NJPW: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (January 4, 2005)

I want to try to review all the Wrestle Kingdom main events while they’re free on New Japan World.

This is for Tanahashi’s IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship, and I think it’s the first one of these matches that I’ve actually seen before. But it’s been a while.

This is the story of a tough but overconfident Tanahashi and a resilient Nakamura. The first move of the match is a dragon suplex, and it’s probably the only time I’ve ever seen that treated as a feeling-out move, because it doesn’t stun Tanahashi. After some grappling, Tanahashi takes over on Nakamura with a DDT on the apron and a dive. He works his back some and keeps going for the dragon sleeper, but Nakamura never submits and always kicks out. When he gets on his spurts of offense, Nakamura goes for triangles, armbars, and sleepers/rear-naked chokes. Nakamura bleeds from the mouth. Tanahashi slaps him a lot and doesn’t show much urgency when he’s on top because he’s just so sure of himself. That of course comes back to bite him when he thinks he’s getting out of a sleeper only for Nakamura to wrap his legs around him and pull him back down. Tanahashi manages to survive, but Nakamura pulls out an armbar and finally forces him to tap out.

Winner – Shinsuke Nakamura

Rating – Good

It’s good, but it takes its time. Or Tanahashi does, anyway. Not as exciting as last year’s match, but more fun for the purists, I’ll bet. Probably a bit easier on Nakamura’s body, too, but only just a bit.

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