New Japan Pro Wrestling
Tokyo Dome (Tokyo, Japan)
It is 2014. Mixed Martial Arts – while maybe not a nonentity – is far, far down from its peak popularity in Japan. Antonio Inoki is satisfying his never-ending hunger to mix pro wrestling and shoots in his Inoki Genome Federation promotion. Yet for some reason, New Japan is still of the mindset that Sakuraba versus two non-descript, non-wrestling members of the Gracie family is a worthwhile match to have on their biggest show of the year.
A bad idea of a match on paper turned out to be a bad idea of a match in execution. The match itself was not altogether terrible. Sakuraba and Nagata both did admirable jobs in carrying it along and the Gracies did not look totally lost. They didn’t – or couldn’t – do much though which led to a match where it felt like all four participants were counting down the minutes to the finish as soon as the bell rang. It was a rather boring, forgettable match and a misuse of Sakuraba who just one year earlier stole the show in a singles match versus Shinsuke Nakamura at the Tokyo Dome.
The match concluded with one of the Gracies drawing a disqualification for choking Nagata with his gi. The finish was both interesting and good – the Gracies are far better as cheaters who complain about the rules being unfair then simply two non-descript members of a famous MMA family. Of course, the ending also signaled that a re-match – already on the books for this February – is imminent. At some point New Japan is going to have to freshen up the top of their cards and Sakuraba would be a good guy to do so, once the promotion realizes he has more value than simply re-hashing old Pride feuds.
Mat Based | Skippable | Spectacle