You may be in for a bit of a surprise if you haven't seen Tanaka in awhile. He's like 50 lbs. lighter and tan as river clay. Nevertheless, he still kicks ass and is still the Dangan!
vs Yuji Nagata (03/19/11 NJPW): NJPW Cup 2011. This be a badass bout without a doubt. There's no commentary so, you can hear every strike land. This was as brutal as Electric Wizard. Knees, elbows, lariats all hit with with precision and intensity. The few suplexes and brainbusters were just bonuses. The strike battles felt authentic and were quickly resolved. They didn't need to buy time in order to figure out their next step. Clocking in around 15 minutes, this is an all time classic to me. This is in the top 5-10 matches that I've seen this year.
vs Tomoaki Honma (12/23/11 NJPW): It's noteworthy that we have 2 deathmatch bred wrestlers wrestling a straight match for the IWGP IC belt in NJ. A lot can happen in 10 years! They paid homage to their hardcore roots and so, it was pretty enjoyable. I did feel the pacing and no-sell bits kind of took me out of the match at times though.
vs Tomohiro Ishii (11/19/12 NJPW): Never Belt contest. Well, if you wanr 12 minutes of jaw bruising, chest welting, vertabrae shifting action then, this is the bout for you! Seriously, all jokes aside...this is essentially two guys hitting each other back and forth. There are some throws but, this IS the macho strike battle. It gets repetitive but, if you need to release some aggression or get psyched up for something. This is the match for you!
Masato Tanaka & KENTA vs Naomichi Marufuji & Tetsuya Naito (03/08/14 NOAH): I've seen some self indulgent NOAH matches in the 2010's but 'Fuji's great showing at the 2018 Champion Carnival convinced me to give this a try. So, glad that I did! I could have done without a couple elbow battles but, overall this was too sweet. It is exactly the match you want it to be. Naito is cheeky yet tough, Marufuji is crafty without being cute, KENTA is badass but, not having to be spunky/plucky, and Tanaka is the old time killer. I would have liked a definitive finish but, this was a fiercely competitive battle. Great match!
vs Daisuke Sekimoto (08/02/15 Zero-1): I think this is a semi final for the annual Zero One Fire Festival. These foes delivered 12+ minutes of intense combat perfection. They may as well have stopped the show and burned the ring after this match...it was a thing of beauty. All of the small twists, variations, surprises, all while knowing when to bring it down only to bring it back even hotter later. Another all time classic match that's in the top 5 matches I've viewed in 2018.
Masato Tanaka is lining up to be the best wrestler for the matches viewed in 2018. If you're a Dangan fan, check some of these out. You will be so glad you did
Be sure to check out my other Tanaka entry a few posts back as well. If you think Masato Tanaka was done after ECW then, you will be gladly be mistaken.