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[2006-01-04-NJPW] Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Katsuyori Shibata

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They started thigs off with Shibata absolutely dominating, nailing Tanahashi with stiff kicks and slaps. That theme of Shibata having the upper hand made Tanahashi's comeback more special and I think being a FIP let's Tanahashi play to his strengths more-he has plenty of offence that looks just fine, but I find it much more interesting when his triangle crossbody gets counterd by a brutal Shibata knee than when he hits every sinle move in his arsenal in 50/50 matches. Tanahashi can be a good seller-it can backfire when he goes too deep into Shawn Michaels melodrama like in some of the Okada matches and the Styles G1 one but here it was closer to what you'll see Misawa do against Kawada, where thsy take a shot that looks like it's maybe 7/10 stiff on its own but sell it so great it leaves a 9/10 impact on you. If there's one issue with this match it's that they started relying too much on the parity and the strike exchanges during the finish-which is where things like Tamahashi having a crappy Enzuigiri become a bigger issue than they usually are. Interesting to see the match had a double hair pulling spot and Shibata daring Tanahashi to hit him with Forearms, both of which have become staples of some 2010s New Japan matches. ***3/4

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Shibata just kicks Tanahashi's ass in wonderful fashion - Tanahashi is absolutely GREAT selling that beatdown and all of his brief comebacks are really good. Tanahashi's selling & Shibata's work on the offense really make this a classic. ****1/2

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Shibata kicks Tanahashi's ass and go back and forth for a really fun and compact match. The crowd were not buying into this so much even with Shibata's incredibly stiff strikes. They wake up for Tanahashi's transitions though. Nice that we get a Shibata victory in the Dome though. Really fun.

***3/4

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Hiroshi Tanahashi hit as hard as he got in this, no doubt steaming from the real life dislike between the two but Shibata looked to be in firm control. He had the advantage of being the ace of his respective promotion (Big Mouth Loud) so he got the result and took most of the match. Shibata was a prick for the whole match, booting Tanahashi in the head and ribs in painful ways. Tanahashi being a great underdog compliments Shibata’s style really well. Shibata gets the win, which made sense for the time although it only takes a few months for it to be an odd decision in hindsight. ***3/4

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