(02/11) Yuji Nagata & Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Daniel Gracie and Rolles Gracie, Jr.

New Japan Pro Wrestling
Bodymaker Coliseum (Osaka, Japan)
Gi Chokes are Legal

It looked like the Gracies got to the Tokyo Dome back on January the 4th, decided that they had this pro wrestling thing figured out and figured they would just stomp on their opponents a bit, play to the crowd, and everything would be fine. It wasn’t, of course. They had a bad match versus Sakuraba and Nagata in Tokyo and I cannot imagine very many people were looking forward to the re-match in Osaka.

Perhaps this match was just the beneficiary of exceedingly low expectations, but I thought it was perfectly fine.

The big difference between the first and second matches were that the Gracies seemingly figured out how a non-pro wrestler, mixed martial artist should approach a pro wrestling match or they had it explained to them. Promotions have used MMA fighters with little to no experience before to good results. Just last year, Yuki Kondo had a perfectly fine match in his presumably first worked match ever versus Hiromitsu Kanehara. It can be done if you basically treat the match – or your portion of the match – as a grappling and/or submission exhibition.

The Gracies got at least some of that the second time around which made for a much better match. Rolles worked some nice ground control spots with Nagata. Daniel hit a smooth fireman’s carry takeover and later on applied a nice arm bar/choke that Sakuraba escaped from in equally smooth fashion. They had a much better idea of how to work the match utilizing their strengths and backgrounds. It still was below “good” levels for shoot-style type work but the difference was readily apparent.

On the other side, Sakuraba busted out his plancha for the second match in a row. It also wouldn’t be a Sakuraba/Gracie fight if a Gracie didn’t lay on his back and Sakuraba didn’t try to pass with a leaping punch. After the punch, there was some nice mat control stuff before Sakuraba got on a submission that was quickly broken up. I called this match “shoot style” in the diagnostics because it was the best fit, though really it was a somewhat normal tag with a lot of submission and ground elements in it.

The end was a bit of a shocker with the Gracies going over on Sakuraba via Gi choke. The reason why became apparent in the immediate post match when Yano challenged the Gracies to a match versus him and Iizuki. That has disaster written all over it. This match proved that the Gracies can get better and can hang when sticking to their MMA-background strengths but in the ring with Iizuki and Yano, none of that will matter.

The bright side is Sakuraba is hopefully done with the Gracies, at least for now. Singles matches versus the likes Nakamura (a re-match of their great 2013 Tokyo Dome match) and Shibata are far more appealing then tags versus the Gracies.

Shoot Style | Common | Spectacle

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