is that Cedric Alexander hasn’t got any hurry-up in his offense. He can move fast, there’s no doubt about that. But he doesn’t capitalize, he doesn’t put things together. I’m not talking about the blitzes/rush attacks that we see these days (a specialty of Roderick Strong and Okada). I mean, for instance, how Okada used his dropkick to set up the tombstone and the tombstone to set up the Rainmaker. Whenever Cedric gets his opponent down and it doesn’t put them away he takes a second to be frustrated. If he hits them hard, he sort of watches to see what they’re going to do. He takes his time as if he’s a calculating technical wrestler but that isn’t how he presents in the ring at all. He has the air of a fiery, high-tempo, high-impact wrestler but his matches tend to feel very sluggish. For instance, with his chop series on Okada, he never seemed to get annoyed that his chops weren’t working, never tried to hit harder or faster or change the attack. He just patiently hit Okada again. Okada is not a huge guy. The fact that he didn’t go down should have prompted Cedric to change something up. But that’s the major element missing from his matches: urgency. He’s perfected that “oh fuck what do I do now?” face for sure. He hasn’t perfected expressing that feeling by doing something about it.
Bottom Line: This probably isn’t the match Alexander wanted it to be. It’s fine but nothing you need to go out of your way to see.