NJPW: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Yoshihiro Takayama (January 4, 2004)

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

This is an NWF and IWGP title unification match. And, wow, this is not the Shinsuke Nakamura everyone loves today! He’s barely recognizable with his short brown hair and black and gold tights. Still has those tired eyes, though. This is also before Takayama’s stroke, but a couple years after his crazy PRIDE fight with Don Frye.

There’s actually a simple story to this one. Nakamura is much smaller than Takayama, and he knows it. His only chance at winning lie in his submission skills, but if he wants to be able to lock anything in, he’ll have to do it before the big man can concuss him with his punches, kicks, and knees. Thus, this match consists primarily of Nakamura getting hit in the face over and over but refusing to stay down for the count and occasionally pulling out a triangle, leglock, or other submission hold. Finally, having somehow stayed conscious this whole time, he kicks out of Takayama’s German suplex and immediately transitions into a kimura, which Takayama taps to after it gets wrenched in a bit.

It really is that simple. And brutal. But in a good way!

Winner – Shinsuke Nakamura

Rating – Good

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