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[2007-07-06-NJPW] Minoru Tanaka vs Ryusuke Taguchi

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This goes too long and has some pretty excessive stuff. That being said, Tanaka stopping his outside working over of Taguchi to flirt with a girl in the front row is gold. Taguchi getting his arm worked over is pretty good. Taguchi's selling and comeback (initially) are pretty good as well. The very end of the match brings it all back together again and it is a good finish, but it doesn't save the match for me. Too many one counts and too much no-selling of big moves during the finishing sequence. Minoru really needs to stop using that head kick finish in big matches. The fans and anyone else watching know the armbar is where it's at and nothing else is going to get the job done. Unless they actually booked him to win with t a few times in big matches, but that's kinda doubtful. Also, they almost got through a match without a meaningless elbow exchange. Almost.

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IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Minoru Tanaka vs Ryusuke Taguchi - NJPW 07/06/07


Five years later and at least the cross armbreaker is still over. I still contend that Minoru Tanaka should have been the biggest junior heavyweight star of the 2000s. I don't think this match is comparable in quality to his incredible 2000-2002 run, but we get to see an entirely different side to him. He was excellent at the cocky heel gimmick. He really gave off that aura that he thinks he is better than you in every shape and way. He was showboating, stalling and cheating better than pretty much every heel in the WWE in the last decade. The best part of this entire match was how red hot the crowd was for bell-bottom-wearing "Funky Weapon" Rysuke Taguchi. Japanese wrestling crowds in native vs. native matches tend to be very similar to tennis crowd insomuch they root for ever is losing to pull them through and continue the match. I don't want to take away anything from Taguchi because my sample size is limited, but to me it was all about Minoru Tanaka. You wanted to see that smug bastard get his ass kicked. People wonder why nobody gets booed nowadays. To me it is because nobody actually tries to get booed when they are wrestling. Sure on the mic they do, but in a match pretty much everybody wrestles it straight down the middle. Minoru Tanaka, once again, proves why he had huge star potential in the way he carried himself in this match and maintaining that heat throughout the match.

Unfortunately, I was not in the Korakuen Hall on July 6, 2007, but instead was in my living room in United States of America, BABY! on August 26, 2014 so crowd heat alone was not make this match an elite level match it was going to take work. The match started off great like I said with Minoru Tanaka showboating like a champion and getting shown up early. He is able to take control with an eye-rake and then out on the floor targets the arm and a pretty girl to impress. This is a clinic on heel wrestling. Of course, everyone knows that Minoru has the cross armbreaker in his back pocket so targeting the arm increases the crowd tension. There is a really nice exchange where Minoru avoids a dropkick and makes a point to let everyone know how smart he is only to eat a dropkick. This is just classic shit. Taguchi goes the "arm for an arm" route, but unlike the Minoru/AKIRA matches I didn't think they really focused enough time on each other's arm to really build the same drama. Unfortunately, the match goes off the rails at this point as they both pretty much drop the arm selling to suplex each other a lot. It was exciting, but not a lot of glue. Minoru, occasionally reminds you of the beginning of the match, by applying a flash cross armbreaker out of a human capture suplex. The crowd heat and Taguchi's selling were really on point making this a very dramatic spot, but before you knew it they were back suplexing each other. The best spot of the whole match was Minoru goes for the flash cross armbreaker and Taguchi converts into La Magistral cradle. The crowd goes wild! That should have been the finish, no doubt! NOOOOOOOOOO! An elbow exchange??? Et tu, Minoru? Taguchi hits what I believe to be The Funky Weapon twice to finally pick up the victory for his first and only IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.


The hook of the match was twofold: Minoru is an arrogant asshole and the credibility of his flash cross-armbreaker. They did not build the double arm psychology and they just sort of dropped it, with each touching on it here and there. Taguchi, for all his "funkiness", was a pretty bland Japanese, 00-style babyface. I hate to base that off one match, but given he only has one title reign to his name, it looks like New Japan feels similarly. At the day, the crowd was hot for Taguchi so he was doing something right even if he didn't set my world afire. The match started off promising and ended pretty well, but the body was a mess. I recommend this match based solely on seeing Minoru Tanaka work as a heel and how he was badass at doing that too. ***1/4

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