January 4 2007
Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Yuji Nagata
This is from a time where NJPW had to virtually co-promote the Dome with AJPW to sell 28,000 tickets. Which resulted in such bizarre dream matches as Nakamura vs. Kawada. AJPW was actually struggling at their top end with Kawada’s lengthy run having ended, followed by Kojima’s lengthy run. Kea transitioned the belt onto Suzuki. Minoru hasn’t always stuck around in New Japan and this was during his lengthy excursion to AJPW. He went there in 2006 and didn’t return regularly until 2011.
Nagata on the other hand is a company man and plays the underdog here, bullied by Suzuki from the get go and busted open, via bladejob, on the floor. Which is reciprocated with an overly anxious cameraman and producer capturing Minoru cutting himself on camera.
This all happens very early in the match and makes it feel like a bloody throwback to 80s NWA. This leads to some tremendous visuals like Nagata doing his eye rolling armbar with blood streaming down his face. They don’t just rely on the blood though and this is a super stiff contest with heavy kicks and knees. I love that during the stand up we get fresh trickles of blood as the various slaps inflict additional damage. It’s a war between two warriors who won’t give an inch. It exists, as a match, somewhere between those bloody matches from the 80s and modern wrestling. It’s a bridging match.
The psychology is a little wonky as Nagata murders Suzuki with a backdrop driver. It’s a brutal landing and he won’t pin, wanting to deliver a different kill shot. The resultant kick Suzuki pops up at one, relieved he’s been given a reprieve, swinging wildly like an injured animal. Nagata pays for his strange life decisions and gets beaten by the sleeper. Directly due to his failure to register a pin when it was there. Otherwise, one psychological blip aside, this was a fantastic little war. I had a lovely time.
Final Rating: ****