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Charles (Loss)

[2011-04-03-NJPW-New Dimension] Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Yuji Nagata

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IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Yuji Nagata - NJPW 4/3/11

Tanahashi is a modern day Ric Flair, charismatic, perfect blend of workrate and showmanship, tons of entertaining stock, great plug 'n' play formula, and polarizing. Tanahashi has made a career out of Keiji Mutoh's 2001 renaissance strategy  of working the leg, but love how in each match there is a different reason he has to do it and where it leads. 

I liked the dynamic at the beginning as Tanahashi is the cocky prick champion but he is over like rover so he is playing to the crowd and the crowd is cheering him hard & he is lapping it up. He scores a takedown and finishes with a stomp. He is just so cocky. Nagata is a great no-nonsense ass-kicker and he complements Tanahashi's ostentatious style. I really liked Nagata slapping Tanahashi as he went in for a collar-elbow tieup. Nagata just started lighting Tanahashi up. Nagata had great kicks. This felt very heel vs heel. Tanahashi was the cocky heel, but when he tried to fire up against Nagata in the corner I thought that was a babyface moment only for Nagata to quell the rally by beating the piss out of him. It made me feel sympathy for Tanahashi who came up short in the strike exchange. Nagata beat Tanahashi so bad with strikes that Tanahashi had to powder. Now anybody who has ever seen a Tanahashi match knows what is bound to happen. Tanahashi gets a hold of the leg and snaps it across the top rope. Here it was necessary because he was getting his ass kicked and he needed to stop the bleeding. I love Tanahashi's offense. Follows up with somersault senton from the apron and then goes to work on the leg. The figure-4 spot had good drama and selling. Nagata gets a kneelift, but it is the bad knee! Nagata unleashes some vicious kicks to Tanahashi's left arm with pinpoint accuracy. The double limb pyschology in this was really great. They both had plenty of good cutoffs on each other by attacking the other's damaged limb. This led to great drama and plenty of great, dramatic submissions (Texas Cloverleaf, Cross-Armbreaker->Fujiwara Armbar). The finish stretch was ultra hot with plenty of big bombs. I loved Nagata hitting a tremendous kick to Tanahashi's ribs when he came off the top for his first High Fly Flow attempt. Nagata unleashed quite the onslaught of big bombs. Plenty of big nearfalls (that backdrop driver was insane and the perfect last big bomb to kick out of. Anymore and it would have been too incredulous). What I liked is that they still peppered in Tanahashi hope spots so it let you know he still had life and it didnt feel like he was being ragdolled.  Tanahashi shifts his weight on a super backdrop driver. Dragon Suplex No Human Capture Suplex and then classic Two High Fly Flows for the win. 

It is routine Tanahashi, but I love routine Tanahashi because it is steeped in logic and consequence. Tanahashi is cocky at the outset but bites off more than he can chew with the ass-kicking Nagata. Goes to his old stand by of attacking the leg. Nagata responds by attacking arm. Both do great here. The finish stretch feels like a big deal. It feels like everything in this match from beginning to end has consequence. I thought there could be more struggle in this match and better selling, but it escalated really well. I thought the finish was slightly overwrought, I think one big Nagata nearfall and one dramatic armbar was enough, but they went for way more. Very enjoyable and breezy because of how well-connected everything is and it is always great to watch a Tanahashi match unfold. ****1/4 

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