New Japan Pro Wrestling
Hiroshima Sun Palace (Hiroshima, Japan)
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Coming off of an forgettable Tokyo Dome main event, Tanahashi and Nakamura got a second chance at a big time Intercontinental Championship main event in Hiroshima. They very much delivered this time out with a match that is below the best of the best of 2014 thus far, but still in the upper echelon.
Tanahashi stuck to his strengths for the most part here. He did very little striking and I don’t think there were any standing striking exchanges during the match, both which are good things. Instead largely worked from underneath. He spent most of the match selling an attack on his arm, while mixing in his signature spots for the comebacks. There is no need to mention in every single Tanahashi match writeup that his offense is iffy, so it goes without saying that some of his less impressive offense looked less than impressive here as well. He minimized it for the most part and sold the assault on his arm well. Tanahashi’s body shots were decent and he should definitely stick to them over his forearms.
Nakamura appeared a bit off to me in much of his prior 2014 matches up to this point, but he really fired on all cylinders here. The focused attack on Tanahashi’s arm held the match together and he pulled out a couple of cool arm-focused holds in the process. His offense was crisp with the bom a ye landing squarely and the jumping back kick also hitting more solidly than usual. The spot where Tanahashi struggled to skin the cat because of his weakened arm allowing Nakamura to kick at the arm while Tanahashi was exposed was well-executed.
The near fall section was heated with a lot fun spots. A bridging German suplex from Tanahashi drew the first near fall reaction. I also enjoyed an arm bar sequence where Tanahashi rolled up Nakamura, Nakamura went for the cross arm breaker, Tanahashi rolled him up for two, Nakamura tried to reapply it but could not get it fully on, and then got on only for Tanahashi to quickly scamper to the ropes. Tanahashi’s second high fly flow of the match was an excellent near fall as well.
The end was not as smooth as desired, but it wasn’t an issue at all. Nakamura went for a flying arm bar but before getting fully into position, he lost his balance and stumbled to the mat. Tanahashi picked him up immediately and hit a dragon suplex for the win, indicating that the planned spot likely didn’t involve Nakamura applying the arm bar to begin with, so it was really a nonevent.
In the end, this was the best NJPW match of 2014 thus far even if on first view I have it a notch or two below at least a couple of 2014 matches such as Titan vs. Virus and Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt. People talk about big match wrestlers a lot and Nakamura is certainly in the discussion as one of the better ones (Tanahashi as well though he might be a tad more consistent with higher lows and lower highs than Nakamura).
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