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[2009-02-15-NJPW-Circuit] Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shinsuke Nakamura


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  • 5 months later...

This could have been really good. Nakamura's continued selling of the leg for 3 seconds into his offense pretty bogus given the focus on it. Nearfall sequence was just a little overdone on what was kicked out on, but it seemed really tame compared to most. Tanahashi hit the best sling blade I've seen countering a landslide. It's not overlong, right around 25 minutes, which goes hand-in-hand with the finishing stretch not having lots of laying around and useless strike exchanges just so it could be an epic match. Early stuff was really nice, had a good Misawa vs. Kawada feel to it in the rope-running and teasing of big spots early. Too bad that didn't last.

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  • 3 months later...

IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shinsuke Nakamura - NJPW 2/15/09


Fresh off beating Mutoh for the title at the Dome show, Tanahashi defends against the man who defeated him for the title at the 2008 Dome show and subsequently successfully defended it against in March of 2008. Nakamura riding a two match win streak in title matches against Tanahashi and winning a tag match against invading NOAH forces at the Dome show could actually argued to be the favorite in this match, but as the defending champion Tanahashi is riding a wave of momentum from winning the title from an All Japan outsider and New Japan legend. Last year, Tanahashi was able to kick Nakamura's ass for the majority of the match, but fell prey to Nakamura's flash cross armbreaker. Would history repeat itself or will Tanahashi finish the job? All in all, it sets for quite the collision in February of 2009.


The last Tanahashi match I watched was in April of 2008 and he was still working his great pretty boy, cocky douche character. The winds of change are blowing he is about to embark on the run that was supposed to finally definitively declare him the undisputed New Japan Ace (injury got in the way and his historic reign ended up taking place in 2011) thus the heel overtones have vanished. He is showcased as Nakamura's equal and the work is similar to how Japan worked native vs native matches in the past akin to something like a Misawa vs Kobashi. It is just two great wrestlers struggling to attain victory, nothing else is similar to that, but the point is there is no heel in the match. This is a boon in a way because Nakamura at this point is so bland that being forced to work as a fired-up babyface against Tanahashi left a lot to be desired. Now that Tanahashi was being presented as a babyface there was less reliance on Nakamura working face and just letting him work. I still didn't think they knocked this out of the park, but I would put this second only to the 2006 match, but this is essentially an improved version of the 3/30/08, but not by much.

I really liked the opening amateur wrestling that Tanahashi does to open his matches it is usually well-worked and is a great place to use as a springboard to escalate a match. I love when the matwork leads to something like when Tanahashi's arm is exposed Nakamura drops a knee on it. He looks to work it over, but in haste to deflect Tanahashi dropkicks the knee to save himself. This is presented more in line as just wise strategy rather than Tanahashi is not as good as Nakamura and needs to do this to level the playing field. Tanahashi works the knee well with a toehold and a kneecrusher on the outside. Unfortunately, Tanahashi's American style does lead to some annoying American traits seeping into his matches like shooting someone into the ropes only for them to counter. There is just no sense of struggle in that type of transition. Nakamura just really does not know how to work on offense in a compelling way during the body of a match at this point of his career. Nakamura makes the dumb decision of throwing Tanahashi back in the ring ahead of him. Everybody altogether, dragon leg screw in the ropes. Tanahashi applies the figure-4, which Nakamura does a great job selling and working through. I liked Tanahashi's quick cutoffs like dropkick to the knee or Sling Blade to stymie Nakamura before he revs up. They work an elaborate submission sequence that was pretty thrilling even if it bordered on unrealistic (I watched this match in 2009 and it is the only thing I remembered about the match coming in). Nakamura is selling his frustration about not putting Tanahashi well and it feels like he cares more about this match than his 2008 performances. Sling Blade out a Landslide attempt was wicked sweet.


One thing that Tanahashi has going for him over pretty much everyone else in Japan at this time is that his finish runs are consistently great. The finish is the last thing you see and too many NOAH matches will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Tanahashi matches make up what they may lack in body by having thrilling finishes that climax at the right point and incorporate the story. Nakamura is going to go for KO whether it is a landslide or a flash submission. Tanahashi will use Nakamura's knee against him and look for High Fly Flow. Tanahashi hits High Fly Flow, but eats knees. Nakamura's knees are injured and can't capitalize. Nakamura's long term selling has sucked this match, but here it was very critical and he came through. A Landslide only gets two. The new added spot is that Tanahashi spikes him on a hurricanrana out of a powerbomb. I liked Tanahashi trying hard to hook Nakamura's legs but couldnt get them in time before a kick out. There are a bunch of little touches like that that make match just much better. Tanahashi dropkicks the knee wiping Nakamura out. He rushes to the top and High Fly Flow to the back and then on his stomach to win. I love the urgency of Tanahashi's High Fly Flow. There is no time to pander for cheers, he has a fucking match to win! Nakamura's long term selling and offense at times left a lot to be desired, but he did seem more invested in this match. Tanahashi was great at changing his act so slightly to rely on being a heel, but still convincingly work on top. Once again, Tanahashi just kills it on the finish and locks up another Top 100 match to his name. ****

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  • GSR changed the title to [2009-02-15-NJPW-Circuit] Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shinsuke Nakamura

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