Got your attention? Before I tell you the match, let me tell a little story. About a year ago I went on a little rant with a friend of mine about the lack of quality wrestling matches; a match that keeps you hooked from beginning to end.
My friend said to me, "I'm going to tell you to look up a match. Watch it and you'll find out where the real deal wrestling is. You may not understand a word of what the announcers are saying, but real entertainment transcends a language barrier." What was the match?
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Title; Jan. 4, 2008.
I'll be honest: I don't know much about puroresu wrestling, and I'm not going to pretend that a year after this match I still know anything. But what I do know is as a fan, this match without a doubt is in the top five for me of greatest matches I've ever seen.
First, a little background on these two. Tanahashi reminds me of Chris Jericho, a heel you can't help but cheer for. He's got a really great look, along with charismatic mannerisms and tactics that make him entertaining to watch.
He's also a great wrestler with an impressive arsenal of suplexes as well as an equally impressive frog splash.
Nakamura is reminiscent of The Undertaker in his heyday for me. Although not as tall, Nakamura is an extremely agile and powerful wrestler for his size.
He's got some solid MMA skills (he even competed in MMA for a time), one that stands out is a beautiful rolling armbar into a submission. He's also got an equally beautiful moonsault in his arsenal, and a great Samoan Driver finisher he calls "Landslide."
What's great about this match is that these two are one another's biggest rivals. You almost get the feeling that the two of them might even personally hate each other.
A near 25-minute match, it never fails to keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
The great thing about wrestling in Japan is that you never really know until it's over who's going to win. The whole time in this match it went up and down, neither one stayed the consistent top dog in the match.
There were some great spots through out, from Tanahashi focusing on Nakamura's knees and injured shoulder to Nakamura's power offense and submission holds.
The best spot: Nakamura perfectly hitting Tanahashi with his finisher "Landslide" off the top rope. My jaw dropped. He even hit another one after the fact for good measure.
I won't even say who won the match on here. If you haven't seen it, watch it from beginning to end. I don't want to ruin it for you. That's how good it is.
Since this match the two have continued to rise up the ranks, vying for the spot of the top guy and being considered the future of New Japan Pro Wrestling.
In light of the so-called wrestling and psychology we struggle to get out of the WWE and TNA, these guys along with everyone else in NJPW as well as every other Japanese company are making it look easy.
I for one, thanks to this match am a follower of NJPW. So, like my friend said to me:
"I'm going to tell you to look up a match. Watch it and you'll find out where the real deal wrestling is. You may not understand a word of what the announcers are saying, but real entertainment transcends a language barrier."