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[2017-01-04-NJPW-Wrestle Kingdom XI] Tetsuya Naito vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

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The thing about the rope running counters are that they aren't inherently bad-they worked great in 80s/90s All Japan-but you need moves and peril behind them. Naito and Tanahashi did have them-Naito in the Running Low Dropkicks and the Flying Elbow, Tanahashi in the Slingblade. But they opted to not use them for dramatic purposes, and that and the lack of big moves and spamming nearfalls is what made me go "that's it?" when the match ended. I realise these two are never going to do it for some people since they're Keiji Mutoh fanboys and their offence is juniorish in a way some dislike, but I think they structured a very good match that combined the best elements of the matches they worked back in 2010/2011 and the matches they worked now and recently. Tanahashi's character is one who often tries to match his opponents, which is one of the biggest reasons I disliked their 2015 G1 match a lot. It's much more interesting when one is reacting to Naito's character, but one also has to actually have a character to be able to do that. That Tanahashi didn't mimick Naito at all made his taunt after he laid him out at ringside mean much more as you could hear in the pop it got. Naito's character allowed him to to keep his legwork interesting by constantly finding ways to make basic spots fresh and varied-him directing Tanahashi's leg at the referee and using that split second to quickly quick it was brilliant, and I loved the desperate rope pull he did that prevented Tanahashi from hitting the High Fly Flow. Naito's Bridging German where his leg gave out at first but he used his other leg to kick himself back up and hold Tanahashi for the count was a neat detail and something that fits into how they treat limbwork very well. Them exchanging low kicks did look weak but outside of that they handled the mirroring spots surprisingly well. Not the match I'd have expected to most differ from New Japan conventions but I'm glad it did. ***1/2

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As expected, Tanahashi & Naito put on an absolute masterclass of pro wrestling. You got two of the most charismatic, most popular stars going against each other - it's The Ace vs. The Man Who Owned 2016, the most popular rising star in the company. The psychology was unreal with the callbacks to their previous matches, the leg work & the selling. The drama was superb throughout & the match did not overstay it's welcome in any shape or form. ****3/4

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As expected, Tanahashi & Naito put on an absolute masterclass of pro wrestling. You got two of the most charismatic, most popular stars going against each other - it's The Ace vs. The Man Who Owned 2016, the most popular rising star in the company. The psychology was unreal with the callbacks to their previous matches, the leg work & the selling. The drama was superb throughout & the match did not overstay it's welcome in any shape or form. ****3/4

I know it's all subjective but I've never seen anyone throw around 4 3/4+ star ratings as liberally as you do.

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As expected, Tanahashi & Naito put on an absolute masterclass of pro wrestling. You got two of the most charismatic, most popular stars going against each other - it's The Ace vs. The Man Who Owned 2016, the most popular rising star in the company. The psychology was unreal with the callbacks to their previous matches, the leg work & the selling. The drama was superb throughout & the match did not overstay it's welcome in any shape or form. ****3/4

I know it's all subjective but I've never seen anyone throw around 4 3/4+ star ratings as liberally as you do.

 

I enjoy the wrestling very much!

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Liked this match a lot. Felt like it fueled the narrative of Tanahashi still thinking he's the man when he's not. That, and Naito still being resentful of Tanahashi "stealing" his WK 8 main event.

 

****1/4.

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IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - NJPW 1/4/17

 

GO ACE! When did Tanahashi get old? :(

 

Tanahashi is chicken soup for the traditional pro wrestling fan's soul. I saw this was going to go about 30 minutes from the timestamps and I kinda groaned. I never checked the time again. They had me the whole time. There is something just so logical about Tanahashi's matches that keeps me engaged and never lets my mind wander. They don't do the perfunctory amateur wrestling open (has that been scrapped?). Instead they opt for showing up each other. Naito forces Tanahashi to duck outside the ring so he does his signature taunt. Back in Tanahashi tags him with a dropkick and Tanahashi does his air guitar taunt.

 

Naito was a fabulous heel in the front half of the match. Sadly that waned over time. We got an irreverent attitude with plenty of cheating: hair pulling, eye rakes and spitting. I hate spitting so that's an easy way to get over as a heel in my book. Tanahashi goes for a reverse crossbody, but Naito dropkicks the knee. Tanahashi does a great job selling and feeding the knee for Naito's offense. There is some cute shit like having the ref hold Tanahashi's leg while he kicks it, but it is mostly traditional hard work. Naito does a great job working in those aforementioned heel tendencies. Tanahashi never dies. WWE wrestlers need to learn this lesson. Naito uses the knee as a cutoff. Now anybody who has watched Tanahashi knows what is coming. Tanahashi attacks the knee. It is Tanahashi 101. I loved the SlingBlade on the apron (GREAT SPOT) and then a fucking FANTASTIC HIGH FLY FLOW from the top rope to the floor. He really wipes out Naito.

 

It is modern pro wrestling so there are some things I would switch the order of, but overall it is good work. I really liked the Naito keylock on the bad knee (think a short arm scissors but on the leg) and then Tanahashi converting this into a Cloverleaf. Once Naito makes the ropes, Tanahasi goes all in on the High Fly Flow. I love people that jump into the High Fly Flow. He misses the second one. Since turning heel, Naito has a new shitty finisher. Ugh. It is like an even worse version of Selena Del Sol. he gets one, but on the second one Tanahashi hits a Drift Away. I hate that move too. Strike exchange. These two just should not do strike exchanges. They kick each other's knees. DRAGON SUPLEX! Tanahashi hits High Fly Flow! Second one, eats knees! Naito ENZIGUIRI! Destino (I think that's name)-> Kick out! Destino again gets the victory.

 

I loved the first twenty-twenty-two minutes of this. Just great escalating action with strong body psychology and strong face/heel dynamics. Last five minutes was alright. I am not going to hold the Destino against Naito even though I don't like those moves I can check that at the door. I think the Destino off the ropes should have been the finish. I actually thought this was very tasteful in regards to false finish. It was really just that Destino and then second did Tanahashi in. There was really no big Tanahashi nearfall. I feel like the last five minutes was kinda tacked on to an excellent match and it didn't really climax, but they lost that face/heel dynamic that was really driving the heat early. Enough excellent work early on to make this an easy recommendation. ****1/4

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