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[2012-10-08-NJPW-King of Pro Wrestling] Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Minoru Suzuki

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Rewatched  this about a month ago and agree that it took the best attributes of the new school Tanahashi/Gedo era and mixed them with an old school narrative. The first pinfall wins gimmick is clever but doesn't feel forced and Tanahashi felt triumphant in overcoming the dungeon master in Suzuki. This also corresponds with their 1/4/12 match really well and builds upon those themes. *****

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You know I have never watched their 1/4/12 match and really ought to. 

IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Minoru Suzuki - NJPW 10/8/12

Another one of those matches that I have seen know that I absolutely loved but didnt get a chance to review way back when so now I get to watch it and enjoy it all over again. 

Tanahashi's left arm comes in bandaged and at one time I knew why but now I cant remember. Tanahashi does his best to play keep away. He even employs an Unorthodox stance to keep his left arm behind his right arm. I really enjoyed that touch. Tanahashi busts out a double wristlock, side headlock and an abdominal stretch to mix it up, he did not go straight for the knee. He gets cocky. He plays air guitar on Suzuki. How did I forget that? I popped for that. That drew a chorus of boos and also the ire of Suzuki. A scuffle breaks out and Suzuki ends up on the apron and then drops down with his patented top rope-assisted dangling armbar on Tanahashi's bad arm. As JR would say, "Business has picked up.". Suzuki tortures Tanahashi's bad wing. Cranking it around the railings and the steel post. Stomping on it, kneeing, twisting it. He was brutal. It looked like he was going to make short work of the champion until Tanahashi caught a kick. You know what happens next. Dragon Leg Screw! Suzuki's selling is top-notch. He really sells the pain from the dragon leg screws really well. Tanahashi goes into full 2001 Mutoh mode with the Dragon Leg Screws and Basement Dropkicks. Tanahashi  lackadaisically leaves his arm out on the top rope as Suzuki is on the ground. He goes to grab Suzuki who then kicks his bad arm. More kicks to the bad arm and then rips him down with a double wristlock takedown as he bites the bandage to rip it off. Suzuki grabs a sleeper to sap Tanahashi of his energy. CROSS-ARMBREAKER! That could have been it! Big nearfall. Tanahashi responds in kind, but turns it into a Sling Blade. From there Tanahashi goes back to work on the knee. He even hits High Fly Flow on the bad leg. Suzuki's selling of this by scurrying away with all that pain on his face was exquisite. Tanahashi goes for his customary Texas Cloverleaf, but Suzuki blocks and Tanahashi settles for the Figure-4. The struggle in this over 2 minute Figure-4 is great Suzuki especially does a great job telling the story with his face. They has established the story of dueling limb psychology. Suzuki had targeted the bad arm tearing the bandage with this teeth and looking to break in two. While, Tanahashi has gone to his tried and true strategy of working the knee. Who will prevail?   

My favorite part of the match is next. Tanahashi signals for Sling Blade. Suzuki evades the first attempt. He goads Tanahashi into trying another by hobbling away and as Tanahashi is coming he explodes into a dropkick, but immediately clutches the knee. The ruse was so convincing because he actually was in so much pain. Suzuki slaps Tanahashi around and grabs a sleeper. Tanahashi has a bloody mouth now and this becomes important later. Epic struggle but with a last gasp, Tanahashi lunges to the ropes. Suzuki proceeds to SLAP THE SHIT out of Tanahashi. He slaps him until he blows himself up. Now he wants the Piledriver, Tanahashi drives a desperation dragon leg screw but Suzuki steps through it and blocks! Damn that was cool. Sleeper again all of Tanahashi's energy is gone. Piledriver but Tanahashi resists twice and drops down into a Dragon Screw! Tanahashi has one burst to really wrench him down with a Sling Blade. It is not done with the usual vigor but here comes High Fly Flow but it eats knees. Suzuki is in pain but Tanahashi looks toast. It looks like that took everything out of the champ. Suzuki slaps the shit out of him some more. Tanahashi is on the apron. Suzuki steps through the ropes. DRAGON SCREW! Tanahashi  with his mouth bloodied and exhausted looks like he has been through sheer hell, but he wills himself to hit not one but two High Fly Flows for the win!

One reviewer noted there was only one cover in the match and I didnt even notice. It was just that gripping. In a way the cross-armbreaker, Figure-4 and sleeper were used as nearfalls. Excellent minimalistic match where the match built organically and logically. Tanahashi never used his Capture or Dragon Suplexes or his reverse crossbody or somersault senton High Fly Flow to the floor or Texas Cloverleaf (there was an attempt). My point is this is a vast departure. It was not a formula match or check the boxes match or a Greatest Hit Match. Suzuki got pissed by the air guitar and targeted the arm. Tanahashi went all in on the leg strategy. Suzuki moved to a sleeper/slap the piss out of him strategy that left Tanahashi looking destroyed. Tanahashi cashed in on his strategy late when all those Dragon Leg Screws eventually gave him a chance to hit High Fly Flow. Terrific match and great selling performances, another ***** classic for my man, Tanahashi! 

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