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[2001-03-03-AJPW] Toshiaki Kawada vs Mitsuya Nagai

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This match ruled. Imagine Kawada working a spell in BattlARTS, against a former RINGS underdog in Nagai. No pin attempts, only knockdowns and submissions. And for almost 12:00 minutes, these two beat the shit out of each other. Pesky Nagai gets to kicking early on until Kawada snaps on him with elbows, and they trade blows until Kawada boots him down and spits blood. The stage is set. Nagai's shitty underdog performance is incredible, from his selling and expressions to rubbing wrist tape in Kawada's face and kicking the shit out of his leg. Really good struggle from both during the Stretch Plum attempt. And then it shifts into another gear as they start blasting each other with low kicks to the leg. Kawada is super aggressive with his kicks, buckling Nagai's knees and knocking him off his feet. But Nagai's giving it back to him and you can see Kawada's in pain as he limps around the ring, frustrated that Nagai keeps fighting. They slap the hell out of each other but Kawada keeps attacking the leg, putting him in a nasty stomping single leg crab. He keeps trying to submit Nagai with the single leg and after smacking him around and cutting the leg out with a kick, he really cranks on the single leg for the submission. I love a good, fiery underdog story and this delivered on almost all levels, with some great selling from both guys and brutal exchanges. A total hidden gem in Kawada's already stacked portfolio.

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Storm said Kawada is not a good worker if he needs to work that stiff. He then said Jeff Jarrett is better than Kawada because he can go do a five minute Nitro match on the fly - calling it all in the ring.

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Kawada has had an underwhelming start to the year so far but this was a real gem. I love watching Kawada against shoot style guys. He doesn't have the technique to compete with them in shoot style but what he does have his brutal pro-wrestling offense. His kicks, strikes, the stretch plum, and a half crab are enough to create the illusion that he can compete with these dudes, and his grit and toughness lend extra credibility. This was stiff. It was also beautiful. I wish we had seen Kawada vs. all of the high profile shoot style guys. 

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